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Huan Kin Delun

" Benjamin Hemming "

0 · 570 views · located in Aires

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

Description

Huan Kin Delun - Benjamin Hemming
There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.
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Huan Kin Delun, or Benjamin Hemming as he is called now by most now except for the very few that know of his birth name (and are allowed to use in private conversation), is one of Ryou's advanced students that has been at the Academy since the age of four, along with his close friend and partner - Ji Na Chae.



He is specialized as a marksman, hunter, and tracker all rolled in one - a "Ranger" as he likes to call himself, but in all honesty he is just a extremely skilled jack of all trades woods-man. He is never seen without his heavy war-bow clipped into a harness hanging across his back, and a quiver slung over a shoulder filled with gray-feather fledged arrows. While he definitely prefers ranged over needing to move in for closer combat, but due to years of hard work and training his already hefty frame - he is quite adept at hand to hand combat if he tries to swing his natural brute around, on the rare occasion it is needed.



At first glance, Ben can put you into a frightened mind-set of a tough, nasty, and ill-decent thug sort of man, but truth be told he's more of a lamb trapped in a lion's body most of the time. His frame is ruggedly built - tall, wide-chested, and heavily muscled. His once fair, olive skin has been weathered roughly and darkened from many hours out in the sun. It is not free of scars however, and is fact traced by a numerous amount of scars, thick and thin and somewhere in-between both all over his body - the most noticeable however is a long burnt whip-like mark starting at his left temple, jaggedly traveling down the side of his face to end up its other tip hidden underneath his chin. His facial features are more squarish than most, not giving him a particularly handsome look but attractive perhaps to someone. His dark hair and eyes hail his birthplace somewhere from the Eastern Isles of Aires. He often doesn't bother to shave weeks or so at a time, and a nearly constant five o'clock shadows bristles his chin and cheeks - but when he does remember to, or has been nagged enough about it, he shaves and looks to be a more youthful version of himself once more. His wardrobe is simple and utilitarian, with a lot of hunter greens and browns - padded vests, pants, and a fair amount of leather. But it isn't a wild-card either that you may see him in a dark kimono with faded blueish designs from time to time.

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Benjamin is a relatively calm person, often quiet (though not necessarily introverted). He has already experienced a lot in his young life, so is also rather wise despite his years, often making him a voice of reason when he speaks. Still, with help from his partner-in-arms, Ji Na, and others of the Academy, Ben has learned how to have a good laugh now and then, sticking with a down-to-earth attitude most of the time, and generally tries to look on the bright side of a life that is short enough as it is. Of course, Benjamin is only human, and he's also quite capable of becoming angry. Though these occasions are rare, generally when he does get upset, it all comes out in a blind rage. Such anger from him passes quickly, but it can still be scary to see such a normally serene person going over the edge every now and then. He loves to smile however, as it conveys much more than words ever really could - and thus is quite expressive when he's trying to get a point across.

wind child still
I see your dark black eyes blessing
wind child still
I see your soul dark passion eyes

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------* He does not like to see or smell blood, he can tolerate it (and has too) to a point - but even he has limits.
* Along with all his scars, he's acquired over the years multiple inked decorations on his shoulder and both arms.
* Isn't exactly an anti-smoker, shares the pipe with Ji Na from time to time, but doesn't do it any oftener than that.
* Ji Na Chae is a good friend of his, from childhood, and they left the Eastern Isles together - both know of their pasts, but do not speak of it much.
* Huan Kin Delun is his original birth name, but changed it to Benjamin Hemming when he left the Eastern Isles - only Ji Na is able to call him that now.

So begins...

Huan Kin Delun's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Jason Carter Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Lux Adair Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun
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Harper held up his hands as Skylar snapped at him, "Hey, I'm not saying I'm better than you. I didn't even want to save the world, remember?" He leaned forward on the table and held out a finger, "There's only one thing I'm competitive in, and that's swimming."

He snorted at Skylar's liar comment, though. "That's funny. I don't have a great memory, but if I recall correctly, you said you wanted to work in PR for companies, specifically to cover up for them when they screw up, amirite? That's pretty much the closest you can get to professional lying, besides lawyers."

And then the blonde guy spoke...Harper's eyes widened and he laughed loudly. Guffawed, more like...he even clapped his hands. "Dude, I have a god-damned P-H-D in assholery," Harper finally answered, still giggling, "And I didn't need to go to college for it, let me tell you."

Before he could, Autumn interrupted, apparently wanting to diffuse the energy. Still, she had a point. "I bet you're right," he said, still grinning from the blonde's comment. "I don't know what you're talking about with the calm stuff, though. I'm calm as a cucumber. It's these guys who don't know how to take a joke."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Kwasi Ihejirika Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Mr. Vo Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun
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The ragged rumble of a cart’s wheels and the hefty breathing of the ox that pulled it grew steadily closer on their heels, almost in perfect sync with the dying whale noises (that were vaguely human in origin supposedly) gradually fading off; made it rather hopelessly clear that her poor companion would obviously be eating his words soon enough, but woman remained refined and didn’t say a word about it nor let her mild amusement touch her eyes or even hint at regarding the matter. Until a hard, rich voice spoke up, wanting them to hear him: ”Thank Goddess.” The woman turned slightly in her seat upon her mount to look behind, tilting her head back slightly to allow her hood to fall gracefully off her head and bare her fair features to the ragtag group of wayward ‘sheepish’ teenagers and their ‘herders’. “Haru, the one be praised. You made better time than I expected.” She hummed lightly. Her lips parting slightly as a pale, faint smile rose on her lips in greeting.

”Lillian, thanks for sending Ryou and Dorian over by the way.” Lillian, now named, took the varying reactions to her appearance and the wheel’s turning in everyone’s heads that she was apparently the owl Haru had sent to get Ryou and Dorian ages past, with a certain amount of grace and indifference. She idly met everyone’s eyes, most without challenge and categorized them away in her mind for future reference, but she obviously held more affection in their depths for – Haru, Ryou, and even the grounds-keeper and ox-cart driver of Ryou’s Academy, Mr. Vo. And one young child who’d been walking a little ahead of the cart, studied and stared a little past the formal limit usually kept by most strangers. And Lillian seemed to give her a longer span of attention than most, with an odd sort of familiar curiosity glinted in her eyes, before moving on with a blink to the next.

“It was no problem. Ryou had an errand for me to run as well, so I apologize for not returning sooner. “ She finally responded, with a soft sigh and good natured coyish eye-roll in the direction of the other red-headed rider beside her astride his own mount. The more she spoke, her odd accent had an airy, breathless quality to it, simply singing a song as it were, even if just plain English. Lillian resumed focusing on the path ahead, guiding her mount up what was left of the trail to the gates.

...

Falke in the midst of ignoring Harper’s outburst, had not been able to successfully fallen back asleep like he’d planned. But felt like he’d woken up even more. If that was even possible? It wasn’t that he’d ever felt a nervous air before, and maybe it was just the thinner air of the high mountains and his fading temperament because of traveling in a messed up timeline in a bothersome 'new' world in general, he could blame it on. He felt annoyed of course, but, oddly, very much wide awake. It was probably just the realization, that he was really stuck in this for good, or even that he necessarily had to be more aware - just to keep his head attached, and the possibility of going home one day once this was all done? Oh who bloody knew or, or cared...

When they finally arrived, and were told to get off the cart. Falke was downright giddy, internally of course without letting it show unto his facial features. His legs screamed relief, or well, at the very least felt very light and almost ticklish, because of the rush of blood flowing through them to relieve agonized, sore muscles. And his stomach gurgled one last thought of possibly rejecting the meager bit of breakfast he’d gotten into his system hours earlier, before falling silent, eager as well seemingly to be over the faint motion sickness that had plagued him throughout the ride and back on his own two feet.

