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Alucio

Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.

640 views · last seen in Tokyo, Japan
a character in “Immortal Ties”, as played by Εpιmetheus

Description

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ALUCIO..................................................Grim Reaper
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A grim reaper born in the 13th century, he helped the first king of Portugal rise to power and stood by his side as a trusted general. Ultimately, he was executed for treason, and sentenced to eternity as a reaper for his sins committed during war against the Moors.

...ImageAge.........903.............................D.O.B.........May 18, 1113
Origin.... Portugal....................Sexuality....Heterosexual

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I. ..A D . H O M I N E M



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        A S P E C T U S
        six foot two | dark brown | chestnut

        The grim reaper may not be a skeleton carrying a oversized scythe, but he is always dressed in black. This one is, at any rate. He's not sure if it actually really does help him blend in better, but it looks pretty sweet, so he doesn't object. With his tall and lean figure, the dark outfit enhances the shadowy image he prefers, a look that truly makes him appear the image of Thanatos, perhaps. Maybe Anubis. One of those ancient death gods. Alucio is maybe a touch vain, although it's certainly not consciously, which might be why he wears similarly dark outfits even when off the job.

        His work outfit consists very simply of a black trench coat, hanging just below his knees, over a black turtleneck and similarly colored dress pants and loafers. If the look didn't suit him so well, he might look like an overgrown child who never got out of his middle school goth phase. Nevertheless, it does suit him, the turtleneck accentuating the curve of his adam's apple, the sharp lines of his jaw; the coat stretched taut along the wide breadth of his shoulder, pants highlighting the elegant length of his legs. It really is a good look for him. There's just one problem. The hat. Really, no one's quite sure what exactly he was thinking. No one's voiced enough concern or confusion about the vintage 20s style fedora he elects to put on his head every day for him to be self conscious about it, but they probably should. If the look without the hat seems effortlessly chic, the hat only makes him seem like he's trying to hard to emulate a crappy movie he saw about Al Capone on TV once. But it could be worse. Probably.




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        P E R S O N A
        gruff | brusque | blunt | absent minded

        Like any man stuck working a soul sucking job for a pay of 'not enough,' Alucio is the very picture of exhaustion. He carries himself with a tired weight, is never lacking for a short sigh that seems to say, Not this again. But it's always this again, because that's the very nature of his work—or, punishment rather. He seems to have come to terms with the idea that he may never be happy, or even excited, again for the rest of eternity. So it is that the short sighs are more quietly resigned than exasperated. He goes about his work with as much eagerness as he can muster, which is to say, none at all.

        Alucio is not deaf, but he's been asked if he was more than a few times. Which is likely due to his tremendous talent for zoning out entirely. He's prone to lapsing into long, contemplative silences, even when he's fully visible and the very nice sales lady has just asked him what kind of cookie he'd like. He's incredibly capable of catching only snippets of what a person's said, leading to an almost impossibly outlandish misunderstanding of their statement. Or, if it's a particularly good day, he can half listen to what's been said and completely twist the words until they come to mean just a shadow of the original intent. This is particularly frustrating because it never comes across as manipulative, something to be suspicious of, to get angry over. He just seems infuriatingly blasé and oblivious. This is not a deception. Alucio has no ulterior motives, no reason to manipulate anyone. He's just not listening half the time, so he has to try his best to fill in the blanks. His best just isn't very good.

        Gruff and impersonal, Alucio excels at neither asking questions nor answering them, making small talk with him the less fun alternative to chatting up a stone wall. He's not antisocial, just... unsocial. Speak when spoken to. Kindness in small measures. Contact in small doses. He circles around groups of people with a fierce avoidance, giving them as wide a berth as possible. Sometimes, the equivalent of making ten right turns to avoid turning left into traffic. If he knew how to drive, which he does not, he'd probably do that too. Oddly, this has nothing to do with his reaper's touch. He just doesn't like people very much. Or not at all. He's undecided at the moment. He's not, after all, a terrible person. Just a little, or a lot, stiff. Awkward. He doesn't know how to respond to people he's not comfortable with, instead wears a perplexed look of vague distress. Like a child lost at an ice cream stand. But he is kind, in some degree. Gives gifts, favors in what might be the most stilted manner imaginable, but they're given nonetheless, asked for or not.



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DILIGENCE..He may not work with any joy, but he does work well. Efficiently
and steadily. Alucio is always sure to complete his work to the best of his ability.


PERCEPTION..Not at all regarding people, but he has a knack for picking up
on often unnoticed things in his surroundings. It gives him a fairly quick reaction time.


STRENGTH..Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente-
sque ut ex et purus iaculis eleifend. Curabitur pharetra metus eleifend ligula elementum



LISTENING..He literally just doesn't do it. Don't try calling him out on it
either, because he'll act like he was and say something totally & infuriatingly wrong.


SOCIALIZING..Seung puts a party hat on him at every reaper event, but
it doesn't make him any more approachable or fun. He blends into the background.


EFFORT..Look, he's tired. Exhausted, really. Why would anyone expect
him to go the extra mile for anything? Unless he feels really guilty about something.





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II. ... I M M O R T A L I S . M O R T A L E





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        A C T U M .T E M P U S

        Before he was Alucio, he was Frederico Delgado of Portugal, the vassal county of Leòn. Born the son of a servant in the palace, he quickly befriended the then Count of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, a boy of similar age. Often lacking for other company, Alucio grew a strong attachment to the young count and, at an early age, promised himself and the boy that he would always stand at his side. He couldn't keep this promise for very long. When Afonso was exiled by his mother at age eleven, Alucio could do nothing but watch. And wait. He waited for three years, then another two. When Afonso returned at fourteen, an army behind him, Alucio, then twelve, swore he would join the ranks when he too became an adult. That promise, he kept.

        For a long number of years, Alucio fought Afonso's battles, fought Portugal's battles. Was there, raising his sword, heavy with four years worth of blood, in victory, only eighteen and so happy to see his friend, his prince finally proclaim himself as such. He was even there, all too present, during the campaigns against the Moors in the south, saw every set of pleading eyes his blade cut down regardless, every peaceful hut he burned to the ground under general's orders. This is war, he would tell himself, and there is nothing to be done about it. But at night, behind the darkness of his eyelids, he would see the death-pale faces of the ones he'd killed, starved lips and bulging eyes. Warriors signed up to die. Women and children didn't. His promotion to the rank of general did little to soothe his unease.

        It was, perhaps, this plaguing guilt that led him to make what may have been the best, yet stupidest, decision of his short life. It was lonely at his post in the south, his designated place of living for a few more years, just to be sure of their victory. He was many miles from where Afonso was placing a crown atop his head each day, working to get Portugal recognition as an independent kingdom. It was in a moment of such loneliness that a brief glimpse of a feminine face brought back memories of a happier time. With little thought for consequence, he took Luciana and her lover, hid them away from the forces seeking to take her away to a fate of misery. He had already condemned so many people to a fate of misery. He would not do it again. Safely, he kept them from harm for several weeks, but ultimately, it did not take long for word to come from his friend. His friend who was once his friend before he was a count, but was now a king before he was a friend. Afonso did not need nor want conflict with Leòn and Castille. It came as an order from the king, not a request from a friend, a demand for the immediate return of the future queen of Spain and her adulterous lover. Alucio refused. So the king countered with a small number of knights, took them all by force.

        Back at the castle, he was bound in shackles, labeled a traitor. He awaited his sentence for days that may have been weeks, may have been months. He didn't expect the feeling of cold steel against his neck. Afonso, the friend, said the king of Spain was demanding his head on a platter, said he never should have been foolish enough to help her, childhood friend or not, said sorry. Afonso, the king, said Portugal came first, said they could not afford a conflict, said Frederico Delgado is hereby sentenced to death for the crime of treason. And Alucio closed his eyes.



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                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: Gilberto Fritsch
                  HEX CODE: #556779
                  PORTRAYED BY: Epimetheus
                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: EST

                  DISCLAIMER: This sheet uses
                  code written by Epimetheus,
                  with portions of her work inspir
                  ed by Verix. All credit goes to
                  them.
                  _( ASSOCIATED )
                  ..words and phrases

                  When the bus is three hours late, but what does it matter beca-
                  use you're dead inside anyways. ■ When he makes the mistake
                  of letting Marlon dress him for work. ■ [my body materializes
                  out of the darkness] "fuck that was sick. did I look cool? dont lie
                  dude."
                  alucio's entire life in a nutshell ■ "For they can't live
                  without splendor and illusion." ■ A quiet contemplation, the
                  loneliness of a haze of smoke under a streetlamp in the dead of
                  night. ■ alucio needs someone to talk to too sometimes. ■ this
                  picturealucio's entire life. ■ alucio denying invitations to any
                  reaper events.he's not lonely, nope. ■ he treasures the junk
                  his friends give him ok. ■ "I must enter, and leave, alone, I know
                  not how." ■ always repay your debts.this
                  _( MISC )

                  One of his work outfits probably.
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                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente
                  Use this section for miscellaneous information about your char-
                  acter that doesn't quite fit anywhere else. these sections don't h-
                  ave to be a full eleven lines; make them as short or as long as y-
                  ou need.

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So begins...

