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Cassius Dōriēwes

"He is the sea. He loves in floods, with the intensity of ten tempests. Or not at all."

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

Description

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CASSIUS DŌRIĒWES............................Fox Spirit
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The cunning fox spirit who seduces mortal souls to sustain his eternal life. Once a Spartan warrior who fell deeply in love with Apollo's vessel, he has since redirected his efforts to building the wealth of his mob empire.

...ImageAge.......2356......................D.O.B.........July 25th, 339 B.C.
Origin.... Sparta...............Sexuality....Pansexual

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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
        6'1" | aquamarine | ash brown


        Despite having little to fear from death due to the considerable number of lives he's acquired, Cassius fears his untimely demise for the simple possibility that his soul might be reborn into an aesthetically distasteful body. Genetics had been unduly kind to him in this lifetime; it was harrowing to even entertain the notion of having to labour for his physique or moisturise to attain his perfectly supple skin.

        The monetary investment required to facilitate his extensive collection of tailor-made suits and handcrafted Italian leather shoes could fund a small country for a century. Cassius' excessive spending habits are evident in his vast collection of watches, including but not limited to a watch crafted by a widely revered one-eyed, one-armed and three-thumbed artisan from a remote mountainous range in Switzerland long ago.

        Cassius believes strictly in dressing well or not dressing at all. The only alternative to a fine three or four-piece suit for any self-respecting man is bold and brazen nudity. The Spartans and ancient Greeks advocated freedom from clothing where appropriate or desirable, such as when one wished to dance, exercise, or work. There was no higher tribute to the heavens than to become as Godlike as possible, and no self-respecting deity or holy servant shielded their bodies from sight—unless they were lying or shockingly hideous.



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        P E R S O N A
        passionate | avoidant | magnetic | abdicating

        There was once a tale of a beautiful man named Narcissus, who upon seeing his own mirage reflected in a river, fell so deeply in love with himself that he drowned. Cassius enjoys boasting that the Greek myth had been about him, which despite its infamy, was crucial enough to have its own wikipedia page. Unlike the Goblins who seek to free themselves of their immortal curse, the fox spirit wants nothing more than to live. The end has no allure when one is involved in the present and its whirlwind of technicolour hues, seeing the death of history as a clearing of fields to plant the future. The grief felt in the passing of ephemeral lives cannot hold him captive in the absence of shame, guilt or remorse.

        Cassius believes it is better to have burnt briefly with the blaze of a thousand suns, than to have spent lifetimes flickering as only a dim candle. He finds himself drawn to those imprisoned by fate—those who exist as phoenixes in a gilded cage, allowed to release only a tendril of light at a time so that their brilliance need not blind the lesser creatures around them. Their destinies were etched into stone, and Cassius had always loathed premonitions. Perhaps it reminded him none too gently of the Oracle he had once loved, who had foreseen everything but her own demise.

        In exchange for their reincarnations, the fox spirit grants his souls a single epoch that would burn brighter than all the other moments in their lives. Cassius believes it a fair exchange and feels no guilt for what was given freely, even if some lured by his gaze and velvet voice knew not what they were giving. When they offered themselves to him, they believed they might have a lifetime by his side. Alas, none but the Earth's orbit would anchor him, and like a passing dream, he would always disappear.

        It seemed after millennia to him, that each person was granted one soulmate whom—if they were lucky—would find them in every life. Cassius had found his during Sparta's reign, and she had perished when he'd unwittingly stolen her future reincarnations. She would never return, and it made the thought of a final death all the more daunting, for he could not fathom the depths of his pain if he could not find her in the afterlife. And so it is he lives forever, so that he might run from the reality of what he's done.

        Despite his fleeting presence and endless faults, few live as fully as Cassius or inspire such great devotion. In truth, he has loved on some level all whose souls he stole, but finds himself recreating the tragedy of his past. Yet in the time he devotes himself to a person, he gives them the very essence of his being. He does not only make their knees tremble, he makes them forget they have knees at all.




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MULTILINGUAL..just as one might expect of a fox spirit over two millennia old,
cassius is fluent in numerous languages, though his accent is closest to modern italian.


MEMORY..one might expect his recollection of his many stolen lifetimes to be o-
bscure at best, but they remain surprisingly acute, though he enjoys pretending otherwise.


COMBAT..a spartan general before becoming death's defector, cassius is fluent
in battle and chose to spend his considerable extra time on physical pursuits of all sorts.



NARCISSISTIC..it is no coincidence that his name should imply vanity, cas-
sius is self-involved at his best and requires no external validation to affirm his worth.


SCAPEGOAT..perhaps beneath his generous self-love rests some deep bu-
ried loathing, for he frequently displaces blame to save himself the guilt.


DRAMATIC..less a weakness than a source of great exasperation for those
around him, cassius has a great fondness for hyperboles and outrageous stories.





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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


        The sacred land of Delphi slumbered against the belly of Mount Parnassus and the pillars the Temple of Apollo stretched far beyond the heads of Rome's great kings who paid homage on their knees. Swathed in veils and intrigue was a woman called only the Oracle, and whom the Spartan General of Gens Dorian called his lover.

        The union between Cassius Aurelio Dōriēwes and the chaste Oracle of Apollo was forbidden but for many years, they preserved their secrecy. The girl was the youngest oracle in generations, and the boy a ruthless soldier torn from his mother's arms at the age of seven to survive in the Agoge where Sparta honed its blades. There they were given scant clothing and punished not for stealing, but for having been caught. Young boys were made to battle their peers, where a quick death seemed a blessing. Entire civilisations knelt before the Spartiates.

        Yet even a city-state of constant war and conquer could grow greedy for more. The Dorians of Sparta aligned themselves with other great families to forge the Amphictyonic League, an ancient religious association of Greek tribes. They sought control of the Delphi and slaughtered the Phocians whose home encompassed the holy land. The Sacred War Cassius witnessed was the third of its kind, but arguably the most relentless.

        A son of the Dorians and a General of Sparta, Cassius was made to fight against the Phocians. Though he aided them in secret, countless fell by his blade. When it seemed the war would have no end, he attempted to persuade his lover to flee with him. She refused, and he discovered she had promised herself to the Phocian General Philomelos. Wrought with betrayal, Cassius attempted to end the general's life, but the latter had procured himself wealthy Spartan allies who enabled his command of a mercenary army.

        Before joining Philomelos' side, the Oracle swore her love for Cassius would endure this life and the next. She promised the Spartan warrior his survival at whatever cost before granting him the kiss that would alter him irrevocably. Yet Cassius had been so consumed with rage, he neither heard her words nor headed her warning not to follow.

        With the Oracle by his side, Philomelos became the owner of Apollo's vessel and was able to command the surrender of the surrounding armies. It seemed for a time that peace might come, but Cassius' unexpected pursuit of the Oracle decimated Philomelos' offer of a treaty. When it seemed the Phocian would kill his Spartan rival, the Oracle brought a dagger to her chest instead, and by severing her life she severed Philomelos' power. There would be no other life in which Cassius would reunite with his lover, for with her final kiss she had given him every mortal life she had left. Not long after his discovery of the fact, he threw Philomelos off a cliff.




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                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: your fc
                  #348781 CODE: ur #348781
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                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: timezone

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So begins...

Cassius Dōriēwes'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
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Footnotes

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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: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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Footnotes

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▁ ▂ ▃xxxT H ExxxH I L L Sxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxT A I L O R E D xxxS U I T

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xxxxxxPools of aquamarine roamed the pages as the mind behind them wandered elsewhere. Cassius Dōriēwes had little interest in The Archaeology of Knowledge and only a transient interest in his newest secretary, a bespectacled young graduate from Osaka who was gentle on the eyes.
xxxxxxShe wandered the subterranean of his private study, her long fingers gliding over the spines of the books that lined its walls. She was "dusting," as impoverished mortals who could not afford servants were known to do.
xxxxxxEmiko, Emiri—or whatever it was the scrawl on her name badge read—was pretty enough. She was tall and languid and lovely in the way most flowers were, regardless of their petals' symmetry or the curve of their stem. She watched him from under a curtain of lashes, her eyes flitting back and forth in a teasing gambol of sexual tension. It was unfortunate that he felt little thrill without the chase.
xxxxxxShe jumped when Cassius slammed his book shut.
xxxxxx"Why do I have a secretary?" he asked.
xxxxxx"Ah, sir?"
xxxxxx"Honestly, why do I? It's hardly as if I run anything in my corporate empire." He gestured broadly at the world around him. "Why would I, when I've hired hands to run it for me?"
xxxxxx"Well, I'm not—" the woman stuttered. "I'm not sure, sir. I guess, maybe—"
xxxxxx"Let me tell you something— Erika," he said, squinting at her badge. He strode to the other side of his mahogany desk. "I don't talk to people hoping to engage a response. I talk at people to help me think."
xxxxxx"I'm sorry, sir-"
xxxxxx"It's alright, dear. You're dismissed." He paused and took her hand, now cold and damp with nerves. A smile unfurled from the corners of his lips, revealing two rows of alabaster teeth that would put most commercials to shame. "You're of course entitled to a bonus and a generous retirement fund."
xxxxxx"I-I've worked here for two weeks."
xxxxxx"A short time for most, and yet a very long time if you have the misfortune of living only two weeks." He laughed. "I'll have a tab opened for you under my account. Please, enjoy yourself at Apex tonight."
xxxxxxWithout waiting for a response, Cassius breezed out of the room, and wound his way to the penthouse. Music hammered in the walls, climbing into a crescendo and spilling in waves of bliss. The club was thriving in the midst of Tokyo, the strobe lights illuminating the huckleberry night in swaths of red and gold. Bodies parted like molasses, reluctant to split in the tide of lust but eager to glimpse the fox spirit that sliced through them unbeknownst to the mortal crowd. His allure was intoxicating, though that might have been the champagne pouring in spades from crystal flasks.
xxxxxxThe event tonight was in celebration of their reopening after Apex acquired not only their competitors the floor below, but the entire building in the metropolitan central of Shinjuku, Tokyo. The masquerade saw the nightclub transformed as masked figures danced and mingled in the sleek ebony and glass interior of the balcony.
xxxxxxCassius had pulled a Venetian mask over his features in the elevator, the intricate black whorls amplifying his air of mystery. He granted an assemblage of his admirers a small smile as he plucked a flute of champagne from a tray that was offered. He brought it to his lips, and tossed them a wink. They moved towards him but he slipped away into the crowd, allowing the numerous masks to obscure his retreat.
xxxxxxHe slipped the smartphone from his pocket and into his palm, his fingers dancing over the screen.