He stood, warily, much like even else around him, but seemed to be relieved enough to be alive and standing that he didn’t feel much of the need to work out any left-over aches and pains from the trip. Eyes wide, sightlessly surveying their surroundings with an interested, if rather honestly cautious air. He could not see the natural beauty of the place, but he could certainly smell the sharp, almost sweet, scent in the air of many different plants (except for this shit-smelling berry trees from the path into the main campus, of course), and fresher air than he’d ever really had to breathe before in general.

“Now don’t tell me he is asleep at the back of that cart… ” Falke turned toward the voice, not quite realizing he’d been facing in mostly the wrong direction most of the time since getting out of the cart, but able enough to lock on the sound a voice and turn himself toward it so that he vaguely looked like he was giving anyone his full attention. However, as she afforded each month warrior a moment’s worth of eye contact, it wasn’t really certain if they actually meet eyes at all, Falke’s were likely to high or too low or just plain not able to focus – not his intent of course, but being blind, that sort of thing happened pretty regularly.

And the following conversation, her words, and others, oh... And Harper, finally, apparently fainting. Well... None of it made much sense at all right now, as of yet, but he supposed they'd be answered soon enough, or later, if later. But for now, they apparently had a tour to take.

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The next two weeks were an absolute terror, and nothing short of it. His lack of gracefulness, coordination, and lack of knowing exactly where he was going by sight; played a part in sometimes not being able to finish the tasks they'd been given at times or mostly just finishing them barely (after running into things, or tripping and falling a great many times, excreta). Falke's bones and muscles ached and had constant throbbing accompanying his every movement. At night he was plagued by headaches from physical and emotion exhaustion and whispering nightmares.

Today was, again, no different during the exercise of going up and down the sadistic mountain trail five laps with a sack of rocks to carry along the way. Falke always finished last. Unless by chance the monk, Kwasi, had taken to long to pray for strength to complete the exercise, or someone was just feeling a little slower that day. Only the past few days he'd gained enough will to attempt jogging, slowly, up the mountain. Down the mountain, he walked, period. Both ways he hugged the edge furthest away from the cliff, like Harper, but not with fear driving him but only the general concern that he was indeed blind - one step, well, you can guess what would happen.

His arms were a maze of cuts and blotches of bruises from when he tripped and the mountain terrain was less than forgiving, and covered in blood and grime or he'd managed to wipe it all off over his shirt accidentally. His jeans were ragged and ripped at the knees, and no doubt his knees were extremely sore. When given the momentary break to cool off between the next lesson, after he finished his final lap and dropped the pile of stones alongside everyone else's. He made is way over and sat down wordlessly next to Tallyho on the fountain's rim, to splash the cold water unto his arms. Falke winced slightly at the change of temperature against his skin and the stinging sensation that accompanied cleaning his 'wounds'.

Falke hadn't expected a Cyclopean as the next lesson, however... He focused intently at the rattling of the cage bars and the snarlings of the trapped beast as much (or potentially more so, all things considered) as Haru's explanations of the creatures. He held an odd sense of morbid curiosity about the beasts, because they certainly didn't sound all to pleasant company - but without sight to actually confirm if it looked about as bad as it sounded, or smelled for that matter, he didn't have a clue. However, he understood the primal flight or fight running through his veins now, and yes - he'd try to kill it before it could kill him no doubt. But, how would he even know where the heart was, where to 'aim'? And, of course, it did not seem likely that Haru or his unknown guardian for that matter would go back to Earth to tell his parents that sorry your son died fighting some alien war, especially if there was still 'work' to be done. So, eh? Well, whatever for now, it was just food for thought later (or nightmares)...

Even though their meals were always pretty basic and of small portions, but Falke was particularly hungry this late afternoon. He had considered the notion of heading back to the rooms for some extra shut-eye, but the heat exhaustion, and his muscles screaming for extra protein or sugars, chased the notion away quickly. He followed everyone into the dining hall, passing the tantalizing smells of the high table, before plopping down silently at one of the four-seater beginner tables - where he believed the girl called Autumn sat across from him? But he didn't really have a clue, or care about the matter on actually finding out. Lunch was a piece of bread, a thin slab of fish, a small bowl of water and a small bowl of milk. He ate the bread, and drank the small bowl of water; he managed to bite a bit of the fish, but no more, and the milk was left untouched.

When Ryou and the elite, Dae Grimm, finished their exchange, and Haru pipped in to be ready by sunset, it certainly didn't leave Falke much of a chance to do anything in his elected free time. He likely found a place outside in the shade in the outer rim of the courtyard; resting quietly twiddling his thumbs with his wandering thoughts, and resisting the urge not the itch the newly forming scabs on either of his arms that were threatening to drive him mad. Until, over a time, he heard others begin to arrive with their varying footsteps, and got up from his place stiffly to make his own way over to join them slowly but surely - stopping cautiously on the outside of the collected group.

...

Lillian wasn't seen much of the course of the few weeks since the group had arrived to the Academy, but nor did she disappear like Ryou seemed to have. But it was truthful that she didn't seem to be as deeply involved in the training as other guardians, or at the very least had sense to give Haru his space (despite this being his chance to shove the other guardians respective kids' training for them alone to handle, he liked the control) and Ji Na had an important steady presence there, Kit was useful in egging on his warrior, Autumn.

She was often gone for a few hours or half a day at most as a time, and returned to speak briefly with Haru - sad and sweet was the sound of her voice in the cool clear mountain air - or was seen during meal times at the end of the high table - eating with refined grace, impeccable manors, and didn't seem bothered by the antics going on further down the table. Sometimes after Lillian would stay watching for a time the warrior's struggle in their training with her eyes that were as cold as frost in the stars. Always silent. Always judging.

In a rare appearance of showing for the 'party' on time, Lillian walked into the courtyard a beat after Tallyho and Autumn, and took her place beside Haru with quiet footsteps. She was dressed as she always was, in a dress and/or tunic-dress of fine, home-spun silk. Today, the white color made her pale skin glow with a healthier sheen, and the faint golden accents tied in nicely with her golden arched brows and the hair on her head trapped in a messy bun; and the slits in the fabric on either side, allowed full, free movement of both her legs.

...

The dining hall of the Academy wasn't a large room by any means. But it had enough space to have dozens of low rising tables and pillow scattered across the floor for every butt that happened to call the Academy home at any given time. It was no different, for a rather ruggedly built man - tall, wide chested, and of a hefty poundage, similar to a bear in fact - sitting haphazardly perched on a comfortably lumpy green pillow at the table at the head of the hall. He was a regular face at that table, and had always sat beside Ji Na and a pink-haired little girl. However, no one of the month warriors knew his name, title, or even saw him anywhere at the Academy but at meal times when he seemed to hold brief conversations with his counterparts while they ate.

His dark hair and slanted eyes, doubled with a startling resemblance to Ji Na and Mr. Vo, hailed his birth place to be from the Eastern Isles likely. His clothes where dirtied and soiled from the happenings of the morning and afternoon but of a high quality fabric colored in dark colors of hunter green and forest earthy tones. A giant blackened war bow, rested in a leather harness across his back, while the bundle of gray feather fledged arrows rested in a quiver attached to a brown belt at his hip and out of his full range of movement. He looked powerful, dangerous even, except for the kind, familial glint in his eyes.

