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ililumi. member of RPG for 8 years

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if you knew me pre-2022, i’m sorry :’)
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united states, mountain time (mt).
cats. crystals. tarot. plants. tea. embroidery. writing. anime. donghua. manhxa.
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Sat Jan 16, 2016 4:39 pm
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3.00 INK received for post #2825106, located in Akita:

kazutora miyato.
dialogue ; #853232. – thought ; #035d63.

After his hand settles, the room is far too quiet again, a feeling that leaves him uneasy. Should he pull his hand away? Apologize for touching her without making sure she was okay with it first? He just hadn't known what else to do in the moment, never having had to comfort someone like this before, let alone someone he's just met. How could he know what the right thing to do was?

He swallows awkwardly, fingers twitching slightly in their place, but before he can pull away Velonix is looking up at him, their eyes locking together. Kazutora can't get himself to pull his own gaze away from her in that moment; if not for their pretty color, then for the emotions and vulnerability they show so clearly to him. An openness she held that confused him. Most people would caution being vulnerable with people they've just recently met, even more so when faced with someone like Kazutora himself. And yet Velonix...

Maybe she's just this way with everyone, his thoughts try to piece together an explanation, can't comprehend the idea of her already having even that amount of comfort or trust in him at this point.

Kazutora's eyes break contact when she moves a hand up towards his arm, and he tenses as if expecting her to toss it away, to force it off her head, to tell him not to touch her with his filthy hands and keep away from her. Instead, fingers curl around his wrist over the sleeve of his shirt, a gentle touch that carefully guides his hand down, keeping that contact until his hand is cupping her face, a barrier of her hair the only thing keeping him from coming into direct contact with her skin. Even with that his eyes widen slightly, his heart picking up in pace. This sort of touch was- affectionate, intimate. The sort of touch he'd seen couples give to each other, Kenta and Etsuko sometimes when he'd caught it out of the corner of his eye. He wonders if his face is burning red now, though perhaps the bruising would keep that color hidden behind the other reds and purples of those injuries - he certainly hopes it does, anyway.

When Velonix looked at him again, he simply gave into keeping eye contact again, the look in them a little more stable and comfortable now, perhaps a little more assertive if the words that followed meant anything. A continued insistance on pinning the blame on herself even though Kazutora felt it fell far from her; she hadn't done anything wrong, nothing with bad intentions anyway. Just because some people decided to take offense or irritation with that didn't mean she had to take the fall for their actions, right? Especially...Kenji's. Even hearing her call him awful is an odd sense of validation for Kazutora; besides the frustration and anger he'd caught from Etusko and Kenta after they'd caught him looking like this or been called to the high school because of similar things, no one else ever seemed to care. No one else ever seemed to blame Kenji or find fault with him. When everyone seemed to hate Kazutora as much as they did, he supposes it only makes sense.

Still, even if he wants to tell her that it isn't her fault again, she doesn't seem to be willing to listen. She keeps talking before he can speak, likely to keep him from trying to tell her otherwise, so he eventually gives up and just listens. Tells him again that he doesn't deserve to be treated this way, and part of him knows that, but another piece overrides that sentiment; after being put through it basically all his life, it was hard not to think that he did somehow. That maybe he was just cursed. He certainly wasn't innocent...

He blinks once at the mention of her brother, lips pursing more as he thought about him. This morning had been a rough first impression, and him forcing into his room certainly hadn't helped to improve that. But still, he didn't want to be rude about Velonix's brother. At least not to her face. And maybe she was right, and he really was just all bark no bite. He did apologize... Still, he feels uneasy about the older male, and all he can manage in the end is a small nod to her words, gaze averting slightly.

Hold on his hand is finally released, letting it drop down to rest on his thigh, and maybe he's a little relieved as he draws his arm back a little again into a more comfortable position, to let it rest with hopes of the aches in his wrist and fingers to settle. His heart is still racing, he still feels that heat in his face, even if that closeness was pleasant. A pleasant feeling that despite his relief, maybe he misses a little. He's too used to being swatted away.

She's giving her thanks again, and he half can't believe she's saying that at all. Thank you for the day she's had? It's been a nice first day? Is she sure? It feels like the stress she was put through might...outweigh the good. If there was much good; hadn't he just caused problems for her all day? Gotten her the wrong kind of attention, the disdain and anger from their fellow classmates?

Despite it all, and even with how rough it had gone for him, there had been parts that had been...nice for him too. Nicer than he was used to. Being talked to and treated with even the bare minimum kindness, that was...a nice change of pace.

Friend? The word startles him again slightly and his brows almost furrow, but he keeps his expression still. After all of that, she still wanted to...

"Ah, I..." A pause, hesitation, "thank you...too..." It's all he can manage, his heart still pounding and his head still spinning. Still, warmth. A good kind, blooming in his chest. Was he maybe...just, a little...happy...?

Velonix is suddenly digging through her backpack then, a pen and paper retrieved from it soon enough before she's writing something down over the little sheet, Kazutora only half watching as she does. All the same, it's eventually torn out and folded with a speed and precision he's surprised by. Did she enjoy origami, maybe? The fold it done to hold a sucker, and then suddenly she's moving to place it out at him, the soft weight of the paper and candy resting atop his head, hair that really needed to be washed out still. He reaches up to take it in his hand shortly after before it falls off itself, but before he can unfold it she's speaking again.

"Be ready at 7:15 tomorrow morning." Comes her voice, almost commanding more than requesting, further asserted by the, "no exceptions," that follows. He can't help but pale slightly at this; she wanted him to show up at school tomorrow? In his state? He'd done it before, but usually it ended with people-

Staring. Whispering. Mocking. Taunting. Typical for every day, yet worsened with this. What if Kenji showed up tomorrow as well? How was he supposed to deal with him?

He'd already been trying to find a way to get out of going tomorrow. To rest through the pain, to avoid traveling out in public with his appearance. To avoid risking running into Kenji or any of his friends, to avoid dealing with people. To hide away. Now she wanted him to come along still?

"I-" He panics, tries to say something, but she's standing and making way for the door with more commands to soak in the bath, take medicine, and sleep, and then she's gone, the sliding door clacking shut. All he can do is stare at it before letting himself fall back onto the bed, dark eyes staring up at the ceiling. Even if he ignored what she'd said and didn't get up in the morning, she and her brother would apparently be here, and if Etsuko and Kenta saw them waiting outside, they would no doubt have questions. What choice did he have?

Maybe he's a little frustrated, but he turns his attention to the paper still in his hand, the sucker dropped onto the comforter of the bed as he unfolds the paper to figure out what she'd written inside. And again he feels heat building up in his face as he reads out the name and the number below, another little sketch like the one earlier this morning in the note they'd exchanged during class, a little simpler this time. She'd given him her personal number? Why?