To: Kaede Shimizu

The lighting here is terrible and my disguise is hideous.
Run if you want to capture my bad side. Also I don't p-
ay you to sleep.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


xxxxxxA shadow fell over him and he glanced away from his screen. A ghost stood before him, its face obscured in darkness. His brows furrowed and lowered as his muscles tensed, prepared to defend his territory. A crack shivered across the surface of his phone as his fingers cinched around it.
xxxxxxIt was not until recently that he'd known spirits to possess any degree of opacity that they would be capable to intercepting the light or create shadows for that matter. Yet this was the second time he'd witnessed such an ominous presence. It parted its lips, as if to speak to him.
xxxxxxIt disappeared as the air brightened.
xxxxxxCassius cast his eyes upward just as the first star fell. More chased after it, beads of the universe pelting against the horizon. He heard the rustle of handbags and pockets ushering in the click of phones. The crowd captured the spectacle with their digital gaze, their gasps of awe and appreciation becoming secondary to it.
xxxxxxHe stood still amongst the people, alone in that instant with the the sky's candlelight as they illuminated the planes of his face. His full lips parted as if to taste a thin stream of moonlight, his eyes fluttering shut against the brilliance. He'd lived for two thousand years and several more centuries, but he'd never seen a meteor shower. Perhaps he'd simply never bothered to look up.
xxxxxxWhat a pity.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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                          There was, perhaps, a time when Kaede didn't spend her evenings eating takeout (or, if she was lucky that night, a home cooked meal) on the couch, camera in her hands as Basil, attention riveted on the TV screen, made the most ridiculous expressions. If there was, she didn't remember it well, and she wouldn't trade this for that for the world anyway. Since Basil signed the lease and warmed up to her voyeuristic—in a purely innocent way—tendencies, the views on her secondary photography blog had skyrocketed, commenters clamoring for the next picture of the endearingly odd looking man with sharp, elfin features. And Basil was always at his best (worst?) when watching Chopped. Kaede wouldn't call the food network her viewing of choice, but the high stakes cooking show Basil watched most was interesting enough, she supposed, so she didn't mind it terribly. And there were, of course, the other benefits.

                          A flash of light shone brightly and briefly, illuminating the expanse of their small living room for just an instant. Kaede straightened her back, pulled the camera away from her face to study the snapshot in time she'd just captured, a smile already pulling at the corners of her lips. Perfect. The mini Basil on the screen looked positively disgusting, his features distorted in a grimace of what looked like physical pain, the result of a chef pulling out the ice cream machine far too late in the game. A silent moment of appreciation was violently interrupted by the too-loud vibration of her cellphone. Kaede could not help the scowl that appeared when she saw the name of the sender, despite holding no particular ill will towards him. Cass was always deceivingly charming, but he he had his moments of shocking sadism, and the veil of allure that he wore only made him all the more terrifying. She never knew when his messages would be more ricin laced letter than carefully packaged gift.

                          "Shit," she hissed, eyes going wide. "Shit, shit, shit," she continued, scrambling to get off the couch and on the way to her room. She wasn't sure if Basil had noticed her strange departure, what with his razor sharp focus on the timer steadily counting down to last few seconds of the dessert round, but just in case he had, Kaede, intently focused on finding some semblance of a presentable dress out of her closet, yelled out an explanation. "My boss called me out really suddenly, so I'm heading down to Apex for the night," she said, as she pulled out a sleek black dress, simple and elegant, that she always kept on hand in case of situations like this. Then, true to their agreement, she said the exact same thing in English, working the words out in her delicate accent, a bizarre blend of both British and Eastern, twisting the syllables into something that often made her classmates in London ask her to say odd and inane phrases just to hear the tongue twisters said in her foreign tongue.

                          In ten minutes flat, Kaede finished what she called the club look—hastily done dark eyemakeup with a shock of red lipstick to draw away attention from any mistakes. She was not in the habit of prettying herself up often, but since that one time Cass had scoffed at her, asked to look "at the very least, presentable, if you're going to be under my employ," she'd bought and used several more shades of lip tint. She thought of Cass every time she used them, which was going to be terrible for her skin eventually, since she was frowning so frequently.

                          Halfway to the door, she remembered it was masquerade night at the club, ran back to her desk where she kept a gold leafed paper maiche mask Basil had helped her make (bless his soul, he'd somehow managed to turn soggy newspapers into a chic fashion accessory), and shoved it into her purse. In moments, she back in the living room, tugging on low heels that wouldn't be tremendously difficult to run in. "Hey, text me if you want to join, I'll tell the bouncers to let you in," she said to Basil, followed by the English translation. With that, she was out the door, rushing to the bus stop once the elevator let her off at the ground floor.

                          Luckily, Apex happened to be in relatively near proximity, only a three minute bus ride away, with a bus that came by around every five minutes. God, she thought, must have been on her side that night, because she didn't wait any longer than half a minute for the bus to come around. In that moment she decided tonight was finally going to be the night. She toyed with the lens cap on her camera as she briefly recalled the first time she'd seen Cass, infuriatingly beautiful under the colored strobe lights of the throbbing club. With the crowd pulsing around her, she'd gotten on one knee and waited. Waited until the perfect moment. Then she got the perfect shot. Except that it wasn't. What was supposed to come out as a snapshot of one of the rare times he'd look ugly, for just an instant, had turned out only as a testament to his unnatural beauty. She must have taken a hundred pictures of him that night. Not one came out the way she wanted. She'd have been slightly more mortified when he approached her to ask about the pictures if she hadn't been so miffed about her continual failure, but Cass hadn't named her a stalker and asked for her removal from the premises at all. Instead, there was a job offer. One that she'd be a fool to reject. Even without the ridiculously good pay, her work allowed for frequent proximity to the man of the hour himself, and she'd been chasing that perfect picture for months now. She persisted. He always prevailed. The closest she'd ever come was a picture of him biting into an unnecessarily large burger. His features looked distorted, sure, but they only distorted into an alternate version of perfection.

                          Switching to the English keyboard (because there really was no suitable Japanese equivalent for the types of messages she often sent to Cass) on her phone, Kaede shot off a very professional message to her employer.

                          TO: ☠ ☠ ☠
                          EAT DIRT, CASS


                          Followed by,

                          I'M ON MY WAY

                          Kaede was still fumbling in her bag for her mask after the bus dropped her off when the stars began to fall. She didn't look up until the exciting murmuring of the collective voice of the crowd around her grew too loud to ignore, and she did not regret it when she did. Awe kept her body still as streaks of light dotted the inky sky, the last chill of early spring passing by in a swift breeze, and Kaede was not sure the shiver that went down her spine was because of that or because of the image of divinity before her. She did not bother lifting the camera to her face—there was no capturing moments like this wholly as they were.

                          The thought of the quickly fleeting seconds jolted her back to reality, spurring her back into action. She waved at the bouncers as she passed through the front door of one of the hottest clubs in Tokyo like a wraith, sliding through the throngs of wild limbs with the fluidity of water, or perhaps of the champagne the hosts seemed to be freely pouring. She'd grown accustomed to the space in her weeks of working for the owner, knew how to maneuver to get to where she needed to go in the quickest way possible. It did not take long for her to arrive at where she knew Cass would be, gaze still cast skyward, mouth parted slightly in the lonely sort of absence of mind she was never able to catch but always knew existed. He did not look terrible. He looked bone achingly beautiful, and before the flash even went off, Kaede knew the portrait she'd captured—beauty set against beauty, a captivating figure painted atop the backdrop of a collapsing sky—belonged in a museum, or somewhere the whole world could stop by and weep for him.

                          She let the camera drop, hanging loose around her neck. "Hey," she said, with a casual grin, denoting nothing of her previous thoughts. "You lied to me." Indeed he had. The lighting looked great on him, club strobes and moonlight working in unison to highlight the elegant curves of his bone structure. It really pissed Kaede off.

                          Remembering, suddenly, her Chopped junkie friend she'd left behind, Kaede reached a hand towards Cass. "Lend me your phone?" she asked, as she was already slipping it from his pocket. On his notes, she wrote, "LET BASIL IN," then held the cell up to her face as she used her own to take a quick picture of her, it, and Cass. With the tap of a finger, the photo was on route to Basil, supposing he decided to come. She didn't thank Cass as she slapped the phone back into his open palm.

                          "So you look disgustingly amazing as always," Kaede huffed, leaning against the bannister. "I was in the middle of doing something, you lying trickster." This wasn't, of course, the first time he'd lied to her about his appearance. Granted, it was half her fault for falling for it so many times, but the chance was always too tempting for her to pass up. She was almost inclined to think he just wanted company, but then, he was so often surrounded by so many eager to please patrons, so she couldn't see how she'd be any more welcome than them. Cass was an odd bird, but she didn't not enjoy his company, and that counted for something.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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"What the fuck?! You're never going to get that cooked in time! Come on, dude! You're definitely getting chopped this round, and you were going to win! You forgot a basket ingredient last round and still didn't get chopped. This is what happens every time, Kaede, they-" Flash. "-forget a basket ingredient and it all goes down from there."

The usual pastime for Basil Gardner and his roommate, Kaede Shimizu, is watching Chopped while the latter takes photographs that are, quite frankly, the worst he's ever seen himself. Of course, that doesn't stop him from being constantly featured on Kaede's blog, and sending the pictures to his mom on Facebook. They spent most of today in this same position, and he's sure that Kaede has plenty of material to abate her fans who constantly ask for his painful candids. Then suddenly, his roommate shot up from her seat, blazing through the house and coming back with hastily spoken Japanese, followed by a slower version in English in her foreign accent that he learned to understand and adore for its beauty. He tried to respond in proper Japanese, but she was out the door before he could form any words; it didn't help that his eyes never left the screen in front of him, where the chef he'd just been yelling at had just finished his plate.

Turns out, the other chef won, as Basil correctly predicted. As he celebrated, his phone vibrated. It was a photo of Kaede and her extremely attractive boss who he'd seen on one or two occasions. The photo also had a sign, "let Basil in". Although a new episode of Worst Cooks in America was about to show, he usually didn't pass up on going to the club, especially with Kaede. Working at the diner and living together has really brought the two together, at least in Basil's mind. Other than fellow candle-obsessed American Paola Millán, Kaede is one of the few close friends he has in Tokyo. So, with a final reluctant glance toward the screen, he turns off the TV and sends off a reply.


T O : K A E
私は途中です


Basil tried to write "i am on my way" in Japanese but there is a very good chance that it says something else entirely. Now, for the clothes. He would usually sit on the couch in his boxers but when Kaede brings her camera out he tries to be decent. For the club, he changes into an outfit that could be mistaken for many outfits that circled the runway this season. Basil makes sure to save the photo that Kaede sent to him to show the bouncer, considering a club her boss would show his face at would be more upscale than Basil would be allowed in to. "Alright, it's now or never, gorgeous." Basil sighs to his reflection in the mirror. Going out was a rare occasion for both of the roommates; between their schedules at the diner and long hours on the couch, neither saw the need to put on uncomfortable clothes and drink too much for any more time than necessary.

