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Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Cassius
Location: The Sorcerer's Bar​

Terra could sense the tenseness in Mizuki’s body. It was similar to the demeanor she had adopted when she had brushed them off when they came to her in the Salamander earlier. A heavily masked frustration, fueled by what, she didn’t know. She did know that people brushing the Vampire off was an easy trigger for her temper. Was she treated like this often?

Relief flooded her system as Cassius began to open up about what really happened between him and Cecil that night but that relief was soon washed away by dread. Cassius was worried, more worried than she had ever seen him in the years that she had known him. The spells that Cecil stole they were--serious. The Guild didn’t take too kindly to those who broke their rules, much less someone who breached and stole a sacred and powerful document.

Theodore looked over to Mizuki, picking up on the stiffened body language she was emitting from across the bar. He could tell this Cassius guy was definitely getting on her nerves. He was surprised to hear her bite out a warning to him, but the action was comforting. Samantha would always do the same for him whenever she witnessed someone giving Theodore a hard time. It was nice to know Mizuki had his back.

His eyes shot over to the bartender, who unfortunately returned the exact moment Mizuki questioned Cassius further about The Archives. Theo could see the Sorcerer’s body visibly stiffen. Cassius clenched his jaw hard as the bartender questioned him.

“Yeah, I know Al,” Cassius sighed deeply. His gaze, along with Terra and Theodore’s were snapped over in tandem to a large bang at the other side of the room. Theodore’s shoulders had hiked up in fright. At the recognition of Francis’ familiar features, oddly enough covered in a thin veneer of wine, his shoulders began to sink back down to his formally relaxed posture. He glanced back towards Mizuki, shooting her a look that said “What is he doing here?”

Cassius waved his hand dismissively at Alfred, although a dark look had overtaken his eyes.
Terra giggled and shot Alfred a beaming, innocent smile before he walked away. She was startled at Mizuki’s sudden apology once the bartender was out of earshot, her features softened as she noted the vampire looked to be on the verge of tears.

“Oh, Mizuki don’t worry,” Terra reassured. She rested her hand atop the vampires, her eyes briefly pausing on the old bandages that were wrapped around the woman’s fingers. “It’ll be alright, Alfred is a friend of Cecil’s, he wouldn’t do anything to get in the way of us finding him. Right Cassius?” She asked, shoving her elbow backwards into the man’s side.

Cassius let out a grunt in pain before letting out a gruff, “Yeah we’re peas in a pod.”

She smiled towards Mizuki again, “See? No worries it’ll all work out.”

Theodore glanced down the bar to take in Alfred and Francis as they talked between themselves. He took a casual sip of his drink before resting his elbows on the bar and leaning forward. “Yeah, besides, the bartender’s busy with his newest customer, so we have time to go over whatever you don’t want him to know.” He looked towards Cassius and raised his eyebrows. “Well? We don’t have all day.”

Cassius rubbed the back of his neck. “Right. So--where was I, dangerous spells, Cecil’s an asshole--oh yeah. You guys are going to have to do the dirty work this time around. I can lead you there, but you’re going to have to find your own way inside. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about any security guards. All entry points are sealed with enchantments. I can write you the disenchantment Cecil and I used to get in--”

Terra held up a finger in Cassius’s face. “First problem, we’re not sorcerer’s.”

Cassius rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I’m aware of that Terra. I can write a self enacting enchantment. The magic to activate it will already be within the enchantment itself, all you’ll need to do is utter the words. Easy peasy.”

He looked at her, raising his eyebrows to ask permission to move on. Terra nodded her head, her soft curls bouncing lightly. “Right, so The Archives are like one big lobby, with offshoot rooms on the sides for things like Spellkeeper training, restoration, office work etc.” Cassius grabbed a bar napkin and a pen from the small caddy in the middle of the bar filled with straws, coasters and other miscellaneous bar items. He began drawing crude, crooked rectangles on the napkin. He drew a long, zig zagging line that ended in a scribbled circle. “This is where they keep the spells Cecil stole. In the back.” He tapped his index on the circle.

Theodore looked down at the drawing, his brows puckered as he studied the shapes and tried to envision a space from it. “So--that’s it? You just give us a paper and then poof! Open sesame? There’s gotta be something else we’re missing here, if this is your most top secret facility, why is it so easy to just walk in? There’s gotta be like security cameras or some rabid dog--” he trailed off, his imagination taking over his attention.

Cassius laughed. “No, you can’t just walk in. These spells they have on the entryways are extremely powerful magic. Enchanted by some of the most powerful Sorcerer’s in the guild right now.” He shrugged. “Just so happens that Cecil and I are just as powerful. Add our bonded enchantment on top of it and, well, then you get open sesame.”

Terra smoothly pocketed the bar napkin into her purse for safekeeping. “I don’t think this is enough,” She said, raising her chin up at Cassius as she spoke. “You can’t guarantee that we won’t get caught doing this, or that this enchantment will even work. You and Cecil infiltrated that place months ago.” Her eyes were steely as she regarded Cassius.

“So?” He said, leaning back into his chair.

“So? You’re coming with us,” Terra stated.

Cassius laughed, running a hand over his mouth and down his chin. “Yeah, no I’m not.”

Terra shrugged. “Okay, well, if we get arrested then I’ll be sure to tell them where I got my handy dandy enchantment spell from.”

Cassius stared at her with an iron gaze. His features were set hard as he thought, eyes searching the fairy’s features to find a way around her persistence. He looked down at his hands, which were clasped together on the bar counter. “Fine.” He said. “But first sign of trouble and I’m out. Every super for themselves,” He huffed.

Terra smiled widely at him, “Thanks Cassy. That wasn’t so hard now, was it?” She gave Mizuki's hand another squeeze in reassurance, as if to say, "See? it'll all work out fine."
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps
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Francis Boisseau | Mizuki Chiba | Alfred Smith

Location: Black Market - The Sorcerer's Bar

Mizuki felt her body grow cold. The moment she heard the bartender's voice, Southern drawl and all, she grew rigid as his first response was to question Cassius. Cassius was already wary of them, and she was sure she wasn't exactly his favorite person, at the moment. Yet, when she looked towards Alfred to decipher his general reaction, she didn't find anything that might indicate that they were in immediate trouble. So, she was hopeful that they would be able to slither out of this sticky situation, given how soft he was with Terra. With Cassius, not so much.

"I'll happily see your ass in handcuffs", Alfred pointed at Cassius with a soft huff, yet there was still a playful little chime to his tone. It relieved some of Mizuki's anxiety, though it only seemed to heighten at the sight of...Francis, of all people! She whipped her head back towards Theodore, as he seemed to be asking the same question as she. Both completely bewildered.

Right now, Mizuki seemed a little more focused at the fact that Alfred might call security, that the Guild, the Council, and gods forbid Maximus become involved and she meet a fate worse than death. She was visibly shaking over her bar stool as she choked out a soft apology...afraid she might have ruined their opportunity and destroyed the trust her companions might have had over her. Tears brimmed her gaze and she wished nothing more than to have the ground swallow her whole right then and there. The vampire sniffled, looking small and pitiful as her shoulders were hiked up and her fists were shoved into her lap, fingers curled within to keep the temptation of picking her skin away. An unsightly, and nasty habit. Mizuki did look up to Terra hopefully, drinking in her words as if parched, flicking her eyes towards Cassius for an ounce of reassurance. Friends?

Mizuki let out a slow, shaky breath, swallowing thickly as if to swallow back the knot that had formed in her throat. She peeked back towards Francis and Alfred as the two seemed engross in a rather serious conversation. She tried not to stare for very long nor did she want to make it obvious, but she was curious as to what they were talking about—.

Theodore took this as an opportunity to go over the details of the Archive, asking Cassius to cough up any and all information necessary to make their...break into the Archive successful and worth their time. First, they met with a Councilman who could easily report them back to the Council, and in turn Maximus. Secondly, they had a running with a succubus in a rundown, sticky, shady bar. Thirdly, they huddled into a Sorcerers' Association Bar where the air faintly smelled of silver and they had wary glances all around them. And, now—they were going to break into the Archive? How did this night keep escalating?

Cassius insisted that they needed to do all the dirty work, so they had to pay close attention to his instructions. Okay, thankfully there weren't any security guards...but there were enchantments. Mizuki began to also wonder how they would be able to activate the enchantments—? Oh?

An amused little smile seemed to kick up over Mizuki's lips as she saw the fairy raise a finger up to Cassius' face. She spoke in a very matter-of-factly manner that only seemed to add to the humor, finally getting a smile out of the vampire overall! She giggled, nodding behind Terra as if to echo her concern silently, brows puckered defiantly. But, Sorcerers were impressive beings and Mizuki watched with wonder as he assured that he could write down a self-enacting enchantment! Was that truly possible? Could she get a peek into the world of a Sorcerer?

Momentarily, it seemed all of her fears had left her as she felt like this was once in a lifetime opportunity she was about to take a part of. Easy peasy. She stared at Cassius, her pupils now dilating as if to express her interest in the situation, and if her heart could beat it would flutter in her chest. What Cassius had said next was utterly lost to Mizuki. His words sounded far away, underwater as she began to fall into a world where only she existed, and the fantasy that she would be able to utter out a chant and perform some sort of miracle. Like, a fascinating science experiment. She heard the word 'Archives' and 'Spellkeeper' echoed about, but anything else hadn't registered to the vampire who was hopelessly lost in thought as her eyes followed after Cassius and his hand movements. He gathered a napkin and a pen, and he drew a sloppy rendition of...oh. This is where they keep the spells Cecil stole. Mizuki nodded as he tapped over the napkin, trying to mentally picture it.

Rabid dog? Mizuki's imagination and excitement finally popped when she heard Theodore speak up, turning back towards her companion as he questioned the Archive's security. He did make a fair point. What if Cassius was sending them off into some sort of goose hunt? Maybe even a trap, purposefully wishing they got into some sort of trouble?

But, no. He quickly corrected Theodore, finding their ignorance amusing, "...extremely powerful magic that can be disenchanted with a napkin and a few words uttered by a pair of vampires...sure, let's go with that", she hummed softly, playfully pulling the Sorcerer's leg. She sighed, brushing back her hair as she lowered her eyes back down onto the napkin..."...open sesame", she muttered out weakly under her breath.

Mizuki watched as Terra shoved the napkin into her purse, chirping up and insisting that the napkin was still not enough. She made another good point. It's been months since they last infiltrated the Archives. They could have added stronger security, new enchantments, rabid dogs thanks to their little adventure that ended with someone missing for months. Mizuki watched as Terra firmly looked to Cassius and insisted he come with them, and her eyes only seemed to widen. What?

Cassius opposed, but Terra quickly added a thick layer of black mail into her suggestion and Mizuki leaned back against her bar stool to stare down at the Sorcerer in silent as of what he was going to do next...His expression grew dark as he leered down at Terra rather harshly. The silence between them was long and deafening and Mizuki was left to shuffle over her seat uncomfortable. She parted her lips to say something, maybe cut away the tension...? But, thankfully...there was no need. Cassius gave in. Fine. Mizuki let out a breath she wasn't aware she had been holding, only to then nod as he added that he would be the first to leave at any sign of trouble. That was understandable.

Mizuki bowed her head to Cassius in a small sign of respect and gratitude, a soft 'thank you' escaping her. She peeked down to Terra's hand that was still securely laced into her own. She returned the gentle squeeze and smiled up to the fairy kindly. Yes, all would work out—.

When she rose her head, though, she noticed...Alfred pointing their way while speaking to Francis and her eyes only seemed to widen, once more feeling a wave of dread fill her. The Council was about to become involved and she literally saw her life flash before her. This was it. This was where it all ended and it was become she couldn't keep her voice down—!

When Alfred pointed their way, Francis' gaze only seemed to light up, immediately recognizing the pair across the bar. He eagerly waved to them, excused himself from Alfred before he went around to greet his kin, "My Romeo~!", he gasped, of course referring to Theodore, "And...my Juliette...", he hummed down to Mizuki as he offered the two a grand and theatrical bow, before he stood up straight, still padding a napkin against his neck and cheeks, "I didn't expect to find the two of you down here, last I saw you you were going to opposite direction", he stated.

Mizuki blinked, not...having entirely expected such a gran reunitement, nor such eagerness from a man they had just met. It was...nice to be regarded so warmly. The vampire softened, letting down her guard, "...we...we uh—found a friend and now she's introducing us to another friend. Just trying to make the best out of tonight before going back up to—".

"The climate?", Francis hummed, earning a soft little bit of laughter from Mizuki. A reference from their previous conversation.

"...yes, the climate", Mizuki stated, "Francis, this is Terra. She worked in The Dead Salamander, and this is...uh—Cassius", she introduced, "This is Francis, he works for the Council".

"Oh! But, I don't like saying that last part so casually, so let's forget about that", Francis grinned cheekily down to find...wow. As Francis' laid his eyes over Terra, he seemed to be a little lost in thought, not having expected to be face to face with a fairy. A flash of sorrow seemed to overtake his features, before that of wonder and fascination. He pressed a hand against his chest and bowed down to Terra, "It is a pleasure to meet you, ma'am. May I say, you have a beautiful name", he complimented softly, offering his hand for her to take if she wished. Not wishing...to impose over such a creature in any way, shape or form. He then looked to Cassius and smiled kindly to him, "Nice to meet you, too. As for you two—", he looked to Mizuki and landed his eyes over Theodore, "I have to say I am quite excited to see a fellow lover of Shakespeare. You'd think there'd be more given our nature, hm?".

"I see you have finally met one of the biggest cheeseballs I have ever had the displeasure of being acquainted with", Alfred grinned, earning a sharp gasp from Francis he looked to Alfred in mock offense.

"Excuse you. I am the cheeseball. Don't bunch me with the other wannabe's", Francis chuckled, earning an inelegant snort from Alfred.

"Whatever, dude. Anyway, so these two aren't from the Council? Because if they're not, I don't see what kind of business they would have going to the Archive", Alfred stated, eyeing Cassius harshly.

"Not that I know of", Francis hummed, peeking down to Mizuki who looked...so incredibly tired and anxious, almost as if she had lost the skip to her step just after they had parted ways. The vampire softened considerably and looked to Alfred, "...but...I uh—they're friends of mine. We're all in the same Clan, actually!", he stated, smiling reassuringly down to them, "I asked them to pick something up for me, but forgot to tell them where the Archives were! Silly me!", he laughed, clearly lying to ensure they didn't get into trouble, "As you are aware, I was a bit busy", he then gestured towards his wine stained shirt. Truly a shame, as this was one-hundred percent pure cotton and very expensive.

"...really?", Alfred asked, "Oh. Well, you should have just said you were friends with Francis, that's fine, then", he stated, "Do you still remember the way. I get off my shift in a few minutes, I can show you all. Unless you're going?", he asked Cassius, "What are you going there for, anyway?", he looked back to Francis.

Mizuki seemed to let out a small breath of relief, looking back towards Theodore as if to ask: 'now what?'.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Cassius
Location: The Sorcerer's Bar​

As Terra and Cassius argued on who would be coming with them on their adventure to The Archive, Theodore’s eyes landed on Mizuki’s face, watching as her attention was snapped to something down in the distance of the bar. A certain look of dread spread its way across her delicate features, like she was watching her entire life slip through her fingers seamlessly. Theodore turned to look back at where her gaze was trapped, taking in the sight of Francis as he glided his way over to their area of the bar.

Theo’s eyes widened in a mix of surprise and confusion as Francis acted out a dramatic reintroduction to both him and Mizuki. Theodore offered a nod of his head in return to Francis’ own deeply swept bow before them.

“Alas, parting was such sweet sorrow,” He said, holding a hand over his heart as if the mention of the memory had pained him, “Glad to see your night is going--” He paused as Francis dabbed at his wine soaked face with a napkin, “eventfully.”

Theodore glanced towards Mizuki, hoping to glean how she felt about the new arrival of the council member. His own feelings towards the man had shifted throughout the night. A thin layer of apprehension still held him back from trusting Francis completely, which in turn held his tongue from answering Francis’ question about what had led them to their current location.

The blank look of shock and subtle dread quickly washed off of Mizuki’s features, a startled smile taking its place as she fumbled to introduce Terra and Cassius. Theodore grimaced at the hasty introduction, hoping Francis wouldn’t begin questioning them in front of Alfred. One person snooping around was bad enough.

Cassius turned to look at Francis, giving a subtle tilt of his chin in greeting. Terra smiled at the man, but her forward demeanor had paled in the presence of a new arrival. She sat silently as Mizuki and Francis conversed, drinking in as much as she could about the man to glean a quick profile of his character. Her eyes widened in amusement as the man bowed to her, outstretching his hand for her to take. She placed her hand within his own, flashing a grateful smile in his direction, “Why thank you, I named myself. None of these boring realists around here appreciate it,” She elbowed Cassius playfully, who rolled his eyes.

Theo laughed at Francis’ lament of the level of culture most of the Vampires in the city shared. “I think you’d be hard pressed to find half of them that have even read Dracula. It’s tragic, really.”

Theodore looked warily towards Alfred as he questioned Francis as to their relationship. He took a light sip of his drink when the words “We’re in the same clan,” hit his ears. The sparkling liquid of the gin and tonic got caught in his throat in surprise, and he choked audibly. A splash of the drink crashed upwards into his face. Theodore put a hand to his chest, head hung down as he coughed the carbonated fizz from his lungs.

Cassius shot him a deadly look from the side of his eye. He didn’t need Alfred anymore suspicious than he already was, if that was even possible. Luckily not many Sorcerers, if any at all, knew about what he and Cecil did that night. The Guild was too embarrassed to admit their impenetrable enchantments were easily cleared by two “delinquents” or so their headmaster used to call the two of them back in their Academy days. He didn't need anyone finding out about it now.

“Sorry,” Theodore wheezed out, grabbing a napkin from the tray and holding it to his mouth as his lungs continued to cough in aggravation. “I--uh swallowed wrong.”

Cassius slid a bill out from his wallet and pushed it across the counter towards Alfred. “I’ve got their drinks, keep the change” He said, gesturing to the glasses that lined down between him and his newest acquaintances. He wanted out of here as soon as possible. “I’ll show them the way, don't worry about it. I’ve got business on that side of town anyways.” He said, flicking his gaze to the side at Terra as if to say, “Just shut up and follow me please.”

Terra hopped up from the bar stool, feeling the effects of the absinthe already begin to warm her cheeks. She offered a wide smile towards Alfred. “Always a pleasure,” She winked. Terra turned towards Cassius and cleared her throat, moving her eyes quickly towards the exit and back towards his face to hurry him along.

Theodore quickly downed the rest of his gin, setting down the empty glass onto the damp coaster beneath it. He made his way over to Mizuki, offering a smile in greeting now that they were reunited from the short time separated between Terra and Cassius.

“How are you feeling about this?” He asked. “Everything escalated so quickly I didn’t get the chance to ask if this is something you felt comfortable going through with.” His mind flashed back to the library, when the mention of stealing the books left her nerves frayed. How would she feel about an actual break in to The Sorcerer’s most protected asset?
 
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Razvi-sama

#babysteps

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Francis Boisseau | Mizuki Chiba | Alfred Smith

Location: Black Market - The Sorcerer's Bar - The Archives

"...that I shall say good night till it be 'morrow. You really are my Romeo", Francis winked to Theodore, loving this little volley they had set up between each other. The small bond that they shared between them over one commonality they shared was rather precious, and Francis couldn't help but find him entertaining.

Francis let out a soft chortle of amusement at Theodore's gesture over the wined stained mess he had become just moments ago. He flicked his gaze down towards himself, "I suppose that is...one way to describe what this is", he hummed, "I have already come to accept that this shirt is forever ruined and that people truly have no class", he huffed softly, still a little peeved that someone would simply...chuck a fine glass of wine at his face! Totally uncalled for! He stormed out of the room before he lost his cool, padding over towards Alfred to ask the Sorcerer for a few napkins and the direction towards the nearest bathroom. Instead, Alfred had pointed towards the familiar couple...which was why he had approached them to begin with instead of hiding out of the bathroom to let his embarrassment wash away along with the wine. But, there was no way he would be able to get the stain out, nor the smell, unless he went home.

"I'm sorry that our beautiful reunitement had to be so messy. I had hoped the two of you would have been able to keep such high regards of me and my elegant appearance in your minds as your handsome and lovely guide. But, alas...life is truly unfair", Francis sighed woefully, shoulders slumping as his gaze drifted off back towards Alfred, seeing the Sorcerer's wariness towards the pair before them. It had come to Francis' attention that the two were planning on going to the Archive's which seemed to have only peeked Francis' curiosity. So, instead of outright asking them why they were going to the Archives, he asked them about their evening and it seemed to only garner a negative and stiff reaction from the two. How cute!

Thankfully, Mizuki spoke quick and diverted his attention by introducing him to their two "friends". And, who was being presented to him? A fairy. He usually kept his distance from them as they were usually skittish around his kind, but not her...Not Terra, was her name. Cassius simply flicked his chin up in greeting, but Francis didn't pay much attention to the Sorcerer. Instead, he drank in Terra's image as she smiled up at him. It was a radiant and beautiful smile to which easily lost Francis in his thoughts. Once he gathered himself and reminded himself it was rude to stare, Francis took a step back and bowed for the fairy, offering the woman his hand which she delicately placed into his touch. She was as soft as silk, and as warm as the sun. Francis offered the fairy a sweet smile, offering her hand a small squeeze. It was her response to his compliment...which made him laugh in amusement, his features softening before her. She had quite the personality, didn't she? "Well, many vampires have named themselves, so I think we all appreciate a good name and understand the importance of one", he hummed softly before he—hesitantly—pulled his hand back towards himself as he had learned that she worked at The Dead Salamander's. Interesting, he didn't really imagine someone as petite as her working in such a grimy place. But, considering her silver tongue, he imagined she did just fine.

Francis looked back towards his kin, garnering a laugh out of Theodore, only to sharply gasp at the man's horrid and outrageous comment! "You don't say! But...but it's a classic! It's like an initiation, a must-read. A true tragedy, absolutely", he insisted, "Uncultured swines, all of them! Except for you two, of course", he smiled, winking to the pair before he looked towards Alfred who simply butt into their conversation. They shared a cute little back and forth, until Alfred soon asked if they knew one another and Mizuki swallowed thickly...this was it. Alfred was going to know they were lying and that they had no business in the Archives. They were going to call security, in turn Maximus, and she would get into so much trouble—.

What? Mizuki whipped her attention to Francis who breezily explained they were friends, and they were part of the same clan—?! "Theodore", she gasped, turning towards the vampire as he sputtered and choked onto his drink, falling into a horrid coughing fit. But, before she could stand to go assist her companion, Francis drifted over towards him and lightly patted his back, rubbing it soothingly, "Wrong pipe", he laughed up towards Alfred, knowing what he had said was a bold-faced lie and rather preposterous, but...it was the only way to get Alfred to sway his suspicion over them.

While Francis continuously rubbed Theodore's back, he watched as this Cassius slid out his wallet and offered to pay for their drinks. From the corner of his eye, he saw Mizuki shift uncomfortably in her seat at the notion, but she didn't say anything. Not right now. Cassius then insisted that he was going to go and lead them away, to not worry, and to keep the change. Though, it was Cassius' hasty movements that seemed to only manage to cause Alfred to eye them warily...but for the moment he was a little too silent. Francis watched the back and forth curiously as Terra hopped off from her bar stool and eagerly motioned to follow after Cassius, already saying her goodbyes.

Francis wondered if the drink made them feel like they were being discrete, but Alfred was now simply watching in amusement as Cassius and Terra tried to hurry things along, while Theodore and Mizuki slowly motioned off their respective stools. They seemed to have no choice but to follow the two, thus Mizuki turned to Alfred and offered him a small bow and a smile, thanking him for his service before she turned to wait for Theodore to slid away from Francis' touch.

Francis and Alfred shared a few glances and all Francis could do was shrug.

"They're totally acting weird", Alfred snorted out, "The absinthe has clouded their judgement, for sure".

"Oh, totally", Francis chuckled, "I'll take care of them".

"I don't trust you one but, troublemaker. Especially not Cassius", Alfred huffed as he motioned to slip off his apron.

In the meantime, Mizuki smiled up towards Theodore as he padded her way, finally reunited after their small moment apart. They had spent the rest of their evening shooting odd looks towards one another, which was somewhat endearing now that she thought about it. They had their own silent language. But, what she hadn't expected...was for Theodore to ask how she was. Oh. She shuffled uncomfortably where she stood, her gaze lowering to the side momentarily as she mulled over her words. Should she tell him the truth? "...honestly? This is all out of my comfort zone and way past my bedtime", Mizuki teased softly, her hand rising to rub the back of her neck awkwardly, "But, I promised I would support you and I don't want to let you...nor Samantha down", she whispered softly, her tone sincere, "I'm just...", she took a deep breath and finally looked up to him. Looking small and vulnerable, brows puckered together, "I'm just really scared...this is becoming a little too much and if we get caught and if Maximus hears about this? I—...I live with him, Theodore...I just feel a little unsafe", she stated, flicking her attention towards Francis, "...other people are becoming involved. Sorcerers and a council-member of all things, so it's starting to feel a lot more risky than I originally thought it was going to be...the Archives...", she admitted, her shoulders falling in defeat as she watched Terra and Cassius walk off.

Mizuki sighed, offering Theodore a tight smile, "...but, it's fine. We'll...we'll get through this, I hope. Thank you for checking in on me", she stated, taking a step back to offer the man some space before she motioned towards the pair, "...anyway, we should get going. I'm in too deep anyway, hm?", she laughed, flashing the man a better smile before she motioned to walk off, though did ensure Theodore was...right beside her.

As they motioned to step out, to rejoin Terra and Cassius, Mizuki paused when she heard a voice call out to her, looking back to see...Alfred was coming with them, along with Francis! What was Alfred doing?

"I-I thought you had to finish your shift", Mizuki balked.

"Yeah, but I don't trust this son of a bitch", Alfred laughed as he pointed at Cassius, "So, I'm tagging along whether you like it or not", he grinned as Francis offered an apologetic smile to the group and Mizuki looked to the others incredulously. Well, then...

~

So, the motley crew had gathered together and walked awkwardly towards the Archives with Alfred at the very front guiding them all. He looked back to Cassius cockily, insisting that he was not about to have Cassius just saunter up to the Archives with three vampires and a fairy. He didn't trust the lot of them, and he made that perfectly known. Plus, he really loved fucking around with Cassius and pulling his leg. He was easily frustrated and that brought great joy to the Sorcerer. Plus...whatever they were up to, he wanted to be a part of it. Life was starting to become mundane and boring, and these were the little things that kept life exciting...no?

Meanwhile, Mizuki nervously began to pick at her bandages as she stared warily towards Alfred...she knew he meant well and he was a sweet man. But...this was what she meant. This was risky, he was risky...If he really contacted their superiors or some sort of security, a-and...Though, whenever she looked to Francis, the vampire offered her a kind smile, softly assuring her that everything would be okay. Mizuki took a deep breath, simply following along as they slowly made their way towards the Archives.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra| Cassius
Location: The Sorcerer's Bar, Outside The Archive​


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Cassius and Terra continued to walk forward out of the bar on a mission, completely oblivious to Alfred’s mounting skepticism behind them. The night air was damp and muggy in the alleyway outside. She turned to look behind her, expecting the others to have joined them, but was met with only the hulking figure of the bouncer. Cassius sighed audibly, rubbing the back of his neck.

Theodore’s expression became crestfallen as he listened to Mizuki voice her concerns. Of course all of this was overwhelming. It would be for anyone. Her day had started out by a quick trip to the cafe and now she was--standing in a bar full of Sorcerers plotting out how to break into one of the most elite buildings in the Underworld. It would be on the scope of breaking into the Council’s chambers. Suicide.

“You’ve already done so much to help out Samantha, Mizuki. I wouldn’t have even gotten half this far without you.” He took her hand and clasped it between his own. “Truly, I’m grateful for everything you’ve done and I don’t want you to put yourself in danger for me or--Samantha. She wouldn’t want it either. Maximus is--” He paused, his pupils narrowing ever so slightly at the mention of the man’s name. “Intense, to say the least. If you feel unsafe around him you’re more than welcome at the Vieru.” He offered her a soft smile, the tips of his fangs peeking out slightly onto his bottom lip.

He glanced back in Terra’s direction, but the fairy had already left the vicinity of the bar. “I am in blood, Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er” He recited, his voice deep and poetic. “Macbeth. Far too fitting of a theme for today for my liking,” He teased. “But if you're too far in as you say, let’s not extend your agony for too much longer yeah?”

Theodore turned to follow Mizuki out of the bar. He breathed deeply like she had taught him on the way into the bar, his eyes solely focused on the exit door in front of them and not on the cramped hallway that threatened to cave in on him. He stretched his arms above his head as they reached outside. He took in large gulps of the damp air, clearing his lungs of the silver laden smoke he had breathed in for so long.

Just as his nerves had begun to flatten out to their normal base level, the calling shout of a familiar voice froze all of them into a panicked fumble. Theodore’s eyes shot rapidly over to Mizuki as she responded to Alfred’s announcement of joining them.

Cassius tilted his head back towards the ceiling of the black market, mouthing a silent curse into the air. Terra let out a nervous laugh. “The more the merrier, yeah?”

--

Theodore looked up at the rather--unassuming building before them. There was a small staircase leading up to it, with Greek style columns lining the front to create a pseudo walkway. In all honesty, it reminded him of a bank trying to mimic the grand architecture of Ancient Greece or Rome. The building was sandwiched between several other buildings that channeled the same antique style.

He darted his eyes towards Cassius, who looked up and down the empty cobblestone street. The Sorcerer’s attitude had soured since Alfred had joined the party, the bartender’s haughty looks clearly stating he was here to kill the fun--or keep them from getting what they really needed to save Samantha. Now in the shadow of The Archive, Cassius’ body had become tense, like a coiled spring anticipating even the slightest sense of trouble in the air. Cassius looked back towards them, his brown hair and eyes a pool of inky black in the darkness of the street. The only lighting around were sparse iron street lamps that barely stood seven feet high, the flames within struggling to penetrate the thick murky shroud of blue darkness. Cassius pulled out a small leather bound book that showed visible signs of weathering and use. Theodore peeked over to get a good look at the markings on the page, but couldn’t make out anything but gibberish. It was like looking at a different language.

Cassius flipped through the pages studiously, stopping at each one for mere seconds as his eyes scanned to read its contents. After a bit of time had passed and the man seemed to be growing frustrated, he tracked back several pages and a wave of relief smoothed the tense clench of his jaw. He ran his hand over the page to flatten it against the others behind. “This is the enchantment Cecil and I wrote that night,” He said, the vibration of his voice deep in its stoicism. “It’s got Cecil’s magic stored in it already so I don’t need him here to reactivate it. My magic will be enough.” His eyes flicked briefly over towards Terra, acknowledging her knack for questioning his explanations further.

“Well alright,” Terra said, putting a hand on her hip. “Let’s get this show on then, no sense in waiting around in one big, suspiciously huddled group.” Her eyes kicked over nervously in Alfred’s direction, hoping he wouldn’t catch wind of their intentions until after they were too far into the plan to effectively stop.