His mouth parted as a wolfish grin tickled unto his maw, apparently amused at the antics going on further down the table, even as he used it to hide a silently pained expression. "Patience, Ji Na…" He rumbled softly in reminder, with a touch of mild but shared exasperation flavoring his tone at the antics of their obnoxious ‘sibling in arms’. His accent was soft, elegant, and polished, with a deep, rich 'growling' sound to it that made it all his own. “I’ll take what she doesn’t want.” He added pleasantly. He touched her shoulder briefly as he politely reached around her to grasp the smaller plate with the meat that hadn't been cut 'correctly' for the little girl before dumping it unto his own, wasting nothing but in turn having the plate now clear for Ryou to have a place to put his 'properly' cut meat for the annoying midge.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun
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Even with her good friend’s encouragement of patience, Ji Na couldn’t help but feel more that a little tested. She mumbled something under her breath, an unspoken language that was nothing like the one Kat and Kwasi sung but was strange nonetheless. As groups began to file out of the dining hall, Ji Na prepared to leave also.
“Huan,” she said, “will you be going to the event tonight?”
She didn’t wait too long for an answer before adjusting her robes and looking towards the door.
It didn’t seem like Ji Na was easily angered. But when she felt stressed or irritated she often took to a strange addiction. It was pretty hush-hush around campus to be honest. Some say they’ve seen Ji Na hanging out of her room’s window, a long, ornate pipe balancing between the idle pinch of her middle and pointer finger.
If Ryou knew about it there would be no doubt that he would disapprove. But there wasn’t much of a doubt that he already knew.
Ji Na was one of the privileged ones.
Not only had the elites earned a better dining menu but they also owned better rooms. The building at the center of the campus blueprint, and the only multi-story building on the premises, was elite housing where the hardened students had plenty of room to live and relax.
Ji Na’s room was both simple and complex. While she didn’t necessarily have, or even want, an elevated bed like Karma’s she still had a reasonable collection of ottomans and large pillows. Her room was filled with medical paraphernalia—dried herbs half-ground by the mortar and pestle. Empty glass jars, and jars flooding with medicines, potions, powers and creams. Above desk there was a layered shelf weighed down by clusters of jars with rare bugs drowned in preservation fluid.
The dark haired woman entered her room and struggled out of her soft, decorative over-robe. She knelt down to a basket in the corner of her room where she kept her pipe.

After a short moment of peace Ji Na came down to the courtyard. She re-covered her white under-robe with the fancier one and it looked like she hadn’t even removed it. She seemed just as pleasant as she had been before, and she greeted the others with grace.
Tallyho sat at the fountains edge as she tried to forget her ordeal in the forest. She wondered if the same thing would happen but felt safer because she wouldn’t be alone.
Ryou hadn’t made it to the courtyard yet and Tallyho was getting impatient. What on Aires was he preparing and when would they be able to do it? Haru was tapping his foot frantically. The blind kid was wandering around the outskirts of the group not really knowing WHAT to do. And that kid just arrived, the one with pink hair and greasy fingers.
But then Tallyho caught sight of Lillian who, like Ryou, wasn’t too involved but just involved enough and naturally she was hanging around Haru, the only other guardian in the square so far. The woman’s hair was bunned loosely and the sunlight blew a halo on her silhouette that made the color orange look comfortable.
Tallyho didn’t know anything about Lillian, yet she decided that she was instantly more tolerable than some of the other characters in their whacky group.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun
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Diligently, the man finished the extra meat and the rest of his own plate without further word, or even blinks of an eye at Ji Na’s mumbled comments in a strange dialect. He was swallowing his last bite, as various groups began filling out of the dinning hall, as his good friend spoke up again beside him – discussing the coming initiation of the new children to the Academy. He took a moment to word a response, and in that time happened to glance in the direction of the table(s) the month warriors resided at currently with a thoughtful, somewhat curious (if only looking at them almost like at how best it would be to take them apart, piece by piece, but still – curiosity, never the less) interest. “No, I hadn’t planned to.” Huan answered honestly. He managed to convey a slight apology in his humming but soft tone, making it clear that he wasn’t against coming, or helping for that matter, but instead had prior duties to attend to before watching the event that night. “The kitchen matron needs two more deer and perhaps a hog to fill her need for the next few weeks, I planned to hunt this evening after basic classes with the little ones… If I finish early, I will come.” He finished lightly, not quite promising anything but making the offer all the same. Huan rose in turn with her, heading to the door together before parting ways; Ji Na back to her room to cool off before the event, and he went to the classrooms.

---

Lillian met Tallyho's sudden attention with an even patience of one knowing that they were being observed. The same look was in her eyes, a curiosity tainted by knowledge, but she remained wordless. Ryou's entrance, departure, and orders to follow along behind, interrupted the moment of contact; Lillian broke off with a blink, and walked beside Haru on the way to the initiation.

Standing in the same place she had been when they had arrived at the top of the cliff, like Ryou, daring the edge, without worry as she glanced with careless indifference to the figures moving down on the island below. No one had asked for her help in jumping, nor was there the need to push another unruly warrior or non-warrior over the cliff, so she had stayed were she was. Silent, and observing, per usual.

"By the one, that was... Eventful." Lillian hummed, lightly. Without any malice, but not without a certain air of annoyance flavoring her tone. Tsking under her breath, she turned away to follow the others' back to the Academy for the night.

---

When they 'arrived', he stopped, uneasily. He was not certain of the footing, which seemed even crumbly (even so far from the edge), and there was a new, odd sound playing at his ears. It was rushing water, he was certain, distant but still moving quickly enough and "falling" through air to make the 'rushing' sound that it did. And as he thought on it, he could only assume it to be a waterfall. He had it described to him how it should 'look' and sound, but he'd never really been able to hear one in person himself. Well, yet another fact of how different this world was from Earth. Earth still had some beautiful places, of course, but this Aires, hesh... It was just another world. He put it at that... As Ryou began talking again, Falke listened quietly, and politely in turn.

“-terrible actors...-jump off this cliff-..."

Falke blinked. What? He wanted them to… Um, no? He took a quick, hesitant step backwards, attempting to assess the situation ahead – and not finding much sense in it right off the bat. Listening to the varying reactions of the others, with a less than hopeful feeling at how few of the number had sanity on their sides apparently. Many were heightened by fear, but most controlled it enough to jump under their own power, or had help in doing so, and who everyone would have guessed to be thrown off something one day - was pushed off by two of the guardians to the watery depths bellow.

Personally, Tallyho had hit the nail on the head with her early comments in an attempt to get them out of jumping off a bloody cliff. While it had been a verbal slap to his face, more so with the fact that this was the first time anyone had actually admitted that he was blind since coming to Aires - and thus likely couldn't even remotely swim because of his disability. He'd paused momentarily to glance in her direction with a raised brow, but shortly had given her a short nod - not quite a thanks for stating the obvious, but acceptance of her use of words, even if it hadn't worked in their favor in the end.

It was true that he couldn’t remotely swim. Honestly, did you think his mother ever thought that he would have needed to be taught how to swim? He was blind. Being blind and learning how to swim and enjoying being in water in general (that wasn’t like a shower, or rain, anyway), just didn’t go hand in hand, period. Being able to know where the shore-line was to even swim to, yea, right, forget it...

While he was mentally freaking out, Falke remained stubbornly silent and still. His face hardly twitched with the raging of various emotions going on beyond the curtains so to speak, remaining carefully blank and neutral. Only his eyes seem to look perchance a little wider, with a faint hint of his relative unnerved-ness lurking in their depths, but hardly noticeable in the scheme of things. He wasn't trying to be defiant, or anything of that ilk. But, yes, he was quietly refusing to jump, or even for that matter state why jumping just wouldn’t be happening. Just… Anything wasn’t likely to be happening for him in a while. He wouldn’t be doing nothing. It was just, nope… Oh, he needed to quit being such an Angsthase.