It didn't take long for Basil to arrive, but the confrontation with the bouncer was quite a time taker. He believed more in the photoshop abilities of a stranger than his acquaintanceship of Cassius and Kaede. Once he showed his I.D., proving that yes, he is Basil Gardner and that is his actual name, he made inside and grabbed a drink from the bar. A small, pink-colored drink graced his fingers before his sights set on his roommate, looking absolutely dazzling in her club wear. He made sure her eyes were set on his before he winked at her, but kept far enough away until he was allowed near the club owner.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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Dress & Hair
                      Seok Areum
                      FOX SPIRIT | 1392 | #d24038


                      The evening haze colored their surroundings a gradient of orange and white from the sun as it slowly withdrew from the sky. A quiet bliss settled over the occupants of the room, and for a few moments it seemed as though time would truly stop; where stormy clouds would cease to pour, and birds would conclude their songs to silence. In those few moments one could capture all the loveliness of the world in a single snapshot.

                      It was an awful hopefulness that Areum had been certain she squashed centuries ago. It appeared however that time had not done its job properly.

                      The sound of rustling sheets pulled Areum away from the window — where she had been watching the city streets moments before — and next to the woman lying in bed. Carefully she began to stroke a mess of black hair that fell from the pillow like a waterfall. A quiet hum was all the thanks she received, and when she went to pull her hand away a much smaller one grabbed onto it in earnest. Areum frowned, and used her other hand to pry the woman off her.

                      “I enjoyed our time together,” she paused and stood up, brushing invisible dirt off her black dress.

                      Immediately the woman rolled off the bed clumsily and reached for her hand once more. However, in a practiced movement Areum avoided contact by tucking a fallen stand of hair behind her ear. Nothing was said, but even through persisting white noise both could hear each other perfectly. Kaori kept her gaze lowered, trying to fight off tears and a heartache she knew would last for months, while Areum looked upon the scene with disinterest.

                      “You can’t leave me like this,” she finally demanded, her voice softer — more timid — than what she had hoped for. Areum sighed and walked to the bed where she quickly draped the sheets over her ex-lover. “You — you promised me.”
                      “I did,” her reply was nonchalant and left the other speechless, “but only to a woman who loved me.”
                      “But I do! I — ” Kaori’s hands were white from gripping the sheets too hard, and her voice was melodic in the way only broken things ever were. If Areum had been any other person then perhaps her heart might have tugged at the sight, but more than sympathy or regret all she felt was certain type of loathing that settled in the depths of her stomach. It was time to see if she had succeeded.
                      “Prove it.”
                      Without needing further instructions Kaori quickly pulled Areum down to her level and kissed her as though she would die without it. Too bad she couldn’t see the irony in her actions.

                      With the woman’s warm hands cupping her jaw Areum remembered the night she found the girl lying on the street half dead — cold and lifeless and without a single soul to care for her. When subconsciously her hands tangled into the other’s black hair she was prompted to think of early morning breakfasts and secret smiles not meant to last. As she withdrew from the kiss however she felt satisfied knowing the woman loved her for all her imperfections, and all her misery.

                      “I love you,” Kaori was breathless and as Areum looked into her eyes all she could think of was how empty the night sky appeared to be.

                      Silence suffused the room and almost mechanically Areum backed Kaori into the bed before picking up the fallen sheet, and using it to tuck her in delicately. She gave the woman a chaste kiss on the forehead, not noticing the tears freely falling from the other’s eyes. Too self-absorbed was she in a job well done that the pale figure reaching out for her went unnoticed.

                      With one hand firmly on the handle to the exit Areum spoke genuinely, “Thank you.” She closed the door behind her with a soft click and smiled.

                      Taking out her phone she then pulled up Kaori’s contact number and without hesitating deleted her existence.

                      -

                      Procuring another flute of champagne from a passing waiter, Areum felt the high of her evening begin to wane. The masked countenance of patrons began to bore more than bemuse her, and in alcohol she could only find so much satisfaction.

                      Already she was on her fourth glass, and yet she heard no pounding in her ears, felt no feeling of elation, nor saw the blurry colors of a red and gold night. Downing the drink in a single breath she then placed it on a nearby stand for someone else to clean up. It was all the same, and it tired her.

                      So perhaps it was a combination of both fatigue and boredom that she was made to believe with Kaori gone she needed another disaster to fill her void. There was no rhyme or reason to her want, her need; and in a span of a few moments Areum knew she needed another tragedy to smile prettily at, to claim their heart as hers. The feeling scratched at her soul with claws that tore through arteries, and didn’t wait for her to rest.

                      Such is the reason why when a man in a black mask and a tuxedo tailored to perfection, caught her attention she greeted him warmly. Her smile softened into something manageable, but her gaze held a glint that promised a future of either ruination or salvation.

                      She drew him close, her hand wrapped around his loosely made tie, and just as she was about to ask for his name, their evening was interrupted by the sudden barrage of stars. He drew away like a bird caught in a dream and quickly left the scene — the only note of his existence being the red silk tie she managed to slip off. How careless was she to let him run off without warning.

                      As another attendant passed by Areum immediately grabbed another flute, and when she drained its contents gone, shattered the glass with her right hand. The shards fell onto her black dress, and reflected light as to reminded her of shooting stars. Stars she refused to acknowledge. Stars that stole away her prey.

                      Some lager pieces had pierced her hand, but she took care of it by wiping on it on her dress. As a consequence the lacy fabric snagged onto it and caused her hand to bleed a more beautiful red. Without thinking she utilized the tie as a makeshift bandage, and grimaced at her handiwork. It could use some improving, but it would do.

                      All thoughts of a night well spent went up in flames, and as she made a move to pull her phone out — no doubt to yell at her dear friend Cassius for his absence— only then did she spot her gracious host brooding by the balcony.

                      Silently she walked through a throng of people all staring in awe at the meteor shower, and slipped next to Cassius’ side. He was as handsome as Areum remembered, but in the pale moonlight she couldn’t help but think he looked just as dead as he was supposed to be. Curved cheekbones emphasized the planes of his face, making him look all the more gaunt, and the deep set eyes that would have once enraptured her heart now looked haunted. Perhaps she was just projecting though.

                      In Areum’s haste though she hadn’t noticed the photographer, Kaede if she remembered right, leaning against the banister and looking for all the world as beautiful as twilight. Her allure did not lie in conventional standards — no, the red lipstick was much too hurried and the black dress, while beautiful, seemed awkward on her. However, there was something wild about her. Something free and sharp that made Areum want to try and diminish her light. Of course, she wouldn’t — after all Kaede was Cassius’ employee and they had an unsaid rule about that kind of thing, but still Areum could dream.

                      “A beautiful night, made all the more lovely with the sight of you,” she said looking directly at Kaede. “My business proposition still stands should you tire of Cassius.”

                      Whatever look he may have given her though was promptly ignored as Areum caught sight of a blonde haired boy winking at their photographer. With a glare she whispered to the two of them, “The man in the yellow vest is trying to catch your attention, should we intervene?” It was not as if they had any claim over the woman, but with a restlessness still thrumming in her veins she felt the need to antagonize whomever was in her way.

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
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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: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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                          Cass was a devil in disguise. Or perhaps he’d never bothered to disguise himself at all. The tailored suit was very nice and all, but it’d always reeked of danger. Case in point, he stepped forward, pushing into her personal space as easily and gracefully as he might step over a puddle on the sidewalk. As always, the practiced nature of his predatory movements unsettled her, knocked her off her sturdy foundation. Damn. He hadn’t even given her the chance to answer his exceedingly arrogant claim before stunning her silent. His fingers reached out, languid in their elegant motion, and the skin at her collarbone where his knuckles brushed their feather touch burned with the kind of iciness that felt more like fire. For a moment, her breath hitched, ribcage refusing to expand, lungs frozen in time. She stared, wide-eyed, into his aqueous gaze, held by some mysterious force. Then, he smiled, the white of his teeth almost blinding, and her brain function returned to her. She lifted her chin in defiance, fighting against his practically supernatural allure. Her throat felt dry, fingertips numbed, and she mentally cursed Cass all the way to Hell. He deserved it.

                          ”Oh, you’d do well, I’m sure,” she answered, once her vocal chords began to work again, with a suggestive quirk of her lips, the lift of one eyebrow. ”You’d definitely make friends fast.”

                          A voice like a song saved her, potentially, from any more harassment from her infuriating employer, who’d clearly never learned the definition of personal boundaries. Kaede turned her head and caught sight of what may have been the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen in her short life. Areum’s flattery didn’t even seem to register as Kaede admired the visage of the graceful woman, who was arguably more beautiful when she walked than when ballet dancers pirouetted their way through a number. If her beauty enhanced the night, then Areum’s beauty could very well have superseded it. Kaede cast a glance towards the sky, where the stars continued to be thrown from their place in the heavens. It was a close race.

                          Kaede couldn't help but laugh at Areum's proposition, recalling the first time they'd met. Impressed, presumably, by her skill with a camera—or maybe just on a mission to annoy Cass— Areum had offered Kaede a position with her, with just a small salary bump to boot. She'd all but clawed her way towards Areum while Cass held her back by the collar. She'd remained under his employ. Tragically.

                          "Who isn't tired of Cassius?" she said, still laughing. "I'd switch over in an instant if working with someone as stunning as you didn't seem like such a bad idea." A dangerous idea. In some ways, Kaede thought Areum was more dangerous even than Cass—talking to her felt like waltzing with Death. Caught between a waiting bullet and a waiting blade, Kaede was really beginning to miss Basil's much more human, grounded presence.

                          And then there he was, as if by magic. God, she loved him. Areum called her attention to him first, then Cass followed with his typical Casanova commentary. She shot a glare at him before Basil approached, silently warning him to stay very far away from her friend. He was too good to fall into Cass' wicked claws, as she'd witnessed so many innocents do. He cast a wide net after all, juggled romance and sex like he'd been a clown in his past life.

                          "Hi!" she called to him once he came near, a bright grin planted on her face. She pulled him in for a hug, careful to avoid having his drink splash on her dress. Quickly, in her drawled English, she spoke lowly in his ear, "Be careful of these wolves." She was not sure exactly what carnivorous beasts the two people behind her reminded her of. Was it wolves? Panthers? Foxes? Did it matter?

                          She let Cass and Areum make their introductions, nabbing a flute of champagne from a passing waiter while they handled the pleasantries. She'd hardly had the chance to take more than a sip when a commotion somewhere on the center of the floor pulled Cass away. Areum followed shortly after, and Kaede set the champagne down, balancing it precariously on the thin rail of the bannister, as she attempted to piece together the chain of events. It didn't take long.

                          Her upper lip curled unconsciously into a snarl as the knowledge of what had just transpired hit her; anger simmered somewhere in her belly, sending the flush of rage all the way to her fingertips, no doubt reddening her cheeks. She didn't just want that scum kicked out; she wanted him to burn. Even Cass had his limits, she supposed.