He sets the paper down on top of the bed soon after, arms moving to lay over his head, a long sigh drawing out past his lips. Exhausted. It had finally hit him. But he couldn't sleep yet; regardless of if it was because she had said to or just because he wanted to, he still did need to bathe, wash himself off so he could be clean before going to sleep. Maybe soothe some of the aches with heat and steam before he crashed for the night.

Forcing himself up again, he pushed into a seated position, and then standing, swaying slightly on his feet as he tried to find his balance again and ignore the flares of pain in the movement and new weight. His feet half stumble over the ground, catching himself against the wall by the bathroom door before sliding it open and moving in. If nothing else, maybe it would feel nice in the end.

The bath water is running, and he gingerly strips off his clothes, tossing them out of the door of the bathroom in a dirty, bloody mess before shutting it behind him. He would try and figure out what to do with them later. For now, soaking would be nice.

Washing off takes time, every awkward stretch or movement sending a flash of pain through his body, and as he works he slowly finds more and more injuries: a gash here, a bruise there, cuts and marks and other odd things in most spots. He doesn't look at his back in the mirror, but he imagines it's as much of a mess as his front is. At least we haven't transitioned out of winter uniforms yet. It's a tiny mercy.

He nearly falls asleep in the heat and comfort of the bath, but eventually he forces himself out, toweling off and dressing into loose shorts he can wear to bed. Nearly as soon as he gets out he hears Etsuko's voice on the other side of the door, an offer for dinner that he turns down with a weak thank you. Even if he had an appetite at this point, he didn't want her to see him like this. She seems worried, but lets him know that they'll save some for him if he changes his mind, and that it will just be waiting in the fridge for him. He's silently grateful she doesn't try to question or ask to come in.

Eventually he settles into bed, scrolling through his phone aimlessly for awhile to try and keep his mind off things. The entire day had been...out of the ordinary, but even that felt like putting it far too lightly. New students, Velonix and Kazuyuki. The latter was nice enough, though he'd been quiet and hadn't seemed overly interested in anyone. Velonix had been...

Interested in him. And being interested in him in a positive way at all was not what he had expected. Not what he had figured would happen. If anything, indifference. If the worst case scenario, he assumed the new students would join in on the excuse to harass him from the get-go along with the rest of their new classmates. Instead, she had been kind. Openly friendly and warm, excitable no doubt, energetic, but with good intentions. She had even- defended him? It felt odd to think about, the way she had told others off when they had tried to go about things as they usually did. All that for someone she had just met with enough rumors and stories floating around his head to completely drown someone. Yet she still stuck with him. Even called him her friend. Were they friends? He's not sure. Even if she said that, they had just met, and...

...Kazutora can't help the pessimism, that she'll change her mind in a few days if not by tomorrow already. That she'll realize he's not worth it. That she'll realize he's trash, that he's nothing, and maybe he does live up to some of those rumors. That he's as unpleasant as they say. That he's someone to hate just as much as everyone else does.

And yet a small part of him still hopes. That maybe she'll stick around, and maybe he can have a friend. Someone to trust, someone to rely on. Someone that he with, maybe.

Despite his exhaustion, it feels as if sleep will forever evade him. He doesn't quite toss and turn against the pain, but he stares up at the ceiling for hours, until he looks to the digital clock nearby, a simple few numbers that tell him it's already three in the morning, if not almost four. Maybe he just wouldn't get any sleep tonight?

Rising out of his bed, he gives a small groan at moving the settling injuries, but all the same he's back on his feet, taking his phone up in his hands and...hesitantly taking hold of that piece of paper with her number on it. With both in his hands he moves to the door, sliding it open quietly and stepping out onto the engawa right outside. Eventually, he manages to lower down to it, letting his legs hang over the edge and letting the rest of himself lean against the wooden post, one of the many supporting the roofing that hangs over it. There's quiet sounds outside, the sound of running water from the stream that runs through the gardens, a splash from some of the koi fish in the pond it runs through. Bugs, a few birds. Wind through the leaves of the trees and plants. Peaceful and soothing.

His gaze drifts down to the paper in his hand again. Just her number. Did she want him to call her? Text her? It would be the right thing to do, wouldn't it? He pulls out his phone after a small debate with himself, opening a new message and typing her number into the recipient line, then down to write the message.

And he stares. And stares. Types, deletes, stares. Types, deletes. Types and types and deletes and deletes. Over and over for what feels like ages. Had he ever even texted someone before? What was he supposed to say? Nothing felt quite right, some too formal, some too forward, some too much and some nothing at all. What was right?

Eventually, he forces out three simple words: Thanks for today. Hardly anything, and then he forces himself to hit send. As it goes through, there's finally nothing he can do. He lowers the phone into his lap, staring silently at the little bubble of a message, something that should be so simple and mean nothing, and he was, heart racing all over again, unease and overthinking. He almost looks up and shuts the phone off before another message comes through, blinking once at the simple smiley-face that stares back at him through the screen. She was still awake? And...she had responded?

Letting out a small sigh, he finally shuts the phone off, setting it carefully to his side before fully relaxing against the post, his head pressing against it a little more as his eyes slide shut, cool breeze and soothing sounds practically lulling him to sleep outside before he realizes it.

0.75 INK received for post #2825123, located in Rhindeval:

euphemia aphelion.
dialogue ; #ab9b9d. – thought ; #ed97a5.

There's chatter, the sounds of voices all around her. So much noise, curious questions from floating fairies, the squeal of excitement elsewhere, some unease she recognizes from the other women with her, and Oriane's awkward attempt at a joke, perhaps trying to lighten the mood with the queen or keep things casual. She at least commends the effort.

Her breath is still rather ragged, trying to cope with everything around her and the near-death experience of the fall, but calm doesn't seem interested in settling in, her eyelids sliding shut once more to try and at least block out visuals and quiet one of her senses for a moment. Not that it lasts long; there's the sound of someone approaching and then a voice, calm and collected, "Princess Euphemia? Are you alright?" Being called "princess" at all leaves another cringing feeling inside, but she forces it away as she looks up again, this time faced with a fae man, long silver hair and the glimpse of silver wings resting on his back. There's a blonde fae woman a little ways behind him, though her gaze is still trained on Rhea a little ways away, looking entirely lost if she's honest.

"I'm fine." Euphemia eventually manages, a little more bite to it than she meant, but it doesn't seem to bother the man in front of her, a simple, "please let me know if that changes, Your Highness."

"Please...don't call me princess, or- your highness." She cringes again, "just...Euphemia is fine, thanks." He seems mildly surprised at this, though her words are responded to with a nod, "if that's what you'd prefer, then I'll call you Euphemia from now on."

