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Amber (Edwin Bradley)

The smell of burning rye haunts me.

0 · 649 views · located in Aires

a character in “Birthstone Spirits: The Great Escape”, as played by birthstone_spirits

Description

/The smell of burning rye haunts me./
-Image - Image - Image-

Amber
|Ruthless|Skilled|Knowledgeable|Ominous|Cool Headed|Weakness to water|Leader|Bitter|

Image
Age: Appears to be 45
Nation: The Rose Kingdom
Height: 6'2
Eyes: Black
Hair: Black
*Has the ability to control fire
*Is the leader of a mysterious anti-group called the orphans
*It is rumored that when he removes his eye patch, hell's hottest fires consume his opponents
*Has a special sensibility for the arts despite his rough exterior

Amber was born with the name Edwin Bradley. He was the son of an esteemed businessman and the devoted actress, Violet Bradley, who went down in history as the wife of the Golden Theater. She loved the Rose Kingdom's most esteemed playhouse more than she loved her husband and son, and after a major fire, she looked to her husband to finance its repair. When he died, she used the money he left behind as a donation to the international school of the arts, and forced Amber to take up odd jobs in her productions.

Soon he grew to appreciate the arts, spending most of his time in the opera and theatre. He was even dubbed a knight because of his involvement in the R.K's artistic community.

But after the Golden Theater's second mysterious fire, the man formerly know as Edwin Bradley dropped off the face of the planet.
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So begins...

Amber (Edwin Bradley)'s Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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Tallyho took Dorian’s offer graciously but she certainly didn’t hesitate. Despite being pretty full already the blonde ate his and even Falke’s banya almost as quickly as she ate her own.

“I’m fine. Not really looking forward to more training but you know…”

Technically she didn’t have to do it. Haru pretty much freed them from the earlier, more rigorous training ritual he enforced before. By now he figured that they cared enough to take responsibility for their bodies.

Without any warning Tallyho reached over into Dorian’s pocket and pulled out the familiar black rectangle. By now she gained a certain concept of how to use it. It was pretty magical really, all she had to do was touch a picture and she had control over everything. The only picture that wouldn’t work was the one in the likeness of the planet. Dorian told her before that it wouldn’t work because Aries didn’t own a wifi (whatever that was) but she didn’t believe him. Aires had a lot of things after all. What did he know? Therefore, she took it upon herself to check on its status from time to time.

She tapped around for a while before finding her pictures, the first one to come up being a work by Hieronymus Bosch. Tallyho tilted her head to the side. All of the people in his paintings were so tiny—precious even. Too precious to be participating in some of the…well utter bullshit they were getting themselves into. Okay… maybe they weren’t precious per say, but Tallyho still felt concerned whenever she found a scene in his paintings she hadn’t noticed before. The man put a lot of time in his work, adding fine details to every inch of his vision but the blonde couldn’t help but feel like the artist was a little tortured.

“You know,” she hummed to the table, “I overheard Haru talking to Ryou about getting us fitted for armor sometime soon.”

Tallyho still wore dresses from time to time because they made her feel freer. But she found pants to be a lot more accommodating for the training they were doing. Besides, it wasn’t like the girls really got to wear their pants when they went out into the city. Tallyho took advantage of the opportunity and honestly, she couldn’t understand how people like Autumn could stand to jog around in an apron for three years.

She slurped down the rest of her soup before popping up from her pillow. It was getting late and Tallyho didn’t particularly care for running up and down the mountain during sunset.

“Falke and I will see you around.”
---


Three years. Three years and shit was getting a little bit easier, yes. But Haru Karokov still didn’t feel like the team was at their very best. Or maybe they were? He wouldn’t know because of the lack of direction. While he found that the kids (as a whole) were a lot more manageable, he still needed more to work with. Haru was a superb strategic planner but what could he improve next? He’d spend his evenings with a cigarette poised between the pearl clasps that were his teeth, thinking about what he could do to make training more efficient.

He wasn’t sure if he was doing everything—if anything—right. There were no signs from the Goddess, just long, dragging days, all prayers unheard and if they were heard then very silent answers. He wondered how many years they would have to spend at the academy before they reached enlightenment. How many more ritualistic cyclopean kills. How many more walks up and down and through the mountain.

---

And Haru wasn’t the only one. Tallyho too wondered when their journey could begin. After a smack talk laden sparring session with Falke the young woman continued training. She trudged up the mountain path, her slender calves pulsing with an acidic drive. When she reached the top she would lean forwards and graze the dirt with slender fingers before turning on the ball of her foot and trudging down the path like a wild boar. Tallyho did this until the sky was orange and she was laid out on her running path, heart pounding, chest heaving, and belly facing the sky with a special familiarity. She could not hear her breathing through the cicada songs.

The blonde rolled over onto her side to face the world beyond the mountain. Tiny trembles of light were seen from the city far below. Had she not spent the day training, she might have gone down for a drink.

All she’d need was her scarf which she made a ritual of using to cover her hair. She realized long ago that there was a difference between the month warriors and everyone else. Whenever they went down to town Tallyho felt like she was supposed to be harboring a secret. And maybe she was. But it wasn’t like she really made a point of not telling outsiders about her status as a Month Warrior. It just never came up in conversation.

Though, judging by what happened in the RK, maybe it was good that she never felt compelled to explain her situation to any old stranger. She could imagine herself hanging from the gallows, her small white body drowning in an even whiter robe with a rope burnt neck as dark as an elderberry. That was what happened to people who made a habit of speaking too much. That was what always happened.

---

Soft clicking noises could be heard farther down the path. Tallyho sat up in a hurry to find Mr. Vo’s ox cart dawning over the dip in the path. There were a couple of students in the back, one of them being Kwasi who spent a significant amount time with Mr. Vo helping with the garden in exchange for many trips down to the city. One time Tallyho asked what business he had down there and he told her that he’d been spreading the word just as he had before he was saved by the group.

Kwasi spotted Tallyho and offered a kind wave. He really hadn’t changed so much. Three years ago he did seem a bit on the boyish side. But now he was a man with the same innocent attitude and beautiful, kindly, holy hands. He kept his head shaved and monk robes clean. Sure he had to replace a pair of sandals or two but he still managed to keep true to his aesthetic despite Kat’s silent but effective teasing.

Mr. Vo stopped the cart allowing Tallyho to move towards the path wall.

“Another long day of training?” Kwasi asked as the cart restarted its wobble past.

“You guessed right,” Tallyho said, allowing it to move in front of her before effortlessly hitching onto the back for a ride to the top of the mountain. “Did you go down there yelling your banter again?”

“If that’s what you want to call it.”

Kwasi was too polite to question why Tallyho was so resistant to the Goddess. Not only was she a Month Warrior but if she was of the lineage he thought she was from—and the hair really gave it away—then her denial of the entity made even less sense.

They rode in brief silence until Mr. Vo’s cart rounded at the fountain. Tallyho jumped out of the back and bid goodbye to Kwasi before a small force ran into her, staggering her from the waist down.

Karma pulled her small shoulder out of Tallyho’s thigh before running around her. Her eyes trained on the back of Mr. Vo’s cart. A small coin sack wrinkled in her fist.

“Don’t tell me you bozos decided to go to flipping town without me!? I JUST found my money!”

“Yesterday I told you that we were leaving at daybreak,” Kwasi called calmly.

“I want candy! You could have waited a few more hours!” The child yelled as she chased after.

Tallyho furrowed her brows. Karma had no concept of time and it didn’t seem like she planned on finding one.

---

As the small girl disappeared around the corner, Tallyho slowly backed towards the forest. After the jumping incident Haru showed them a path to the water that was way quicker and did not require one to jump from an obscene height. She meandered on the edge of the beach for a proper place to bathe, finally deciding on a shady spot that was hidden behind the leaves of a low hanging branch. After stripping down, she made a brisk pace into the water, melting into its murky blue as quickly as she could until it was below her nose. Blonde curls swam on the surface with moss and lily pads, her eyes closed until the moon was fresh on the blue-black sky.

She dragged herself out of the water and redressed quickly. It became a little difficult from time to time with so much hair sticking to her back and shoulders. Every now and again she’d wince as she yanked a few unnoticed tresses in her hurry. Even in the dead of night she was never comfortable bathing in the lake knowing that there was a population of 300 nearby. She didn’t even use the bath houses and made trips like this quick (maybe not painless) and certainly discreet.

Finally dressed, Tallyho stalked back up to the academy with wet hair swung over her shoulder. On her way back to her building she passed the clearing. Had she been more careless she would have totally forgotten about her episode in the clearing and the hot jewels that burned a hole into the lap of her dress. But the fear wasn’t as crippling as it had been. In the years after she hadn’t been tossed into any other strange occurrences. She couldn’t even remember where the flaming man’s footprint singed the soil.

---

That night Tallyho dreamt of being stranded on a beach. The island was naked and there were no trees to shield the young woman from the sun’s baking gaze. She tried to plea with the island but the only thing she owned was a pinecone. Desperate, she told the island that she would feed her only beloved pinecone to the soil if it bore her a tree. The island, extremely hungry, said yes and she planted it. She waited seven days and nights for the shade she was promised but nothing came. Then she became angry and yelled at the island.

The island was saddened and complained to the sun who alerted the clouds who came to the island’s defense. They darkened, threatening Tallyho with barks of thunder but she was not scared. She told the clouds that she could control their greatest weapon. That she could control lightning. Offended, the clouds pelted her with rain which cooled the young warrior. Eager for more water, she taunted the clouds with more insults. They became so angry that they began to spit fire. Tallyho was frightened, and with no mighty tree to hide under she was forced to perish by the whim of the raining flame tears.

---

The blonde fell in and out of consciousness, her hands drifting to her face involuntarily to swipe away layers of sweat. She tossed back and forth too hot in any position she managed and lifted her shirt to expose her damp stomach. Soft screams were flooding in from all sides. Tallyho hacked and rolled over again, this time covering her ears.

A firm grasp to the elbow ripped her out of her sleeping trance. Green eyes popped open, eager but bloodshot. Tallyho could hardly register that someone was yelling something in her ear before the same force that woke her lifted her by the elbow, off of the ground, and onto ill prepared feet.