                          A glance in the direction of Areum told her she was occupied, clearly engaged in conversation with a frustrated looking woman. Grabbing Basil by the wrist, she tugged him—perhaps with a little more force than was strictly necessary—towards the center of the floor, where Cass still stood triumphantly, calling a victory cry of free drinks. Halfway there, Areum caught her eye again. No longer speaking to the woman from before, she appeared to be in some form of confrontation with a gaggle of very angry looking men. And...oh. Yes, they looked very familiar indeed. With precise motions that spoke of years of experience, Kaede lifted the camera, pressed her eye against the viewfinder. She zoomed in as far as she could without sacrificing too much quality and took several shots, timing them with the flashing of the brightest of the lights. There. She felt almost giddy as she checked the images. Horrific. Kaede felt like a god, as though she'd peeled away the facade their flesh allowed them, exposed the vile creatures for what they were—little more than monsters. Those pictures would find themselves plastered all over the internet come the morning, along with a very strongly worded blog post from her, though she knew the pictures would certainly have the most lasting impact. People and media never let those in the public eye live down their most humiliating moments, and all she was capable of doing was playing into that.

                          Weaving their way once more through the throng of people, Kaede dragged Basil along until they were at Cass' side. She nudged his arm with her shoulder to grab his attention, a proud smile marking a stark departure from her earlier sour expression. Her small vengeance had made her feel a little less useless, less hopeless.

                          "My hero," she said, with only a moderately mocking lilt. "A regular Robin Hood. Wait." She pursed her lips, acting a dramatic pause for thought. "No, that's not right. You'd have to be poor for that. And also a good person. Momotarō?" She took another brief pause, shook her head sadly. With a glance in Basil's direction and a shrug, she added, "I'm open to suggestions."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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The heartbeat of the club thumped against his chest and as always, he forgot why he didn't spend every waking moment partying. The low thrum of the bass from electric beats oozing sex into the vibrating crowd. Club goers clawing and thrashing again each other, sweating into the night just to make sure they had good stories in the moment. The atmosphere of it equally set him on edge and set him free, it was exhilarating! Even more so as he heard Kaede call him over and noticed her wide grin above the rest of the passers-by.

"Basil," A velveteen Italian voice broke through the utter chaos of the club and streamlined Basil's attention to Kaede's boss, a man exclusively known to Basil as Cassius. As Basil moved forward -a feat that seemed to occur because of Cassius's beckoning hand rather than his own mobility- he was met by his beloved roomate Kaede, who carefully maneuvered him into a hug, weary of his drink and her camera. He returned her greeting with a simple "hey Kae!" before she pulled him close and whispered "be careful of these wolves," in her thick, twisted accent. He looked back over. at Cassius; beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but Basil would be hard pressed to find anyone that didn't recognize the beauty that radiated from this man. Basil often witnessed the utter frustration his roommate felt when a perfectly timed candid developed into anything but the horrid features that often disguised Basil's face when he was to grace that small screen. Even the camera saw it as an injustice to twist Cassius' beauty into the perfect photo for Kaede's blog. His eyes were depths Basil has never seen before, a smile so white and pearly- "the attire suits you-or perhaps it's my club." Cassius smiled, and Basil couldn't imagine being anymore aware of his appearance at that moment, "you should come more often."

Basil would definitely make a point to "support his roommate's profession" much more often, if it meant being in the company of Cassius. Basil let a smirk grace his features, taking a sip of his drink to calm the shaking that would surely encapsulate his voice. "If you insist, I'll certainly make more appearances." Basil's deep voice mingled with the dip of the music's beat and if he hadn't pulled closer to the small group, he doubts they would have heard him. Cassius' gaze turned to the stunning woman beside him, and once again Basil's breath hitched. How did Kaede get so lucky as to be surrounded by such beautiful people?

The woman is stunning, a raven-haired figure with eyes so alluring he didn't know how to look away. "I believe you've yet to meet. This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction." And right he was. He suddenly felt so... small? Like the mouse unaware that he's scampered into the mouth of a snake. This was a feeling he wasn't entirely uncomfortable with yet strangely wanted at the same time.

The woman took notice of him at this moment, and he felt like he should shield himself but did know how. "It's a pleasure to meet you-" She sends her glance to Cass for approval, instead of confirming with Basil, "-Basil. A friend of Kaede is a friend of mine, and so I hope we'll see more of each other in the future."

Suddenly, the woman stepped into his personal space, examining every feature on his face. It seemed an unbearably long time to have someone stare at his face, but she pulled back, her concentration not swaying from Basil even as she spoke. "Should you ever wish to model for my magazine, feel free to contact me. I'm sure we can have something arranged." Before he could speak, and probably embarrass himself with the utter excitement and praise that would spill from his lips haphazardly, a commotion exploded in the middle of the club and Cass and Areum were gone within seconds. Kaede grabbed him by the wrist and they too gravitated to the center of the club, though Basil was not moving of his own accord.

He stood right by Kaede but he mind was far away. Modelling? It's something he's wanted to do for most of his life, and Areum entertained the thought so casually, without him even mentioning it; usually he would send headshot after headshot without any reply. He would definitely need to come around more, especially if Cass could introduce him to people who so casuall offer him modelling deals.

"-I'm open to suggestions."

Basil zoning out moment, dreaming of all the pairs of gucci sunglasses he could buy, turns to Kaede. "Uh... what are we talking about?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxF A D Exxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# B 7 9 B A E

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xxxxxxNone would describe the fox spirit as selfless, not even himself, but there were times when he enacted gestures of altruism that made him appear somewhat decent, if not good. Such was the illusion of Cassius Dōriēwes. He gave the prisoners of his allure some hope of his redemption, the hope that they might be capable of changing his fundamental nature so long as they tried.
xxxxxx"My hero," sang a lovely voice. "A regular Robin Hood. Wait. No, that's not right. You'd have to be poor for that. And also a good person. Momotarō? I'm open to suggestions."
xxxxxx"I've surpassed the constraints of human imagination," responded Cassius. His lips quirked into a small smile, eyes shining with some untold secret. "Though if you must choose a name, I suppose kitsune will do."
xxxxxx"Uh... What are we talking about?" asked the silver-haired man. Cassius lifted his gaze languidly over his form.
xxxxxx"You," he said, already anticipating the roll of Kaede's eyes into the back of her head.
xxxxxxCassius lifted a brow at the girl Areum had ushered into their midst. She was certainly unusual, a form of coarse edges like a diamond only recently pried free from the mines. She was utterly different from her companion, who wore smoke and shadows like a second skin. Areum was honey hovering in space, unfettered by gravitational constraints and the fleetingness of humanity.
xxxxxx"Cassius," he said by way of introduction. He leaned forward without warning, brushing a kiss across the girl's cheek. The taste of champagne lingered on his tongue, mingling with the scent of pine that lingered on his skin whatever the season, its scent barely eclipsed by the luxurious Italian cologne he wore. "A friend of Areum's is a friend of mine, though I do pray you not harm her fragile heart, or I'm afraid I'll have to kill you." He winked.
xxxxxx"Ah, the show is beginning," Cassius mused, his attention vanishing from the threat of death as quickly as the tides pulled shells into the sea. He drifted towards the edge of the balcony, as always assuming others would simply follow. He leaned his arms against the cold railing. His calloused hand—the only rugged facet of an otherwise unmarred body—drifted to his mask, slipping the string that attached it to his face from its knot. The veil fell into his palm, revealing the planes of his face.
xxxxxxThe first firework erupted in the distance, its cacophonous roar punctuated by the ooh's and ahh's of its attentive audience. Yet it was not the kaleidoscopic lights that seized the immortal's attention.
xxxxxxIt was the woman.
xxxxxxThe first burst of light illuminated her hair, cascading in perfect ringlets down her spine. The second revealed her silhouette. The third, her face.
xxxxxxShe was beautiful. After all these years, she was beautiful.
xxxxxxLuciana de Silva was only four levels, a fifty feet jump, and two dozen footsteps away. She was in his hands, eight-hundred and seventy-three years ago, her lips lifting into a smile, her fingers tangling in his hair. He felt his heart shivering in his chest, struggling to escape the arteries that held it in place. He was ready to leap off the balcony, not knowing if he might fall or awaken from this dream or fly.

xxxxxxUncalled for, her gaze was drawn to a figure leaning against the barrier above, lithe fingers pulling off the material shielding his face. Cassius.
xxxxxxHe stood illuminated in the explosions of light, a bright sun amongst the dim flickers of life. He was still beautiful, still heart-wrenchingly striking, radiating that self-assured aura that had initially pulled her in all those years ago.
xxxxxxFor the briefest moment their eyes met, the distance seeming to vanish, and the centuries since their last touch falling away. Memories of blissful happiness, sun-soaked mornings in bed, and stolen kisses in quiet alcoves washed over her. Then, the inevitable crush of his betrayal.
xxxxxxThough Lucia’s face revealed nothing, her heart acted otherwise. This was not the first time she had seen him since her mortal life, a chance moment a century ago revealed the fox to her, yet allowed Lucia to slip away before he could do likewise. She had not spoken with him then, and she didn’t plan on doing so now.
xxxxxxShe turned and left, making her way easily through the enraptured crowd as they gazed up at the fireworks.

xxxxxxCassius did not think. He ran—past the people who stared and stumbled in shock, down the stairs that blurred into an obstacle course desperate to halt his journey, shoving aside the bouncers who stood at the ground entrance to the Apex.
xxxxxx”Lucia!” he called out.

xxxxxxShe did not turn nor stop her retreat, although the sound of her name by his lips brought make more memories of times long passed. Lucia had thought she had buried such thoughts deep within her mind, but they came flooding back now. Her fists clenched and the goblin forced her feet to go faster, turning down a street at random.

xxxxxxCassius hastened his run as Lucia quickened her walk, the throng of people bustling through Tokyo moving obstacles intent on disrupting his journey. He felt as if he were wading through mud-slick streets. He nudged them aside as gently as he could, but he had the unearthly strength of a fox spirit, and the effort it required to suppress his power only slowed him more.
xxxxxxHer waterfall of dark hair was receding, and soon she would be only a shadow. He knew in his mind she had to be a figment of his imagination, or worse, a ghost trapped on the mortal plane, unable to find peace after all these years.
xxxxxxCassius felt a pang of guilt, the bitterness of it so foreign on his tongue he told himself it came from the rumble of cars and their emissions. Or an unpalatable restaurant nearby, but certainly not him.

xxxxxxLucia kept moving, glancing only once over her shoulder to see if she was still being pursued. A glimpse of glittering blue eyes informed the goblin he was still behind her, pushing through crowds of locals and foreigners admiring the painted sky.
xxxxxxAnother street appeared to her left, and Lucia turned without a second thought. It was only slightly less crowded than the previous one, with one side lined by small restaurants that poured out onto the footpaths. A door halfway down swung open, a stream of light falling onto grey concrete as a patron stepped out into the night. Lucia made towards it, her eyes resolutely held forward.