Alucio's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Teruki Satou Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Kohta Honda Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: La Verne Caron Character Portrait: Paola Millán

0.25 INK

#, as written by Cloud
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CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNING
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Date: Evening, 1st April, 2017
Location: Tokyo City, Japan
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xxxOnce, before Tokyo had been given its name, before tall spires of metal dominated the horizon and light polluted the sky, one could see the stars. They say it was the gods who wove constellations into the otherwise blank expanse of night sky; exposing pinpricks of light to tell stories of legends that would transcend time. Yet, as civilisation grew ever skywards, electric lights began to drown out the natural illumination of the night sky. There are still those who remember centuries long gone, whose gaze at the night sky and remember a time when it was only clouds that interrupted their view. The constellations had changed since they were young, shifting across the Earth’s sky as time flowed forward. Yet, more than one could still take comfort in the beauty of it.

xxx “A shame really.” The man commented absently, his gaze fixed upwards, past the canopy of sky-scrapers towards the sliver of cloudless ink visible above. “Once you could have made out millions of stars from anywhere in the prefecture.”

xxxThe surly teenager seated beside him grunted and shifted slightly away, unsure who this stranger was and why he had randomly started talking to him.

xxx “I made it, you know.” The man continued, an almost smug smile on his face as he leaned against the park bench. He didn’t seem to care that the youth was resolutely staring at the screen of his cell phone, attempting to tune out the rambling stranger. “I mean, I made everything really. You’re welcome by the way.” He paused and glanced at the mortal, as if expecting a ‘thank you’, or any other form of gratitude. When none was offered the man merely continued talking, “But, I am particularly proud of the stars. ”

xxxThe man’s dark eyes returned to the small portion of the sky not covered in thick cloud. He held his hand in front of his eyes, stretched out as if he might pluck the very stars from their homes in the sky. Instead, he waved his hand slowly from side to side, as if waving away a particularly bad smell. A satisfied smile lit his face as his hand fell to his side,

xxx “There, you see!” The man said, nodding towards the now cloudless sky. Though the light from numerous skyscrapers still dimmed the brightest of the stars, they seemed stronger now, shimmering happily above the world below. “Much better.”

xxxThe youth merely grunted again, his hands fiddling headphones into his ears as he attempted to tune out the well-dressed man beside him. Unfortunately, the man’s voice continued to blare through the headphones, as if the younger man’s music wasn’t playing at all.

xxx “I fancy myself as a bit of an artist, if I’m being frank.” He continued, a note of pride creeping into his words, “You see that tree there? I designed it, right down to the edges on the leaves.”

xxxThe teenager didn’t even glance up, too busy checking that he had plugged his headphones in properly. Of all the nights for them to stop working, it had to be when he was getting his ear talked off by some mental stranger.

xxxFrom behind the pair a female voice replied, full of barely contained impatience, “I think you’ll find that I was the one to design that tree. If I remember correctly, you were still babbling on about how sludge was going to be the next big thing.” The woman snorted in amusement. “Well, we all know how that went.”

xxx “Excuse me for trying to do something different.” He retorted hotly, even as he slid across the park bench to make space for the new arrival. Beside him, the irritated youth was silently cursing the two adults who had interrupted his brooding and was quickly stuffing his phone into his backpack. Without a word the kid stood, pulled his hood tightly over his head, and walked away.

xxxThe two gods barely seemed to register the departure, more concerned with the back and forth that had begun. “I make one mistake and you never let me forget it. I made flowers, and gave the world bees. Who doesn’t like bees?” His hands made exaggerated movements in the air.

xxx “One mistake? Oh, I can count at least three dozen you’ve made in the last decade alone.” The female retorted, slapping his hands casually away. She opened her mouth to continue, before changing her mind and instead adding, “But I didn’t come to bicker with you.”

xxxHe nodded. His partner had come for the same reason he had. He stood up slowly, stretching out his tall frame, before offering a hand to the woman. She took it with a nod, her head tilting slightly in a wordless expression of ‘after you’.

xxxA second later the two figures blinked into existence on the wind-swept top of a sky-scraper. From here they could see the city sprawled out below them; neon, artificial lights marking roads, shop advertisements, and the lit windows of residential apartments. Above them, cleared of the thick layer of clouds, was the night’s blanket of stars.

xxxThough no eyes – mortal or otherwise – happened to glance up at the tip of the building, had someone done so, they would have seen two immortals bathed in moonlight, watching their world with a confidence only the gods know. They were one and the same, and yet separate, two entities burning in a universe of their creation.

xxxHe was tall and pale, his feet rooted solidly in the ground beneath him even while his hands reached heavenward. His cheekbones were chiselled from marble, sharp enough to cut mountains. Dark eyes of endless knowledge inspected his world, while strands of hair the same pitch black were pushed back from his face with lithe fingers. His appearance was similar to natives of this land, albeit almost concentrated, as if he were the original that all others had been moulded by.

xxxShe, on the other hand, had the dark, warm skin of someone who would have been marked a foreigner had she walked amongst Tokyo’s population. Her face was softer; a smooth sculpture of beauty, with thick curls of coal-coloured hair engulfing her head. Pupils that whispered of eons gone by watched the city like a predator of old, her lips held tight in a thin frown as possibilities of the days to come ran through her mind.

xxx “Owari” He spoke her name like a resolution; a finality echoing from his lips; the end.

xxx “Hajimari.” She responded with his name; a beginning; a taste of fresh possibilities, and boundless growth.

xxx “Things are moving.” He stated, his eyes too seeing beyond the crawling traffic below. “Do you think they’re ready?”

xxx “They’ll have to be.” Owari responded, her tone firm.

xxxHajimari nodded, rising his gaze from the streets at his feet to the stars above. His hand rose, fingers splayed above his head as his eyes searched between the digits. “Perhaps a sign then.” He murmured, almost to himself. Though, Owari heard and followed her partner’s gaze to the heavens.

xxx “Many have long since forgotten us.” She reminded him as his fingers began to dance overhead. His hand made a graceful pulling motion, a soft breath left his lips, and then the first star fell across the night’s sky; a streak of pure light momentarily illuminating the heavens. More followed, creating a meteor shower for any who happened to turn their attention to the sky that night.

xxx “Well, perhaps this is for my comfort than.” Hajimari replied, his hands clasped behind his back as he admired his work. Owari let the silence build as she too watched the show above, until a dozen moments had passed.

xxx “They all have demons to face.” Her words rang with a hint of pity, for she knew the dangers that were to come.

xxx “Most are of their own making.” Hakimari responded, “They would have had to face them eventually.”

xxxOwari nodded, her curls shifting as if stirred by a gentle wind, “We can only watch now.”

xxxA look of slight guilt crossed the pale god’s face, his eyes flashing momentarily. His partner turned ever-perceptive eyes on him, her frown deepening as she sensed his intentions, “Hajimari, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, stop interfering with their lives!”

xxxAnd just like that, the aura of power and mystery that surrounded the two gods evaporated. Like an old couple, married for too long and all too aware of each other’s faults, they began trading words; barbs, insults, passive aggressive suggestions. A bird soaring above would be wise to avoid the area directly around the snapping deities, a rat might have taken sheltered in a solid pipe well below the pair too. For the less perceptive mortals, they continued their work without contemplating that above them stood two squabbling gods, or that among their number roamed immortals and ghosts. Even as the two gods disappeared, the only witness to their presence a pouting teenage boy, the world continued to move of its own accord.

xxxIn a shoe-box apartment only a few blocks from the building once occupied by the two gods, a Guardian Angel calling himself Kohaku was preparing to leave on work-related business. A short distance further, within the performance hall of one of Tokyo’s learning institutes, a blonde boy studying music gave his hands a shake as he glared at a piano piece. And further away, across vast oceans and mountain ranges carved and painted by the hands of the divines, a goblin’s hand reached for a door knob. Slim fingers curled around the brass head, her eyes shut, mind searching for the pull of her next destination. She opened the door and slid through, her eyes alighting on the clear windows of her Tokyo apartment to see stars decorating the sky.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Aera Lee

0.00 INK

#, as written by Verix
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                      Seung
                      GRIM REAPER | 406 | #D08462


                      There was something in the air unspoken that drowned Seung in it’s sadness. He could feel it pushing at him like waves created from an unforgiving ocean - letting him resurface for a single breath before pulling him down once again. It was as if the world he knew was made water, and the only way to save himself was to sink.

                      He watched helplessly as the woman in white fiddled with her cup, her brown eyes flicking between him and the tea before resolutely closing them shut. Seung itched to place his hand on top of hers, to feel the warmth of her touch against his, and perhaps to give her some sort of comfort.

                      “What . . . will happen once I’m gone?” she said, her gaze finally meeting his in an act of, what he supposed, defiance. Underneath the table he curled his hand into a fist and squeezed tightly.

                      “The world will go on,” the tone in his voice did not match the tune of his thoughts, and although intentionally misinterpreting her question he longed to tell her the truth. If only he could. The woman slammed her hands on the table, almost spilling the tea, and stood up. Her eyes were red and filled to the brim with fresh tears and an anger directed toward him and the world.

                      She said nothing, but her breathing was labored and her head was bowed. Her mouth opened as if to yell or scream or shout, but all that came out was a choked sob that rendered her whole frame frail. Seung had the curious thought that if he were to touch her, as he deeply wanted to, then perhaps she would disintegrate and turn into ash before his eyes.

                      Seconds passed by in silence and when her frame stopped shaking she sat down with a heavy plop. The life had been drained out of her and Seung could only observe. He was about to say something, anything really to permeate the stifling stillness, but a quick motion from her left him in awe. She grabbed the cup in front of her and without hesitation lifted the drink to her lips greedily. There was something mesmerizing about the scene, and despite having watched plenty of mortals accept the tea he couldn’t help but think perhaps something was different.

                      When the woman finished she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and let the cup fall to the ground gracelessly. Seung said nothing and simply stood up to walk her to the door where they had come from. She remained silent. They always did.