The blonde is suddenly right next to her soon after, far more casual and excited than her companion as her wings buzz behind her, lifting her feet off the ground for just a moment, "Miss Euphemia!" Her voice is more high pitched, but still pleasant, a little chitter to it that reminds her of the birds that tended to nest in the trees outside her apartment's window. "Oh, you're just as darling as my flightless bird!" Flightless bird? Who? The woman doesn't exactly work to elaborate though, instead suddenly reaching for Euphemia's hand and pulling her up from the support of the tree, "don't worry about sticking here with this bore Virion, come over and sit with me and my little bird!" Virion? Is that the man who had approached her first? Before she can think, the blonde is half dragging her over to where Rhea is half crouched on the ground, rifling through her back and not seeming to be looking for anything in particular. Virion lets out a long groan, seemingly at his wits end with the blonde at this point, an impatient, "Neveah, enough!" as he quickly follows after them. The woman - Neveah - simply ignores him beyond a giggle and a tongue stuck out in his direction.

"Don't you pay him too much mind. He likes to act all serious and put together, but he's a real softie, I promise."

Eventually she's right by Rhea who seems slightly startled at the trio's appearance, though perhaps a little relieved at Euphemia's appearance - a reaction she's not used to seeing in other people when she approaches. Perhaps it's just relief over a familiar face close by; Euphemia certainly feels that way, and while she'd been hesitant to approach anyone before, maybe she's a little relieved that she didn't have to herself, could leave it as Neveah dragging her over and getting the awkward part done with for her.

It's a slightly awkward smile from Rhea as she stands up straight again, wringing at the sheer, loose shirt she'd thrown over her sports bra from the hike. Neveah flitters right over to her soon after, standing just behind her with her hands on Rhea's shoulders before she's pressing her head against the younger girl's, little giggles and a happy smile unmoving from her lips as she practically nuzzles her. While her sort of personality is almost too much for Euphemia to manage, it seems Rhea is fine with it, relaxing a little more as her own soft laugh and warmer smile is won out.

Virion slows next to her, hands loosely held behind his back and forcing a perfect posture out of him. Even if he seems a little serious and perhaps a smidge intense, Euphemia finds herself grateful that he's not quite so like...Neveah. It seemed the matchup here was well made.

"I'm glad you made it okay too, Euphemia." Rhea offers after a bit, Euphemia returning it with a small nod and a, "yeah, sure. I'm all in one piece. You too."

There's small conversation between the four of them while they wait, Virion mostly quiet but clearly frustrated with Neveah who chats away almost ceaselessly, Rhea brightening up, and Euphemia listens, only piping in when addressed or for a few comments. All the same, that oddly calm moment is soon turned into a walk, one that seems to go on forever, confusing turns and veering paths that she wouldn't have taken if Virion and Neveah hadn't been guiding her and Rhea.

Eventually it opens up into something of a clearing and they're fronted with a cabin, one that Euphemia immediately determines is very much not her taste in style and architecture, even after Eowyn magically cleans it all up with a flick of her wrist. God, I wish cleaning was always that easy. Repaired and now in a condition she could comfortably live in minus the frankly unlikeable exterior, with an additional garden off to the side too, something she wonders if she should even try to touch given her absolute lack of a green thumb. The only reason the indoor plants in her apartment were still surviving was thanks to Tatsuya.

Eowyn gives a rundown of the cabin and its ammenities - or lack thereof. No bathroom? No bath? Clean in the cold river and piss in the woods, she basically says. "Oh, fuck off..." She mutters under her breath, the only sign that someone else has heard it is the way Virion's eyes glance sympathetically towards her for barely a breath. It seemed that even if they had a comfortable shelter to stay in, it would still half be roughing it out here. No electricity, no sewer system, no running water, nothing. How she would miss everything modern from Earth.

They're allowed to put their things away into their rooms soon after though, and Euphemia makes way in with Rhea, Virion and Neveah remaining behind as the latter continues chatting away with animated expressions and arm waving. The other two pairs seem to find rooms easily enough, two to a single, just like a shared dorm room. She's a little frustrated over the lack of a private living space, but internally maybe a little grateful that she probably wouldn't have to worry about being alone in the unfamiliar place at night, something that left her feeling like unease was clawing at her again.

Not that it lasts. The sound of Rhea's awe in the form of a small gasp draws her attention to the purple haired girl as they enter, taking in the view of the room around them. "So pretty..." Again, not really Euphemia's taste, but at least someone seemed happy.

Their things are dropped into the room beside their respective beds, Rhea choosing the one closer to the window of which she quickly cracks open, a faint breeze moving into the room as they make their way back outside for more of Eowyn, this time what feels like a briefing on the princes. The thought leaves her chest tight, fingers curling into fists without her thinking. Uneasy? Maybe. Her brother would be in that pool of names and faces, the very brother she hadn't seen in thirteen years, didn't even know about - or remember - until just two weeks ago.

After the mentioning of taking measurements for more clothes, they all settle in at last, Eowyn calling Iris forward to help with "projection," something Euphemia quickly realizes is basically a repeat of the sort of mist image they had first met Eowyn through, though this was all repeated past memories rather than a direct, live call to any of them. Of course, Euphemia assumes the latter probably wouldn't go so well if they really did have their memories wiped and their minds manipulated to a forced loyalty to the very person who had torn all twelve of them apart. Still, she wishes she could just speak to him, talk to him now, make sure he's okay, take him away from that place, that goddamn witch.

Regardless, they jump into the princes, the first of which being Richard. Tall, emphasized by Meridian's whistle, something Euphemia has to agree with. Tall, undoubtedly handsome, he would have been popular at the university if he lived on Earth and...wasn't an assassin for a depraved woman like Ivelda. How much have they all changed underneath? Personalities? Are they all crazed killers and senseless pawns? Or do they still retain their humanity? She hopes - even half prays despite her absolute rejection of any sort of religion, to whatever being might listen to her out in the void - that despite everything, they were all still...themselves. That they hadn't been completely twisted and ruined for Ivelda's own desires, or perhaps even entertainment.

That hope feels rather dashed away to some extent when Orion appears next, her brows furrowing at the sight of him. Wrong. It's the first word that echoes in her mind. Wrong. Wrong. What happened to him? What did Ivelda, or anyone else for that matter, do to him? She could remember him from childhood, usually quiet but still melding in with the rest of them when they gathered, close with Oriane. She'd been in awe over the color of his hair and eyes the first time they'd met, a sort of haunting combination until she'd gotten used to it, realized he was a perfectly fine and nice boy just like the rest of them. Now, his eyes held a deep pain, and an undeniable darkness, something unsettling about it. The image is still, yet tells both a thousand words and nothing at all when she tries to imagine what could have possibly happened to drive him to this state. Not even Eowyn gives much of a vote of confidence on his actual recovery, something that prompts a sharp glare in her direction from Euphemia where she stands towards the back; couldn't she have kept that to herself? Oriane... Oriane didn't need to hear that.