Cassius glanced up at her as she spoke. The wheels began to spin in his head. “You’re right about that, actually.” He said, turning his left arm so that the underside was facing upwards, the olive skin and sprawling of tattoos highlighted weakly by the orange light of the lanterns. He took his finger and traced a small symbol tattooed there. Theodore’s eyes widened as Cassius began speaking in Latin, his words sharp and unrecognizable. The symbol emitted a soft purple glow from his skin that brightened the longer he spoke. Cassius’ hair began shifting softly, as if moved by a gentle breeze, but the air around them was stagnant. His gaze was concentrated with a pressure that made Theodore feel like gravity around him was pressing him down closer to the Earth.

Although he tried to hide the amazement from displaying too blatantly across his face, Theodore could feel his jaw go slack at the sight of Cassius performing the enchantment. He had never seen, never imagined something like this was even real, nonetheless something achieved by a human of all things. The clans were good at hiding what the underworld truly held, the potential it had in store. His gaze bounced to his counterparts, hoping he wasn’t the only one gawking like an idiot. Terra’s face was unimpressed, almost impatient as she watched Cassius recite the enchantment. She must have seen her fair share of spellcasting the way they had talked about her relationship with Cecil.

“There,” Cassius said, looking up towards them after he finished the enchantment. His gaze noticeably avoided being caught by Alfred’s. “We’re cloaked now, it’s a simple stealth spell so if anyone stares for too long the fog will clear from their mind. Meaning we’ve still gotta hurry.”

He quickly checked up and down the street once more before taking quick strides up to the building. Theodore, now snapped out of his haze, looked towards Mizuki to offer a reassuring glance. Instinctively he checked both sides of the street for any signs of movement before he darted to catch up with Cassius.

“The moment of truth,” Terra huffed to the remaining group before she followed behind.

Once at the large, stark black door of The Archive, Theodore’s nerves started to kick in. The hollow sound of the wind bellowed through the passageway above. His eyes drifted up to the intricate silver crest that hung from the door. The smell and presence of it made his skin itch in agitation.

Cassius took a deep breath while momentarily closing his eyes. A few sluggish seconds passed by, leaving them all in a dead, awkward silence. Theodore shifted uncomfortably, but no one noticed. It seemed like Cassius had become dead to the world.

He held out his hand towards the handle of the door, the proximity of it triggering the metal handle to glow in a neon green glow. Cassius opened his eyes, his brow furrowed intensely as he began reciting the enchantment in low, quick sentences. A circle of purple symbols appeared from in front of his hand, the intricate movement of it colliding with the door handle’s own set of emitted symbols. The action caused white hot sparks to fly out to the sides, like a raging fire spitting out embers and smoke.

Terra watched with clenched fists as Cassius uttered the enchantment, the effort clear in his body language. His hand was taught and jittery from the resistance of The Archive’s protection enchantment. His hair and clothes floated weightlessly, like he was immersed completely underwater. She could feel the pressure of the magic in the air, the presence of it pressing down on her, making her feel like she was benign forced into the ground

Theodore had stepped back from his position near Cassius, instinctively moving slightly in front of Mizuki to protect her from the shower of sparks that were raining from the spell. The embers were cool as it touched his skin, like the feeling of snowflakes, but he didn’t trust what he didn’t know was one hundred percent safe.

Cassius’ voice became strained as he continued to recite. Errant sparks of magic now began to fly out from the source of the enchantment, their brilliant bright light fading quickly once flying aimlessly through the air. The glow coming from Cassius’ enchantment and the protective enchantment of the door was now so bright that Theodore had to shield his eyes with his hands.

A large, booming crack emitted violently before them, accompanied by a blinding flash of green light before everything was cut completely. The darkness pounced in on them as soon as the opportunity allowed, reclaiming its rightful place. Theodore blinked the ghost traces of green light from his vision.

Cassius drew his hand away from the door knob, a trail of smoke following in its wake. “Fuck,” He stated, immediately turning back to the notebook and flipping through it rapidly.

“Open sesame?” Theodore tried with an innocent shrug, only to earn a dirty look from Cassius.

“I told you it wasn’t going to work,” Terra piped up immediately. “You really thought after what you and Cecil did that they were just gonna leave a cracked puzzle for just anyone to waltz through?”

Cassius ignored her as he continued flipping through the small book, its pages ruffling loudly.

“I knew this wasn’t going to work, I don’t even know why you and Cecil did this in the first place. You two--” She huffed. “You two are never satisfied with the power you have. You’re always--always rooting around for more things to fast forward your powers, never enjoying the ones you already have. None of us would even be here right now,”

“You keep shouting like that and we won’t be the only ones here,” Cassius muttered back, his gaze dark as he continued searching through the book. “Not like it matters. I can’t add anything else to this enchantment without Cecil.” He said, snapping the book closed. “We wrote the original together and barely had enough power shared between the two of us to overcome it the first time. Even with him I’m not sure we’d have enough power.” Cassius looked back towards the door handle once more and cursed under his breath.

“I don’t think there’s another way in.” He said, tilting his palms upwards.

Theodore’s stomach dropped out as he heard Cassius’ words. He swallowed hard, masking the panic with a calm, calculated air. His eyes wandered down the sides of the stone building. Surely there had to be a place they could sneak into. Maybe one of the other buildings had a passageway that connected underground--or maybe there was an enchantment that was weaker than the rest.

His eyes met Mizuki’s unable to hide the panic that rested in them from her. He had to get in to The Archive to figure out what Cecil stole. It was the only lead, only concrete clue that could implicate Maximus in framing Samantha. It was so close, yet frustratingly miles from their reach at the same time.

Terra pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers, her aggravated rant having ceased. “Let’s just go before we get caught loitering around here.”
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps

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Francis Boisseau | Mizuki Chiba | Alfred Smith

Location: Black Market - The Archives

As Mizuki spoke her truth to Theodore, gathering the courage to be honest with the vampire, she saw the saddened look that had overtaken his complexion momentarily. She wondered if he was saddened out of disappointment that she felt this way...or saddened for her? She wasn't sure, and she didn't ask...she simply told him the truth and appreciated that he took the time to check in on her. It wasn't productive to lie how she was feeling, especially since the two of them were now part of the same sinking ship.

Mizuki stood there feeling vulnerable and naked before the vampire as the seconds ticked on. There seemed to be a small silence that they shared in as Mizuki looked up to Theodore with quiet unease, brows creased together as she peered up at him from under her thick eyelashes. Though, through his own crestfallen, melancholy gaze...there seemed to be a hint of understanding that bled through and she instantly relaxed. Her eyes flicked down to her hand as he took a gentle hold of it between two of his own, causing her chest to tighten with emotion as he insisted that she had already done so much to help Samantha. He seemed to appreciate all of her support, yet...she was positive that he would have easily been able to do all of this on his own. She was just there for emotional support.

It was his offer that struck her dumb, though. Mizuki stared up at Tiago with a wide gaze as he stated...that if she felt unsafe, she would be welcomed into the Vieru. Did...he mean that? He was certainly right about one thing, though. Maximus was...intense, his gaze was crushing and standing beside him was utterly overwhelming. Now, she wondered...would the other Vieru members be okay with her presence? Certainly, it would be quite the scandal if she were to simply migrate. She'd be branded a traitor and Maximus would seek her out. Once again, she felt like a caged animal, but only one thing eased her anxiety...and it was Theodore's smile. It was so sincere and optimistic, how could she not feel at ease?

So, Mizuki returned the smile and offered his hand a squeeze in reassurance, about to part away from him as he began to recite...a quote she remembered having read this afternoon in the library while she was skimming through pages of Macbeth. He certainly loved his theatrics, didn't he? Well, that's what made him special. "... strange things I have in head, that will to hand, which must be acted ere they may be scanned...is what follows, no? Meaning, let's get out of here before I change my mind", she offered, eye bright and wide with amusement as she couldn't help the giggle that fluttered past her lips. Far too fitting of a theme for today for my liking. She couldn't agree more.

With that, feeling a bit lighter from the emotional weight that was heavily dragging her down throughout the evening, Mizuki followed after Theodore's step, though paused momentarily before they exited out of the bar...knowing that the cramped space between this door and the next were going to be a torturous handful of seconds for Theodore. As they walked through the cramped space, Mizuki's hand found itself resting against Theodore's back as if to ground him and encourage him forward...a reminder that she was right beside him and everything was okay.

The moment they stepped out, Mizuki watched Theodore guide himself through a few gulps of air and even raise his arms up in the air to encourage the air flow to his lungs. She felt a small hint of pride for having encouraged him and for him to have followed her advice. Made her feel...appreciated, in some odd way. She took deep breaths along with him to show her comradery and support, though she was sure she needed to de-stress. Now that they were out, despite the stale, moist air, it was much better than the silver-laced thick fog that filled the Sorcerer's Bar.

Mizuki stepped out with Theodore, raising her hand up towards Terra and greeting her cheerfully, about to apologize for the tardiness only for her words to fall short...when she heard Alfred's chirp behind her. She tensed, slowly looking over her shoulder to find the Sorcerer beam down at her rather cheekily, almost as if he was aware that he was very much ruining whatever scheming they were up to. She warily shifted her eyes towards Francis who smiled towards her apologetically, before she peeked back to Terra who offered a nervous laugh.

The more the merrier.

Indeed.

~

The way towards The Archives was rather uneventful and silent considering their unexpected and uninvited guest. Alfred didn't ask what they were doing or why the sudden need to visit The Archives as he was aware that he was most likely not going to be given a straight answer. Meanwhile, the rest seemed to have this attitude of "everything can and will be held against you", so they kept their lips zipped shut.

Mizuki walked up towards the looming, glamorous building that stretched out before them. She didn't know what she had expected, but certainly not Greek style columns. It stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the architecture around it, it was almost humorous. She peeked back towards Alfred who seemed to have taken upon himself to walk beside Cassius for the fun of it. Just to screw with him. Alfred held a shit eating grin the whole way towards The Archives, hands stuffed in his pocket while he eyed his bitter little friend. He'd occasionally ask him what was wrong, just to rub salt in his wounds. Mizuki had to admit she was pretty amused, and one look towards Francis showed that he too was very amused by the duos dynamic.

Though, they now stood before the enchanted building and Mizuki eyed the Sorcerer curiously as he pulled out a small leather bound book. She peeked over the book's contents along with Theodore, the two naturally curious about a world that was completely separate from theirs. And, what she saw before her? Chicken scratch. Mizuki's brows furrowed in confusion as she tried to make sense of it, but decided it best that she give up before she gave herself a headache. Instead, she decided to focus on their surroundings...thankful for the lack of light and finding comfort in the blue filter that washed over their figures with the occasional warm tones to highlight their features. As she looked up towards Theodore, she noticed his sharp complexion was beautifully molded by the faint hue of warm the streetlights emitted. A small smile now danced on her lips as she peeked away before she was caught staring.

Cassius finally broke the deafening silence by explaining that the enchantment he was about to perform was...well, one he had written with Cecil. The vampire flicked her eyes back towards Terra to check in on the fairy before she finally settled her attention towards Alfred whose jaw seemed to tighten at the very mention of Cecil. A wave of understanding seemed to have settled over him momentarily before it was lost to his gleaming gaze that glistened with amusement. Mizuki watched as he seemed to share a few glances with Francis, the two sharing a smile before they silently settled over Cassius who seemed a little too tense and a little too concentrated.

Mizuki wasn't sure what the first enchantment was for until after it was performed. Terra already seemed bored and huffy by her tone, as this was most likely a performance she had witnessed time and time again. Plus, she was most likely more concerned with Alfred and any other lingering gaze to really be too impressed by Cassius' skills.

However, it was safe to assume the two, sheltered vampires were very impressed by his performance. Mizuki watched as Cassius twisted his arm upwards to show off the markings that dragged over his skin, and through just a few murmured words spoken in soft Latin...a soft, purple hue began to glow over his skin causing Mizuki's eyes to widen and a gasp to escape her lips. The air around them became heavy as Mizuki felt a pressured weight suddenly rest over her form...but not enough for it to be considered crushing. Not enough to actually force her to her knees. The vampire was simply...entranced...The man was consumed by his enchantment, and while Theodore tried to hide his own amazement...Mizuki displayed it proudly for the Sorcerer. Her body was leaned forward in wonder, nearly tempted to dart her hand forward to drag her touch over his markings...would he let her get a closer look? Maybe even take a picture? Surely not...That was certainly a disappointing thought.

Mizuki snapped out of her marvel the moment Cassius spoke up and announced that the enchantment had reached its conclusion. She seemed to blink herself out of her stupor, leaning back to peek back towards Alfred who only rolled his eyes and Francis...well, Francis seemed just as bored as Terra. He kept a polite smile over his lips, but he didn't share the same fascination as she did. She wondered why. Especially after Cassius explained they were now "cloaked". That was incredible! But, again...Francis simply peeked around and looked over over his hands, almost looking as if he was thinking: "I could do a better job".

Well, Mizuki thought it was cool. She quickly followed after Cassius as the Sorcerer began to guide the group up the foreboding stairs and towards the grand entrance that greeted them eerily. Mizuki ensured to look towards her left and then her right for any sign of onlookers, but honestly? The street seemed rather empty considering it was very late in the evening and most of the Black Market's patrons were most likely focused at the center. She returned her attention forward...where she found Theodore looking back at her. She nearly stopped and stumbled all together, not having expected the vampire to look her way...His expression seemed soft and reassuring, and all the vampire could do was smile back at him.

They reached the top of the steps where Francis and Alfred both stood behind them while Cassius began to work. Terra seemed mildly irritated, while Theodore and Mizuki stood there...tense and nervous. Francis kept his arms folded over his chest while Alfred rested his own over his hips with a cheeky grin painted at his lips. Watching Cassius' every move. But, again...never once did he question them.

Once again, Mizuki watched with a wide gaze, drinking in every single one of Cassius movements. He had fallen silent, his concentration something to be admired as Mizuki was left holing her breath without her knowledge.

When he finally snapped his eyes open, Mizuki's shoulders rose and tensed in anticipation as he fell into another slurry of chants and words that she barely understood. His intensity was addictive and once more, that odd purple hue began to emit light over the palm of his hands, and through the performance of it all she couldn't help but extend her hand out in search for something to grasp onto. As if to keep herself grounded. White hot sparks began to fly out in every direction, smoke surrounded him, and Cassius looked as if he was actively fighting against The Archive's powerful enchantment! Amazing!

That strange, weighted pressure returned and Mizuki had to take in a gulp of air as if to feel as if she wasn't drowning. Being so close to the silver etchings and handles that heavily decorated the imposing entrance before them was enough to make her feel like she was crawling under her skin, the proximity feeling warm due to its searing potential. She shuddered at the thought and decided to not pay too much attention to its presence or scent, and instead...decided to focus on the fact that Theodore had just stepped before her. Before one of the white sparks could grace her skin, he shifted before her...allowing the sparks to land over his jacket and skin. Oh.

Mizuki sheepishly looked down to her feet, keeping her grip over the hem of his jacket for general proximity and comfort. She now had to raise herself up over her tiptoes to get a good look at Cassius' work, a ritual that seemed to go on for hours...and yet only mere seconds had probably escaped them at this point. She narrowed her eyes to shield her gaze from the blinding light, yet still couldn't bring herself to entirely look away.

She did flinch, though. The booming crack that suddenly echoed about them caused hope to bloom in her chest. Hope that Cassius had managed to open the door and they could hide behind it before anyone else caught wind of their intrusion. But, that was certainly not the case. Just as quickly as her hope had bloomed, it had been ripped away and tossed aside like a simple, useless weed. Dread soon began to replace her optimism as the light faded and Cassius whispered out a soft curse. He hurriedly returned to his notes and that was certainly not a good sign—Open sesame?

Mizuki snorted out inelegantly, rising her hand up to her lips to keep herself from falling into further chortles. She pressed her forehead against his back, shaking her head as she also heard the snickering and laughter behind her. Alfred and Francis had found Theodore's jest just as funny. Oh, she didn't know if she was laughing, because she truly found it funny...or if she didn't know whether she was laughing to keep herself from crying...Had everything they had gone through tonight...been for nothing? Had she risked her own safety...for nothing?

A spat between Terra and Cassius suddenly erupted as the fairy began to chastise him, while Cassius simply turned his back against her and ignored her. Mizuki pursed her lips together, shifting her attention towards Francis and Alfred as the two of them looked equally unamused. Almost as if they too had been expecting this.

Terra had fallen into a whole speech that he and Cecil were greedy for power, while Cassius simply dismissed her chastising...insisting that she fall silent lest they get caught. Mizuki frowned, not enjoying his tone, at the moment...but this didn't involve her so she kept her mouth shut. Instead, Cassius seemed to have almost given up...stating that he didn't have enough power to figure this out on his own. And, finally...he said it...

I don't think there's another way in. Mizuki's eyes widened as she tried not to hyperventilate...everything she had done—talking back to Charlotte, defying her orders...i-it had all been for nothing. They had met a dead end and she was going to end up exactly like Samantha!

Mizuki grew pale. Feeling a little sick as she rose her hand up to her lips as if to keep herself from hurling. While Theodore tried and failed to look for another way out, Mizuki had been left to her anxieties, her rapid thoughts of endless scenarios where it al ended in her getting hurt, imprisoned, or worse. She had risked her name and her life for this, a-and now...it...this was it? Yet...it seemed she wasn't the only one left to panic, she wasn't the only one whose life was on the life and upon seeing Theodore's panic in his gaze...she softened...nearly, instinctively...relaxing before the young vampire.

Mizuki reached forward, her hand finding his and offering it a small squeeze...a squeeze that softly insisted that they would somehow figure this out. Together. It would be okay, they could probably question Cassius further, no? T-They didn't need the exact documents, did they?

Mizuki peeked back towards Terra who seemed rather done with the whole situation, and honestly? She didn't blame her. However, looking behind the fairy...she found Francis had disappeared! Wait! Mizuki whipped her head around in search for the vampire while Alfred stood there patiently.

"See, Cassius, if you would just follow instructions like you are supposed to, maybe your name would be on the weekly watchlist we've all been signed up to. Not you, of course, especially not Cecil", Alfred huffed. Depending on your status within the Guild, the elders might look down upon you favorably and once a week a Sorcerer had to come to The Archive to do a general check-up, and was entrusted with that week's enchantment and code. Alfred had the honor to serve once before and was currently awaiting his next turn. This was a recent task the Sorcerers were entrusted with, though...and Alfred was slowly starting to understand why. It didn't really take much to really read between the lines when it came to Terra and Cassius—.

The Archive's entrance suddenly cracked and creaked loudly, causing both Alfred and Mizuki to flinch as they both whipped their attention towards the doorway to find...it slowly parting open. There had been a momentary flash of light before the doors welcomed its guests, the groaning almost audibly insisting they step inside.

"...did...Cassisus, maybe your enchantment did work", Mizuki gasped optimistically, feeling a wave of relief suddenly wash over her, "Maybe we just needed to give it a bit of time", she insisted.

"Nope!", Francis chirped, stepping out from one of the looming shadows and appearing almost as if out of thin air! He was waiving a key card round and round over his index finger, smiling down to the bunch with a cheery smile, "Depending on your rank within the Council, we are given a key card so that we can come and go within The Archives as we'd like. Within reason, of course", he explained, pointing towards the small, black box that adorned the entrance's edges, "Only Council members have access to these key cards and some of your elders and highest ranking Sorcerers. Rebels like you—", he pointed to Cassius, "—I imagine is not privy to such...privileges", he chuckled, shrugging.

"Didn't think you were important enough to have one of those", Alfred laughed and teased.

"I am a very important and highly regarded member within the Council, young man. Do not let my appearance—", Francis gestured over his wine stained blouse, "—deceive you", he laughed along, his eyes shifting towards Terra in hopes to capture her reaction. Was she impressed? "Anyway, Terra is right, if we keep lingering about we'll draw suspicion towards us. So, move along children. Ladies first, of course", he hummed, bowing to the two in an act of chivalry.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Cassius
Location: The Archive​

Terra watched Cassius begin his stealth enchantment, impatience eating away at her every nerve. After years of hanging around Cecil and Cassius, the impressive nature of their enchantments wore off quickly to make way for the exasperation and agitation that followed. At least Cecil was always a little quicker at accessing his power, the Latin and his ability to reach into the supernatural fabric of the world around him easier than it was for Cassius, like it was natural for him. Plus, Cas was always a bit of a perfectionist. Everything had to be done with rhythm and pattern, he would settle for no less than absolute perfect execution of the spell.

Her attention was snagged by Mizuki’s movement inward as the woman leaned towards the Sorcerer. Her gaze was full of wonder and awe. Had she really never seen a sorcerer executing an enchantment before? Terra watched the woman hesitantly, a feeling of worry eating away at her chest. The vampire clans were more protective than she had thought. If something were to happen to either of them--was she putting Cassius and herself at risk?

The thought began to linger in the back of her mind, only seeming to grow in prominence when she crossed the wide cobblestone street to join Cassius in standing before the entrance to The Archive. The looming black door emanated a feeling of power and assertion. Her determination for going through with this plan in order to get to the bottom of what had happened the night the two sorcerers had broken in began to fade into uncertainty. Just how far had Cecil gone this time? Just how far was she willing to follow?

Terra’s body tensed in anticipation once Cassius began his attempt to crack the powerful enchantment sealed on the entrance to the restricted building before them. The worry from the vampires earlier were thrown by the wayside as she felt his magic fill up the air. The rush of it, the adrenaline of taking part of something so risky made her heart beat faster. She never admitted it to Cecil before, never admitted it to anyone, but she loved this rush. The thrill of adventure, stepping into the unknown, throwing down all her savings into a gamble that she never could ensure whether she’d win or lose, inviting two unknown vampires into her apartment where she was cornered and alone. She lived for it. Too often in her life she was coddled and cared for, people pitied her for her size and species. It was the one time where, oddly enough, she felt in control.

Terra flinched hard at the booming crack that forced its way through the air, splitting the heavy force of Cassius’ enchantment in two. The air around her instantly felt lighter, her arms, weightless, without the added pressure of the magic. Her breathing became heavy in disbelief, causing her chest to visibly dip up and down. Terra’s eagerness at breaking into The Archive did not take long to boil over into anger at Cassius’ failure. While the others snickered at Theodore’s comment, Terra grilled him about his haughtiness. She should have known his promise in the bar was too good to be true. And to think he was pressuring them into undertaking this on their own.

She walked over to one of the columns lining the stairway behind them, having finished her rant to Cassius. She leaned her body onto the smooth cold stone, the feeling of it seeping deep into her chest and soothing her subtly. It seemed that no matter how hard she tried, no matter how much she struggled to convince him that she was capable enough on her own, Cecil continually went places impossible for her to follow. The bastard. Always trying to one up her and prove his skills were greater than her own. Terra took a deep breath of the night air to stabilize her composure. She’d find her way to Cecil eventually. It might actually be easier without a whole crowd, each with their own axe to grind. At least her and Cas shared a common motive.

“The weekly watchlist,” Cassius snorted in response to Alfred’s scolding, although a small piece of him wondered if the straight and narrow path would’ve made this ordeal easier. “If that really did anything I wouldn’t have been able to break in here in the first place. Give me a week and I’d have this thing cracked without Cecil.” Cassius turned to further address Alfred front on, his brow furrowed in anger. “You know just because--” A loud, drawn out creak cut Cassius off before he could get to the meat of his sentence, his jaw going slightly slack. Before them, the entrance to The Archive had pushed inward, hanging ajar. Cold air washed out against their legs like a fresh wave crashing onto sand.

Cassius’ brow was furrowed in deep confusion, even as Mizuki began crediting him for having bypassed the enchantment set by the guild. It was nice to hear the woman praise him for the effectiveness of his magic, but he knew first hand that the enchantment had failed. He felt the strength of The Guild’s security smother growing flame of his own magic, leaving nothing left but softly smoking embers.

Cassius turned his gaze away from Mizuki’s brightly encouraging expression to focus on the now open door that stood before them. “There’s no wa-” He was cut off once more by Francis’ chirping, proud voice sounding before them. He was standing inside the door to the building, twirling a plastic keycard around his finger playfully. Shadows chiseled the man’s features, emphasizing the theatrical nature of his unveiling.

Council members now had access to The Archives? Cassius looked at Alfred, who seemed unfazed by the news the Vampire had just presented to them. If there was one thing that Cassius remembered firmly from The Academy, from his family’s strongly backed opinions, it was that Sorcerers did not consort with Supernatural creatures by any means. If that was all a lie, then why were he and Cecil looked so far down upon? Why had his family so easily cast him out? Fucking hypocrites.

Terra turned around at the commotion behind her. She stared blankly at the others who stood shocked at the sight before them, then moved up to see what exactly it is that they were gasping at. Terra’s soft features twisted into anger once Francis’ figure registered in her mind. “You’re kidding right?” She laughed incredulously. “You let us hang out around here and try to do the most conspicuous spell casting in the entire black market, when you had a key card this whole time?”

She raised her eyebrows at the man, anticipating a response, but after a brief moment of heavy silence, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she spoke again, her voice had softened. “Nevermind, we’re in now. Let’s just get in and get what we need, yeah?”

Theodore nodded fervently, hoping to avoid any further conflict between anyone in their ragtag group. He ushered the others in before him, placing his hand gently on the small of Mizuki’s back. He seemed happier knowing that he had managed to make Mizuki laugh with his comment before, managed to make the stress she was feeling just a little lighter, if only for a moment. To hear that she had felt so in danger, and that he was the reason she was being put there, it made him devastated. But Theodore couldn't deny the fact that her help had become necessary, something that he depended on to get through the peril of the night.

Once in the building, Theodore turned his attention away from his situation with Mizuki, and instead towards the one person who knew exactly where they were to be going. Cassius seemed--different than he had been a second ago, more distant and brooding, if that was even possible for him to achieve. Something that had happened in the time that they had arrived at The Archive, something that had begun to eat away at him slowly. Theo couldn’t blame the man, though, failing at an enchantment in front of a group of strangers is a tough pill to swallow. Especially for someone as prideful as Cassius.

The Sorcerer looked around the dimly lit room. Bookcases loomed tall into the air, casting a forest of dark shadows to dance across the floor. His dark gaze moved in a large arch around the room, before it rested towards a corner in the far distance. He gestured for the others to follow. Cassius’ movements were smooth, effortless and impossibly silent. The room domed up above them into a large circle of windows, allowing them to see the light polluted sky of the black market above them. Theodore’s eyes lit up in excitement, there was a beautiful arrangement of stars that floated against the glass, creating the illusion of a natural night sky full of clustered glittering galaxies. As practical as the sorcerers seemed to be, judging by their bar and The Archive, they had a weakness for the beauty that magic could bring.

Theodore nearly bumped into Cassius’ back, his eyes too busy wandering around the details of the room to notice the man before him had stopped. Cassius pointed down at a glass covered table where a few documents laid within, encased completely. Relics sat cushioned on velvet lining, their silver faces embedded with gems Theodore had never seen in his life.

“These documents here are decoys,” Cassius said. “When they let people tour the building, they say everything stored here is related to strength and resilience in battle,” His voice paused, and he glanced back at them stoically. “They’re not. They’re worse.”

Cassius then pulled out two thin sticks of metal, one with a hook at the end. He glanced back at the group behind him with a gaze that read ‘well, here goes nothing.’ Theodore’s eyes widened. Was he going to pick the lock?

“Aht aht,” A voice sounded from the distance. Theodore’s shoulders skyrocketed in fear. He looked up, eyes wide in pure terror at the source of the sound. No, no, no. They couldn’t get caught now, not after making it this far. He could smell the old, aged paper mere feet from him. If he could just grab the paper and run--maybe, maybe.

The person in the distance snapped their fingers, summoning an orb of light to float gently in the air beside him. Theodore swallowed hard as the features became recognizable in the smooth white light that bobbed in the air. It was that--kid. The one from the bar earlier when they had met Terra. Fear sickened his stomach and his breathing became labored. He had a bad feeling about that kid when he had first bumped into him. The level of draw and manipulation his presence held only fit with one type of supernatural. A demon.

The stranger in the distance sat reclined in one of The Archive’s chairs, feet crossed and resting up on one of the display cabinets. He held a half eaten peach in one hand, which he promptly took another bite of after addressing them. Juice trickled down the sides of his mouth, and he brought the back of his hand up to dab at the liquid before it dripped onto his clothes.

“Honestly, I was really relieved when you used a keycard to get in, I was even willing to overlook the whole ‘break in’ enchantment spell too, but--if the Sorcerers know I let you guys just steal a document--” He sighed exasperatedly. “Do you know how much work that’d be for me? How much paperwork?” The man rolled his eyes and shook his head as if the mere thought of work made him want to keel over and die. “Literally, I mean, if you picked any other cabinet I’d be able to look the other way but--” He breathed in through his teeth, letting out a hissing sound. “--that particular drawer is highly illegal. I’d kinda have no choice but to arrest you.”

“Arrest us?” Theodore asked, his voice straining to remain composed. “What do you mean arrest us? Are you with the police? The Sorcerers’ security?”

The man laughed, sitting upright. His worn out sneakers made a gripping screech when they were plopped back down onto the floor. “Eh, close enough--I’m with The Order.”

“The Order?” Terra asked, her voice incredulous. She let out a chuckle as she looked over the man’s disheveled appearance. His posture slumped awkwardly as he made his way over to them. “Yeah, I don’t believe it.”

The man shrugged, “Doesn’t matter if you believe it, my paperwork is still very real to me, and that file drawer is still highly illegal.”

Terra glanced around at all of them, the doubt written clearly across her face. “Well--well if you’re an angel, where are your wings?” She couldn’t believe someone so...pathetic was an angel, someone with such a weakened presence. Weren’t angels supposed to be regal and omnipresent? This kid had to be trying to trick them.

The man’s expression twitched subtly at Terra’s question, but it was difficult to glean the full expression on his face, as his eyes were partially obscured by the curly hair that dipped down into his brow. “Well if I had them out on full display I’d have the whole black market hiding in fear. Ever heard of the term undercover?” He rolled his eyes.

“I don’t trust it,” Terra said, crossing her arms stubbornly. “How do we know you’re not some shapeshifter or sorcerer trying to trick us into believing you? How do we know you haven’t broken in already and are looking for something to steal? I saw you lingering around in The Salamander, how do we know you haven’t been following us?”

Now the stranger was close enough for Theodore to sense him more clearly, sense the movement of his blood. His expression wavered in a sense of confusion as the feeling of the stranger’s presence overwhelmed him. There was such a staticky, electric feel to him, it made Theodore nervous. He had never felt anything like it before. It was intoxicating, all he could think about at times.

“Right--and if you’re an Angel why do you have such a manipulating aura?” Theodore added, his voice firm in its resolution. The fear in his body was pushing up against him, like water churning under a thick layer of ice. He couldn’t let it crack through the surface, he had to remain composed.

“Manipulating aura?” The man asked, genuinely confused. He brought a hand up to his chin in thought, lowering his head as he worked through what the question could possibly mean. “Oh!” He laughed loudly. “You felt that?” He asked, his tone almost haughty.

Terra’s face soured at his tone. “Yeah, well, I felt it too. I don’t trust that type of pull.”