“Get up…….Fi….. Get…..”

A young woman Tallyho had never spoken to before was yelling at her in an incoherent language. She took Tallyho by the shoulders and shook her into clarity, the segments of sounds working hard to form words and finally an understandable sentence.

“Fire! Fire! Come on get out!”

Tallyho glanced around the room with saucer eyes that were tantalized by the orange glow that overtook the girl’s wing. The paper walls were blackening and being eaten by eager flames with little mercy or patience. The unfamiliar girl, sure that Tallyho had finally gotten the message darted away, presumably to wake another heavy sleeper.

Finally thinking at full speed the blonde reached for her sword, clutching it as tight as she could before meandering into the hall where academy girls were shoving past, bumping elbows and trampling on one another. Tallyho tried to think quickly about which female warriors slept where and how she would get them up. Realizing that she had little time to think, the blonde plowed through the gaggle of frightened students, contrasting the natural movement of the line and moving away from the exit which frankly pissed a lot of people off. Every time she caught sight of one to the Month Warrior girls huddled in their burnt out stations she offered a hoarse and rude awakening.

“HEY! Get up! Get outta here.”

As she moved farther back into the blazing building, she made a mental checklist of every warrior she managed to notify. This didn’t help however. She was a little too frightened to remember who had been woken up and who hadn’t. So Tallyho, despite her better judgment, moved to the back to the building until she hit the back wall.

She looked back at the exit—girls were still struggling to escape and there was no way in Aires that Tallyho was going to get out on time coming all the way from the back. A flaming support beam plummeted down from the ceiling, crushing a few girls in the middle mark of the chaotic line and blocking the girls in the back from exiting. Some girls tried to slide through the crevices of the fallen beam only to have their clothing burst into flames. It was a test of human kindness—the other girls would not help the ones who were burning alive, even beat them away for fear that they too might catch on fire.

But in situations like these somehow it was okay to be selfish.

With the scent of burning flesh overtaking the hall and Tallyho backed into a corner, she began to panic. She looked for a way out and her sights fell upon a small window that barely had enough space for one person to crawl through at a time. Then her sword.

She smashed at the back window with the hilt and other girls joined, the resilient glass crumpling into web-like designs before shattering. A cry of victory roared from the back and soon girls were toppling out of the window one by one. Tallyho almost stayed behind to let more girls go through the window before her, but that martyrdom was stolen from her by a group of upperclassmen who showed a kindness, leadership, and support that Tallyho hadn’t witnessed from students at the academy before.

Despite how easy it was to knock the window out, it was a different story when it came to climbing up onto its seal. Two older girls knelt down in front of the window. Their strong knees perched in front of one another’s to make an impromptu stepping case. Tallyho gripped two hands of very different textures and life stories as she planted a foot on each young woman’s lap. In this mob of desperate human lives Tallyho suddenly felt like just another academy student. It was an average student who had woken her up and it was average students who were maintaining order, holding Tallyho’s hands and letting her literally step on them in order to help her, and few others get out alive.

Before leaning out of the window, Tallyho looked at one of the young women. Her eyes were blue, jawline strong and narrow and somehow this made her come off as a bit of a tomboy with her short black hair barely pulled into a pony tail. The blonde nodded thank you and the upperclassman nodded back.

After that Tallyho didn’t waste any time straddling over the seal and tumbling onto the pavement. She barely escaped with a deep nick on her left inner thigh caused by leftover glass. Finding no time to wince over her new cut, the February Warrior—no, girl, because she felt like a girl again— stood up and ran out to the courtyard where she knew everyone else would congregate. The entire—entire—academy was ablaze. No structure spared.

Tallyho plowed through students who were standing around looking for their teacher with panic stricken eyes. Tallyho was looking for her teacher too. Haru was nowhere in sight. And she hadn’t run into any of the other warriors yet.

The only familiar face was a distraught Mr. Vo. The old man was standing ankle deep in the fountain trying to garner the attention of students who were just too scared to listen.

“Everyone stay in the courtyard! Everyone stay in the courtyard!”

His soft, old face stained with tear trails from watching his beloved ox burn alive in their barns.

“Everyone stay in the courtyard!”

From his staggered breaths Tallyho could tell that his old heart wasn’t used to so much excitement or tragedy. She meandered over to the fountain, the cut in her thigh sending a sting through her body but she didn’t even care anymore. She jumped at a sudden crash. The roof of the girl’s wing had completely collapsed.

From the wreckage that was the elite housing little Karma came walking. She was not marching, just walking. The light from the fire illuminating the bags that puffed up under her eyes from a disturbed sleep. Such an old feature on a young face. She looked like she was lost, stumbling through a place that she used to know. Her eyes were glazed with tears, snot crusted on her upper lip, and Mr. Vo saw her and embraced her.

Another loud crash. This time it was an explosion from the medical lab. Tallyho wondered about Ji Na.

Another. This time from the stables.

“Everyone stay in the courtyard! Everyone stay in the courtyard!”

No one would stay in the courtyard.

Some students made a break for the forest while others fled to the crumbling dormitories hoping to salvage the twisted bodies of friends from the wreckage. Kwasi was sitting on the ground of the courtyard praying. Chanting the same damned prayer over and over.

“May the Goddess save our souls for we have been wretched enough to witness such tragedy. May the Goddess save our souls for we have been wretched…”

Tallyho bowed her head and half of her almost wanted to pray too. Instead she clutched her head in her hands, covering her ears.

Another explosion, another roar of cries.

She wasn’t even positive if any of the other female warriors had gotten out alive. And what about Dorian? Where on Aires was he? And Xabier, wasn’t he afraid of fire? Falke was blind…. Autumn? She wasn’t even sure if the other female warriors made it out of the building before it collapsed. She wondered this already but she couldn’t help but relapse. She would have even felt comfort in knowing that Harper was alive. She wanted nothing more than to get up and be girl with the nerves of steel again—to get up, go and find out if anyone was still alive—but her legs were too weak, folding under her like ribbons, blood striping down from her thighs to her ankles.

“Tallyho!”

The blonde looked up to see Haru stalking towards her. His red hair glowing against the fire. His clothes ruined, face smudged with ash.

“Keep a look out for the others. We have to stay together.”

Tallyho, excessively nervous, threw up all of her precious banya on Haru’s shoes. But he did not jump back, make a face, or even look surprised. Instead he gently scratched her back and it was the most comforting thing he had ever done for her. He then looked over at Karma who was still petrified in Mr. Vo’s arms.

“Karma. Hey… Listen to me. Have you seen Ryou?”

She did not respond. Instead she looked to the east with a glazed expression. A cold tear rolling down her round cheek.

“Karma. Where’s your dad, huh?”

Karma did not answer. Instead she pointed at the forest entrance. There was the silhouette of a man on fire, walking towards the academy with an unsettling calmness.

“Ryou?” Haru’s voice was strong. He squinted through the smoke, eager to get a response.

“That’s not Ryou,” Tallyho, who had been watching said with a shudder.

That’s the flaming man.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Kwasi Ihejirika Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Mr. Vo Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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The flaming man.
“What did you say?” Haru did not look at Tallyho but the blonde knew that he was speaking to her. Another roar erupted from the boy’s dormitory. Tallyho covered her ears with eager, ashy palms.
“The flaming man.” she said again. This time her voice was louder. That was the man she saw in the forest. The singed footprint. The burning rocks. The flaming forest.
“He is the flaming man!”
Haru squinted at the figure. He found no use in asking if he had been the one to cause the fire because it was more than obvious. So he asked the second most important question:
“Who the fuck are you?”
The flames around the man dissipated but his silhouette was still prominent against the black forest. A low orange glow emanated around his figure. Haru likened this glow to the end of a cigarette when the life was sucked out of it by a nicotine thirsty s.o.b like himself. But this man, he was far from being devoid of life. As the figure pulled out of the darkness his featured began to form.
The “flaming man” seemed to be in no hurry really. The ground below him sizzled, dark boots sinking into the ground with off-beats and complete certainty. He was a firm figured man that rose at a sturdy 6’2 and was weighed down by a muscular build. The light consumed him slowly. Revealing the little things, white skin dark hair, heavy stubble. An eye patch clung to his left eye—with pride even! His footsteps, once identified by the thick sizzle of leaves were now known by small tongues of flame.
“Who are you?” Haru asked again.
The man stopped. He seemed offended and this frightened Tallyho. He did not answer right away however. Instead he slowly lifted his arm into the hair. His palm facing the sky growing hotter until fire licked the beds of his fingernails and soon a small ball of light was billowing up in the air.
It seemed anti-climactic really. Everyone watched with awe as the little fireball rose slowly before hitting an arc and succumbing to gravity. Haru’s expression, mouth twisted, brows furrowed, did not betray the feeling of perplexity that overcame him. The arc in his brows softened however as he thought about the man’s action. Certainly there was more to this?
“Get back…” he huffed. No one moved and maybe it was because they thought he was talking to the mysterious man. “I said get back!” This time he was louder, and turned to the others. He even made a point to stumble away from where it looked like the rapidly shrinking ball of fire was going to land. Random students obeyed, moving away in staggering waves. Mr. Vo hardened his grip on Karma and waded out of the fountains water with the help of Kwasi who found that prayer wasn’t appropriate for this situation.
It wasn’t until the majority of bystanders were safely behind the fountain that the fireball landed, whittling away in the pavement.
It wasn’t that Haru was disappointed that something more didn’t happen. But he was extremely pissed off by the man’s…lack of straight forwardness.
Haru stood up and moved towards him again and the crowd began to draw near with a sheep like loyalty. The little ball of fire was nothing but an ember on the rocks.
“I will ask you one more time. Wh—“
An explosion.
It all seemed to happen in a split second, really. The ember, generally understood to be harmless, expanded rapidly. The ground around it shuddering to rubble sending rocks flying. Haru was tossed back into the fountains edge. The half wall slamming into the back of his knee at an unsettling force. A slew of rocks coming down on him, and everyone close enough to the front of the crowd for that matter. Tallyho winced as a hunk of stone pelted into the one arm that was (thankfully) hovering above her head in an uncertain way of protection. Her other hand gripped her thigh, warm crimson reeling over the crevices of clenching fingers.
Dark smoke overtook the area where the flaming man stood. Haru could not see him but he could definitely hear him. A dark husky voice that dragged with a bit of claw—
“Call me Amber.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Kit Withers Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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#, as written by Linnea
Kit watched the man carefully, his hazel eyes fixated on him. The redhead silently wished that the man would hurry up. He hated long battles, especially when he was injured. If he were able, he would gladly slit his throat and be done with it. However, that wasn’t always the best option. And Haru was in charge, not Kit. As much as it pained him to sit aside and do nothing, for he would much rather charge in or flee the battle all together, he waited.