xxxxxxFor a moment, Cassius thought she’d disappeared, as ghosts were known to do. But he found her as she turned the corner, his leather shoes slamming onto the pavement as he chased after her. She stilled, only a dozen metres away now.

xxxxxxA car rattled past, and Lucia paused on the lip of the footpath as she waited for the scooter buzzing after it to move away. Then, she stepped across the road, her heels carrying her across the two laned street in a few steps. The goblin’s hand came up, reaching for the doorknob, her mind already searching for the pull of her Tokyo penthouse. She would step through the restaurant’s door and into the safety of her home.
xxxxxxYet, before her fingers could open the door she risked a glance back. Cass stood on the other side of the street, closer than she’d seen him since her mortal years. He looked warm and familiar, despite the years passed, and Lucia hurt all the more for looking at him.

xxxxxxCassius closed the distance between them, ignoring the angry shouts of cars as his feet devoured the road that divided him from the echo of his past. He reached forward, and startled when he caught her hand.
xxxxxxShe was solid. Smooth. Firm and familiar. He remembered every knuckle of her long, slim fingers, the slight arch of her wrist. She was not a ghost. Or perhaps he was dead.
xxxxxx”Lucia,” he breathed, the syllables unravelling from his tongue like a prayer.

xxxxxxOh, how easily she fell back into her old ways. Cassius’ skin slid against hers, his fingers enveloping Lucia’s hand, and Lucia flashed back to the first time they met when his soft lips had brushed against the top of her hand, his eyes promising delicious mischief and untold secrets as they’d met hers. She should have run then.
xxxxxxWords would not come, only the sound of her heart thudding restlessly in her chest. Even Lucia’s breath had softened, as if stolen by the man who had taken her lives all those years ago. She felt trapped in his gaze, held in place by the sound of her name on his lips.
xxxxxxFinally, on an exhaled gasp, she spoke his name, “Cassius.”

xxxxxxShock held him still, even as the first wicks of blue flame ignited from her skin and painted his flesh red with heat. Cassius barely felt the pain of her touch as his lips parted without knowing what to say.

xxxxxxA voice filled Lucia’s head, speaking from the recesses of her mind like a long-lost friend. The words spoke of loneliness; a desire for companionship. A frown creased Luciana’s brow, her light eyes dropping reluctantly from Cassius’ handsome face to the fire which licked at her skin. She felt a pull towards the voice; irresistible, uncompromising, calling her forth. The fire enveloped her form and Lucia disappeared from the spot as if she were a ghost departing for another plane.

xxxxxxCassius stumbled forward as she vanished from his grasp. He stared, startled, at the welt of angry red skin on his hands—the only sign she’d been there at all.

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: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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▁ ▂ ▃xxxP I E R R Exxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxL A Y E R E DxxxJ A C K E T

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xxxxxx"Oh gods, I think he's dead."
xxxxxxThe syllables floated into Cassius' consciousness and reverberated in the 84 by 23 inch ebony and mother of pearl box he laid in. The interior smelled of money, though perhaps that was the gold leaf that encased its exterior trickling in. He opened his eyes.
xxxxxx"Izanami!"
xxxxxx"I'm not the goddess of life and death, unfortunately," Cassius murmured in response. He gazed at the two men who watched him, one with abject horror and the other with the exasperation Hideo Irashi was famed for after fourty-six years in Cassius' employ. "Though I once calmed a rogue stallion on behalf of Jesus' apostle. What was his name? John? Michael?"
xxxxxx"M-Mr Doriewes," his intruder stuttered. "I mean no offence to your foreign customs, but why are you lying in a coffin?"
xxxxxx"Casket, actually. Coffins went out of fashion centuries ago." Cassius raised his body into a sitting position. He gave the other man a small smile. "As to why I'm in one, well, I thought its soundproofing might provide some time to reflect. Clearly not. I suppose I'll have to commission another."
xxxxxxIn truth, he spent some nights sleeping in a casket in preparation for the death of this body. Whilst he never intended for such a day to come, he liked to be prepared. Even immortals were vulnerable to decapitation, drowning, atomic explosions, et cetera et cetera.
xxxxxx"What— Why—"
xxxxxx"Mr Doriewes," Hideo interjected. "Priest Tadashi here was hoping to thank you personally for your donation to Kan'ei-ji Temple."
xxxxxxThe Shinto monk fiddled with his robes. "Yes. We are grateful for your generosity and wish to invite you to our festival today as an honoured guest." He paused, as if doubtful of the words he spoke. "We would love for you to attend. Truly."
xxxxxx"I will attend."
xxxxxx"You will?" Tadashi's eyes widened.
xxxxxx"Certainly."
xxxxxxCassius rose from his casket and offered the man a respectful bow before Tadashi left, leaving behind a narrow-eyed Hideo who looked just about ready to throw his employer back in the casket and chain it shut.
xxxxxx"You greeted the priest in a coffin," he accused.
xxxxxx"Casket," Cassius corrected. [color=#5e7d7e]"And frankly, you should have told me he was coming."
xxxxxx"I did."
xxxxxx"Well, I pay others to remember such things so I don't have to."
xxxxxx"You fired your secretary."
xxxxxx"Goodness, you should know to never let me do that." He gestured at the door. "If there's nothing else, I'd like to go back to reflecting on existence."
xxxxxx"It's morning."
xxxxxx"Exactly."
xxxxxxHideo departed with a sigh and Cassius folded himself into the coffin, imagining for a moment what it must be like to perish after a single, ephemeral lifetime with no hope of a second. Cassius closed his eyes, and dreamed of golden queens, sweat soaked skin, and sea green eyes.

xxxxxxThe air was perfumed with the scent of cherry blossoms. Cassius parted through the tide of people.
xxxxxxHideo had tried his best to accompany him on this excursion, siting a burning need to consume monstrous quantities of okiyaki, but Cassius had heard such excuses before. No one would babysit him. He was a god-like immortal—better even, for surely he was nowhere near as dull or sadistic as them.
xxxxxxHe searched the crowd for Areum, knowing she'd be here. It wasn't hard, he saw her familiar sweep of dark hair, glossy and smooth in a way no ordinary human's was without an extensive haircare regime. She stood amongst a cluster of people comprised of a towering man who was strikingly handsome—of course Areum would find him first; a curly-haired blonde with the face of Cherubs and angels; a caramel skinned—
xxxxxxCassius marched forward without thinking, ready to fold Luciana in his arms before she could vanish into flames again. His palm was wrapped in gauze where she'd scorched him. She had to be a goblin. The thought, the implications, had haunted him till dawn. He neared the group.
xxxxxx"Yes!" a slight Japanese woman said in accented English. "Of course I'll take your picture. The both of you?" she asked, eyes darting between the blonde boy and the tall man. "Unless—" She turned to Areum. "You would prefer to take it? Anything is fine, of course. I mean, we could both take your picture and you could burn them all because the angle makes you look like a whale but that would be mean to whales. Haha!" She slapped a hand over her mouth. "I mean, not that you're—"
xxxxxxCassius stared at the kimono-clad girl, lips parting as recognition set over him. She was as frazzled and prone to spilling her thoughts as she had been when he'd spoken to her while she swept the steps of her okiya and wept oceans from her eyes. He had cared for her like a little sister. Though he'd known she'd become an angel after her death, it had been some time since he returned to Tokyo. The only notable difference he could see in her was her height. Ayame appeared to have grown shorter, if such a thing were possible.
xxxxxx"Oh god," she said suddenly, and Cassius noticed then that she was watching him watch her. "I'm uncomfortable being surrounded by so many attractive people."
xxxxxx"Surely that isn't possible," he purred, voice low as he closed the distance between him and the group. "You have seen your own reflection, haven't you?"
xxxxxxScarlet stained her cheeks and neck. Her lips parted and shut, eyes round as she searched for a face in the crowd. Cassius flashed a dimpled grin.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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The blossom fell slowly but surely, catching the breeze and surfing on the spring scent. Dip, glide, dip, dip, glide. It floated and fluttered soundlessly. Separated from its life source, and yet it had never looked so living, so sentient, as when it fell. Down, down. But it didn't land on the footpath, nor was it caught by one of the grasping children, eager for the luck a falling flower brings.
Instead, it landed softly amid raven locks. It nestled in the dark, and a pale hand reached up to pluck it from its perch. She examined the blossom pensively as she walked.
A moment of thoughtful gazing, and then she was torn as to what to do with it. Somehow she did not want to drop it, out of fear of it being crushed under foot. But for the same reason, she did not want to put it away into the crease between her yukata and obi, where it would surely be turned crushed and ragged in just moments, regardless of the silk's apparent softness.
She stopped where she walked, taking out her wallet from her yukata purse and slipping the flower into the clear pocket, pressing the plastic down and flattening the flower. Still pretty, she decided it would last longer this way. And it did. The flower smiled cheerfully- a harsh contrast to the unsmiling face that glowered at her from her drivers' license.

Placing the wallet back into the purse, she breathed a soft sigh and continued on her stroll, feeling oddly at peace among the blossoms, which sang in pastel, demanding ode to their vernal glory.

"Lovely, aren't they?"

Despite seldom being one for social interaction with strangers (or anyone, really) Shiori regardless knew common courtesy. With a soft smile, she drank in the sweet scent of the air, responding politely and warmly as she turned to the speaker.

"Yeah, they really-... fuck."

The woman grinned triumphantly at her, eyes wide as her mouth contorted into an 'O' and she pointed aggressively at the off-duty cop. "A-ha! I knew it! I knew you could see me!"

Shiori sighed again, although this time the sigh carried rather different connotations. Pointedly not looking at the ghost, she started into a brisk walk. The ghost followed her.

"Hey- hey, wait up!" Nearly jogging to keep up with the long-legged officer, the ghost's scuffed up skate shoes did not seem to quite touch the pavement, and despite the loose lace, there was no chance of her falling. "Oy- I said wait! ... Honestly, this is so crazy. You're alive, aren't you?" "Technically." "And yet you can see and hear me?" "Obviously." "Uwa- Are you like, a shaman or something?" "No." "Then is your mum a shaman? Like, does is run in the family or-"

Turning sharply towards the ghost, Shiori's expression radiated impatience and exasperation.

"Look, I appreciate how exciting this must be for you, but could you go away now, please?"

The ghost looked surprised, then a little hurt. Finally, in typical teenage fashion, she jutted her lip out defiantly, "Actually, I think I'm going to appreciate this, if you don't mind. It's exciting, and I think I deserve a bit of fun-ness." An expression of solemnity shrouded her pretty features, "You see, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I'm dead."

Shiori responded with another bout of exasperation, Ah, the "I'm dead" card. Ghosts are nothing if not fucking opportunists.

She eyeballed the ghost for a long pause, and the girl smiled winningly back at her. Another sigh. "Fuck it. It's not like I could stop you even if I tried."

"Awesome! I'm Takahashi Hana, by the way..."