The man rolled his eyes. “Angels call it inspiration. It’s basically a version of emotional manipulation. Any human or supernatural creature under extreme duress or stress when seeing an Angel is immediately pulled to their presence as a means of saving. Like, uh--seeing an ambulance on the street when you’re injured or something. You recognize my presence and are supposed to be like--saved or something like that.” He shrugged. “It’s a fucking nightmare for me anymore. Do you know how many humans in New York are stressed all the time?”

The haughty look returned back to his face, pulling up his lips into a crooked smile. “Supernaturals tend to have a strong resistance to it, being that they hate The Order and all. You two must be under a lot of stress huh?” His eyes flicked around to the counter they all stood frozen around, stopping momentarily at each of them. What an odd bunch. “Might explain the uh--drastic measures we’ve come to around here.” The man leaned his elbows on the glass surface before them. He took another bite of his peach.

“That’s not enough,” Terra said. She was clutching the hem of Cassius’ shirt, whose entire body was tense. She knew she was the only thing keeping him from bolting out the way they had come in and making the situation ten times worse. “I want concrete proof that you’re an angel. Otherwise, I think it’d be best for you to carry on with your business elsewhere, you’re outnumbered.”

The man shrugged exasperatedly, unfazed by her threat. “God, fine, I guess. I’m not showing you my wings though, it’s too much work to get them hidden comfortably after I let em loose.” His voice dragged with each word spoken, almost as if the effort to say each syllable was more than he had signed up for.

The stranger stood up straight, sandwiching the peach between his teeth to free up the use of his hands. He flattened his palms together tightly, then began separating them in a smooth flow. Theodore’s jaw went slack to see the white gold sword appear from between the man’s palms. His eyes were filled with a pure light, the brightness of both his eyes and the sword emanating energy that felt like the full force of the sun. Now the staticky electric feeling swam around freely through the air. It felt like his teeth were vibrating. Theodore shifted uncomfortably, fidgeting with the daylight ring on his finger which had grown hot. Too much longer and the discomfort crawling over his skin would switch to pain.

Once the sword was fully unsheathed from thin air, the angel grasped the hilt, giving it a few lazy swirls in the air. He gestured upwards with his palms as if to say, ‘See? Impressive right?’ The man then snapped and the brightly lit sword disappeared at once, like someone had flipped off a switch. His eyes faded back from their transcendent glow into the lethargic, empty stare of a deadbeat. Unlike earlier, when Cassius’ enchantment had left only Theodore and Mizuki in a state of shock and awe, Terra and Cassius himself joined in on Theodore’s silent, awestruck reverence.

“Yeah--that’s an angel,” Cassius said. His voice sounded empty, fearful. If even Cassius sounded fearful then--then they must have wandered far deeper than anticipated.

Terra’s grip loosened on Cassius’ shirt. How was someone like--him an angel? She had always imagined them like those renaissance paintings, otherworldly and impressive or tanned and effortlessly muscular gods. Her eyes drifted over the man’s lanky figure as he shamelessly continued on devouring his peach while he waited for them to answer. It was, well, frankly disappointing.

The angel looked over at Cassius when he spoke, sniffing the air in his direction slightly. Confusion twitched over his features momentarily before he dropped the train of thought and set his gaze back on Terra. “So--I showed you mine, now you me show yours. What are you guys doing here? Why are you going after the enchantments in that drawer?” He glanced over at Francis. “Even council members don’t have access to this, you should know that, man.”
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps

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Francis Boisseau | Mizuki Chiba | Alfred Smith

Location: Black Market - The Archives
As a hopeless feeling began to fill her, to keep herself from crying, Mizuki was pleasantly distracted by Theodore's silly comment. It caused her to fall into a slurry of chortles, her body shaking with a superficial joy. She let out a small, shaky breath.

They had failed.

Mizuki rose her attention up towards Terra upon seeing some movement from the corner of her eye...seeing as the fairy had walked over towards one of the columns to the side. She looked...forlorn. She felt a momentary guilt consume her. They had dragged her along on this silly adventure of theirs, but even if she was there to simply tag along and help guide them through the Market...Mizuki supposed Terra was somehow involved in all of this mess. She was looking for her friend, Cecil. It wasn't lost on Mizuki that the Sorcerer could hold some sort of sentimental value for the fairy and knew that if the roles were reversed and it was Theodore who had gone missing, she would do everything she could to find him. Even before tonight, Theodore meant a lot to Mizuki. As an inspiration, as her muse. Plus, he was a vital member in their society, and...Mizuki always had a soft spot for him.

Feeling sympathetic, Mizuki pushed herself away from Theodore and padded over towards Terra while Alfred and Cassius shared a small back and forth between them about one of the new rules the Guild had implemented. Depending on status and general behavior, every week the Guild picked out a Sorcerer to check on The Archives and survey it. They had access to whatever enchantment or security measure they had over the entrances and exits, and they had the choice to pick out a section in The Archives to help further their studies in whatever field they were working in. It was quite the honor, or so Alfred insisted. While Cassius was growing rather incredulous and huffy over this new rule and Alfred was too busy rolling his eyes, Mizuki had shifted to stand next to Terra, and...they didn't share a single word.

Mizuki didn't think it was necessary. Instead, she reached her hand out to gentle rest on top of Terra's shoulder, offering the fairy a small smile. An apologetic one. She then shifted to lean against the column next to Terra, just keeping her company while the men bickered. The two stood there in quiet stillness and Mizuki felt at ease beside her. Both had lost something the moment that door didn't budge open.

And, yet...a miracle of miracles. Mizuki's eyes widened and Alfred's head whipped to the side as a low groan ripped and rumbled through their very core. The entrance to The Archives announcing their welcome, a gushing wind moaning around them that rushed through the creaking doors—and just who was on the other side?

Francis held a cheeky grin as he stepped out waving around a keycard. Before his extravagant reveal, Mizuki had lit up with hope and optimism, reaching for Terra's arm and offering it a gentle squeeze of excitement. The adventure didn't end here! She turned to Cassius and began to praise the Sorcerer, hoping maybe there was simply a delay to his sorcery. Whatever the explanation was, at least all hope wasn't lost. Yet, at the same time...Mizuki was confused for Cassius by his confusion. And, then...an explanation appeared. That explanation was Francis as he stated that certain Council-members had access to The Archives depending on your importance.

Really, he didn't have the heart to stop Cassius mid-incantation and if it had worked? Then, it was a win-win situation for Francis. He wouldn't have to wound someone's pride from the get-go and he would not need to use his key-card. It tracked his location and logged in his use, so if he could avoid the Council knowing his whereabouts, then that would be great. Though, seeing just how disheartened everyone had become upon seeing Cassius' enchantment fail...well, he couldn't just turn a blind-eye now could he? Plus, he was incredibly curious as to what they would need from The Archives so desperately they would risk getting caught from higher ups for this. So, yeah, he didn't want to use his key-card unless absolutely necessary, and this seemed like the situation that would fall under the "necessary" category, no? He tried to play it off cool, maybe he'd score a few extra brownie points from the sweet fairy for having possibly saved the evening.

But, that...didn't necessarily seem to be the case. Francis was met with bewildered expressions, an amused one from Alfred who simply wanted to tease the vampire, and...well—Terra seemed rather outraged. Francis eyes widened as she directed her angry stare at him, causing the vampire to tense and hold for impact. You're kidding right? She sounded rather incredulous and all Francis could do was...slump his shoulders in defeat. Oh. Well, he supposed that did seem like a bit of a pompous move. He really didn't mean it to come off that way. He didn't really know how to respond to being scolded, so he just stared at her a little dumbly as she awaited a response, only to eventually...give up on him. He frowned and eventually peeled his gaze away from her, rubbing the back of his neck a little awkwardly and shuffling to the side as the rest started to pour inside.

Mizuki turned to Terra as she started to scold the vampire, looking towards Francis who looked more like a kicked puppy than anything else. But, really, she understood Terra's frustration. She understood how exhausting the highs and lows of all of these emotions could be, and the toll they took out on a single person. Terra...probably had a lot to lose, a lot to look forward to and she couldn't spend it with someone who didn't understand the gravity of their situation. Then again, Francis didn't understand, because they haven't told him. Mizuki sighed, feeling a little torn. She offered a weak smile to Francis and a nod to Terra as she insisted they go on ahead. One last encouraging squeeze to the fairy and she stepped away to join Theodore's side. She paused beside Francis and thanked the vampire, before Alfred quickly joined his side and patted his back. The poor man looked so defeated and disappointed, occasionally shooting Terra a nervous glance here and there. He wanted to apologize, though he nodded to Mizuki at her gratitude.

Mizuki was about to go on ahead, simply assuming he'd join her in return...when she felt his hand gently press against the small of her back. Oh. His firm, and reassuring touch coaxed her forward and she eagerly followed. She snuck a peek up to the vampire, once more taking in his features who seemed to look...content? Proud? Surely, he at least felt relieved they were able to sneak inside.


Finally, once they were inside, Mizuki let out a soft little gasp as she tilted her head back to take in The Archive's ethereal beauty. The faint, warm polluted glow from the Black Market slid through the dome stained glass windows causing an array of colors to dance before them. It was beautiful. The tower of books, the never-ending rows and rows of bookcases. It put the New York's Library to shame.

Mizuki's eyes bounced around over each member of their party, finding Alfred had managed to cheer Francis back up and seeing...well—Cassius seemed to be feeling a little down. He walked far from them and his gaze was elsewhere. His blood flow seemed to pump a little more rapidly, his heart rate accelerating...was he frustrated? Maybe even...embarrassed? A soft hum escaped her as she continued forward with Theodore, exchanging a small glance with him before they continued forward. They has...so many people surrounding them right now. They had managed to somehow such in all of these supernaturals into their adventure, each here for their own reason.

Mizuki took in a small breath. The smell of aging books, candle wax, and maple wood filling her lungs. At this point, they were following Cassius' lead where they soon found themselves walking directly over the looming dome and Mizuki even found herself...pausing...her eyes engulfing the wonder of a wonderful arrangement of enchanted stars to float above them. It was...Mizuki extended a hand out, feeling as if she could almost touch them. This was the closest she felt to her heart nearly racing in...a very long time. But, of course...her heart lay perfectly still in her chest. For a moment, she even swore she saw a tiny shooting star and her hand shot out towards the hem of Theodore's jacket to grab his attention and point up towards the illusion of a starry night Her glassy gaze brimming with child-like wonder reflected the starry surface...She couldn't help but silently marvel over the magnificent work. She even began to day-dream and grow lost in thought, wondering what it was like to be a Sorcerer studying under such a sky! It must be so motivating...Sorcerers and witches...what wonderful creatures with a tendency for the alluring.

Mizuki sighed dreamily before she sheepishly apologized to Theodore for holding him back before she stepped onwards as they continued in their journey through the Milky Way. She kept her head tilted back and her eyes glued to the dome until she felt Theodore come to a sudden halt beside her. Oh? She found Cassius gesturing towards one of the glass tables beside them which encased all sorts of oddities and relics. But, to hear the documents were mere decoys...Oh, it was for entertaining purposes. Strength and resilience in battle—"Oh...", she frowned, her eyes scanning over the documents before they continued forward and she heard a sharp breath behind her given where Cassius was guiding them and what he was pulling out.

Mizuki sharply looked back to find Francis and Alfred both came to a halting stop behind them, and Alfred had opened his mouth, fingers pointed towards Cassius as if he was about to yell at him and ask him what the hell did he think he was doing—! But, it seemed someone beat him to it.

A strange voice from an unknown figure hiding in the shadows.

Mizuki whipped her whole body back to properly face whoever had caught them sneaking into The Archives. She felt the fear return and grip at her chest, nearly causing her to feel breathless. Her body was tense in anticipation as she scanned the room desperately until she found their captor. With a snap to his fingers, a chime of an echo following, a small orb of light was summoned and she was able to drink in his features and...recognize him. It was the young man from the bar, the one Theodore had shared a moment with. The one she surveyed out of curiosity, wondering if he was too drunk to sit up straight...but that didn't seem to be the case.

Mizuki felt another shroud of disappointment and didn't know how many highs and lows she could continue to experience, at this point. And, from the looks of it...neither did Theodore. She looked towards the vampire with crinkled brows and a weary look, shakily brushing their knuckles together in weak reassurance. It was odd, but seeing how stressed he seemed by this young man's presence made her feel...less alone, and less like she had just been overreacting everything. It made him even seem more...human.

Despite everyone sharing in their own share of panic and worry, their sneaky little stranger took it upon himself to simply sit down and prop up his dirty shoes against a beautiful set of furniture and cabinets. She sucked in a sharp breath between her teeth as they all silently eyed the young man while he peacefully ate his peach. Making a mess. Mizuki grimaced, looking more unimpressed than scared at this point.

It was when he spoke up, that Mizuki and Francis both found themselves frowning. Alfred shifted towards Cassius side and hissed lowly at the Sorcerer to explain to him what the fuck was going on before he shifted his whole attention back onto this stranger who seemed to have their play-by-play perfectly laid out. And, then...he said it. I'd kinda have no choice, but to arrest you.

"No", Mizuki whispered softly to herself, raising her bandaged fingers up to her trembling lips as she shot a glance up towards Theodore that read of that of pure fear. No, she was losing her composure entirely. And, when Theodore questioned him...he revealed that he was with The Order...which seemed to make both Francis and Mizuki look physically ill.

Francis stumbled back onto a pillar behind him and clutched onto it tightly, staring up at the rest of the group and wondering to himself...where and who the fuck did he get involved with? What was so special about that cabinet they were about to pick? Why did they need it? Who were they working for? He couldn't risk getting involved with The Order, he couldn't risk getting caught. If his superiors found that he had been causing trouble...He closed his eyes tightly and swallowed back the bile he felt rising in his throat. No. He had to get out of here, quick.

Though, both Francis and Mizuki looked back to Terra with a wide and sharp gaze, looking at her as if she had grown a second head! She was laughing at him! No one questioned The Order. Why was she so disbelieving? Even if it was just some jackass pushing their buttons, what if he was actually a heavenly being that worked for The Order? They'd get in so much trouble just due to her insolence!

Mizuki was left to look back and forth between Terra and the young man, as she now asked him about his wings and a whine practically escaped the back of Mizuki's throat. Oh, she was going to hurl. She was going to hurl and then pass out, and then when she was to wake she would find Maximus right beside her ready to do to her what he had done to Samantha and the Councilman before her.

They continued their back and forth, Terra's question about his wings making him visibly pause before he insisted he was merely undercover. She still kept pushing, though, and Mizuki was about to beg the fairy to be quiet. This was not the time for such a strong front, this was not the time to poke and prod. They were losing time and Mizuki wanted nothing more than to...to end this. They've done their best and as she had said before, they got half the Black Market involved, plus someone from The Order...If he really was who he said he was. Even Mizuki was feeling a little doubtful considering his...disheveled appearance, given the stereotypes they have heard of such holy beings...but still...Mizuki wasn't about to risk it. Mizuki was about to speak up and ask the young man to forget their interrogation and ask if there was some sort of agreement they could come to...when Theodore also began to speak up and she was about ready to fall into pieces from the nervous wreck she had become beside him.

The man before them felt...overwhelming. There was no other word to use for him, but Mizuki felt unnerved by his presence, by his energy that she didn't quite understand herself, but it was enough for her to want to run away. Every single instinct in her body screamed at her to run away, and yet her feet refused to move.

Manipulating aura? So, Theodore felt it too, huh...? Mizuki rose her glassy gaze up to the young man as he sounded bewildered by her companion's question...only to soon laugh. His laughter caused her to flinch before she looked away entirely. At least he sounded amused and not offended, that could work in their favor. His explanation as to what his aura meant to them didn't help with her nerves as her nails returned to her bandages and she began to pick at them incessantly. Processing the information given to them. If they were to trust his word, then...Means of saving? Did they...need saving? And, was he able to provide it—? Fucking nightmare. Okay, never mind.

Mizuki did managed a shaky little smile at his small poke at the citizens of New York and could imagine the headache from time to time...But, did angels...want to assist those less fortunate? She was going through a religious and moral dilema before she looked back towards Cassius and Terra. Terra was the only brave one willing to talk back to this young man who claimed to be associated to be with The Order, and as much as it scared Mizuki...it was still something she admired from the fairy. Yet, even then...when she lowered her eyes down she found Terra clutching tightly onto Cassius, and Cassius was just as tense. Alfred was on the other side also gripping onto Cassius' shirt, while Francis look faint and pale. They were involving too many people in on this and causing them so much duress...

Finally, the young man gave in and Mizuki returned her attention back towards him as he insisted he was not going to show off his wings. He already sounded bored and uninterested, yet supposed he was somehow a man of his word. He stood up and Mizuki braced for impact as he brought his palms together in prayer...only to summon a sword between them. A white, gold sword...it was beautiful. He...was beautiful. Mizuki held her breath as she found her hands clutching onto Theodore's arm for support. Physical and emotional. She squinted her eyes and flinched away with a small hiss as his aura soon became...crushing. She felt itchy and uncomfortable as she felt a faint, familiar sting run up and down her arms. She instinctively took a step back before closing her eyes tightly. The light had been so bright for her sensitive gaze, and...

Yet, just as quickly as it had started...it had ended. And, Mizuki cracked one eye open to hesitantly regard the young man...Yes, indeed. He was an angel, and they had interrogated and belittled him...and somehow...Mizuki already accepted whatever fate had in store for her. Her hands fell away from Theodore, looking defeated and small. She couldn't even feel starstruck or impressed, when she knew that he had every single right to arrest them and drag them away. He also had the strength, apparently.

And, now...it was their turn to be interrogated, and any emotion left on Mizuki's expression had left. All that was left to feel was regret and disappointment. Why are you going after the enchantments in that drawer? He even turned to question Francis, and when Mizuki looked towards the vampire all Francis could do was look away bitterly, not able to meet the young man's gaze. He must feel so angry with them. Having gotten him involved in something so silly...all of them...And, Theodore...Theodore still had to fight for Samantha. Theodore was the only one who could.

Really...

What was she even doing there? Theodore was perfectly capable of doing this on his own. He was intelligent, smart, witty, and his intuition was sharp. He would be fine...but he had to be free. No matter the conclusion for tonight, she was going to get into trouble. The moment she stepped into Lasombra tonight...she was going to get scolded and yelled at. So, why...not give them a reason?

And, so...Mizuki reached for Theodore's hand and gave it a small squeeze, turning up to the vampire as the room had fallen silent. No one had an answer for the angel, not yet. She gave Theodore a smile, and offered a soft: "thank you" to the vampire before she took a deep breath and parted ways from Theodore, taking steps towards the angel. She lifted her hands up as if to claim her innocence, as if to silent assure him she meant him no harm and maybe even a quiet ask for permission to step forward. The bandages on her fingers were steeped in faint traces of blood. Her chest was clenched painfully and she had this strong urge to cry. She was visibly shaking before the angel and stopped just a foot away from him.

"...look", Mizuki spoke in a hushed tone, "...um. Let me start off by saying that if you're going to punish anyway, please punish me or arrest me or...whatever it is The Order does", she stated, keeping her voice low as a way to ensure only the celestial being before her could hear her.

"The people behind me has nothing to do with any of this, they just somehow got sucked into this. I asked for their help, I asked to be brought here without explanation. They were just kind enough to lend a hand, even though I had knowledge that we were breaking into The Archives and we were going to steal—borrow a few documents. Especially not Francis or Theodore, don't...don't punish them. Please. I...", Mizuki sighed as she lowered her gaze, not having been able to keep eye contact with the young man for very long.

Mizuki's hands balled into fists and she started to tear up, "...s-someone very important to me is about to be executed and I just wanted to do something about it, bring some justice somehow, because it's the right thing to do...To hell with a few documents, someone's life is on the line, and I could honestly care less about a few Sorcerers missing some papers. But, of course...what does The Order care about such frivolous things, hm? We were following a paper trail and found ourselves here. I just want to get to the bottom of a very large problem within my community. I would have turned to The Order, but really...you guys haven't really made it easy to talk to you all", she stated, peeking up to the being, "...so, that's why I am here...leave the rest go. I'll take whatever yo have for me", she stated, offering her wrists towards the angel, ready for him to simply...lock her up.


Yet, unaware to her and the rest of the group, there was a lurking shadow about who kept still behind one of the many bookcases. Overhearing the group's conversation. They swallowed thickly, afraid...yet silently rooting for the small group of rift rafts.
 
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Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Caelum | Cassius
Location: The Archive, Terra's Apartment​

Caelum looked at the Vampire woman who stepped forward to stand face to face with him. Her figure was petite, and her meager posture standing unsure before him emphasized her fragility. He glanced at her features as she began pouring her heart out to him, explaining their situation and claiming sole capability for the actions of the night. Although she appeared meager, Caelum was sure there was something fiercer stirring underneath the surface.

Theodore watched helplessly as Mizuki stepped forward towards the angel, her frame hesitant. She stood before him, and although power wise the man would have towered over her menacingly, his lanky frame was barely any more intimidating than how Mizuki appeared in her shrunken sheepishness. Nevertheless, the fear that engulfed Theodore at the sight of her approaching the angel made his body go numb. He tried to swallow, but his throat refused to move, like even the simple act had been forgotten. He gasped at a breath.

When Mizuki began speaking to the angel, taking all the credit for their wrongdoings of the night, a cord felt like it had been pulled through the core of Theodore’s body. His spine became rigid, his body tense. He clenched his fists tightly, the grip breaking the skin in his palm with a shallow, crescent shaped cut. As much as the words inside him screamed to stop Mizuki from taking the fall for him, for Samantha, he knew he couldn’t. If they were both dragged away, pinned under the all seeing eye of The Order, who would be there to clear Samantha’s name? Who would stop Maximus from enacting his plan?

His face was stoic and glowering as he watched the two interact. An unwanted flashback of the previous night blinded him. Seeing Mizuki sacrifice herself like this--it reminded him of Samantha, how she stood before The Council, before all the clans, and accepted her fate gracefully. She was alone, just like Mizuki standing before them all. She sounded defeated and disillusioned as she poured her heart out to the being before her who simply looked--scared? Put off? No--that wasn’t quite it. Theodore’s expression turned quizzical as he searched the man before them all. Frankly, the angel looked overwhelmed by Mizuki's declaration. What was up with this guy?

Theodore shot a glance over towards Terra, wondering if she also felt the wavering presence of the angel before them. Her face was concentrated as she watched Mizuki and the angel interact.

“Uh--” Caelum took a step backwards, putting up his hands defensively. “Listen I--uh--I don’t know what you’ve heard about angels but I’m certainly not going to punish you. Jeez,” He let out a nervous laugh, bringing up a hand to scratch his head, a movement that seemed like a nervous tick. “I don’t even want to arrest you, if I’m being candid.” His shallow gaze turned upwards and darted around their small group. “Any of you, for that matter.”

A brief puddle of silence engulfed their group while they soaked in the angel’s stance. Terra’s grip loosened on Cassius’ shirt, sensing the ease that now ran through his system. Seemed like he was fine once he had a designated person to fall on the sword for him.

“Tell you what,” Caelum said, his droning voice pushing aside the weight of silence bearing down on them all. He shifted his weight to one side and brought a hand to his chin in thought. “How about we work something out, huh? You tell me what document it is you need and why, I find a way to get it to you all, and in return you owe me a favor. What do you say?”

Theodore wrinkled his brow, thoroughly shell shocked from the rollercoaster of emotions the last few seconds had held. “What?”

“You know, an exchange of interests, a tit for tat. Quid pro quo, whatever the fuck you call it,” Caelum shrugged. “Listen, I know a few loopholes in the angelic contract so I do what I can to get some favors. Wouldn’t be the black market without illegal activities, I’m not getting in the way of that.”

Terra’s eyes widened. So that’s why he had met with Jax earlier. Quid pro quo. Jax probably got into some legal trouble with his flexible definition of the angelic contract, and this kid was a crooked--uh, angel? Reaching out for something in return for his blind eye. The fear and intimidation she had felt upon learning that he was in fact an angelic being were thrown to the wayside. Her original impression of the lanky character that stood before them soured her mood. The little brat.

Theodore glanced around at the others in their group to glean the general feeling of what the angel was offering. Francis looked visibly ill, clutching onto a column like his entire body was about to collapse beneath him, Cassius sure as hell wasn’t going to speak up and Terra--given her last skiff with the angel earlier, she didn’t seem like the type of person who was good at coercing deals. Guess it was his time to shine then. Theodore drew in a breath, casting out the fear, desperation and anxiety from his system. He stepped towards Mizuki, encircling his hand around her wrist and pressing his thumb gently into the pressure point on the underside of it, silently signaling her to step back into the group. She had done enough for them, now it was his turn to stand on the ledge.

“We’re game,” He smirked towards the angel, his muscles loosening with a charismatic swagger. “I think we can work out something that would benefit the both of us.” Theodore outstretched his hand towards the angel. “My name is Theodore by the way, and you are?”

Caelum looked down at the outstretched hand before him, surprised but amused by the suddenly smooth nature of the vampire before him. He shook the man’s hand with a tight grip. “Caelum, pleased to meet you Theodore. Now you mind telling me what drew all of you together to The Archives of all places?”

Theodore leaned against the counter beside them crossing one leg over the other. “Last night the leader of the Vieru was brought in by the Vampiric Council for murdering a councilman. I have reason to believe she was framed, and strong evidence that the leader of the Lasombra is working against the interests of the council. I think he’s--planning a coup.”

“A coup--” Caelum droned, trailing off in thought. “Sounds boring. Anything illegal I should know about?”

Theodore’s jaw tightened. This kid couldn’t care less about what happened to Samantha. It seemed like he was searching for something in this situation, Theodore just needed to figure out what. “Well, based on the reason that we’re here, I think he’s doing more than just framing a fellow Clan leader. He’s enlisted a Sorcerer who two weeks ago stole a document from this cabinet,” Theodore patted the wood frame gently. “Which from how you’ve put it, is a very illegal place to steal a document.”

Caelum’s dark, empty eyes searched Theodore’s face. If the clan leader the vampire was talking about really did have plans to use those documents for something illegal, it may be worthwhile to look into. It could even turn into something that would fill a week or two’s quota. He smiled brightly. “You, sir, have got yourself a deal.”

Theodore stood up from his reclined position, mouth poised to speak again, but the angel talked over him. He only needed that much to coerce him? He had barely informed him of the situation. They hadn’t even set up the terms yet and he was already fulfilling his side of the deal. Caelum walked over behind the counter, oblivious to the looks of shock that Terra, Theodore and Cassius shot his way. Had it really been this easy the whole time? What was the point of flaunting around his whole status with the order and the level of classification of the documents if he was willing to just, give it to them?

Cassius and Terra slid backward to make room for Caelum to shuffle through the drawers. The aged oak made a rich scratch in friction as it was pulled open. He rifled through the papers, gaze trained, before he pulled out a worn looking leaflet. The pages had yellowed with age, their color contrasted by the rich ink of black script and odd looking symbols. Caelum opened the set of pages, running his finger along the jagged edge of the page. “You can’t take it physically but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a picture of it,” He shrugged lamely. He gestured for someone to walk beside him and do the deed. “Well we don’t have all night.”

Terra pulled her phone from the pocket of her dress. She walked up to the counter where the pages laid flat, her brow furrowed in annoyance at Caelum’s demeanor. The full, aged smell of paper wafted up her nose once she approached the counter. The documents laid flat, the dark ink glinting subtly in the light that filtered in from above. The writing was incomprehensible to her. How were Cecil and Cassius even able to make sense of this stuff? She snapped several pictures quickly, before stepping back and gesturing for him to return the documents back to the drawer. After all they had gone through to get to this point, actually securing the content of the documents felt...underwhelming. Terra pocketed her phone once more, looking to Theodore to hopefully find a way to rid themselves of their newest--companion.

Caelum smiled innocently once the documents had been properly stored. “So now what?”

Theodore cleared his throat, blinking quickly in confusion. “I was about to ask you that, frankly.” The two men stared at each other blankly, their arms hanging down pathetically at their sides as they failed to properly navigate their newest situation.

Terra rolled her eyes and took a step forward, pushing Theodore backwards before he could speak again. He would be too accommodating for this deadbeat. They needed to get rid of him, not invite him over for a nightcap.

“Well, now we’re going to review the documents you’ve so kindly helped us secure. How about you take down one of our numbers, that way you can contact us when that favor comes in handy, huh?” Terra smiled sweetly. She grabbed Theodore’s arm with an iron grip and began dragging him towards the exit, causing the vampire to visibly wince. He looked to Mizuki in bewilderment.

“Why don’t I come with? I do know my way around sorcerer magic you know,” Caelum said flatly. “They don’t teach this stuff at the academy, so you’re friends might not be able to get all the information they can out of it. Better be safe than sorry yeah?” As much as he’d love to go home and finish binge watching the latest show he found, he knew he wouldn’t be able to properly relax until he knew this exchange would be worth his time and effort. If he let them just waltz out of here with the golden egg, he doubted he’d ever hear from them again.

Caelum jogged over to catch up with Terra, but his movements were sluggish and lethargic, like he had just run ten miles and the mere thought of exerting any energy over a walk was life draining.

Terra cursed under her breath, looking to Theodore with a slight pout. She turned around, brushing the annoyed look off of her face and flashing a cherubic smile. “Let’s go back to my apartment then, what do you say?” She looked towards the others still lingering back in the group, her bright eyes contrasted by the intense look that filled them, silently barking for the others to join them.

Caelum put his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “Sure, lead the way.”

---
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Cassius held Terra’s phone close to his face, his features contorting into bewilderment. “What? That doesn’t make any sense,” He flicked his finger across the screen rapidly, looking through the multiple photos Terra had taken. “Cecil can’t do anything with what he took, it’s useless.”

Terra stood up from her position on the couch, throwing down the soft pastel cushion she had been hugging tightly in anticipation. “Useless? What do you mean, useless?” Terra questioned, her voice raised in octave and volume the longer she spiraled down her line of thought. “There’s no way Cecil would go to those lengths for something he can’t use. And--I definitely don’t think he could have predicted we’d do something this drastic in order to throw us a red herring--I mean--at least I don’t think he would have.”

“No, no,” Cassius dismissed her incredulous reaction, his brow still furrowed heavily as he scanned the dark symbols. “The section he took from are enchantments that can only be activated by a sorcerer able to channel demon energy and well--that’s impossible to do. And I don’t mean the type of impossible Cecil’s used to proving possible, I mean real, concrete impossibility,” He glanced up from under his lashes at the group huddled in Terra’s living room. “Every Sorcerer who’s tried has died in the process, demon energy can’t be channeled in a human body without overwhelming corruption. Doesn’t matter how powerful the Sorcerer or how hard they try. The Guild created this specific group of enchantments in the hopes that someone could one day but--they banned it quickly. Too many people were dying and the enchantments on their own are too dangerous for any one person to wield,” Cassius paused, his gaze locking with Terra’s. They shared a brief look of pure fear. “He would never be that stupid would he?”

“Nah, he doesn’t have to be,” Caelum piped up from where he sat, reclined back on one of the wooden chairs that framed the coffee table. His feet were stretched out far into the center of the room, crowding the little space they already had to work with. “We’re talking about the sorcerer you’re bonded to right?” He asked, pointing towards Cassius, who gave him a hesitant nod. “Kid’s got demon blood in him. Channeling that shit is easy,” He said flippantly, gaze trained on his phone as he scrolled through some social media feed.