The fireball was sent up into the sky like a balloon, bothersome but not threatening, before it fell. Kit furrowed his brow. Just what was the man planning? Surely such a display wasn’t without reason. There had to be some sort of trick to it. He stood still for a second before listening to Haru and stepping back a ways. Autumn did the same, making sure to keep a greater distance. She could hold her own against a cyclopean, but this was a new enemy that she had no idea how to face. It was better to let the guardians handle it.

Fire lit the sky as the embers exploded, sending Kit flying back. A rather large rock pelted and cut him in the right arm, forcing him to drop his dagger. Pain seared through the injury. He was fairly certain that it was fractured and could feel blood dribble down his arm from the sharp impact.

“It’s nothing.” He said, hissing out the words in pain.

Autumn backpedaled. So this was Amber.

The spirits grew silent. No more whispers. No more screaming. Now that Amber was there, they seemed to want nothing to do with him. They fled.

Autumn started wondering why she wasn’t doing the same.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Kwasi Ihejirika Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae
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The smoke cleared and Amber was visible again.
Haru didn’t want to waste time (or lives) asking any more questions. He reached for his sword but before his sticky red hand could grip its hilt Amber spoke again.
“Now don’t be silly, “he said. His voice was clearer now—theatrical actually. “I haven’t come here to do any more damage. This was just a warning shot. Was a bit too powerful I suppose. But I do apologize for that.”
Tallyho let out a sharp gasp of air, a scoff actually. What sort of apology was that? It wasn’t that she actually took it seriously but the fact that he would joke about such a thing under these conditions well… it was a blow below the belt.
“Then who are you here to warn?” Haru asked. His sword now unsheathed and ready for blood.
“I’m here to warn you of course. You Month Warriors.”
Who on Aires was this man? Amber stood comfortably. He did not flinch at Haru’s blade or the potential danger of being ganged up on by a gaggle of trained fighters. Because of this Haru figured that he couldn’t possibly be alone. Haru looked around, eyes darting his way and that. Taking in his surrounding with the upmost urgency. It seemed that he would have no choice but to rely on questions.
“Looking for my cast are you? Well there is no point in letting you wonder for such a long time. Surely they will come out to greet you? You won’t even have to come through the backstage entrance!”
From the forest shadows came three muddled figures.
The first stood at a reasonable 6 feet with a lankier build than Amber’s. While the majority of his smallness was hidden under the guise of a heavy winter coat, his sensitive figure could still be foretold by his nimble legs and posture. Thick brows lined his forehead in straight lines and his facial expression betrayed no amusement. In fact he may have looked a little tortured.
The second was a bit taller but a lot burlier than Amber himself. Like Amber he was a more mature man. Weathered wrinkles were just beginning to take a toll on his face and the hairs on his temples were starting to retire. But despite his visible aging he seemed strong—almost as if he got stronger with every year loaded onto his belt.
The third was unlike the other three men yet an attractive balance between the two—classically beautiful with the scent of danger and mystery about him. He looked like a man who had walked right out of the conservation camp. Long black hair spilled over tan shoulders in waves and barely curled into the arc of the bow strapped to his back.
“Meet Zircon, Hans and Raphael,” Amber said. “They have come to offer what will be their first (and hopefully the last) greetings.”
“What do you want?” Haru asked again. He moved his sword back towards his sheath and for the first time the warriors saw him falter. There was no way he could fight this lot and he knew it but there wasn’t a lot of time to plan around it either. Considering what Amber had done there was no telling what the others were capable of. Or even what they were capable of together.
“But wait! There’s more! Before I can tell you what we are here for I have to encourage my audience to give a standing ovation to three very special actors. I must admit I was a little worried about whether or not they could play their parts. They were advanced and took years to perfect! I even sent in an understudy to catch our leading lady if she fell downstage center! Please, won’t you—“
“What do you want you stupid old geezer?!” Karma’s little voice shot out from the area around the fountain. The students surrounding her backed away as Amber cocked his head towards her.
Mr. Vo covered her mouth frantically.
“She didn’t mean it! S-She didn’t!” The old man’s words were jumbled as he stumbled back.
Amber turned to face Haru again, his head moving slowly before he continued on as if the outburst never happened.
“Won’t you first put your hands together for our understudy? Katarina won’t you take your bow?”
Amber gave a hearty, lonely clap. Kat was already emerging from the crowd, her face exuding the essence of nonchalance. Students parted as she made her way through the crowd.
Kwasi stumbled back as Kat made her way past. Every comment she made about him not being a real man of Nomansland and she was serving this western? For evil of all things?
Tallyho shuddered back as the woman who had once quietly saved her from drowning almost stepped on her hand without a thought in the world.
Amber chuckled, throwing his head back as he clapped.
“Go on, take your bow!”
Kat did not entertain this. Instead she breezed past Amber, claiming a spot next to the silent archer before folding her arms.
Haru couldn’t say he was all that shocked. Kat was not only an unknown force to most, but was excessively powerful already.
“And now I’d like a moment of silence for my leading lady and man! Honestly I didn’t expect them to grow into such fine actors! Their skills were believable to all of you I bet. Why if I were a fool I’d think they actually came to like you lot! But I suppose it would be easy to be a fool in a situation like this. I’ve watched them grow on this set from wee adolescents to quite attractive adults and after such a long performance I wouldn’t blame them if they were a little shy to take the stage again. After all, they’re probably scared of your personal reviews—“
“What. The fuck. Do you want?” Haru asked. He was visibly annoyed now, grinding words through his teeth.
“He wants you to stop,” a soft voice came from the back. It was Ji Na, shuffling through the mayhem. Elegant, unsaved, and disgustingly pretty. She came until she took a spot between Amber and Haru.
“He wants the Month Warriors to stop.”
“What does that mean?”
“I understand that you went through a lot of trouble, bringing the children here, training them for so long. But it’s time to end the journey. What you all are fighting for is detrimental to this world, and maybe even for earth.”
“Thhheeeere’s my leading lady!” Amber threw a jolly arm around Ji Na’s narrow shoulders. She swayed to the side, small body overtaken by the gentle, but sudden force. She did not return the affections, however. Instead she kept her eyes trained to the ground.
Okay really, where the fuck was Ryou? Haru turned around, scanning the crowd for the familiar mess of blonde hair but he could not find him.
“We did not mean for this warning to go to such extreme proportions…”
“No need to explain Ji Na. We got our point across.”
Haru honestly wasn’t sure what to do. Attacking was the least intelligent thing he could do, primal even. But he couldn’t just turn away without getting enough answers.
“Are you working for Oblivion?”
“No, far from it,” Amber hummed. “We are working for mankind.”
“How is discouraging, no, nearly killing the saviors of this world a service to mankind?”
Amber laughed. Laughed so hard, chest heaving, mouth gasping, then he grew silent before saying, “Why… I don’t expect you to understand.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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As Amber continued to laugh through Kyle’s monologue Kat watched with a furrowed brow as Kyle reached for Ji Na’s person. Sure, he hadn’t hurt her, he hadn’t gone for her neck, but that was a bold ass move. Too bold if you asked Kat. As he pulled away directing his attention to Amber once more, Kat moved towards him with a brisk step. The ground seemed to shake beneath her, fist was balled and tight—hard as a rock. She swung for his face without reservations, and even if she missed the speed at which she swung could have made an adequate enough warning.
“You don’t touch her face.” She did not raise her voice but her words were unwavering.
Ji Na did not respond. Instead she looked past them solemnly with the same glazed expression she wore when she came to the front.
Amber was still laughing. “Kill me? Kill me! Ohhhh my dear boy don’t get too mad at her. I already admitted that this was my personal doing. I’m the director. She’s just an actress.”
Fuck. Haru moved forward now. With a stony fist he clenched Kyle’s shirt and urged him back, away from the present danger that was Amber.
“I have said this before and I will say this again, we are doing this for the good of mankind. You do not know what dangers you are unleashing onto this word by fulfilling your prophecy.” Ji Na’s voice was drone-like now. “If you choose not to step down then I am afraid that we will have no choice but to intervene in all of your endeavors.”
There was a raw silence in the courtyard. The only noise coming from the cackling tongues of flame in the background.
“If you choose not to step down I am afraid that we have the capacity to kill all twelve of you.”
With this last statement Ji Na turned away and meandered towards the other mysterious figures. The supportive arm of Kat welcomed her. Haru hadn’t recalled ever seeing Kat interact with humility towards anyone before.
“Your heard the lady,” Amber hummed, “now if you’ll excuse us, we will be dropping the curtain and taking our leave.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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Double post

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Kit Withers Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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#, as written by Linnea
A warning shot? How was that a warning shot? How was any of this a warning? People had died. If Amber considered this a warning, then he must have had some pretty twisted morals. Or perhaps he simply thought of the others as white noise.
Whatever his thought process was, he was terrifying.

Autumn glanced at Haru, looking for reassurance as more figures approached. Instead, he faltered. It was at that moment that she truly felt like she was going to die. If even Haru was afraid, then there was no telling what would happen.
Autumn stood silent as Ji Na and Kat walked up to Amber. She had never really interacted with them much, but she did hold a great deal of respect for them. The blonde wasn’t sure if the tears dripping down her face were from the smoke or from the betrayal. Her heart sank.

Who was he to tell the Month Warriors to stop? How would he accomplish this? Kit really wanted to believe that the group was prepared to fight Amber, but from the smell of vomit and the sight of tears he knew they weren’t up to the task. Not yet. They had been training to fight mindless creatures of destruction, beasts who could be tricked and would shatter when stabbed. Not humans. Not people who could plan and think. And certainly not the people they had thought to be their comrades.