Looking back to the path, Shiori noticed an elderly man staring at her, his eyes creased in confusion and suspicion behind gold-rimmed spectacles. Shiori bowed awkwardly, forcing a smile. It wasn't the first time she had been stared at for her odd behaviour, and she was well aware it would not be the last. Not with pests like Takahashi Hana out to there to turn her into one of Tokyo's many resident crackpots.




"...I don't remember it hurting though. Is that weird? Because it must have hurt, surely? I mean, there was blood everywhere, so it must have hurt..."

Shiori responded occasionally to the girl walking beside her, and otherwise let her ramble. So far, Hana had covered conversation topics such as 'food, and how much she missed it' and 'why the worst part about being a ghost was never been able to change clothes and so of course she had to die in her school uniform because her luck is just the worst'. Now, she was dipping into her back story: a familiar tale of a drunk driver coupled with wet roads.

"The doctor said I could have survived, if the asshole had just phoned a freaking ambulance instead of leaving me there, but he didn't. Obviously. God, if I see that jerk in the afterlife I'm going to kill him. He's going to be the ghost of a ghost."

"I don't think that's possible, but go for it."

This time it was the ghost that heaved the sigh. "I know- it's just so unfair though. And you know what else? Just a week before I was, like, hanging out with..." And she was off again.

Glancing to look at the spirit beside her, Shiori felt a tiny, amused smile tug her lips. The girl, with her red-ribboned ponytail and ruffled school uniform, looked more at place among the cheery blossoms than Shiori did. For a girl no longer with the living, Hana radiated youthfulness and optimism. She's right. It is unfair.

Shiori's smile softened into something a little sadder, and she reached a hand up to rush her fingers through her dark locks.

Then she froze.

She froze as she caught sight of him, flickering in and out of view among the people walking through her line of sight. Tall. Dark. Handsome. But most of all, familiar. So, so familiar. Like a dream awoken from, wherein she remembered its presence, but none of its contents.

She walked numbly closer, searching her mind as she did so. But nothing.

Flash

Torrential rain and radio music.

Flash

Screaming horns and screaming people.

Flash

Cold water, so so cold. Blood on the windscreen.

Flash

Safe arms, hard chest. An emergency blanket, a man in black.

"Hey- hey, are you okay?!"

Shiori didn't remember stumbling, and yet when she blinked, she was supporting herself against the trunk of a tree. She blinked a few more times. She shook her head to away the flashing, and kept staring at the stranger from across the courtyard. "Yeah, I'm fine." Her voice was distracted, distant, her mind focused on him. She didn't even notice the ghost girl beside her suddenly jump, shuddering out a frightened "Oh, geez, those guys are g- I'll catch you later, 'kay?" And run off as though her 'non-life' depended on it. Shiori didn't even say goodbye, for her mind was trapped, her sight caught in an agonisingly frustrating tunnel vision.

You... you were there. Surely that's not possible... so why am I certain that you were there?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
"Life isn’t meant to always be painless, sometimes the greatest triumphs come from the distressing and oppressive situations."




Something was exploding, alarms were blaring, lights from several dozen spotlights were searching for something. Survivors? Who could possibly survive from such a situation? Was he in a warzone? Did his helicopter crash? Eyes opened to reveal a blurry realization that hit him so slowly elderly people passed his brain by on the street. Ryan gripped his head, feeling the slight amount of sweat on his brow as the pounding at the front of his skull only seemed to intensify. His hand reached up to the shelf directly above him, where an alarm clock blared with all the intensity of several thousand screaming babies. Ryan pushed his eyes shut, opening them at this point nearly as painful as being shot as he felt several objects pushed off the headrest before finally finding the alarm and slamming his palm down on the large ‘snooze’ button on the top. Ryan sat up slowly, the entire ordeal causing an involuntary gag reflex out of him as he pressed both of his palms into his eyes, the coolness of his skin giving him a momentary relief from the oppressive nature that was one of the worst hangovers he had experienced since his induction into the corps.

With a sigh, Ryan opened his eyes slowly to limit the pain of having them try to focus on any one thing, and revealed to himself his rather nice but small hotel room. The walls painted a deep maroon color, calming if somewhat an odd choice to him. Aside from that, his room was fairly bare. A single dresser and closet for his clothes, a separate bathroom from the rest of the unit and a mirror that acted as the door to the closet. How did he end up here? He didn’t remember walking home...in fact he didn’t remember too much of anything last night. He looked down to see that he was still wearing his clothes from the day previous, save for his jacket, shoes and bandana. A quick look over at the nightstand sitting beside him revealed a singular note on it written in English. Ryan grabbed it, feeling like something a dog just threw up on the carpet, and winced as he forced himself to focus on the letters on the page. In more than a few words, Nick had written the note and explained that he had returned Ryan to the hotel. Ryan gave a sigh, crumpling the note and throwing it back onto the nightstand. Nick, the saviour of pathetic drunks everywhere. Ryan sat on his bed for a good few minutes, long enough for his alarm to trigger once more earning more than a few choice words from the man as he desperately found the way to turn the damn thing off.

What was he supposed to do today? It was too early to go visit the hospital, not that he really wanted to endure that particular meeting in his current condition, but he couldn’t force himself to back to sleep or do nothing. Wasn’t there something said about a festival somewhere? Something about blossoms? Flowers? Something interesting anyways, possibly a good way to pass the time if nothing else. Plus there would be people there, and that was always a bonus. Even now, the inkling that Ryan had to be around another person was starting to creep up on him the more he thought about it. He gave himself a slap to get the feeling out, and was rewarded by feeling such a sharp pain shoot through his forehead that it nearly made him cry out. First thing was first though: Shower, throwup, eggs, throwup, run, throwup then maybe the festival...if he was still standing by that point.


Ueno Park

Home to the Cherry Blossom festival, according to the notes written on the napkin in Ryan’s hand. He looked around at everything, taking in the subtle beauty of the place with the eyes of a foreigner used to screaming crowds of loud drunks, spoiled children and exhausted parents. Admittedly, Ryan would never claim to be a cultured person, but this was something he could definitely get used to. There were plenty of people around to make him feel comfortable while the peaceful atmosphere was a complete change of pace from his usual way of life. He slipped the note back into his pockets, just so he would remember how to get back to the hotel from here. He could just use the GPS on his phone, but much of his training with the airforce actually had him rely on his own wits to figure out where things were in case his gear was somehow destroyed. Machines break, eyes don’t. Whoever said that never had a knife poke through their iris. Well I got dark on myself. Ryan thought as he continued looking around at everything. It was then he noticed how out of place he looked when compared to the average festival goers.

It seemed that a change of clothes was required for attendance, as everyone appeared to be wearing extravagant robes. Kimonos if he remembered correctly, in accordance with their ancient culture...right? Ryan pulled out his phone, muttering to himself that he really should have a better internet plan in this case as he tried to pull up a list of taboo things to do at the Cherry Blossom festival. Hopefully one of them wasn’t to show up hungover wearing jeans, a t-shirt and leather jacket complete with ballcap. He stood there for quite some time, his phone’s internet not taking the hint to just hurry up for once without the aid of free wifi. He finally gave up after a few minutes of watching the screen stuck halfway through loading. He pocketed his phone and resigned himself to the fact that he might just end up making a fool of himself once more, with luck it would garner a few laughs from people. Retrieving the dictionary from his pocket, he started flipping through pages and did his best to memorize some words as he walked past the decorations and other festival goers.

A few people stared at him as he went, which was something he fully expected at this point. He paid them no mind as he went to the ‘most common phrases’ section of the book, memorizing the pronunciation for things such as ‘Thank you’, ‘please’ and coincidentally the differences between the honorifics. San was the same as saying Mr. or Mrs, while chan indicated a level of friendliness that was not to be used by strangers, mainly used by and on women names, while Kun was the same for men. Ryan suddenly found himself missing the very simple ‘Mrs and Mr’ format of the english language as the honorifics continued on, leading him to believe sooner than later he would somehow mess up in a very embarrassing manner.

He closed the book for a moment, surveying his surroundings and finding a food stall of sorts. While he wasn’t overly hungry, he was curious as to what kind of food they served here and wandered up to the stall. Immediately the man who appeared to be way too happy to be working at a stall in a festival beamed a smile at him. The glare from his white teeth was nearly enough to make the headache start all over again as he spouted off Japanese at an incredible pace akin to english rappers if Ryan were to draw parallels. Ryan just held up a hand softly, brought the book forward and held it up, hoping that would be enough for the man to realize that he didn’t necessarily speak the language. Luckily he seemed to get the message but it didn’t appear that he spoke English, so he was content with just remaining silent.

Ryan looked over the items for a moment, before motioning to the items. “Ichi to ichi” Ryan stated, not wanting to waste the man’s time in looking up the kanjo for the items in question. The vendor seemed to understand this as he handed the food to Ryan.

“Ichi yakitori to ichi takoyaki.” Ryan pulled out his wallet, looking over at the price and fumbling with the coins for a moment before handing the payment over. “Arigatō.” The vendor stated while Ryan gave a nod of appreciation, heading out into the festival unknown. Just by looking at the food he could tell one was basically chicken on a stick mixed with vegetables, essentially a kabob. The other seemed to be some sort of battered ball, but it smelled sweet so maybe a type of pancake batter? Either way, Ryan had somewhat of a sweet tooth on him, so he decided to munch on the takoyaki first. A quick chomp later revealed something to Ryan that made his eyes go wide for a moment. What the hell was in the middle of this thing? It was...was it squid? Octopus? I could look this shit up if my phone’s internet didn’t suck the literal joy out of my life! Regardless, it wasn’t bad so Ryan continued on his little trek through the festival, taking in the sights and just generally enjoying the atmosphere. It was a nice thing to be around, considering the circumstances of his being here, not to mention the fact that he would have to try and visit his father in the hospital again tonight. Hopefully Mr. Konatsu would be around to bring the tension down a little, but with his upcoming retirement and running a global corporation, he was already doing more than Ryan expected him to do.

In the middle of his thoughts, he caught something out of the corner of his eye. A woman who appeared to be talking to herself as she travelled through the festival, an odd sight for certain regardless of where you were in the world. Maybe she has a bluetooth in her other ear or something.
Ryan thought, just about to disregard it when he noticed that she seemed to be struck by something. A revelation or some sort of deep thought, once again he was going to ignore it and continue on, but she started to stumble and ended up supporting herself on a tree. Most people would just continue on at this point, deeming it not their problem, but that was either Ryan’s greatest trait or worst fault in that he couldn’t resist to aid people if he felt they were in need of help. He threw his stick from the takoyaki into the garbage can, pulling out the dictionary once more and flipping through the pages to figure out a proper phrase to ask the woman in her language. He quickly wiped his hand on his pants trying to make sure they were at least somewhat clean as he approached her. She seemed deadset on staring into the crowd of people in front of her, a few of whom seemed to be taking a picture. He stopped just beside her, waving a hand slightly in front of her face as she leaned against the tree. “Anata wa...how do I-...day...jobudeska?*” He asked, hoping that he didn’t butcher the word as he flipped through the book a couple times more to figure out some more phrases that might help with the situation, his one hand awkwardly holding the yakitori as he did so.