“What?” Terra breathed weakly, her heart beating rapidly. The sound filled up her ears, becoming the only thing she could hear. Just an incessant, all encompassing pounding. It felt like the floor had crumbled out from beneath her. She held an arm out to the wall to brace herself, knees buckling in shock.

Caelum looked up at the fairy’s meager response, noticing the paled expressions of the others in the group. He grimaced, oops. “You guys didn’t know?” He asked innocently, offering a tentative smile. “I just--I thought you would have assumed by now, there’s no reason for a Sorcerer’s magic to be that heavy and oppressive. You’ve all felt it, I assume?”

“Well--wait what does that mean?” Theodore asked Caelum. The shock from the newest news of the sorcerer had gone over his head, having never met the man. Instead, he used his unmarred curiosity to hopefully pry the angel into telling them more. He maneuvered to where Caelum sat reclined and took a seat on the floor next to the angel.

Caelum slipped his phone back into his pocket, sitting up straight so he could face his new companion. He rested his elbows on the small table that separated the two. “Back before demons were oppressed as heavily as they have been, they used to mingle around with humans and other supernaturals. They were just an accepted part of society, although becoming an increasingly taboo one. Some even fell in love, had children. You get the picture,” He made a rolling gesture with his hand. “Any angel worth their salt can smell a drop of demon blood in a lake. I smelled it as soon as I saw this guy back at the archives,” He gestured towards Cassius with his thumb. “Even if the man in question isn’t around, the blood bond between the two is enough for me to get a decent whiff of it. My guess is he’s got a demon in his ancestry line that traveled down unencumbered for generations, hence the presence of it in his blood.”

Terra sat down on the couch, a shell of who she was mere moments before. She leaned forward, placing her head in her hands. She couldn’t think, she couldn’t believe that someone she had known for years, someone she trusted, someone she loved, had been hiding such a massive secret from her. Once they found him she was--she was--

“I’m going to kill him,” Terra said suddenly. She looked up at Cassius, whose expression had fallen into a slack disbelief. “I’m going to fucking kill him.”

Cassius nodded, his gaze cloudy and unfocused. “Yeah--yeah I probably will too.” His arms rested idly at his sides.

Theodore looked over at Mizuki, his blue eyes dampened into a deep stormy color as he mapped out the potential danger of Maximus’ plan in his mind. Now not only did he have The Sorcerer’s Guild most dangerous and forbidden enchantment, he had the one Sorcerer alive who was able to activate it. It made his gut turn over in fear.

“Wow this is quite exciting wouldn’t you say?” Caelum said, diverting his train of thought away from his history lecture. His dark eyes were giddy with excitement at the thought of catching a clan leader using forbidden demon magic to gain power and status. That would be more than just a week or two’s worth of quota. He could slack off for months on this, potentially even a whole year. A soft smirk tugged at his lips at the thought of what he could do with all that free time. Not to mention he had an entire group of people before him willing to do all of the heavy lifting. All he had to do was just be present for the final take down and boom, all the credit would fall down on him alone. What a strike of luck tonight was.
 
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Razvi-sama

#babysteps

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Francis Boisseau | Mizuki Chiba | Alfred Smith

Location: Black Market - The Archives; Terra's Apartment

Mizuki let out a soft, shuddering breath when she finished her little spiel, feeling the buzz of adrenaline and anxiety mix chaotically within her. No one behind her spoke up, and the angel before her seemed rather...dumbfounded. Overwhelmed? She wasn't sure what to make of his reaction as he stared down at her rather owlishly. The silence made her shift uncomfortably, shuffling a little where she stood as she tried to understand what was going on in his mind.

Whatever was happening, Mizuki knew this was the right thing to do. She was a nobody within her community, her own leaders barely respected her. Theodore could make a difference. He was known within his community, he was respected by most. By...her. He had the investigative skills, he had the drive. The least she could do was help pave the way. So, she stood before the angel with her head held high. Tense, afraid—...yet finally feeling like she was doing something for said community.

Mizuki awaited with bated breath for the angel to speak up, to say...anything. She nervously looked over her shoulder to Theodore, looking to the man where her gaze seemed to linger for just a little too long. Almost apologetically. What seemed to shake her out of her stupor was the soft "um" that seemed to echo over the domed chamber. She flicked her attention back over to the celestial being, only to find him...stepping away from her. Wait. That didn't seem to help with her nerves. On the contrary, her nerves were practically frayed at this point, afraid that she might have offended him somehow! But, then...he stammered out that he actually wasn't looking to punish them. So, angels...Well, then what did The Order do to those who disobeyed? Was it worse? Was it...death? Well, she supposed she's already lived a rather long life—Again, not even close to what they wanted to do.

Mizuki stood before the angel feeling a little lost. He didn't even want to arrest them, and that seemed to be a sentiment extended out towards their friends. Really? Did he really mean it? Her body visibly sagged with relief, raising her hands up to her lips as she took in deep and steady breaths...in...out...in...out...Thank heavens...She looked back to Theodore with an overjoyed look, peering behind him to find Francis also took relief from hearing that the angel wasn't entirely interested in arresting them. A wave of silence fell over them as they all processed what this meant exactly. Bodies were losing their tension as it was now their turn to stare dumbly at the being...as he eventually announced that he...was willing to help them. In return for a favor.

Mizuki immediately disagreed. They should not be involving themselves with The Order. Especially not have to "owe him". The last thing they needed was to be indebted to an angel. It was bad enough they had someone involved with the Council. She was about to speak up, to flat out disagree with the man, only to look back to find Theodore had spoken up...clearly shocked.

Wouldn’t be the black market without illegal activities, I’m not getting in the way of that.

No. Wait—.

Mizuki gasped, clearly startled, as she looked back to find Theodore had sauntered up beside her, as she wasn't expecting him to approach her to begin with. She shot her gaze down, feeling his hand encircling her wrist...softly pressing into the fleshy part of her wrist. He was coaxing her backwards, coaxing her to step away, to step behind him. She was hesitant, clearly protesting with her puckered brows and twisted look of concern, "Theodore—", she paused, soon feeling another pair of hands on her shoulders which only managed to successfully spirit her away towards the back with the others.

It was Francis. Before laying his hands on her, Francis softly whispered into her ear for her permission to touch her, and when he received a hesitant and stupefied nod...he motioned her away. Mizuki could hardly peel her eyes away from Theodore even as she was being motioned away, looking pale and nervous.

...and then, he agreed. He made a deal with an angel. Introducing himself, shaking his hand. Caelum, was his name. Francis and Mizuki stood to the side with Alfred standing next to Cassius and Terra. He had been gripping onto the hem of Cassius' shirt, watching as such a dramatic turn of events unfolded before him. He offered a sympathetic look to Mizuki who looked as if she was shaking in Francis' grasp, seeming a little restless as she watched Theodore and Cassius come to a deal of sorts.

There was nothing any of them could do at this point, but it was Mizuki who looked the most disappointed out of all of them. Clearly displeased. Francis didn't look too happy either, but it was more for selfish reasons. He was mad at himself for getting himself involved, and he was mad at them for...well, getting him involved. He felt as if his skin was crawling at the very presence of the angel, because Caelum could very well turn him in...report him to his higher ups and that would mean...Francis swallowed thickly, trying to take in steady breaths.

He had to see this until the end. Not that he wanted to involve himself further, but he had to make sure that the angel would keep his word. While he understood why Mizuki was protesting, understanding why she wouldn't want to get The Order involved...for selfish reasons, he needed to make sure Theodore managed to keep this angel's mouth shut. So, out of his own self-interest, he kept Mizuki put and kept silent. He still felt a little faint from the initial shock, but after seeing Mizuki and Theodore confront the angel, he was feeling a little more confident. Or maybe, it was more desperation than confidence.

However, what was expressed next...wasn't something he had expected to hear. Theodore just made a rather bold accusation and he looked down to Mizuki with blatant shock as the vampire simply looked away. Her body was rigid and her hands had balled themselves into fists. They had finally voiced out their own suspicions over Maximus, the leader of Lasombra. But, Francis' gaze darkened ever so slightly at Theodore's specific choice of words.

The leader of the Lasombra is working against the interests of the Council.

Francis nearly scoffed, something Mizuki actively noticed and saw the...twisted hatred behind Francis' gaze. The only thing the Council was interested in...were themselves.

Alfred and Francis exchanged a few nervous looks. A coup? This was more than they signed up for. This wasn't even something they had fathomed. They just thought they were dicking around, worried about Cecil and that that was where the discussion ended. But, to hear they were trailing after evidence towards a coup within the vampiric community? That was...a lot to swallow.

Mizuki frowned, looking towards Theodore's figure warily, before turning her attention towards Francis and Alfred who looked off-put. Meanwhile...Caelum dared use the word boring and she was left to stew in her annoyance. How...tasteless. Again, The Order was so detached to their problems and woes. Mizuki really didn't understand why they were the ones to enforce order they had no idea about. But, Theodore was still working an angle with Caelum, trying to bait the angel with something that might peek his interest. At this point, Theodore had said too much and Mizuki had given up. They now had a deal, and they would soon be indebted to Caelum.

Everything else almost seemed to blur together for Mizuki. Between Caelum padding through The Archives, easily giving in to the bait Theodore had so elegantly placed before him, to the angel actively opening the drawers and slipping out illegal and sensitive documents for them to...take pictures of. Francis, Mizuki, and Alfred all watched warily for their own reason. Mizuki didn't want to be involved with The Order, Francis was worried he might get in trouble with his higher ups, and Alfred was just concerned for his friends. Terra, Cassius, and Theodore all shuffled about to quickly capture some pictures of the illegal documents, and Mizuki found it rather humorous that such top-secret information was stored within...a fairy's celular phone. And, like Terra...it did feel rather underwhelming despite the overwhelming feelings that still surged within her.

Once the pictures were taken and they had gotten what they had come looking for, they were all now found at a standstill...now...what? What were they to do with such sensitive information? Silence once more fell over them as they all shuffled their gazes about, bouncing from person to person, but Mizuki specifically looked to Theodore and it was clear she was not happy. More anxious than anything else.

They all turned towards Terra who seemed to have spoken up, even going as far as to coax Theodore back to shift the attention onto her. She took the reins once again and Mizuki was filled with admiration for the fairy. So strong-willed. She even began to notice Terra trying to work an angle where they could easily dismiss Caelum, maybe even hopefully get rid of him and the vampire was practically brimming with hope! But, no. He asked to tag along and Mizuki cringed inwardly. She slid her phone out and looked down to see the time. It was late...and Charlotte was going to become even more suspicious than she already was. Which in turn...meant Maximus would get suspicious.

Though, when trying to find a way to rush their farewells, Terra seemed incredibly eager to leave, going as far as to grab a tight hold of Theodore, actively dragging him away. Mizuki nearly jumped forward towards the two to quickly follow after Theodore, but paused when she felt a hand on her wrist...and found it was Francis shaking his head.

"...stay back with me. Collect yourself and your breathing", Francis offered softly, "...you look like you're about to collapse".

Mizuki's lower lip trembled as she kept shooting glances back towards Theodore, meeting his bewildered gaze as her shoulders slumped. Okay. She watched as Caelum sluggishly padded after Terra, as she soon announced they were to meet back at her apartment and went on to hiss to the rest to follow after her. Oh.

Alfred was the first to jolt forward, tugging Cassius along and offering to walk back with him. It's been a while since they were all gathered in Terra's apartment, huh? Well, he supposed they weren't all together considering they were missing Cecil, but...close enough.

In the meantime, Francis took a step forward towards the others only to pause...as he looked to Mizuki who was practically glued where she stood. She was afraid. Afraid of the angel, afraid as to what his involvement would mean. At least, if she had been arrested, there would no longer be the worry of "what if". A "what if" still loomed over her, and somehow...Francis imagined this was not just about Caelum, but something more. He fell back to her side and coaxed her forward, offering to keep her company all the way to Terra's home.

"...so, what clan do you belong to?", Francis asked in a soft murmur, looking over his shoulder to catch movement within the shadows. Hm.

"...Lasombra", Mizuki shuddered out, and Francis offered one single nod.

"I see".

~

Upon arriving at the apartment, Francis tilted his head back and softly whistled as he took in the green and yellow analogue colors that filled his vision. It was...oddly rather calming and not what he pictured Terra to decorate her home with. The little spit fire was just one surprise after another for the vampire. Though, his focus seemed to fall over Mizuki, who was a little too quiet. He had noticed in the two times he had walked alongside her, that she was something few might consider a bit of an airhead. She liked taking in her surroundings and losing herself within them. She'd gush and fawn over a few things she found of interest, before quickly bouncing onto the next interesting thing.

Not this time.

Mizuki kept her eyes glued to her feet the whole way, and once they arrived at the apartment, she hesitantly stepped in and found a space near one of the larger windows. She didn't even bother approaching the living room, seemingly wanting to put distance between herself and the others. She kept looking down at her phone, though, and every notification that popped up she seemed almost afraid to read it. Hm.

Francis loomed in the back, by the door. Information that the Lasombra's leader was forming a coup against—or with—the Council was news to him. And, Samantha...ah, yes. Samantha Jones. Mother to the Vieru as she was unofficially known. He remembered the headlines that morning. He remembered the buzz within the Council, and he remembered thinking how utterly ridiculous the notion was that she was accused of murder to begin with. She didn't murder that Councilman and he knew that for a fact. So, Theodore...the Vieru's little pup was trying to save mommy dearest, now was he? As much as his interest was peaked, he valued his own life at the moment...no matter how kind Samantha had always been to him.

Alfred was sitting beside Cassius as he was staring down at the phone, flicking through the pictures and heatedly announcing that none of the enchantments or sigils made sense. Alfred nodded, echoing his agreement. These were impossible and barely legible, but any Sorcerer worth their salt understood the implication of such dangerous enchantments. Demonology—for both witches and Sorcerers—was a taboo and near impossible act to follow. It resulted in death...and sometimes even worse. And, even if they did work...Alfred didn't even want to imagine what could be done with such sorcery. Thankfully, no Sorcerer had or should be able to use such taboo procedures, and that was exactly what Cassius explained to a rather incredulous Terra and bewildered Theodore. Mizuki practically scoffed, though. Another wall. Her patience was running thin, it seemed. Her arms were folded and she was staring out the window rather intensely. But, she was listening.

Alfred laughed a little nervously as Terra and Cassius shared their worries over their dear friend, thinking he wouldn't...of course, he wouldn't be dumb enough to try something so dangerous, right? Nothing was worth this! But, they were wrong. Gods, they couldn't be more wrong as the room went quiet the moment Caelum spoke up...

He doesn't have to be. "What the fuck does that mean?", Alfred questioned, as he looked to the angel, only to quickly remember that...well, he was a literal celestial being. Oh, right. He probably shouldn't be cursing at him, huh? "Sorry, I mean...care to explain?". And, so, he went on to ask if this was about the Sorcerer Cassius was actively bonded to, and both he and Cassius gave out a dumb nod...only to soon grow stiff with the news that...well...that...

"No", Alfred laughed rather exasperatedly, "No. Impossible. I refuse to believe...", he trailed off, looking down to the phone in Cassius' hands and snatching it out of his hands to look through the documents. Demon blood, but that was near impossible...wasn't it?

Apparently it wasn't.

Alfred shot his eyes over towards Terra and he wasn't the only one to notice her panic...the sheer shell-shock that read over her complexion was clearly visible...and before he could stand to go and offer her some comfort...it seemed like Mizuki wasn't really ignoring them. When the word "demon" hit her ears, she quickly turned towards Terra and rushed towards the fairy, offering her shoulder to lean on and as support. Again, it wasn't lost on Mizuki that this Cecil most likely meant a lot to her. So, to hear something so...drastic and extreme must be coming to a shock of some kind...The vampire rubbed the woman's back and looked towards Caelum for further explanation. Theodore was pressing for answers and even Mizuki had to admit she was curious.

But, for a moment...she seemed to flinch as her phone gave off another soft little chime, peeking down to the screen only to see it read:

Where are you?

From Charlotte. Mizuki turned off her phone, and went back to focus on Caelum as he began to explain the deep-rooted history between demons and humans...She never knew. Was this something the Council was actively trying to hide from them? Because, looking to Francis...he seemed totally unfazed. A little put off, but unfazed.

It all made sense, but that left Mizuki with the question of...what the hell did the Council want with those documents? And, were they aware of Cecil's demonic blood? Surely, a vampire might be able to even tell the difference, from how sulfuric and bitter their blood tasted and smelled...Mizuki sighed and turned a sympathetic look towards Terra, helping the fairy down into her seat as she tried to process this disturbing information.

Cassius and Terra seemed to share a small moment together and Mizuki looked nothing but sympathetic. She stumbled back into the wall behind her and pushed her bangs out of her face, staring up at the ceiling...because this was all becoming too convoluted and messy. Demons were now involved, and Mizuki didn't know if—.

"Cassius", Alfred shifted the screen towards the Sorcerer, "These pages, these symbols...they are in reference to Necromancy, are they not?".

Necromancy? Mizuki and Francis visibly tensed and shot down their attention over the Sorcerer who nervously ducked their head away from their eyes, "Sorry, sensitive topic?".

"Given that it is the one literal enchantment that could command a vampire to do a witch's bidding—yeah, I would say so", Mizuki murmured. Demonology and Necromancy, "Sounds like the Council wants to raise an army of the dead", she muttered out, half-jokingly.

Alfred shrugged, "That would be pretty dope, but it's pretty hard to find a Necromancer nowadays. They're still in the middle of a witch hunt—".

"Okay, that's enough", Francis hissed, motioning to gather his things and stepping back towards the front door, "I was going to humor you all, especially you two since you're kin...but I draw the line over Necromancy and it seems you all have a lot on your plate—But, this doesn't involve me. I've already gone through enough with the Council, I don't need to give them another reason to...", he sighed, trailing off and quickly shaking his words away, "...doesn't matter. Out of respect to you all, I promise I won't say anything. You have my silence, but not my presence. It's been a long night, I am covered in wine, and I just want to go home", he said, "So, if you'll excuse me—".

"Wait. You honestly think we're dumb enough to let you go, at this point?", Mizuki growled lowly, which caused Francis to pause.

Excuse me?

"Given your ties to the Council, you can either be a great ally or a foul enemy, and I am tired of all of these loose ends", Mizuki announced, "There is something wrong in our community and your response is to sit back and watch, because you're...scared? Someone is literally about to be executed and you're choosing to look away?!".

"You don't know anything about me", Francis spat out.

"But, I know enough to get a vague feeling", Mizuki hissed.

Francis frowned, "...you watch your tone, young lady", he muttered out lowly, pupils growing into thin slits.

"Make me...", Mizuki grumbled out, pupils so thin, they practically disappeared.

"Okay!", Alfred stood up, raising his hands up between the two and looking around towards the others to try and help in case he wasn't enough, "Clearly, the two of you are feeling a lot of emotions and need a moment to breathe".

Francis growled, though did take Alfred's suggestion in taking a breath, before he continued, "I have my own battles to fight, and I didn't ask to be involved".

"You're the one who forcibly shoved into our business", Mizuki spat back quickly, which only caused Francis to shake with anger. But, she was right. He couldn't really disagree with her when he absolutely forced himself into their conversation and business.

"Nothing guarantees any of us that you won't turn us into the Council—that you're not one of the people who plotted to have Samantha behind bars", Mizuki choked.

"What?!", Francis boomed, "She's an old drinking buddy of mine, I would never!", he insisted, "I know Samantha Jones very well, she's helped me in many of my cases and many of my tasks. Whenever I needed a clan's help, I could always turn to her...But, my hands are tied behind my back, what is happening with her is beyond what any of us can do. I'm sorry. Actually, I suggest you all give up. You're only digging a deeper hole if you involve yourselves with Necromancers and demons", he stated, "There's no point in any of this. Just enjoy the rest of your days".

Mizuki frowned, feeling at a loss...once more...hopeless. No, it couldn't end there.

"Surely there has to be a Necromancer who could possibly help us understand these...scribbles, no?", Alfred asked, "It cannot all be hopeless. I don't know who you're talking about, but you deserve to set your friend free".

Francis lowered his gaze down to Alfred and shook his head, "...well, count me out. I really am sorry and I really wish to be of better assistance...but, I can't...", he murmured and turned to leave.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Caelum | Cassius
Location: The Archives, Terra's Apartment​


Terra noticed a visible shift in Mizuki’s demeanor once Theodore stepped up to the plate to make a deal with the angel, Caelum. She couldn’t pretend that she didn’t also feel the immense intimidation that a deal with a celestial being held, but there was something about this kid that led her to believe that he didn’t fit too well with the rules and regulations The Order typically upheld. Jax would sooner publicly bare his neck to a divine sword before he’d align himself with an angel that crossed any of the other bosses in the black market. In that sense, the kid’s references checked out. Not to mention, there seemed to be something--dead in him, some flame that went long extinguished. Maybe it was the look in his eyes, vacant and serene, like a bottomless lake void of any life. Depths and depths of cold emptiness. It just didn’t seem like there was anything in it for him to report them or actually do his job. No joy, no righteous satisfaction. Just an overwhelming sense of boredom.

As selfish as it was too, Terra would do anything to catch up to Cecil. If that meant making an arrangement with The Order, so be it. Theodore clearly felt the same. She flicked her gaze back over to the two vampires towards the back of the group, both of them sharing the same panicked looks. “Sorry, Mizuki,” She thought to herself. “But I’m going to have to choose Cecil on this one.”

Theodore paused momentarily upon hearing the discontent behind him after his bold statement of the Lasombra. He had said it even without thinking, a dark thought brooding in the back of his mind every time he remembered the look on Samantha’s face as she was being taken away. It had come out so naturally, he forgot it was news to others. Theodore cast a glance back to Mizuki to see that she looked--angry. He swallowed hard, his tongue feeling heavy. Now was not the time to worry about it. What’s done is done, the words escaped on their own. Hearing them out loud, though, and how it affected the others made him doubt the accuracy of the accusation. Maximus was slimy, but was he really capable of working against the Council? Was he really daring enough to stage a coup?

If Theodore was wrong--how would he apologize to Mizuki? Tarnishing the reputation of her clan was not an easily forgivable crime, after all. The thought of losing her made something sharp pull straight through the middle of his chest. Why was that?

Cassius watched the scene before them all unfold, his emotions merely smoking embers at this point. Any news about Vampire clans or coups failed to register as shock in his mind. He stayed out of vampire affairs, and liked to keep it that way. His eyes travelled over towards the lanky figure standing languidly before Theodore. Cecil would have a conniption if he knew they were involving themselves with the infamous black market angel. He knew about this kid from various stories, but luckily Cecil and him had never had the unfortunate pleasure of getting caught on his radar. Not that it was a particularly far reaching or powerful radar anyways. Half the stories about the angel were about how fucked up he’d get at bars.

He glanced to the side at Alfred to see how his friend was handling the situation. He braced himself for the classic “I told you so” look he’d always shoot at him and Cecil when they got into trouble for stealing a spell or skipping class but--his face seemed more stunned than anything. Cassius couldn’t blame him. After all, even when the angel wasn’t exerting any display of power, he could feel the warm waves of divine energy wafting from his person. It was a funny contrast to compare the power he was witnessing to the appearance of the body it originated from.

Cassius patted Alfred on the back when he spotted Terra’s pointed gaze in their direction, screaming silently that they needed to move their asses now. “Let’s go crack some forbidden enchantments, yeah?” He smirked sideways. This was probably the last way Alfred had imagined spending his night. Frankly, this was the last way he imagined spending his, too.

--

Theodore felt like a scolded child once returning to Terra’s apartment. As comfortable and humbling the space felt, the discomfort that lined every small movement of his body was insufferable. There was a distance between Mizuki and himself, a noticeable gap where a cold breeze ghosted through. Something he had said--no something he did, had driven her away.

He sat uncomfortably on a kitchen chair Terra had pulled up next to the couch, fidgeting his thumbs in a nervous habit. Mizuki wouldn’t even look over at him. She hadn’t the entire trip over here, nor said any word in acknowledgement to him. He swallowed hard again, losing focus on the conversation that was being held. He snapped to at Caelum’s bold statement of Cecil’s demonic bloodline, a thought that although not shocking, still managed to send a chill down his spine. The last thing he wanted was to get involved with demons and yet here they were, getting involved with demons. Seemed like a logical pattern for the night to have followed.

Theodore’s eyes swept after Mizuki’s figure when she rushed instinctively to Terra’s side. He watched her absently as she comforted the crumpled fairy, her soft touch and gentle reassurance making the guilt in his chest unbearable. He cleared his throat and pulled himself up from the chair, his fingers curling into a frustrated fist momentarily before the tension left his body and they fell back down to the black fabric of his pants. He moved across the small living room to take a seat next to Caelum, and began engaging the angel’s attention about the history of demons and their place in society.

Terra welcomed Mizuki’s gentle, reassuring touch. With the news of Cecil leaving her to feel weightless, falling through the air like a shed leaf, having a grounding presence was valuable in the moment. She leaned into Mizuki’s side as a shudder wracked her system. She knew Cecil had told many lies about his past to her, but something this serious? It was unfathomable. Yet regardless of what Caelum told them, her feelings towards Cecil refused to shift or change. She still--loved him--despite everything he had put her through. She took hold of Mizuki’s hand and squeezed it tight. Was love supposed to hurt this much?

Cassius nodded towards Alfred after his friend identified the necromancy laced within the forbidden enchantments. The cobwebs from the news about Cecil’s bloodline cleared from his mind rapidly as the wheels began spinning in thought. “Yeah, yeah you’re right actually. There’s definitely traces to necromancy in these spells,” He said, looking back down at the phone Alfred had tilted towards himself. “No wonder it’s such a jumble to decipher,” He muttered.

He looked over towards Mizuki once she began expressing concern about the nature of Necromancers. Cassius had never thought about it that way, three of the people sitting in this living room were technically dead after all. Why wouldn’t Necromancy work on them? No wonder it was such a taboo practice. Cassius never had any interest in it, the smell of decay made him vomit. He scrunched his nose at the thought.

Theodore’s eyes were trained down at Caelum’s phone as he showed him various pictures of famous celebrities and historical figures throughout the years that possessed demon blood. They were in their own world, largely ignoring the talk of Necromancy and undead armies around them. It wasn’t until Mizuki’s voice hit his ears, the normally soft and caring tone deepened into a low and murderous growl, that his gaze bolted up to the scene before them.

He stared, rather like a child seeing a fight break out on the playground, innocent and unreactive as the shock set in. He glanced back and forth as Francis and Mizuki shoved retorts through the tense air. When the two began visibly escalating the fight through their features, Theodore shot up to his feet, walking forward with swift strides to insert himself between the two vampires. He nodded towards Alfred, who also moved to separate the two from lashing out physically.

Theodore placed a hand gently on Mizuki’s arm, bending down slightly to make eye contact with her. His chest lurched in anxiety to see her iris flooded with a deep chestnut color, barely any pupil in sight. To think that the position she was in right now, he had pushed her there. The trip to the Sorcerer’s bar, the break in to The Archives, the confrontation with an angel, now this. Any person, even the most kind hearted, could only tolerate so much before they’d break. He bit his bottom lip, the fang drawing out a small pool of blood. Did she even want him near her right now?

Theodore remembered the body language that wracked the woman when Terra had dragged him away at The Archives. She looked like all she wanted to do was shrivel up and die on the spot, yet her commitment to Samantha, her commitment to him pulled her forward. He couldn’t help the guilt that towered over him knowing that fact.

Theo locked eyes with Mizuki once more, his own gaze flicking back and forth subtly as he took in her features. “Just breathe, okay?” He said softly, sharing the words only between the two of them. He hoped the act wouldn’t enrage her any further. Maybe he had over thought her silence and misunderstood. The thought of her pushing him away in repulsion flashed before his eyes, and he remembered the look of disgust that had adorned her face when the succubus had taken her place briefly. To experience that again--

Theodore took in a sharp breath, clearing his mind from the dark whirlpool that threatened to pull in his thoughts. Even if she was upset with him for something, it didn’t matter now. Not in the heat of the moment. He clasped one of her hands between his own and brought it up to his chest to remind her of the deepened breaths he was taking, but his concentration was broken momentarily as the smell of her blood hit his senses. Theodore looked down at the bloodied bandages around her fingers. His brow instinctively knit into concern and he ran a finger over tattered fabric. One thing at a time, he reminded himself, stepping to the side as Francis continued addressing her. He didn’t like the tone the vampire had adopted towards Mizuki. It reminded him of how he had lashed out at the two of them before they entered the black market. Clearly his temper was hot when someone managed to push the right buttons.

“Mizuki’s right, you plowed your way into our night, how do we know you weren’t ordered to tail us? That you’re not in on this too? Samantha would have mentioned you to me if you were that important,” Theodore said to Francis, his tone taut.

Caelum had reclined back into the side chair he was resting in, eyes moving back and forth between the four that now stood in the center of the living room like he was at a tennis match. He ran his hand through his mess of curly hair. Sheesh. He knew his gut was right to suspect a streak of ferocity was running underneath the surface of the vampire who had thrown herself under the bus for the rest of the group. He had his own motives for keeping the council member roped into their plan, without him it would shift a lot of the responsibility over to his own plate, and more work was the absolute last thing he needed right now. He silently rooted for Mizuki and Theodore as they continued to counter Francis’ bold remarks of throwing in the towel. Worst comes to worst he could always just threaten the man, though he hated using power to coerce people into doing things. He didn’t like what it reminded him of.

Terra’s body had turned to stone the minute tensions rose between the two vampires before her. She had felt the instinctive fear being around their predatory and aggravated nature, though thankfully Alfred and Theodore had stepped between the two to deescalate the mounting anger that flew around freely. It was still shocking to her, to see Mizuki go so quickly from becoming a comforting, reassuring touch to lean on, to someone willing and able to physically fight Francis. Terra admired the fiery streak in her, what she was willing to do to help those close to her, or at the very least, ones stuck in the same sinking boat. It wasn’t everyday you came across someone actively throwing themselves in the line of fire for others.

Inspired by Mizuki’s brashness towards Francis and desperate at the thought of losing a crucial asset in helping her find Cecil, Terra stood up with a tense, “Wait!” Her amber cheeks were flushed with a subtle pink in frustration.

Terra made her way through the cramped living room, which was growing warmer by the second from the amount of bodies shoved into the space, to look Francis in the eye. She reached out desperately to grab him by the wrist before he could move to open the door. She tilted her head up to make full eye contact with him, throwing a sheen of tears to wet her eyes and enhance their endearing nature, a trick she learned to get her way when Jax was being difficult.

“I don’t know you,” She said, her voice fragile in the heavy air filled with the static of frayed nerves. “And you don’t know me, but--” She looked down at her feet, shuffling sheepishly. “Someone I care about a lot is in danger. If the accusations are true, and Cecil really is getting involved with anything remotely as drastic as a coup I--I would never forgive myself for not doing everything in my power to save him,” She said, her voice breaking. Terra’s grip loosened from his wrist, her fingers trailing across his skin as she dropped her hand back to her side. “I know you don’t owe me, owe us anything,” Terra gestured to the group behind her, “But we’re already out of our depths. We need any help we can get, without you we wouldn’t have even gotten this far.”

