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Ashes

Ariss

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a part of Ashes, by Ruth Soul <3.

Ahh, Ariss. The land the disciples were meant to protect. What is truly in store for this land?

Ruth Soul <3 holds sovereignty over Ariss, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

858 readers have been here.

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Ahh, Ariss. The land the disciples were meant to protect.

What is truly in store for this land?
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Ariss

Ahh, Ariss. The land the disciples were meant to protect. What is truly in store for this land?

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Ariss is a part of Ashes.

10 Characters Here

Henrietta Cypress [53] "Just try me!"
Carter Gray [47] "Oh, dear... How incredibly dull."
Keith Cadwell [43] Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.
Alice Ember [43] "Fire isn't destruction... she's a divine light, that you hold in your hands. You must cater to her. If uncatered... she'll grow out of hand; out of control. Fire isn't destruction. Destructive are the people who don't cater to her."
Yvette Jade [26] "Those---those bastards!"
Seishin Horudā [20] Originals "Do I wish to change it? Is that a joke?"
Iraa Ventillon [19] The wind only reciprocates what you give. If you are kind, it will be gentle; if you treat it badly, it will treat you the same.
Louie T. Orihara [9] "Remaining neutral during this conflict is not as easy as you might imagine."
Louie Orihara [5] Doctor
Arron Blackwell [0] "like water im smmmmoooottthhh even when im "ruff" haha"

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Ignore this... My cat insisted on posting for me...

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Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell
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"What the hell is wrong with you?" Carter snarled. "You've been acting like a real psychopath lately, and I know that none of us have been quite.. the same recently, but you're by far the weirdest out of all of us right now."

He paused before adding, "This whole thing is fucking serious, but you never seem to care, do you?"

Keith's sinister grin turned into a repulsed gritting of the teeth. Care... For some odd reason, Carter's burst struck a nerve. Before he could even respond, Carter stormed off. His face then fell and he felt a sweat break out on his face. His hands gripped his head and for an instant he felt fear run through him. Something was wrong. Very wrong. He struggled trying to shake this fog in his mind that slowly crept through him. It was intoxicating, enticing, made him want more, yet it took it's hold. Suddenly he began to feel as though he could not act on his will. His desires, his darkest desires overpowered all his morality and guilt. Then his face fell still, almost blank and empty and his breath fell short. This suffocating fog... he could not resist it anymore. A long moment passed before he let out a disturbing chuckle. His crystal clear turquoise eyes slowly grew more and more cloudy and fogged. He stood up straight then crossed his arms as he hurried after Carter. One good look at his face would tell you he was dangerous. His eyes had a discomforting hunger and his smile was diabolical. He was clearly not himself. Quietly he leaped off the ground and seemingly floated to the top of the nearest brick wall. He then leaped to the top of the nearest building. It was like he was a frog. His light weight made him agile. He then hurried after Carter following him along the roof tops. Though what he did not anticipate was the sight Carter discovered that Keith saw soon after. A large fire in the distance. Large and almost danced as it rose in the sky. An artificially made fire. A fire that was almost alive.

"Alice," he whispered as Keith's old self seemed to surface for a few brief seconds. He gritted his teeth and grimaced, it almost appeared like he was in pain. But he got a hold of himself when he saw Carter trailing away in darkness. Like a shadow creeping through the streets unseen. This was an opportunity he could not pass up. Picking up speed, he hopped across the roof tops finding himself eventually passing by Carter silently. He had a brutish grin. If he could rid of his one true weakness, he'd be unstoppable. It was decided then, that he had to get rid of Alice. With her, he could not push himself to achieve his true ambitions. The one's he had always dreamed of deep, down inside. This would be a test, a game. A fun little showdown that would end in dire consequences. It was all but too exhilarating for Keith.

He slowed as he approached the fire. At this point he was back on the ground. Silently he crept through the trees and bushes before seeing a road in which the flames stood tall and mortals laid unconscious on the ground. Alice stood there, gracefully, angrily, fiercely. He had a serious look that all the disciples had seen very few times that revealed his darkness inside. However, he did not approach Alice. He only stared narrowly, masking himself behind the trees and plants.

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Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell
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To Ace's content, the moment the mortals spotted the fire, they found it in their greatest interests to run like hell. She'd taken care of the humans -- with unpleasant perks, of course --, now if only she could take care of the argument between the two sides. Speaking of the two sides... it wouldn't take everyone that long to get here, but Ace was sure she had a bit of time to think. Maybe to review a few moves. She managed a small sigh as she spared a glance at her shoulder. How clumsy of her... Such a mistake was not acceptable by her standards, and could surely have been avoided. Mph, now was not the time to criticize herself.

She'd have to fix this before anyone else got here. Ace would also fancy a nice visit with Louie, but... not right that moment, of course. Quickly, she took the ribbon from her hair and wrapped it tightly around her shoulder. Okay, now she had a minute or two to herself to work some kind of strategy out... Well, it would depend on who came first. She would hope it would be Henrietta, Iraa or Yvette. All three of them would be even better, but she couldn't depend on luck, who knows how close the others were.

Speaking of the others... was that a skateboard she heard?

Carter? Already? Damn! The last thing she needed was a bat to the head. Then again, it could be worse... if everyone opposing her showed up... In fact, that's actually a possibility. Ace's heart began to race, though she quickly forced down her panic with a sharp intake, which to most would seem like a sign of annoyance. Though her friends knew her well enough to know she wasn't one to show anger.

"G'morning, my dear old friend, Alice,"

Everything about that sentence pissed Ace off. The way he said it simply irked her, and the fact that he just sounded nervy. He surely called her "Alice" only to annoy her. The fact that he did that just to get on her nerves... It was so infuriating! But to Ace's greatest pleasure, she was able to seem calm and keep her anger at bay. Hell, if Carter was so keen on provoking her, then perhaps she'd piss him off, too... No, pissing Carter off, of all people would be the worst thing to do. "It really is a pleasure to be seeing you again so soon after our little brawl. Say, fancy a rematch?

"Well, I don't see why not." Ace chimed, standing still for a second or two. The more she stood, the more she realized something wasn't right. It was too still. Too quiet. And within seconds it might even become a little dark. Her eyes immediately narrowed, and she didn't take her sweet time to stand around like a buffoon and just wonder what was coming. Now standing, she stole a quick glance over her shoulder. All she saw was flames, though her nerves were anything but settled. She pursed her lips and took a running start, her fire following. Though, it was more of a speed walk than a run. She'd learned over years of and living with and simply knowing Carter, that the most assured way to avoid an attack involving darkness was to move. She didn't know where it was coming from; which was why she wasn't moving too fast. But what would be the most sensible direction to attack---

It happened nearly a split second after Alice began to move; Carter had thrust his hand backwards and she found herself running instead of fast walking. She had to admit, running from a wave of darkness was a new experience for her, but part of her feared this wouldn't be the only time. Gods, she'd have to run faster faster if she wanted to get away. Something told her she was screwed-- and, at the moment, Ace feared the worst. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears. It felt like something was tugging at her, like she wanted to slow down, like she couldn't go faster. Why she was cursed to crumble under pressure, she never knew. Her hands were starting to sweat, though they quickly became fists. Coward, She thinks to herself. I shouldn't be afraid. I should be kicking his ass! And right now, that means running a little faster... maybe a lot faster... Inhaling quickly, Ace began to push herself. She knew she could run faster, and she was going to run faster. At this rate, she wasn't sure if she could get out of the way in time--- but another wave of relief washed over Alice when she realized that she'd managed to outrun the darkness. She was still running, though... In fact, she was running straight toward Carter.

He wasn't the only one who could play offensively. She wasn't going to spend her day running, much less from Carter. If she wanted progress, she'd have to be a little aggressive, just as a fire would be. But if she was going to be offensive, she'd have to get close to him, but he was obviously armed--- with a bat. A metal bat. Not a wooden one, that she could easily burn. He was holding a metal bat. She'd have to disarm him, the only question remaining was how? Within seconds, Ace hatched an idea--- she had fire. She couldn't burn the bat, but she could burn the person holding the bat.

If she could burn his palms, then perhaps by instinct he'd let go of the thing that seemed to be burning him; the bat. She didn't think he'd let go out it completely, but if she could take it from him? He wouldn't have a bat... Ace would have a bat. Perhaps a flaming bat. A flaming, metal bat, in her hands. That sounded fantastic. She had to bite her lip to keep herself from grinning at the thought. But in order to obtain a metal bat, she'd need to actually get it from Carter, which meant coming in close. In this cold weather, there wasn't nearly enough thermal energy in the air to create a fire. She could make areas extremely warm while making other places or even herself colder, but there wasn't enough to manage a full-blown fire. She was dependent on her own energy right now, which meant she could only create a fire that was within a foot of her. Of course, once the fire is created, she'd be able to send the fire somewhere else, but that would be far too obvious. If anything, she wanted to catch him by surprise so she'd have enough time to grab the bat... Her window of time would be extremely small, and if she screwed one thing up she could be whacked on the head. Or shoulder. She wasn't sure which was worse... And she wasn't planning to find out.

Once within a few feet of Carter, Ace lined her knuckles with fire, and a fiery figure formed next to her. She wasn't planning to melee fight just yet; she was only attempting to trick Carter into thinking she was going in for a couple hits. Right now, she just wanted to get rid of his bat. Though, if he were to see through her ruse, it wouldn't go well. Hopefully, he didn't know her well enough to realize going in in such a manner was not her style.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell
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Keith pleasantly watched Carter toy with Ace. The way he wielded the darkness was always so tasteful. Not to mention Carter's weapon of choice was always those bats of his. Keith had always wondered what was so appealing about those bats. Ace was graceful with her quick thinking and swift movements. She was very fast. Keith wondered if he could ever outrun her. While she struggled briefly in the shrouded darkness, Keith felt mesmerized by the battle. There was truly no need for him to step in, though he craved to. Lost in his thoughts, he was startled by a loud cracking of what sounded like joints. He whirled around only to see a brash Henrietta holding her fists inches away from his face. ImageHenrietta was slyly grinning knowing she had caught Keith off guard. Before he was even able to react she punched him so hard in face he was sent tumbling out into the clearing where Ace and Carter dueled. Keith was dazzled, his vision was fuzzy and he felt like he was in a trance. Though he bounced back quickly then rose to his feet. His blood was boiling and for some reason he felt overwhelmingly angry.

"Henrietta," he spat. "What a waste of precious air."

Henrietta glared at Keith in fury. "I'll make you eat those words!" she shouted as she rushed towards him for another punch. Though Keith was prepared, and the trees around him flourished. They answered to his beck and call. As she launched herself after him, a tree root quickly wrapped itself around her feet and dangled her in the air. Henrietta shouted and cussed as she struggled to free herself.

"So rambunctious. So pitifully incoherent. Why would the Goddess ever choose you as her disciple?" Keith snickered after shooting insult after insult at Henrietta.

"Go to hell asshole!" Henrietta spat. She had to remove these roots. They were gripping her feet tighter and tighter. The more she struggled, the tighter they felt. Inhaling deeply, she used her abdomen to thrust herself upright and get a hold of the roots. She gripped them tightly and began to rip them off her feet with an amazing display of her strength. When she freed herself and began to fall back towards the Earth, she shot Keith a wild smile for the instant she landed she lifted the Earth and kicked it towards Keith. He jumped sideways trying to avoid the rubble though a large rock managed to hit him and knock him down landing on top of him. To Henrietta's advantage, she turned her palms upside down and increased the gravitational forces of the rock on top of Keith. He screamed out in pain. He felt as though his ribs were going to break by the force of this one rock. I won't be defeated by some boulder, let alone this wretched rat! He shut his eyes as he struggled to breathe. He could not get up, he could not move, but he could still use his precious mind. He exerted his conscious, searching for any animals nearby. Luckily he found a flock of birds moving about nearby. When he reached them, they already knew of his face. He had no need of asking them for their assistance, it was already his to have. With one command, they took off into the air and flew towards his direction. Keith's conscious snapped back into his body and he was surprised to find himself sweating under the pressure of the rock. Within seconds, the flock of birds darted towards Henrietta. It took her by surprise as they ran into her and began to peck at her face and break her concentration while also blocking her field of vision. She tried to shoo them away and even hit them but there was too many and then, WHACK! She was hit by a root that flung her about twenty yards backwards. The birds dispersed thankfully and she noticed some droplets of blood where she was whipped by the roots. The impact was so great it broke her skin. But it was most like a cut and a large bruise that would leave her sore for awhile.