”Falke…”

It was simple comment, pausing for a visual or verbal response that he had heard them, which broke through his silent mental freaking out, caught his attention, and made him focus unto the person who had uttered it – it was Kyle, if his memory hadn’t faded and/or had happened to misplace someone’s name with someone else’s voice. Falke hadn’t even heard him approach, considering his mind had been inwardly focusing on other things, and his senses obviously weren’t exactly keeping him up to speed.

If his memory served, however, Kyle, was frankly one of those in the group that happened to lack some logical version of common sense in his honest opinion. He was impulsive, quick of temper in one direction or another or both at the same time, and seemed to enjoy their training like only an muscle-bound exercise nut would. He was the perfect living definition of the common idiom, Blinder Eifer ist Feurer ohne Licht. And to be truthful, he was almost weary of him just because of that.

Falke hadn’t even connected with him, or really anyone, since they’d arrived there. Why would he now want with him? Fei… He gave him a brief moment of his full attention in response. Polite as always, but leery seemingly in turn. Tilting his head slightly in Kyle’s direction, but his eyes, trying as they might, never did meet the general direction of the other’s eyes.

”I can help if you want it.”

Ah. Well… To be honest, no, he didn’t want his help; nor did he even want to jump for that matter. But for Harper’s fresh, spectacular failure at running away, and ultimately tossed off the cliff by the two Guardians, alone and out of his mind, it was doubtful they couldn’t get out of it by being unable to swim. However, his offer was honest, genuine even, and having someone make sure he didn’t drown wasn’t exactly a pleasant highlight, but perhaps something to begin putting trust in. Hah. Not bloody likely anytime soon, but for now, it would work well enough.

“Fine.” Falke grated out finally, the English mildly mangled by his harsh German accent (but mostly better than any other times he had spoken), in answer to Kyle. His tone clearly echoing his train of thought, not really distasteful of the situation at hand but not thrilled about it either, and perhaps a faint, very faint, thankful note buried in it.

But that thankfulness was buried further, when Kyle took his hand as if to lead him to the edge. His blearily listless eyes hardened abruptly, flattened, and glinted with dangerous intentions. Over the years, his mother had been the first and only one to start and continue holding his hand or guiding him around, and Otter, had taken her place when his individualism started to shine through as he grew older. Kyle was neither. Impatiently, Falke twisted his wrist and jerked his hand free with Kyle’s grip, and repeatedly swatted his hands away if and when he reached over to resume a better grip on him.

Falke stalked forward under his own power, toward the edge. Not without fear, but perhaps the mildly annoyed, clear anger he had felt since arriving with destiny shoved down his throat, and Kyle’s ‘honest’ attempts at helping, gave him a rain check on those feelings right now. He raised a foot in time with Kyle’s count, scuffling hesitantly until he found the edge, and was about to make the leap, and… Froze.

Kyle jumped ahead, by himself; and Falke, waited, standing on the edge alone, quietly. Putting his own anxiousness at the back of his mind, before making the ‘leap of faith’ on his own. Brother/sisterhood be dammed… Reluctantly, after a steadying breath, he let a steely tension appear in his shoulders, and leapt off the edge - alone, on his own, and by his own choice.

Argh! He didn’t expect the fall to be so far, and that he would gather so much speed before ultimately crashing into the lake. Then the pain of impact, water might have been better than bone-breaking ground or rock at that height, but it still hurt. The cool temperature of the water as he plunged into it shocked him enough to take in a startled breath of the same water surrounding him, and not the blessed oxygen he’d been hoping for. After a brief moment of struggle, finding that if he kicked his legs he moved, and by luck, he found the surface.

He gasped laboriously a breath of fresh, mountain air, spitting out the water from the first failed breath, and nearly sunk under again. He kicked his legs a little more strongly to keep above the water level, but it was such a disorienting struggle. Could he do this? Maybe. Now where was the shore? Kyle? Falke suddenly felt someone grab the collar of his shirt with a harsh tug in what he supposed was the right direction…

"We made it!" Falke barely heard Kyle’s exhausted exclamation, because he was out of breath, not terribly so, but enough that he hacked and coughed for minutes after being out of the water once they could stand and walk to the shoreline. He was fine, really, maybe a little oxygen deprived, because he’d gotten too much false-oxygen lake water. He had survived, and didn’t drown, whoppie. But Kyle’s over enthusiastic words of ‘making’ it, made him feel almost sick to his stomach after feeling like a nearly lost a lung. ‘Right’, ‘they made it’.

Finally, the coughs left him, and he focused on breathing slowly, perhaps a little heavily while trying to ease deeper breaths in. He was too tired to do anything else but wordlessly sit down where he was in the fine, grainy sand, while he resumed proper, healthy oxygen levels again he supposed. He felt soggy, inside and out. Huh, and very much like Otter on bath day’s for the poor mutt. Even, unfortunately, he noted that even wet people had a slightly unsavory scent to them as well. Or maybe it was just the lake water…

Falke raised a hand, wearily wiping away the streaming rivets of water off his face, and then moving on to ruffle through his hopelessly tangled, and very wet, hair in an attempt to make his hair fall down somewhat normally (and down, more or less) and squished out some of the water. And then rubbed with a wince to the red line his collar had left around his throat being dragged through the water, already beginning to purple with bruises to his fair skin. Great.

Focused mostly inwardly, he had not pay attention much to the goings on around him, or frankly cared much really. He had happened to notice the voices of others leaving the washing up unto the shoreline area, and heading toward somewhere that someone, Kat likely having been the first one to have jumped, had begun setting up a fire or a place to camp for the night; and Kyle had stayed beside him, catching his own breath, but also seemingly giving Falke company while he recovered as well the same time. It was odd for a relative stranger to even consider doing it, but not feeling abandoned or left behind was a nice feeling, he would admit inwardly to himself.

He caught snippets of the conversations going on further away: A couple potential drownings had occurred apparently, food rations left by the snot-nosed youth of the elite, and dreaded small talk seemed to be the topic between a couple of those from Earth, with Kwasi hesitantly but happily joining in.

Back home, small talk was generally reserved for the 30 seconds one was potentially stuck in an elevator with a stranger, and even then it was only used via a question and an answer basis; and even that was an annoyance he seldom, if ever, took or preferred to take part in. Now talking about his whole life story, or even a summary of it, was definitely not on his bucket list. He would imagine himself pressing his thumbs (or crossing his fingers, as English speakers knew the phrase) for Autumn in her effort to get to know everyone, if he remotely knew her in the first place, but… He wouldn’t be participating, that’s for sure.

Kat’s call was a welcome distraction, and Kyle too finally broke the silence between them both, long winded like he had always been. Falke had to narrow his eyes further, focusing intently on the jittering English dancing through the air, to be sure he understood what he was even saying completely, or likely just a close enough as he could. But the gist seemed to be directions, and a will not to allow the native Airian to eat all the food.

“Wery vell…” He muttered softly in answer to the other’s question, wariness dragging raggedly down on his attempts at English. Falke wasn’t very hungry himself at the current time, however, Kat was better, quieter company than the group crowded for small talk around the fire, if for a small moment. Reluctantly, he shakily stood, arms wind milling as he resumed and fought for balance; before making his way carefully over the shifting sand, under his own power, a few minutes behind Kyle.