Was Kyle trying to get himself killed? Kit gritted his teeth, expecting the worst. Surprisingly enough, Amber didn’t kill him. He only laughed. That, Kit thought, made the situation much worse. This man was fearless, wasn’t he? And not in the good way. More like in the way that a man with nothing to lose might feel. People like that, people who were so sure of their success, were quite possibly the most dangerous.

Autumn didn’t like confrontation. She never liked it. As much as she wanted to be the best, she just wasn’t up to the task of fighting for it. It had taken a long time for her to be comfortable fighting cyclopeans, and now there were new enemies. There was no way she could kill a human.

Working for mankind, did he really believe this? Was he crazy? Autumn had heard of madmen claiming to be saviors of mankind when they murdered people. Was this one of those times? Was she about to die?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley) Character Portrait: Zircon (Ben Savage) Character Portrait: Raphael
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“Your heard the lady, now if you’ll excuse us, we will be dropping the curtain and taking our leave.”

A shrieking wail of wind roared suddenly overhead, akin to the sound a harsh, winter gale would have made, if it did not happen to be in the middle of summer. The fire raging nearest to the courtyard licked skyward at the fresh burst of oxygen rich air fed it, high and strong; while the inferno raging further away dimmed some, as if not being fed enough to sustain such power and ferocity anymore. A figure plummeted out of the smoke in a controlled descent, landing hard, with legs comfortably splayed for balance, abruptly in the middle ground between Amber and Haru, a few of the more bold (or incredibly stupid) month warriors, and other frightened parties crowded in the courtyard that called the Academy home.

There had always been a mystical and mysterious air surrounding Kat, Ji Na, and Benjamin too. Because obviously, a certain respect was due because they were elites of the Academy, and the two Eastern Islanders were by far the highest standing on account of having been raised from war orphaned youngsters to the lofty stations they held now – but they all were far less approachable than the other Elites, Dae, Liam, and Mori. It should not have been a surprise, but nevertheless hurt, Goddess above it would hurt, when the figured turned his head to glance behind him with glazed, haunted eyes. Ben.

He had always perhaps been more mysterious through his close association with Ji Na, and Kat as well, to most, than he was on his own. Because he was often in their classes as a teacher, and a fair mentor to those who had ranged weaponry; there had even been days of laughter and vicious jest when Dae and himself, sometime Ryou had a hand in it, would “play” fight and end in often bloody, broken conclusions, but it was all in good fun. He was quiet man, renowned for his bright smiles, deadly archery, a jack of all trades woodsman, and had the rare ability to make Karma careless temper and harsh jibes fade away with freshly hunted bacon. He was a good man, a good man capable of your love and friendship – perhaps?

Oh, but… Betrayal had, and would always hurt, because those ‘traitors’ were always loved one way or another by those they ‘betrayed’. And it was no different for the warriors that had come to know him over the three year period they’d been on Aires thus far, but it was gut retching for those who had come to know him his entire life.

He was unsoiled by the raging flames brought to life by Amber’s will, nor did the ash from burning buildings and people soil his cloths, or the black, thick smoke coat his lungs; saved from the destruction and looking disgustingly well put together in fine, green cloth and dark leathers, with his great war bow strapped across his back, a quiver of arrows at his hip, and a bag full of clothes, or potential possessions, stuffed under an arm.

Benjamin looked at no one directly, or at the fire itself, but his chin was lifted, proud even one could remark in obvious scorn for his now traitorous state, as his eyes too still glazed didn’t waver guiltily to the ground but stayed up in listless attention. But pain flickered, and even anger too, muddled in their depths, a contrast to his lack of caring.

“We are Orphanim,” He abruptly growled aloud, carrying far into the silent, fearful courtyard. His voice a once clear, light, charming accented tone, had become something like someone reading a monologue, or the lines to a play, badly, without feeling, or care, a drone, a terrible actor. “You have been warned. Heed and… Live a little longer.” Benjamin finished, before glancing forward to Amber, it was time to take their leave.

Benjamin’s gaze fell down even as his shoulders tensed and flicked his hand in a disdaining gesture skyward, as he turned to walk slowly away to the other mysterious figures, joining Kat and Ji Na. The wind suddenly whistled again, hardly sweet in sound, at his beck and call; and suddenly black, thick smoke that had crowded above the Academy from the fire came rushing down in the mid-ground, hardly a barrier but enough to make any reckless, idiotically brave attempts to attack or follow them. Ironically enough, the curtain had fallen.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae
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Once the others had jumped out--with all the smoke, Harper had miscounted the actual occupants in the room--he was left, alone, fire crawling the edges. Yet, even in the face of burning to death, his fear of heights still gripped him.

Gritting his teeth as hard as his trident, he tried three times to jump off, but each time he hesitated, backing away from the edge. He felt like the horses from before, antsy and pacing and rearing, facing the fire on all ends. But he knew a horse would jump.

By now he was certain the entire dorm was empty. Anyone unlucky enough to be still here...or stupid enough he thought to himself. He laughed, a bit hysterically, at the situation he was in. One who swam as much as he did should have been absolutely panicked at the sight of fire, but no. It was the stupid heights that was going to kill him.

He coughed, hard, the smoke finally getting to him. He grabbed at the wood for support and his hand immediately flared up in heat and he pulled it away. He used his trident instead, tines imbedded in the dry wood as he leaned against it, hacking and wheezing.

Something bright flashed out of the corner of his eye. Catching his breath, he looked up, craning his neck closer to the hole he'd made. A small fireball, it looked like, in the distance. Descending to the ground like a flare.

"What the hell?" he said out loud, voice husky.

The fireball fell behind the buildings, and he braced himself for impact, but....nothing happened.

"Seriously. What the--"

A deep BOOM reverberated through Harper, like someone had just turned the bass to the max. A deafening crash followed, splitting his ears, and the floor dropped under him, yanking the trident from his grip. Splinters shot into him, and an invisible wall slammed him against the beds before everything collapsed on top of each other in a heap of wood, mortar and fire that looked more like a giant bonfire than the dormitory it had once been.

------

Ondine had lost track of Harper amidst the chaos, helping out anyone should could, either through direction or physically picking up the wounded, and sometimes the dead. For once, she hoped he was still out swimming, taking care of only himself, oblivious to the disaster that this was. At least that would give her one less thing to worry about.

Yet, while others might find it easy to believe that Harper was still hiding in the ocean whilst all this was going on, the woman had her doubts.

Of course he would choose now to suddenly heed her advice...

Many were trying to herd everyone to the courtyards, although Ondine didn't see the point of that. Wouldn't the lake make more sense, considering this was a fire? That was where she directed everyone to go, advising them towards the less harrowing route (the last thing she needed was casualties from drowning via that drop). She herself went to the courtyard, hoping to convince at least Haru that the lake was the place to go. She had just glimpsed him when the explosion rocked everything.

A pounding filled her ears as she sat up, palms bloody and scratched, body aching. There was a stinging from her cheek, and when she stood, her legs felt weak and bruised.

Yet the pain of that was quickly forgotten. Especially after what happened next.

Ondine in general had a rule of not trusting others. It was a rule that had helped her deal with all the inevitable betrayals and mutinies aboard a pirate ship, especially one run by a woman. But this betrayal...from such righteous people...she could hardly believe it.

She snorted from disbelieve...imagine. Even the good could betray. She'd never pegged Ji Na to be with them, but she knew how appearances could mislead. Yet she had never been close to any of these mutineers. The only feelings she felt were towards those who had been, yet she still couldn't help but judge. They should have known better.

She took her leave after Kyle ran forward. His entrance had reminded her of Harper--if only because of how much her ward had complained about Kyle underwater throughout the past years--and her doubts still nagged her.

She checked the ocean first. In that moment she hoped with every ounce of being that he was here, but as she swam through, her sleek dolphin form clicking through the silent waves, she knew her hopes were fruitless. He wasn't here, and she had wasted precious time.

She thought as she ran back to the academy, heading dorm side. She hadn't seen him at the courtyard, and with him not in the ocean, the only motivation she could conceive for him was his crush, Xabi. But...Xabi she had seen. At the courtyard. Then where the hell...

She gasped as she neared the boys dorm...or rather, where it should have been. The fire was raging, and smoke pillared above. Harper...he couldn't possibly be here, right?

Yet as she neared, there was no mistaking the silver trident, burnished but still glinting on the outskirts of the rubble.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn
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Dorian Roberts, for all of the trials and tribulations he'd experienced in the past three years as well as the admittedly difficult cards he'd been dealt in early life, considered himself to be a very lucky young man. He was alive, for one, which was more than he'd expected at the beginning of this journey. On a less broad note, he wasn't too terribly lonely either, even if he still longed for figures that now only existed in his life by virtue of a thin piece of technologically advanced plastic. He was fed well, training was still hard but no longer to the extent where extracurriculars meant trying not to fall into an exhausted sleep on his dinner, and outside of his duties at the Academy, he had free reign so long as he didn't manage to wander off the mountain again(no one had quite believed him when he'd said his sense of direction was bad until he'd ended up in a village some two miles from the mountain the Academy was located on).

That was not to say that bad things didn't happen to him. He might have been attempting to see things in a kinder light, but he was a realist at heart and there was no simply writing off the bad, even when considering the good. He was still on a foreign planet, still trapped into a destiny he still didn't quite believe in, still had no choice but to fight or die. But, still, he had some luck in that everything could be much worse. So maybe it wasn't luck? Maybe it was just the absence of terrible luck that left him alive and relatively well?

It was that luck-not-luck that apparently found him staring at the burning Academy from the tree line, lured back from a nightly stroll to the higher peaks in a fit of insomnia by flames visible even from a great distance, licking at the sky and the overwhelming stench of smoke polluting the clear air. He didn't know what he expected as he hurried back- a bonfire, perhaps, or a stupid mistake by one of the students that would be taken care of in a flash- but it wasn't what he found. The Academy was burning, no building spared by the merciless flames that continued to spread, eating hungrily away at anything that wandered too close. The smoke clogged his lungs, but his reactions were broken and too slow, memories shared not only by himself but millions of other New Yorkers and visitors and volunteers bubbling to the surface. It was never the sight of fire that bothered him, nor the intense heat that it exuded, a threat of pain and more than mild discomfort, but instead the way it invaded the other senses so thoroughly.