*Are you ok ma'am?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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The goblin’s body still retained the slight chill of uncertainty as she made herself comfortable at the roots of a sakura tree, her lithe fingers tracing over each encrusted jewel chained to her neck. Luciana needed a distraction, and was somewhat surprised when a distraction was delivered in the form of a small, beautifully dressed woman. A body jolted against Lucia’s seated form, threatening to topple over roots and goblin alike before quickly righting itself. Lucia turned, half expecting to find the haunted phantom of her past, only to meet the gaze of an, apparently, shell-shocked woman.

The start of an apology fell from the angel’s mouth, those lips which had shifted to form the word remaining open as the immortal stared at Luciana. The goblin returned the woman’s gaze, her eyes admiring the way delicate silk wrapped around the woman’s frame, an exquisite example of the Japan’s traditional wear. Luciana’s eyes returned to the immortal’s face, the angel’s own. She felt her own lips forming a half smile as she watched emotions flitter across the woman’s face, before a tasty morsel was pushed forward, the taiyaki offered an apology.

“I’m unhurt. Luciana responded, before shaking her head and adding as she waved the remaining skewer of chicken still in her hand, “Thank you, but I’m fine.”

The unsettling sense that had previously washed over the goblin at the appearance of the old soul was diminishing rapidly in the presence of the delightful angel. Lucia parted her lips to ask the woman’s name when another voice intruded. He was young, with a shook of blonde curls and features that made him stand out from the crowd. A cell phone was clutched in his hand like a lifeline, held forward slightly to the woman he’d ask to take his photo. Lucia turned her gaze to the Japanese angel, happy to let the other woman answer the young mortal if it meant Lucia wouldn’t have to reveal her ineptness with modern technology.

Only, before either could take the blonde’s photograph, a sparkler was pushed into his hands, his lips pursed to blow out the small flame at the tip, and at his side appeared the immortal monk Luciana knew as Jiangyu Bai. She stood in a fluid motion, eyes questing from goblin to mortal with unspoken queries. Jiangyu’s reaction was one of shock, mirroring Lucia’s own feelings when she had been called into Paola’s bathroom the previous night. The goblin’s gaze flicked to the sparkler in the boy’s hand, now forgotten as he turned surprised eyes on the tall monk, and she began to wonder if his actions had something to do with Jiangyu’s sudden arrival.

Not even a spellbound historian would deign to envision the assembly that seemingly appeared from the musty-scented texts he read or the interlacing worlds he fantasized. Jiangyu was in his traditional garb and once again a spectacle to the peering eyes of the city dwellers. He was even more out of place as his gangly frame towered above the passersby. This hypothetical historian could neither imagine the salubrious smiled that fancied the lips of the giant as he quickly rebounded from his initial shock and assayed the other members of the group. Jiangyu was not the only one who stuck out, for a glance sideways revealed the fair-skinned woman wearing the kimono. He was glad that there were others not completely lost to the adulteration of the modern world and he was quickly enraptured by the vibrantly sewn blossoms in the kimono’s swirling fabric. His eyes did not linger long for they shifted posted to the subject of his wonder.

Lucia , He felt her name rumble through his vocal chords but it failed to a part his lips. It had been years since they had last seen each other and even now, as ever, his thoughts quelled as he set his gaze upon her stoic features. Jiangyu had often been told that his was an expression difficult decipher, but few were able to elicit the same irritation from his perspective besides Lucia. She irradiated an air of discontent and grief that grayed the soft lines of her appearance. And yet she never oozed enough gloom to think it courteous to ask what ailed her; whatever it was, was not for others to know.

From the background Jiangyu heard Marlon’s voice, in its infinitely boorish way, ruin the unspoken bond

“Are you stalking me?” Marlon responded to Jiangyu, eyes narrowing to slits as he squinted at and around the man. “Because… “

Marlon’s words were cut short as Luciana spoke, “Jiangyu?”

The pair had little time to gape at the man, as their party was soon joined by another immortal. Marlon’s gaze followed the swish of her translucent tails, before settling on her face. Marlon may not be attracted to women, but he could still see the beauty in them. She spoke to him, offering to take his photo just as the Japanese woman accepted his request for one. Marlon’s eyes snapped to the Japanese woman as she rambled in accented English leaps better than his bumbling Japanese.

“Uhh…” Marlon stalled, confused and under the distinct impression that he’d just been compared to a whale. His hand remained extended, phone hovering between the two women and unsure which he should trust to temporarily hold his prized cell phone.

Jiangyu’s face reddened at the sight of her lackadaisical intrusion. Here he had just barely adjusted to Lucia’s presence only to see her jet black hair cross his vision. No matter what guise she wore or how she altered her appearance, Jiangyu could only see the visage of the innocent girl who had arrived at his doors all those years ago. Jiangyu could have imagined far better ways to consummate this reunion, but instead he was met with his former pupil’s condescension where there should have been joy.

Jiangyu could have sworn that Areum had caught a glimpse of his face yet she only answered to Marlon’s triviality. When they had last parted ways there were no ill feelings held between the two, but now by her cunning, jaundiced slip under his detection, Jiangyu fumed at this gesture of her old mannerisms.

Buddhist monks refrain from intimate contact with loved ones for their company only sets a stumbling block in the path of enlightenment. Be this as it may, monks take comfort in the each other's’ shared goal of spirituality and cleansing. It seemed that Areum had no problems detaching herself from the former when she came under Jiangyu’s tutelage at the monastery.

Areum had not only shown that she had long ago forsaken her ties of kinship but that she was loath to forming anyrelationships. Such a predisposed renunciation hinted at the greater pain hiding inside her. To separate oneself from those they hold dear should be a difficult proposition; one that culminates in a cathartic release upon the realization that such sufferance is but perpetuated by the cycle of life and death. For Areum it seemed she had not known any such experience; where the feelings of love should have been was already where a pit of emptiness laid claim. Of course the monks had not turned her away for she had shown genuine passion for self improvement, but the darkness in her heart was uncanny.

Jiangyu had known well what had driven her away all that time ago. Areum wished to reject her humanity and instead feed off the short lived happiness of egocentrism; cutting loose all the ephemeral lives she had lived, not thinking to what meaning they had served her. The Eightfold Path can only begin to aid those who let it guide them; Areum had never done so.

To extract all this from this such a sudden encounter seems far-fetched and perhaps Jiangyu did hold some dormant dislike for the person Areum had left behind at the monastery. No matter, Areum’s refusal to recognize him was very telling.

And then, out from the showers of floating blossoms came a vision in black and denim. He was a god walking among men, beautiful, chiselled, perfect beyond words, and Marlon felt his heartbeat increase in what some might call the onset of love. It wasn’t love, however, but the lust of a teenage boy who had just laid eyes on a walking wet dream. Marlon’s body reacted quickly, pushing his phone forward for either of the women to take as he took a step towards, his free hand moving to tug on the newcomer’s sleeve.

“I don’t mind who takes it, but I want him to be in it.” Marlon mumbled. The mortal didn’t even care that the man possessed tails matching the other woman’s, surely his unearthly beauty was a result of the curious apparitions.

To Marlon’s delight, the man turned and offered the mortal a smile that gleamed brighter than the golden, midday sun. “It would be my honour.” The fox intoned. Marlon tried to keep the excited squeak from passing through his lips.

While Marlon drooled, Lucia’s recently acquired smile quickly vanished. Her brow wrinkled in a frown as first one fox slipped into their group, and then another. To be sure, she saw his beauty too, yet with it she also saw the danger and felt the heat of anger swell within her that had propelled her to run the previous night.

With her fists clenched, her gaze a heated brand on the fox’s body, Lucia shifted forward. Her hand wrapped around the blonde boy’s collar, pulling him back easily from Cassius’ danger radius despite the sounds of protest that left the mortal’s lips.

“What’re you…” Marlon began, trying to squirm out of the woman’s grasp even as he stumbled over a tree root and fell back against her.

“Best to stay away from him, boy.” Luciana responded, though her gaze remained on the fox as she spoke, before flicking to Jiangyu. “I was going to seek you out. I have a question, but I will find you later.” Lucia told the monk as her hand released the mortal. For now, the company had grown too crowded and she needed space. With a nod of farewell to the guardian angel, Lucia turned away from the group.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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Look this way, look this way, look this way, please... Perhaps if his eyes met hers, their interlocked gazes would break open the floodgates, and spill into her memories all the empty spaces, all the unanswered questions. See me. See me. See me and tell me. Tell me who you are and why-

The bark was biting into her palm now, but her palms were rough from years of hands on work, and her mind was so distracted that no pain was felt. No physical pain, anyhow. Emotional trauma? That was another story.

“Anata wa...how do I-...day...jobudeska?”

Butchered was the Japanese, but even if it hadn't been, Ikeda wouldn't have quite understood. She was too distracted, to focused on the familiar face. Too focused the flurry of memories stirring in her mind, crawling up through the dirt, unwanted and unwelcome, but nonetheless aggressive in their resurrection.

It took her a moment to compute, and a moment longer to acknowledge the stranger. When she did, she blinked for a second, gathering her senses. Loose strands of raven shuddered about her face as she shook away at the thoughts, managing to quieten them enough to reply in Japanese.

"Uh... yeah. Thank you. I just-" She paused, cocking her lips in a sheepish smile, gesturing vaguely to her head. "Dizzy spell."

Standing up straighter, she fought the wobbliness of her legs, demanding them to obey despite the lightness still present in her head.

Looking up at the stranger, it was easy enough to tell that he wasn't from around here. It wasn't the broken Japanese that had told her that, nor even his obviously caucasian features (Tokyo was quite the hotspot of diversity, so that in itself was nothing new) but rather the air he carried. Young, stumbling. Noble but unsure. Perhaps it was just her gut feeling, but the young man struck her as a fish out of water, either new in town or visiting. For that reason, and his earlier act of compassion, Ikeda opted to risk embarrassing herself by offering an introduction in her own rusty English, which was not terrible, but far from polished.

"Thank you, for your concern. Just a drizzy spell, that's all." 'Drizzy'? That can't be right. Shit. Oh, well, he'll get what I mean.

Offering her hand, she introduced herself, forcing herself to ignore the urge to glance back at the tall man in the crowd. The familiar face.

"My name is Shiori. Ikeda Shiori."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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                      Seok Areum
                      FOX SPIRIT | 1392 | #d24038


                      Once, Areum had considered herself to be a main character in a story she now knows is much larger herself. She thought of a world where she was content to live an eternity without consequence, and it had worked — for while. As time slowly creeped forward however her thoughts became hazy and distorted to the point where she could no longer recognize her dreams.