As the pack was passed to him, he managed to grab a couple pieces of dried meat, like jerky, from the bag for himself, before passing it back to Kat as not to incur her wrath for Kyle taking it from her in the first place. But as Kyle started the same small talk with Kat, who Falke had a feeling didn't appreciate it all that much either, he stepped away from them both. Still close enough near the fire to enjoy it's warmth against his goosed flesh, but apart from either 'group', so as to not be included in any conversations as he silently chewed the food he'd pulled from the bag. Idly he sat down - wet, covered in sticky sand, and looking bedraggled - attempting to enjoy a few moments of peace.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun
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Finally... Tallyho was pleased to find a few full dishes on her dining pallet. The blonde was immediately drawn to a small bowl of banya slices which were--in all honesty--her favorite fruit and everyone who paid enough attention had some idea of her love for it. The tip of her fork pulsed into a slice. The earthlings might compare banya to peaches but they were yellow and significantly sweeter. And like peaches they were a favorite for many of Solace's domestic pastries. Pies, cakes, anything that was a luxury really, and even though the academy only served them sweetening in their own juices it was still good enough for Tallyho.

A stripe of juice slid down her chin. In less than a minute she had consumed what was, in her opinion, a meager portion of fruit. She aimed her fork at Falke's bowl as if to suggest, "If you don't want yours... "She left the offer wide open. But she couldn't think of anyone who would give up a bowl of banya. It was arguably one of the best things the academy served to students in their rank and they only got the opportunity to eat it in the summer because of how strictly seasonal it was. This was the month of July and the trees were dropping the soft fruits at rapid rates. It was a shame really. Had Tallyho gotten the time she would have made it a personal mission to pick every one of the palm fruits before they ripened to rot. The blond never made herself known to be passionate about things but food was a definite giveaway. Not to fall back on the literal, scientific, or just plain obvious, but food was life. That was what she was taught by her mother, Yagi, and the other important women in the caravan. Food and music and movement.

The blonde pushed the first bowl away and leaned into her second. She wasn't nearly as excited about this dish but it was still acceptable. A kindly beef stew with small carrots swimming on the periphery of the bowl. In the right light she could spot a sheer film from melted butter settling on the surface. She ate slower this time, pleased with the soft bread accompanying the dish but a little disappointed by the lack of spices in the beef.

"How did your training go today?"

Tallyho looked up to see Ji Na scooping her belongings and silverware to a table nearby. The medic usually made a point of leaving her station at the elite table to eat amongst the month warriors from time to time. Tallyho wasn't necessarily friends with Ji Na but she did not mind her presence at all. In fact, Ji Na was a lot more tolerable than many of her fellow warriors.

"Good." Tallyho kept her answer quick, gruff, but respectable.

"That's fantastic. And you?" She asked, this time speaking to Falke.
The was always something very mystical and mysterious about Ji Na. And this was coming from Tallyho who generally said nothing about anything personal. Ji Na wasn't the only one with this air though. Sure Dae, Liam, and Mori held a certain mystery that came with being of a higher rank but they--and mainly Dae--maintained a certain approachability. The same couldn't be said for Kat and Ben who, like Ji Na, held a strange mysticism. Tallyho didn't run into Ben than much. And maybe he was only mysterious through association because of how much time he spent with Ji Na, but there was definitely something strange about Kat.

Just a few months ago Tallyho ran into her in the forest. It had been the first time Tallyho really had a one on one encounter with her since the waterfall incident. There were bunches of ivy spun in her hair. She smelled like dirt--in a positive way if that was possible--like the dampest, darkest dirt in a forest that just had its first spring shower. The two shared a quiet stare before they breezed past each other, splitting at a fork and going their separate ways. That was the same day Tallyho noticed a host of red berries blushing from a bush she was positive had been bare a day before.

"Did you hear about the hangings?" Ji Na asked.

Tallyho looked up from her stew. Right... The hangings. The warriors didn't really interact with many of the students in the academy but they were how Tallyho heard most of her outside world gossip. Those and occasional trips to the tavern where in the midst of drinking games men would blabber about with political gossip. In the past three years the RK sent the crown prince out on a campaign to Nomansland and Eastern Isle to acquire more land for colonies. There has been a sudden increase in cyclopean attacks in the RK too. And there were threats of Hales and Constance going to war over scientists and technological secrets. Tallyho suspected that it was about guns--the forigen contraptions the warriors encountered back at the Conservation.

Yesterday Tallyho happened to be walking behind two girls who were whispering about the hangings. Given the backstory they might have run off had they noticed Tallyho listening.

"Yeah I heard," the blonde hummed the Ji Na after a long silence.

Seven people--a small cult really--went to the RK with claims of being month warriors. From what Tallyho heard they were nut jobs, really but because of their strong insistence of this claim and their trip to the Harbinger for approval, they were sentenced to a humiliating execution. Tallyho never personally witnessed an execution in the RK but from what she heard they were pretty terrifying, very public, and citizens went to the gallows just about every week to see some small time criminal get the white robes and noose. Some actually considered the ceremonies to be entertainment.

"Some people can be so shameful," Ji Na sighed. "I'd like to say that all of these false claims will stop after you guys prove yourselves but unfortunately some people act on greed before doing their research. You could have been approved by the Harbinger two years ago and those seven might have still tried to argue that they were the rightful warriors."

Tallyho hummed in agreement. Before asking, "You wouldn't happen to know what they would ask of us would you?"

Ji Na looked out of the dining hall window, a small glimmer of white light peaking from the black of her eyes.

"Unfortunately I would now know. But I'm sure it's a task you lot can handle with ease. And when they approve of you I'm sure they'll pamper you to no end!"

"Well thanks anyway..."

"I'll be cheering you guys on wherever I may be," Ji Na said as she stood up, "Well I ought to get back to my studies. I'm working on a wonderful ointment. Any plans tonight?"

"Nothing but training."

"We'll good luck," the she hummed as the gripped the train of her skirt. "And good day!"

Tallyho waved goodbye.

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 Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Cyclopean Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun Character Portrait: Lux Barnes
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True to his word, after waking in the morning, Dorian was pointedly mum on the subject of the night before, brushing that unwelcome and unpleasant memory under the proverbial rug in the company of so many other distressing thoughts that had been given the same treatment as of late. He soldiered on from there, one day during into two into three and so on until a week had passed, all of the days blurring together into a disorienting haze of structured monotony. In that way, he reflected, it was all very much like school if he was never allowed to leave and instead of learning about cosines, the periodic table, World War I, and how to accurately play Bach's Cello Suites, he was learning about Aires and how to survive on it. A lesson, of course, that he could have used a long, long time ago. If he'd known now what he'd known before, if he'd been as fit as he was now, if he'd known Aires, if he'd known how to survive...

Few things broke the exhausting tedium of lessons and painful training, but, as with anything, there tends to be exceptions to the rule. In this case, the introduction of meditation in the daily regimen. For most it was a welcome sort of break, a moment to relax and breathe and let themselves fall into a zen-like state of harmony. For others it was a way to connect with their ever promised powers, to find the ability deep within themselves to alter the world around them in some way, shape, or form. It should have been a task easy enough for Dorian given his relatively calm and quiet nature, but instead he found himself struggling viciously with meditation. For all of his stern and mild behavior, his mind was in a tumult, swirling and twisting around ideas and notions that would not leave him be. Clearing his mind, for the most part, was becoming an implausible task because, quite honestly and to throw in a simile that would meet his English teacher's approval, he felt like a boat without anchor, awash in an angry ocean, battered by waves on all sides in the form of exercises, his supposed group, and the situation that threatened to drown him. There was nothing to cling to apart from his long dead cellphone, the last of its battery life used up before he'd even found the Month Warriors again to provide a meager flashlight to fight off the darkness, and his watch that still cheerfully ticked away even if the time shown by the little hands didn't quite match with the foreign Airian days, but he'd never had the heart to go about changing the time.