Getting to her feet, Henrietta wasn't prepared for a stream of leaves that were gathering behind Keith and scattered before them. Each like a dagger floating in thin air. They ran past her and sliced her skin repeatedly cutting through her garments. When it was over she glared at Keith with a solemn face.

"Is that really the best you can do?" Henrietta stated firmly through gritted teeth.

Keith yawned as if he was bored, "Not even close my dear."

Henrietta's face fell as she heard snarls behind her. Turning her head, she saw dozens of plants that were like little monsters created from vines, leaves, branches, moss and flowers. Essentially all the plant life around them. The creatures lunged after her and as they did their limbs were able to grow and extend. She punched and kicked, try to make them float in air or pinned against the trees, but there were too many and they were all scattered and able to regrow. To effectively used gravity, she needed a focus point. And right now her focus was all over the place. Trying to rid of these creatures was a futile effort. She threw a creature off of her arm then back flipped away from the creatures towards Keith's direction. Keith observed with fascination in a condescending matter. Perhaps the girl did have some wit. She ran towards him then manipulated the gravity around her that made her lighter. Then with a strong push from the Earth, she practically flew towards Keith extremely fast leaving him no time to react and she kneed him hard in the stomach causing him to spit blood from the impact. He slammed against a tree and groaned. Henrietta hit hard, he gave her that. Perhaps too hard for his more fragile body. And then a thought rushed through his mind, Kill her. What in the world? Why would he even think that? That thought was a bit much for him and his thoughts scrambled. His true self was trying to fight the fog in his mind again. But it was close to impossible. Why wouldn't he attempt such a thing? He was stronger. It was then that he stared her in the eye, wiping the blood from his mouth. The game was fun while it lasted. It was time to act serious.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell
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Carter was right to have readied himself for Alice's escape. Part of him had thought she'd have fallen for the trap and he'd simply have to stroll over to the darkness to manipulate her fears. What he had foolishly not anticipated was Alice's speed, though he felt he should have known after all those years he'd spent alongside her. Cursing, he watched her evade his shadows completely, and he forced himself not to lower his bat to manipulate more of the darkness. Instead, he concentrated and felt the pool of darkness at his feet start to inch slowly up his legs. It was, of course, the best he could manage without his hands free to move them. Not that he was worried in the slightest. Alice was overpowered in this situation; he knew. She probably wasn't even aware of how his power had risen to a level beyond hers. Not only that, but she was also injured. A piece of cake, he thought eagerly as he watched her fierce movements.

As Alice ran forward, so did he, the pools splashing out beneath his boots with each heavy step. There was only a short distance between them, really, but he felt as if he was running for an eternity; probably due to the excitement of the battle. At first he was running into a close-combat fight, at least that was his plan when he'd made his first move, but when he noticed the fire at her knuckles and by her side, Carter grimaced and ducked sideways mere seconds before they met in order to avoid being burned. So much for that, he thought angrily. At the time, he was so distracted that he hadn't even noticed Keith and Henrietta's presence until they were right in his line of sight. As soon as he'd spotted them and registered what was happening, Carter felt a tinge of jealousy, but managed to suppress it well as he came out of his roll and turned in the same second.

Gripping his bat with more fury now, he roared and picked up speed as he darted for Alice once again, closing the distance between them in a matter of seconds. "Bitch," he growled, and swung his bat with as much of his own physical strength as he could. He'd aimed for the head, though he had a feeling she'd be quick enough to evade that, which was why he'd had a plan. The darkness that once sat at his feet was now curling and writhing around his arm, looking more like shadows than anything. If, or when, she might've tried to dodge it, Carter would throw his arm forward and send the darkness towards her form, engulfing her. He wasn't hanging most of his hopes up on this sequence of events because, at the end of the day, it was all a matter of chance and he quite clearly had the upper hand.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell
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Henrietta found herself out of breath. She was using up a lot of energy. Though Keith did not even seem tired. When he got to his feet after being slammed into the tree, he got up and gave her a stare that chilled her to the bone. It made her fear him. He was not himself... Or rather, perhaps not the person she thought he was. However, she held her stance eying him carefully. The vibes he was giving her told her that he had no problem hurting her. Though she did not feel the same.

"Watch closely, Henrietta," Keith announced. "I was hoping to save this for later, but you're really pissing me off."

Keith half-smiled as he extended his arm. Using his fingers, thorny vines sprouted from the ground and detached, wrapping themselves around his arm. Henrietta stared in disbelief. She never saw him use such a technique before. The vines became a sort of extended arm and at the end they formed a large flower bud. Henrietta clenched her fists, uncertain of his next move. Suddenly, the flower bud projected what appeared to be pollen spores of an orange, golden color. They whirled around her and showered her. She quickly covered her mouth trying not to breathe it in, but her efforts were futile. Henrietta coughed as the contents of the pollen entered her body. Then her eyes widened when she suddenly could not move her body. Her arms and legs were no longer responding, she could not move. When she was about to topple over she then saw Keith making another move. His arm covered in vines suddenly had a large thorn extending out at the end like a sword. He was pursuing her and she could not even budge.

KLSHUK! Henrietta screamed in agony, eyes wider than ever as Keith's thorn pierced through her abdomen. He then pulled his arm out and slammed her across the ground. It was then that she finally regained her mobility and she clenched her wound feeling drained. Her energy was dissipating, but she could not give in. She would not lose. She could not abandon Ace at this moment, Keith was extremely powerful. More powerful than ever, and she could only imagine that Carter was just as strong. She glanced over at the two as they ferociously brawled. This was getting extremely dangerous for her and Ace alone. With sheer willpower, she managed to get to her feet again as she glared at Keith then glimpsed at her wound. Sure there was quite a bit of blood, but he did not stab an artery or anything like that. Perhaps he intentionally did so. She then saw Ace who appeared to have a ribbon tied around her own wound. Wait, where did Ace even get that!? It looked like a gun shot wound. But it was enough to give her the idea to rip off the sleeve of her own garments and wrap it around her waistline in hopes to stop some of the blood flow.

"Surprised, Henrietta?" Keith taunted. "Surely you can put up a better fight than that. The pollen temporarily paralyzes my foes. It's quite useful for a runt like you."

Inhaling a deep breath, she directed all of her focus into her center, into her arms, into her legs. She felt fired up, angry, full of rage, and the adrenaline coursing through her veins. Lifting her hands flat into the air, small balls of gravitons began to form that released a strong gravitational force upon contact. She threw her bolts at Keith who dodged each one. Angrily, she shoved her right foot in front of her causing spears of rock to rise from the ground. She ripped them from the Earth and then projected them with more gravity towards Keith followed by more gravity bolts. He managed to dodge most of them except for a couple of gravity bolts that knocked him back and almost to the ground. They were painful, like a hard fast ball pelting you repeatedly. His arm full of vines released their thorns like darts in Henrietta's direction. Though she managed to reflect them with a reverse gravitational field sending them back towards Keith. He barrel rolled out of the way though a few managed to inject themselves into his skin each thorn about two inches long. At this he winced, they were deep in his skin. They'd have to stay there for now, he had no time to waste. He lunged towards her head on, ready to use his thorn sword again but Henrietta lifted a rock wall to block him. However, he had broken through it, but Henrietta had darted towards the side ready to jump behind him. As she attempted, Keith whirled around and hurled her into a tree which almost broke from the amount of force he used. She did not get up right away. Her wound was throbbing, crippling. But she was still conscious and struggled.

"Shall we play this again?" Keith asked as if he cared about Henrietta's opinion. His thorn sword turned into a flower bud again and Henrietta hysterically tried to move out of the way. But she was losing too much energy from this fight and tiring out quickly. Her limits were being tested. Keith always had more stamina than she did, but at the moment it seemed like an endless supply. He stroked his flower bud as if it were a precious pet before looking back in Henrietta's direction. Then he began to move and out of fear all Henrietta could desperately scream out was, "ACE! HELP!"

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell
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The very moment Ace found herself close to Carter, she lunged, only to find herself leaping at nothing. Seconds before she attacked he'd rolled to the side, leaving her annoyed and even impatient. She wanted to end this fight; avoiding her was only going to prolong the fight. Her brows furrowed as Carter re-approached, and she readied herself for an attack. "Bitch," Ace head the words come out of his mouth and watched as he ran forward. Ace stayed where she was, as the fiery figure besides her quickly found itself behind Carter, though it remained dormant for the time being.

Not even seconds before he swung his bat, Alice's ears had picked up the sound of her colleague's cry of agony. Instantly, her eyes shifted to Henrietta and Keith, her change of focus more instinctual than planned. Her gaze remained unwavering for a good second. Ace was so caught up in her own battle, she hadn't noticed the fight between Henrietta and Keith until now. At the sound of the cry Ace was almost overcome with worry, though she quickly reassured herself that everyone here was evenly matched, and all four of them had a fair chance at winning. As far as she knew, of course. But speaking of the two fights, perhaps it was better to focus--- Too late! Alice had let out a breathless gasp, the brief second she'd taken to sneak a glance over her shoulder taking a second too long. Though she'd quickly realized the chances of being caught off guard, she hadn't enough time to avoid being hit, only enough to turn her head and suffer a direct blow to the face.

The hit itself was enough to make Ace yelp. Even after it was over, Alice found herself still in pain, specifically speaking, her nose was aching. It had taken the brunt of the hit and was now bleeding profusely, and she wasn't sure if it was more annoying or worrying. As she held her arm up to wipe away the blood, she winced the moment she came in contact with her nose. At this point, Ace was more than sure she'd managed to break it. Which also meant the pain she was experiencing wasn't your usual 'it'll go away in a few minutes' pain. "Sure," she suddenly hissed. Her voice sounded more nasally than usual. "I'm the bitch."

While Ace had taken a brief moment to secure herself, she'd taken a step back and made a subtle beckoning motion with her hand. The fiery figure that was once behind Carter was now lunging at him. Particularly at the arm that was holding the bat. Her hopes were that she'd catch him off guard, and she had, she would spring for the bat. If not, her plan was to throw a flaming kick to the back of his head.


[Okay! So, as I was writing this post, it occurred to me that it would be rather hard to include Alice's reaction to both Carter and Henrietta, for her reaction would provoke a reaction from Carter and then after that reaction she'd hear Henrietta and react to that...but... asdfghjk. If it didn't happen in that order, it also occurred to me that the timelines between the two fights would be all messed up. I mean, Keith and Henrietta have unleashed all these moves on each other and their battle has progressed a fair amount, while the fight between Alice and Carter has barely begun. If Alice were to help Henrietta before Carter and Ace had any time to actually fight, well... that would be... really... off, I guess? I don't know. But the reason I didn't include Henrietta's plea for help in this post is because the timelines between the two fights would be off if I did. So... yeah. I'll write Alice's reaction to that AFTER we get a response from Carter. Yay for correspondence!

Also... sorry it took me so long to respond. I was torn because of the whole timeline thingy... Blah.]

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell
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Carter grinned proudly as he felt his own bat connecting with Ace's face, crunching into her nose. However, he had not allowed himself to celebrate too much, as he knew the only reason the hit had actually connected was because she had been temporarily distracted. A few seconds was too long not to be focusing on an opponent, Carter knew. And at this thought, Carter frowned. Ace was a fast foe and, as he had learned from his fight with the mortal, he really ought to stop underestimating his opponents. Back when they were teammates, she would've quite easily outmatched him in terms of her speed and agility, but he'd improved since then. He was faster now; more so than Ace, at least. Not only that, but she'd made the mistake of thinking that Carter would not notice her fiery companion behind him. As he moved back, he could feel the heat pressing against him, though not so much as to cause any discomfort. His eyes did not move from Alice as she wiped the blood from her nose, nor did he even move a muscle upon realising that he could be attacked by the fire at any moment. He kept his expression calm.