That glare turns to her face paling slightly as the next arrives: her brother. Valken. Val. The last of her true family. There he was, right in front of her, so much bigger than the twelve year-old she remembered, strong and brave, and then half dead in a dank cell with a wound so long and deep it was a wonder he didn't bleed out and die. Her brother, always defending her, yet a typical sibling in their squabbles and his teasing. Her brother who seemed to get along with most everyone. Now here he was, face darkened, an expression that spoke of an impossible to soothe anger and bitterness, but a stark pain in his eyes as well, faint as it may be. Though he was fully dressed, she still caught sight of the scars peaking up from his collar, along his arms. Who knew how many rested beneath? How much had he been made to suffer these past thirteen years? Far too long while she was far away, while she couldn't even recall his face, his name. Why? A weak thought against the unfairness of it all. Her knuckles turn white as fingers curl deeply into her palms, a twinge of pain and something warm telling her that she'd punctured her skin. She ignores it, staring at the simple image of him until Eowyn requested they continue. The sight of him disappears, but her emotions don't.

Kaito is the next to appear, one Euphemia was familiar with largely for the fact that Valken tended to clash with him at times. And of course they would, when Kaito was a stickler for the rules, and her brother was the type to push limits and break them for fun. Valken had never hated him by any means, had more so just complained over the other ruining his fun, even if it was justified occasionally; Valken knew how to get into trouble, and even in childhood he didn't always know his limits. Euphemia had always been unsure about him herself, his serious and almost no-fun attitude not quite what she looked for in playmates when she was a child. He was too much like the rest of the adults.

Xiaoli soon flickers onto the projection, long hair, elegence, and all. She's a little surprised over the length; it's far longer than any of the girls here, but silently recalls the culture of Guanyin, his kingdom. It was typical for the men to grow their hair out there, wasn't it? Certainly it added to the beauty of his features, gentle and kind. He's smiling, the first to be doing so in this reel of men, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes, a beautiful blue that looked more like a constant storm of emotions too heavy to ignore, like they're all weighing on the rest of his body.

The last is Apollyon, Artemisia's brother. Handsome, just like the rest of them, almost ethereal in some ways. That image is shifted as Artemisia's hand moves through it, a sort of reach to touch that all of them know wouldn't be possible. It was just an illusion, like the screen of a phone, a simple reflection of a reality far away. Still, there's a twinge of pain at the sight, a feeling of familiarity in her own desire to reach for her brother. Eventually the holographic image returns to normalcy, Apollyon's face with it, and she stares, recalling those regifted memories of childhood. She and Valken had often traveled with their parents to other kingdoms, and the Emerald Isles was a somewhat more common trip made, rather exciting to explore the land that held a complete opposite climate to their own wintry one. She had often sought out Artemisia when there, Valken doing the same with Apollyon, a little quad of friends to run around the palace grounds and find ways to pass the time. How much had he changed? Were any of them still friends? How much had relationships between all of them change?

Finally it's over, and Euphemia is both relieved and disappointed. To be able to relax a little, rest her mind, all while still wishing she could see that little glimpse of her brother again, the one she'd wanted to remember for years, and now wanted nothing more than to see, speak with, cling to. Apologize to.

Oriane is the first to speak up, clear hatred in her voice and the way she stood, her words. Euphemia finds herself agreeing, desperate to leave and get going on things. It had already been thirteen years, she wasn't overly keen on waiting even longer to get her brother back, to get any of them away from that woman. Artemisia seems to feel the same, Rhea quieter herself but the look in her eyes speaks well enough for her own views on the situation. So one by one they depart, Euphemia only remaining just long enough to get her measurements taken by Virion and then she's off, desperate to wash down, and either get started on their goals for rescue or perhaps grant herself a few moments of rest, to process it all.

She makes it back to the room before Rhea, snatching up some comfier, clean clothes before making way down to the stream, a quiet sound that could almost be soothing if it wasn't for the nightmare her mind felt like. She strips away the dirty clothes she'd worn hiking easily enough, discarded onto a flat rock nearby, next to the neatly folded loungewear she'd wear once finished. Then into the water she goes, hissing slightly at the initial shock of cold on her bare skin. It wasn't unbearable, but it certainly wasn't the comfort of a warm bath either. Slowly she adjusts, thankful for the spot of sunlight that's hot enough to keep her from shivering. Maybe she'd lay out in it once she was done to dry off a little more.

Most of her body is washed and rinsed clean within minutes, and she lets herself lay her head back in the gentle current, the cool of the water somewhat soothing a headache and rinsing out a bit of the dirt and grime in her hair from hiking at least, but it's interrupted by the sound of someone approaching. She quickly moves herself back up, sinking back into the water up to her shoulders as hands hug in front of herself as if to try and cover as best she can. Yet it's Rhea who appears through the break in the trees, carrying her own clothes and supplies in her arms. She seems a little surprised upon spotting Euphemia in the waters before brightening up, waving in her direction with a cheerful, "I didn't realize you were already down here!" Without a second thought she's headed for that flat rock and setting her own clothes down on it, "I thought maybe you'd wandered off for some quiet to think, but I probably should have figured you would want to wash down first. I hope you don't mind me joining, I don't think I can stand being this dirty any longer."

She blanks for a moment at the girl's approach, though with the casual way she goes about it, Euphemia can't help but sigh, slowly letting herself relax. Just Rhea, and something tells Euphemia that the girl is probably unbothered by the idea of nudity and at least communal showering, given her own work. The prior probably came up often, the latter definitely a potential. Besides, it wasn’t as if she hadn’t gone skinny dipping with friends a good handful of times. The girl is making way for the water soon after and settling to a spot just at the edge, a smoothed rock that practically feels like a seat, one she'd stayed by until her body had adjusted to the cold. The purple haired girl seems to have the same idea, arms wrapping around herself with a small laugh and a shiver, "oh god, I already miss my bath."

Rather than letting the discomfort of quiet continue, Euphemia lets out a sigh, head tipping to the side slightly as black hair tries to let itself be carried away by the soft current, a simple, "same," all she offers for now as she tries her best to calm the nerves of having new company unexpectedly.

The quiet settles for some time, but before long Rhea is washing herself down, Euphemia herself resting for a breath, body now long adjusted to the water's temperature, enjoying the faint heat of the sun on her shoulders. It's more comfortable now, but eventually Rhea turns back to her again, head tilting slightly with a faintly nervous smile, " you want me to wash your hair for you?"

She blinks once, but Rhea's quickly continuing, "some of my coworkers and I- we would wash each others' hair when we visited bathhouses after work. Well, while I was living in Korea for a little while, anyway." A small sigh, "it was fun there for a little while, I miss it sometimes."

Was it a sort of bonding thing? Friendship? She chews the inside of her cheek for a bit, before another sigh manages to pull through, and she nods. "Sure, I guess I won't turn you down." It brightens her up quickly enough, and Rhea is patting on the little rock seat under the water as if to try and gesture her over. She follows soon enough, settling with one leg left to rest over the edge, bobbing slightly against the current. "I give really good head massages, so just relax.~"

She isn't kidding, really. Longer nails against her scalp, it feels like a deep massage, like her headache is slowly being soothed out as she works. Rhea giggles a little when Euphemia visibly relaxes into her hands, continuing her careful work of slowly washing out any filth that might be clinging still from their hike earlier, but he voice comes through the quiet of running stream water once again, a softer, "how're you feeling? You know, after...seeing your brother?"