She looked back up into his eyes, throwing as much emotion into her eyes as she could muster. “I don’t think we can do this without you.”
 
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Razvi-sama

#babysteps

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Francis Boisseau | Mizuki Chiba | Alfred Smith

Location: Black Market - The Archives; Terra's Apartment

The walk to Terra's apartment was a rather forgettable one, really. Mizuki could hardly enjoy the journey to and fro the fairy's apartment—as she was usually one to enjoy mindless little strolls here and there. She loved finding inspiration in her immediate surroundings, she loved growing dreamily lost within her own thoughts, making the journey extend out whimsically before her. But, this time...she hardly processed the vendors screaming around her, or Francis' concerned presence beside her. She hardly noticed the flittering trinkets that held the promise of its own private adventure. Usually, she would make up backstories for little knicks-and-knacks she found of interest, but right now? She felt uninspired and just...tired.

A bit ticked.

Mizuki abandoned her partner, abandoned the one constant in this crazy, adrenaline filled day. She needed space from Theodore lest she snap at him. She was disappointed in him. He had made a deal with an angel—a heavenly being associated with The Order—without consulting her. All of today, he insisted she was valuable to him in his journey, that they were partners...yet all he did was tug her about without even asking if she felt comfortable. One thing was to deal with fairies and orcs, another was to deal with Sorcerers—hell...even a member from Council, but Mizuki drew the line with Cassius. He was clearly a shady figure who only managed to feed his own self-interest. He could hold this against them, he could blackmail them and only stray them further from their original goal of saving Samantha. Too many people of different walks of life were becoming too involved and it only managed to make Mizuki feel powerless and anxious. She had too much on her plate. Between Lasombra, the cryptic threatening message left on her sketchbook, feeling guilt gnawed away at her from keeping all of this from Gabriella...now she had to worry about the people stuffed inside the cramped space that was Terra's apartment.

Naturally, she didn't trust any of them. Well, no. That was a lie. She at least felt comfortable around Terra. The fairy seemed too blunt and too honest to really rat them out to the Council. So, she found comfort there.

But, other than that...? Mizuki knew she had to give herself some space away from Theodore and allow herself to sit in the bitter puddle she had rained for herself. Once they arrived at the apartment, Mizuki made a beeline for one of the windows that graced the side of Terra's living room and took it upon herself to crack it open. Allowing a steady gust of wind to spill through. The vampire took in a deep breath, gripping onto the window sill—actively keeping herself from sinking her nails into the wood-work. Her hands were shaking and she was itching to pick at her skin and nails. She kept staring out the window a little sharply, watching absentmindedly as the patrons walked back and forth...blissfully unaware as to what happened in the shadows...

Mizuki was ignorant of Theodore's own anxieties, though. She was much too wrapped up in her own storming and destructive thoughts to notice the longing and concerned looks he kept sneaking her way. She discreetly kept an ear on the conversation at hand, though. Talks of the impossibility of a spell, a demonic bloodline...which only led to Mizuki thinking: "Great! Now, demons were being thrown into the mix". She was worried that this was all going to become too much for them and in the end, they would simply leave this experience disappointed and empty-handed. Someone's life was now in their hands, yet Mizuki simply felt that she had only managed to let Samantha down and...maybe she was afraid of letting Theodore down, in a sense. A sigh escaped her.

What did seem to draw her out of her stupor, though...was Terra. The mention of Cecil's bloodline had seemed to only manage to distraught the fairy and Mizuki had rushed to her side. Allowing Terra to lean into her as the vampire offered her reassuring presence. She couldn't offer any word of advice, but she did offer her support and shoulder, and sometimes...that was enough. She rubbed Terra's back as the fairy welcomed her approach and all Mizuki could do was offer a few apologies, and a soft: "we'll figure this out". She returned the squeeze of her hand, returning it affectionately as she looked down to see Terra looking back up at her almost...pleadingly. Begging for some sort of answer neither held at that moment. Her heart ached for the fairy's broken one...For now, though, she guided Terra towards one of the loveseat sofas so she could at least be more comfortable, but softly assured that she was right behind her. She stepped back to lean into the wall and took in another deep breath as she was quickly growing more and more overwhelmed.

...and what exactly pushed her over the edge, finally? The very uttering of Necromancy and Francis' piss poor attitude towards what was happening in their community. If he thought he could escape them that easily, he had another thing coming! Her sharp gaze flicked towards Francis, paying no mind to the Sorcerers who momentarily seemed engulfed in the scribbled pictured before them, staring back at the—mocking them. Demons and Necromancy, and now...the Councilman magically didn't want to become involved. A loose end...and if she had to soak her claws with his blood to keep him silent, so be it—!

Mizuki and Francis snarled viciously at one another, tensions growing higher and higher with each bitter comment hissed their way. Their growls ripped through the thick tension lingering heavily in the air, as their more vampiric features sharply presented themselves. The baring of the fangs, the thinning of the pupils, the violent sharpening of the claws.

Before either vampire could lunge after the other, claws aching to aim for each other's jugulars, Alfred and Theodore both stood up, shoving themselves into the middle of the tense situation. The two vampires immediately took a step back once their vision was blocked by Alfred and Theodore, each figure important to the other in their own way. Alfred was a dear friend to Francis, and the vampire would hate to have the Sorcerer's perception of him become distorted somehow...While Mizuki—She frowned at the sight of Theodore imposing himself within her line of vision, her chest naturally tightening with emotion as she stumbled backwards, almost as if pained by his presence...only to look balled up and cornered like a frightened feral kitten.

A hot wave of searing embarrassment ran through her as she quickly averted her gaze downwards. Unable to meet his own. He must think her some sort of insolent, petulant child...didn't he? How unsightly! H-How was she going to move past the mortification? H-H...Mizuki visibly tensed when she heard the sound of shuffling feet before her and rose her gaze to find Theodore coming towards her. W-What—? Her eyes followed his every move, almost a little suspicious of his motives until she found...his gentle touch on her arm. He leaned down, making eye-contact with her...never looking down at her. Oh. Suddenly forced to look at him, Mizuki's eyes were wide and her cheeks flushed crimson from the mortification, but he didn't seem to mind that she had just made a fool out of herself in front of a couple of strangers and the one man she wanted to impress—and keep safe—more than anything.

No. There was concern behind those cerulean eyes and her pupils began to dilate until they retained their natural, circular shape. While Alfred approached Francis to try and comfort him, Mizuki shared a quiet moment with Theodore...the one quiet moment they finally shared since stepping into the Market and Mizuki didn't dare pull away, now. No. She stayed put as her eyes searched his only to flicker down to find he had drawn a bit of blood from his lip. Oh, no.

Hesitantly, visibly afraid he might pull away from her aid as he had done before, Mizuki rose a shaky hand up towards the vampire and brushed her thumb underneath his lip to wipe away the stray line of blood, instinctively bringing her thumb to her lips and sucking away the faint layer of blood smeared over her skin. A show of camaraderie, almost. At this point, she nearly sagged before him, no longer able to keep up the image that she was unfazed by the escalating events around her. No, she wasn't okay, and that was...okay. She just couldn't ice him out, though.

Mizuki was met with his silent gaze, once more...only to hear him mutter out one soft command. At first, that only seemed to flare her annoyance from before! Her chest rising as if she was building up a ball of word vomit from inside of her...only to once more deflate as he...actively breathed along with her. He had done something she hadn't expected, and the very act had endeared the hot headed vampire. He grabbed her hand...and pressed it against his chest to allow her to feel the rising and fall of it. It was...surprisingly very sweet and thoughtful. He was breathing and encouraging her to follow suit. Just as they had done twice before. Together. They were still in this...together. Okay. She would play along. She took steady breaths alongside Theodore...slowly inhaling...before steadily exhaling. Her eyes had fallen shut and she felt the build up of emotions...she felt...vulnerable in that moment. She had a strong urge to cry, even...

Mizuki felt his cool, soft touch surrounding her hands as they shared in this moment together. His gentle reassurance helped ground her. Yet, there seemed to be an uneven pause in his breathing, and when she peeked her eyes open to regard him...she found him staring down at her hands. Growing lost at the sight of them. Was this the first time he noticed them? The bandages around her fingers were dirty and worn, though, covered in bloody patches from her incessant picking she unconsciously had done in The Archives and on the way there. Was he disgusted by the sight of them?

Mizuki slid her hands away from his hold and hid them behind her back. Her eyes were glassy from the tears and at this point whatever fire that had been lit within her had been smothered. When Theodore stepped to the side, she reached up and tugged at the hem of his jacket to catch his attention, and the only thing she muttered out was: "...we need to talk".

Theodore's attention had shifted onto Francis and his words were used to actively support Mizuki's claims. It clearly wasn't something Francis was actively expecting and frown as he looked down to the duo. As happy as he was to see the two once more aiding one another, he didn't like the attention he suddenly had over him. As if he was the one in the wrong, at the moment. They had this idealistic dream that they would somehow be of use to Samantha, but if only they knew and understood the power the Council held...Time was running out, and all of their running around was clearly for nothing. There were obvious signs that the situation involving Samantha was bigger than any of them combined and that wasn't something they were going to be able to solve in just one evening.

Yet. It was Theodore's sudden accusation that actively insulted Francis, letting a dry chortle escape his lips, "You honestly believe Samantha would admit out loud that she had some sort of involvement within the Council?", he retorted, raising a brow, "It was clear that Samantha had always been opposed to the Council's latest reforms, and she was quite vocal about it. If people were to see she was allied to a few Council members, people would think her a hypocrite. Our friendship was kept under wraps so as to not draw too much suspicion our way, that way if either of us needed a favor...it wouldn't be tied to one another and vice versa. Riddle me this, little pup. Do you honestly believe Samantha has been completely truthful about herself to you? Can you honestly tell me that you know Samantha inside and out? She has deals everywhere, my Romeo. Eyes and ears everywhere, and trust me when I say she is not hesitant to get her hands dirty once in a while. If that means the safety of her clan...—sounds like a prime target for the Council, no? Someone they want to actively get rid of? Absolutely. As for my involvement...if you want to believe that I have anything to do with this, it wounds me. But, I don't care. You will believe whatever you want", he hummed back, taking a step backwards.

"I'm done, I don't have to prove myself to any of you, nor do I have to explain myself. I'm not involving myself with Necromancers, or demons, or—no offense", Francis looked to Cassius, "—angels. And, Theodore, if you drag that poor girl into this mess, you'll only end up regretting it. Don't screw about with the Council, they've taken down the Royals. They've taken down Samantha. They can take you down, too", he offered sincerely.

Mizuki growled, not entirely enjoying Francis' choice of words, "I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself", she insisted, "And, I will admit...I am terrified, but this is our community and if we just turn a blind eye this could affect more than just our community. Just look at the diverse group of people we already have gathered in this very living room. If we don't do something now...how many more Samanthas will suffer under the Council's hand?".

"I've tried to oppose the Council before, but it only resulted in further calamity and I am tired of seeing people I care about get hurt. From personal experience, I am asking you to stand down. Whether you do so or not is not my business. I've warned you...all of you, so I can move on with a clear conscience", Francis insisted, seeing the frown painted on Mizuki's lips. His eyes flicked over towards Alfred who offered a pitiful look, who insisted they could work on this! If they got a Necromancer, surely they would be able to move forward and...

But, no. Francis was turning around and wishing everyone a nice evening, ready to leave...only to pause with his hand on the front door's golden handle. His back straightened as he swiveled his attention down towards the fairy who had stood up all too abruptly from her seat to face him head on. All eyes were on her, wide and curious. He...hadn't expected her, of all people, to call out to him. There was desperation that wavered in her voice and when he looked back towards her, he found her cheeks flushed and her body rigid from frustration. He couldn't—wouldn't—deny the fairy to say her piece.

Terra strode through the living room, and Francis acknowledged the determination in her step. Her hand shot out to grab his wrist suddenly—an action he hadn't expected—as if to keep him from going anywhere. And, Francis wanted to pledge right then and there that she needn't worry over his absence...Gods, her touch, though...was as soft as a flower petal. It caressed his skin so soothingly, and momentarily he felt disgusted with himself. Thinking himself unworthy of her mere touch. But, she didn't seem to care, because she was not pulling away. She even made eye-contact with him...having to tilt her head all the way back just to lock eyes with him. Yet, what actively broke Francis' heart...was the gleam in her eyes from the tears that welded her gaze. O-Oh, no. What should he do?

Francis actively tilted his body away from the door and turned to face Terra head on, wanting to give her her space to express herself, because she clearly was feeling a lot right now and had a lot to say to him. If he could aid her in anything...

...soon, she spoke up. Her first words were very direct—"I don't know you"—and Francis found himself nodding dumbly to her obvious statement. Her voice sounded so demure and small, and she looked so vulnerable and tiny...and all he wanted to do was scoop her up and brush away her tears for her. This feeling he felt blooming inside of him...what was this? This need to...watch over and take care of something so fragile? Look at her, bashfully looking down to her feet. Francis bent down a little as if to catch her wandering eyes, his free hand raising slowly to hook a finger against her chin—as if not to spook her—to delicately encourage her to look up at him. It was okay. What was it?

Terra went on to explain that someone she cared about was in danger, and that...really, they could use all the help they could get. But, there was something that seemed to resonate with Francis in that moment. Something she had said. I would never forgive myself for not doing everything in my power to save him. A twinge of guilt contorted his features ever so slightly, and now it was him who was left to look down to the side awkwardly...feeling a little chastised, even if that wasn't her intention. And, when she finally looked back at him...she insisted that she didn't believe they could do this without them and Francis was left a little speechless.

Francis finally looked up towards Mizuki and Theodore, Mizuki was looking at them a little incredulously, not believing the scene before her. Yet, even she could see...that Francis was having a change of heart and she looked to the vampire almost pleadingly, silently backing what Terra was asking.

Alfred looked to Caelum behind Terra's back and shared a knowing glance with the Sorcerer...knowing what she was up to. It was the same little trick she used in order to encourage her patrons to cough up higher tips. Due to her small stature and adorable nature, she had a certain skill in getting dangerous creatures to do her bidding. And, it seemed...Francis was no exception. The vampire was practically puddie where he stood.

Francis took a small, steady breath...and realized that Theodore and Mizuki were simply doing what they could in order to help someone they cared about, and even he had to admit...that Samantha was also of great importance to him. If it wasn't for her...His shoulders slumped, defeated...when he realized Samantha would do anything in her power to assist him and clear his name. Oh, Ms. Jones..."You, my little minx...", Francis cooed softly down to Terra, as he slid his hand out of her touch and used both of his hands to surround hers affectionately, "...have convinced me to...do my best. I suppose a lot of us have something to lose, hm?", he looked back up to Theodore and Mizuki, silently offering his condolences with his apologetic gaze before returning to Terra, "...I'm sorry someone you care about is actively in trouble, I'll...see what I can do. Maybe, I can find a file in his name when I return to the Council", he stated.

"As for you two", Francis sighed, shaking his head, "I'm going to try and keep my involvement in this as minimal as possible. Keep in the shadows, so to say...But, if I were to help you—and this is a big if—I think I can pull some strings to actively postpone Samantha's trial. By a month. As for your Necromancer problem...I have a list with a bunch of names and addresses of some of the more well-known Necromancers the Council currently knows of. Most have been...exterminated, as the Council isn't too keen with having too many of them around...for obvious reasons...But, last I remember, there's still one yet to be reviewed and lives somewhere in New York. Now, I can't promise anything...but...I suppose I could at least try. And, if things get a little too messy for my liking, I'm leaving", he stated, peeking back down to Terra and offering the little fairy a smile, "...I'll do my best in regards to your friend, though", he whispered to her before he looked back up to Theodore, "Deal?".
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Caelum | Cassius​

As Theodore stared into Mizuki’s eyes, her gaze rotating from angry, to shameful, to a relaxed vulnerability, he had the sudden realization just how little he actually knew her. Granted, he’d known of her for quite some time, which helped close the gap from being complete strangers, but in the end, who was she really? What made her happy? What were her pet peeves, her favorite foods, who was close to her in her life? Theodore stared emptily at the woman before him as he realized he possessed the answers to none of them. Not that he didn’t want to learn. Not that he wasn’t willing to.

A shameful look darkened his eyes and he swallowed hard before he guided her into relaxing her breath. Who even was he to her, what did she owe him to justify being here right now, save the kindness of her person? He was even willing to let her plunge onto a divine sword for the sake of the group, a decision she only had to make because of him. A flashback from an unfortunate visit with the Assur leader filled his head, unwilling to be shut out. He could picture the disgusted look in the vampire’s eyes as he looked down at Theodore, who was struggling to string together a full sentence. “And you call yourself a Vampire? You can’t even speak without Samantha by your side. You’re just useless scum feeding on the scraps of others.” The words had cut him off at the knees, making it difficult to stand straight to face him. It was the first of many harsh realities he faced being so young competing in the world of those who had lived centuries longer. He had never told Samantha about the incident, never told anyone really. If he never put it into words, it held no water.

Theodore blinked softly, still half drugged up on his memories, at the feeling of Mizuki’s finger brushing across his lip. He looked down at her thumb, the pale skin dashed with a bold streak of red. He brought his own hand up and touched the small puncture mark with his finger, pulling away to see the faint smudge of red that still lingered after she had wiped most of the pool away. He hadn’t known the bite had drawn blood. Theodore’s cheeks flushed at the sight of Mizuki licking his blood off of her thumb, an act of solidarity for vampires, although one that could be translated into intimate moments. He felt a rush to his head before he steadied out his own breathing, eyelids sinking lower as if in a trance. Francis’ voice, brash and unrelenting, pulled Theodore out from the little world he had been sucked into with Mizuki. He had almost forgotten the reason he even stood up to face her in the first place.

Theodore’s brow furrowed suddenly into explosive feral anger as Francis questioned his relationship with Samantha. His pupils narrowed as he regarded the man, unable to stave off the sheer amount of fire that ran through his veins unexpectedly. His body was visibly tense as he looked Francis over. “Don’t you dare lecture me about my relationship with Samantha, ” He spit out through clenched teeth, taking a stiff step forward. As infuriating as Francis’ words made him, Theodore couldn’t deny that there had to be some truth to them. He didn’t know Samantha as well as he claimed to. After all, if what the man said was true, and she truly hadn’t told him about Franics, what else was Samantha keeping from him? No matter how close he got, how much he shared with her, there would always be a boundary between them, the savior and the saved. That thought only served to make him angrier. He felt his claws begin to sharpen, digging into his skin from his clenched fists.

He sneered at Francis’ warning to him, even though the man sounded sincere. If the council was going to take him down, so be it. If he didn’t do everything in his power to save Samantha, the punishment his guilt would put him through would be far worse. Mizuki was right too, this problem wasn’t just going to affect the clans, it was already shaping up to be much larger than any of them could have fathomed. By now, Theodore’s pupils were narrowed almost as much as he had witnessed Mizuki’s mere moments earlier. He hadn’t been this angry since--since her. Since waking up into what she had made him.

Thankfully, before Theodore could ride the track of his anger any further, Terra’s light voice pierced through the thick, heavy air. She maneuvered her way to Francis, and to the awe of Theodore, began pleading with the man to stay and help them. The thought that he was a crucial asset was an undeniable fact, without a council member on their side they’d have their work increased for them two fold. But it wasn’t impossible without him either, just more difficult.

Cassius smirked to see Terra laying on her charms thickly. He was used to witnessing it, and was immune to it, but he had seen her work it on Cecil many times over. Being that he was connected to Cecil emotionally, he also knew that her efforts never failed to do the trick, and in the end she always came out with what she wanted. He bit his lip to keep from smirking as he saw the sheen of her tears glisten in the light of the apartment. She really knew how to suck people in easily.

Satisfaction ran through Terra’s mind once she saw Francis turn fully her way, his gaze dewy with concern as he heard her out. Perfect, he’d already proven easy to sink her claws into. She blinked with surprise to feel the touch of his hands encircle her own. His touch was cold. She gave a deep nod in appreciation for his offer of help, but she was doubtful the council could provide any further information on Cecil that she didn’t already know. He liked leading a private life, most of his efforts and lies were focused on keeping it that way.

Cassius caught Alfred’s glance as it thread its way precariously through the living room to settle on his own. His eyes lowered deviously, and he couldn’t help the smirk that spread its way out knowing Alfred recognized the trick as well. He gave a subtle, one shoulder shrug, before wiping the expression from his face and replacing it with a tense stoicism.

The anger cleared from Theodore’s mind, his pupils dilating rapidly into dark pools at Francis’ declaration of postponing Samantha’s trial. Even if failed, it was something he had no ability to affect or change. He would take any shot at it that he could.

“Deal,” He said. “Once you send us over the list we can begin looking for the necromancer, although--” He glanced over at Mizuki. She had been through enough tonight, in good conscience, he couldn’t drag her through any more. “--probably not tonight. I think it’s best if we go our separate ways for now,” He brought a hand to his chin in thought. That was assuming he’d be able to find these people after tonight. With as much at stake as it was, he didn’t think they’d try to run and hide, especially not since an angel got involved. He glanced back at Caelum after that thought, taking in the man’s figure as he draped his lanky limbs across Terra’s chair rather--informally. His gaze was trained on his phone, scrolling through endlessly as a faint blue flicker illuminated the side of his cheek. It was still difficult to believe that he was with The Order. The rumors he had heard about them were bone chilling, frankly. Their black and white sense of justice, their apathetic demeanors. Was that all just bar talk?

Cassius tilted his head to the side once the talk of hunting down Necromancers picked up. He doubted he would rejoin their little group after tonight. He had done his part for them, leading them to the documents that Cecil had stolen. Now it was time for him to prioritize his own motives. He didn’t care about the vampires and their affairs, he only tagged along out of concern for Cecil. He had his own way of doing things, and he wasn’t about to change that for some flimsy ties of allegiance. He stood up, stretching his arms above his head.

“Well--if you so insist,” Cassius glanced at a clock along Terra’s wall to glean the time. It was getting late, even for him. “Terra knows how to reach me,” He said with a casual wave, maneuvering through the living room with ease. Cassius paused with his hand resting on the door handle before giving a quick look towards Terra and Alfred. He gave them a subtle nod, his gaze dark, before opening the door and disappearing into the hallway.

Terra sighed, the exhaustion from the events of the night finally catching up to her. She placed a hand on the back of her neck, leaning it side to side in an attempt to loosen the muscles. Francis’ soft reassurance that he’d help locate Cecil with whatever he could managed to soothe some of the panic she stored inside, but the news of his demon blood still left her a little weightless. She was relieved that Cassius had so eagerly split off from the group, yearning for the solitude to reappear in her apartment. She glanced over towards Mizuki and Theodore, then back to Francis, posing a soft smile. “Why don’t you all put your numbers down in my phone to keep in touch? Then you can all go about the rest of your nights,” She glanced down at her phone screen, cringing inwardly at the number it displayed. “Well, whatever's left of it, really.”
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps
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Francis Boisseau | Mizuki Chiba | Alfred Smith

Location: Black Market - Terra's Apartment - Under the Brooklyn Bridge.

It's sweet...

Was the first thought that escaped Mizuki as Theodore's blood coated her tongue. She swallowed.

Mizuki fluttered her eyes back up towards Theodore, finding his own half-lidded gaze drinking in her image. The sight of him nearly caught her breath in her throat—noticing their proximity—and quickly motioning to avert her attention to the side. What was a welcomed distraction...was hearing Francis practically bark at them with the mention of Samantha. Hissing to Theodore lowly, implying that he barely knew Samantha. Was he seriously gullible enough to believe that Samantha would entrust him with every little detail that tormented her existence?

"You're crossing a line", Mizuki hissed out towards Francis in Theodore's defense...but it seemed there was no need to defend her companion. From the corner of her eye, she watched as Theodore's body grew tense, the lines of his body locked together rigidly as he practically leaned forward...almost as if he was holding himself back from physically harming the vampire before them. His pupils grew dangerously thin, his claws just as sharp as his gaze as he practically spat and hissed at Francis, taking wrathful offense at Francis' insinuation. Mizuki had never seen Theodore so...angry before. He was pretty good at keeping his calm from what she had seen at every clan event and meeting. She heard the snide remarks they'd make behind his back, and if she heard them...surely so had he. She remembered always hissing at lowly vampire who were classless enough to make such remarks, and they would look to her fearfully before running off...leaving her to watch Theodore's retreating back as he would make his way towards Samantha. For either companionship or comfort, Mizuki wasn't sure. It wasn't lost on their community...the special relationship and trust Samantha held with Theodore. Thus, to have some stranger drag their relationship and what they meant to one another through the mud...Well, Theodore had every right to lash out.

Yet, Francis looked unfazed. He stood there and looked to Theodore, trying to not take his harsh tone too seriously. He could see Theodore's little outburst was coming from a lot of pain, as it wasn't easy to come to terms with the fact that you may not know someone as well as you originally though—especially someone you idolized. Francis was all very aware of Theodore's and Samantha's relationship, it was the topic of their conversation a few drunken nights here and there. Samantha adored the young man and viewed him as her own, but there were things she kept hidden from him that Francis was not authorized to disclose.

So, Francis said nothing in retaliation to Theodore's little spat, he simply shrugged. As if to say: "whatever you say". He took in the faint smell of iron and watched as Mizuki quickly darted to Theodore's side, coaxing him silently to unclench his hand. His claws were sharp enough to draw blood and the woman clearly fretted over Theodore's well-being, still. That only served to soften Francis, a heavy sigh escaping him as he brushed his hair back to keep it from falling into his eyes. What was he doing here playing with a bunch of children? What was he doing lecturing Samantha's pup?

All we could do for them was warn them, but even that was taken with a grain of salt. Francis knew of the Council's true cruelty and intentions, and if they were to catch whiff of their "rebellion" and insolence...He frowned while Theodore practically leered at him. While Francis was admittedly frustrated, he was also utterly terrified for them. His warnings were sincere, as he couldn't potentially let Samantha's pup get hurt. That would mean failing her, and he never wanted to disappoint a dear friend. Her final words to him was to watch over Theodore. Keep him far away from the Council. Sure, their meeting at the Black Market wasn't just a coincidence. He had been sent to watch over Theodore by Samantha, her words croaked and broken as she lay slumped against the cellar's bars. Francis closed his eyes, his heart growing heavy with the memory.

If only Theodore understood. Francis shook his head, about ready to turn and walk away as there was nothing he could do against the stubborn young man. He would have to deliver the bad news to Samantha, in that case. He couldn't find himself in the cellar next to her's, he would be useless that way—.

He found himself stopping, feeling a hand delicately surround itself around his wrist to keep him from moving. He heard a pleading, gentle voice direct its word towards him...enchanting him. Francis found himself hesitating, he found himself looking towards the siren's call as Terra pleaded up to him, insisting they needed him. Francis was unaware of the sly glances Alfred and Cassius shared together, nor the bewilderment Mizuki and Theodore shared. All he knew was this moment he shared with Terra as he delicately coaxed the fairy to look up to him which only resulted in him being on the brunt end of large, doe-like tearful eyes and he...H-He was a weak man towards the fae. He always was.

It wasn't only Terra who managed to convince him to stay, but Samantha's echoed words pleadingly asking him to watch over her sweet boy. They were all desperate in trying to help someone they cared about, and that only managed to riddle him with guilt. Why...wasn't he fighting tooth and nail for Samantha? What could the Council do to him that they already haven't done? He let out a breath, softly assuring Terra he'd get Cecil's files for her before he rose his attention back to Theodore who had considerably calmed. He proposed a deal. His involvement would be minimal, but he could potentially buy them all some time. Plus, he'd throw in a Necromancer as a bonus. Out of respect for Terra, he slid his hands away from her, but offered her a reassuring smile no-less.

Theodore took the deal and Francis let out a soft breath, wondering where he had left that list to begin with—Oh. Right. Even if they were creatures of the night, the evening was escaping them and it was time to close this chapter and move on to the next. It seemed like Theodore was trying to be considerate of his companion, the poor dear looking as if she was barely standing and on her last embers. He nodded, "Very well, I can get them to you either tomorrow or the day after. I don't believe emailing them to you is the most appropriate, so I can mail them to you without a return address. Keep the paper trail to a minimal", he stated.

Mizuki nodded, looking to the vampire gratefully. She nodded her head in a slight bow his way, to which Francis returned in kind. The tensions had died down, and the two looked mostly apologetic. They all turned towards Cassius as the Sorcerer spoke up. He stood, insisting that Terra had his contact info if they were to ever need him and motioned towards the front door. Francis took a step to the side, while Alfred sprung up from his seat. The idea of going back home for the evening sounded nice. He had another shift the following afternoon, and he wanted to get as much rest as he could. He stood and stretched, and waved to Cassius eagerly, "Call me when you get a chance, you butt!", he called after the Sorcerer who only managed to disappear into the shadows. Alfred sighed, looking to the rest of the group, "I'm also heading out, but if you need any help in regards to Alchemy or Sorcery, you can always rely on me. Terra also has my contact information", he assured, motioning towards the front door as well.

Alfred paused by Terra, though, and took the fairy's hands before leaning down to kiss her cheek, "If you ever need anything, you can count on me", he assured, always finding Terra to be a great friend to have around, and he genuinely cared for her. There were many evenings he found himself in this very living room, curling her up in a blanket and offering her a pint of ice cream to share together as she lamented her woes to him. Cecil's disappearance had taken a toll out of all of them, even if Cassius couldn't admit it out loud. He gave her one last smile before wishing the rest a good night, and disappearing through the main entrance.

It was now just the four of them left, with the angel holding the largest presence. Terra soon broke the awkward silence as she insisted to the group they place their numbers in her phone and Francis was the first one to eagerly offer it. She looked tired and he was sure she wanted them out of her apartment, as soon as possible, "Asking for my number so soon, how adorable", he teased her gently with a soft chortle escaping soon after. He inserted his number after a few clicks, and placed himself under her contacts as:
"Wine-Covered French :bishiesparklesr:".

Francis soon gave Mizuki Terra's phone and the vampire added herself as:
"Mizuki Chiba". Finally, she gave the phone to Theodore and they waited for him to insert his phone in...before finally passing it over to the angel, but Mizuki nor Francis seemed too keen on getting close to the being.

With that, Mizuki and Francis stretched their bodies out to relieve themselves of the tension they felt in their bodies, with Francis asking Terra to add them into a group chat. That way, he could have everyone else's numbers, as well, "Where should I mail the list to?", Francis asked, "I doubt you'd want me mailing it to you clan's home", he hummed.

"Once I have your number, I'll send you my mailing address that is separate from my clan's", Mizuki assured, "Let us know when you ship them out", she added, which earned a nod from Francis.

"I still have some business down here in the Market, seems like I got a little side-tracked...so I will be seeing you all around. Stay out of as much trouble as you can and...well, I'll keep you all updated on Samantha's trail", he stated. Francis bowed to the group and wished them all a 'good evening' before he turned to Terra and with her permission...he kissed the back of her hand in a soft 'good night'. He then walked out with Mizuki nervously looking to Caelum.