                      He shut the door softly and leaned his back against it with a deep sigh. All the air seemed to rush back into his lungs and his head was finally above water. He willed himself to stay afloat even for a few minutes, knowing full well it was a useless gesture. For he knew that once he returned home the sound of her sobs would follow, but he could pretend for now that it didn't bother him.

                      With slow methodical movements he walked back to the table and picked up the cup from the floor before bringing it to the sink to wash. He let the cool water from the faucet run over his hands like a blanket and when he was finished simply set it aside to dry. It was a part of his routine that he could preform with his eyes closed. He wouldn’t of course, but he’d think about it.

                      -

                      The moment Seung walked through the door to the outside world he shivered. It wasn’t as though the weather was anything unusual, but he’s always had an aversion toward the cold that never really faded with time. Regardless though, he continued to walk the city streets, wearing only a dark pinstripe suit and his only pair of black oxford shoes. It was one of his nicer outfits, as well as one of the most expensive. It had taken him a few months to save up enough money to buy it, and when he did Seung was reluctant to wear it as to not damage the cloth. Alucio had shown no outward reaction, but Seung could have sworn he heard the man whisper, ”. . . Yeah. Ok. This is life now.” Looking back on it, Seung couldn’t help but agree.

                      It was that train of thought though that reminded Seung that he should text his roommate. He had no real reason to, really. It wasn't as if they had agreed to meet one another consistently; God only knows how much they bumped into each other in their tiny apartment. But Seung didn’t feel like returning home where he knew it would be quiet, and he would be alone with his thoughts.

                      Quickly he pulled out his phone and began to text the man with an idea he knew the other couldn’t refuse.


                      To : M’lady Pard’ner
                      Come to the tipping point, first drink is on me.


                      Seung pocked his device into his pants, satisfied with his invitation. It wasn’t often he was generous enough to pay for someone’s drink, and so considered his offer to be nothing less than a sealed deal. He only had to wait for Alucio’s text for confirmation.

                      Rounding the corner a block away from the bar it was then that Seung noticed the sky had somehow turned lighter. He paid it no mind, and focused on getting to his destination, but when he bumped into a man who stopped to look at the sky Seung grew curious. Above, the stars shot across the sky too fast for him truly appreciate them, and so with a determined set to stance he kept walking.

                      He did however begin to pay attention to the people surrounding him, and for him that was a better sight than any star could manage. The people gathered on the street with their phones out ready to capture what they probably thought was an unforgettable moment. Seung knew better though, years of living made him apathetic to scenic beauty.

                      Slowing his pace even more he took in the sight of a few women gathered in a small ice cream shop, amazement in their eyes and their hearts bared for all to see. He smiled, and tore his gaze away from a scene he knew he was not supposed to witness.

                      -
                      He arrived at The Tipping Point a few minutes later and let his body acclimate to the the warm temperature of the room before sitting down. The bartender quickly made his way over and Seung ordered the cheapest sake to pass the time before Alucio would show up. When it arrived he took a sip and grimaced. Drinking was a lonely art.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio

0.00 INK

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                          The crisp breeze of the evening brushed past Alucio's face, the alerting chill welcome on his always unusually warm skin. The tall, stolid man stalked down the city sidewalk, pace kept at a brisk, steady tempo, his long trench coat trailing behind him like a sentient shadow. Tucked under his arm, he carried a stiff black hat, waiting for its moment to fulfill its purpose. Despite walking along the outermost edge of the pavement, he still found himself taking a step this way and that to avoid bumping shoulders with some oblivious passerby, the scowl lines around his mouth growing deeper with every close encounter.

                          He arrived, thankfully, at his destination before his face could permanently be stretched into an ugly expression of displeasure. As he lifted an arm, pressed a palm against the cool glass of the hospital door, his other hand took the hat out from under his arm. He stepped over the threshold as he disappeared from mortal view, brim of his hat pulled down low over his eyes. Glancing briefly down at the thick white cardstock cupped in his palm, he set off towards the West Ward, the rubber soles of his worn leather shoes clacking against the linoleum floors. The echo of the sharp crack felt acutely lonely under the flickering fluorescent lights of the hallway, and for a moment, Alucio slowed his pace, soaking in the otherworldly atmosphere of the stretch of hall that seemed to go for miles. It was unnerving, in a very pleasant kind of way. He closed his eyes—still stepping assuredly forward, no hesitation in his long strides—and listened to the low ringing of tinnitus in his ears. If he concentrated, he could still hear the buzz of activity somewhere in the distance, but there was nothing but silence where he was going. He could see why. It smelled more like Death the closer he got to his destination.

                          He rounded a corner, passed a long string of hospital rooms, decay emanating from each one, until he paused in front of 267. Yes, this was the one. He stepped inside and paused again. A silhouette stood at the window, illuminated by both the moonlight and the unnatural city glow of street lamps and office lights. Alucio was not sure who looked more like a shadow: her bent figure against the dark sky, littered with erratic flashes of light, or her discarded husk of a body lying limp on the starchy sheets of the hospital bed. He crossed the room until he stood at her shoulder. She said nothing. For a moment, he looked on with the old woman, two sets of mournful eyes watching as the sky fell apart.

                          Then, with a short sigh, he looked down at the small card once more. "Ogata Yutsuko," he read off, monotonously. The buzz of activity came back, grew louder with each passing second. "Eighty six years old. Born on February 11th, 1931. Died at 7:24pm on April 1st, 2017. Cause of death is a heart attack." He took a glance at her impassive face. "This is you, right?"

                          The attending physician burst into the room, followed closely by two nursing assistants. The lights flashed on, dimmed the magnificence of the outside spectacle. Very simply, in a warbling voice, the old woman answered, "Yes."

                          Alucio nodded, took the gnarled hand of his latest assignment in his own, and stepped around the doctor and nurses gathered around her bedside. He looked towards the heart monitor, still sounding its steady alarm, and thought that death and silence did not sound so different after all.


                          It was not until he was halfway across the spacious lobby of the hospital that his phone sounded an urgent beeping from his pocket. Hastily, he fished it out, brows furrowing at the sight of the text message from his colleague and roommate. Mentally, he noted the plans before replacing his cell; it would be far too unprofessional to respond during work. Another acquaintance caught his eye from the far end of the lobby, the visage of a little girl flickering and mildly translucent, giving way to the image of a familiar somber looking young man. He considered, for an instant, greeting the angel, but quickly thought better of it. They were, after all, nothing but neighbors, weren't they? Going out of his way to say hello would be strange. Instead, he stepped out into the chill of the evening once more, gently guiding the old woman in the direction they needed to go. They were silent all the way there.

                          She drank the tea with little fuss, a small smile perched on her thin lips, mostly hidden by the prominent wrinkles around her mouth. He admired her, if only a little, her peaceful disposition. When he'd told her so, she'd only responded, "I have lived long enough to see all I need to see."

                          "I'm glad," she said, as her features smoothed out, spine straightened, "I got to see the stars before the end."

                          Alucio only hummed a low note in response. He stood, moved to the door, and she followed suit, walking steadily on elegant legs, reaching him just as he swung it open. She breezed past, paused on the first step of the stairs. "Thank you," she said, inclining her head slightly, and Alucio returned her smile. He watched until her figure was entirely enveloped by warm, white haze.

                          As he placed the used tools in the sink, Alucio remembered Seung, likely already waiting at the bar. He opened the conversation and wrote:

                          TO: TENANT
                          OKAY.


                          And then he turned on the faucet.


                          The walk to the bar was a brief one, and in just a few minutes, Alucio was hastily pushing the door shut to prevent any more cold air from entering. "It better be the good stu—" he began, but died off as he looked up from his shoes and saw the three occupants of their usual corner area. That was two more than the one he was expecting. "Oh," he said, stopping short.

                          He shook off the surprise and slid into his seat next to Seung. "Hello," he said, lifting a hand in greeting towards Haku. He might have greeted Mina as well had she not been slumped over, facedown on the bar, moaning incoherently. "I didn't think tonight was one of gathering nights."

                          He considered the female angel for a moment, thought of the consequences of his potential actions, then, with a soft sigh, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. "Here," he said, sliding it across the wood. "The bar top is covered in germs. Put this over it." Without waiting for a response from her, he turned his attention towards Seung. Or rather, his sake. He didn't ask before swiping the glass and taking a long swig.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum

0.00 INK

#, as written by Layla
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▁ ▂ ▃xxxM A G N E T Sxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxx# B 3 8 4 8 1xxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxA P E XxxxN I G H T C L U B