Euphemia's brows furrow slightly at the question, a hand moving up to rub against her arm slightly as she thinks through everything, the emotions still writhing inside of her, the headache that's now ebbing off, the vivid image of her brother that won't leave her mind, not that she wants it to anyway. "I...don't really know, honestly." She offers after a few breaths, "I feel restless, and I hate...knowing that he's stuck there with her. That he's been left with her for so long, while I just...fucked around on Earth, I guess." A quiet laugh, it's more sarcastic than anything, "I just hope there's something we can do, sooner rather than later."

"Eowyn said they had things prepared, didn't she? I'm sure we'll be able to do something when the time comes..." There's the soft splash of water, and Euphemia feels it through her hair, Rhea carefully beginning to rinse it out. "But I...I get it. I wish we could just have them all back with us right now."

Her gaze move to the side, as if to look at Rhea who is sat behind her out of view, "how are you holding up? I'm sure there's a lot on your mind, too."

Rhea laughs a little, weak in its sound, "I could be worse, I guess. I don't know, just...seeing all of them, what they've become because of...of..." Another small splash of water, she seems a little tense for a moment, "her, I just...I worry. I wonder what they've been through, and what there even is that I can help. That I can do to soothe their pain. I can't help but feel a little useless, right now."

"You aren't," Euphemia retorts quickly, "and if you are, then so are the rest of us. Let's just hope...that we'll be able to get started on things sooner rather than later, for the sake of everyone's sanity." She figures the rest of them are feeling exactly the same, after all.

Rhea's fingers run through her hair a few times, as if checking to make sure everything has been rinsed out, "fingers crossed for that." She can hear the tiniest of smiles in the girl's voice as she leans back a bit, finished. "mine certainly are." It's a little bit of a joke, her head turning to look back at her, "we'll make it through this. I'm sure they'll be back with us soon, yeah?"

A more genuine smile from Rhea this time, she lets her head tip back slightly, eyes turning towards the sky, "yeah, it'll work out. Thanks, Euphemia. Sorry, I should be the one comforting you here. I promise we'll get your brother back as soon as we can. Ivelda will regret crossing us." It's a somewhat humorous huff that she gives, a sheepish laugh after, and Euphemia smiles, manages her first real laugh, however quiet as her hand runs through her hair to try and push her bangs back again. "Yeah, we'll make sure she does."

Glancing back, she shifts around to face Rhea more fully, a lazy wave of her hand in a circular motion, "now turn around and I'll get your hair for you, too."

0.50 INK received for post #2823825, located in Periwinkle Institute:


Image Image
The sound of cardboard boxes, rustling clothes, and other heavier objects fills the room nearest the stairs of IWL's dormitory, a soft hum of no song in particular, footsteps and clatter.

Moving day had certainly proven busy for Kazuyuki, local insomniac who hadn't slept in several days again, whether that was the nerves of being thrown into a new building with new people, new projects, and new work, or his typical inability to find any sort of rest. Lucky him he supposed, as he set down the pothos in the windowsill, vines trailing comfortably down the wall, looking for more space to invade and spread to. A little extra light and comfort in the unfamiliar room, being filled with all his (or lack thereof) things.

He'd nearly finished at this point, carrying the box that had been filled with three plants to the corner of the room, right by the door with the rest. Easier to take out or put away later so long as he kept things neat, after all. And with only one box left, he'd see about breaking down the empty ones and finding a space for them to sit until he moved again, or throwing out the ones that wouldn't. The last box was the smallest, barely holding anything beyond odds and ends, and truly he could have just shoved these things into his backpack, but that had been full of scrubs for work when his box for clothes had left no room.

"Laptop," tossed almost carelessly onto the freshly made bed and piled blankets resting by the window, "novels," set onto the brand new desk, he'd find a better place later, "coffee mug," the desk as well, "sketchbook," desk, "towels…" into the bathroom he goes, moving the hand towels to the small hook by the sink, the washcloth tossed to the shelf by the shower, he'd get it properly in place later, "and…meds," a hand takes hold of the three white capped orange bottle to place onto the sink, a small clink of object against porcelain as it settles into place. "Ah, look at that, I finished it all in one go, didn't even have to…push any of it off to tomorrow."

"Very impressive, Mister Yuki. It went a lot better than you'd said you thought it would. Should you celebrate with a nap?"

A small, huffed laugh, "sleep? No, I still have too much to do." Making way for the closet, he pulls off his shirt with ease, letting it fall into the little basket he'd be using for laundry, "need to call Miriam about my work schedule…finish my bio paper…" A hoodie is chosen out of the hanging tops, nip of cold getting under his skin a little too quickly, wonder if it's possible to turn the heat up in just my room alone? "Water the plants, um…" Memory was evading him; he knew he should've written out a list of things to do before lack of sleep got this far. He always started missing things when it got around to this time.

"Maybe you should eat. I don't think coffee counts as a meal, especially not hours later. You must be starving." Oh, he hadn't really thought of that. It had been awhile, and his stomach was beginning to hurt. "You're probably right, I'll see if I can find anything then, and…if not, I guess I can order take out." Finally slipping on the hoodie, he lets out one final yawn, and hopes he looks presentable enough to the new neighbors he'd be living with for who knows how long. Let's get first impressions over with, I guess.

Bronte’s shoe jammed between the new dormitory’s creaking door and the door frame as she hauled her luggage behind her. The wheels were rusted, squeaking like nails running down a chalkboard and her face scrunched up at the sound every time.

The door shut behind her, the brunette resting a fist against her lips while she cleared her throat. Brushing back her hair to sway like a shampoo commercial, she took a deep breath. Here, maybe she could start again…
“Good morning!” She greeted the dorm full of strangers. With a practiced smile plastered on and a wave here and there, she prayed they’d like her. First impressions were irreversible. At least, in her experience they were. It had the potential to make or break the months ahead.

Her brown hair fell back down over her shoulders, hand tightly gripping the luggage handle as it dragged behind her, trudging to the elevator. “How log do I hab to kep smilin’ fer?” She asked the gatekeeper quietly, her lips fighting to stay in formation even then. “Not a second longer, Bronte. It may come across as creepy.” Her smart smartwatch responded.

Bronte’s face snapped back into shape as she patted the life back into her cheeks with the warmth of her palms. She pressed the up button and stepped in, entwining her fingers behind her and rubbing the front of her rose red high heel shoe on the back of her other leg’s calf.

Ding!/ Stepping out, she was greeted by a much longer and emptier hallway. “Right, right?” she turned in that direction, a hand shuffling in her pocket for the IWL pamphlet, pushing a notepad up and out onto the ground. She groaned and miscalculated her step forward, kicking the notepad further away. The color drained from her face as she watched it along with its secret contents slide under a door. She should have typed it up on her phone instead…

Bronte crept over, carrying her luggage to avoid the giveaway squeaks. Checking there were no witnesses, she set the bag down carefully and attempted to pry the door open. “Success~” Unlocked and with an accomplished smile on her face, she let herself in. She bent down, swiping her notepad off the floor and paranoid, she flipped through its pages to check all was in order. Settling on the last page, she went over her first impression foolproof plan once more from the top.