"We should head out, as well. I'll talk to you all tomorrow, then. I hope you get to have some rest, sorry for...dragging you into our mess", Mizuki murmured to Terra personally. She gave the fairy a squeeze to her hand in solidarity before she...shyly waived 'goodbye' to Caelum...supposing they'd be seeing a lot of him, huh? With that, she waited for Theodore to offer his own parting words before the two walked out of Terra's apartment...the evening finally coming to an end.


Mizuki was left to sigh as they maneuvered their way through the Black Market. The patrons were fewer and more scattered compared to before, but the stalls remained open as there were surely to be a second wave of customers of a different demographic. Shopping for their daily errands or for breakfast. It only reminded Mizuki that they were up all night running around.

The vampire hardly said a word the whole way through. Barely looked at Theodore as she mostly rose her fists up to rub at her sore, tired eyes. When they arrived at the exit, Mizuki was conscious of the fact that Theodore wasn't too fond of enclosed spaces, so...she did take a moment to pause and take a deep breath alongside the young man. She weakly reached for his hand in a reminder that she was right next to him, and soft encourage him to close his eyes if needed.

With that, Mizuki guided him through the stuffy tunnel that led upwards as the two shared in a few breathing exercises until they reached the top. She pushed open the worn down, tattered wooden door and blearily looked out to find the first rays of sun peeking out from over the horizon of the East River. It was still rather dark out, though, so they could comfortably move about.

Mizuki held her hand within Theodore's for a little while longer until they reached the side of the street where they were once more thrusted into a world where humans roamed about. It was late and it was time to part, she supposed. She allowed her hand to fall from his hold, finally looking his way. It was just the two of them, now.

"If you still want some time away from your clan, you're welcome to use my apartment. I have to go back to the Lasombra, Charlotte has been writing to me non-stop all evening and insisted I go home right away", Mizuki informed in a low mutter before she shook her head, "I'm...more than willing to continue helping you with all of this, but I hope you're aware of how crazy this has become. I think we're in over our heads, but I meant it when I said that I wanted to do everything in my power to help Samantha. Plus, I'm...I'm not going to leave you alone in all of this. Okay? But, just...next time? Consult with me before you make such dangerous deals with The Order. You were out of line, and it kind of hurts that you didn't keep me into consideration. If we're going to continue with this...I want to be equal partners, Theodore", she murmured softly, "There's no going back for us, now...but I want to know that you're at least the one constant I have in all of this. You know? So...please, just keep that in mind", she murmured, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly.

"...for now, I guess this is where we part, though", Mizuki mumbled, "I'll take a separate cab, and—", she paused when she heard a soft chime coming from Theodore's pocket, a notification from his phone. A message from Katarina, which read:

I'll be waiting for you outside of your clan's home.

Along with five unread messages, two from her, three from Layla. And, two missed calls from Katarina.

Mizuki continued, "I guess I'll see you around, hm?", she offered softly, in no hurry to return home...as she had a vague idea as to what awaited her.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Caelum
Location: Terra's Apartment,
Theodore: Terra's Apartment, Underneath the Brooklyn bridge
The anger coursing through Theodore’s mind, continually twisting around his thoughts tighter and tighter until all he could feel was red, subsided momentarily at the cool sensation of Mizuki’s hand encircling his wrist. He looked down, breaking his steady, pointed glare towards Francis. He loosened the tension in his hands per her guidance, feeling the cold drip of blood run down his palm. His brow furrowed in annoyance. He fished into his pockets carefully, so as not to ruin the fabric of his clothing, and pulled out a crumpled napkin he had pocketed from the Salamander. The stark white material oozed red as it sucked up the small cut marks in his palms. They’d heal on their own quick enough. Theodore nodded in gratitude towards Mizuki. He didn’t know where the anger had come from. Maybe somewhere deep, something that was long overdue. He hated the way he felt after such intense anger had run through his body. It was--embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Agitation kept his pupils narrowed sharply as Francis continued to prattle on about the reasons why he wasn’t able to help them. They only returned to their normal state once the opportunity at prolonging Samantha’s trial date had been put on the table. The anger stored in his body melted into a shapeless feeling of hope and longing. He wondered if it would be too much to ask Francis if Theodore could see her, talk to her. Maybe he could ask at a later date, when tensions weren’t as high.

Terra’s eyes followed Alfred as he moved to follow Cassius in his departure. She giggled when he leaned in to plant a kiss on her cheek. Terra gave him a tight squeeze on his arm, silently thanking him for accompanying them through the night and apologizing for what they had dragged him into as well. She nodded deeply in response to his offer. As messy and dangerous as her life had become since involving herself with Cecil, there were few bright things that made her feel welcome in the darker pits of the black market. One of those was her companionship with Alfred. She sighed when his figure disappeared into the shadows as did Cassius’, leaving her alone once more with the group of very new acquaintances. After what they had been through, she really didn’t think she could call them strangers anymore. Terra’s round eyes landed on the lanky figure splayed out across her chair. Well, with the exception of him.

She couldn’t hold back the snort of laughter that escaped her at Francis’ teasing comment. She looked down at her phone as he was returning it back to her, groaning audibly at the name he had chosen for himself. “Well--I surely won’t forget you this way, that’s for sure,” She said through a delicate laugh.

Theodore accepted Terra’s phone from Mizuki, gingerly cradling the device in the tips of his fingers so as to avoid covering it in his blood. He typed clumsily, opting to cut his suffering and simply save his name as Theo in her phone. He glanced up through his lashes at Mizuki and Francis, his head still trained down on his phone, to see them visibly stiffen at the notion of handing the phone over to Caelum. He cleared his throat, the intimidation of the man still decently lost on him. Maybe it was how little Samantha had taught him about the underworld and its creatures, maybe it was the lack of ghost stories he had heard about angels, but the fear the Mizuki and Francis couldn’t help but emit from their persons, he simply couldn’t feel it. Theodore took the short walk towards Caelum’s spot, nudging the angel’s leg with his foot as he held the phone out awkwardly, still avoiding the blood soaked napkins in his hands. Caelum looked up at him blankly for several seconds before the image of the phone and what he was to do with it clicked. He typed into the phone for two seconds, handing Theodore back the phone, neither the contact sheet saved nor his name inputted into it, just a loose number floating alone. Theodore sighed, not wanting to struggle typing any more than he already had, and handed the phone back to Terra, who promptly saved the name as deadbeat :xFrolleyes:. With a few taps, she then collected the numbers and sent them all into a group chat. “No spamming this with unnecessary shit,” She muttered as she messed with some of the settings. “I won’t hesitate to mute.”

Theodore nodded in fervent affirmation to Mizuki’s suggestion of using her private address to send letters to. He knew all too well that Maximus would be making efforts to track him and intercept any messages coming his way, lest he be snooping around trying to figure out how to free Samantha. No doubt Maximus was already astutely aware of Theodore’s day trip with Mizuki. Neither of their clans were safe, and the Assur--well he didn’t trust anyone in the Assur with something that sensitive. Not even Kat.

Francis’ unrelenting habit for charm didn’t fail to hit its mark even at the very end of the night, when there was little left but fumes for everyone to run on. Terra giggled as he took her hands, kissing the back of them gently. Her eyes followed his muscular, but elegant figure disappear into the liquid shadows of the hallway. She jumped slightly at Mizuki’s touch, but once turning to see who it was, softened her body. Terra nodded to Mizuki in understanding. “Don’t worry, ever since Cecil got involved, it’s my mess too. We’re in it together,” She smiled apologetically, laying her hand over the woman’s as a motion of solidarity.

Caelum’s lanky figure drag itself up from the chair he was seated in, his posture stretching briefly before settling back into an informal slouch. “Well I guess we’re calling it a night huh,” The man scratched his curls absently, gaze drifting off into the distance as he planned out his next steps. Maybe he could finish that show he had found yesterday. Yes, that’d be a good idea. He gave a lazy wave of his hand as the vampires left the apartment, waiting a decent couple of seconds before trailing behind. He gave Terra a look out of the side of his eye, and flashed a smirk. “I’ll be seeing you, then.”

Terra’s gaze hardened as the angel passed her, his gaze full of a smug cockiness. She bit her tongue, forcing a friendly smile onto her face instead. “Sure thing.”

When everyone had left her apartment, she put her back against the hard, cold surface of the front door, the exhaustion of the night washing over her body in a tidal wave. Her expression cracked and sloughed off completely. What replaced it was a completely different person than what she had shown before. She bit her lip hard to choke back the sob that threatened to crawl out of her throat. It was supposed to be a simple search for him, one that ended in some stupid conclusion that he had been knee deep in some black market scheme like always. Now, she was staring down a long tunnel full of dark, looming shadows of the unknown. Hot tears ran down her cheeks freely. Of all times, why was she now missing Cecil the most?

--

Theodore was a mess of nerves throughout the returning trip through the black market. He could hardly focus on any of the vendors packing up shop or lingering patrons examining their haul for the night. All he could focus on was the parade of thoughts that crashed around him about what he could have done to piss Mizuki off. Granted, they had shared a moment back at Terra’s apartment, but it was short lived. She was definitely still pissed. She hadn't said a word to them since they had left the apartment, hadn't even looked his way, really. Theodore trained his gaze at his feet as he walked, watching the black of his shoes move across the different pavements as they moved further through the market, tracing back their steps to when they had first begun the night. He remembered walking through with Mizuki earlier, both of them still full of naivete and wonder. God, what a couple of hours could do to you. He felt like an idiot in the shadow of his former self.

He finally looked up as he heard her footsteps come to a gradual halt, only to take in--the door to the exit. Theodore’s chest instinctively tightened once coming face to face with the old, splintering wood. They hadn’t even entered it yet and all he could think about was breaking through to the fresh air outside. Panic began to build in his chest, turning his stomach over into a mess of flurries.

Mizuki pushed the door open, but not before she interlaced her fingers with his own. He looked down, surprised after their long trek of silence and solitude. Her cold touch brought him back down from the mountain of nerves he had begun to ascent. He took a deep breath, following her through the cramped stone passageway. Theodore’s gaze grew aggravated at having to bend his neck sideways, his breathing shallowing at the annoyance. He focused instead on the feeling of Mizuki’s smooth fingers within his own, feeling the flow of her blood through her touch.

He gulped down the cool morning air once they broke through the other side of the tunnel, keeling over to his side at the feeling of wide open sky above them. It was like breaking through the surface of an ocean, after being dragged down miles. The freedom he felt was immeasurable. Theodore obediently followed Mizuki down through the park and back towards the main road they had been dropped off hours earlier. He didn’t want to risk pissing her off any further, and didn’t dare question that she was still holding his hand long after his internal panic had died down into a dull roar. He had gone so long since having met her gaze that meeting it then, so abruptly, made him take a step back. He had never seen her eyes full of such a sharpness. He swallowed thickly, nodding obediently at her offer of her apartment. As much as he wanted to avoid having to face Layla after having been gone all day, he didn’t think--no he knew--he couldn’t ask Mizuki for anything more today.

Theodore opened his mouth instinctively when Mizuki opened up about what he had done to push her away. So it was the angel, the danger that he symbolized, the gravity his addition made to their situation. He bit his lip to keep from responding, brow wavering in concern.

“I’m sorry--I didn’t realize how the decision might have affected you,” He said, his body oddly still. “I guess I’m really used to dealing with the affairs for the Vieru, I just make decisions with them--with Samantha in mind, I forgot how to think of others too.”

Theodore paused, bringing a hand up and raking it through his hair. “Actually--no that’s just an excuse.” He looked off to the side, letting out a deep, frustrated sigh. “I should have thought about how you felt. I dragged you into this and its my responsibility to make sure I make you an equal part in the decisions I--we make in the future. I was being selfish and only thought of myself.” Theodore’s gaze hardened, the look in them unusually clear and intense. “You are an equal partner in this. I hold you with the utmost respect, so if I ever do anything to counteract that, don’t hesitate to stop me next time,” He held her gaze for several seconds after that, hoping to make his point clear. Theodore couldn’t help the hot shame from bubbling up in his chest and flushing his cheeks. He truly was thinking of only himself in that moment. His attachment to Samantha grew so large sometimes, it scared him.

The intense look in his eyes faded rapidly once the familiar chime of his phone snapped through his system. Theodore cleared his throat, nodding at her suggestion. “Okay, if that’s what you want,” He said, digging in his pocket to find the familiar sleek feeling of his phone. He looked down at the bright screen, seeing a mess of notifications crowding the surface. There was the group chat notification from Terra, with Caelum and her claiming which number was theirs. There was a ton of missed calls from Layla, but that was to be expected. What soured his expression was a text from Kat, informing him she’d be waiting for him to get back. Theodore’s throat closed up at the thought of seeing her again after this morning. He didn’t hate her--but the thought of her trying so hard to smother him right now didn’t sound appealing. She didn’t know what it was like to lose someone, she just didn’t like a guy telling her no. And if he counted correctly, he had pushed her aside twice in less than a full 48 hours. If anything, it would just make her try harder. Theodore let out an audible groan.

He looked up to Mizuki as she offered a last goodbye, everything within him screaming for her to help him deal with Kat. Earlier, she had cut through her wiles so efficiently--but she looked exhausted. Her formerly bright eyes were dampened into a dull flatness. He couldn’t do that to her, he had to steel himself and deal with it on his own. “Yeah-- I’ll see you around,” He said smoothly, his charismatic side taking the reins to cover how he truly felt. He flashed her a broad smile. “I’ll call your cab for you, don’t worry.”

Theodore swiped through the notifications, ignoring all of them, and pulled up the number pad on his phone. He swiftly dialed the taxi company, and ordered two separate ones for the both of them. He looked out of the corner of his eye at Mizuki as he talked to the operator, wishing he could understand how she felt in the moment. Even after all the time they had spent together, she proved a challenge for him to fully read and understand.

The taxis arrived after a short interim of waiting, as they were close to a bustling area of the city. Theodore was both relieved and saddened at the sight of the bright yellow cars cutting through the dim colors of their surroundings. He looked over at Mizuki, offering her a final nod as he drank in the sight of her figure. “If it’s not too much, I’d like it if you messaged me when you arrive at the Lasombra,” He said, placing a hand on the open taxi door. “Just so I know you got there fine.”
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps
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Katarina Greyson | Mizuki Chiba | Charlotte Aven

Mizuki's Location: Black Market - Terra's Apartment - Under the Brooklyn Bridge - Lasombra's Manor.
Charlotte's Location: Lasombra's Manor.
Katarina's Location: Vieru's Manor.

It's my mess too.

Those were the words Mizuki parted with Terra, and she couldn't help but feel sad for the fairy. As they walked out of the apartment, she couldn't help but sneak a glance towards the woman...silently wondering if she would be okay on her own for the night. Her chest felt heavy, but supposed there was nothing she could do about that now. Charlotte was waiting for her back home, and she really shouldn't keep her waiting any more than she already did. However, she did make a mental note of checking in on Terra the next time they met. Because, Terra parted ways with them on another note. We’re in it together. And, Mizuki wanted to be there for the fairy. It was a new experience for Mizuki...clicking so naturally and effortlessly with another individual. It usually took her a lot longer to open up, but Terra was like a breath of fresh air. Refreshing and free.

Mizuki went over the evening's events in her mind and truly came to terms with the fact that there was no going back. Between The Council and The Order getting involved, she was now forced to see this to the end. Whatever end that meant...Unfortunately—or fortunately, however Theodore wanted to view it—he was stuck with her. This was now her fight, too...and she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Sure, she was a little...disappointed with how he handled certain interactions, but she couldn't entirely fault him. He was desperate, after all. She just...didn't want to be taken for granted. Her selflessness and kindness only went so far.

And, even if she was a little upset with the vampire beside her...that didn't necessarily mean she was heartless. She was still attentive to the man beside her. Mizuki shifted her attention occasionally up towards Theodore, whose brows were puckered together anxiously. A faint smile brushed against her lips, her hair spilling over the sides of her face like curtains...discretely hiding her complexion as she shifted her attention before her, walking through the same vendors and stalls they had passed by originally when they first arrived. A few of those stalls were packing up for the evening to make space for those who were setting up for the morning rush. The Black Market no longer held the same splendor as before.

As they reached the Black Market's main exit, Mizuki came to a slow stop and delicately reached a hand towards Theodore. First, she curled her pinky around his in a gentle reminder that she was still there with him, only to them shift her hold to lace their fingers together in an act of solidarity. She still didn't fully face him, especially not when she felt his gaze over her, but...she was still there. Still willing to support him. With a firm grip around his hand, they ascended the worn down, cobblestone steps that went on for several minutes. Thanks to their nature, they held an unending amount of stamina, so the trek wasn't of Mizuki's concern...her concern laid with Theodore and his panic in regards to tight spaces. Occasionally, when she heard his breath become too shallow, she would delicately caress her thumb against his hand in a gentle reminder that he was okay and she was right beside him. They continued to take deep breaths together until they reached the very top where Mizuki pushed open the door to reveal...the early morning dew and the gust of fresh air that suddenly burst through.

Mizuki took one final gulp of air, closing her eyes and allowing herself to be filled with the outside. It felt like she had been asleep—trapped—in a tiring and lengthy nightmare, only now was she waking from her deep and disturbing slumber. She listened to the river's water shift to and fro around them in a relaxing trickle, and for the first time in a very long time...she saw the rays of light peeking over the horizon and she found comfort in its luminance.

After taking a moment to recollect herself, Mizuki turned around and guided Theodore out from beneath the bridge, noticing the goblin's absence. She paid no mind to it as they quietly continued their stroll back to the main road, making no move to slip her hand away from Theodore's...almost as if she wasn't really ready to let go. Until, they came to a stop before the sidewalk. She seemed to take another breath, finally allowing her hand to fall from his before she turned to face Theodore for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. He took a step away from her and her hardened expression slacked into that one mild concern. Was he...scared of her?

Mizuki brushed her hair out of her face as she quietly insisted he could use her apartment if need be. It was there for his use, especially since she wasn't necessarily planning on going back that evening—morning. Yet, once she began talking...she found she couldn't really stop herself...and she admitted she had found his actions that evening to be disappointing and even a little hurtful. To not take her feelings into consideration while getting involved with a dangerous organization who could easily turn on them...well, it made her feel like an extra. Like, her input didn't matter to Theodore.

Mizuki shifted her eyes back down to her feet, feeling a bit embarrassed from how vulnerable she felt. Her stomach erupted into a million butterflies and her cheeks were tinted pink, not really knowing what his reaction would be to calling him out. What if he found her difficult, suddenly? What if he thought she was overly sensitive and more of a hassle than anything else? She pursed her lips together, awaiting his response...only to find herself pleasantly surprised when the first words out of his mouth was an apology.

Mizuki snapped her attention back up to him, her eyes glassy with tears. She searched his gaze, seeing the sincerity behind them, though he was still oddly stiff. She nodded along to his words, shakily tucking a strand of hair behind her ear while she mulled over his response. It...made sense, really. His focus was on Samantha, they've never worked together before...hardly held a lengthy conversation. All of their conversations were superficial and polite. Sure, they might have met at an art exposition or recital, but their focus was towards the craft. Once it was over, they would part ways. End of story.

Mizuki assumed they would leave the conversation there, as she would be forced to simply agree and move on. Disappointment contorted her expression as she nervously began to pick at her bandages. So, he didn't really view her as an equal partner—No, that’s just an excuse.

Mizuki looked to the man from the corner of her gaze while he elaborated as to what he meant. Her hands stilled and she slowly turned to face the vampire a little better as he assured her that...it was his responsibility to ensure that she felt like an equal in all of this. Like, Terra said...it was their mess, now. He validated her feelings, and he even...said that he respected her. That wasn't really something she expected, but it oddly felt...nice. To be respected by the one figure she held the most respect for. Her muse. She was lost in his gaze, staring up at the man owlishly as he ended the conversation by insisting that she not hesitate to call him out if this were to repeat itself.

"O-Okay...", Mizuki barely croaked out, their gaze lingering, "...I don't think you were being selfish, you weren't think of yourself. You were thinking about Samantha. I understand why you did what you did, and I don't really blame you. I just...I just also don't really blame myself for feeling the way I feel—felt. I'm also here for her, she's...done a lot for me. I sometimes really regret getting involved with the Lasombra. Maybe things would have been different if I chose the Vieru...But, I'm also here for us, and if anything were to happen to us—to you...all of this would have been in vain. I know you want to do what you can for her, but throwing ourselves out to the wolves won't do any of us any good. Thankfully, I suppose it all worked itself out, though. And, thank you for...being receptive and understanding", she offered sincerely, her voice soft and kind as she reached forward to give his hand a small squeeze. She noticed his wounds had healed, and it was now time to part...

Mizuki offered separate cabs, though was interrupted by the soft chime that came from Theodore's phone. She quickly ignored it and nodded to Theodore's response, standing there a little awkwardly while he reviewed his phone. She looked away and played with the hem of her shirt, still not ready to turn her phone on to receive the monsoon of messages Charlotte probably left for her. She thought about possibly sneaking into the house, but knew that was probably a bad idea. She should face her leaders head on—.

Mizuki shook away from her stupor when she heard Theodore groan. She looked back to the vampire, the man seeming...annoyed? Put off? She hoped everything was okay.

When he looked back up to her, Theodore almost looked to her pleadingly, almost as if he was about to ask her to stay back...but eventually he seemed to deflate and offered a soft, "see you around". Mizuki nodded in response, noting his smile. Her own lips kicked a little upwards in response, not being to help herself, "Thank you", she hummed softly, as the two waited silently for the call and for the response of the cabs. Her gaze was distant and faraway, her body still as she held onto her bag tightly almost in anticipation. At a distant, the bright, saturated yellow filled the corner of her vision and brought her back to their current reality. She was going home, and she was to be separated from Theodore. For some reason, that filled her with a lot of...dread, really. Was she ready to part from him?

Of course, she didn't voice out her anxieties as she didn't want to come off as clingy...but she was scared. What if her name was to be on the next headline? Lasombra member...dead. She took in a deep breath while the cabs parked themselves beside them and she turned to look at Theodore one last time. He gently insisted that she write to him when she arrived and the vampire obediently nodded in response, "Of course, will do. And...if you could do the same, I would really appreciate it", she offered kindly while he opened the cab door for her. Her chest tightened, and if she didn't leave right now she would fall into a mess of tears...begging him to not leave her alone. She hid her shaky hands behind her back, swallowing back the lump in her throat, "...I meant it, Theodore. When I said I wanted you to be the one constant in my life, right now. Thank you...for trusting me. Despite how crazy it's been tonight, I appreciate the time we spent together today". Why did it sound like she was offering a permanent goodbye? "...and...don't hesitate to call me. We're in this...together", she echoed Terra's words, offering Theodore one last smile before she turned and slid into the cab...closing the door behind her and giving the driver to address to the Lasombra's estate. She waved to Theodore and watched his distant figure until she could no more...and once she was out of sight...the vampire curled up over herself...shoving her hands into her face as she began to cry. Her body shook with her sobs while the driver was kind enough to give her her privacy. Her glob-like tears fell over her lap, as the weight of yesterday landed over her shoulder. The cryptic message left over her sketchbook, Charlotte's suspicions. The Order. It was too much...

~
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Mizuki took a deep breath once she arrived to Lasombra, paying the cab driver and thanking him for his time. She had finally taken a breath and composed herself, her eyes just slightly red and puffy from the cry she had allowed herself on the way home. She felt...refreshed. Still exhausted, but at least she was numb.

The sun had finally poked its head out and filled her view with pastels and warm hues. The manor didn't look as imposing as it normally did under such lighting. She held her bag a little more securely before she stepped forward and braced herself for...anything, really.

Mizuki opened the front door, the grand entrance audibly croaking and announcing her arrival. She winced at the sound, quietly closing the door behind her as best she could and hoping she could just tiptoe her way through. She was in desperate need for a shower and some sleep, maybe even a packet of rabbit's blood—.

"This is the latest you have ever sneaked in, Mizuki", a voice called from the shadows and Mizuki stiffened instinctively. The smell of roasted coffee filled the vampire's nose as she turned her attention towards the left where she found Charlotte standing a mere few feet opposite of her, "I see you turned your phone off. Your tone was most disapproving, Mizuki. You've never acted out in such a manner. Is this about our conversation last night? Are you...angry?".

"Good morning to you too, Charlotte", Mizuki stood with a straighter back and eyed down the woman, noting the cup of coffee she cradled in her hold, "I'm not angry, I just need some space. I will admit I wasn't entirely fond of your chastising last night, as I still do not believe I did anything wrong. I was rightfully defending a dear friend—".

"You mean a murderer", Charlotte hissed, interrupting Mizuki. Mizuki flinched and frowned.

"I don't want to have this conversation, again. You made your point, and in the end we agree to disagree. So what if we do not see eye-to-eye? I'm allowed to have my own opinions, am I not? I am allowed my independence, which was why you and Maximus allowed me to keep my apartment. I didn't think the Lasombra promoted sheep—".

"Watch your tongue", Charlotte growled, taking a step towards Mizuki, "You can think what you think, but when we give you an order, you are to follow it. And, I ordered you to stay away from the Vieru in the meantime, and yet you're running around with Samantha's boy toy. If I catch you disobeying orders—".

"What?", Mizuki snarled, taking a step towards Charlotte almost threateningly, "...what will you do to me? Get rid of me?", she hissed.

"You're out of line".

"Me? You're the one ambushing me at five o'clock in the morning!", Mizuki boomed, "I just want to go take a shower and then go to bed. But, if this was how you're going to act, I can happily go back to my apartment", she spat, earning a snarl from Charlotte.

"...this is the game you want to play, very well...but wait until Maximus hears how piss poor your attitude has been, lately. Of course, we won't harm you. You're family, whether you like it or not, but we can take away privileges. We have done everything for you. Fed you, clothed you, put a roof over your head! Hell! We hid your disgusting past from the Council's files. So, unless you do not want the community getting a whiff of what you truly are, I suggest you talk to me with a bit more respect", she growled, finally earning some silence from Mizuki, "...I did wish to say, Mizuki...you are in dire need of a shower...you smell...strange. Where were you tonight?".

"...some art gallery with Theodore", Mizuki muttered out, "Underground, very weird. I thought I would cheer him up given—you know—his leader was just recently arrested. I know you told me not to get involved, but he's a friend".

"Strange, I don't really remember the two of you really interacting much in the past, at least not to garner his friendship. Weren't you a little obsessed with him? I know you creepily sketch him in your spare time", Charlotte hummed, "Another little thing you might not want getting out".

Mizuki's gaze darkened, "...you're blackmailing me?", she hummed, "Rather low, even for you. Is Maximus aware that his little groupie is acting on her own accord—Agh!".

Mizuki spittled out, gasping for air as she suddenly found herself pinned away the Lasombra's grand entrance. The wind had been knocked out of her and her windpipe was actively being constricted! Charlotte had whipped across the main entrance and slammed her clawed hand against Mizuki's throat. Clamping down against her neck tightly. Mizuki found herself a few inches from the ground, her feet helpless flailing about underneath her, while her bag had fallen...left discarded to the side. Charlotte had dropped her coffee mug in the process, leaving a shattered mess behind her while she was only now inches away from Mizuki's face, "...talk like that to me again, and I will lock you in your room. You have been acting weird since yesterday, and I will not stand for such insolence", she whispered out in soft hisses, "...do you understand? Your loyalty lies with us. We love you dearly, we love all of our children...but that doesn't mean we can't spank them here and there to get a point across...understood?".

Mizuki tearfully looked down to Charlotte through blurry eyes, her hands rising up instinctively to claw away at Charlotte's iron grip...but it was now use...She shakily nodded and the moment she did, Charlotte let go causing her to fall like a rag doll underneath her. She choked and gasped sharply for hair, coughing out violently as she fell into herself pathetically...she was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

~

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Meanwhile, in the Vieru, the estate was deathly silent as its members were asleep. There was currently one oddity, though, and that was Katarina...The vampire now sat on the Vieru's doorsteps at five o'clock in the morning, anxiously looking down to her phone and cursing under her breath! It was cold...and she was huddled outside like some pathetic forgotten mistress. This was so embarrassing...but as per her orders, she was to keep Theodore distracted and...away...from Mizuki. And, there was only one way she was going to accomplish that.

For now, she was dressed like never before. Usually, Katarina wore the best and trendiest pieces, her make up flawless, and her hair made up perfectly. But, not tonight. Tonight, she wore a hoodie and simple joggers, her hair had been pulled up into a simple ponytail, and her face was barren from any make up product. She made herself look concerned as she waited outside patiently, curled up over the Vieru's steps as she stared down at her phone for any response from Theodore. Her life depended on this, and so...she was going to give Theodore a different Katarina. Someone he had never met before...it would be the greatest show ever performed. Or, so...she hoped.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Maximus
Location: Under the Brooklyn Bridge, Outside the Vieru Manor | Location: Lasombra Estate​

Relief was the first thing to flush through Theodore’s body in reaction to Mizuki’s acceptance of his apology. She seemed softer than she had been a moment ago, like she was grateful to have been seen and understood. He rubbed the back of his neck when she responded to him, claiming that his acts were not entirely as selfish as he had claimed. It felt nice for her to vouch for him, but really, when Theodore was interacting with Caelum, he hadn’t even stopped for a second to wonder how it might have affected her. He had seen her crumple before the being mere seconds earlier, yet the only thing that crossed his mind in the moment was how he could skew the situation to his advantage. Although he had apologized already, coming to terms with what had happened while knowing how it had made her feel still bubbled shame within him. But he couldn’t take it back--only know which steps to avoid as they continued through this mess together.

“Yes, moving forward, we’ll do it together,” He smiled kindly before his phone snapped away his focus.

Although the wait for the taxis was empty, he felt it was a perfect way to end the eventful night they had endured. Standing side by side, shouldering the silence together, soaking in the gravity of the new reality they had been thrust into. Theodore felt a spike of anxiety as he watched Mizuki lower herself into the taxi, scared of the distance that would suddenly be between them. He had been so numb to Samantha’s sudden disappearance that he hadn’t properly processed her absence from him. Not until now, at least. Had he been unconsciously using Mizuki’s caring nature as a substitute for the bond he was now missing?

Theodore nodded dumbly at Mizuki's sincere words of departure. His brow knit in confusion, unsure of why suddenly she was confessing all of these feelings at once. "I feel the same," He stuttered out, before she could close the door. "About you being the one constant left in my life," He elaborated, his cheeks flushing slightly at his lapse in communication. "I'll text you once I get to the Vieru, I promise." Theodore scratched the back of his head, placing his hands in his pockets as he watched Mizuki’s taxi pull off into the distance. The feeling of being alone again, after what felt like such a long time together left him feeling weightless. Like one strong breeze would send him into the thawing sky above them.

His attention snapped over to the taxi driver, who called out to him impatiently. Theodore glanced back over at the road, taking in the shrinking sight of the yellow car in the distance, before getting in and saying the directions to the Vieru manor. He looked out the window as the taxi began moving, mind thoughtless. He didn’t really know what he was going to do to counteract Katarina’s advances once he got home. He honestly didn’t really feel like trying to figure it out. Theodore rested his head back on the seat of the taxi, letting the warm blanket of his daydreams cover him whole on the ride back.

--

The Vieru manor stood unchanged in the early morning light. Theodore was partly taken aback by the sight of it, that it dared to be so familiar when nothing else in his life felt the same. It almost seemed offensive, that the building remained so beautiful and stately without Samantha there to run it. He got out of the cab, feeling vaguely disgusted, eyes sticking to a figure huddled up against the cold near the entrance of the building. Theodore let out a deep sigh, well he’d better figure out what to say to her now.