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"How do you meditate?" For all of his trouble with the exercise, Dorian decided that the first person he should go to- after an unsuccessful discussion with Haru at the beginning of all of this- was Ryou. When he realized that Ryou was almost always perpetually teaching lessons or otherwise occupied with his Academy job(which was his actual and very real excuse for being too busy to see them for the beginning of their stay at the Academy), he'd gone to Dae, one of the friendlier elites. He was always eager to assist anyone and everyone, even if, like in this situation, it was a little out of his depth.

"Personally?" He nodded.

"Alright, give us a second. I've never had to talk serenity before. Not my usual cup of tea. Let's see… Well, I kind of just start focusing on one thing- like, not a thought, really. Usually something physical, like I keep my hand on my sword or I focus on the grass I'm sitting on, yeah? Then I just really focus on that and everything else kind of just… melts away. Sorry, does that help?"

"I'm not sure."

"Yeah, sorry about that. Just give it a shot. Tell us how it goes, alright?" Dorian took some heart from the knight's crooked grin and, on his next meditation attempt, tried to put the practice into motion. He focused on anything he felt- the soil under his hands, the slightly rough texture of his clothes against his skin, the bracelet hanging ever heavy on his wrist… But to no avail. His mind simply wandered off to other things again, leaving him in the same position as before.

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The field trips, however, were more pleasant than his mild attempts to calm the flurry of thoughts dancing around in his mind. He felt quite silly, of course, standing near mountain peaks, the sharp wind washing over him and the air thinner than he was accustomed to, waiting for something to click, something to happen. It was made all the more embarrassing my Haru's constant but encouraging presence in these little journeys, like he was waiting for something. Dorian had half a mind to remind him- to remind everyone- that they'd been the ones to call him the March Month Warrior- he'd personally never proclaimed to be anything less or anything more than Dorian Roberts. Still, the little trips weren't unpleasant and were actually, between all of the activities in his very busy day, quite enjoyable for what they were. There was something soothing about it, standing high up on the mountain and focusing on something quite tangible like the wind threatening to tip him over. It was, however, fortunate that he hadn't discovered his apparent proclivity for heights and windy days back in New York where it was far easier to find tall rooftops to linger on- knowing his neighbors, they'd probably have made a scene about it, asking him not to jump even if he calmly mentioned that he had no intention to do so, which would have been funny at first but then would probably devolve into pure annoyance for everyone involved.

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"How do I meditate?' Liam had been Dorian's next choice, more due to the magician's generally easy accessibility given the fact that if one found Dae Grimm, they found Liam Valentine. The cloaked man seemed more intrigued by the idea of explaining meditation than his more action oriented counterpart, but Dorian was still rather hesitant to approach him. For all of his grace and elegance, there was something off-putting about a man who fought with a black, glowing energy and who seemed to take pleasure in the morbid things in life.

"Yes."

"Well, March Warrior, I personally like to focus on my energy and the way it connects with the world around me. I find it quite soothing to be interconnected with the rest of the world. Perhaps you could try concentrating on your wind powers?" Dorian, as it were, wasn't quite sure how he felt about someone like Liam being actively part of the world's energy flow.

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One week bled into two, into three before life shifted and changed again and, unlike his unsuccessful attempts at meditation or his field trips that brought him further and further up the mountain, this was not a welcome change. Of course everyone was nervous about facing their monstrous enemy within the cage- nowhere to run, nowhere to hide- but he wasn't quite sure how much of that was a primal sort of terror where you should be terrified of giant monsters on principle and how much was a learned sort of fear in a 'Dear God that's a Cyclopean' as opposed to a 'Dear God that's a giant monster' sort of way. He tended to fall in the latter category of fear, which should be no surprise. In the three years that followed, he eventually had his chance to tell his story of where he'd been off to before Ryou found him and brought him back to the group. For the other Month Warriors, they'd been on Aires for too days; Dorian, on the other hand, had been there for at least two months. Two months not knowing where he was. Two months struggling to survive in the wild without any practical survival skills. Two months of- and this was the big one aside from the soul crushing loneliness and despair that clung to him still- Cyclopean sightings.

He'd never killed one past that first one in Central Park, but he knew the fear that came along with them now, had outrun them, sometimes nearly unsuccessfully as the scars littering his body now showed, hidden from them, seen what they could do when it came to not only animals but humans as well. So, yes, there was an element of primal fear there too, but glancing at the monsters brought up memories that could not be so easily quashed. It might have been a small one, but a small Cyclopean was still terrifying when you'd seen what they could do. It came back then, those feelings from before, before he'd been found. The soul-crushing loneliness, the fear of abandonment, the wondering if he would starve to death or not. If he'd never see a familiar face again and die just like that. Alone.

He went last, ushered into the cage and wishing desperately that a) no one would watch him and b) after all of the other Month Warriors, Haru would decide that that was enough for one day and send him on his way to fake meditate again. It was not to be so. The door clanged shut behind him and he was left with his quickly escaping wits and the still rusted battle-axe held in a painfully tight grip. His heart was racing now, pounding in his ears and adding a percussive sort of melody to the other sounds that filled the cage, a macabre sort of music blending his short, gasping breaths with the almost reptilian snarl of the Cyclopean advancing, his heart beat keeping tempo all the while. There were other noises, people outside the cage- but this was more of a duet than an orchestra and he couldn't focus on them because his opponent had sensed fear, sensed weakness and was moving faster now. The tempo sped up, the breathing escalated, the roar blared into the air. Then there was nothing but silence.

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"Meditation?" Mori had come third in line if only because he preferred to be hidden away in the library as opposed to gallivanting around the campus with the rest of the students, Elite or not. As young as he was, the Month Warriors had quickly seen how his own well of knowledge dwarfed most adults, even if he did tend to be dreadfully haughty about it. It was a photographic memory mixed with good deductive and inductive skills, and a strategist's mind.

"How do you do it?" Mori paused a moment before taking pity on Dorian(who didn't know how he felt about a child pitying him).

"It probably won't help you," He admitted after a moment, shutting his book. "But I like to… listen. To whatever's around me. I concentrate on one thing- a bird song for instance- and then try to remember all that I've learned about birds. I get lost in the information. Sometimes meditation isn't about clearing your mind- it's about finding your center. I happen to have a very loud center."

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"Dorian! Dorian!" The noise cut through the pre determined silence and Dorian blinked, eyelashes fluttering in a confused sort of way. The silence vanished as suddenly as it had appeared and he knew the situation once more. It was eerily similar, black blood staining his body, labored breathing, hands squeezing around his weapon in a death grip, which, like him, was saturated in foreign blood. Dark onyx shards littered the ground, not in a pile, but spread about in a haphazard sort of way, all around the cage. And then there was Ryou, standing in front of him, hands raised in a peace offering, golden eyes for once without a jolly twinkle. Now there was just concern as the Guardian took the axe from his trembling hands, struggling only slightly to get him to relinquish his grip. Then warm arms wrapped around him and it was only then that Dorian realized the wet on his face wasn't just blood, but hot tears that cascaded down his cheeks. The labored breathing was sobs as much as him being out of breath and, instead of pulling back, slipping his mask back on, he fell into the comforting hold.

He, as Ryou recounted to him an hour later after ushering him to Ryou's own rooms to give him a little privacy, had hacked the Cyclopean to pieces, which accounted for the onyx shards scattering everywhere and the copious amounts of blood as well. Dorian had for the next two hours, stayed there and it felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. A singular outburst of emotion that had been welling up within him for quite some time until he'd destroyed a creature that had tried to do him in, just like the rest of the elements he'd encountered before Ryou. The March Guardian stayed with him, seated next to him, rubbing soothing circles in his back and when the touch became too much, just shared his presence.