The smell- oh, the smell of burning wood wasn't too bad, but the intense stink of burning flesh and hair that intermixed with the fumes invaded his nose and settled on his tongue leaving a macabre taste to cling and coat the inside of his mouth, intermingling with the wood smoke. The noise was the worst, however, the sound of crackling flames promising the collapse of buildings, shrieks of agony, of panic, of fear, of anger from humans and animals alike intermingling into an all too familiar audio that had haunted his childhood dreams for weeks and weeks.

"Move!" Dorian was forcefully jolted from his reverie as a strong hand gripped his shoulder, launching him out of the way as part of the library collapsed on the area he'd just been standing in in a flurry of flickering flames now dancing across the grass and splintering wood slowly transforming to ash beside his feet. His gasp of surprise transformed almost instantaneously into a coughing fit, but the hand never left his shoulder, moving him steadily away from the burning building, never once letting him stop. It was easier to breathe in the courtyard, but being surrounded by the flaming buildings, held in the eye of the storm with sobbing, wounded people trying to comprehend the same shocking sight was no easier mentally. His rescuer- a random male student with thin blonde hair left him there, shoving through the crowd towards a similarly unfamiliar student, a girl clutching her bleeding arm, that he pulled gently into his arms. The girl collapsed almost instantly, clinging almost violently to Dorian's unknown savior.

This was a sea of strangers, strangers he'd lived with for three years but never managed to meet or know apart from the month warriors dotting his surroundings and the few familiar faces, elite or otherwise, moving around. They'd lived here, learned here, eaten here, trained here for longer than Dorian himself in most cases and now it was burning around them when mere hours ago everything had been as calm and tranquil as a night at the Academy could boast. It occurred to Dorian that he was in shock, trying to pay attention to small details instead of the whole picture because there was simply nothing he could do for anyone. The Academy was a lost cause, a thought that hit him with some force, and it would soon be wholly engulfed, eaten away by the ravenous inferno. It wasn't his home, not really- he was a visitor, a guest having long since overstayed his welcome, but grief still welled up within him because he still felt like it was his in some way, shape, or form, or at least close enough that seeing buildings crumble, hearing the shrieks of pain from the ox's stables, seeing tears streak down the faces of people he considered far stronger than himself was like a physical pain.

"March Warrior." Only one person in the Academy still stood by that formality, the magician battling his way through the crowd to appear at his side, a struggling Mori held in a tight grip by the wrist. They were transformed in the trauma and the light of the flames devouring their home. Liam's face held none of its usual amiability, tightlipped, face streaked with ash. Mori was no better, tracks of tears that still flowed as he struggled in his older friend's grip staining his cheeks, white cheeks uncharacteristically red due to the sheer heat surrounding them.

"You will watch him. You will not let him go. He is not to leave your sight." The order was hissed, only barely audible in the commotion as the young genius was thrust into his arms. Dorian grabbed him instinctively and, while Mori was not physically strong, still grimaced as the young man thrashed.

"Liam, no! No, I need to come with you! Dae, Ryou, Ji Na, Ben- they're all still out there! It's not fair, I can-!" The protests were cut off by a sudden flurry of movement and the sharp and distinctive noise of a hand meeting flesh. Mori stopped his struggles, one hand going to his stinging cheek as Liam- polite, cheery Liam- glared down at him, harsh and unrelenting.

"You cannot!" He snarled, each word ferocious and biting. "You will get in the way and get yourself killed, so stop being selfish and stay!" With that, the magician disappeared, throwing himself back into the fray of the few people still struggling to save the Academy, or if not the Academy, at least one more life. Mori started sobbing again, the shock of the sudden blow wearing off, and it occurred to Dorian- horribly and suddenly- that the youngest elite had a photographic memory. This was now burned into his mind, never to leave, never to fade but to stay as vivid as it was right now. He pulled the sobbing child to him, blocking his view as best he could. It was the least he could do, even if all he wanted to do was cry as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ryou was by no means an overly modest man- he took pride in many of his accomplishments, real and imagined(all real, he'd argue, until someone reminded him that he couldn't really be Lord of the Dance or King of the Jungle, even if he did tend to introduce himself as such when drunk). But if you caught him in an introspective moment and asked him what exactly he was most proud of, it would be his children. He adored all of the students that passed through his Academy, young and old, but he held a special place in his heart for those that he'd raised personally. His beloved Ji Na, as delicate looking as a porcelain doll and twice as beautiful and with a strength and knowledge that made her so endearing. Ben, gruff and tough as a bear on the outside, but, to Ryou, as sweet as honey on the inside. Now Karma with her endless energy and endearing antics. They were flawed- of course they were(if Ji Na ever though he didn't notice the distinct odor of her brand of relaxation in her room, she had another thing coming). Still, they were his children, brought up by him for better or for worse, his pride and joys proving themselves every day to be the greatest things that he'd ever done.

Which is why no one, absolutely no one, could imagine what went through his mind as Ji Na and Ben slowly approached the bastard who'd burned down their home, who'd caused the deaths of their students, friends, classmates, and his cast of monsters, not to kill him, not to attack, but to join him alongside Kat- independent, beautiful, amazing Kat- faces emotionless, without pain. He froze mid run, caught in the shadows of an already toppled building. Their words were lost on him, lost in the hurricane of thoughts flickering through his mind, lost in his own internal screams. He'd lost his home, his students, and now his children, his children in the same night. Where was the Ji Na he knew, who'd scolded him gently every time he leaned over to boop her nose during a meal even as a child? Where was the Ben whose every boo-boo and scrape he'd taken care of as a child with a bandage and a kiss?

'Help!'

That wasn't them. It couldn't be them, that was ridiculous. Ji Na and Ben and, yes, even Kat, would never just… Do this, whatever this was. They were proud individuals, strong and true, they would never- they could never-

'Help!'

This wasn't happening- it was a nightmare, it had to be. Academies don't just burst into flame, super villains didn't just stream out of the woodwork, children don't just betray their parents-

'I need Help!'

It was a trick, wasn't it? Yes, that must be it. Any moment now, Ben would pull the string of his bow, Ji Na would unsheathe some hidden blade and strike, avenge their home and their family.

'Goddess, please!'

But they stayed there, mouths moving in some incomprehensible language, hidden by his shrieking thoughts. His home was gone, his family- his family was gone. Gone, gone, gone- they left him, they weren't dead, they just left him. Was it his own fault? Had he done something? He must have done something, that had to be it because people don't just- They don't just-

"RYOU, HELP!"

That plea wasn't in his own mind, it couldn't be. He turned suddenly to see the last of the Girl's dormitory begin to crumble under its no longer solid framework. Stragglers flooded out of the door, infinitely less secure because a beam had already fallen, flaming like the rest of the structure, and was being held up as the last girl ran to the relative safety the grounds provided, held up by… By Dae. The flames licked at his body, burning cloth and flesh alike, but he was stuck in the trap of his own making while attempting to let them free. It was his bellowed plea that had broken the spell.

He was torn, only for a moment. He could go now, could untangle these lies and confusing revelations by demanding answers from his children, or he could save someone already struggling to save others, who hadn't left their compatriots behind. He hated himself, oh, Goddess, how he hated himself. He turned and ran, to save the person that he still knew, who hadn't just become a stranger.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sometimes, the light of day is more of a curse than a blessing. The fire had finally died out, consuming all that it could before vanishing into smoldering ashes and into the ruins of the buildings that they all had once visited, walked through, slept in, lived in. The cruel sun exposed the reality, harsh and unrelenting without the darkness and the pale, more merciful glow of the moon and stars to hide away the worst of it. It was still quiet, however, the natural noises surrounding them all but gone. No birds sang, no animals made their way through the foliage, no pleasant and inconsequential chatter among the students. Prayers rained supreme and quiet, solemn conversations intermingled with sobs from those that still had tears left to shed and still other's tiny sounds of pain, gasps and light whines.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Dae, stop."

"Dae, please. You're already injured."

"So?"

"So? So, my dear, you're making it worse by sifting through the rubble."

"No, they're making it worse."

"They?"

"Them. Didn't you see them? Trying to- trying to find bodies and- and take care of everyone. They're making it worse. They don't even know any of their names, and they're acting like-"

"Like they care about them?"

"I know it sounds selfish, I know- Liam, I just… I just want our friends to be found and taken care of by people they know. We owe them that, something personal. They're not corpses to be found- that's Camilla, she was going to marry that baker's son. I found Tai earlier, in the library. All of them deserve to be mourned because the world lost amazing people, not just because they happened to die."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dorian, while not medically trained, spent his time trying his best to patch up wounds, wrapping bandages around the least severe of the injuries. Without searching, his immediate fears for his teammates were alleviated simply because none of their bodies were displayed with the others, and their wounds were either mild enough or their pride too powerful so that they never made their way over to the impromptu medical station. Mori had stayed by his side, uncharacteristically quiet, not that Dorian blamed him, apart from occasionally rattling off medical advice absorbed by reading and observation in a dull, hollow sort of voice. It wasn't until the rest of his trio returned did he finally perked up, racing over to Dae and flinging his arms around his middle. Neither of the elites looked themselves, for very different reasons.

Dae was covered in soot and ash, already rough hands covered with streaks of blood and dirt, and although his body was wrapped in Liam's cloak, blistering burns were visible creeping up his neck, otherwise hidden away by the fabric. Liam, on the other hand, finally exposed what had always been beneath the cloak- black pants and a black tank top revealing large, swirling, black rune-like tattoos covering the entirety of his torso, stopping only at his wrists and curling partially up his neck.

"Haru's called for you," Dae croaked, tired green eyes settling firmly on Dorian, already raspy voice gone to Hell in the aftermath of smoke inhalation and screaming. Dorian nodded, not trusting himself to speak, as he followed behind the three. It felt wrong to see them like this, to look upon the picture of a broken family- and, indeed, they were a family if Liam and Dae's interlocked hands and the tender way Dae stroked Mori's hair with his free hand meant anything.