His shoes thumped softly against the smooth asphalt beneath him as he walked up to the front entrance. Theodore leaned his body on one of the columns lining the grand entryway of the estate, looking down at Katarina who was seated on its few steps. He smirked. “I didn’t know the Assur were capable of existing at this time of day. I thought you all turned into pumpkins past 3 am.”

--

Maximus lifted his head from the paper it was buried in at the sounds of strained, tense voices echoing in the foyer. He let out a sigh, lifting his arm swiftly to check the time through the glinting face of his watch. Almost morning again, daybreak. He laid his palms flat on his smooth wooden desk to stand. He crept out of the grand doors to his office, watching from a distance at the scene between Charlotte and Mizuki down below. His gaze stayed apathetic and unfeeling as he watched the women argue. Charlotte seemed to be handling this--poorly. Clearly Mizuki felt enough agency against her to speak back in that way. His expression soured. He’d have to fix that soon.

Maximus began padding down the stairs, adjusting the sleeves of his crisp shirt as he moved. “Charlotte,” He called out to her. His deep voice carried itself effortlessly down through the grand hall to reach the two women, his tone unrushed, unworried as he watched Charlotte grip Mizuki by the neck. “That’s enough,” He said. “I don’t remember setting a strict curfew on our members, do you?” He asked, raising a brow at the woman.

He crossed the floor of the grand entryway over to the two, each step of his shoes snapping cleanly. “After all, we are all adults here.” He gave a charismatic smile, but there was a cold feeling behind it, one steeped in power and a sense of superiority. “Poor thing,” He said to Mizuki, placing a hand on her chin and moving her head side to side. “Being out all night like that, must be exhausting.”

Without looking at Charlotte, his cunning gaze trained on Mizuki, Maximus said flatly, “Charlotte, prepare a shower, get her some blood and send her to my office when she’s finished. I have some things I’d like to discuss with our little night owl here.” He smiled once more, letting his fingers slowly fall from Mizuki’s chin. He nodded at the two women curtly before turning around and returning back up the stairs to his office. He would find a way to deal with whatever she had been up to. With who she had been around. He preferred to not use force, as she was still a Lasombra after all. Ultimately, the severity of his decision would fall on Mizuki’s own complacency. Maximus closed the heavy doors behind him at sat back down at his desk, picking up the piece of paper and resuming from where he had left off.
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps
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Katarina Greyson | Mizuki Chiba | Charlotte Aven

Mizuki's & Charlotte's Location: Lasombra's Manor.
Katarina's Location: Vieru's Manor.

Katarina was practically huddled up on the Vieru's front steps, thinking herself pathetic for putting herself in this position. Katarina Greyson did not beg nor grovel, especially not to some man.

However, a certain higher up offered her the idea that maybe she should change her approach in regards to Theodore, as he possibly might have gotten a tasting for something a little more...unique. The same old act was clearly growing tiresome, and as much as that stung...Katarina knew what she had to do in hopes to coax Theodore back to her.

So, she waited. Since Theodore wasn't returning her calls of texts, Katarina waited at the front steps of the Vieru with Layla's permission. Layla simply waved at her dismissively, tried Theodore's phone a few times, only to then give up and walk back inside. She was much too busy with a lot of necessary paperwork in regards to Samantha's trials and the Vieru's general tasks to be worrying about some...hussy. She's never liked nor trusted Katarina, and was very outspoken about this with Theodore...but he never really seemed to care, so she left it at that. While she did worry about Theodore's whereabouts, he took the time to write to her to assure her he was fine...and so she simply assumed he was out drinking or whatever he did to destress. Usually that involved Katarina, so to find the vampire waiting for him outside was a bit...curious.

For now, Katarina let out a weak sigh, watching as her breath materialized before her due to how cold it was outside. She rubbed her hands together and perked up at the distant sound of a car door closing, and then...approaching footsteps. She raised her eyes, finding herself under the watchful gaze from a pair of cerulean eyes. Eyes she had the pleasure to stare into many lonesome evenings together. Her chest tightened, and supposed she wasn't here...just out of duty. She...didn't want to feel like she was losing him. Even now, she felt a wall between them that hadn't been there the previous evening. He meant a lot more to her than she let on.

Katarina couldn't help the giggle that left her lips as she shook her head, "I'm starting to think your intel on the Assur is a little outdated, mister", she jabbed back playfully, motioning to stand up. She let out a high-pitched groan while she stretched out her body and legs, a yawn soon following after, "Man! Another minute and I would have probably turned to stone! O-Or...Or a pumpkin, as you say", she smiled, amused by his little use of the word. It was a rather...adorable imagery, actually.

"...um...", Katarina—momentarily—looked down down to her feet, seemingly a little shy. Which was unusual for such a confident and sensual woman. "I wanted to...", she took a deep breath, "...look, this isn't easy for me to say, but I wanted to apologize for my behavior yesterday. It was out of line. I was...hungover and shit, and I was feeling neglected...a-and...maybe even a little jealous", she mumbled weakly while she looked off to the side. Her hand found itself rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly, possibly even looking a little...petulantly. "I don't know how to comfort people, there's only two ways I know how—booze a-and...you know—and I am guessing it's not what you need right now. But, I'm really worried about you and wanted to check up on you. That's it. You can kick me out if you want, but I wanted to try and salvage whatever...whatever we call this...and I wanted to be there for you. If you will have me. We don't have to talk. If you just need a shoulder to cry on...that's okay, too", she stated, finally flicking her eyes back towards him.

"...you've probably had a long night tonight, if you need a nap buddy, I'm here?", Katarina offered, opening her arms out...maybe even a little pathetically. But, it was the closest thing to an offer for a hug that she could muster in that moment. And, she hoped...he wouldn't reject her.

"...and then we can wake up at two in the afternoon and make some "brunch". I don't promise that I'm a good cook, but I'll try", Katarina smiled hopefully. An excellent performance.

~

Mizuki and Charlotte both looked towards the smooth, crisp voice that cut through the delicate morning air...and found Maximus at the other end of that voice. Mizuki paled by Charlotte...calmed. At this order, Charlotte released Mizuki, causing the vampire to fall pathetically before her—coughing, sputtering, gasping for air.

"You do make an excellent point, Maximus; however, I have been trying to get a hold of her all evening. She repeatedly disobeyed me and has been acting rather insolently since the ball", Charlotte informed, matching his energy, while taking a step back and folding her arms across her chest to stare down at the vampire who tried to collect herself.

Mizuki delicately curled a hand around her bruised neck, almost as if to cradle it. Protect it. She flinched upon realizing Maximus was approaching her, kneeling down next to her. Panic began to bubble inside her chest as she hesitantly raised her eyes to meet the man's. His eyes did not match his smile. She practically winced when Maximus lifted his hand towards her, almost as if she was anticipating for him to strike her...But, instead...she was met with a cool, gentle touch. He moved her head from side to side, which caused her to loll weakly against his coaxing. No resistance was put up against Maximus. Just sterile obedience.

"...y-...yes, sir", Mizuki stammered out, wanting to yell at him to keep his hands off of her...to stop patronizing her! But, of course...she was weak. And, thus...remained silent.

After a while, it was hard to meet his gaze and eventually Mizuki allowed her eyes to fall while he spoke to Charlotte, ordering her to prepare her a shower and some blood...only to send her back to the lion's den. Maximus' office. Mizuki swallowed thickly and Charlotte bowed her head, "Absolutely, Maximus. I will do that right now", she stated. She kept her head bowed while Maximus stood and maneuvered out of the gran hall, slithering back into his office and leaving the two women to be.

Charlotte called for one of the maids to clean the coffee mess, before she approached Mizuki and crouched down to help the vampire up to her feet. This time, the vampire seemed a lot more compliant this time around and allowed herself to be maneuvered by Charlotte.

The two walked through the imposing mansion until reaching Mizuki's assigned bedroom. It was mostly decorated in white, clear tones as Mizuki didn't really find the motivation to add too much personality to a space she deemed...temporary. It held little to no belongings, only her essentials and the necessary to spend a handful of days back and forth between here and her apartment. Charlotte then guided her into the bathroom. Just as white, but held with green accents thanks to the eucalyptus Mizuki liked to hang over her shower head.

Charlotte turned the shower on and shifted it to the perfect temperature before she glanced back to Mizuki, "I will be back with blood and a bathrobe. Once you are done showering, you are to report to Maximus as soon as possible. Do not keep him waiting...okay? I'm sorry about earlier, it's just...You have been acting out a lot, lately. I don't know what's been going on with you, but I hope we can resolve it. I meant it before...we really love you, just...don't shut us out, okay?".

Mizuki nodded dumbly as Charlotte stepped towards her and hugged her. The vampire returned the hug before Charlotte slipped out of the bathroom to offer her her privacy...where she finally allowed herself another moment to cry. She undressed, she went through the general motions, and stayed under the warm spray of the water...just happy to feel clean, again. The smell of the eucalyptus filling the bathroom soothed her and once she was done, she felt...better. Her head was less foggy and the bruise around her neck had healed.

When she stepped out of the shower, Mizuki rummaged through her bag and pulled her phone out, turning the device on. A few notifications popped up. A few were older ones from Charlotte and that...oh. The group chat with Terra. No spamming.

Hi! Just sending out my apartment address to send the documents to. Please, mail it to: —

A few minutes later, a message popped through and Mizuki rolled her eyes.

Will send it, ASAP :bishiesparklesr: :bishiesparklesr: :bishiesparklesr: - Love, Wine-Covered French

Mizuki snorted, popping out of the group chat and finding Theodore's contact...She was hesitant, but eventually she wrote out to him.

Hey. Just letting you know I got home okay. Last night was fun, thank you for introducing me to that new artist! 🌛

With that, Mizuki slipped out of the bathroom after wrapped her hair up in a towel, finding the silken bathrobe and blood pack on the bed. She slid on the bathrobe, scooped up the blood back, and slid her phone in her pocket before slipping out of the bedroom...padding her way towards Maximus' office while suckling on the blood pack.

There, she stood before Maximus' private study and she seemed to take a deep breath before she raised her fist and knocked on the door. Once she received positive affirmation she could step inside, Mizuki hesitantly opened the door and poked her head inside, "Excuse me", she hummed politely, stepping inside and closing the door behind her. She made no motion to make her way further, though, "...you wanted to...talk to me, sir...I presume?", she asked meekly.


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Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Maximus
Location: The Vieru Manor | The Lasombra Estate​
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Theodore cracked a lazy smile. “Yeah you might be right about that.” He watched Katarina get up and stretch, eyes shifting curiously over her figure. Maybe it was the cold, but he had never seen Kat as bundled up as she was before him now. She was a woman aware of her good figure, and one who actively used it to her advantage. Maybe she wasn’t here for what he had originally thought. He smiled once more at her playful jest back to him, but his eyes were hazy in thought.

At the sound of Katarina apologizing, however, Theodore’s attention snapped back to the woman standing sheepishly before him. His jaw went slack, unable to properly process the words he was hearing before him. Kat was--sorry? He knew she wasn’t the most evil person, but typically her regards towards the feelings of others was much too flippant to ever warrant a genuine apology from her lips.

Theodore pulled the dumbstruck look from his face, not wanting to give her the feeling of an advantage. He replaced it with a coy smirk. “Jealous, huh?” He teased playfully, blue eyes twinkling. After the night he had, it was nice to hear the comforting words come from Katarina’s mouth. Even though she was the last person he expected to be saying them, they were words he was itching to hear nonetheless. Besides the rather--physical element of their relationship, Kat and Theo had been friends for quite awhile. Her ability to feel a genuine worry for him wasn’t too hard to believe. He had experienced first hand how much a tragic event like Samantha’s arrest could change him, who was to say it couldn’t have changed Kat too?

“God I could use a nap buddy right about now,” He sighed, ruffling the top of his hair so as to appear aloof and nonchalant. Theodore pushed his body from the pillar he had been leaning on, hunching his body down in order to lower his height and bury his face in Katarina’s neck. He scooped his arms around her waist, pulling her up and into his embrace. “It is pretty fucking cold out here,” He said after a beat. “Let’s go in, I’m sure Layla’s busy with clan business. I’ll check in with her once I’ve got a little more sleep in me.”

Theodore released Kat from his embrace and maneuvered towards the front door, fishing the keys from the depths of his front pockets. He opened the door, feeling the warmth and familiar welcoming smell of the Vieru manor wash over and engulf his senses completely. A bolt of pain ripped through his chest at who that smell reminded him so much of, deciding to push Samantha out from his mind. At least for now.

He led Kat through the extravagant halls of the building, its walls expertly decorated with extravagant pieces of art, floral bouquets, and other indicators at the level of luxury the Vieru liked to surround themselves with. He opened the door to his room and allowed Kat to enter in first before shutting it behind him. He scratched his head sheepishly, eyeing the crumpled pieces of clothing that laid scattered around his room. He had left in such a rush that he had no time to make his bed, let alone tidy anything up. Theodore pointed over to the various options of seating around his room. “Sit anywhere you like, I need to hop into the shower quickly before I fall asleep,” He said, raising the dark fabric of his shirt up to take a sniff. “I smell--like the city,” He scrunched his nose, disgusted at the thought.

Theodore grabbed a change of clothes from his closet, heading into the bathroom that was set off to the side, and closed the door behind him. He looked down at his pocket, feeling the familiar buzz of his phone. He swallowed hard at the sight of the group chat Terra had made, the events of the night already beginning to feel like a strange dream now that he was grounded back in the reality he knew so well. The sight of Mizuki's text message made him smile widely, the brief panic the group chat had brought dissipating. He messaged back:

Great to hear! I just got home too. I’ll definitely take you to see their other work sometime, I’m sure you’ll like it just as much.🙌

He pressed send, leaning his back into the counter of the sink in a shallow pool of thought. He stayed like that for a beat before pushing himself back upright, undressing quickly and stepping into the shower, washing off the smoke and sweat of the night from his body. He watched the water swirl down the drain, sending his mind into a trance. The panic he had felt the night before at Samantha’s arrest was gone. What he had forced himself to do in pure adrenaline and lack of forethought had brought him to a place where he found a small sliver of hope at positively changing the situation for the better. Before he had just felt helpless, like a sinking rock floating endlessly in a weightless tumble. However, in its place grew the mounting realization of what exactly he and Mizuki had been through just hours before but--he wouldn’t think about that. At least not now. Now, he would go to lay down and fall asleep, a blissful moment where he would be thinking nothing and feeling like nothing.

Theodore turned the water off and dried himself off methodically. He put on the crisp, fresh clothes he had grabbed from the closet and pulled them on. The colder air from his room hit his body once he opened the door. Theodore walked over to his bed, the exhaustion from the night released fully in the hot steam of the water, and plopped down. He layed back into the soft sheets of his bed, staring up at the ceiling emptily, eyelids already growing heavy. He stretched his arm out lazily in Katarina’s direction, hoping she’d grasp his hint to come over and join him.


--


Maximus’ concentration had deepened as he sorted through the paperwork still leftover from the day before. Samantha’s arrest had caused a domino effect of events from satellite clans all over the world, shifting deals and requiring a redefinition of trade terms. It had been hell the past day sorting through all of the emails, calls and letters, but he reminded himself, that this was only temporary.

When Mizuki entered the room, Maximus did not bother to look up. He trained his gaze on the paper he was currently reading, motioning a finger at her to come in and take a seat. Once finished with the content on the page, Maximus looked up at her stoically. He stood up from his desk with a light stretch of his muscles, pacing over to the window with his hands clasped studiously behind his back.

“I’m curious,” He said, eyes moving around as he studied the warming clouds in the morning sky. “What does loyalty mean to you Mizuki? How would you define it?”

He moved away from the window, taking a seat on the edge of his desk so that he was positioned slightly above her, forcing the woman to tilt her chin up in order to make eye contact. “Because I would describe it as a strong sense of faithfulness. Of duty. Of renouncing those who get in the way of that loyalty, including those that pose a threat to the very thing you’ve devoted it to. No--especially those.”

Maximus cleared his throat, moving over to a small table where a sleek coffee machine was nestled. He popped a pod into the machine, picking up a clear glass effortlessly with his hand and slipping it under the dispenser. “Feel free to help yourself to one if you’d like.” He smiled. Maximus pressed the button, the whirring sound of machinery filling the tense air of the room. He waited silently, staring at her kindly, as the coffee was being made. He then took the now steaming glass and walked slowly back over to his desk, his expression contorted as he was struggling over a particularly perplexing thought.

“Now, I know the Lasombra, at its core, is founded on loyalty,” He flashed a wide smile, his fangs entirely visible. “And I know you very well know that too. Hell, you can't be a Lasombra without a strong sense of loyalty. Which is why I’m so confused as to why you were seen hanging around with Samantha’s right hand man yesterday, after just finding out she had been arrested for the murder of our beloved councilman? A bit odd don’t you think?” He looked at her straight in the eye, the expression in his own cold, empty, lifeless.
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps
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Katarina Greyson | Mizuki Chiba

Location: Vieru's Manor | Lasombra's Manor

Katarina stood there, her apology having just trickled out of her lips...just...there. Out in the open. She shuffled a little nervously under his watchful eye. He looked rather...stunned, and—well, was this really the first time she's ever apologized to him? The first time they've shared...this sort of one on one, before? Was their friendship a lot more superficial that she thought?

When he finally snapped out of his reverie, Theodore was to find a pouting Katarina, taking a step towards him to playfully nudge the man. Especially after he seemed to take particular interest in her admittance over her being jealous! After everything she said, and that's what he chose to focus on. "Y-Yes!", she huffed, "...I...I'm not used to having to share your attention", she mumbled, her attention falling to her side. She was half-expecting him to reject her, no less. He was probably tired, and maybe he wanted some space after the scene she caused yesterday.

Katarina was about ready to just collect her bag and report back that she had failed a third time in the span of two days...only to pause when—God, I could use a nap buddy right about now.

"Y-Yeah?", Katarina nearly stuttered out, flicking her gaze back up to meet Theodore's to find him ruffling his hair in that cute way he did when he tried to act cool. She couldn't help the smile that spread across her lips, not the relief that came with it. She watched as he pushed himself towards her, lowering himself onto the crook of her neck where he...buried himself there and Katarina effortlessly raised her arms around the man's lanky figure. He was cold, the tip of his nose was cold..."I can feel that", she seemed to hum as his arms snaked around her waist and pulled her into a tight embrace. There he was...He didn't abandon her, he was just...misguided.

Katarina found her eyes closing momentarily while she took in the man's strange scent. He'd gone somewhere she didn't necessarily recognize. She smelled...odd spices, smoke, coffee, old books, honey shampoo...and—Her. She slid her eyes open, her grip around him growing a little tighter while her fingers slid upwards to comb through his hair, "...okay", she whispered to him, as he insisted he first wanted to get a little sleep in.

Once he let go, along with Katarina who seemed...a little more hesitant to let go of their embrace, the vampire followed Theodore into the Vieru's mansion. The door opened before them and croaked as if to announce their return. She had been here many times. Whether it be to sneak out after a night of fun with Theodore, or to accompany her clan's leader while he was scheduled for a meeting with Samantha. She had strolled these halls many times, probably knew them as well as the Assur's...She was ignorant of Theodore's pain, not even thinking about what being back here might mean to him. She didn't hold that sort of emotional maturity.

While they made their way through the intricate details Samantha had taken upon herself to decorate her luxurious halls with, Katarina seemed bored with it all. Again, she had been here many times...and it was all a little too stuffy for her liking. The Assur's estate held a more modern touch, after all.

When they arrived to Theodore's room, though...Katarina seemed to naturally relax at its presence. The room was drenched in his scent, and his general aesthetic was a little easier on the eyes. It was very...Theodore, actually. The dark, rich evergreen tones. The tall ceilings. The flair. She smiled while she stepped inside, already feeling right at home. She of course noticed the messy bed and the strewn about articles of clothing throughout the floor, but Katarina simply shrugged. Her room was messier.

"Sure", Katarina chirped, turned towards the vampire and slinking her way towards the man. She paused before him, raising herself to her tippy-toes before she kissed his cheek, "...you do. Like, a lot. So, go. Go clean that cute behind of yours, I'll be here. Just don't keep me waiting for too long, because I get pretty lonesome and I already waited a long time outside", she hummed teasingly, shooing the man away and waiting for him to close the door behind him before she returned her attention to the room.

While Theodore took a shower, actively hearing the shower's muffled spray from behind the bathroom door, Katarina went about picking up his forgotten pieces of clothing and threw them all into the hamper. She then took it upon herself to make his bed to keep her hands, as it always felt best to lay on unwrinkled blanket. But, overall, his room was always pretty clean and tidy. Had...she...been here before? As far as Katarina knew, she was the only one graced with the privilege to share his bed...Ugh. She hated this nasty feeling. Plus, it wasn't like they were devoted to one another. She had multiple partners. So, naturally...Theodore was allowed to have his, right?

Wrong.

Katarina sighed, stewing in her toxic thoughts as she sat over a nearby couch. She stared out the window and watched as the sun poked its nasty little head out. She glared at the large, burning orb...only to perk up once Theodore slipped out of the bathroom and over to his bed where he practically flopped down. She smiled at the sight of him, and watched as he extended a lazy arm towards her. She laughed, rolling her eyes in jest...before she stood up. She slid off her shoes, her coat, her bag and tossed them all on the couch behind her before she made her way across the room to join the vampire.

Katarina found herself beside him, and coaxed the young man to shift on his side where he could lay his head on her chest...From there, she pulled the covers around them and ran her fingers through his hair until he closed his eyes and fell asleep with her arms wrapped around him affectionately.

.
.
.

And, that was where that night was supposed to end, but Katarina slid her phone carefully out of her pocket...and awaited for Theodore to be sound asleep. And, once she was positive he was asleep...she took a picture of the two—together—in bed. She winked and grinned to the camera, and swiftly sent the picture to a forgotten, dusty contact she surprisingly still had saved in her phone.

Mizuki.

~

As she made her way to the study, Mizuki felt her pocket vibrate and paused momentarily in the middle of the drawn out hallway. She slid her phone out and found Theodore's contact splayed out before her, causing a warm feeling to spread through her chest. She smiled delicately down at the screen before she raised the phone up to her chest...almost hugging the device, as if she was offering her appreciation for having delivered Theodore's message to her. She slid her phone back into her pocket, and with newfound strength, she pushed herself forward. She was happy Theodore was home, safe and sound.

When Mizuki stepped into the study, she always seemed to take a moment to appreciate the trinkets and elements Maximus filled the space with. It was like a time capsule, brimming with things of the past. Most vampires were notorious hoarders. It was the only way to remain connected to their pasts.

Mizuki waited patiently by the door, hands folded before her respectfully until she given signal to come further inside. Oh. She bowed her head respectfully to the man before she turned to close the door behind herself, and swiftly maneuvered through the office to take a seat before the man...feeling like a child about to be admonished by their parents. Small, defenseless...while Maximus seemed authoritative, imposing.

Mizuki didn't notice his hardened stare at first, immediately having lost herself to her wandering eye and thoughtless dreams. A photoshoot with this lighting would be wonderful. Next time she had to take pictures of his portrait, she would offer this room. Catching movement from the corner of her eye, Mizuki returned her attention back towards Maximus to find the man stretching...sauntering over towards the window rather elegantly. He always held such fluidity in his gestures. It was one of the things she admired of him—or rather...used to admire.

The reverence Mizuki had once held to the man...had been dulled. She used to really idolize him, and she liked to believe that their relationship was...professionally amicable. They'd share a laugh here and there, passing comments in the kitchen in the middle of the night...she was usually making herself a snack, and he'd pick at whatever she made before he disappeared into the shadows. Yet, now...he was tainted and his hands were stained with blood. Who's blood? Mizuki didn't know.

Mizuki felt the weight of her cellphone in her pocket, remembering the little moment she had shared with Theodore. Just...breath. She took a deep breath, clutching tightly onto her fingers that were freshly bandaged. When Maximus spoke, his voice seemed to almost echo in this chamber of wonders and Mizuki couldn't help but snap her attention towards her leader. She couldn't deny that he commanded respect...everywhere he went. His aura was suffocating, yet entrancing...and one couldn't help but keep their eye trained over him.

Yet, his question...confused her. What does loyalty mean to you, Mizuki? Was this a rhetorical question? Was he honestly asking her? It didn't seemed to matter, because the words fell mute against her lips. She could barely mutter a word, so...overwhelmed by him. When he turned back around, Mizuki instinctively straightened her back for the vampire...only to soon find herself tilting her head back to properly address the man while he stood before her. He continued talking, answering for her...a strong sense of faithfulness, he said. Then, where was his loyalty to his kin?

But, just as quickly as he maneuvered towards her...he was gone...Mizuki made no attempt to move, practically feeling his words tickle behind her ear as she heard the tell-tale signs of his coffee machines whirring behind her. She shook her head, "...no, thank you", she responded back politely. She barely looked his way, her eyes now falling over her clasped hands which were tightly laced together. She was drowning under the weight of his influence...

He returned before her, and once more...Mizuki looked up to the man as he tried to formulate a question, picking apart at the words inside his head...The smell of freshly brewed coffee surrounded her, managing to soothe her enough to swallow what he was about to ask her. Maximus was smiling. Yet, as he asked his question...his smile seemed to damper, and the brightness behind it seemed to grow...hollow. Like, his soul.

Mizuki was...silent for a handful of moments. She met his stare, and matched it. The silence before them was deafening, her knuckles growing white from how tightly she clutched onto her hands. She searched his gaze, picking apart at her own answer. What would be...appropriate to say?

"Not at all", Mizuki finally managed out. She never wavered, "I came to the Lasombra, because I believed—or rather—wanted to believe humans and vampires could live together in harmony. I came to the Lasombra hoping to find likeminded companions, and was happy when I did. As you say, our clan is founded on loyalty, and as the reigning and leading clan of the three main factions...that loyalty naturally branches out to other clans. As far as I know, we're not in some sort of competition with the other clans, nor have we officially shared a notice that we were to shun the Vieru. We are to be a beacon of hope and growth to the others, and I believed what I did today showed that. I don't really see as to why you believe me extending a kind hand to a friend in need has anything to do with my loyalty with the Lasombra...on the contrary, I thought I was setting a good example to the other clans", she hummed, crossing her legs together. Just breathe.

"Nor, do I see what Theodore has to do with his leader's suspicions. If—let's say—you...were to murder someone, would that automatically make me an accomplice? Or Charlotte? Wouldn't you—as my leader—want someone to extend their kindness to me? So, I can't really connect the dots...unless you know something I don't?", she asked, cocking her head to the side.

She soon deflated, though, "...it also wasn't something that I planned to have happened. I met him at a small coffee shop by chance, he looked...very sad and I couldn't help but offer him some coffee. We didn't even talk about what happened, I couldn't bring myself to bring it up as I didn't want to upset him further...Maximus, you know I love my clan more than anything, but I also love my kin. I love my community—our...community...So, really. How do I define loyalty? The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, is in its loyalty to each other...", she smiled up to the vampire, a little hopeful.

"Was that all you wanted to ask me?", Mizuki hummed, raising a brow to the man.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Maximus
Location: Vieru Manor | Location: Office within Lasombra Estate​

Theodore rested his head against Katarina’s chest, the remaining stress from the night before practically melting from his body as she ran her hands softly through his hair. He couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but she felt--different than what he had expected. She smelled different too. It almost felt a little underwhelming to be held in her arms, a feeling he wasn’t quite used to. Usually, they fit each other perfectly, and she felt exactly as he expected--no, better than he expected. So why was he now feeling so lost in her embrace?

As much as this feeling ate away at him, it was no match for the sheer level of exhaustion that flooded through his body. A soft touch was still a soft touch, and he still felt safe within Kat’s arms. His eyelids grew heavy within minutes, and shortly after, Theodore’s breathing steadied out. He lost himself within the warm darkness of his unconsciousness.

--

When Theodore awoke, he felt Kat’s steady, even breathing. Seemed like she had fallen asleep as well. He moved quietly so as to not disturb her, softly extricating himself from her arms. He swiped his phone from the dresser near his bed and padded out of the room silently.

Theodore checked the time on his phone. It was one pm. It would be best for him to check in on Layla, to finally confront the state of their clan now that Samantha’s arrest had solidified for a full day. First, though, he needed to feed. Theodore’s skin was crawling with agitation. When was the last time he even fed? Oh--right in Mizuki’s apartment the night before. He felt his claws itching instinctively, mouth pooling at the memory of the thick, cold blood across his tongue. He took a deep breath, moving swiftly to the kitchen before he could tunnel down through his instincts any further.

Theodore grabbed a pack of blood from the fridge, hands shaking tensely as he held himself back from tearing into the back and devouring it whole. He twisted off the top, pouring the deep red liquid into a glass. Theodore brought the glass up to his lips and drank slowly, one hand bracing himself on the island counter. His fangs sharpened once the metallic taste hit his tongue, eyes shrinking into slits rapidly. He needed to be better at feeding consistently, starving himself to the point of going feral wasn’t going to solve any of his problems. It just added to them, if anything.

Once downing the cold blood, he hadn't even checked to see what kind it was, he headed down the hall to where he suspected Layla would be camped out. Theodore straightened his clothes as he walked, which had wrinkled from his nap. He brushed his fingers through his hair, which was a bit of a mess, attempting to appear somewhat put together when he finally faced Layla after so long.

Theodore knocked on the dark wooden doors to Samantha’s office, ignoring the pit that dropped down into his stomach at how familiar the act was, yet how different reality chalked it up to be. He pulled down the handle and opened the door a crack, seeing Layla’s familiar bouncy curls.

“So--” Theodore started tentatively, slipping into the office before him. He swallowed hard, his knees feeling like they had turned to jello. Samantha’s smell was overwhelming here, almost too much to handle. He cleared his throat, hoping to expel the nerves that had overcome him. “Need any help?”


--


Maximus eyed Mizuki curiously as the woman responded to his inquiry, taking a more interesting route than he had expected originally. He took small sips of his coffee, nodding affirmatively at some of the points she had made. They held water, and her reasonings were strong.

“I am glad to hear you view our clan as a beacon of hope,” He flashed a smile. “And other clans as well. But we must keep in mind, Theodore is no ordinary Vieru member, and Samantha has committed no ordinary crime.”

He sat forward, setting the coffee down on the wooden table. The glass landed with a sharp tap against the surface. “Your head is in the right place, offering help when it is needed, expecting your leaders to want the best for their clan,” He narrowed his green eyes at her, clasping his hands together. “But while you were out frollicking with Theodore all day, I’ve been here, watching how the news of Samantha’s arrest has blown a hole into the side of the vampire world. More so than the original murder, I’d say.”