So, maybe food was going to have to wait. He hadn't exactly expected his first step towards the door from his bed to be interrupted by a flying notebook that ricocheted off his foot, nor the handle on the door to twist. Let alone a girl he had never seen before scurrying right in and snagging the lost item off the floor, flipping through it and staring at what she must've written inside. All seemingly without noticing that he was standing just a few paces away from her, that Astrophel, in his albeit small but very physical, tangible form, was peeking out at her from the open bathroom door.

And all he could do until the initial shock had worn off, was stand there and stare.

Did I miss the memo or something? I could've sworn these were private rooms, are they shared? Oh, oh god, what if they were assigned before we got here? Am I in the wrong one?

The bit of shock faded after a few more seconds, Kazuyuki's head tilting slightly while one hand moved back, rubbing awkwardly at his neck, struggling to find words that should be so simple but sat on the tip of his tongue instead.

"Um…" His hand dropped back to his side, cleared his throat a second later as if to try and catch attention, maybe make things a little less awkward, "I think there might've been a mix up…"

A mix up indeed as Bronte looked up from crouching on the floor, notepad still in hand and staring across at the unrecognizable pale haired stranger with eyes of starlight.

This was bad, really, really bad. Bronte was wearing her sister’s designer hand-me-downs and had followed her checklist to the letter but now she had screwed EVERYTHING up. She began to tremble, biting her bottom lip. Anxieties filled her head until she was shaking fully from head to toe like the temperature had dropped to freezing. She fit the bill for a stalker invading one’s room to take notes and do ‘creeper things.’ That was not the first impression she was aiming for!

“I’m s-ssorry, I thought this room was unoccupied… I should have knocked.” She stuttered, trying to swallow down the lump forming in her throat. How does one breathe again? She stood up and clutched the notepad close to her chest to hide its next to useless contents and looked down to avoid reading the room owner’s judgment. Even if she ran off now, he had seen her and could identify her as they’d be dorm mates from this day forth. What should she do?! What was he going to do?! Perhaps make her life a living hell?

“I’m sorry, this is so, so embarrassing.” She shut her eyes tight and bowed her head several times, words heaved between the intervals that skipped some breaths due to the panic building up. “I didn’t mean it!” “Thank God you have clothes on!” “I am sorry for in-int-intruding!” Bronte got tongue-tied sometimes but persisted.

Apology after apology filled the air, an almost heavy rain of nerves and embarrassment seeping into every corner of his bedroom’s atmosphere in waves off the brunette, the girl who he can barely catch a glimpse of between each flustered bow. This was, no doubt, not how she’d wanted her day to go, he could gather that much from this.

His lips parted several times as an attempt to speak, cut off in a breath’s time as another apology or sentiment floated into the room, so many now that he almost felt guilty for somehow causing her this much panic over a seemingly honest mistake. It wasn’t like the rooms had name tags (or, not yet, he supposed) or a way to show they were already occupied unless you left out boxes or locked the door, so something like this was practically guaranteed to happen, maybe just once. Kazuyuki was glad for her timing anyway; he had just changed, after all, and had a feeling things would’ve been much more awkward had she come in then. Is it bad of me to feel relieved that I didn’t end up in her position? Maybe, but he wouldn’t dwell on it. He had much more pressing matters at hand, like…trying to get his new dormmate to take a breath, calm down, and smooth over this odd little predicament.

Between one of her apologies was when he finally managed, a quick, "hey, hey," to at least get her attention. "it's fine, it's fine, I promise. It was an honest mistake." A small, half smile, hopefully it was enough that she knew he wasn't mad over any of this. The last thing he wanted was to doom one of the relationships he'd have here to eternal discomfort and awkwardness, "It's not like you could've known it was taken, there aren't any name tags out, are there?" A small laugh, he shrugged, "guessing first day nerves? You're not alone, I tripped up the stairs on my way here and dumped one of my boxes everywhere," luckily, of course, no one had been around to see, but he supposed he'd ruined that secret embarrassment by confessing to it himself now.

A glance around the room, to where Astrophel lingered by the door and then back to the newly acquainted girl, of which he still didn't have the name of. So out came the small hum, the tilt of his head and debating offering his hand to shake, as if it might be too old of a gesture now, "Guess we can get first meetings out of the way for the both of us here now, right? Check one off the long list I'm sure we both have," a slightly crooked smile, trying his best to lighten the mood and hopefully make the other's day less miserable than it seemed to have started, "so…you can call me Kazuyuki. There a name I can call you?" He glanced to her suitcase a second later, "and…do you need any help getting moved in?”

Bronte finally lifted her head, blinking a few times as she processed Kazuyuki's reaction. It was not anywhere near as bad as she suspected it would be, especially after how disastrous her previous dorm’s experience had been. “Ha…ha.hA.” She laughed, mimicking him in an attempt to play off the situation too, but her dried up throat of nerves wouldn’t allow her to as it was released in awkward bursts.

She was reluctant to cough up her name for him to remember her by, the weirdo that entered his room on day one no less! Her mouth trembled again but eventually relinquished it. He’d learn it sooner or later. “Bronte.” Her shoulders slumped in defeat but she managed a smile back in return. Kazuyuki seemed understanding enough? Despite her intrusion and inconveniencing him, he offered to not only overlook her fault but help her. “That would be–” Her head turned naturally to where she had seen Kazuyuki look a few times, at the bathroom door and gradually downward at the small child? ”H-hi?” Although, something was off about them that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Was it their clothes? Their unnaturally soft carved by the gods’ face? She took a step back to retreat in her confusion, forgetting her luggage that was perfectly situated behind her.

He'd only just gotten her name, maybe managed to calm her a bit by the time something - or someone - else has struck her unease once more, though perhaps he should have thought to at least introduce Astrophel too, before he caught her entirely off guard.

Kazuyuki could see the step backwards, hear the light knock of foot against suitcase and the way it wobbled, toppled over itself before she seemed to be following suit, straight back towards the hard floor. No doubt that would leave a bruise, or several, not to mention the embarrassment she already seemed to be dragging herself through.

Before he could think it through, he was jumping forward from his spot a few paces away, wide blue eyes trying to reach for an arm, wrist, hand, something to hopefully stabilize her and keep her from dropping onto the floor. And hold of a wrist he'd gotten, just secure enough that he could've pulled her right back up onto her feet, but unfortunately for him, it seemed he'd overcompensated.

He felt his lost balance too late in an awkward step, in the added weight of Bronte before he can regain his stability, and a helpless, "shit-" is all he managed before the rush of air and flip of his stomach took both of them downward.