They joined the exhausted group, some holding up quite well and others teetering on the edge of a meltdown. Some were injured, apparently having found medical help elsewhere, and others were fine or as fine as they could be. The solemn gathering was ultimately shattered, however, with Harper's arrival, spitting out angry words that had no place being heard by these people who had just been betrayed. Dorian liked Harper, of course he did, and maybe this was just his way of dealing with trauma or something, but he wasn't stupid, he knew it was without tact.

Dorian's eyes flickered to his three guides, noticed the way Mori scooted further back as if by surrounding himself by the knight and the magician, he'd be safe, how Dae shut his eyes for just a moment too long, how Liam's unblinking gaze set firmly on Haru, unwilling to waver form the man with a plan, as his grip tightened on Dae's hand to the point of appearing painful. Kyle was the only one who moved to do anything and he was stopped by the appearance of his own guardian, a newcomer untainted by the night's events. Dorian couldn't look at her, didn't really want to look at the casually amused way she took them all in as if bodies weren't lined up in the ruins of the dorm, ready to be buried or sent home to their families. Again, no tact, but now without the excuse of an emotional night to chip away at sensibilities and courtesy that Dorian had given Harper's outburst. Dorian coughed and for once he didn't know if it was his own mild attempt to clear away just how awkward he found the situation or if it was form the smoke inhalation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"As long as students wish to learn at my Academy, I see no reason for it to be shut down." The sudden appearance of Ryou was enough to surprise even the most taciturn member of the little meeting. He looked like he'd gone through Hell, body streaked with sweat, blood, and ash, golden eyes without their usual mirthful glint, clothing tattered from a lack of attention as he'd spent every waking hour busying himself with something, anything to help. But he was solid, together as he cradled Karma in his arms like a delicate flower, one hand idly combing tangles from pink tresses.

"Mr. Vo… Kwasi…. I would be honored if you would help to rebuild and restart the Academy. I can't think of anyone I'd rather have here, building our home." His tone was solemn, respectful as if they had just offered him something sacred. He clasped hands with each of them, even pulling Mr. Vo into a tender one-armed hug, careful of the small body in his arms.

"I've already talked to the students- some will be heading home, but most want to stay, so you'll both have more than enough help. And so will we." He glanced at the only remaining elites who nodded their heads. Their home had been burned down, their friends and students killed. Their place wasn't here, not right now, but with their leader to find answers and hopefully revenge.