Maximus sat back, eyes rotating to the ceiling in thought. “The council has mounted strong evidence against Samantha, and the whole of the Vampire world has already come to terms with her guilt.” He sighed, as if the mere thought of Samantha rotting away pained him to think about. “Hanging around with her protégé, her most trusted right hand man, it’s not a good look, Mizuki. We are speaking of the man who listened to Samantha's every beck and call. I'm sure you are aware of the devotion he holds towards her. I'm also sure you can see how this has generated a mounting suspicion around him. Need I remind you that the council will root through every inch of this case? He may not even realize what crimes he is guilty of committing. But guilt is guilt. I will not pretend to be surprised when Theodore’s culpability in Samantha’s actions comes forward, and he is punished accordingly.” He narrowed his eyes once more as he took Mizuki in. He was glad that she had questioned him, that she had fought back, but she needed to get in line, and it needed to be quick. She could have time for her little revolt later on, once his plans had been thoroughly executed. If she wasn’t going to listen now, he’d have to teach her a lesson instead. A lesson through loss. “So unless you’d like to risk your own reputation, our clan’s reputation, it would be wise to steer clear of the man. Lest you spread their fire over to us. Like you said so eloquently before, strength is within our family. We must band together, the entire Vampire world, against Samantha and her accomplice’s heinous crimes. We must not let their deception tear us apart.”

Maximus offered a shark’s tooth smile, his thickly veiled threat looming in the space between them. He waved his hand dismissively, picking up the piece of paper he had been inspecting before she came in. “No, that is all I wanted to address,” He said, responding to her earlier inquisition. “Please close the door on your way out.”
 
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Razvi-sama

#babysteps
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Layla Williams | Mizuki Chiba

Location: Vieru's Manor | Lasombra's Manor

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When Layla heard the knock, she let out a soft 'come in', barely looking up from—...Samantha's desk. She was hunched over the grand, mahogany piece, typing angrily across the computer's keyboard seemingly writing a strongly worded letter to—whoever! This was such bullshit! Everyone seemed to have forgotten about Samantha's just and honorable character and the good she had brought to their community. Bunch of two-faced cowards!

Layla was adorned with a pair of reading glasses to keep her eyes from straining against the computer's bright screen. She barely flicked her eyes up to register the figure that slid into the room...only to realize that it was Theodore. Oh.

"Theo...", Layla muttered out softly, slipping off her reading glasses and delicately placing them to the side which echoed in a soft 'thud'. She stood up, her expression...complex. It held empathy and concern, yet hint of relief reflected in her gaze. He was awkward, clunky when he slipped in and she couldn't help but roll her eyes at him, "Don't act all weird on me, okay?", she huffed, maneuvering around the desk and motioning towards Theodore...only to clash against him and pulling the vampire into a tight hug she had been needing all day...

Layla took in his scent, practically melting in his hold. It's always just been...the three of them. And, with Theodore gone that meant it was just...her for a bit. She pulled away and eyed the man, searching his gaze before she raised her hand to brush back a wild curl, "...looks like the prodigal son finally returned. I'm sure you saw the charming gift that was waiting for you outside our doorstep?", she hummed, referring to Katarina, "That was certainly a treat", she muttered out sarcastically, smiling tiredly at the man before her. She took his hand and guided him over to the little nook against Samantha's windowsill, sitting down beside him and taking in a deep breath.

"As for help, not right now. I have it all under control. I've reached out to the press, as I don't think the Vieru should be silent before the scandal. I have spoken to the Council, and they refuse to give me any details in regards to Samantha's well-being. I've contact lawyers, but no one wants to help us...it's just a shit show, Theodore...and really there's nothing more we can do. I've tried everything I can think of and it's all pretty...useless...Thankfully, though. There is a silver lining It seems like Samantha's trial was magically moved to a month from now. And, if I play my cards right, we might be able to go visit her...but I'm still in negotiation with the Councilman who managed to move her trial date. He can't give me too many details on her, just that she's okay and he's making sure she's being well-fed. Which is nice. Apparently, he's an old drinking buddy of Samantha's, cool huh?", she smiled, before she shrugged, "...but, other than that...I feel powerless. I have half-a-mind to contact Maximus and ask for his help. Without Samantha, we no longer have any funds since the Council might cut us off. We might have to be re-distributed into other clans and the...Vieru could be no more".

Layla frowned, playing with the man's hands absentmindedly, "...as for you...there are so many rumors and calls for your arrest, I'm...really scared for you. I've been calling you non-stop yesterday, where were you?", she asked, looking up to the vampire a little heated, "I don't think it'd be a great idea to leave the house for too long a time, in all honesty. You should just...stay here and wait this all out—Gods, this feels like some dumb conspiracy...I don't know where to even start, though", she hummed.


~​

Mizuki sat there, hands in fists against her knees as she hopefully stared up at the man before her. She had fallen quiet after she had given a response she deemed to be appropriate. It was innocent and maybe a little optimistic, but hopefully that would inspire Maximus and allow her to continue on without any lingering suspicions as to where her loyalty lay. No longer with him, that's for sure. Her expression was light and sweet, offering the man a delicate smile as if to placate him. Yes, she was still the same Lasombra he had welcomed with open arms. They've known one another for forty years now, she believed they had something akin to a friendship, so surely...surely he would let her go. How could anyone suspect the distinguished and quaint Mizuki? The air head. The nobody.

Maximus flashed her a smile and Mizuki seemed to relax under the kind expression, "Of course! It has been one for me for many years, naturally, other clans would view us the same way", she assured softly, leaning back against her seat and feeling like she just got away with a bold faced lie. Until—he returned to the topic of Theodore and Samantha. Mizuki couldn't help the wilting of her smile as she stared up at Maximus a little warily.

Frolicking, is what he called it. Mizuki's smile disappeared completely, eyeing the man as he practically told her that she didn't care about her clan's affairs—about her community's affairs! She took a steady breath in, never breaking eye-contact with the man, "Yes, but—", he wasn't finished.

Strong evidence? Mizuki shifted uncomfortably in her seat. He was lying. Actually, that was the worst part. He wasn't lying, but he surely had something to do with this. If she were to take anything from her adventure that evening, it was that Maximus' hands weren't clean. And, while he talked about Samantha, the conversation soon shifted back towards Theodore and it was then that Mizuki could no longer hold the poker face she held previously. Her expression shifted into something sharper, her fists balling into her bathrobe as Maximus shared strong and horrid accusations against Theodore. The tension in the air was thick, as the two were left to narrowly stare back at one another. Every pause, every breath taken, every moment of silence held an unspoken venom that was growing between the two. Their friendship—what they meant to one another—was to come to an end with a single conversation.

"My reputation?", Mizuki bit out, "If you think our clan's reputation is so fragile and weak that me hanging around Theodore was to tarnish it, then you should focus your attention on that, Maximus", she insisted. She stood up sharply from her seat, "Your view on this is so black and white, I expected more from you. This is not where our conversation ends—you are seriously prohibiting me from seeing Theodore?", she asked, looking incredulously up at the man and cocking her head to the side.

"I have no reputation within this clan, that's the problem. I am a nobody within this clan, which is why I don't entirely understand your concern. You are throwing very dangerous and serious accusations against Theodore without an ounce of evidence. So, again—Maximus—do you know something I don't?", she hissed out sharply at the man, not being able to control the strong emotions that swirled within her. Maybe it was the exhaustion, maybe it was the many heinous things she has come to believe against her leader...but she no longer could keep up appearances, "It is our duty to aid our comrades and to aid the other clans. We should be helping the Vieru and helping Theodore. I can't speak for Samantha, as you said...there is strong evidence against her, so I cannot argue against that. But, guilty is not guilty, Maximus. We could reach a plea deal for Theodore, we could ask him to cooperate, maybe he could be of use to us in solving this case! You are a fool if you think him rotting in jail will be anything but advantageous to us and our community", she stated firmly, standing mere inches away from the man. Sure, she had to lean her head back to get a good look at the man, but that didn't make her feel lesser.

"Our family is not just the Lasombra. It's the whole community, Maximus. And, right now? Our community is torn. Accusing Theodore of such a crime without any grounds to stand on will only divide us further, and that is the last thing we should be doing right now. We do not have to go against Theodore. He is an excellent, honest man. If you read his articles, he speaks only of justice and truth. He has skills none of us possess, skills that can be useful to you. So, no. I will not follow your orders, nor will I steer clear from Theodore. I am going to offer him my emotional support, as it is the humane thing to do", she stated firmly, "You can't keep me from doing what I want—'Like you said so eloquently before'—", she mocked, "...we're all adults here. We're allowed to not see eye-to-eye, so unless you provide me some strong evidence against Theodore...I will continue to offer him a hand", she hummed softly, taking a step back away from Maximus.

"I thought you were better than this, Maximus. Maybe you're grieving, but this witch hunt? Will do more harm than good. If you need me, I'll be in my room, but I'm going out tonight and you can't stop me. I hope once we revisit this topic, you'll understand my point of view a little better", she said simply. She felt a buzz in her pocket, yet ignored it. Mizuki turned to leave, though paused to look over her shoulder to the man, "As for risking my reputation? It's a risk I am willing to take", she said simply, offering the vampire an empty smile, "I believe in Theodore and I believe in my community. We'll get through this, as long as we're not pointing fingers at one another...seems rather childish, if you ask me".
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Maximus
Location: Samantha's Office | Location: Maximus' office​

Theodore stood guiltily before Layla, finally forced to confront the behaviors he had plowed through within the past twenty four hours. He watched her face shift from a look he couldn’t quite read, to something akin to relief. A soft smile lit up his face at her comment chastising his awkward demeanor. He buried his face into her shoulder once she moved towards him, collapsing into their tight embrace. The familiarity, the stability of her touch was enough to steady out the nervous panic that had been blooming silently within him ever since he had left Mizuki earlier that morning. Being near Layla was the closest he could get to being with Samantha, the three of them maintaining such a close bond for so long.

He sighed, gaze drifting off from hers when she mentioned the ‘gift’ that had been left for him outside. He was fully aware of the stance both Layla and Samantha had towards Kat, not that he really listened. It was always just for fun, never serious, so he hadn’t felt the need to address the nature of the relationship. She stayed out of the important moments in his life, and it worked. Now, however, Kat was beginning to tread into unfamiliar territory, and Theodore was still trying to figure out what that meant.

“Treat,” He huffed back, echoing her choice of words. “That’s a way of putting it. She’s currently sleeping beauty right now but--I’ll be sure to send her on her way pretty soon. I need to--no I want to focus on the Vieru today.”

Theodore leaned his back against the windowsill once seated, feeling the muted rays of the sun struggling to peer through the filtered glass. He fiddled with the daylight ring on his thumb absently while listening to Layla describe the situation of the clan, offering understanding nods every now and then. He looked over, dumbfounded once she mentioned Samantha’s trial being pushed back, the news not fully registering until a few seconds later. He sat up once she continued describing the situation, inwardly cringing at her description of the councilman who had made the arrangements. He pictured Francis standing there smugly, arms crossed in anticipation to tell Theodore “See? Told you so.” He was filled with a bittersweet feeling of relief and anger to know that Francis really had been telling the truth about his relationship with Samantha.

Theodore stiffened upon hearing Layla mention Maximus, “No,” He said sternly, nearly cutting her off mid-sentence. “I’m begging you Layla, you can not contact Maximus for anything. I’m serious about this.” At this point he was leaning in towards her, eyes widened in a panicked caution. He stared at her for several seconds afterwards, hoping she’d understand the gravity of his request. He couldn’t stomach Maximus taking anything more from him, especially not Layla. “If anything we can try reaching out to the Assur. I mean--they’ll be expecting something back in return, but if anything they’ll agree just to spite the Lasombra.”

He brought a hand up to his chin, turning his gaze towards the ceiling as he worked through his thoughts. “I’ll send you over some contacts of Samantha’s that we can try and work with too, some elder Vieru members who would rather burn in the sun than watch our clan be distributed to the Assur and Lasombra. I’m sure we can gather enough money to get by, at least for the next month or so.” Theodore’s jaw tightened. Hopefully it would take shorter than that to take Maximus down, to expose his plans and clear Samantha’s name. He hated the idea of her rotting away in a jail cell for any longer.

Theodore’s tense muscles eased up as he watched Layla take his hands into her own, fiddling with his fingers mindlessly. He cringed visibly to hear her question his unknown whereabouts, ignoring her calls. As for the mounting suspicion around him, he wasn’t all that surprised. He felt it as soon as Samantha had been arrested, how people had already begun viewing him in a different light. Could he really blame them? Worry began to blossom in his chest though, at the thought of Maximus finding out his true intentions from last night. He knew the man could easily take advantage of the whirlpool of distrust already circling Theodore, and use it to take him down before he could finish his investigation of what was going on. He couldn’t tell Layla the truth, not until he was sure her knowing wouldn’t jeopardize his plans.

“I’m sorry,” He sighed, relinquishing himself to the guilt that ate away at him for having to lie to her yet again. “I went to an art show with Mizuki, I was just trying to zone out for awhile, hoping that maybe if I ran away from everything, when I came back it’d be like nothing happened. When that little high ran out, I just decided to get wasted,” He sighed. “I blacked out for a while, so I can’t really tell you what I did all night.”

Theodore glanced over at Layla, sensing the worry that emanated from her person. He tightened his grip around hers, hoping the act would instill a bit of trust in her. “But Lei, keeping me locked in here won’t save us from the council if they do decide to go after me. Our best bet is to pursue the Vieru elders and ask for help, and they know me best. I’ve worked with them several times with Samantha, I think they’ll listen to me.” He locked his blue gaze with her own, hoping she’d sense the pleading in his eyes. “You’ll have to trust me, I’ll be safe,” He smiled.

--


Maximus watched, unconcerned, as Mizuki’s demeanor visibly shifted before him. So Charlotte had been right, she did feel some type of attachment to the boy. From what he could tell, they hadn’t interacted much, so it was still in the blossoming stage she hadn’t truly come to terms with.

Hearing her scratch through his accusations against Theodore’s guilt was equally unruffling, as he knew that the boy’s guilt could be anything he wanted it to. Mizuki could argue and fight all she wanted, so long as it was within the palm of his hand. The best way to ensure that would be to give into her, to pretend to see the value in an asset such as Theodore in aiding the investigation. Let her become more attached, let her fall in love, even, so that the pain of losing him when the time comes would reap even greater benefits.

Maximus shifted in his seat, glowering his gaze in a feigned concentrated thought. He pretended to ponder over her suggestion for quite some time. It would be best to leave her angry now, to let her stew over the injustice he pitted towards her. When she was done with her angry rant towards him, Maximus nodded deeply, like the words she had said had begun to sink in slowly and possibly even wound him. He gestured for her to take her leave, waiting a beat until her presence had faded from his office. Maximus picked up his phone, messaging Charlotte the green light for Mizuki to work with Theodore in the investigation against Samantha. He then promptly dialed a number from memory, sitting back in his seat with his eyes trained out the window.

The other end of the phone picked up the call with silence, to which Maximus responded “I’m greenlighting the plan on the boy,” he said flatly, “But take your time in gathering what you need. I’ll give the signal to enact when I’m ready.”

“Yes, sir.” The other voice said, the tone warped and distorted. Maximus hung up with a click, his gaze turning smug as he watched the clouds drift slowly against the brightening sky outside. It’d seemed like the day was shaping up to be a good one.
 

Razvi-sama

#babysteps

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Layla Williams | Mizuki Chiba

Location: Vieru's Manor | Lasombra's Manor

"Mhm", Layla rolled her eyes as the two shared in the humor of calling Katarina...a treat. "Is she now? Well, I really hope you make good on your promise of sending her away, soon. I don't want her slithering around these halls. Nor, am I necessarily in the mood to play nice with her", she admitted in a soft murmur.

As they both took their seats by the filtered glass Samantha purposefully littered with avian imagery. Layla now began to wonder if there was more to it than simple aesthetic. She could even imagine Samantha growing lost in thought...while her gaze lingered towards the outside. If she remembered correctly, she remembered Samantha once saying: "...sometimes, I see a bird fly by and I feel jealous...do you feel that way as well, dear?". Layla wasn't sure how to respond to that, but she supposed she now understood a little as to what she meant.

Layla sighed and turned to face Theodore, basically updating him on everything that had happened within the last twenty-four hours. She had been working non-stop, essentially. She had come to realize that different people react to different things in different ways. For example, Theodore needed to go out, get some air, and possibly even drink. She needed to keep busy, and be on the front lines as much as she possibly could with her limited power and reputation. Though, seeing as the animosity wasn't directed towards her to begin with, she thought this was the wisest way to go about this...mess, was the best way to describe this.

The only positive in this situation seemed to be the kind stranger that seemed to stretch out a kind hand towards them, insisting he knew Samantha well and wanted to help in any way he could. It was a blessing, truly, and it made her feel less alone. Reminding her that some people still cared about honesty and justice...Though, as she began to express her concerns in the fact that they might need to be separated into different houses, that they could lose their funding...Layla's shoulders fell in defeat. The confident, bright Vieru that she normally projected was long gone. She looked just as drained as Theodore, as she was wracked with worry over the future of the Vieru and the people she called: "family".

Layla even contemplated speaking to Maximus. Maybe he would have some insight for her, aid them—maybe they could take out some sort of loan—What?

Layla flicked her eyes over towards Theodore, eyeing him warily as he insisted—no, begged—that she make no attempt to contact Maximus. She stared at the young vampire a little owlishly, taken off-guard by his firm tone and his...was that panic she recognized in his gaze? "I—...Theo, sweetie, I love you to pieces, but do you honestly believe going to the Assur is the best thing to do? They're unreliable. Sure, at first they would want to stick it to the Lasombra, but what happens when that fire burns out and they grow bored? This isn't some side project, Theodore. We're not opposing gangs—or whatever! Whether you like to admit it or not, the Lasombra are organized and generally have their shit together. I need a leader with a head on his shoulders, not some spit-fire little asshole with a god complex", she snarled, before she brushed back her curls and steadied herself, "Okay, I'm done", she teased softly in a soft murmur. The Assur leader was...a lot, sometimes. She remembered when she was first invited to the clan meetings alongside Samantha—back when Theodore hadn't joined their weird little family. She remembered meeting the Assur clan leader and thinking he was rather dashing. He looked assertive, fierce...and then he opened his fucking mouth and ruined the illusion.

Layla rolled her eyes and waved her hand in front of Theodore dismissively, "I don't know why you're suddenly so against Maximus, but he's been...kind? I guess? Whatever they think kind is. And, I don't know...I don't want to do anything to upset you, but I want to do right by Samantha and the clan. I'll just get a meeting with him, okay? Test the waters, and if I don't like what he has to offer...I'll try to play nice with the Assur, okay?", she raised a brow before she moved on.

Though, Theodore did bring up an interesting point, "...I could work with some old Vieru members, though. As for money...I tried calculating a budget, looking through our Accounts and let's just say...the Council has frozen some of our assets. Samantha—thankfully—left some emergency money behind in some old account I found. We can use that in the meantime, but...Theodore...it's not looking good. I-I...Ugh. Fine. Only because you're cute", she reached up to pinch his cheek playfully, "I'll wait for you to send me those contacts to see what they advise. If they aren't much help, then I'll go to Maximus...but my last option is the Assur. I'll keep you updated, though", she said.

Layla pressed her side against the window, her attention drifting momentarily as she asked Theodore where he had been all night. The attention was slowly shifting towards him—Samantha's right-hand—so naturally suspicion fell over him...and of course that only managed to add onto Layla's many worries...and gently insinuated he should probably keep away from the public eye for some time.

But, of course...the Vieru's prince was not to be threatened so easily and she couldn't help but smile. Layla raised an inquisitive brow over towards Theodore as he informed that he had gone to an art show with Mizuki, "You're here, telling me I shouldn't get involved with the Lasombra, but it seems like Mizuki is an exception...nice, nice. How did you go from Samantha's arrest, to sneaking out of the house, to meeting up with Mizuki for some art show?", she grinned, "I'm kidding...rather odd pair, but she's nice—definitely better than Sleeping Beauty", she rolled her eyes, "...she was really upset over Samantha's arrest, almost went over towards the Council to protest if I hadn't stopped her", she hummed, "...well, okay. If you were with her, it calms me a bit since she can look after her. But, please do not tell me you dragged that poor girl around while you were getting wasted. Knowing her, she probably would have stayed and brushed back your hair while you threw up in the toilet bowl", her grin turned a little mischievous, a little teasing before she pushed herself up to stand before Theodore, though still keeping her hand snuggly within his.

"It's fine, and you're right...locking you up here like Rapunzel won't do anything for your image or ours", Layla assured, offering the young vampire a squeeze to his hand, "I'll contact the Vieru elders, and I'll keep you updated...I also think they'll listen to you, so I'll have you come along, okay? For now...let's just..enjoy our day together. I really missed you, ya' big oaf", she mumbled, lightly nudging his foot with her own in an act of tiny, platonic affection, "...and I trust you...and I trust you're not causing too much trouble, though. And, no more drinking yourself silly. I get giving yourself one day to have your reaction, but getting waste won't get us anywhere. We'll get Samantha back...and we'll be stronger than ever. You'll just need to trust in me, too...", she murmured, picking up her free hand to ruffle about his hair.

"But, we can do that tomorrow. Let's stay in, pick up that series we left behind the other day. And, go—kick out Katarina, really don't want to see her", Layla stated firmly.

~

Mizuki watched as a world of emotion danced over Maximus' face. That of ponder, that of general concern...and she didn't believe a second of it. She paused to turn and bow her head at the man respectfully, before she turned around and left his office with a soft "excuse me". She knew he didn't sympathize with a single word she said, and that at this point...she was wasting her breath. He had threatened her, originally. A man who was capable of remorse would not threaten her so lightly. Plus, she wasn't going to stand there while he insulted Theodore and tarnished his good name. It utterly sickened her.

Mizuki stormed down the halls of the Lasombra, hands in fists as she brushed past many of her fellow clan-mates—house-mates. She donned an expression they had never seen her wear before, and as she passed by...she heard the whispering. She noticed the estranged looks she was receiving and she practically bared her fangs at them. Everyone so blissfully ignorant, when they had...they had a tyrant right under their noses! Mizuki hissed when she bumped shoulders with one of the residents, a growl rumbling in the back of her throat as if to warn others from approaching her.

Once she reached her room, Mizuki slammed the door behind her and paused—taking a moment to steadily breathe in deeply. Feeling the way the air began to fill her lungs. Sadly, that didn't seem to tame the rage that spread over her chest like wild-fire. At this point, she felt...like a caged animal and Maximus was the beast tamer. She sighed, brushing through her hair before she padded through the room and flopped down onto her bed.

The comforter and sheets flew up all around her before falling gracefully—the smell of freshly clean linens filling her and soothing her. The material was soft and cool, her pillows fluffed up and welcoming...and she felt—oh...so tired. She wrapped her arms around one of the lengthier pillows and buried her face within it, allowing last night's event to properly wash over her like a tidal wave crashing over a rocky shore. She was so angry...with the world. Everything she told Maximus...she had once really believed it. She never understood why the other clans were so wary of the Lasombra, but now—...Mizuki let out a shuddering breath, feeling as her eyes pricked with hot tears. Her hands began to shake terribly, and the only way to get them to stop...was to pick away at her skin—...n-no...That would do no good here. She sank her claws into the pillow, no less, a few lonely feathers spilling out pathetically.

Mizuki chortled weakly, allowing her body to simply...sink into the mattress. Her hand padded out before her and reached for a remote control, and with the touch of a button, the black-out curtains began to lower over her windows...suffocating any ray of light from spilling through. Peace, at last. Her eyes settled within the ink darkness, a night child's natural habitat.

Mizuki was about to rollover and nestle herself further under her comforters, when she remembered the notification she had gotten earlier. Naturally, she wasn't going to check her messages with Maximus in front of her...but what if Theodore wrote to her? She held a breath of anticipation as she dug through her pocket, slipping her phone out and staring down at the screen to find...a message from an unknown contact. Hm.

Mizuki opened the message and found it was a picture, and when the picture finished downloading on her phone...she felt—as if the wind had been knocked out of her. She frowned at her screen and couldn't help the roll of her eyes before she deleted the message and tossed her phone towards the end of the bed.

It was Katarina, sharing a picture of her and Theodore...Theodore so comfortably pressed against her bosom. How inappropriate, sharing Theodore's privacy so crassly. It wasn't her business. And, while she understood that perfectly...her chest tightened uncomfortably, no less. Mizuki closed her eyes, and simply prayed for sleep after a long evening filled with nightmares.
 

Pepsionne

oi oi
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Theodore | Terra | Caelum
Location: Various/ Washington Square Park

Theodore's Outfit
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| Terra's Outfit: terra_outfit.jpg | Caelum's Outfit:
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Theodore strode down the concrete sidewalk briskly, checking his watch every several seconds in the hopes that the next time he’d peek, it’d give him a time more favorable than what he was currently getting. He hated being late, punctuality was something Samantha had pushed for him to value. Every time he’d get too lost in getting ready or have some kind of dramatic issue crop up that squandered his time, he would hear Samantha’s voice echo in his mind, paired with her exasperated, piercing gaze that always managed to slash right through his bullshit.

He lessened the hasty speed walk once the grand archway leading into the park crested through the buildings previously obscuring his vision. He wouldn’t be terribly late, then. Theodore pulled out his phone from his pocket. He opened up the group chat and scrolled through as he walked, rereading the messages sent previously. They had all spent about a week plotting out the perfect itinerary and timing for everyone to regather after the eventful night in the black market that had initially brought them all together. Well--the planning mostly fell on Terra’s shoulders. The fairy hadn’t even hesitated to gather in all the addresses Francis had sent to Mizuki, mark them out on a map of downtown and draw out a perfect line to hit them all in one trip. Theodore would have probably started with the ones with the most interesting sounding names and worked his way down from there, if he was being honest with himself. Nonetheless, her way made more sense in the end.

He maneuvered gracefully through the thin crowd of tourists gathered around the large arch that marked Washington Square Park, its light stone contrasting beautifully against the hazy grey sky. Theodore’s eyes wandered up to the clouds that hung low above them. It was a slightly foggy day, with the threat of rain ever present. The tips of the tall skyscrapers around them were smudged forms swallowed by the low hanging mist.

Theodore stopped walking once closer to the large fountain that formed the center of the park, his eyes scanning for any familiar faces. He took another glance at his watch--it was only several minutes past nine, surely they weren’t that impatient. His stomach fluttered nervously at the thought of seeing Mizuki again. It had been a week since they saw each other, although they had been sending messages back and forth consistently. Talking to her had been a good distraction from the shit show he’d been dealing with back at the Vieru, watching Layla run around like a chicken with its head cut off as she sorted out finances and meetings with the elder members. Regardless of any conversation had over the week, Theodore couldn’t change the fact that he hadn’t ended on a particularly good note with Mizuki. It was easier to foster feelings of resentment and betrayal when not in the presence of the other person. He hoped what had happened during that night wasn’t something that grew feelings of bitterness within her.

Theodore’s mind was pulled from its hazy waltz through his thoughts at a sudden, familiar feeling piercing through his body. A soft wind had picked up, carrying with it a sharp, staticky smell that he’d recognize anywhere. Theodore turned to his left, towards the back walkway of the park that contained benches. None other than Caelum sat on one of the benches, his head tilted towards the tangle of trees above and an iced coffee held languidly in one hand. Condensation dripped freely from the cup and down onto the bench, but Caelum didn’t seem to care. A mother walked by with a screaming baby, who squirmed and held out its arms towards Caelum desperately. Theodore watched as Caelum looked up at the baby, the expression on his face as vacant as ever. The baby continued crying as the mother walked onwards, trying its best to free itself from its mother’s grip and over towards Caelum. The angel simply took a sip of his coffee, not an ounce of concern present in his body language.

Theodore hummed curiously at the sight. He walked through the park, past the milling students and curious tourists mapping out their day of sightseeing. He stopped before Caelum, who looked up at him curiously. The angel stared at him, taking another long sip of his iced coffee. How was he drinking that so nonchalantly in this weather?

“Morning,” Theodore said after a beat, when it became clear the angel had no intention of offering him a greeting first.

“Morning,” Caelum droned. He gestured beside him for Theodore to sit, completely unaware of the small puddle of water that had beaded on the bench from his drink. Theodore wiped the puddle off smoothly with his hand, sitting just outside the radius on the still dry portion of the bench.

“So are you the first one here?” Theodore asked, eyes searching back towards the main area of the park for any faces he recognized.

Caelum shrugged. “I guess, I just kinda sat here and hoped everyone else would find me.” His head was tilted back against the bench, pointed towards the sky. His eyes slid to the side to look at Theodore slyly. He smirked. “I mean, you found me, yeah? Point proven.”

Theodore shrugged, relaxing his posture into the bench to match Caelum’s energy. “Yeah, you’ve got a point there, actually. It’s not like you have the most discreet presence,” He said, motioning his head to the people around them who kept glancing in Caelum’s direction. It seemed like what the angel had said to them when they had first met was true. His presence was a magnet towards those in the midst of distress, which was most of the population of New York anymore, especially the college students.

Caelum laughed, the sound surprisingly infectious, drawing Theodore into a chuckle as well. “I told you it’s a nightmare,” He said, smiling.

Theodore straightened up from the lounged position he had adopted, his gaze suddenly focused at something approaching them from a distance. He hated that his body was so naturally responsive to the smell of fairy blood. It frightened him, how even the faintest smell could send his pulse racing. Terra was close by.

Caelum looked over at him, his gaze unreadable as he took Theodore’s figure in. He was well aware of the effect fairy blood had on vampires, hell for a period of time in the 1800s, half the cases the order dealt with were fairy deaths at the hands of vampires. It was harder back then to trace and organize the movements of specific clan members, but with the council cracking down on identification and bite profiles, it made his job a hell of a lot easier.

Caelum smiled at the fairy once she recognized them from afar, decently sure his presence had been enough of a magnet to drag her over towards them without the need to call out for her attention. She stood before the two of them stiffly, one hand attached to her bag while the other was wrapped around a warm drink. She wrinkled her nose at Caelum.

“Ew, you're one of those people?” She said, pointing towards the iced drink in his hand. She gestured around them. “Read the room dude, it’s gloomy as fuck out here.” She rolled her eyes when he shrugged in response, and took a seat on his other side.

Terra sighed, pulling out her phone to drop her current location towards the others. She had originally planned on sending a pin to everyone once she had got here first, but some complications with Jax at the bar had made her later than she intended. It didn’t take long for her to find Caelum and Theodore, the feeling of Caelum’s presence serving as a bright light burning through a corridor of shadows. There was no mistaking it.

It felt good to be finally resuming their search after the night they had all met. She had tried going back to her normal life before she had met Theodore and Mizuki, but it felt--emptier than she had remembered. Knowing that Cecil wasn’t coming back anytime soon, it left a void open within her, one that couldn’t be closed easily. Cassius had been distant since that night as well, but she assumed it was his own way of coping with Cecil’s disappearance. They had never been that close anyways, without the glue of Cecil holding them together. Most of the week she had spent working diligently in the hopes of drowning out the small hole that ached in her chest. When she wasn’t working, Terra found herself back at the Sorcerer bar with Alfred, yearning for the presence of someone else who knew the secrets she couldn’t dare say aloud.

As much as Caelum made her roll her eyes, and as much as the presence of vampires heightened her prey instinct, Terra was relieved to finally rejoin their group. As odd as it was, it felt like she belonged to people, belonged to a cause that brought them all closer than usual. She took a sip of her drink, following in Theodore and Caelum’s direction and tilting her head towards the clouds that twisted fluidly in the sky.
 
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