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xxxxxx"Hey." His eyes remained shut. "You lied to me."
xxxxxxCassius responded with a noncommittal grunt. Of course he'd lied to her. Dishonesty was his resting state; deception unraveled from his tongue as easily as Kaede's first thought fell from hers. The fox granted stolen lives found the young woman almost as refreshing as she was pretty. Almost.
xxxxxxThen again, she was very pretty.
xxxxxxCassius peeked at her through one eye, noting the swathe of colour on her lids visible beneath her mask. A smirk emerged on his lips. He wondered, did the defiant mortal girl dress up just for him?
xxxxxxBefore he could part his lips to usher a flush that was equal parts rage and embarrassment to her cheeks, she interrupted him. Her hands found his pockets, to which he arched a single brow. Cassius flashed a devilish grin just as Kaede captured his likeness on his phone.
xxxxxx"So you look disgustingly amazing as always," she said after returning his phone to his custody. "I was in the middle of doing something, you lying trickster."
xxxxxx"Were you redecorating your home with countless images of me?" he teased. "I wouldn't blame you." Cassius leaned against the bannisters, fingers flitting to rub his stubbled jaw. "Who did you smuggle into my club? Someone worthy of your company, I hope. You deserve nothing less."
xxxxxxCassius took a step forward and leaned down so their noses were nearly grazing. "But not too worthy," he murmured. His eyes followed the path of his knuckles that grazed the slip of dark hair that brushed her collarbone. "I wouldn't want to battle them for your attention." He straightened, moving away as a grin revealed the dimple in his cheek and his shock of straight white teeth. "Prison ages you, I hear."
xxxxxx“A beautiful night, made all the more lovely with the sight of you,” a melodious voice spoke. Cassius had barely noticed Areum's approach, though centuries spent in the company of a person so much like himself had a way of rendering her so much a part of his own existence that she barely seemed a separate entity at all. “My business proposition still stands should you tire of Cassius.”
xxxxxx"We could always share," he mused. "Surely you remember how well that went the first time." The humour was veiled in memory, spoken of pasts long gone and none but the two fox spirits could recall. He remembered clearly having claimed the mesmerising mortal for his own before the younger fox spirit attempted to steal her away. They had fought vehemently, only to realise the mortal not only had no more reincarnations left to give, but that she was wholly devoted to her soulmate of four lifetimes. They'd become companions ever since.
xxxxxx“The man in the yellow vest is trying to catch your attention, should we intervene?” asked Areum.
xxxxxxCassius traced the path of Kaede and Areum's gazes as they moved away from him to land on a lanky figure with a swath of pale hair, made all the more dazzling by the lights that spilled from the corners of the balcony. Cassius smiled and tilted his head, urging Basil near.
xxxxxx"Is that who you brought along?" said Cassius. "He was already on the list. I know how inseparable the both of you are. Besides—" Cassius lifted the flute of champagne to his lips and drank deeply, his jade eyes never leaving the tall boy, "—he's quite pleasant to look at.
xxxxxx"Basil," he called as Kaede's friend neared, his vaguely Italian accent flourishing the name in a slow purr. "The attire suits you—or perhaps it's my club." He smiled. "You should visit more often."
xxxxxxHe cast an appreciative gaze in Areum's direction, noting the dainty curl of her nose and the swell of her lips, which she'd no doubt been using for more than smalltalk. Dark lace curled around her body, an alluring orchestrated masterpiece of swells and dips that captivated many patrons of his club. She was impossibly beautiful in the objective sense, but he felt when he gazed upon her what he did when he'd travelled to a dazzling limestone cave hidden in Malaysia before mortals had discovered it and hollowed it for minerals.
xxxxxxAreum was breathtaking, but so lonely it ached.
xxxxxx"I believe you've yet to meet," said Cassius, his voice low. "This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction."
xxxxxxA parting of the seas caught his attention and Cassius turned to watch as a girl marched purposefully through the throng of bodies to challenge a man and assist a rather inebriated woman. Cassius frowned as the man flashed a lopsided grin and emptied the contents of a glass on the ground. The reality of the situation dawned on him as his bartender's furrowed brows mimicked the tense line of his mouth as he spoke to the defiant girl.
xxxxxx"Excuse me," muttered Cassius to his companions, though he was already moving towards the bouncers by the entrance of the illuminated balcony. "Get him out of my club." Cassius nodded towards the entitled man lurking in the fringes with his friends. "Them, too."
xxxxxx"But sir, that's—"
xxxxxx"I don't care if he's the reincarnation of the last shogun himself," Cassius interjected. "We don't tolerate sexual violence of any kind in my establishment."
xxxxxx"Yes, sir." He watched as his broad employees marched to apprehend the men, a feat far more difficult than it appeared. They proved adamant in their desire to remain and their resistance had drawn the attention of one too many attendees of the masquerade. Finally, Cassius strode towards them and wrapped his hands around the biceps of two exceedingly aggressive men.
xxxxxx"Ow!"
xxxxxx"What the—"
xxxxxx"I would appreciate it if you would leave," said Cassius, his grip tightening for emphasis. "Quietly."
xxxxxx"Shit, whatever. Just let go. This club's lame anyway."
xxxxxxTheir departure amplified the quiet that had befallen the Apex. The scene had stifled the enthusiasm that had thrived prior to the commotion. Cassius turned to address his audience.
xxxxxx"Free cocktails for everyone!" he called out.
xxxxxxThe crowd cheered, and the party returned to its former splendour.

▁ ▂ ▃ ▂ ▁


xxxxxxThe handkerchief smelled of snow and pine, or love and eternal devotion. It was always difficult to distinguish. Minako emerged from hiding, her wide eyes lifting to gaze at the reaper with overwhelming parts awe and adoration. Her lips parted and shut, only to part again and slam closed. Minako gaped and floundered in the tide of emotions and unspoken words. She was a dam breaking open, a tree split by lightning, a cliff at the brink of a waterfall.
xxxxxxI love you, I love you, I love you.
xxxxxxThe words caught in her throat as they always did, where they'd slumbered for two-hundred and fourteen years, or seventy-eight thousand, one hundred and ten days. How she wished everyday she'd spoken them to Satoru, who'd chosen another without ever knowing her heart. Who'd died believing she'd loathed him.
xxxxxxPerhaps if she broke herself open and gave away her pieces to whoever might take it, she would eventually discard every part of herself that he'd touched and decided he did not want.
xxxxxx"T-hank you," she stuttered. "Are you— How are—"
xxxxxxShe clutched the handkerchief to her chest. The words wouldn't come. They never came. She would die with them but the irony was that she already had. Yes, surely Takumi could not love her. The mortal girl she'd been had died long ago, and the persona that had taken her place was certainly not not dead. Minako was an animated corpse. She was worse than an animated corpse. She wasn't even a hot animated corpse like those presently seated beside her.
xxxxxx"Germs are the only things that will touch me." She planted her face on the table, and folded the handkerchief into a perfect square, which she would keep for prosperity for the rest of eternity.
xxxxxx"You look like you could use a drink."
xxxxxxMinako lifted her head to meet the eyes of the bartender.
xxxxxx"What can I get you?"
xxxxxx"Yes."
xxxxxx"I'm sorry?"
xxxxxx"I'll take anything you'll give me." She gaped.
xxxxxx"Vodka on the rocks...?" the bartender began tentatively, his expression conveying that he was finding her stranger by the minute.
xxxxxx"I mean, I'd prefer a bed..."
xxxxxx"What?"
xxxxxx"I love—to sleep." Minako turned away to stare intently at the three immortals beside her, her eyes screaming for help or death. I hate myself, she mouthed, her eyes rolling into the back of her head.
xxxxxx"That'll be two-thousand yen."
xxxxxxMinako swallowed a deafening cry. "Sure." Put me out of my misery, she told her companions telepathically as she slipped her debit card across the counter.
xxxxxx"Um, can you let go?" the bartender prodded, tugging at the card Minako pressed with white knuckles against the table. Minako darted her gaze towards the door, contemplating the speed at which she could run to avoid the authorities. Finally, she allowed the bartender to tear her savings from her. She was sweating.
xxxxxx"I'm going to pretend I ate the next week. Am eating? Will?" Minako's voice was shrill as she suffocated on her cries, all the while draining her glass of vodka between her choking. "Everything's fine. I'm fine. I love life. Life hates me but it's okay. I love to suffer."
xxxxxx"Here's your card back."
xxxxxx"Keep it. You've taken everything else," she gasped. "Like my dignity."
xxxxxx"Is she... Okay?" the bartender asked slowly.
xxxxxx"You don't even remember my name."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker

0.00 INK

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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
"A good drink will dull the senses, a great drink will erase them altogether."




Ambience --- Hex #AE0202 --- Leather Jacket




You would think that a man who was capable of flying his way through a hail of gunfire and rockets would be able to easily find his way out of a hospital. You would be wrong, because Ryan was having way more trouble than he cared to admit. One hand held the English to Japanese dictionary, while another hand aimlessly waved about in an effort to figure out his bearings. He could just start taking doors at random, but that would present another set of problems that Ryan was not wanting to deal with. His attempts to stop a couple of people in order to get directions were either met with him being ignored or stared at as he laughably tried some Japanese phrases. Either way, he was about ten seconds away from jumping through a window and seeing if he could simply fly to the bar.

It was at this moment that a young Japanese girl wandered up to him. A girl scout? In a hospital? At night? By herself? There were so many questions Ryan wanted to ask but thought better of it as she immediately launched into a tirade of the unknown language, stopping for but a moment as Ryan raised an eyebrow at the girl. His fingers flipping through the pages, trying to find enunciations that matched up the the rapid pace of speech this child had just given to him. “Uhhhhh…” Ryan murmured to himself, his eyes darting from the pages to the girl and back again. It was but a second later that she spoke in English, broken but definitely understandable.

She asked if he wanted some cookies, and before he could respond, she spoke again. ”Life is full of constant disappointment and heart-aching...But whenever I begin to question the pointless cycle of life, I find biting in a cookie is helpful in calming of my mind.” Ryan stared at her for a moment, caught between shock and surprise at the little girl. It was almost like she was reading his mind, and considering the amount of things he had heard and/or seen come out of this country, part of him wondered if that wasn’t in fact true. Before he could say anything, she pointed him towards the exit, shoved the cookies into his chest and skipped off. Ryan found himself staring at her for far longer than any adult man should stare at a small child, and shook his head.

“What?” Ryan asked more to himself than anything else. He looked down at the cookies, then back up at where the girl had skipped to. “What?” He repeated to himself, catching a few looks from passing nurses and doctors. He wasn’t sure what exactly had happened, all he knew was that her English was better than his Japanese, and that embarrassed him. He stared at the package of cookies, chocolate flavor, and wondered if this was some elaborate plan to poison him using an unassuming yet somehow creepily knowledgable girl. He shook his head and walked in the direction that she had pointed him towards. He was left with more questions than answers as he found the correct set of doors that would lead him outside. Note to self...make a map. Ryan thought to himself as he opened the package of cookies and peered inside. He picked one out of the box as he made his way towards the exit, looking it over before giving it a bite.