"Sure," he heard her hiss, "I'm the bitch." Carter frowned, though his eyes held a certain kind of amusement and a smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. "I don't think I like what you're implying there, Alice," he replied, his voice reduced to nothing more than a low, husky growl. Despite his previous argument with Keith about taking things a little bit more seriously when it came to the situation with the other five Disciples, Carter wasn't so sure that he actually was. He really ought to take a page out of his own book some time. Then again, he wanted to enjoy this fight, simply because he knew just how overpowered Ace really was.

Carter was watching Ace closely and his expression immediately turned sour as he noticed the sudden movement of her arm, as subtle as it was there was nothing she could do that Carter wouldn't pick up on. It was much like what he'd tried to do when the fight has first started. Though this time, instead of a wave of darkness, all Carter could feel was an immense heat moving much closer to him. His first instinct was to turn and block, but he knew that Ace would be ready with an attack as soon as he made a move to. Stuck in a dilemma, Carter hesitated briefly and knew he'd not acted fast enough. The fire was on him before he could even lunge to one side and, finally, a frustrating sensation of panic had manifested itself in his stomach. He felt his skin burning beneath his clothes and it would only be a few seconds before they were gone completely from his back. Instinctively, he dropped his bat to the floor and focused all of his attention on the darkness he'd previously summoned to attack Ace, which still loomed on the street where they'd once been. With the flick of his wrist, he drew it towards himself and engulfed himself in it. Such an amount of darkness would've been enough to douse the fire, if he'd even managed to catch it before it jumped away. He didn't really have much time to check, as he stood up and felt the searing pain of burnt flesh on his back. Not only that, but it hard burnt his favourite jumper.

Now seriously pissed off, he took a shaky breath and allowed himself to scan the streets, as he was stood in the safety of the darkness. Ace was only a few metres away from him. It was only then that he'd noticed his hand was empty. Hissing, he took a step to move out of the darkness when he'd noticed how intense the fight between Keith and Henrietta was becoming. He paused briefly, not sure whether or not to intervene. Sure, he'd started the fighting, but he never thought things would be so... serious, in the sense that he was only having a bit of fun. He was merely teasing Ace when he'd approached. Keith seemed like he wanted to hurt Henrietta, maybe even kill her. Carter's brows lowered in a concerned frown, but he shook the feeling off as he stepped out of the darkness and glared up at Ace. He then smirked, realising that he'd just given her the reaction she'd wanted from the start. He was without his bat and, as such, had no way of physically attacking her without being burned. She probably thought the fight was in her favour now, but Carter knew that wasn't the case. All Carter needed to do was up his game. Like he'd thought earlier, he needed to stop underestimating his opponents. Now that he'd remembered what Ace could really do, he would only need to elevate his own powers to a level that would make it easier for him to deal some damage. Even then, he only wanted to play with her a little. The fight would be over soon, he knew.

"That was smart," he spoke, the volume of his voice picking up where the pitch did not. "Distract me with the fire and then steal my bat," he continued. "Five years ago that probably would've resulted in my surrender. But I'm different now, y'know. Stronger. You're not going to win this fight, Alice. Might as well give up while all of your limbs are still attached." He smiled in that smug way of his, and merely raised his arm. "Let there be darkness," he boomed comically, and then there was nothing. At least, from Ace's point of view. This power was one that he'd adopted upon using the Ashes to boost his abilities and, as such, he knew that Ace would not have been preparing for it. When he'd raised his arm, he focused and concentrated most of his remaining energy into clouding her eyes with darkness, to the point where that was all she'd see. Her other senses, of course, were left in tact, but her sight was gone. This ability, though useful most of the time, was weak and would wear off in about a minute, but he'd use that time to his advantage.

Carter was moving forward - slowly, teasingly - while whistling nonchalantly, when he heard Henrietta screaming for help from not far away. His head turned so sharply that he was worried he might've given himself whiplash, but that was the lowest of his priorities. His eyes moved to Henrietta lying on the floor, scared and panicking. The sight alone made his heart sink, and he inhaled sharply. He hadn't even realised that he'd lowered his arm and, in doing so, gave Ace her sight back. His mind was on Keith and the almost scarily sinister expression he held on his face. In seconds, Carter's eyes darkened to such a level that no one had ever seen before. Darkness moved from every corner of the street and formed behind him; hands reached out for him, tugging at his clothes and playing with his hair after one of them had removed his hat. "Keith," he growled, "get away from her." He said nothing more and simply walked forward, the darkness following him. At that time, he had no clue why he felt the need to protect Henrietta. While, on one hand, he didn't want to hurt Keith, he didn't think he could ever look at him the same way if he killed Henrietta. She was, at the end of the day, the only one he'd ever had a close bond with, and he'd be damned if he let anyone lay a hand on her. "She's mine," he roared as he moved in front of Keith and placed his hand flat against the shorter man's chest.

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Keith shot Henrietta a half smile as he slowly approached her menacingly. She looked utterly horrified, this pleased him. Just as he was about to project his pollen spores, his focus was completely broken when he heard Carter of all people hiss in his ear in a threatening manner, "Keith," he said. "Get away from her." At this Keith scowled. He did not immediately back down and continued to hover over Henrietta even though Carter approached him. What completely threw him off was the darkness carefully treading after Carter. It was as though... as though the darkness was alive. Like it was composed of several smaller beings that continuously grasped and pulled at Carter. His eyes were so dark that for the first time in many years, Keith felt uncomfortable. Seconds later, Carter was standing between him and Henrietta lightly pushing him back. "She's mine," Carter bellowed. At first, this infuriated Keith. He glared into Carter's eyes challengingly still not backing down. And then suddenly he chuckled with a shrug. The vines that were wrapped around Keith's arm began to unwind and fall back into the soils. Before backing away he shot Henrietta another dark glance. It was a long stare. His eyes were clouded and vague. He did not smile nor show any amusement as he collected his thoughts. Henrietta only stared back sadly and seemingly puzzled.

Keith was beginning to grit his teeth before he looked away. He felt uneasy and slightly dazed. There was a mixture of emotions on his face before he returned to his devilish smile and darted his eyes back towards Carter. "Don't tell me you still have a soft spot Carter," Keith provoked. "Just look at you."

As he said this, he made sure to have his back turned at Alice. He refused to look in her direction for the guilt would rush over him. Plus he had caught a small glimpse of her now crooked nose that was full of blood. He feared it would infuriate him even more. Although he wished he could just push Carter out of the wayr, he strongly decided against it. Though his snide sarcasm did not waiver. It just became increasingly worse.

Henrietta watched in bewilderment. A moment ago they were enemies, and now Carter was defending her. Seeing Carter come to her aid suddenly made her feel overwhelmed. If she wasn't in such pain, she would have probably blushed at his gesture while trying to fight back her tears of frustration. Instead only a few sounds escaped her lips as she struggled to get up with little success. For some reason, she felt embarrassed in front of Carter since she was pathetically bound to the Earth right now in an unsightly state. She had to get up. He could not see her like this.

Carter... All she could ponder was his name. She was at a loss for words. Even if it was only for an instant, she saw her old friend again. This made her heart ache. Her own thoughts were racing, wanting nothing more than to stop this fighting and go home together forgetting this even happened. It was too soon to let her guard down though. What if they turned on her and Ace again? It was then that Henrietta noticed a strangeness about Carter. Even though her once closest friend stood in front of her while protecting her, something was not quite right about it. At this moment, Carter felt as dangerous as Keith and it made her somewhat uneasy. What's happening? To both of you? Keith had become a mad man, she already established that. But it did not make sense. Somehow they were exceptionally stronger than anything Henrietta could have possibly imagined. The more she thought about it, the more nauseous she felt which did not mix well in her wounded state. She managed to prop herself up using her elbow. Everything was starting to hurt more in this state of confusion.

"Damn it!" she choked before allowing herself to fall back to the floor. Something strange was at work here. She no longer feared what the two may or may not do to her in this vulnerable state, but rather feared whatever was happening to her former allies. The tension in the air was stifling. Frustration welled up inside of her. She was humiliated. If she was going to lose a battle, she hoped it would have at least been a more graceful defeat. The left side of her face was mushed into the ground and she found herself looking in Ace's direction apologetically. I failed you, Ace. I'm so sorry. She felt ashamed. Ace was not looking too well herself. It seemed as though they both took a beating. The outcome was grim and she was feeling very exposed. She wished she could make it over to her comrade to be by her side. When she heard Keith resentfully ask Carter if he still had a soft spot, she then realized Keith was referring to her. It made her stop breathing for a moment. Soft spot? she asked herself. Her cheeks suddenly felt warm as her gaze trailed back up towards Carter uncertain of what was to come in these next few moments.



[ OOC: Totally did not realize everyone was waiting for me to post. Sorry about that! xD ]

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Ace couldn't help but smirk when she saw Carter drop the bat, and it only took her a second to snatch it and jump back to her original position. She was pleased with the fact that it'd worked, and a little more pleased with Carter's hiss. It was a small factor of satisfaction, but she didn't do much to hide it. Her thoughts were that the fight would be over soon, in her favor, certainly. "That was smart," she heard him say. Her small smirk grew, but only slightly. Her smile was still small; subtle. "Distract me with the fire then take my bat," he continued. Though her smile had been growing just seconds ago, she felt a frown coming on. What's he getting at? She found herself thinking, a small yet persistent sensation of suspicion coming on. "Five years ago that probably would've resulted in my surrender. But I'm different now, y'know. Stronger. You're not going to win this fight, Alice. Might as well give up while all of your limbs are still attached." At this point, Ace's smile had completely vanished, being replaced with a sketchy glare. What could Carter possibly do to turn the battle around? Whatever the answer, Ace had no clue... "Let there be darkness," She felt her grip on Carter's bat tighten and her eyebrows furrow as she saw Carter raise his hand, and to her great discomfort, that was the last thing she saw.

Alice visibly tensed, though she quickly forced herself to relax her muscles, as her shoulder wasn't agreeing with her. She began to gnaw on her bottom lip and she felt an alarming sense of panic washing over her, which to her was the equivalent of being washed out by an unavoidable tidal wave. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness that Alice felt was absolutely agonizing. Thankfully, the peak of her panic lasted for a few seconds, for she quickly convinced herself that the only way to stand a chance without her sight was to calm down and revert to one of her other senses: hearing. She made a point to keep her ears open, listening to any sound she could catch. It was almost as if Carter were dancing on her nerves as he began to whistle. She could hear his footsteps; slow but torturous.

She didn't think her panic could get any worse... Not until she heard Henrietta scream for help. She was helpless, already panicking, and now her dear friend needed her now more than ever, and Ace couldn't do a thing. She was biting down on her lower lip so hard, it begs to bleed, though she neglected to notice. And yet, it was only a second later that she realized her sight had returned. Her first instinct was to turn to Henrietta, and the sight of her ally lying on the ground, helpless, was more than enough to get Ace moving, specifically toward her injured ally. Though she found herself pausing a few feet away from her, as her eyes drifted to Carter. Was he defending Henrietta? Alice was... Puzzled. Extremely thankful, for sure, but... Confused. I-If they were on different sides, then--- She quickly waved the topic away, before turning back to Henrietta and making her way over, kneeling down in the process. She was more focused on Henrietta than she was on anything else; in fact, she didn't care to listen in on what Carter had to say, she really just wanted to get Henrietta to a safer location.