"Haru, I'm ready to go."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Ondine Azur Character Portrait: Kit Withers
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Haru’s small stature was over-taken by a mass much larger, and heavier than he was. But this mass, in all of its sobby, slobbery essence was full of more care and sentimentality than Haru could hold in one paw. This mass was, at least to Haru, the very epitome of lifelong friendship and loyalty and Haru truly felt like the Goddess was testing his strength by having this mass, which was carrying a great grief on its shoulders and an even greater heart in its chest, bear its weight on his shoulder. But to the guardian this weight was not a burden.
The readhead did not stroke Ryou’s head like a baby’s, or embrace him and say that everything was going to be alright because he didn’t know. All he could really contribute was leg strength and a sturdy crying spot. When Ryou finished Haru wordlessly turned back to the sun and fished into his pocket. He pulled out a carton of cigarettes, a carton with, lo and behold, the every last of his cigarettes. Haru hadn’t known Ryou to be as much of a smoker as he was, if at all, but he offered his last nicotine stick anyway. Ryou knew how much the cat guardian cherished them and offering up his last would send a bold enough signal.
“That’s right,” Haru said after a while. “Apologize. Ask for forgiveness because you have wrongfully claimed that Ryou Zerrin has let his students down and that he has no to right to shed a tear. Who’s to say that he didn’t do the best he could for his students? What gives you the right to deny his humanity and tell him that he cannot feel pain and just fucking cry it out? Shame. Shame on you.”
Haru leaned on the railing.
“Ryou…. I think we all know that a great loss of life can be a tragedy. But I can guarantee you that this loss wasn’t by your hand or negligence, or whatever the hell you’re blaming yourself for. This was Amber and you should know that. And I know that though he may not feel it now, the psychological effects of destroying so many human lives will catch up with him. But you can’t force it on him. Take it from me, the grief will come slowly at first then graze him with increasing speed. Attach to him. Never wash away no matter how many damned baths he takes in the holy river. Hell, I’m still bathing in the fucking river for what I did and I still fucking stink.”
The cat guardian chuckled. “You know. You’re my best friend and I never told you what the hell I did to be here today. You’re looking at a bad man Ryou, and I mean, heh… A bad. Bad. Bad man. You guardians… I mean despite the fact that you’re guardians I still think you are good people who simply did bad things. Kit did what he did because he needed to save a life by smothering it’s flame. Ondine did what she did because people abused her. You did what you did because you had to play the grind to survive but me, I don’t know why the hell I did my deed. I was young and I was sharp as fuck and I mean not just like… Physically but I was fucking smart Ryou, especially at my tender age. And…. And Hales’ military wanted my mind and I wanted to get out of the cold because it was just so fucking cold and I married young and had people to care for and they had to get out of the cold so I just…I just went where it was warm. And they asked me about problems, and I came up with plans. Soon I went from Haru Karokov the grunt of the Karokov clan to Haru Karokov military strategist, Haru Karokov war instigator, Haru Karokov illegitimate father of the 16 year war, town toppler, baby burner, cattle killer the very person that Amber was last night and I didn’t have to lift a fucking finger to do it because I had men who would do it all for me. Men who were fathers and brothers and farmers who weren’t too young, or decrepit, disabled or stupid to be recruited by the military at the time. I thought I was just doing my job: what the government wanted. ‘Get us more territory’ they said, ‘We need more POWs’ they told me. And I did it, and I did it so well that suddenly they were negating everything they told me before. ‘Have more humility!’ Then my wife fucking smothered me to death in my sleep. And then I died... Then I was given a chance to turn over a new leaf, thrusted into an Aires that I had a hand in creating yet was so much further from what I expected. Placed into an unfamiliar time and charged to protect super powered people who ultimately failed the challenge.”
Haru paused, realizing that he hadn’t taken a moment to really breathe.
“But,” he rasped, “I was partnered up with you. And Lillian, and Kit and Ondine and all the others. People who, from what I could see, were so much better than me at the whole human thing. And... And I thought, wow, I can’t be so bad if I’m lined up with so many other ‘sinful’ people. And… What I’m trying to say with all of this is that I think… and I might be wrong but I that if I am a good person…then you are a good person too.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez
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Tallyho sat there unflinchingly as Haru left, then Harper, and soon Kyle spoke. She did not show a sign of life until food was placed into arms reach and though she ate and grasped the food feverishly, remnants of fodder staining the area around her mouth and tumbling down the front of her dress, her eyes did not move from the door and her lips did not flinch.
Xabier came in and left as quickly, typical behavior. Kyle kept talking. Friendship this, new start that. She did not pause to pick out the food that slipped down the collar of the dress. Didn’t he know that it was far too late for all of this “peace making”? Even if he wasn’t the one who really bothered her? Didn’t Haru know? What did Haru know?
“I will never forget,” she said, voice hushed and barred between her teeth. Smothered. Her voice was the people and her teeth the government. “I won’t!”
Her outburst was punctuated by the curt noise of a dish smashing to the floor. Her small body posed forward on the sofa. Mid-lunge and the hand that involuntarily destroyed a dish clenched into a fist of shame. Green eyes twin planets quaking in the whites of her eyes. And when they glazed she blinked herself free.
“I apologize,” she said to Kyle. From the sofa she slumped to her knees like an unattended blanket at the edge of the bed. Pathetic and cotton-soft, and worn. She gathered the pieces of plate with cusped hands and held them. She found no place to dispose of them so dropped them again. And then the shuffled forward on her knees like a toddler or an ape until she could stand up right by the miracle of some evolution of psyche. And she stumbled out of the door. Winded and weathered, not nearly as pretty as she began. And as she trudged down the hall, she worried about having another seizure. And the shaking... Then she stumbled over Haru’s words. Be alone and die alone. Be alone and die alone.
Since becoming a month warriors Tallyho never experienced so much emotional distress in her entire life. After the untimely death of her mother she learned to suppress her disappointment and troubles. This was the case of many orphaned. There was no consistent person to confide in so she confided in self-reliance. She was the baby who learned to yearn for pure sustenance instead of sustenance and the comfort of touch. And something about this situation (or perhaps these people) had broken her walls for worse.
And she had already made it out the door to the main ballroom when she realized that she wasn’t storming off to confide in herself for once.
Whether he saw it or not Tallyho wordlessly burrowed her head into Dorian’s shoulder with force, a time bomb ready to explode with scarlet face and ugly tears. And she really didn’t want to cry in front of everyone else but she didn’t want to be alone and die alone. And suddenly she felt bad for dismissing Kyle’s invitation to friendship, or any other person’s legitimate invitation to friendship. But a minute ago she wasn’t ready for it because a minute ago she had trouble distinguishing who was the enemy and who feverishly loved her for all of her brashness and alienating nature. And she believed that Dorian practiced this from the beginning and so she had to begin with him.
Haru had taken a beating today. Between the ceremony and the warriors and Mildred it felt like his day was spiraling at 100 miles per hour. And it felt like every time he was about to fall into the ocean the wind pushed him closer to the face of a cliff full of hard, red rock. And the final gust of wind, one that would finally end his day with rock to the face was the sight of a familiar figure up in the darkness of a balcony, tucked (in an almost insultingly casual way) out of the sight of some of the most vigilant. To be quite honest Haru would not have caught this face had a drunk lady nearby not jumped and sent the wine from her glass flying inches above her with some of the spirit draping a damp curtain over Haru’s shoulder pad. And that glob of red liquid, which was suspended against gravity for less than a second happened to highlight the figure of Amber in the balcony, wrist rotating a glass of whiskey casually. And Amber caught his eye and he smiled. And they found a mutual understanding. And Haru left the ballroom discretely to confront the arsonist without causing much attention.
“I see you didn’t heed my warning,” Amber sang through a sip, “about staying out of our way?”
“I see I didn’t either,” Haru said coldly from the chair adjacent to the one eyed man.
“Listen. You and your warriors… You’re nothing but pawns in this whole fiasco—“
“With the government? Oh I know. But we need numbers to protect ourselves from arsonists and traitors…”
“You are trapped in the cycle. You know not what you do.”
“What cycle? Enlighten me.”
“I am cursed, I cannot. But I warn you, stay back. Or Shepard, we will not hesitate to slaughter your herd.”
“Then we will not hesitate to slaughter you.”
“Then let us save you.”
“Save us?”
“Save you.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Princess Morgan the Graceful
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Haru wasn’t sure how to respond to the prospect of “being saved” by an overpowered arsonist—to sharing a drink with a man who nearly killed his charges and destroyed the livelihood of his best friend. And for every stroke of ease that oozed from Amber’s gestures: The gesture to a seat, the casual pouring of the drink, Haru responded with rigidity, tension and apprehension.
“It’s not just you, you know,” Amber said clearly through the rim of his glass. Haru could tell that, in some life, Amber was an actor. Or at the very least had the makings of an actor. It was in his poise, the diction of the way he spoke, the fact that he was convincing enough to make Haru give him the time of day.
“You and your warriors—you don’t know what you’re fighting for. If you continue this path you will undoubtedly be crushed. And I can’t guarantee me and my people will be the culprits.”
“Elaborate?”
“I cannot go into further detail. I’m bound.”
“And how am I supposed to take your word?”
“By just taking it,” Amber paused, swishing the alcohol in his glass once more. “If I didn’t want to give you fair warning we would have eliminated your people a long time ago. I’m not telling you anything else.”
Haru frowned. This was a rare opportunity to press Amber for vital information. He downed his first shot and set it on the table next to its mother bottle.
“I’m sure you aren’t bound from a bit of fun. How about a game?”
“A game?”
“Yes. Let’s see who can chug the most whiskey… For a bet. If you win the month warriors will surrender themselves to whatever cause your group is fighting for. If I win I get more information.”
“Haru Karokav… That’s irresponsible,” Amber said unflinchingly.
Haru knew. And he also knew it was irresponsible to make bets he wouldn’t be following up on. But with everything that happened tonight, the guardian was willing to turn every rock in a forest of troubles just to find something of value.
“Are you going to do this or not?” Haru asked.
Amber simmered in the moment for a while before he picked up the bottle and eyed its label—it was a particularly strong and heavy liquor straight from the Isles. And without hesitation the fire man threw his head back and let the burning liquid fall down his throat for a decent amount of time before it welled up and Amber flinched forward trying the keep the liquid from exiting through his nose.
Haru eyed the bottle. Amber drank a significant amount, almost half, of the strong brew. And both men knew that if Haru fared any chance at winning the bet he was going to have to finish the bottle. And so he did. And moments later his small body was consumed and he was struggling to stay awake. Wavering and recalling questions he’d pondered about Amber for months. His questions were more cohesive in the beginning—but of course as time went on he became more incoherent:
“Your group has supernatural abilities beyond basic magic. Abilities that are comparable to those of the month warriors….”
“We orphans—we have a lot more in common with you warriors than you think.”
“Orphans…” Haru said pensively.
Amber looked up, a look of surprise briefly flashing across his face. “Did I not introduce us as such the night of the fire? Perhaps you were too shaken to pay that much attention.”
Haru grunted, “What do you orphans want, anyway?”
“To preserve the Aires we know today—”
“Full of cyclopean? Are you works of oblivion?”
“I cannot answer that, I’m bound.”
“Are you enemies of the Goddess?”
“I cannot answer.”
Haru was beginning to feel like he wasn’t going to get anything else from this fiery tormentor.
“I cannot tell you these things. But I can tell you where to find the answers. Listen carefully and consider this my last olive branch…”
Haru leaned forward. Trying his best to focus in his drunken stupor. This was it. This is what he was waiting for.
It was so much information crunched into so little word. Haru was overtaken by his thoughts as Amber described a giant crack in the ground and a dreamscape. A glowing book of truth at the core of the planet—an alternate reality full of the most cursed Arian horrors and Arian apocrypha.
“Just remember. You knowledge of this book alone will not keep us away. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the month warriors and I will give you no head starts. From this day on we will be active in our attempts. And it would be in your best interest to find the truth and make sure your warriors use the truth wisely before we find them first. Only then can we exist in harmony.”
And Amber was done speaking. When Haru looked over he was met with a mound of ashes.
He grunted once more and his head lulled back as he fell into a drunken slumber, destined for a hangover.
There was no denying the crying and Tallyho had to own it as best she could. Dorian’s presence helped. He rubbed familiar circles on her back and Tallyho was reminded that she’d often considered Dorian…a circular kind of person. Circles were stable and smoothed. Filled with an essence of calmness.
But the Tallyho who truly knew Dorian knew that this wasn’t the case. Much of the group saw Dorian as a communal rock when he was really as fragile as anyone else could be. Tallyho then felt guilty being so emotional at that moment when Dorian had been in the fray of it too. And much of the fray was because of her.
Tallyho pulled back and reached for Dorian’s injured hand gently squeezing his fingers.
“I’m sorry,” she said. She wanted to cosign that apology from so many others—including Harper—but she was well aware that she could only speak for herself.
Looking at Dorian, Tallyho felt a lump in her throat that had never quite settled before. She studied his features more carefully than she had before—he was handsome both physically and in his demeanor. A day before she would have stared at Dorian for 10 straight minutes without a flinch—without thinking much of it at all (and even making fun of him)— but now she felt herself passing more discrete glances in quick and quiet pulses, hiding behind a flush of rose.
She didn’t think that her first experience feeling for another human in this way would be so matter-of-fact, curt and blunt. The girls in her caravan handled their crushes with carefree giddiness. They saw someone they barely knew but thought was cute and exhausted what little feeling they really had for the boy in a week-long burst of obsession before allowing his memory to fade into the obscurity of their childhoods.
Tallyho didn’t argue with herself as to whether or not she felt affection for Dorian. In that moment she recognized this and owned it.
And she figured she would have been able to say it—that’s how straightforward their friendship was, after all—But for some reason she couldn’t dig the words from the pit of her voice box. So she sat staring at him, gripping his hand in a daze of stupor. A seizure, in her opinion, would have been a better placeholder.
And then Kyle came in. Tallyho still had tears in her eyes but she didn’t wipe them. Kyle seemed to be particularly concerned about offending Tallyho and this was extremely apparent. There was no point in Tallyho being so guarded with situation—the blonde had already offered a part of herself to Dorian so there were no excuses for withholding herself from an innocent perosn trying to offer friendship.
“Kyle… You’re fine,” she said as she extended her hand with a firm handshake in mind.
Morgan was having a grand time at the party and she owed the night to Mori and Karma. Though Karma was defiant when it came to learning how to waltz like a proper lady, she still appreciated the company and found Karma’s quips witty and humorous. After a while she gave up trying to teach the kids to dance and led the way to a table of fantastic horderves and sweets.
They were soon approached by Falke who seemed to Morgan like a very kind man. The first few times seeing him after they first met threw her for a loop because she wasn’t sure if he was truly blind of not. He seemed to move freely and she didn’t want to assume.
“Hello Falke, how are you? Would you like to dance?” She chirped, voice shaking with energy.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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Kyle gave a weary smile when Tallyho reached out to him. That was all he wanted. He didn't expect to be best friends right away, if at all. He attempted to wipe his sweaty palms with the similarly sweaty cravat tie and stuffed it in a pocket. Then he too moved toward her. For a time he debated whether to kiss her hand like he did with Dae or shake it. Eventually he wiped his sweaty hands again and shook hers. She might not be comfortable with a more intimate gesture, and there was also Dorian to consider. The April warrior knew he could be no threat to a relationship between two of his teachers, and they also knew his weaknesses. His peers, they were a different story. Besides, he didn't want to give Dorian a reason to be upset with him, especially after all the mess he already submitted him to. "Thank you."

After the announcement party, they finally seemed to have a reprieve, and Kyle took full advantage of it. He set himself personal goals to resolve all the issues he caused during the fiasco, but he doubted his success in meeting those goals. The group seemed more splintered than before and weird things were happening that spooked him, but he refused to give up. One of his few virtues, determination.

That determination also helped him in other ways. He found multiple exits to the palace and escaped all the fake people for hours at a time, either in the city proper or the garden. The garden was an excellent forum for him to strengthen his skills, and actually interact with 'real' people. People that didn't pretend to like you because you were famous. Truthfully, he hated being famous.

Nikita discovered the problem soon enough when she found Haru passed out drunk. She knew he had a smoking problem, but she didn't remember a drinking problem. Biting her lip, she realized that perhaps the recent pressure pushed him to drink. She called for assistance to carry him to his room, because she was both shorter and lighter than Haru, and knew she couldn't hold him on her own.

A week later, the man himself knocked on her door and asked her to come to a meeting during lunch. Hastened by both concern for his health and curiosity, she was happy to oblige. She prepared for the meeting as much as possible, well before the appointed time. When she heard the message, she forced herself to hold her tongue. She wasn't Haru's mother to harangue him about the stupidity of going in front of government agents and enemies by himself, but it did validate her concern for his health.

"The problem is, I don't think we can trust either of these parties we're now tangled up in. Amber and his supernatural warriors destroyed the Academy, yet didn't physically harm our warriors when they were weak and logically would be in his best interest." She grimaced against how cold she sounded. "And the government agents here pretty much tied our hands with their demands of accompaniment. If anything happens to the accompanying party, we'll get the blame, and end up back in the dungeon." She shuddered at the word. "Honestly, I think it's in OUR best interest to target Amber directly, not even this book whether it exists or not. Chasing the book should draw the threat away from major cities and reduce civilian casualties at least. That doesn't resolve the issue of nosy government officials though." Crossing her arms over her chest, she dropped her head and frowned. It sounded like they were damned if they do, damned if they don't.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Kit Withers Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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#, as written by Linnea
Kit wasn't really looking for comfort. He only needed to look at Autumn for her to worry about him. No, he was just complaining as he was prone to do. It helped ease the pain in ways hugs and kind words couldn't.