Mmmmm, chocolatey.

The crisp air outside was a welcome reprieve to the stuffy atmosphere he had just been subjected to. He stood outside the doors for a moment, his hand repeatedly dipping into the box and munching away at the cookies inside. He peered around at his surroundings, everything alien to the American as he didn’t even attempt to make sense of the signs and writing around him. He pocketed the dictionary into his jacket and took out the note that Konatsu had handed him instead. On it were directions written to the bar as plainly as he could make them, only an idiot wouldn’t have been able to find it.

Then again, Ryan had to get help from a girl scout just to exit a hospital...so the odds were not in his favor.

He started wandering down the street, the slight amount of wind pulling his jacket behind him as he peered through the nearly empty streets. Bits of litter floated as if pulled from invisible strings, windows were alight with activity like fireflies, but souls seemed to be absent from his view. It took a few minutes before he saw another person, which was a blessing as he had slowly been convincing himself he had died and been put in purgatory or something akin to a slow form of psychological torture. The lack of bodies was getting to him, he could feel himself getting agitated and antsy at the fact that he was practically alone in an unknown world. How he wished his buddies could have made the trip, or even if there was one more English speaking person walking beside him. He hated solitude, despised it with every fiber of his being.

With only the passing moments of people wandering by to keep his mind from spiraling into a desperate search for conversation, he could sense that familiar feeling of irritation welling up inside him. It felt like his entire body was restless, but would eventually evolve into an itch he couldn’t scratch, until it felt like his entire body wanted to spasm. He had once been told this was all a psychosomatic reaction to his natural inclination to always want to be surrounded by people, but whether it was in his head or not, it felt just as real. Luckily, before it could get any worse, he arrived at the bar that Konatsu had pointed him towards.

Ryan took a moment to size the place up, and to be quite frank it seemed about a half step up from a dive bar. Maybe Konatsu came here to avoid all the high profile people he had to deal with on a daily basis. It could have been his oasis in a desert of snobby lawyers, idiot executives, and stupid shareholders. Ryan double and triple checked the name and Kanji on the note, making sure he was in the right place before replacing the note into his pocket and digging for more cookies. His hand came back empty, so with a frown he looked inside the box to see that he had eaten them all in the short time it took him to get to the bar. Oh man I’m going to have to run that off later. Ryan thought to himself as he wondered how hard he had been pigging out just now, lost in his own thoughts. He looked around for a garbage can, and found a dumpster on the side of the building. He tossed the empty box into it before making his way inside.

The interior was dimly lit, either on purpose or because they couldn’t afford better lighting. Several tables were placed around the room, oddly enough they were the ones he was used to eating at. Ryan had the impression he would be kneeling at every establishment he went to, with the tables that might as well have been floors. Aside from that, it wasn’t bad. The atmosphere had a homely touch to it, the kind where the ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe seemed to perpetuate the air, although he doubted that was the case. There was a bar counter with stools as well, and despite there being several people in groups among the tables, Ryan opted for the spot closest to the supply of alcohol. He didn’t know anyone, add in the fact that the language barrier made it extremely difficult to communicate and you have yourself one hell of a recipe for great misunderstandings. It was fine though, so long as people were around him and chatting away, Ryan could get rid of his antisocial anxiety.

As Ryan took a seat at the counter the Bartender came over, an aging man who looked to be about in his forties. He was completely bald although it was most likely from choice, and a surprisingly few wrinkles marred his face. If it wasn’t for the other physical facts, such as his slightly hunched posture and aging skin on his hands, Ryan could have easily mistaken him for someone closer to his own age. “Watashi ni nani ga dekiru?” Ryan didn’t bother trying to answer, instead he fished out the note in his pocket and looked it over. There were phrases written, including one that introduced him as a friend to Konatsu. He narrowed his eyes at the phrase, but luckily Konatsu had been kind enough to spell out the pronunciation of the words.

“Watashi wa Konatsu no tomodachidesu.” Ryan stated, heavily aware that his accent was most likely making the Japanese nearly unintelligible. The Bartender widened his eyes slightly and gave a smile.

“Ah! You must be Prosker-san!” The bartender stated in heavily accented English. Ryan looked up, pleasantly surprised that the man understood English at all.

“Oh thank God. You know English?” Ryan asked, severely relieved at not having to deal with a language barrier that would result in him simply emphasizing just how western he was. The Bartender shrugged.

“Here there.” The man stated, turning around and grabbing a bottle that Ryan could only hope had something that would knock him on his ass. “Konatsu-sama call ahead, he say put everything on his bill. You drink free tonight.” Ryan blinked for a moment, he had been expecting a discount not a free ride to blissful drunk town.

“I’m going to owe him something fierce…” Ryan muttered as the bartender looked under the counter.

“Gomen'nasai?” He asked, of which Ryan took a wild guess as to what that meant.

“Eh, nothing. Just muttering to myself.” The bartender nodded before seemingly cursing to himself as he reached underneath the counter and pulling out nothing. He cursed, or at least Ryan took it as cursing, in Japanese several times before placing the bottle on the bar.

“No cups, I get cups. Be right back.” The bartender stated before moving towards a curtain, yelling something in Japanese and getting yelled at back by someone with a slightly deeper voice than his. Ryan looked at the bottle, and naturally it was all in the language of the natives. He couldn’t understand what it said, so he took to taking a look around the bar instead. There were a number of people in the building. There were a couple of people huddled in a corner having a hushed conversation, a lonely looking man having a drink by himself and a group of four with a woman face down on the table. That sight brought about a confused look from Ryan, but there didn’t seem to be any immediate distress so he didn’t think it was warranted for him to intervene. All in all, the atmosphere was melancholic. Considering his own emotional fragility at the moment, this was not something that he wanted to be around.

It was then that the Bartender came back, carrying a few cups and placed them all under the counter while leaving one in front of Ryan. He muttered to himself in Japanese, and while the language may be different, the verbal cues of griping because of a lazy or incompetent worker was universally understood. The Bartender took the bottle and poured the liquid into the cup. “Sake, drink.” The man stated, to which Ryan grabbed the small bowl-shaped cup and brought it up to his lips.

“Domo Arigato.” Ryan stated, and immediately the Bartender’s face turned sour.

“What you call me?! You have nerve!” The surprise at the Bartender’s sudden shift in mood combined with the strength of the drink was enough to make Ryan gulp in surprise and start a coughing fit as he held up a hand, speaking in a hushed whisper as he attempted to swallow what he could in time to say something.

“What did I say? I thought that was thank you! Was it not thank you?!” The Bartender’s expression deadpanned for a moment before he burst into laughter, slapping the table slightly.

“It is! I make joke!” He continued laughing as Ryan cleaned up his face, grabbing the towel the Bartender eventually offered him.

“Ah yes, make fun of the American and his uncultured ways, how civilized of you.” Ryan stated in a mocking tone, although his smile was wide and genuine. He didn’t mind being the butt of a joke so long as people were having a good time. Besides, it helped him push everything that had just happened to the back of his mind. He was never good with dealing with his own emotional issues, preferring to ignore everything that wasn’t beneficial to the people around him. “I think we’ll get along just fine. What do I call you?”

“Miyata Yoshinobu.” The Bartender replied, cleaning up a bit of the spilled sake with a smile still on his face. Ryan took another shot of the Sake, breathing through his teeth as the alcohol hit his system.

“And...Miyata is your family name right? You place your names backwards to western culture?”

“Yoshinobu personal name, Miyata family name.” Ryan gave a nod.

“Alright Yoshi, then while I’m drinking on my friend’s tab, might as well let everyone else get in on the fortune too. He’s rich, he can afford it. Get everyone in here a drink of their choice and charge it to Konatsu.” Yoshi seemed to hesitate slightly before Ryan gave a wave. “He could buy this Bar with his pocket change, he won’t look twice I promise.” Yoshi yelled back into the kitchen-type area, and out came a younger looking gentleman. Most likely it was Yoshi’s son as his tone seemed to convey...a familial order to it. He barked some orders in Japanese and soon enough the man was moving from group to group asking them what drink they would like and explaining that it was already paid for.

“Generous with other people’s money.” Yoshi stated, to which Ryan gave a shrug.

“Better I spend it on other people than just myself, don’t you think?” Ryan asked, taking another shot of Sake as once again thoughts of his parents came unbidden to the forefront of his mind. There was only one way that he was going to get through tonight in any form of happiness or blissful ignorance. ”Now, keep hitting me with the strong stuff till I can’t see straight.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu

0.00 INK

#, as written by Verix
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Seung & Seok Areum
GRIM REAPER | #D08462 | FOX SPIRIT | #D24038



      The sound of another occupant moving into the booth left Seung mildly more happy than he had been moments before. Such a feeling was not meant to last however, and as his neighbor began to speak his mood only soured, “I didn’t know you frequented ‘The tipping point’. My charge might visit here tonight. Please don’t take his soul. I’ve only just received his case and it would look terrible on my record if he died the first night in my care.”

      Sighing heavily he then took a sip of his drink, “Only after work,” he lifted his head so his eyes could meet his neighbor's, “Haku, Reapers only take the lives of those destined to die, we don’t get to choose.”They remained silent until the bartender came and the Angel ordered a glass of water. Seung felt a sense of understanding knowing it was probably to save money. He would have offered the man a drink but knowing Alucio and his penchant for more expensive drinks, he would need to cut his losses where he could. Adding another expense would be detrimental.