In that time, he meditated. His first successful attempt. He didn't focus on the bed beneath him to find a physical connection, he didn't concentrate on the slight breeze brushing in from the window, cooling the room, and he didn't focus on the noises from outside or within the room itself. Instead, he let himself think about today, about the emotions that had finally boiled over, and accepted those. He, as Mori had recommended, had found his center. So. This was why Haru had recommended meditation because, honestly, it felt fantastic.

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Life began again and time marched forward after that day, as it tended to do, ignoring the meltdown as a slight blip on the cosmic timeline. Dorian soldiered on and felt, while not completely okay with the situation, better. Armed with the tools provided -meditation, quiet hikes up the mountain, alone or together with others- it was easier to continue on. He grew stronger, physically and he hoped mentally, even if he never went, as he'd secretly dubbed it "full Narnian", so named after the books he'd read as a child(and as an adult. No judge) and the children's desire to leave their own world behind to enjoy a world where magic was real and they were incredibly important. He still longed for Earth, his home, his father, but he could function around it now. It helped to keep busy. It also helped to find lifelines in the form of the other Warriors, even if he quite sure they didn't understand his way of thought.

Take for instance Tallyho, who'd risen from the category of "practical girl with common sense and no real drama" to the title of one of Dorian's closest, if not his closest, friend. She didn't understand his longing for Earth, for a single place in a single city, but she didn't have to to make their friendship work. It had begun, really, by her giving him the best gift he'd ever been given- electricity. It had been an accident, of course it had been, but a single shock had given life to his cellphone again, giving him access to all of the things from Earth he needed as a reminder of who he was back there, back then. Videos of his father and friends, his music, his photos- all a single touch away now with Tallyho's help. He hadn't been able to tell her how grateful he had been, so, instead, he'd offered to show it to her. Not the private things that he knew only held meaning to him- he was never one to inflict his own interest on people- but the things he knew she'd find fascinating.

They'd settled on art, a collection of paintings and drawing that cluttered his phone's memory, some from past projects at LaGuardia when he'd taken art history, others from museum trips, and still others that he simply found fascinating and had squirreled away in his phone's memory. Tallyho had shared the fascination and that was where their relationship truly began, stories woven of artists he'd never met and one or two that he'd had, tidbits of information or long biographies. It was a bonding point, of course, turned into the occasional quiz game where he'd simply show her a picture or spout off a name and have her fill the in the gaps. It was where their relationship had begun, but not where it ended as gratefulness on his part and curiosity on hers shifted to a real friendship with all the trimmings. Meal together, meditation side by side, the odd walk in the woods, and training during storms where electricity charged the air and the wind battered them.

Their friendship didn't surprise him, not like some of the others that had appeared before him. Harper was, of course, the most shocking of all. It had begun with a cello, just like Dorian's relationship with Sadie had, on the day of his mental break. At first, he'd expected another one-sided shouting match when Harper had asked him to visit after dinner, or another grilling session that he was most certainly not up to. Instead, he'd been presented with a sort of cello, bow and all. Harper had almost looked nervous when presenting the instrument- not quite a cello, but the closest thing he'd seen to it on Aires. That instantly made him move towards it, pulling the bow across the strings. Well, he'd realized when an awful noise resounded, it may look like a cello, but it wasn't. He'd seen the disappointment in Harper's gaze, probably mimicked in Dorian's own, so he'd made suggestions.

They'd met for a month, a forced and awkward relationship moving to small talk and idle chatter as the cello improved. Until, that is, the day it finally sang. It sang and sang and sang until Dorian's wrist ached from lack of practice and then, breaking the comfortable silence, Harper's quiet apology mixed with such an honest adoration for Sadie that Dorian did his best to forgive if not forget their past arguments. He's simply placed a hand on Harper's shoulder, squeezed, and thanked him, not just for the cello, but for being a good brother, no matter what he'd thought, to Sadie. Their relationship continued from there, filled with music and actually pleasant words, and a bond forged by a girl they both knew.

Other relationships fell into place as the years flew by- Autumn had weaseled her way into Dorian's life, something he reluctantly accepted at first until it became a given. She was a sweet girl- kind, peppy, but slightly insecure and he strove to help her when he could, offering an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. She was like the sister he'd never had, except less obnoxious, he assumed, than actual siblings even if she could be a little irritating with her apparently endless cheer and the many, many tarot readings he'd had inflicted on him. Still, he liked her, a sunshine like presence so contrary to her own powers.

There was Skylar too, a comfortable sort of friendship forged from intersecting friend groups. Kyle, on occasion, as the two were neither good friends nor enemies, just something normal, like a classmate you worked on projects with. Falke was a reassuringly sane presence in the midst of the insane Academy, although neither were particularly close. Lux he knew mostly from Autumn, a stubborn but motivated girl. Gwen, who he'd never managed to connect with but who he was glad to see had filled out in a healthy way and no longer seemed to be going for every authority figure's throat. Xabier was- well, Dorian had no idea because the other boy seemed to find his presence as welcoming as, well, a Karma's- something to be endured but not liked. Dorian didn't find that he cared all that much. They were all decent people, he supposed, but he never let himself get too complacent. His goal was to help save Aires, however that may be accomplished, then go home, a thought that he dwelled on only by himself.

Then there was the Academy students as well. He attended classes more often than not and enjoyed all of the lessons for the most part. Ji Na was an incredibly intellect, wise but still somehow distant, slightly unobtainable for all of her gentle friendliness. Her friend and comrade Ben was similarly a distant sort of thing, meant to be admired and respected but not exactly connected with. Dae was a more friendly and open presence, helping with the physical aspects of training and still never beaten in hand-to-hand combat("Don't expect you to win. You may be Month Warriors and have powers, but I've been doing this for ages. Don't disrespect the normals, yeah?" he'd noted cheekily once after knocking Dorian to the ground with a swift roundhouse kick) and generally flitting about the Academy, offering help and a good laugh where he could. Liam was more distant, just as off as Ji Na or Ben, but his sheer proximity to Dae made him seem more approachable. He was slightly terrifying with a delight for the macabre and eerily, eerily calm. Still, his magic was something to be admired and he was incredibly patient when one had questions. Mori was, well, Mori, slowly entering the realms of being a pre-teen, dragged there kicking and screaming, of course. He was disturbingly intelligent, helping with fact-based classes like Airian history, and he described events and ideas in such detail that you almost had to understand. He was a bit of a brat- not nearly as bad as Karma- but it was nice to see a kid being a kid, especially when he demanded that Dae carry him around campus or when he blew raspberries at particularly rude students. Ryou was in a league of his own, taking a more hands on approach with all of them, but carefully reserving a sort of centering time for Dorian to focus on March related things. He was his savior, after all, rescuing him from months in the wilderness, and Dorian had never forgotten that or his wonderfully kind behavior towards him post meltdown.

People change as you get to know them, relationships change when you're thrown together, and you change by what impacts you and what you go through. Dorian had grown stronger, physically and mentally, his axe now like an extension of his arm than an imprecise weapon to be seen only wielded in Lord of the Rings. It arced through the air now as he finished training for the day, shards of onyx littering to the ground, never quite as gruesome as kill number one in New York or kill number two on Aires. He, for once, escaped it without any blood spatters despite his weapon being one of the messier ones, and skipped the fountain everyone else seemed to linger at. He was starving, after all, given the intense work outs both mental and physical that he put himself through for the sake of training.

He came in at the tail end of the conversation about the hangings- they had been big news for everyone in the Academy because, yes, there had been people who'd claimed to be Month Warriors in the past, according to Dae, but never when the Academy students knew actual Month Warriors to actually exist. He nodded a mixed hello and goodbye to Ji Na as they passed and settled at the table with Falke and Tallyho, going for his own meal, now more substantial and delicious than the basics they'd been provided with in the beginning.