It was only when she heard Keith say something about a Carter having a soft spot that the conversation caught her attention. In fact, she found her eyes turning to Keith and Carter. The moment Keith had said that she realized he was avoiding her gaze, and at this, she was torn between a number of feelings. Part of her was angry; outraged that he would dare do this to Henrietta. That he'd go so far to nearly kill her! Another part of her was desperately trying to figure out what the hell happened. Something happened during the five years that he was gone. What, she couldn't tell, but it changed him. Keith was no longer the Keith she thought she knew so well, he was not the Keith that offered her flower bouquets, he was not the Keith that she'd spended hours answering riddles with. This much, she was able to gather, but even though she now knew this was true, Alice was still clawing to figure out what did this. She would not be satisfied, no, she'd never be satisfied, but she would never be able to accept it until she knew what happened. Why he would do this? Maybe... Was it Alice's fault? Had she unintentionally provoked this? Ace began to bite her lip again, as she started to fed her insecurities, only to end up waving off the topic in an attempt to deny the possibility. ...Though her attempt hardly succeeded.

Her gaze was locked on the two for a few more moments, but her eyes soon drifted back to her wounded ally, only to find herself being drenched in even more alarming feelings. The moment she looked at Henrietta, she remembered what Keith had said in the first place. "Don't tell me you still have a soft spot Carter," He must have been referring to Henrietta, and at this, Alice felt overwhelmed by a troubling sense of jealously, which resulted in an uncomfortable glance back at Carter and Keith, though she made a point to look back at Henrietta as quickly as she turned away. Perhaps too fast.She couldn't even begin to understand why she was... Jealous, of all things, of Carter and Henrietta. But, thankfully, the feeling was brief and left just as quickly as it came.

Inhaling sharply, Alice offered her hand to Henrietta and plastered a smile on to her face. "We should make haste and get out of here." She began. "I think we'd both agree that a visit to Louie is in order... I'll be more than happy to help you up." As Alice began to ready herself to help Henrietta up, she found herself wondering what to do with Carter's bat. She'd forgotten about it up until now, and she wasn't sure what to do with it now. Shrugging, she gingerly placed it on the ground. If she was going to help Henrietta up, then surely she'd need all the strength she could musters. Sure, she wasn't the weakest of the disciples, but she certainly wasn't among the strongest. And seeing how muscle wise, Henrietta was, Alice found herself questioning if she could pull off escourting her ally to Louie's... Though, she wasn't sure if there were any other options, given the current situation.

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Carter stood in complete silence as he stared blankly into Keith's eyes, his own anger rising and boiling as he noticed that the blonde wasn't backing down. He hadn't initially intended to act out against Keith as much as he was, but he still didn't take the time to realise how much of a mistake this was. His eyes hadn't shifted an inch since he'd approached, but his mind was racing with questions. The most prominent of which was, why did I protect her..? He'd thought that when he left the others to their own devices, he'd cut off all ties and connections to them. Apparently he'd been wrong about that, and some old, distant feelings were still present. The thought alone was enough to curl his fingers into his palm do deep he thought he might draw blood. He felt the shadows coiling around his limbs, spreading out a little more so that they wouldn't loom over Henrietta too much. And it was only when the shadows whispered in his ear that he even noticed that Alice had taken a place by Henrietta's side. He wasn't worried; he knew she'd never think of attacking on her own, not with Henrietta in such an injured state.

Carter watched Keith's expression shift slightly before he shifted his eyes away from Carter's. If it were anyone else, he might've taken a moment to boast about winning the staring competition, but now was not the time for petty victories. He snapped his thoughts back to the current situation as he noticed Keith turning back with a grin that made Carter's brows sink down further until his eyes were dangerously narrow. "Don't tell me you still have a soft spot Carter," Keith said, and it took quite a few moments for Carter to even register what that question entailed, or that it was meant as a way to provoke Carter further. "Just look at you," he continued, and that was enough for Carter. The shadows were lashing like whips, the hands tugging fiercely at his clothes and his burnt skin. He grimaced against the pain, but he kept his eyes fixed on Keith until...

His head shifted around to face Henrietta and as he caught a glimpse of her confused expression, he quickly turned back to Keith with his head down. An uneasy feeling of guilt washed over his body. If only he hadn't been too busy fighting Ace, if he'd just paid some attention to the fight going on right beside him, she might not have come out of this in such a state. He hated seeing her so hurt and confused, mainly because of how close they were prior to the disagreement of the two groups. He may not be on the same side as her now, but that certainly didn't mean he hated her. He'd been the one to leave, after all. If anything, she would've been the one to hate him.

Having been silent for some time, Carter finally dragged his gaze up to meet Keith's. He felt displeasing warmth of tears running down his cheeks, but that didn't concern him too much. "I don't hate them, Keith," he spoke up, his voice much more calm and steady than his appearance gave off. "I never have." He paused briefly, his fists uncurling to reveal four red marks across both palms, blood trickling from each laceration. His arms hung limply at his sides, but the shadows didn't retract for a second. "A few disagreements do not create enemies," he continued after a while, "So yes, I do still have a soft spot for Henrietta because she still means a hell of a lot to me after all this time, you small, insignificant little hypocrite!" His anger was returning to him once more, his voice reduced to little more than a guttural snarl. "You're in the same position I am right now. If you can honestly look Ace in the face and tell me you don't still have feelings for her, then you're the most evil, heartless person I've ever known, and I can't even bring myself to look at you right now."

For the second time that day, Carter turned and walked away from Keith, further towards the two girls. He stuck his arms out left and right, and the shadows enveloped them all, including Keith. He was silent as he focused, his eyes squinting closed. "This is a new technique, so everyone needs to be quiet... Or it won't," he stopped to grunt awkwardly, "...work". After a few moments, he opened his eyes and let his arms drop as his knees gave out beneath him and he fell. The darkness retracted into a nearby alleyway, revealing that they were only a short walk from Louie's front door. "My god... That was hard." He rolled over onto his back and took heavy breaths, fighting against the burning pain that the concrete caused when his back slapped against it. "You're all welcome, by the way," he growled.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell Character Portrait: Louie T. Orihara
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Keith watched the darkness tug around Carter with a smug look on his face. At his remark, Carter seemed to have grown angrier which initially made Keith's eyes light up with more amusement, but the look vanished as quickly as it came. To Keith's surprise, tears were running down Carter's face. Everything on Keith's mind had become silent at the sight. "I don't hate them, Keith," Carter spoke firmly. "I never have." Keith's lips curled with discontent, though it was not towards Carter that he felt unhappy with. If anything he felt confusion race through his mind and his own urge to cry. But he refused. Instead he glanced away towards the dry earth, not wishing to look at anyone. "So yes, I do still have a soft spot for Henrietta because she still means a hell of a lot to me after all this time, you small, insignificant little hypocrite!" Carter bellowed at Keith. His eyes returned to Carter's with a glare. His blood starting to boil at the insult and his own fists clenching. But he did not dare retort in this moment. It would take a fool not to notice the tension and heat of this argument. Even Keith knew he should not step farther over the line though for some reason he desired to. His teeth gritted as he continued to angrily stare at Carter in the eyes. The darkness around Carter was sinister and abnormal. If all of them had not just been battling, Keith would have felt concern over this.

"You're in the same position I am right now. If you can honestly look Ace in the face and tell me you don't still have feelings for her, then you're the most evil, heartless person I've ever known, and I can't even bring myself to look at you right now."

Keith felt his face drop at this remark. His eyes said it all in this moment, growing less clouded. The guilt... it was overwhelming him. Then Carter turned his back on him once more for the day, leaving Keith with nothing but a hollow hole in his chest. It was agonizing. For the first time in this whole encounter, Keith finally acknowledged Ace. He stared at her longingly and shamefully, with a strange sadness and anger. A mixture of emotions. His arms had fallen limp at his sides and his knees suddenly felt weak. His eyes were fixed on hers for a very long moment. It was one of the very few occasions in all of Keith's years of immortality where he was rendered speechless. If you stared at him closely enough, you'd see his eyes glazed with water. Though he refused to let tears fall in front of them all.

On the sidelines, Henrietta watched in awe at this entire exchange. Her own cheeks felt warm at Carter's remarks. If anything, she appeared to be in a sort of emotional shock. He still cares? You... You stupid idiot! She felt her own thoughts running rampant at all of this. What was she to do? What are her and Ace supposed to make of all of this? She turned to look at Ace only to find her friend quickly looking away from her. As if she caught a stranger awkwardly staring at her. Henrietta frowned. However, that was when she saw the sudden change of demeanor in Keith. He almost looked as though he was in pain. She could not stand at how alone he looked. Something was terribly wrong with him. In this instant, she saw the old Keith she knew. If only she could move. Henrietta struggled to lift herself to a sitting position. Her hand was covered in blood and it made her start to feel somewhat queasy. The cool air around her made her shiver uncomfortably. In actuality, her vision was going through bouts of blur and she felt quite dizzy. Her head and back were throbbing from where she impacted the tree she now leaned against. She then saw Carter approaching her and Ace again while darkness enveloped them. Suddenly, they were only a short walk away from Louie's. Though everyone's voices started to grow faint and Henrietta struggled to keep herself conscious. She only needed to walk a little more to Louie's... Her own body began to grow limp as the last of her strength began to exit her body. But she quickly snapped herself out of it, struggling to force herself to rise to her feet.

Keith was unaware that Carter had learned such a technique. Seeing Carter's burns he felt a sting sizzle in his own flesh. He had forgotten all about the thorns embedded in his skin. Henrietta's doing. His body also ached and was possibly bruised from all of Henrietta's attacks. Though he would take care of himself. He did not wish to stay at Louie's with them. Before he left, he gently grabbed Ace's uninjured arm not saying anything at first. Her warm body temperature made him nostalgic. "You're smarter than anyone I know, Ace." Keith said with sorrow in his voice. A very small yet sad smile appeared on his face. "I know you can figure this one out." Heaving a sigh, he wasn't even sure if he should be doing such a thing. It may call for more harsh words with Carter later. But he felt a need to do this. He decided to give Ace a riddle, just like old times. "Ignited by light, she left behind. Something you'll find with nothing but fire." He then turned away from her and everyone else. Walking away, he desired solitude in his old favorite forest.

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Alice had to bite her bottom lip to keep it from quivering. She stared at the ordeal, and as she listened to Carter's words she felt more and more tempted to burst into tears. An agonizing sense of frustration, doubt and jealously welled up inside of her, growing larger and more concerning with each passing second. Every single dreadful thought she had building up inside of her over the past week was feasting; feasting on this horrendous suspense that really only lasted for a small matter of seconds, but what seemed like years to Ace. Surely if Carter still had feelings for Henrietta, then Keith might still love her? But... Her teeth dug into her bottom lip. She couldn't stand this overwhelming doubt. She doubted herself more than anything else. All the harsh feelings toward Keith began to turn on her; they bellowed that it was somehow Alice who wasn't good enough, who was inferior. Why would it be Keith's fault? Surely he would've stayed his pleasant self, if it weren't for her---

It was only then that Ace caught Keith's gaze and she feared she couldn't blink back her tears for much longer. His look did not bring solace to her; only an onslaught of guilt and heartache. Her face lacked the self-control to hide these emotions, as a disgruntled frown gradually made its way on to her face. She locked eyes with Keith for a long time, and the time that their eyes were locked was excruciating. He looked so... so alone, he looked so sad. She couldn't bear to see him like this. Ace was so focused on Keith that she hadn't even begun to notice that her lip was starting to bleed. Even then, she was still gnawing on it.

Ace's heart raced when she realized Keith was walking toward her. She felt her whole body tingle when he placed his hand on her arm. She stared at him in utter silence as he hesitated to speak. It was at that moment that she realized he was on the verge of crying, and the sight of his watery eyes tore her apart. "You're smarter than anyone I know, Ace." His words brought a rose-red blush to Alice's cheeks. Her blush was glaringly obvious and she couldn't hide it, even if she wanted to. She watched as he tried on a small but sad smirk, and felt a frown tug at her face. Yet again, the only thing keeping her from breaking down was the knot in her throat and the teeth sinking into her quivering lip. "I know you can figure this one out. Ignited by light, she left behind. Something you'll never find with nothing but fire." And with that, he left.