He let out a soft chuckle and complied, gazing up at the stars with tired eyes. This was nice too, he thought. It sure beat just complaining.

The passing week left the guardian feeling better. He could often be found wandering and simply admiring the art around him. If not looking at the plaza and it's beauty and history, he was talking to someone. Princess Morgan was always fun to talk to, and Kit enjoyed chatting with Lillian. It almost felt like old times, back when the world was still exciting and interesting.

Hearing that Amber was back was a bitter pill to swallow. Hearing that he spoke of the Great Escape was even more worrying.

“Amber's return is troublesome news, indeed. Though, I would rather not go after him. I'm not sure a direct attack will do us any good. Considering the state of the warriors, it might be best to wait.”

“I can actually provide a bit more information on the Great Escape, believe it or not. Actually, I'm shocked Amber even mentioned it. The information I have is from oral accounts, and even then they're the kind that are from a friend of a friend. I can't help but wonder how Amber came to know of it.” Kit replied, spinning the ring on his finger as he thought.

“The legend stems from a small tribe in Ira, located on the southernmost tip. They're a reclusive bunch, which is why I couldn't get any information from them. So, for Amber to know of it to the extent of claiming there's a book there... It's worrying. I'm not sure if it's a trap or not.”

“As for location, I don't know if any of us can find it. It's not exactly geographical. It's more of a mirage, opening only to the spiritually awakened. Gurus, elders, monks, only the most self-disciplined of them have been able to go there. And it's not always in the same place, either. If you look away you might not be able to see it again.”

“It is supposed to take you to another realm, but I’m afraid I don't have any detailed experiences. Those who have ventured there refuse to tell me about it for spiritual reasons.”

Kit closed his eyes and bit his lip before speaking again. “I haven't heard anything about a book. And the thought of an accompanying party is concerning... however, I say we go. It'll be difficult, but I think it will be well worth it. Others joining is a problem, but due to the nature of the Great Divide itself I think there's a possibility we can pull this off without them even getting inside the Great Divide. After all, it does disappear in a blink of the eye."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Nikita Machari
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Lillian hummed a soft, pleased sound as Kit chuckled and complied readily enough to her 'shut up and hold me' decision without further complaints. They stayed like that for some time. Silent, and star-gazing.

...

Lillian was aloof much over the passing week. She was here or there, and could be found easily enough. She humored whoever came near to talk with her, but was often more free-of-feather during conversations - leaving others behind, or not quite sure what she'd mentioned something about, or maybe was answering for another. Before moving on again, breezily to the next thing that caught her fancy or attention.

She came without complaint to the meeting around lunch-time from Haru's knock at the door in the early morning hours. Curling up her feet, she sat comfortably in the soft, antique cushioned chairs, easy and content and silent. She observed Haru, with pursed limps, as the guardians came in one by one, greeting them all and apologizing if he had disturbed their sleep. The One Above he was nervous, and Lillian expected this was what this meeting was about after not seeing the February guardian much of the week except for meals.

It was not long before everything was explained, after everyone had settled and Haru had stretched and closed the curtains shut tight. It went from Amber, to a Great Divide, to the Book of Truth. Nikita jumped first to respond, to Haru questioning their next move. Demanding they head after Amber now and ignore all this confusing talk, and she could agree it was odd, about this Great Divide or Book. It held promise, that plan of action, of course, and yet after Kit spoke out with more information regarding the Great Divide, not so much the book, and the fact that were the warriors truly ready for that kind of campaign - they'd only been taught to kill and defend themselves against cyclopean, doing the same against people (and a couple that had been their mentors for three years) was a different problem entirely. And Amber was an actor, or a believer of the dramatic arts, and so... Oh!

Lillian was always what could be termed a silent processor, and often held back her opinions to the very end. But it could be seen clearing by her narrowed eyes and furrowed brow, she was thinking, hard, about what Haru said. Without another speaking up, yet, she offered her humming opinion in a soft but sharp voice, "I will not repeat what Nikita and Kit have already mentioned, because it is a waste of breath and information we all now know, but..." She paused, thoughtfully; waving her hands absently as she spoke and thought of how to put what she wanted to say into proper words. "I see this Amber as something of an actor, or a playright perhaps? He's far too dramatic, too unpredictable, however... If this is a true trap, and he's attempting to lead us wrong by giving us the information of a Great Divide and a Book of Truth, why bother? We're in the best trap possibly staying here, having grown soft from such fine comfort."

"I do not think the warriors, or ourselves for that matter, are quite ready for any campaigns out of the blue. Whether or not we go directly after these orphans, or to this Great Divide and Book of Truth. Training has slacked for many... Granted, getting on the move again, adding a routine of training as we go, may help this issue, but we'd have company to deal with along the way? Oh, and of course... Going after people is far different than going after cyclopean. We've never asked the warriors to do that..." She paused, this time sparing a short glance at Ryou. His 'children' and some of the warrior's own mentors were on the orphans side now, if... She continued, "For now, I think my vote is going to this Great Divide, and this Book of Truth. Even if it is a useless endeavor, and I do not doubt we very well meet the orphans sometime soon anyway. It'll better for everyone, even with TRK additions, to get out of the politics directly, and strengthen their abilities again without worrying of keeping everything tongue in cheek."

---

Falke froze, and held his breath as he tried not to wince. Morgan had suddenly stepped forward, as if to impose a waltz on him anyway, despite not seeming the least bit offended that he'd declined her earlier offer. Instead she'd placed both hands framing his face, displacing errant hair that had been purposefully styled by Mildred's mini-Army, and brushed his lashes down with gentle fingers; observing his blind eyes, blearily attempting to focus down at her own brimming with curiosity, sightful eyes. He barely managed not to gasp at the sudden onrush of information, new and old memories, and the aching resemblance of his own face seen by another's eyes; and carefully held his own mind in check, as best as he was able, not wishing to burden her with his own chaotic emotion and thought landscape.

It was then she asked a question, curious, and still full of endearing excitement for the world around her, "How blind are you?"

It was something he very well would have thought as a exceedingly rude insult from his days, Goddess above, a long, to long, far to long to be honest he felt like, time ago on Earth. Then he'd thought he would never allow his tragedy of birth to shape his personality or hopes for the coming years, and had merely accepted it as it was, that he was blind and would forever be, so why bother anymore with it? He'd thought then he had the confidence and strength to live out the days as normally as he was able too, tolerating more than a few babying reactions from his dearest mother and the you poor fellow from passerby's on the straight. He'd only need to rely on those silly 'sunglasses' and his seeing-eye dog, Otter, they were his faithful, forever friends. Hah. Now? Oh, now... God, not Goddess thank you very much, he'd grown up in this crazy-ass world called Aires, more than he'd expected apparently. He didn't even think his blindness as something to survive with barely, now it was easy, powers and gifts, huh - how blind was he anymore?

Falke finally spoke up, after a moment had passed, seemingly letting her take her time in observation before responding, "It's all relative I guess, I've lived with it for so long and I'm just used to it. But... It's like standing waist deep in a rushing river and trying to catch a million tiny floating leaves as they race past you. Some of them I can catch, like a quick moving shadow at times. Most of them I can't, because I don't know they're even there until they brush past me." It was then, his own hands rose, grasping softly as much as his rough, and calloused hands would allow, her own far smaller and smoother hands. He gave them a gentle squeeze, as he pulled them away from his face. "Thanks for asking, not many do."

...

It had been a week since the party, and a week since he'd been around or even talked with another month warrior, guardian (including his own), or Academy trio member. After the recent fiasco in that other room, and his own snap at Xabier and the others; Falke had needed the breather. And under his own choice, and plain to purposefully avoid the lot, it was remarkable that he'd even managed it at all. Powers or not, be dammed. It had been the chance at some blessed silence, and freedom from others' thoughts and emotions crowding into his own head.

He definitely felt better for it, even with the limited human contact he'd allowed himself was around Princess Morgan wandering through the gardens and small chatting about his blindness or some wonderful flower, or the occasional willing knight he'd spare with in-between spare moments, or one of the palace maids - one whom had recently patched him up for the fourth time that week, mentally cursing that he needed to be more careful with sharp, pointy objects, even if it was training. Speaking of which, fei...

Falke hissed softly to himself. Shifting his makeshift position, from laying down on his back on one of the many stone benches within the palace's garden, to raise his hand and forearm upward awkwardly in an attempt to allow the pull of gravity to lessen the amount of blood (and likewise, muted pain) going past his most recent stabbed addition he'd gained the past morning. It matched the other three, similar marks or slashes, over the past week from his own self-training or sparring with a willing night. It was pinks, for stupid mistakes, to be honest he should've just dealt with this one like the others - but so close to the 'funny' bone, that was definitely not so funny, he didn't feel yet of ignoring it all completely. A quiet, lackluster snooze seemed most appropriate...

Before he could, a distant mental presence made itself known to him. It was clear that it wasn't Morgan's bright personality, or the maid coming back to clean or scold him mentally more, and it wasn't common for Trent or the knights' to be wandering the Garden; it must be one of his own group. Falke sighed. So much for getting comfortable... He abrutly swung his feet down, sitting on the bench and more than ready to shove himself upright, and stopped to 'listen' again to determine the direction they were heading in order to avoid them. Oh... He grunted softly to himself, a frown perched on his lips suddenly, not so much because of the steady throb of his wrapped arm, but because the presence made herself better known to him as she drew closer.

It was Tallyho. Who for the most part had excepted his disappearance and obvious avoidance of the group. Who had given him the space and time alone he'd needed and wanted, without needlessly hunting after him (honestly with his abilities, he could keep doing that trick for weeks if it came down to it). Who figured out other relations, without stressing out their own. Who now, apparently had decided it was time to find him... It was a minor glimmer purpose, a gut-feeling he more so felt, because it wasn't like she was calling for him in her mind trying to get his attention, but she was coming - trying to find him. Humph...

It was a reluctantly made decision, because being on his own and his mind-load eased from not being around everyone of their sorry show of a group was an intoxicating concept he was certain for him. But he still hesitantly paused his planned escape, in order to stay put, sitting on that lonely stone bench as Tallyho drew closer. It had been a week, maybe it was time...