”Shit!” Bronte said in unison, albeit a little louder as they fell to the floor in a heap. The back of her head had hit the slightly ajar door as it swung open then hit her again like a boomerang. The back of her upper arm had smacked the luggage, the other side of her body unbalanced between it and the floor. She was scared to open her eyes. Hadn’t she embarrassed herself enough for one morning? And she was wearing a skirt that suddenly felt lacking. “Please tell me nothing’s broken… aside from my spirit.”

The fall between them was less than graceful, no doubt. He could hear the sound of Bronte hitting the door, thudding onto the ground and half on the suitcase before he followed suit, the door swinging right for him. It was perfectly timed, the way the door moved towards him, practically colliding right with his face, and instead of being able to catch himself with it, the block of wood slams towards the bedroom wall, leaving him helpless once again.

Twisting midair was simply impossible he found, more so when the panic of a trip made him slow to think, and before he knew it he'd hit the ground with a thud of his own, an awkward heap on the floor with his brand new dorm neighbor. It was painful, he wouldn't lie, but his nose didn't seem to be bleeding and besides maybe a new bruise or two, he'd survive. Attention was more on Bronte anyway by the time her words reached his ears, and as his eyes opened as he pushed himself up off the ground, he could already feel the heat building up in his face.

To anyone who hadn't watched the fall, Kazuyuki's position would look nothing short of indecent, even suggestive, and yes he damn well knew that. Look at him go, trying to save her from further embarrassment and only turning it into full blown humiliation instead.

"God- God Bronte I'm so sorry- shit, let me help you up, are you okay?" A weak, almost exasperated laugh entirely to himself, "I-I totally missed, I messed up, you weren't supposed to end up on the floor, I'm so sorry."

At that moment, Jorji appeared in the doorway. “Hey, Tannis and I were thinki-” He said, stopping mid sentence. He hadn’t met these two yet, but it looked like they had more than met each other. A tall, white haired figure was bent over a shorter brunette, whose skirt was… “OH MY- I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt, I just-” He stuttered, looking away and blindly reaching for the doorknob.

An unfamiliar voice was all it took to make Kazuyuki's heart sink. His chest constricted in an instant as his gaze snapped up, blue eyes settling on the black haired male in front of him, longer hair framing green eyes, falling onto some sort of hoodie with an anime graphic resting over the front. Color drained from his face in an instant; sure, he'd been worried about first impressions with everyone, but had he thought it could even possibly go this bad?

"Ah!- No! No, it's not- you're not interrupting anything! This was- this was an accident I swear, we tripped and-" As if anyone would believe a "we tripped" excuse. He wasn't stupid.

Ah, I'm screwed.

Her bad luck had spread out and claimed another victim along with a witness. Bronte sniffled, hiding her face with her hair like closing the curtains of a show. She had worn her classiest clothes only to become a 'class act.' Her first impression plan couldn’t have failed any harder or any quicker. Breathe in, breathe out, and simply, cease existing, she meditated depressingly.

Jorji sighed a breath of relief. He knew that this was college, and people were bound to ‘have some fun’, but for a moment he thought these two were getting right to business. “Okay, I thought you two were…nevermind. Um, anyways, I was going around to everybody and saying that I’ll be hosting a room contest kinda thing, so we can all vote on the best room and get to know each other. Would you two be interested? Sorry, I don’t know your names.

The truth worked? It actually worked, again? Bronte gritted her teeth as she tried to shift her body, greeted by aching pains trailing her arm and down her tailbone. "I can't, I can't-I can't do this." Bronte muttered under her breath exasperated. She had already introduced herself after wandering into another’s room uninvited and she couldn't bring herself to introduce herself again under this worse off set of circumstances. "Can I-I at least introduce myself standing and more… p-put together?" She asked, refusing to open her eyes still. Whoever the newcomer was, she didn’t want to be remembered as ‘the girl found with a dude on top of her.’ No offense to Kazuyuki who was easy on the eyes… exactly why she wouldn’t dare to open hers now.

He was rather shocked that the newcomer believed his panicked explanation, that was for sure. Anyone else would've taken what they'd seen, stuck with the first impression it gave them, and then run off to tell anyone else they could find about it. Or maybe, that was just what he was used to from his old high school. Still, it's a relief, even if… He…really thought we were getting into it, in a wide open doorway, in the middle of move in day. Kazuyuki was not that…tacky, sleazy, whatever, though he supposed he might've looked it right then. It's fine, it's fine. Crisis…kind of evaded. Not really, given Bronte was still stuck on the floor underneath him.

Panic and no sleep was certainly making him slow to move and make the important decisions, like helping her get back up and back together, "God, Bronte, I'm sorry, let me…" Moving off of her as quick as he could without making things worse or tumbling off to the side, he's back on his feet just a breath later, ensuring some stability before he offered both hands this time, half-pained half-apologetic smile in place, "let me actually help you up this time."

Bronte stopped shielding her face and her hands slid into his, accepting the offer and rising to her feet. She brushed back her hair with her fingers, brown eyes ping ponging between him and the darker haired dorm mate with green gemstone eyes. Her lips parted silently to form a perfect oval wondering if ‘magnetism’ was a prerequisite for joining the IWL project? Was she just an outlier in this experiment? She shook her head, effectively shaking the thoughts away. It would do her no good in the present.

"Thank you, Kazuyuki." She said, her fingers nervously fidgeting together after releasing his hand and its warmth lingered. She found it hard to maintain eye contact with him particularly after that fiasco. Throwing her hands behind her back to make her nerves less obvious, she turned and mustered a toothy grin over at the visitor before sharing her name. "I’m Bronte, nice to meet you…?” She awaited a name, briefly distracted by her skirt’s unevenness and smoothening it out to normal coverage. Also distracted by the notepad for another second that had escaped her again, quickly pocketing it before it could earn her more embarrassment.

Seeing their embarrassment, he could tell that they’d prefer he drop the subject. “Nice to meet you Kazuyuki and Bronte, I’m Jorji. So uh, if you guys want to participate in the bedroom contest, then we’ll probably do it tonight, so, yeah. I’ll probably make some sort of prize for the best room, so is there anything you’d want to win if either of you won?

He's finally gotten Jorji's name then, Kazuyuki silently filing it away and promising to not forget it along with all the other's. How many roommates he'd have by the end of the day he wasn't entirely sure of, but he'd still try his best to not have to ask for names a second or third time. "Nice to meet you too, Jorji, um…" Sorry that this is your first impression of me, I guess. He kept to himself. It seemed he'd gotten the message that the topic of the situation was wanting to be dropped, and he'd be happy to leave that moment forgotten into the past.

Bedroom contest? His head tilts slightly at the name, tries to think through what it could be for, probably best decorated he assumed. Not that he had great confidence in his own skill of decorating, but he supposed his room wasn't too bad. Maybe he'd have a chance?

It was the mention of a prize that caught his attention most though, head tilting slightly as if he didn't already know what he'd like, "a prize…" A glance back to his bed, already with its own collection of blankets, "some sort of blanket would be nice."