Alice stared at the ground in utter silence, and the softest of smiles painted itself onto her face. "He... He still cares," she found herself murmuring. Her eye contact with the floor never halted, for she refused to let anyone see her tear up. As she thought of the others, her thoughts wavered to Henrietta and Carter. She was so wrapped up in... other things that she hadn't even realized the favor Carter bestowed upon them. She muttered a quick word of thanks before nudging the door to Louie's open and yelling his name.

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Henrietta watched as Keith exchanged words with Ace before walking away. She considered shouting something but decided against it. Ace's gaze was locked with the ground and Henrietta could not help but feel some sort of remorse. A familiar sadness crept through her mind. Before stumbling into Louie's after Ace, she turned towards Carter. She felt compelled to say something but wasn't quite sure what.

"Hey um..." she paused as she glanced into his eyes. Her face felt hot so she quickly looked away while slightly pouting. "I miss you."

Uncertain of what else to say, she turned and limped into Louie's. If anything, she felt extremely awkward and still somewhat humiliated. Plus her discomfort with Louie was not about to help. However, she felt too tired to resist for once in her life. She refused to look down at her wound for she think nausea would overtake her. Henrietta often felt overwhelmed and ill at the sight of her own wounds. Exhausted, she leaned against the door frame as Ace called out for Louie hoping he'd show soon.

"Ace," she murmured. "What the hell just happened?"

It was more of a statement than a question. All of this had her in disbelief. She was not even sure how the others would react to this. It was a lot to take in and the situation had seemed to change direction. There was much to discuss.



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Keith shoved his hands into his pockets as he slowly walked away. He didn't deem it appropriate to stay. If anything he almost did not wish to return, but he knew in the end he always would. He heaved a long sigh, watching a small cloud of water vapor escape into the cool air. It was colder than he had realized. His mind felt very burnt out. After a long distance, Keith made a turn into a forest he was very familiar with. It was dark yet he knew the way by memory. He swerved in and out of the trees avoiding ditches or any sudden drops. Eventually he found himself in a small clearing in the center of the woods. The place was comforting. A few evening butterflies fluttered out in the open and he extended his palm for one of the creatures to land on. As one naturally did, he only weakly smiled before lifting it up and setting it free once more.

Keith sat at the foot of a thick tree. He stared vacantly at the moon shining directly overhead the clearing. It felt as though his entire being was aching inside and out. Any time he tried to form thoughts they quickly trailed off as though he was incapable of forming them. To his surprise, hot tears were racing down his cheeks. He quickly tried to wipe them away but instead they poured down faster and he could not control himself. His body quivered every time he gasped for air in between sobs. Eventually he screamed and dug his fingernails into his scalp, gripping his hair and almost pulling it.

"What is happening to me...?" he whispered as his mind reflected on all that occurred. He kept hearing himself laugh at Henrietta's pain and repeatedly recalled how he stabbed her, so readily willing to kill her. How could he ever apologize or show his face to them without shame? An apology would not be nearly enough.

After some time, he decided to weave himself a bed of branches and roots to rest on. He pondered on his return with growing dread. How was he to face Carter again? Though Carter seemed to be somewhat in the same boat as him. Keith could not deny something awful seemed to be happening to the two. Although Keith's change seemed to happen more rapidly, Carter was noticeably becoming more aggressive. His darkness was changing too. It was very strange. Though it then occurred to him that it was the effect of the ashes. A side effect? They did not account for this. It made Keith feel anxious. He was out of balance, and as his power grew, his connection with nature would slowly subside. Eventually the trees, plants, insects and animals would no longer recognize him. They would stop responding if he did not find a way to balance himself again soon. Keith thought he should immediately tell Carter, though his stomach churned at the thought of going back. But he knew he could not hide out here forever. He had responsibilities to keep.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell Character Portrait: Louie T. Orihara
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Carter stayed on the ground, never moving his eyes from the sky above him, even as he heard the brief exchanging of words between Keith and Ace. He listened intently, and had to stop himself from openly cursing at Keith; he'd given her a hint which, in a way, was an incredibly stupid thing to do. Carter felt his eyelids close and the darkness that came with it was almost comforting, were it not for the raw burns on his back. He'd probably gotten stones stuck in them by now, but he scarcely noticed. Louie would probably wash them out when he came out to fetch them. He would've gotten up by himself, but that last technique had sapped whatever little strength he held onto after his fight with Ace. He wasn't one for his stamina, to say the least. It came as no surprise to him, even after his power boost.

His eyes only reopened when he heard a familiar voice directly next to him. "Hey um..." Henrietta spoke, and Carter met her gaze without hesitation. It was in that moment that the pain vanished, and all his attention was focused on the familiar person hovering slightly over him. She quickly looked away and he frowned in embarrassment, feeling the heat of a blush on his cheeks. "I miss you," she continued, and Carter nodded. He didn't attempt a smile, as he was already putting immense effort into not looking surprised. He'd have thought that she'd hate him after all this time and after what happened between them all, but he'd been wrong about that. He didn't even have time to respond before she limped off, and Carter took that moment to try to lift himself up.

Carter started by heaving a sigh and rolling onto his front, his face mushed into the concrete, before he brought his arms to his head and pushed his weight with all his strength. With a pained grunt, he tucked his knees in and used both ends to push himself to a standing position. He stood on shaky legs, but stayed upright regardless. Then came the awkward task of taking the steps towards Louie's home, which he seemed to handle adequately well.

~

Louie looked up from his desk when he heard his front door opening, and his eyes finally dragged themselves towards the teenager stood in his living room. "Thank you," he spoke in a smooth voice, "You are dismissed." At this, the teen awkwardly bowed his head and scuffled out of the room, then down the hall and past the girl leaning against the doorframe.

With a heavy sigh, he stood and shifted his chair backwards in the same second, then quietly walked around the desk as he heard his name being called. "Yes, yes," he called, "I'm coming." He walked without urgency, despite having been informed of the fight between the four disciples some time before they even arrived. His eyes followed them wherever they went; such was his responsibility, to make sure they stayed relatively safe. It helped him, in a way, to prepare treatment for their arrival, which is precisely what he'd just spent the last half an hour trying to do. By his record, there were several injuries requiring his attention. A broken nose, serious back burns and then there was Henrietta, who had more injuries than he could count on both hands.

As Louie moved silently into the hall, he settled his gaze on Ace's bloodied noise and shook his head disapprovingly, but smiled reassuringly afterwards. "Make your way into the living room, I'll be with you in a second or two." He then turned his attention to Henrietta, who was leaning against the doorframe. Saying nothing, he moved closer and wrapped two strong arms around her, lifting her like a man would lift a woman on their wedding night, then walked smoothly towards the door at the very end of his hallway. It lead to his study, where he did most of his work. Having walked in, he set Henrietta in a comfortable chair and stepped back, analysing her with an emotionless gaze. Then, suddenly and without warning, he snapped his fingers and made a sound resembling, "Ah-HAH." A friendly smile had settled onto his features, but he turned and walked away before he could elaborate.

"Several lacerations, the worst of which being located on the abdomen, major bruising and, I'm guessing, possibly some broken bones," he mumbled to himself as he worked, trying to ignore the blood that hung thick in the air. He moved over to his shelves and appeared to be sorting though the organised bottles, until he came across a large bowl filled with dried leaves. He lifted it into one hand and grabbed a bottle that seemed to bubble with a deep purple liquid, before making his way back to Henrietta. Having laid the bottle on top of the leaves, he pulled over a stool and sat in front of the girl. He plucked two leaves from the bowl and said, "Open." He waited for her to comply before he popped them both into her mouth. "Chew them, they'll help with the pain. They're like the strongest painkillers in the world. You won't feel a thing." He placed the bowl down on the floor and took the bottle from on top of it. He stared at it for a moment, then sighed to himself, standing up again to grab a cloth from elsewhere in the room.

Opening the lid of the bottle, he wet a small section of the cloth with the liquid inside and dabbed each individual laceration; the smaller ones healed almost instantly, but the deeper cuts were taking their time. Once he'd covered her arms, legs and some other areas, he turning his attention on her abdomen. He hadn't even spoken a word to Henrietta during his work as he didn't feel the need to, but every so often he would glance up at her and flash her one of his signature smiles. At one point, Carter had stumbled in and had complained so much that Louie sent him to bathe in the healing mud he'd set up in the bathroom, just to get rid of him. "Uh," he started awkwardly, "I'm going to have to lift up your shirt to see the cut. Just a warning." Hesitantly, he reached for the shirt and lifted it up, placing the soaked cloth against her cut. With his free hand, he took hold of her arm and positioned her hand against the cloth. "Hold it there for ten minutes, and it'll heal itself." Louie stood then, and turned before his cheeks could heat up.

"Ace," he beckoned, motioning for her to sit on another of his armchairs. While he waited, her grabbed another cloth but this time he simply walked into the bathroom and wet it with water, before he came back in. He walked over to her, but not before grabbing a few more leaves to feed her while he tended to her nose. "Open," he repeated, leaves at the ready. He then began to dab carefully at the almost dried blood with the wet cloth, clearing the blood from the nose. When it was clear, he quietly analysed her. "Luckily for you, Carter wasn't using all of his strength when he did that," Louie began, setting the bloodied cloth to one side as his other hand reached for her jaw to tilt her head in different direction. He fought against the urge to roll his eyes when he heard Carter yell "You're welcome," from another room. Louie moved past it pretty quickly. "It is broken, yes, and it will bruise and swell over the next few days, but there's no disfigurement, so everything should be fine... But that bullet wound, that's another story. You're lucky because it went all the way through, but that's going to take a while to heal properly." He carefully applied the same potion to Ace's wound that he applied to Henrietta's, and then sat at his desk once more, sighing as he leaned back in his tall chair.

"And Keith? He has suffered substantial injuries, I hear. Why is he not here right now?"





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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Louie T. Orihara
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Henrietta could not help but blush when Louie came and swept her off of her feet. It made her slightly uncomfortable since she never quite grew accustomed to needing someone's help. She was gritting her teeth as her wounds throbbed each passing second. As they entered his study she almost felt immediate relief knowing the pain would hopefully soon subside. Settling in one of Louie's chairs, you could hear her faintly sigh. She felt sleepy and dazed at this point, unable to focus on how embarrassed she would normally feel. She did not even seem to hear Louie mumbling to himself. "Open," she heard Louie command holding a couple of strange leaves before her. "Chew them, they'll help with the pain. They're like the strongest painkillers in the world. You won't feel a thing." Louie did not have to tell her twice. She immediately opened her mouth and began to chew. As she chewed and soon swallowed, she made a face at the seemingly bitter taste but did not complain. Within seconds, she felt the pain sap away from her body and fell somewhat limp. The tension was draining away and she could finally relax. However, Louie was not done with her.

Now that Henrietta was finally able to acknowledge her surroundings, that familiar discomfort around Louie became more noticeable. She finally met Louie's calm eyes as he applied his uniquely created medicine to her smaller cuts. He had not even spoken a word and the silence was stifling for her. Henrietta could not help but be amazed at how they almost instantly disappeared. Louie was truly something. When Carter stumbled in complaining she really tried not to laugh. For the most part she held it in, but the smile tugging at her lips was noticeable. Perhaps it was not entirely appropriate.

"Uh," Louie broke her thoughts. "I'm going to have to lift up your shirt to see the cut. Just a warning." Henrietta's eyes somewhat widened but she merely nodded before looking away. As he placed the soaked cloth against her wound she whimpered while squeezing her eyes shut. Though the pain was quickly flushed away and she tiredly opened her eyes feeling Louie place her hand over the cloth. He told her to hold it there for ten minutes and she had no objections. Then he exited the room leaving Henrietta to her thoughts and exhaustion. Every time she closed her eyes and drifted into a dreamlike state, the fight would just replay in her mind making her snap back into reality. The more she thought about it the more uncomfortable she felt. But with Henrietta, all feelings returned to her most comfortable emotion, anger. However, it was not a topic she knew how to broach on with the others.