                      It had been the for best; truly, it had.

                      From a distance Areum could make out the silhouette of a man marching toward the group with a desperation she could only recognize as hope. Her being wept for him knowing he was far too tender — despite what he may say — for a fox that stole the hearts of others.

                      He loved with passion than seemed to burn brighter than the sun, temping even fate itself. Areum was not blind. She knew that even if he stole the incarnations of his lovers, a part of him always disappeared with them as well ( she saw it in the brief moments; distant stares, unspoken words, ghost-like movements ) — whisked away into a dreamless eternity.

                      She knew not why he left his soul open for such tragedy, but it frustrated her to no end regardless.

                      The boy with blonde curly hair looked at Cassius with wonder as the Guardian Angel began to ramble, and quickly he shoved phone in their direction asking for a picture with her friend. She chuckled, and took it as the woman was too preoccupied admiring the fox’s beauty all the while melting over his sweet appreciation. Areum regarded the scene with mild interest as the fox looked at the angel with a familiar fondness. ’Who had she been?’

                      Within seconds however, Luciana pulled the boy away with a hiss, a warning, and a promise to the other Goblin before storming away. Areum froze, suddenly all too aware of the monk beside her and the reason for her intrusion with the group.

                      Jiangyu was dressed in traditional clothing and wore a look of well hidden disdain on his face. Apparently her ignorance of his presence did not go unnoticed and was met with irritation. Oh, how she missed him and his silent ego.

                      Areum had been drawn to him early on in her immortal life, seeking comfort from a world she knew to be cruel. Though she left her religious views behind, her attachment for the man did not cease in fact it seemed to only grow. Perhaps it was time spent apart that made every encounter with him feel somehow new.

                      She knew it was irresponsible, but being far apart she then began to bath him in a holy light meant for Gods, not humans. Upon reconciliation however her vision of Jiangyu always returned to where it needed to be and her friendly treatment of him continued. Areum gave him what few others could say they’ve received in earnest: her genuine friendship.

                      “Are you not happy to see me?” she spoke with a forced lightness to contrast with the sudden departure of her business partner. Areum hoped at least they would still work together. Luciana was far too serious not to mess with. Briefly she wondered if her friend would be foolish enough to follow her, but forgot the ideas just as quickly as it came. “I thought after years of separation you would have something to say.”

                      Areum ignored the fact she had been the one to see him first, but it was always hard to admit defeat even for her friends.

                      She looked at the two unknown faces before her and smiled, “Forgive me, I’ve been impolite, and to such beautiful people as well. You may call me Areum, may I ask for your names?” The last few words were sounded out strangely for her gaze landed upon a pale figure hidden among the trees.

                      Her grip on the candle bag tightened and she pursed her lips to slow her breathing. It did not move, It did not breath, it simply watched. Areum’s heart began to uncomfortably press against her chest and threatened to give out at any possible second. She was not scared, God no, she was far too old to be frightened of a phantom; but what stole her breath was the knowledge that she knew him from her past.

                      Just like any other time she remembered him, an unfamiliar sense of self-reproach engulfed her entire being. She hated it, hated it more than she hated feeling powerless. Before her own mind could squeeze the life out of her she quickly tore her gaze away with much difficulty. If she didn’t see him she didn’t need to acknowledge his existence.

                      As a final push for normalcy she began to survey her surroundings to distract her from the uneasy feeling growing within her mind. A familiar face did the trick.

                      Shiori looked so unsure of herself, staring at the space where Jiangyu had been. Areum did not know why she had been trying to gain his attention, and at the moment she did not particularly care, but she was grateful for something to preoccupy her time with.

                      Without a second to spare Areum said, “I believe my acquaintance was trying to get your attention,” she said while motioning to Shiori, and took notice of the man talking to her. In a softer voice she said, “Do you have an idea as to why?”

                      With a nervous glance she quickly brought her attention to where the ghost had been, and sighed in relief when she saw no sign of it. Perhaps she had imagined it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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      "I hear the blossoms are beautiful this time of year."

      "Maybe Kaede's hot boss will be there, you wouldn't want to miss that."

      "Basil Gardner get your lazy ass from in front of that TV and go to the festival with me!"


      That last one seemed to do the trick, combined with the threat of taking a razor to his head and cutting off all his icy blonde locks. He was already suffering from his brown roots covering most of his hair, and the shave would take away all the blonde he loved so much. So, he prettied himself up for a day at the cherry blossom festival and met Paola outside her candle shop, across from the culinary school he spent many nights catching up on projects. Paola is a sight for sore eyes, as always, and the pair make their way to the festival as soon as they're together. "You're a very lucky lady, Paola Millán, I don't miss the All Stars round of Chopped for just anyone." Basil huffed, linking his arms with the woman as they made their way to the festival. The only reply he received from Paola was rolled eyes, but that was to be expected from the fiesty girl.

      She is right, the blossoms are quite beautiful. The square is packed with people, and the smells all around are heavenly. Basil swore that Kaede said she would be here, but considering he was only half awake with a rerun of Iron Chef playing on the TV from when he didn't turn it off the night before, she could literally be doing anything and his mind just filled in what he wanted to know. The pair found an empty bench to observe the festival first; neither had much in the sense of friends, but could look for the one or two people they were close to besides each other.

      Paola wanted to see Lucia again, to talk with her. She didn't understand how the woman ended up in her apartment, or why she wanted to see her so badly, but yet the feeling pervaded. At first, she wrote it off as a dream, but something inside her wanted it to be real. "This random lady showed up at my house last night." Paola mentions, much too casual for Basil to take lightly.

      So many questions started to run through his head. His mouth stayed posed, ready, for his questions but none would come out. Finally, he managed to ease a question out, and they continued out in a flurry. "So, uh- did you know her? Well, obvious not if she was random, but, what did she want? Was she pretty, do you like her? What happened?" Basil rambled on before Paola finally stopped him. She could barely answer most of his questions, except: "Very pretty. Beautiful, and- she's here."

      That had to be Lucia. Paola noticed her walking away from a small group, some of them Basil seemed to recognize. She didn't register him speaking, only grabbed his wrist and tugged him behind her as she trudged toward Lucia through the thickening crowd. Murmuring "sorry" to every person she shoved past, and ignoring Basil's protests as he was helplessly yanked behind her, Paola was determined to get some answers from the older woman this time. Real answers.

      But, as she came closer to Lucia, she realized she had no idea what to say. A simple hello wouldn't suffice, and "why were you in my bathroom last night?" didn't sound too charming either. Still, a harsh, desperate "Lucia!" escaped her lips as she finally threaded through the crowd to Lucia.

      Basil, after being led through the crowd, notices Cassius only a few feet away from the woman Paola saw at her house last night.
      Cassius would have the best idea of where Kaede is at, considering he's her boss. He's never approached the man without being invited by the man's alluring voice, so just walking up to him seemed awkward. He gently touched Cassius' arm to gain his attention. "Sorry to bother you, Cassius, but have you seen Kaede? I think I was supposed to meet her here but I'm not exactly sure." Next to Cassius is a familiar blonde. He didn't know the other man well, only that they bumped into each other one or twice.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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    Jiangyu had barely heard her words before he saw Lucia’s visage recede into the crowd, Marlon’s eyes appearing annoyed from this unwelcome breach to his obsessing. It was apparent the subject of Marlon’s gawking as he was pushed away; the jaunty visitor who crooned flattery in his first few words. Jiangyu had known the type well, those few ravishing faces, with a charming glint in their eyes and whose breezy arrival placated all fears. While the broad-chested, God-on-Earth had all the others present grappling for his attention, Jiangyu was not so easily stirred.

    Humans were strange creatures. They fret over of morals and issues of characters, even champion equality, and yet all the while in their personal circles they invite snakes to slip in. Although he had his dazzling white pearls arranged in a cogent smile, Jiangyu knew that a snake was exactly who he was. It sickened him to see the kimono-clad girl fall like dough into his hands, but he felt a particular distaste form in his mouth as he saw Areum stare at him with a knowing gaze.

    He was at first taken aback by the tone of hurt in Areum’s voice upon seeing his own look of contempt. He was immediately inclined to reform his opinions of her, seeing as she had shown any acknowledgement at all of him, yet he still had his reservations. Although Lucia’s words of warning had been directed at Marlon, Jiangyu too sensed something askew about the Areum and the mystery man.

    “Sorry if I came off rude, Areum, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting to see you here after all this time.” Jiangyu said in a measly attempt to allay her fears. He was far more aware of the nuances of body language than to anything he could vocalize. Call it his relative isolation for centuries, but he could not make most of anything of what he said sound genuine.

    Be that as it may, Jiangyu, so caught up in interpreting the cursory movements of those around him, had scarcely realized that he had not introduced himself to the others. His decision to do so was spurred on by Areum’s.

    “Jiangyu’s the name,” he inflected with curt formality, “I’m glad to have met you all.” He bowed in the reverent manner of monks, and extended his hand in greeting to cover both traditional and modern pleasantries. This attempt seemed to have gone unnoticed by the kimono-clad one, for she seemed to be busy trying to simmer the red from her cheeks.

    Jiangyu instead offered his hand to the Greek, not without some hostility shining through when, with slit eyes he said, “And who might you be?"

    He had his ammunition loaded for a seething repartee to however the man would respond, when Areum called for his attention. She pointed to quaint girl in the distance who wore a forlorn expression on her face.

    Although his finer sensibilities pleaded to him to offer some sort of condolence, he instead chose to refashion his fighting posture toward the stranger and quickly muttered, “No.”

    Even as he did so, he was vaguely aware of some memories of the girl registering to his synapses, but he cast them away. He was prepared to send the Greek another withering look, when he believed he saw the nebulous apparition of his mother sneak past his vision and her soft laugh peak his ears. His gaze wistfully reassessed the ground he thought he saw her tread before glancing her ornate coattails vanish behind the tree Lucia had been sitting at earlier.

    His heart did not race at the thought of her. He had long ago come to terms with the circumstances of his death and his misdeeds as a son. Although he submitted to the Buddhist beliefs that ghosts of the dearly departed did not truly exist, a part of him always held out to the notions that these recurrent illusions were a sign from his mother. They always seemed to conjure up at time when his arrogance would get the better of him. It was with this sentiment in mind that he bit hard down on his tongue to stifle his next gibe at the snake.

    With his impetus thus quieted, Jiangyu felt the unusual urge to be alone in the company of the flamboyant youth, who he now saw still appeared flummoxed by his own aggression. Seeing that his every action seemed to be charged with revulsion, Jiangyu felt that Marlon’s presence alone would serve to brighten up his day.

    With the metallic taste of blood inundating his taste buds and having adequately soured the whole situation, he said to the others, “You know… forget I even asked”.
    Grabbing Marlon's hand first, he turned on his heel and walked away with a mission in mind. “I know exactly where we should go”. He thought to himself