      With nothing else to say they lapsed into a comfortable stillness until another figure slid into the booth and rested her head on the table. Seung sighed and gently pat her head.
      "I'm so sad. Takumi will never love me. Is it because I'm dead?”
      “I think it may be because he doesn’t know you.” Before he could say anything else though the other half of the rent came walking in and sat down next to him. "I didn't think tonight was one of gathering nights."
      “You left me on read.”
      Alucio pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Minako with a soft sigh. Seung would have been touched had his roommate not ruined the moment by drinking his sake without even so much as asking. If that was how he wished to be then so be it.
      “Indirect kiss,” his voice was monotone and without thinking he made a heart with his thumb and index finger. Hopefully he wouldn’t spit it out.

      Just in case however he made a move to call the bartender over, only to notice the man had appeared seemingly out of no where. Minako ordered her drink and when she nervously responded, “I love—to sleep,” she looked helplessly at the three men — most likely asking for death. Seung had no idea how to handle the situation and so promptly kept his gaze lowered and forgot to order another drink. He as well needed sleep after dealing with his friends.

      The bartender then named the price of her beverage, and had to almost pry the card out of her hands. Minutes later the man returned bringing with him her vodka and money. She downed her drink as if it were water and tried choke back her sobs. It was saddening and Seung was clueless as to what to do.
      "Is she... Okay?" he asked.
      “I believe so. Thank you,” he took the card from the bartender's hand and waved him off to spare Minako some humiliation. He was her friend after all.
      “You don't even remember my name.”
      “You never gave it to him, if I remember. Right, Haku?”
      Before their discussion could escalate however a man came to their table with a bright smile. Seung didn’t trust him, but nonetheless listened to whatever he had to say.
      “What can I get you all to drink today?” a frown appeared on Seung’s face, cautious of his overly happy disposition. “Ah, it’s already been paid for.” He should have started with that line.

      That got Seung’s attention and so promptly he ordered a drink he had been eyeing all night long, “I’ll have a bourbon then.” He didn’t ask who had been generous enough to pay for their drinks, the attendant's attention already having moved on, and so looked at his friends expectantly. After all, they should thank the person who had essentially saved them rent money. Mortals could be so nice at times.



      ( • • • )


      It had occurred to Areum multiple times before that although it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a life without Cassius, she deeply resented the thought of it. Perhaps her mornings would be a little less bright, and the sound of her soul would sing more loudly, but in comparison to who she was intrinsically — nothing would change. And yet, even the mere thought of separation brought a dull ache to her heart she thought would have faded with time.

      As another attendant passed by Areum plucked a glass of champagne off their tray and shifted her gaze from the man in yellow to her new drink. She furrowed her eyebrows in dissatisfaction as she finally took notice of its taste. It was much too sweet and left a tangy flavor in her mouth, not even vodka could smother its presence.

      While in deep thought, Areum had been deaf to whatever pretty but meaningless compliments Cassius was most likely gushing. It was only when the pitch of his voice lowered that her attention was finally on him once more. "I believe you've yet to meet. This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction."

      She raised an eyebrow and finally lowered her drink. Before her stood the man she had been glaring at previously, and with a new perspective, she smiled.

      “It’s a pleasure to meet you —” she gave a quick sideways glance to Cassius, “Basil. A friend of Kaede’s is a friend of mine, and so I hope we’ll see more of each other in the future.” Without warning she stepped closer to the man and stared at his face in concentration. She noted his thick eyebrows that framed doelike eyes and the way his pout was wide but very pretty. He was an eccentric kind of attractive, and it made her want to stare at him all the more curiously. “Should you ever wish to model for my magazine feel free to contact me. I’m sure we can have something arranged.” Slowly she backed away and focused her gaze on Kaede instead. It was unspoken that she would be the photographer, and for Areum that would only be an added bonus should he accept.

      "Excuse me,” Cassius interrupted and before she could get a word out the man was gone. Areum rolled her eyes but in doing so caught sight of the event unfurling that Cassius must have seen as well. In her mind, she praised her friend for taking a swift course of action and let him deal with it himself; however, it was the familiar face of the woman sitting at the bar that made Areum move to help.
      “Forgive me, I’ll be back in a moment,” walking with purpose she quickly slid between the patrons who still hadn’t noticed the debacle and kept dancing. They were either too drunk to notice or too self-absorbed to care.
      Silently, Areum sat down next to Shiori just as the bartender supplied her with another drink. She tapped the counter to order the same beverage as well and placed her empty champagne glass on her right side for someone to clean up.
      “I saw what you did, and I’m very grateful but —” she turned to look the officer straight in the eye, “—why didn’t you arrest him?”

      The bartender finally finished creating her drink and placed it in front of her hands. Idly she traced her ring finger along the rim of the glass and awaited her response. She had the authority to act, so why didn’t she? Was it the fear of repercussions, or an inability to serve due to being off the clock? Her thoughts was cut short however by the sight of men storming away from where Cassius stood watching. Areum recognized them for who they were and in a quick act of vindictiveness dumped the contents of her drink onto their passing forms.

      There was no logical reason for what she did, and like most things Areum didn't think of the consequences, but the feeling of revenge was too good to pass up. She let out a small condensing smile and a quiet laugh. The apparent leader snarled and made his way to Areum to which she gave a disinterested sigh, “Perhaps I should call Mr. Dōriēwes over.” A pointed look to her friend had the men freeze before backing away slowly. A grin spread across her face.

      When the men left and all that remained was a stillness, Cassius' strong voice echoed in the silence and promised the patrons a round of free cocktails. Applause and laughter filled the room bringing life back to the party, and with a weary grimace Areum focused her attention back to Shiori.

      “I have someone I’d like you to meet,” without warning Areum took the girl’s wrist and lightly tugged at her to follow. She cut through the center with ease, her disposition not allowing for any jostling, and finally made way to where she left Kaede and Basil. She needed Cassius’ opinion on the girl, and more than anyone she knew, he understood her needs the best.



Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker

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xxxIt made no difference how many times reaper Seung reminded Haku that they did not choose who died, merely followed the cards assigned to them. The guardian still maintained the prejudice that their mere presence must not be lucky for any mortals in the vicinity. Yet, as Seung reminded him of the fact, the guardian merely nodded solemnly in response rather than argue. Best not to upset a grim reaper after all.

xxxA moment of comfortable peace passed between reaper and guardian instead, the sounds of the bar’s other occupants and the steady beat of vehicles rumbling down the road outside soothing after a day of work. Haku sipped on his water, wishing once again that he could afford anything more than the free drink. A despondent sigh escaped the angel, his shoulders slumping slightly as his gaze left the sad glass of water. His lips parted, words collecting on his tongue, before a small figure joined the quiet pair with a thump and a sorrowful exclamation.

xxxKohaku knew Minako’s moods well, and was well acquainted with her inclination to find love in the smallest, most meaningless of gestures. A passing stranger might smile at her, and the diminutive guardian angel would assure Haku that she was in love. She felt too strongly, opening herself up for disappointment whenever a fresh sweetheart failed to return her newly developed devotion. On more than one occasion in their decades of friendship, Haku had found himself comforting his fellow angel, offering a quiet shoulder to cry on as he patiently waited for her to right herself.

xxxAt least now Haku had the support of his neighbour. No two neighbours, he corrected himself as Alucio joined the quiet table. Kohaku returned Alucio’s greeting, raising his hand vertical and giving a short wave before letting his fingers wrap around the glass of water and pulling it closer. He should have asked for a straw. He watched as Alucio offered the distraught guardian his handkerchief, and Kohaku suddenly had the sinking feeling that he’d be spending the next week hearing Minako waxing poetic about Alucio’s generosity. The male guardian bit back a sigh and returned his attention to the glass of water.

xxxThoughts of sinking into a hot bubble bath distracted Kohaku from the chatter of the table, his mind already swimming with sweet scented candles and luxurious bath salts. Bath bombs were his guilty pleasure, the rare item he allowed himself to splurge on. Not that he did so very often. He would use a candle right down to the stub, and lay in a bath until all the bubbles were gone and the heat had completely vanished. Anything to make the most of his spent money.

xxxOnly the sound of his name draws Haku away from his mental bubble bath, and he gazes up to stare blankly a Seung. Having missed the earlier conversation, Kohaku merely nods and agrees uncertainly, “Right.”

xxxThen a worker is at their table, and Haku’s lips quirk into the first almost-smile of the day. A free beverage? What luck is this? With a quick nod, Haku picks up the menu hastily and skims down the list of cocktails, wines, and other assorted alcoholic drinks. He’s half scared that if he takes too long, the offer will disappear. Yet, as soon as he finds something he likes, he glances up and finds the bartender waiting patiently for the order.

xxx “I’d like sex on the beach, please.” Kohaku informs him, ignorant to how such a phrase could be turned around in any other situation. Yet, the barkeep’s face does not break into a mocking smile at the cocktail, but a regretful frown.

xxx “I’m sorry sir, but that drink was discontinued last week. You must have an old menu.”

xxxHaku is handed another menu, his disappointment and resignation clear by the set of his shoulders and gloomy mask. Nevertheless, he selects another drink – a respectable beer – and hands the menu back with another sigh. It’s only then that he notices the man sitting at the bar. He can sense the man’s emotions, the connection slightly sluggish thanks to the few shots of Sake he’s already consumed. The bartender follows Kohaku’s gaze and gives a happy nod,

xxx “Yes, the American has kindly bought the whole bar a round.” He informed the table, nodding towards the figure of Ryan Prosker.