Ten minutes quickly passed for Henrietta and she curiously peeked under her shirt to glance at her wound. It was as though it was never even there. Hesitantly, she softly poked her stomach expecting a pain but felt nothing. She heard Louie stirring around and softly speaking to Ace. Carter must have been in the bathroom. Her strength was slowly returning along with her spunk. She was feeling more like herself by the second. Her lips were sealed tight as she hopped off of the chair and stormed towards the bathroom. Making a fist, she punched the door violently while purposely holding herself back so that the door would not break.

"Hey Carter!" she shouted. "If you thought you were getting off that easily, think again!"

At this moment, she had her hands firmly planted on her waist as she glared at the door. Her mind was racing with questions and her emotions rampant. "You're such an idiot! Do you really think you can just leave, come back, try to fight us, and then take it all back!? What do you think this is! Stop playing mind games with us! With me, damn it... " she was shouting then suddenly choked feeling hot tears gather. But she shook them away as quickly as they came. "And as for Keith! As for... As for Keith!" she continued to shout but her voice started to waiver at the mention of his name. She then whirled around angrily towards Louie and Ace.

"Where is that bastard?" she spat. She had heard Louie asking Ace but wanted to reaffirm the question. Her frustration only grew and she started to pace uncontrollably muttering to herself. Not that she expected anyone to help or respond. Knowing this made her feel exceedingly crabby. Her attempts to console herself were not working. Instead she gnawed on her own finger trying to keep quiet before she embarrassed herself even more. Then she stopped as though she had an idea. Of course! Perhaps she could locate his movements through the Earth? She pushed her mind as she searched for those familiar footsteps. For his body weight and the way he would shift as he moved. At last she found him a few miles out. "Well he's not very far, I can tell you that," Henrietta said while crossing her arms. Her brow slightly twitched thinking about this. "I'm not going after him either."

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell Character Portrait: Louie T. Orihara
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Alice watched in silence as Henrietta limped inside. The sight of her wounds reminded Ace of her own, and at that moment she felt an ache coming on. Adrenaline and shock were no longer on her side, and all that moving around was not sitting nicely with her shoulder. She felt a small frown coming on as she looked to the side to examine herself… "Ace," Henrietta’s voice broke her thoughts. "What the hell just happened?"

At that, Ace let out a scoff mixed with a laugh. "You know," She began. "That’s a really good question." Her eyes settled on Carter, who was now walking in. She hadn’t taken the time to realize that Carter should not have been able to teleport them like that. An ability like that was beyond their limits, his limits, and yet--- "Yes, yes," Louie suddenly called. "I’m coming." It wasn't too long before Louie was in sight. She felt herself frown when she caught his nod of disapproval, though his reassuring smile helped turned the frown upside-down. She merely nodded when he told her to make their way into the living room, and did just that. Ace stood patiently while she was waiting for him to finish up with Henrietta, though, not surprisingly, Carter wasn't as patient. It wasn't long until she found herself waiting alone. To pass the time, Ace began playing with fire and smiling as it danced on her fingertips. Ace was about to bounce the fire to her other hand, but as she outstretched her injured arm to catch it, she grimaced from the pain and the fire dissipated. She cursed under her breath before turning to Louie, who had just called her name.

Ace didn't hesitate to take a seat. As she gingerly hopped onto one of Louie's armchairs, she let out the softest of sighs. Her eyes began to close and for once she welcomed the darkness that came along with it. It was amazing how nice it felt to close one's eyes, especially in the presence of weariness. "Open," Louie's voice interrupted her moment of leisure, though she didn't mind. Her eyes and mouth opened and he popped two dried leaves into her mouth. She began to chew and her expression turned sour as a bitter taste invaded her senses, though the invasion didn't last long. Ace quickly swallowed down the leaves as well as the bad taste. Along with the bad taste went the pain, and the disappearance was enough to keep Ace from flinching when Louie began wiping the blood off of her nose. She'd expected some degree of pain, though surprisingly and not so surprisingly, there was none.

"Luckily, Carter wasn't using all of his strength when he did that," Louie began. Ace nearly scoffed when she heard Carter yell from another room. Surely he realized she could've burned all the hair off of his head, if she'd wanted to. "It is broken, yes, and it will bruise and swell over the next few days, but there's no disfigurement, so everything should be fine... But that bullet wound, that's another story. You're lucky because it went all the way through, but that's going to take a while to heal properly." She simply nodded at Louie's words and her eyes began to close again. Fighting was so tiresome. Ace couldn't wait until this eventful day was over.

In time, Louie was back in his chair. "And Keith? He has suffered substantial injuries, I hear. Why is he not here right now?" Alice's eyes drifted open yet again as she heard the question. "Well," Alice began to think aloud. "He seemed like he wanted to be alone. I bet he's---" "Where is that bastard?" Henrietta suddenly spat. Her eyes fixed on Henrietta as she entered the room. She was too wrapped up in her own thoughts she hadn't even realized that her ally was fuming, as usual. Nearly rolling her eyes, she watched as Henrietta paced back and forth, her anger seemingly growing by the second. As Henrietta came to a halt, Ace found an opportunity to continue talking, but Henrietta ended up interrupting her yet again. A look of subtle annoyance crept onto Alice's face. "Well he's not very far, I can tell you that," Henrietta said while crossing her arms. Her brow slightly twitched thinking about this. "I'm not going after him either."

"...Then I will," Ace found herself muttering. "I am fairly if not completely certain of his location." She hopped out the armchair and found herself heading toward the exit. "If Carter leaves before I return, be sure to inform him that I'll be my pleasure to burn him in our next encounter."

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Keith rested against his woven bed, his chest softly rising then collapsing in a steady pattern. He was in a dreamlike state though still awake and for once his thoughts were slow. Though his body ached against the cool evening air, his arms were somewhat blistered from Henrietta's gravity bolts and his stomach was badly bruised from that heavy rock she used against him. Not to mention the thorns embedded in his skin would sharply sting once in awhile. Suddenly a voice rumbled as the leaves of the trees rocked back and forth.

"You are injured, my friend," the tree he rested upon said.

Keith lightly chuckled, "So you are awake, Yggdrasil?"

There was no answer for a long moment, only silence. Keith had felt slightly surprised that his old friend had not spoken all this time. He supposed he would visit Louie some time soon, though wished to be alone when he did so. There were important matters he wished to discuss with Louie that no one else could be around to hear. He had growing concerns for himself and Carter, though he would not admit such a thing to Carter. If anything, he dreaded their next encounter. It would most likely be very stiff. Though at the moment his mind felt a lot more clear than it had before. Clear yet exhausted from his internal struggle.

"There is a shift in your energy, friend," Yggdrasil mentioned. Keith felt the tree's life force ripple beneath his palm up and down the roots.

"Yes, I am well aware," Keith sighed. "Do not trouble yourself with such apprehension. It will be resolved in due time."

"The forest worries for you. I speak on their behalf," Yggdrasil humbly admitted. At this, Keith did not respond. Instead, he felt a gloom hang over him. He hoped he had not neglected his duties to the forest. All the while, Keith did not even notice the way the fireflies busily gathered. They flickered their tails, illuminating the darkness around them. He found himself watching them absentmindedly not even realizing how these wondrous creatures only gathered like this under one circumstance. It could only mean Ace was approaching. Suddenly, they seemed to trickle into a path, more and more of them gathering. It then hit Keith like a brick and he felt his heart skip in a mixture of excitement and fear. Was it really that wise of her to come? He wondered how she even knew he would come here. Though fear tugged at his mind as he thought of the fog that occasionally intoxicated him. If he ever hurt Ace like he did Henrietta, he would never, ever, forgive himself.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Louie T. Orihara
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Carter's eyes were closed rather peacefully as he lay in the bathtub that Louie had filled with a special healing mud he'd created by mixing it with one of his potions, or something... Carter wasn't so sure he'd actually listened as much as he ought to have, but it was no concern of his now. Five minutes after he'd gotten into the tub, he could feel the pain slowly fading and then, almost twenty minutes after that, it diminished completely. While his entire body was not numb, he could feel nothing on his back which was somewhat relieving after all the stress it had previously caused him. A pleasant sigh broke through his smiling lips, but his peace was not to last. Figures.

"Hey Carter!" he heard Henrietta yelling from the other room, "If you thought you were getting off that easily, think again!" This caused his eyes to open and he had to crane his next in order to set his steady gaze on the door behind him. Part of him thought she might try to enter the room, but when he heard no movement he relaxed his body and allowed his shoulders to slump as he slid further into the tub, the mud only an inch from his chin and his shoulder fully submerged. He did not reply; he felt it better to let her get whatever she had to off her chest. "You're such an idiot! Do you really think you can just leave, come back, try to fight us, and then take it all back!? What do you think this is! Stop playing mind games with us! With me, damn it... " she continued to rage, and Carter listened to every word until finally he'd had enough of the accusations. "And as for Keith! As for... As for Keith!" Carter acknowledged that she was saying something, but didn't bother processing any of it.

With a disgruntled mutter, Carter lifted himself from the tub on steady arms and wrapped a towel around his lower half, though his entire body up to his neck was caked in a thick brown mud. Noticing this, he cursed loudly and grabbed another small towel to wipe it from his body as best as he possibly could. When he'd gotten the best of it off, he stepped into the shower on the other side of the room and quickly rinsed off, then dried himself again. When he was sure he was dry, he pulled on his ruined clothes. He sucked his teeth as he turned to see a gaping hole in his clothes at his back, the edges blackened and uncomfortable against his skin.

Carter stepped out of the bathroom just as Ace spoke; "If Carter leaves before I return, be sure to inform him that I'll be my pleasure to burn him in our next encounter." Carter, despite his mood, grinned uncontrollably at this comment. He stepped into Ace's line of sight and pointed a finger straight at her, his eyes holding a familiar sort of mischief. "Hey, I'm gonna hold you to that, y'know." Without saying much else, for he didn't see the point, he lowered his arm and went straight for Henrietta without hurry. His eyes were soft where his facial features were not. He wasn't exactly angry, merely frustrated that, yet again, his old friend had failed to understand his views towards their situation. He planned to set it all straight, preferably with as little violence as possible.

Louie, who had been watching them all with serious, analytical eyes stood and cleared his throat as if to excuse himself. Then he remembered something, and called out for Ace before she could think to leave. "Ace, if you manage to find Keith, tell him to come and see me as soon as possible." Saying little else to Henrietta and Carter, he moved out of the room to the hallway, where he climbed the stairs and left them to it.

Thankful for the privacy Ace and Louie had granted them, Carter finally reached for Henrietta's arm and held it gently just below the left shoulder. "You're such an idiot," he retorted, though there was no venom in his voice when he spoke to her. His eyes regarded her carefully, but on the whole he seemed to be very calm. "I hold no hatred for you, for any of you... I can't believe you hadn't realised this sooner, Henrietta. You're smarter than that," he continued, trying his best at a smile. "When I left, it wasn't based off of any personal feelings. I left because I couldn't stand that you five were prepared to leave the mortals to destroy our Goddess' land with their petty political squabbles. I left because I want to guide them and help them through these times. I'm not evil, I don't want to rule or control them. That's not what Kay would have wanted, and you know that." Taking a breath, he let his arm drop to his side. "You hold a very special place in my heart, even after all this time. I don't want to hurt any of you... If I start physical brawls, it's purely for fun or just for a bit of action. I never meant to kill Ace. I didn't think Keith would hurt you as much as he did. That's why I stepped in to defend you."

Carter walked away to an armchair and slumped into it. He sighed lightly, and looked up to her. "I'm not coming back, I hope you know that, but I'm not your enemy. Despite what the others say. I mean you no ill will. At least... not you, specifically." There was so much Carter wanted to tell Henrietta in that moment, but he knew it would only make their situation all the more awkward. And so, with an increasing sense of irritation, he bit his tongue and kept quiet about it all, not knowing whether he'd seriously regret it later on or if it really was for the best.