"It could be a ‘moving in’ hamper?" Bronte murmured quietly, wanting to contribute but not quite sure what her dormies were like much less what they liked. "A blanket could be included." She looked away shyly and fidgeted with the bottom of her blouse, pulling it down to cover her stomach more. "This place seems more empty than I thought it’d be so maybe there’s stuff we didn’t account for when packing?" She explained, practically tying a knot.

Jorji nodded, taking note of what they wanted. Someone else had mentioned a blanket, he forgot who, so maybe he’d do something that included one of those. “Alright, sounds good. I’ll ask the others and I’ll try to have something everyone will like, thank you two for your input!” He quickly left the room, giving them some privacy to sort out…whatever it was they were doing.

"Don’t mention it?" Bronte said hesitantly as she watched Jorji’s form disappear around the corner. "Please don’t mention it…" she whispered, slumping her shoulders and thinking back on the embarrassing moment that was rewinding in the back of her mind, especially now left with Kazuyuki, again. She laughed nervously, forcing a smile on her features as she looked up at him. "I suppose I should get started or there will be no room of mine to judge. Haha…" She restored her luggage to its upright position, the handle snapping off with ease after a bad twist. She shrieked, broken handle in hand and mouth slightly agape at her continuous bad luck.

With Jorji gone, it left the two of them alone again, a slightly uncomfortable air filling the room that he'd rather get rid of before it became a permanent resident in their interactions. Not that he had time to speak before Bronte shrieks, bad luck seeming to have continued its reign of terror. He winced slightly at the sight of the broken suitcase handle, metal bars waiting uselessly in their spot. Was she hexed or something? This amount of bad luck latched to one person was starting to become almost unbelievable.

"Bronte?" He managed a few moments later, brow quirking slightly, an awkward smile following, "if you're alright with me still hanging around for a bit despite…" Everything, "...that offer to help you get things moved in is still up for taking."

Bronte smiled sheepishly.

0.25 INK received for post #2824962, located in Rhindeval:

euphemia aphelion.
dialogue ; #ab9b9d. – thought ; #ed97a5.

The time in the basement eventually comes to an end - thank god - and they're freed from the space that was quickly starting to feel suffocating for Euphemia. The walls closed in, the fairy queen's voice burned inside her head, and all she wanted to do was leave. It seemed others were just as eager, Oriane soon making her exit followed by Artemisia, Rhea gone right after and Euphemia saw no reason to stick around, a quick and desperate escape without much of a goodbye to any of the remaining girls or Lilith and the queen.

Tatsuya had been waiting for her when she'd eventually arrived back to her apartment, still hungover no doubt but he was up and going by now, bedhead barely tamed while he poked away at the bit of food left on a plate in the kitchen. At least there was a sense of normalcy when she's gotten back after a few hours of what felt like delusion and dissociation.

It's a week or two before there's any word of things from Lilith again. A week or two that had been nothing short of hell for Euphemia, frankly. Her professor had been kind enough to let her make up the missed solo performance at the fair with a different one for some fundraiser, and while she hadn't aced the rest of her finals, she'd at least passed all her classes. At least that wouldn't cause any issues.

Then came the issue of trying to figure out how to explain all of...this to her family, her friends. Nothing sounded ideal, nothing sounded sane and...she had no idea what to do about it. Were the others being honest? Maybe, but there was no way anyone she knew would believe her. Maybe Tatsuya, but she didn't feel like springing that on him. Her parents - adoptive - were kind, but they'd raised her since she was young, had her through some of her worst mental spirals and breaks, and she knows that if she started talking about these things, they'd assume it was another, panic and worry and probably wouldn't let her leave the home for her safety. She couldn't tell them.

So she doesn't tell anyone. It feels stupid, but being open about these things also felt stupid. Instead she makes up some story about studying abroad, an intense course that would leave her out of contact for a long while. Not to worry about her, because she would be fine. This was a step towards a great career or something cool to put on her resumé, or just some experience and opportunity she couldn't pass up. Her parents had seemed uneasy about it, but supported her when she seemed insistent; perhaps they were happy to see her passionate about something for once? Tatsuya had seemed to have his suspicions too, but he keeps his lips pursed, refrains from saying anything strange. "As long as you're happy, I guess...but how long will you be away?" A few months, probably. Hopefully...not longer than that. "And you can't call? You can't even...write a letter or something?" ...No, probably not. "...Okay. Well just...promise you'll be back eventually, you know? I'll wait for you, I'm sure the others will too. I promise I'll keep your apartment clean and ready for you whenever you're done and back."

She's grateful for him, really. A little reassurance, someone to go back to if things went absolutely south. Sure he was just a friend, but he was her closest friend, as she was to him. Saying goodbye to him was the hardest part of leaving.

She has no idea what she should pack. What was she supposed to expect to have provided when arrived to fantasy land? What would be useless, what would be useful? Surely most of her tech wouldn't do much good, but she still packs her phone; even if it wouldn't work and would probably be dead within the first few hours of arrival, she didn't want it to seem like she was trying to disappear completely or go somewhere to die without a trace if she left it behind and someone found it. She packs some clothes, and a lot of underwear. Even if her outfits and styles probably weren't fitting for whatever style Rhindeval had, she wasn't going to be wearing medieval underwear, thanks! It helped that she went braless half the time too, but she still grabbed a few of them, just to be safe. Shoes, though just comfortable ones, and some more practical pairs of sneakers. Some snacks, little things that probably won't expire for another hundred years, a notebook, and she hesitates, but slips a knife into there as well. A little sense of safety, however odd others might see it. Other practical things are mixed in too.

There's so much more and the bag feels too full, but she tops it off with a few pictures too. Ones that leave a little pang in her heart as she tucks them away into the duffel bag, safe so she could look at them later when being away hurt too much. She never thought she'd care about leaving somewhere behind, but it was different when there was the possibility of no return, and when it felt like it was probably going to be an entirely no-contact, isolation situation. No going back, though.

Euphemia cries for the first time in a long while, full, deep sobs. She's glad no one is there to see it, or hear it.

Eventually she receives Lilith's email, and it's a final hug and goodbye to her parents, her mother who can't seem to hold back tears and her father who holds it together only a tiny smidge better. She hates to hurt them again, to lie again, but she can't find it in herself to be honest about this.

She rides the bus most of the way, then walks the rest, regrets that a bit when the bag starts feeling way too heavy, but it doesn't matter. In time she reaches the only slightly familiar home, a sold sign out front as expected, and Rhea on the step. It felt a bit ridiculous that they were arriving at the same time again, but whatever.

Euphemia lets her duffel bag drop with a hard thud on the porch as she climbs the few steps to the door, careless - it wasn't like there was anything fragile in there - and it seems to startle Rhea a bit, jumping in her spot before turning around to look at her. "Hey again." Comes her voice, "looks like we're on about the same time schedule, the way we keep running into each other here at the same time. Guess you've probably already knocked too."