xxxHaku nods absently before his elbow shifts, prodding into Minako as he drew his eyes away from his charge. “I’m going to talk with my charge. If you’re capable of sitting straight and tearing your gaze from the table, I would appreciate any advice you could give me on him.” Haku mumbled, before a gaze at the men in black sitting opposite them made him add in a quieter voice, “And make sure the reapers don’t kill my charge.”

xxxWith a nod to said reapers, and a promise that he would be right back, the guardian angel slid from his chair and gained his feet. He felt almost naked without a glamour on, but knew that it would be redundant to leave the bar only to come back wearing the image of another person. He may as well wear his own face. Subconsciously, Haku tugged on the lobe of his almost-too-big ear and set off, dipping around tables empty and occupied as he made for the counter.

xxxHe didn’t entirely have a plan, but knew that talking with his charges would only help in his mission to enable them to meet their great fate. So, he took the seat next to the American and drew a rare smile onto his face as he faced Ryan. His lips were unaccustomed to such a position, and the smile quickly fell into a more neutral position as he addressed the man seated beside him.

xxx “Hello, do you speak Japanese?” Kohaku asked in his native tongue, before switching to his less-fluent English, “Or should I thank you in English?”

xxxMovement to his right momentarily drew Haku’s attention away, and he was rewarded with the sight of the bar tender sliding a cool beer into the guardian’s waiting palm. With a nod of thanks to the worker, Kohaku turned towards Ryan once more, his beer held out towards the American – an age-old, wordless invitation to clack their drinks together and ‘cheers’.

xxx “To what are you celebrating?” Kohaku continued, his tongue feeling uncoordinated as it pronounced the English words.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: Paola Millán

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CHAPTER TWO: THE FESTIVAL
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Date: Early afternoon, 2nd April, 2017
Location: Kan'ei-ji Temple, Ueno Park
Tokyo City, Japan

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xxx A sea of delicate pink blossoms fluttered in the faint spring breeze, a show of nature’s intoxicating beauty revealed for the world to see. Lanes of sakura trees turned the pavement below a rosy hue, while in other places the falling flowers had carpeted the grass in blushing blooms. The Hanami custom was old, a traditional indulgence by the people of Japan and those world-wide to walk beneath spring’s buds and admire the astounding beauty of it.

xxx In Ueno park, lanterns hang on invisible ropes between the trees, arching across lanes and illuminating pathways during the nightly yozakura. Yet, even during the day, as wisps of cloud pass overhead, the lanterns only add to the festive feel. Kan'ei-ji temple is a Tendai Buddist temple within the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. It sits in the park, a beautiful array of centuries old architecture within the modern city.

xxx Fires from various civil wars and earthquakes have seen the original facades diminished, yet still the temple stands tall and proud. The five-storied pagoda and the Ueno Tōshō-gū shrine still remain as gems of the original temple, beautiful relics of a time gone past. Today, as the midday sun passes overhead, the temple grounds were thriving with activity. Cherry blossoms coloured the grounds pink, while the laughter of young children brought smiles to many who passed by. Stalls set up in one of the courtyards offered delectable treats; yakitori, grilled chicken on sticks; takoyaki, pancake balls with tempting chunks of octopus in the middle; watamep, cotton candy in all colours and styles, and more.

xxx The temple’s festivities were set to continue throughout the evening and into the early night, when the lanterns strung up would offer soft illumination. However, as early afternoon struck the festival was well into full swing. Some families take to the lawns beneath the cherry blossom trees, where picnic blankets allow them to stretch out and admire the blooming petals, while others content themselves with pulling young children around to the games set up for those who require a bit more entertainment. Also present are young couples keen to take in the romance of the sakura blossoms, their hands intertwined as they whispered endearments to each other while walking beneath the blooms.

xxx It was one of these couples that caught Lucia’s gaze as she stepped off the bustling street and followed one small, winding path towards the heart of the temple. They were young, late teens or early twenties, and yet their devotion to each other was clear. As the goblin passed the love-struck couple, she caught a glimpse of their future, intertwined for decades, their hands still clinging together as they age from young and fresh to gnarled and old. Luciana smiled softly, a hint of sadness perhaps beneath the warmth in her eyes. She had once been in love, a foolish affair, yet her story had not ended in happiness as this couple’s story would.

xxx She bypassed the devoted couple with a quick side-step, sending them a hint of good luck as she passed. Ahead, the path opened out into the main courtyard of the temple, a busy thoroughfare of festival seekers. The smell of freshly cooked food and sweets drifted between the crowd, tempting any with a nose or hint of hunger towards the wooden stalls edging the courtyard. Overhead, unlit lanterns and streamers added further decoration, even as the cherry blossoms were the real draw card.

xxx “I’ll take two yakitori, please.” Lucia intoned in flawless Japanese, nodding in thanks as her money was exchanged for the chicken sticks. The dress hugging her body floated around her knees slightly as a faint breeze snaked through the crush of people, and Lucia followed it beneath the tall pagoda and around to where a lawn of grass unfurled beneath a stand of sakura trees. A free root offered the perfect seat, and Lucia tucked her feet to the side as she sat beneath a shower of rosy petals, her gaze drawn upwards to the light blossoms blushing softly against the sky.


xxx “Beautiful” The goblin thought to herself, a feeling of peace settling across her shoulders. She left her mind wander to the twists of the day before, her thoughts less tense than the swirling cacophony of feelings that had assaulted her the previous night. Following her departure from Paola’s apartment, Lucia had spent a long time deciding on her next course of action. Her first instinct was to leave, to run from the city where she had seen and touched her ex-lover. Yet, the goblin couldn’t shake the sense that she should be closer to Paola, if only to investigate the mysterious way the girl had called her.

xxx To stay, or to go? It was the decision that had taunted her throughout the night, and though the goblin hadn’t landed on a conclusive answer, here she sat, still in Tokyo. The tough choice of the previous night seemed all the easier to face now, beneath the sakura. She would stay, would face Cassius if ever they came upon each other again. She was not the same young, naïve woman she had been as a mortal, she was stronger now, more sure of herself. She could handle it. Yet, even as her resolution settled, she remembered the feel of his hand on hers, the colours of his eyes, feel of his breath against her skin…

xxx A flicker in the corner of her eye dragged Lucia’s thoughts from the fox and she turned, searching the crowd of blossom admirers for the movement. Her brows moved into a frown as soft green eyes fell on the dark figure of a ghost. He looked as out of place amongst the pale blossoms as a bear would look in a colony of honey bees. Taller than the natives around him, and dressed in regal, medieval garb that was only now worn in theatrical plays, he was a man out of time and out of place. Though, it wasn’t the unsettling wrongness of his appearance that had Lucia pushing herself to her feet in a second. No, it was the familiarity of his face, the way the deceased soul’s gaze seemed to pin Lucia to the spot, as if he had sought her out from the beyond.

xxx The goblin took a step forward, a jolt of fear racing down her spine. “It cannot be…” She thought, wishing the distance were less so that she could be more sure, even as she wished to be miles away and safe from the soul’s eerie glare. She strained her eyes, even as a crowd of young Japanese temporarily blocked her view. Lucia took another half step forward, only to stop as the crowd passed and where the ghost had been, was nothing. He was gone, like a mirage teasing the goblin with images of her past. Had it been him? Or had the events of the previous day caused her to remember the less fortunate parts of her mortal life?

xxx Luciana took a shuddering breath, her hand instinctively flying to her neck where her fingers traced across the jewels that clung to her skin. She remembered the necklace tightening, the memory of the hand that had ended her life stark in her mind as she stared at the empty spot where he had just stood. But no, that was centuries ago. No ghost could last for that long. She forced her shoulders to relax, let her legs buckle as she regained her seat. It had been her mind, nothing else. She was safe.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio

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#, as written by Cloud
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A sigh escaped the guardian angel’s lips, the soft sound of defeat dying swiftly as the man stood. He was tired, his back aching from the countless hours spent hunched over in concentration, and for what? To lose at the last moment. To find himself eye to eye with yet another disappointment. Haku was used to failure, expected it even, but this here struck deep. His chair scraped back, wooden legs screeching against the hard floor as Haku dropped the old gameboy on the table, turning sad eyes away from the flashing ‘Game Over’ that decorated the black and white screen. Super Mario had defeated him again, and he could not bare to watch listen to the taunting tune any longer.

The guardian stretched out stiff joints, rolling his shoulders and cracking his fingers as his bare feet walked towards the apartment’s exit. In light of his recent disappointment, Haku needed a distraction, and luckily for the angel, work would offer nothing better. Rubbing his eyes, the guardian slid his feet into shoes and left through the apartment’s entrance, closing and locking the door behind him. He turned and took two steps across the hallway, fist raised so that his knuckle might lightly tap against the doorway opposite his. Distraction would hopefully come earlier in the form of two other immortal beings.

The subdued sounds of a few short thuds reached Alucio’s keen ears just as he shut off the running water in the sink. Lucky timing. Not that it meant anything. He glanced down at his gloved hands, sudsy and far too wet to be opening doors. He was preoccupied with his work regardless. Half the used dishes still lay dirty in the sink basin—in fact, he’d only turned off the water momentarily while he scrubbed at one of the pots. The water bill had been a little high last billing period, and Alucio no longer had the luxury of leaving the faucet running while he washed the dishes.

“Seung?” he called, albeit not very loudly. In a room not much larger than a closet, one did not need to speak loudly for their voice to travel far. “Door.”