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Naturally, Henrietta felt an unease when Louie left herself and Carter alone. Sure she had raged, but she had not intended for a serious conversation afterwards. At first, she only frowned as she stared at the wooden panels of the floor. Then she felt Carter gently grab her arm and it was as though the room temperature had instantly risen, her face showing for it. Henrietta listened intently, word for word everything Carter had to say. Oddly enough, there were no visible signs of aggression, sadness or relief from her expression. It was as though she were a blank slate. When she heard him say, "You hold a very special place in my heart," her heart had fluttered and alas she broke away from his intense gaze.

While Carter spoke about Keith, she instinctively found her hands resting on her abdomen where only a few short moments ago blood had gushed out of her. Such a strange feeling it was, to still believe a wound was there when in actuality it was not. "...At least not you, specifically." Carter had ended his statements on this note and Henrietta definitely had caught on. She arched her brow at this before he had slumped into one of Louie's armchairs. However, she found herself eying him carefully before slowly approaching him. She was hesitant, though as she walked near her hand delicately reached out for his face. Her fingers were inches away before she stopped herself. A slight frown tugged at the corners of her lips, but she only stood there trying to digest everything he just said.

"You're never coming back, are you?" Henrietta practically whispered, glancing back down at the ground so she would not feel so exposed. Her anger walls came tumbling down and it was one of those few rare states of mind anyone had ever seen. As she spoke the words she felt it hit her in the face like bricks and she grew visibly tense. "I thought you were dead, you know. I've been so lonely. No one quite gets me the way you do."

Henrietta paused, biting down on her lower lip as though she was not certain if she should say what she was about to. "I understand you're fighting for what you believe is right, as do I. You already know how I feel in regards to the mortals, I'm not arguing that. But, that doesn't mean we can't still be friends. Right? I-I don't know what these feelings are, really, but I feel really strongly towards you... So much so that sometimes it hurts. I don't know if that even means much to you, but when you're around I feel less angry."

At her own remarks, Henrietta shyly twirled her thumbs. It was not easy for her to say such things, let alone acknowledge her own feelings and be reasonable. Though for some reason, it felt as like she'd never see Carter again. That she'd never get to speak to him like this for a very long time. Even though it felt like old times, something was very different about Carter that made her worry. It somewhat reminded her of Keith. Then the humiliation settled in once more from her defeat and she felt so overwhelmed she stumbled back a few steps before gripping her own forehead with her right hand as if to say no.

"I wish you didn't have to see me that way. So useless and shameful, thanks for saving me." Henrietta muttered before a sternness was added to her tone. "Carter, something is different about you. Same with Keith. I know he and I were never the best of friends but, I don't think I did anything to deserve death... He seemed kind of psycho out there. But then..."

Henrietta paused, recalling Carter spitting out his opinions at Keith trying to get the deranged man to step down. At the mention of Ace, for a moment she had saw the old Keith that she knew resurface. He looked very lost, perplexed and somewhat drained as though he did not even know of the events unfolding before him. She grimaced at these thoughts, the memory so fresh in her mind. It sent chills up and down her spine. With a frightened expression, she slumped to the floor while positioning herself on her knees. She dug her face and fists gently into the front of Carter's legs and her voice rattled as she spoke, "I don't know what happened to you all but please, take care of yourself. All you have is each other. So don't you ever die on me!"

The way she spoke was abnormal. She was implying all the unknown works that had yet been revealed. Henrietta was rash, but not stupid. If anything, she was more perceptive than the others with no way of expressing it. Her mind had always been very sharp. Henrietta felt as though she wanted to break down into tears, but she would not let herself appear weaker than she already had tonight. Exhaustion outlined her facial features though she would not rest until Ace returned. She did not trust that Keith, and little did they know was that in Henrietta's mind they were on a timer. But the thought of facing Keith again tonight made her feel somewhat paralyzed just as his pollen spores made her. It was something she wanted to quickly mention to Louie while also describe Keith's odd behavior. She did not dare look back up at Carter, still hiding her face in a sort of self defeat. She was afraid to see what his eyes might say or worried she would try to touch him with longing again. She kept holding her breath as her body somewhat quivered with emotion.

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Carter's eyes were fixed steadily on Henrietta as she seemed to be watching him carefully. It was all he could do not to shift uncomfortably in his seat, but he managed. It was becoming increasingly harder to stay still when Henrietta approached him and reached for his face. He stared at her hand as it neared his face, but he didn't recoil from her touch nor did he act as if it bothered him; his expression was one of subtle calmness. When she paused just before touching him and shortly drew her hand back, he sighed in relief and he felt his body relax. He hadn't even realised how tense he was until that moment. "You're never coming back, are you?" she whispered, and a terrible look of guilt flashed across his features, his lips and brows shaping into a half-frown, even as he was trying his best to keep a passive expression. "I thought you were dead, you know. I've been so lonely. No one quite gets me the way you do," she continued. Carter fought against his instincts to stand and comfort her, and instead kept himself planted in his seat. His eyes settled on her tense form.

He listened carefully to Henrietta's every word as she continued on about her feelings, which he'd stopped himself from doing just a short moment ago. He'd thought it would save their relationship some awkward talks, but little did he know that Henrietta was determined to discuss such things with him. Nevertheless, her words caused an odd sense of warmth and anticipation to pool in his stomach. I had no idea she felt that way, he thought to himself as his eyes traced her individual facial features. She was biting her lip. Carter was surprised how cute he found that, and he had worked hard to hide it. Not only that, but he caught a glimpse of her twiddling her thumbs in a fairly shy manner. He felt his lips twitching subtly, but after some serious thought he decided it would be better not to smirk at her at that moment.

"I wish you didn't have to see me that way. So useless and shameful, thanks for saving me." Carter nodded in response, almost as if he was saying, you're welcome. "Carter, something is different about you. Same with Keith. I know he and I were never the best of friends but, I don't think I did anything to deserve death... He seemed kind of psycho out there. But then..." she continued, and Carter's eyes narrowed very slightly in response. He should've known she'd sensed it too. Both Carter and Keith were being affected by something, but he was having a hard time figuring out what it was. While Carter was slowly getting more irritable and aggressive, Keith was becoming something of a psychopath. It wouldn't be too long before the others noticed this too, but he tried not to think about that too much.

Carter had scarcely noticed Henrietta had slumped to her knees with an expression he could only point out as being scared or worried. Carter leaned forward only slightly as she leaned her face against his legs. It was only at this moment that all signs of awkwardness made themselves visible. His cheeks flushed red and he felt like he had butterflies in his stomach. He wasn't exactly used to being so physically close to other people, but he was sure he only felt so flustered because it was Henrietta. It was a weird sensation, but not a bad one... How strange, he thought. "I don't know what happened to you all but please, take care of yourself. All you have is each other. So don't you ever die on me!" she finally spoke with a voice that shook, and it was almost as if she'd reached into his chest and gripped his heart tightly. He couldn't breathe. He just stared, open-mouthed, at the girl slumped in front of him.

Despite everything Carter had ever thought about not wanting to take things too far between them, he leaned forward some more and moved his arm so that his hands could cup her chin. Firmly, but not harshly, he tilted her head upwards so that he could look directly into her arms. "I'm not going to die!" he stated, somewhat matter-of-factly, "Neither are you, not if I can help it." His expression was serious as a whole, but his eyes held a softness only exposed for Henrietta's sake. "You're right, I'm not coming back until this situation is resolved, but we're friends no matter what disagreements present themselves. You mean too damn much to me for me to be so bloody petty about things like that."

With his free hand, he took her hand in his and squeezed gently. "You worry too much, have I ever told you that?" he said, his voice lowered to a gentle whisper with a subtle but rather reassuring smile sliding across his lips as he gazed at her. Saying nothing more, he stood, lifting Henrietta with him. He let go of her hand and let the other fall from her chin, but both arms quickly snaked themselves around her waist to pull her closer. It was almost as if being close to someone ceased to bother him any longer. "All those things you were saying, about how you feel... I feel the same way," he said, "as hard as it is to admit. I guess you never really realise those things about someone until you realise they're too far out of reach." He rested his face in the crook of her neck, slowing his breathing and allowing his body to finally relax.

"Henrietta... Things may never be the same between the two groups, but I can't risk losing you again." He took a breath. "I'm crazy about you, despite everything." Taking a moment, he finally pulled his head back and, deciding that there was no point keeping things to himself, leaned in to kiss her. If she pulled away, fair enough, but he was curious to see how she'd respond to his advances, if anything.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray
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Henrietta felt genuinely surprised. She was not expecting Carter to respond in such a way and as he cupped her chin her eyes had a mixture of happiness with a tint of sadness. It was bittersweet, though Henrietta admitted to herself it was on the rather sweeter side. Every movement he made had her mesmerized. When he lifted her with himself there was no hiding the warmth of her cheeks. His arms wrapped around her, drawing her closer to him. Her tension slipped away and she was now gripping Carter's tattered shirt rather tightly in front of his chest. She couldn't help but admire his facial features, her eyes falling to his lips before she allowed herself to become somewhat limp in his arms.

"Henrietta... Things may never be the same between the two groups, but I can't risk losing you again," Carter said softly. Though her thoughts were distracted by how close he was to her, how he breathed in her neck and her own body felt as though she'd shudder with delight. Her stomach felt ticklish by all the butterflies stirring about. "I'm crazy about you, despite everything." She did not even have a chance to respond because within the next moment Carter's lips were pressed against hers. Initially, Henrietta was shocked and a stream of thoughts raced through her head. But her desire overcame her and almost naturally she allowed her arms to wrap around his neck and kissed him back in return. After a long moment, she pulled away in disbelief. This was all so surreal. But a soft smile emerged from her face and rather than argue against all of this, she decided to enjoy the moment.

Somewhat giddy, the tips of her fingers reached for his face again except this time she did not pull away. She outlined the shape of his cheek then gently brushed over his lips before she pushed back some strands of hair behind his ear. Henrietta was surprised by her own gestures, she never acted with such tenderness before. But an ache jabbed at her heart as she tried her best to hide her own internal struggle. "Don't let your darkness devour you," she finally spoke before pulling away from him with hesitance.

Henrietta feared prolonging the moment so as to save herself from more heart ache than she already felt. She did not want to let go, but the voice of reason kept screaming at her to do so. Even if they did not wish to fight, she had a responsibility to keep towards everyone else. What if this was all a mistake? A million thoughts raced through her mind and she was visibly distracted. She felt flustered more than anything. "I'm weak..." Henrietta whispered. Keith defeated her and now she was almost certain she could never bring herself to battle Carter, if it came down to it. But then that would mean betraying the others, would it not? She was vanquished, so she sat on the wooden chair closest to her feeling somewhat queasy. Walk away Henrietta, just walk away. No, I can't. Shit... What do I do? Things were becoming exceedingly more complicated by the second. Henrietta also worried for Ace. While something told her Keith would not harm her friend, a part of her still worried. Conflict settled on her face and she withheld her doubts from Carter in fear he would leave her right then and there. Perhaps that was for the better logically. But she felt she would beg him to stay or even attempt to follow him. "I can't ever bring myself to fight you, Carter. But I fear for you. Your darkness... When you're angry it's almost like it's alive."

At this she finally glanced back towards him with concern. Her body was slouched forward as she sat. She felt mentally drained from the day's events. While some of her doubts were answered, others had seemed to arise. Doubts that were much more fearsome. While she mentioned this to Carter she was again thinking back, noting how the shadows tugged at Carter as he had approached her and Keith. Henrietta felt suspicious, but part of her was afraid to know the truth.

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During the first few seconds of their kiss, Carter wasn't sure of what was going to become of it. Henrietta seemed stunned, which was perfectly reasonable, but it filled him with an overwhelming sense of dread that she'd react badly to it. His eyes were squinted shut and his arms were still wrapped firmly around her waist, but he was trying his best not to tense his body or react bitterly to her surprise. After a short moment of panic, he felt her arms around his neck and her lips responded to his with a kiss. He was relieved more than anything and finally allowed himself to enjoy the moment as one hand found its place on her hip whilst the other slipped around to the small of her back. Needless to say, he wasn't used to this, and so he had no idea whether he was even doing it right... Panic swept over him again, but before his mind had time to fill with thoughts of worry, she pulled back and looked up at him, and he couldn't help but genuinely smile at her own. A good sign, he thought.

Carter stayed absolutely silent as Henrietta reached up to trace his features with her fingertips, his eyes instinctively closing at the comfort her touch brought him. It was uncharacteristic of him to feel so at peace, but he had made so many exceptions for Henrietta that this was nothing to him. He leaned his face into her hand just before she moved it to trace a finger over his lips, which caused his eyes to open. He smirked at her, but this also faded quickly when she pushed a strand of hair behind his ears which flooded his mind with the memories that the darkness had plucked his hat from his head. Luckily for him, his hair hadn't grown too long since he'd last had it cut, though it became apparent that it was mopped over his forehead in a mess. The thought alone could've caused him to blush, but he kept his focus on Henrietta for the time being.

"Don't let your darkness devour you," Henrietta spoke after a while, moving away from his embrace after a brief but noticeable hesitation. Carter, in response to this comment, went somewhat limp with surprise. Pain flashed across his dark eyes, but he fought hard against the urge to frown at her words. While he readily understood where she was coming from, he still viewed the comment as a terrible way to ruin a perfectly good moment between the two of them. When she finally moved away, he let her go and afterwards he dropped back into his seat. She was right, he knew it. She was right about it all. The darkness was becoming more and more alive with each passing year, and it was worse as of late. More memories flashed through his mind at that moment. He remembered being stood not too far from the three of them; the shadows were playing with his hair, tugging at his clothes and whispering the most evil things in his ear. If he wasn't careful, he would soon allow himself to be corrupted by the shadows... he'd become the darkness, through and through. He finally looked up at Henrietta.

Carter watched her silently. "I'm weak..." she spoke, breaking the silence for again after only a short while. "I don't believe that," he whispered in response, though he wasn't even sure she'd heard him as she continued on. "I can't ever bring myself to fight you, Carter. But I fear for you. Your darkness... When you're angry it's almost like it's alive." Carter sighed, his hand instinctively rising to touch his forehead as a headache threatened to appear; a dull pain throbbed in his temple, but it was barely noticeable. He felt that if he continued talking about his darkness it would soon turn into a migraine, or worse. He stood, though he wasn't sure exactly why. Realising that his fingers were digging forcefully into his temples, he dropped his hands to his sides and fixed his stare on Henrietta once more.

"Almost?" he retorted with a brief smirk. The statement alone was relatively amusing, though the pain added a growl to his voice that he had no initially intended. He moved closer to Henrietta and sat on the arm of the chair she'd settled herself into, his eyes fixed anywhere but on her form as he huffed out a loud exhale of breath. "Nobody but Keith knows this, so I'm trusting you to keep this to yourself..." he started, his fingers gripping tightly to the material of his shorts. He took another breath, knowing that this would probably be the hardest thing he'd ever have to say to her. "My darkness is most comparable to Ace's fire... though, I don't control it. It acts of its own accord, and I thank the heavens that it chooses to protect me. Whenever I call the shadows to my aid, I'm hoping and praying that it hasn't already turned against me." He risked a glance down at Henrietta, but it was brief. "When the Goddess bonded me to the darkness, it was weak and, yeah, maybe I was powerful enough to control it then... But now, after..." he stopped himself there because the realisation swept over him that Henrietta knew nothing of the Goddess' ashes. "After everything," he continued, "it's... more powerful, and more individual as a result."

Carter knew he was in danger of becoming weak to the darkness, but he never allowed himself to think on it too much. He was glad that, for the moment, the darkness didn't despise him and wanted to protect him against most dangers. "It speaks to me, y'know... At first it whispered warnings and carried messages, too quiet for you to hear and in a language that no one can translate. But I knew, always. And yet, this very morning, it spoke to me, loudly and in English. It was the weirdest thing. And that's how I know that things are only getting worse." With another sigh, Carter moved from the arm of the chair and slumped in front of Henrietta as she had previously done before him, though he kept a few inches of space between them. His eyes were fixed on the floor, even as a hand reached from beneath the armchair to grip his shorts. With a passive expression, he moved his own hand towards it and sighed as it recoiled from his touch.

"I don't want to give in to the darkness," he told her, sounding almost hopelessly weak, "but I'm not strong enough to fight it alone." The hand that had once reached for the darkness then moved to rest on her knee while he pressed his forehead against the other. "I don't expect you to be able to fight me, and your strength doesn't just come from fighting... Henrietta, I need your help. I need your support. Keith understands well enough, but I find it hard to trust him in his new mental state," he murmured, deciding it was best not to elaborate. "Be strong for me, and I can hang on to the light for you." He pressed his lips to her knee in a brief kiss, before resting his forehead once more.

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray
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"Almost?" Carter responded to her statement in a strange tone. Henrietta glanced at him with an arched brow. There was something off about his reply. As he approached her chair she felt herself grow slightly tense. She had to briefly her breath before exhaling in an attempt to calm herself as he sat on the armrest of her chair. But what really got to her most of all was his body language. The way he reacted as she spoke of his power and it's new characteristics. Guilt washed over her for even bringing it up since he seemed pained to talk about it.

"Nobody but Keith knows this, so I'm trusting you to keep this to yourself..." Carter began before pausing. Henrietta quickly muttered, "Of course," before he continued. "My darkness is most comparable to Ace's fire... though, I don't control it. It acts of its own accord, and I thank the heavens that it chooses to protect me. Whenever I call the shadows to my aid, I'm hoping and praying that it hasn't already turned against me. When the Goddess bonded me to the darkness, it was weak and, yeah, maybe I was powerful enough to control it then... But now, after..." Carter seemed to be choosing his words very carefully which made Henrietta almost naturally pout. He was holding back. Though she could not say she was really surprised. "After everything," he began again, "it's... more powerful, and more individual as a result."

Henrietta thought hard on this. After what? Was all she could keep asking herself. Whatever the case, obviously he was struggling to control his own power and the thought alone made her heart sink into her stomach. "Carter... But, then that means..." Henrietta quickly stopped herself before she bit down on her lip deciding against speaking up. That meant Carter was in danger. More danger than she originally anticipated. Henrietta continued to listen to his every word. Occasionally she'd frown or seem sad, mainly out of worry. Somehow his power was now sounding a lot like Ace's and somewhat of Keith's. She then watched him slip down to the floor in front of her and felt herself become somewhat bashful and even more tense. Though what made her eyes widen was when a shadow-figured hand reached for Carter from beneath her chair. A soft gasp escaped her lips and her fingers dug into the armrests of the chair anxiously. Though when the hand recoiled from his touch, it occurred to Henrietta that perhaps the darkness was actually afraid of him.

"I don't want to give in to the darkness," Carter's words wrenched at her heart. Her expression fell perplexed at the situation. "But I'm not strong enough to fight it alone." Carter had then pressed his head into her knee and her cheeks burned while her stomach fluttered. She hesitantly reached for his face again while a wave of doubt flooded through her. But her feelings were starting to get the best of her. "I don't expect you to be able to fight me, and your strength doesn't just come from fighting... Henrietta, I need your help. I need your support. Keith understands well enough, but I find it hard to trust him in his new mental state. Be strong for me, and I can hang on to the light for you." As he kissed her knee, oddly enough she felt her own body quivering. She could not hold back anymore.

Henrietta leaned forward and wrapped her arms gently around his head as she drew him in close to her chest, his head resting over her own heartbeat. She held him tightly, trying her best not to cry or completely lose her composure. She would not let go and her head rested above his as she held him close. Lightly kissing the top of his head she finally spoke, "You will never have to fight this alone. No matter what, I'll always watch your back. I promise." Her voice slightly rattled, though her words were powerful and filled with passion. She meant every single word she said. After a few shaky breaths, her tension slipped away and while she still held onto Carter, her grasp was a bit more gentle now. Instead she softly chuckled as she began to play with the tips of his hair. "Neither does your strength, you know," she stated rather tiredly. "If it were me, I'd probably have fallen apart by now."

A smirk had planted itself on her face as she let go. Rarely did she ever make light of her own flaws being that most of the time she'd just offend even herself. Stretching her arms above her head she yawned feeling somewhat sleepy but playful. "I'm still going to get Keith back for all of this. I'm going to have to knock his teeth in next time. Then break that stupid flower arm of his in half," she then grinned at Carter while she cracked her knuckles. An eye for an eye. That's what she lived by. It was fair enough for her and she'd definitely have some resolve if she fought Keith again. Though an odd fear shook her even as she said it. That dark look on his face would haunt her for some time. But she decided to keep her fears to herself. It was something she would have to come to terms with. For a moment she was staring off into space while she made a small fist in her lap. Once she realized her temper flaring she quickly released her fist and giggled somewhat nervously while darting her eyes away from Carter's gaze. It was supposed to be a joke but she was certain she meant it more than she was joking about it. Deciding to change the subject she then asked, "Did you at least talk to Louie about all of this? Maybe he can help."

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Character Portrait: Henrietta Cypress Character Portrait: Carter Gray Character Portrait: Alice Ember Character Portrait: Keith Cadwell Character Portrait: Louie T. Orihara
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"Hey, I'm gonna hold you to that, y'know." At Carter's remark, Alice did nothing but scoff and continue walking. On her way out of the door, she heard Louie request that she tell Keith to visit Louie as soon as possible. Ace didn't respond, she only nodded and walked out the door. A cold breeze washed over her, at least it would have if she weren't the Disciple of Fire. As she walked along the sidewalk and toward the forest she knew Keith loved, Alice let her thoughts wander. Wander away from the fighting, the stress, and the exhaustion... The mess that seemed to be getting worse and worse everyday. First they were dead. Then they were back. Then they were unreasonably powerful. Then... Many things happened. Many things that Ace did not want to recall.

Heaving a sigh, Alice tucked her hair behind her ears and continued walking. Her pace was slow and her steps hesitant. She was in anything but a hurry. In fact, she was being slow on purpose. No reason in hurrying to what may or may not be one of the worst conversations in her life, right? Perhaps she was being over-dramatic... Or thinking too much. Perhaps she shouldn't think about it at all. Yes, that seemed fitting... What was she supposed to say to him? She knew how to talk to the old Keith, but... not this one. Whatever happened in the past five years; it changed him. And not just Keith, but Carter, too. Sure, Carter's change wasn't as significant, but he's definitely changed... He's more aggressive, as is the darkness... In fact, it looked almost--- alive. And Keith, he... Well, he seemed like a madman. But when Carter had mentioned -Alice nearly blushed when she thought about this- Ace, he wasn't a madman anymore. He was just... sad. Lonely, even. And then he gave her that riddle... Oh, what was it again? Ignited by something... Oh, that's right.

"Ignited by light, she left behind. Something you'll find with nothing but fire." Alice recited the riddle under her breath and ran a hand through her hair. She walked for a while longer, slowly sorting through the riddle. In no time, she found herself in front of the forest. She sighed silently, and like magic, the fireflies began gathering. Eventually, they formed a path, and with great hesitance, Ace decided to follow it. She wondered if he was even here. If she should even bother going... But there was no going back now. Of course, she could just turn around and head back to Louie's. She could lie and say she didn't find him... Well, technically, she wouldn't be lying... "Keith," She found herself muttering.

Now it really was too late. Alice found herself looking at Keith, who had woven himself a bed out of branches and roots. She didn't say anything at first, for she didn't know what to say. After a few moments of careful consideration, she spoke. "What... What the hell was that?"