The other reaper didn’t hear the soft knocking and it took Alucio’s call to bring him out of contemplation. His succulent had died and he had no idea why. Seung stared at it for a few moments, willing it to come alive, but upon realizing it was hopeless he sighed and grabbed the pot before making his way to the door.

Opening the door Seung spotted the morose face of his neighbor greeting him. It did not surprise him to find Haku in such a state, after all they were neighbors and he had seen the man at some relatively low points in his life, but it did pique his curiosity.

“Haku, are you alright?” It was the polite thing to ask having seen his sorrowful face, but Seung felt as though he already knew the answer.

Another sigh escaped Haku’s lips in response, his gaze shifting mournfully to the ground as he shook his head. “I am not alright.” He responded glumly, “Super Mario has defeated me again, and I fear I am in need of distraction from the crushing disappointments life continues to throw at me.”

Seung looked down at the plant in his possession and silently nodded in agreement. He knew the feeling all too well.

The guardian’s gaze shifted up, meeting that of the grim reaper before him, “So, would you and Alucio like to come to the Cherry Blossom festival with me? I believe Minako is already there.”

“Of course,” he backed up from the doorway and yelled, “Did you hear that Alucio? Let’s go.”
Seung set the plant down next to him as he carefully stepped into his slip-on shoes. They weren’t expensive enough to justify being outright worried, but he learned long ago that being cautious was rarely a bad thing.

Alucio had heard that. He’d heard Haku’s invitation quite clearly despite the angel’s naturally low, mournful tone. He had not, though, intended to act like he had. Things were hectic for him at the moment, what with the dishes and the messy countertops. Later, he even had plans to clean out the closet. Seung was free to go, of course, though it’d be nice if he’d help dry the dishes once in awhile considering he didn’t do much else.

With his back to the doorway leading out to the living room, Alucio scoffed. “Let’s go.” Since when did Seung feel he commanded such authority over him? He quickly finished drying the last bowl in his hands and crossed over to the front door where Seung was still putting on his shoes. With one hand, he waved a greeting in Haku’s direction, with the other, he slapped the back of Seung’s head. “Watch your tone,” he said flatly. Then, with a polite lilt, “Good morning, Haku. Thank you for the invitation.”

Seung stood up and rolled his eyes before silently mocking Alucio for reprimanding him.

Haku gave a lazy wave in return to the second reaper, watching his neighbours as Alucio reprimanded Seung. He was somewhat surprised that Seung had so easily accepted, and was now hopeful that Alucio might be able to make time in his busy schedule to accompany the pair to the festival.

“Good morning, Alucio. I hope you’re coming with us to the festival. I hear there will be takoyaki. My favourite.” A smile almost pulled at the corners of Haku’s mouth, before a dire thought crossed his mind and instead his lips fell into a frown, [color=#7C9AA4] “Unless they’ve run out of takoyaki already.”

“I’m sure they haven’t,” answered Alucio, slightly absently as he focused on tying the laces on his shoes. “And, yes, I suppose I can join you. My next appointment isn’t until tonight.” He didn’t mention that he’d completed all the housework there was to be done—alone— or that he’d been planning on going to the festival regardless of company.

“Shall we?” he asked simply, slipping on his long trench and grabbing his hat off the coat rack. It always paid to be prepared.




The trio made a dreary sight as they turned the corner, all dark colours and downcast eyes. At least, Haku’s eyes were downcast, his shoulders slumped despite having found two companions to accompany him to the festival. He pushed his hands into his pockets, casting a quick glance at the two grim reapers, as if expecting his two ‘friends’ to suddenly leave him to his lonely musings.

“Thank you for accompanying me to the festival.” Haku sighed softly as the gates to the temple rose above them. The guardian angel gazed across the crowds, his nose attempting to decipher in which direction the takoyaki were.

“It’s our pleasure,” Seung said. Wordlessly, Alucio bumped Seung’s shoulder with his own, pointing off to the far left where a tall banner waved in the wind, advertising the festival’s rather famous takoyaki.

“That’s what you were looking for, yes?” he questioned, inclining his head toward Haku.

Haku nodded, his gaze following Alucio’s line of sight to the stall selling takoyaki. Haku’s stomach pulled him forward with a grumble, his eyes taking in the octopus balls with joy.

“Two takoyaki, please.” Haku requested as they arrived at the stall, the guardian’s hands reaching out already for the offered food.

“420 yen, please.” The stall holder replied, holding the takoyaki at bay while the money was handed over. Yet, as Haku patted down his pockets he realised that he had forgotten his wallet. His heart jumped into his throat, disappointment - an already constant feeling for the angel - seemed to seep further into his bones. Perhaps he had enough change to buy just one takoyaki?

“I have… two 10 yen coins.” Haku offered, letting his change clutter onto the stall’s bench before turning imploring eyes on his companions. “Does anyone have any change?”

With a semi-surprised arch of his brows, Alucio turned his torso to rummage through the pocket of his coat. He hadn’t brought his wallet, not quite expecting to have had to pay for anything. But he rarely cleaned out the pockets of his coat, and there was always some odd thing he found when he needed it most. Sorrowfully, he pulled his balled up fist from his pocket and slowly opened it, revealing five receipts from varying times of the past two decades, two crumpled up 100 yen bills from circa 1940, and a dingy 50 yen coin. He offered his meager findings to Haku, mentally totaling their new count up to 270 yen.

Seung looked at Haku with exasperation not because he was asking for money but because he too had very little on his person. Regardless he reached into his jacket and pulled out a 100 yen coin. He sighed, and handed it over to Haku. “Let’s share it.”

Haku thanked them, grateful for his friends. For surely they were friends now, they had helped him purchase takoyaki. Well, one takoyaki, which he would have to share. Nevertheless a third of one takoyaki would be better than nothing. Handing over the change to the bemused seller and taking one of the takoyaki skewers, Haku gave the remaining change back to Seung and Alucio before taking a bite of one of the octopus balls. He bit back a pleased moaned, his lashes fluttering closed against his cheeks as the taste exploded on his tongue. Only when he’d swallowed did he reopen his eyes, gazing longingly at the remaining balls that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy.

“Seung?” Haku offered the skewer to the grim reaper who took it gratefully. He ate only one ball and savored the flavor before holding it out to Alucio who declined with a quick wave of his hand.

“None for me, thank you,” Alucio responded to the unspoken offer. Festival food was never quite his style.

Seung shrugged and passed it back to Haku. From the corner of his eye however he noticed a stall with ‘Kingyo-sukui’ written in large lettering. He nudged Haku’s shoulder and pointed where children were gathered around a small aquarium, “That looks interesting, would you like to play?”

Haku followed Seung’s finger, eyes alighting upon the children attempting to scoop little goldfish out of the tub of water. Next, his gaze landed on the price, guilt rushing over him that he’d have to borrow money again even as he took another bite from the takoyaki in his hand.

“Alright. I could use a goldfish.” Haku finally replied, thinking that a cute fish might be a good gift for the charge he was planning on meeting later.

With that settled Seung drifted toward the vendor and watched an oddly intense focus on the children before him. Of the three children playing only one successfully caught a fish by using slow movements and taking her time. With that in mind he gave the vendor the change from the takoyaki and received a small paper scoop.

“Watch closely, I know a technique to correctly capture it,” he said with full confidence and kneeled before the tub. He didn’t tell them all his knowledge came from watching a child.

He placed the scoop into the water and moved it slowly toward a nearby fish only to have the paper rip open. Seung sat there, shocked beyond belief.

From behind Seung came the sound of a soft snickering. Alucio’s facial expression barely betrayed the amusement he felt from seeing the failure of his roommate, the slightest uptick of his lips the only indication.

Stepping forward with an atypical amount of confidence, Alucio handed his 50 yen to the vendor, twirling the handle of the scoop between his fingers with a practiced skill. Before he placed the instrument in the water, he shot a glance in the direction of Seung, an eyebrow raised in a silent challenge, as though he were saying, “Yeah? Watch.

The scoop flashed under a multicolored fish, whisking it up out of the water before it could even notice the paper net underneath it. Up out of the water it came; the paper held for an instant, quivered, then, with a shock, burst open, letting the fish escape back into the tub with a splash. Alucio could only watch with a wide-eyed disappointment.

Haku watched both of the reapers attempt to capture fish, sighing with weary disappointment as each failed. It was his turn next, and the guardian had no hope for being able to complete a task that neither of the others had accomplished. Yet, he still stepped forward, pushing up his sleeves to keep his shirt dry and taking hold of a paper scope. He knelt down by the tub, eyes searching for a target. The little fish was on the small side, more golden than orange in colour.

“Hello, little fish.” Haku cooed as the scope slowly came up under the animal. He expected the scope to break at any moment, but somehow it didn’t. He pulled the scope out of the water, the fish swimming quickly around in the little pool of water stored in the scope. “Oh, I did it!” Haku smiled softly, looking surprised more than anything.

The stall holder congratulated him and quickly put Haku’s fish into a plastic bag before handing it to the guardian. Haku held his new pet up to his eyes, watching it for a moment before looking proudly at Seung and Alucio.

“Would you like me to teach you?” He offered, his eyes glittering with subtle humour.

“I think the game is rigged,” Seung stood up defiantly and looked at Alucio, “You agree right? My paper was too thin.”

Alucio nodded, subtly sullenly. “They do say only one out of three win.”

“I think I read that somewhere too,” he agreed, ignoring Haku out of jealousy.

“It’s a psychological method of tricking people into believing they’re capable of winning.”

As the two reapers continued to bicker, Haku’s gaze fell on a distant familiar figure. He could sense her emotions through the bond that connected guardian with charge, and with a wave of farewell to the sore losers, Haku left, his prize fish in hand as he made his way towards Kaede.

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