"You guys doing alright?" He greeted, automatically passing his bowl of Banya towards Tallyho. It wasn't that he disliked to fruit, it just wasn't his favorite and Tallyho enjoyed it far more.

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 Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Mr. Vo Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley) Character Portrait: Zircon (Ben Savage) Character Portrait: Raphael Character Portrait: Hans Svek
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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: 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 Character Portrait: Hans Svek
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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: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Lux Adair Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Kwasi Ihejirika Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Mr. Vo Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley)
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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: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Katarina Bradley (Imani Cabo) Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Karma Chu Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun Character Portrait: Lux Barnes
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What happened next was a flurry of motion and information that Dorian quite frankly failed to comprehend. The lack of sleep from the night before began to dawn over his body, leaving him in a dazed state as the dwindling energy from what was quite possibly the longest adrenaline fueled night of his life finally dissipated. He hardly batted an eye as Falke was shanghaied by the apparent captain in a makeshift stretcher, gave the newest guardian's speeches on how they were a "crew" now (despite the fact that the whole team concept had already been thoroughly drilled into their young minds for the past three years) all of the attention he thought it deserved which was apparently none, and simply gave up on the idea of even pretending to memorize the large ship's layout, resigning himself to getting lost each and every time he left the sleeping rooms or dormitory or berth or whatever they were calling it now. Names only slightly stuck in his mind while titles did a better job of lingering in his thoughts- doctor, first-mate, captain (although, for all of her reassurance that she was in fact in charge, Dorian still held her position firmly under both Haru and Ryou in his mental hierarchy). This may be her ship, but she hadn’t been keeping him alive for the past three years, hadn’t plucked him from the brink from Hell.

She was gone now, leaving them to make sense of what had just happened, to nurse their wounds both visible and hidden away, and Dorian found himself at a loss for just a moment. It only lasted as long as it took for the first person, Harper unsurprisingly, to hoist themselves into the netting before others began following suit, the sleepless night behind them just now sinking in to their weary bodies. Dorian climbed into a hammock of his own, grimacing lightly as the netting dipped with each movement, unnerved by the fact that he was being held aloft high above the floor. It wasn’t uncomfortable, not really, but it was too different, too new to being even close to actually comfortable.

He laid there for a time, eyes shut, body shifting every moment or so as he struggled to find a comfortable position, but he felt like he was trapped in the rope bed as opposed to cradled in it and despite his exhaustion, sleep evaded him. Eyelids fluttering open with a tiny, exasperated sigh, he turned instead to see how everyone else was doing in the room. The beds had been kinder to others, already drifted off from the land of consciousness, but others lingered like him. Only two nets over was Ryou, golden eyes staring blankly at the wooden sky above him, Karma cradled in his arms. One hand was moving in an automatic, unconscious gesture of threading gentle hands through her pink locks, the other wrapped around her body, holding Karma to him like a favorite teddy bear. Dorian could hear if he really listened a lullaby foreign to his own ears but nevertheless recognizable in its soothing tone being hummed only for the child in Ryou’s arms. Some had foregone beds entirely, like the only remaining Academy elites huddled close together on the floor, the nets too small to comfortably fit all three and Dae’s back too damaged to be comfortable pressed against anything. Mori had fallen asleep on Dae’s lap, curled into a tight ball, and the knight’s head rested on Liam’s shoulder as the magician whispered words too quiet to be overheard, a secret just for them. Dorian turned away, feeling suddenly like an intruder on the private moments, and pulled out his phone before he too was lulled to sleep by the rocking of the boat and by the unnatural low cast by the screen in his hands.


It could have been days, hours, even minutes before Dorian woke next, body aching uncomfortably from the unfamiliar bed, a light imprint of ropes on his right cheek from where he’d shifted during his nap. Still, as consciousness returned to him, he didn’t really move, instead choosing to lie still for a time and take in the changes in the room. Some people had left, either to explore the ship or to escape the forced community of the privacy lacking room. Others stayed where they had been already, like Ryou who was exactly as Dorian had last seen him, still staring blankly at the ceiling, still stroking Karma’s hair softly, but the humming had tapered off into nothing. Still others had apparently already ventured out but returned, as evidenced by the way that the three Academy students were now arranged. Liam now held a small jar of what Dorian could only assume was a burnt orange burn cream, most likely scavenged from the ship’s doctor, and was gently spreading it across Dae’s bare back as he laid on his stomach on the floor, Mori clutching tightly to his hand more for the child’s comfort than the knight’s. The damage, now open to curious eyes, was admittedly bad with great blisters and vivid burns decorating his upper back and trailing to the nape of his neck, but they were hardly the most eye-catching things about the scene. No, that honor went to the others scars, small or large, thin or deep, gouged into the knight’s back and arms like a map of tragedies and triumphs etched into the very skin. It occurred to Dorian then how little he knew about the Academy students. What kind of life had Dae lived to gain those marks? What did the black, swirling runes still visible on Liam’s body even mean? How had a small child like Mori managed to be exposed to so much information in his few years? No wonder he’d been surprised when Kat, Ji Na, and Ben had turned traitor only- no. No, that wasn’t right. He’d seen the horror in the eyes of those who knew them best. If even Ryou hadn’t suspected it, there was no way he could have known.

He slid to his feet, unsteady on the moving ship, and simply breathed for a moment before heading out of the room, not wanting to dispel the fragile peace in the room by any unnecessary goodbyes. Suddenly it felt too enclosed, too much like a trap swallowing him whole, in a way that the Academy never had. He had to move, had to find the sun and sky and clouds again so that he could breathe evenly once more. He wandered for a time, losing himself in the bowels of the ship, using the excuse of exploring to hide just how lost he was until he found the stairs leading to the deck.

The sky was a welcome sight, the fresh air, however tinged with salt, even more so. The sun had already started its decline towards the horizon, casting a warm glow over the ship. He could hear more than the creaking of planks and the quiet voices of sailors now- there was some soft tune in a foreign tongue ghosting from some unknown corner of the ship, the gentle sounds of waves lapping against the ship, and… and the Titanic theme? It wasn’t a question of whom then, but of where. He found Harper soon enough, whistling in a tub of his own design.

Apparently Harper's mission of the day had been asinine as opposed to brilliant, Dorian realized as he spotted Harper wallowing in his impromptu little tub looking absolutely ridiculous. It should have been hilarious, but it wasn't. Not really. A month ago it would have been funny. A week ago it would have been laughable. Hell, even yesterday it would have been at the very least chuckle worthy, but not today. Dorian couldn't bring himself to even work up a smile because after last night, after everything, it just wasn't funny. But it wasn't for him to confront Harper on how he ought to feel after traumatic events, wasn't his duty to announce how long everyone should be upset or grieve, and he'd learned long ago that confronting Harper about anything at all was as dangerous as walking into a lion's den at dinner time. And Dorian could play pleasant for a friend's sake, even if the sight made him want to ask how on Earth Harper was so damn cheery right now.

"How's the water?" He asked dryly, eyebrows raised. It was Dorian's own little way of showing that he wasn't sure if he should be envious of Harper's ability to let traumatic events simply roll off of him or if (when, he reminded himself, when) they arrived back in New York he should recommend him to a good therapist to diagnose acute sociopathy.


Inhale, hold, hold… Exhale, hold, hold… Inhale, hold, hold… Exhale, hold, hold…

Ryou was going to go insane.

The room was closing in around him, too small, to impossibly closed in for someone who’d lived for ages in the mountains, breathing in fresh air and always keeping a window open, even in the cold night air. And he wasn’t alone; people, people he had to keep up appearances for, surrounded him. He couldn’t break into hysteria, not now; he couldn’t show that face to those who still clung to him for support.

But he was going to go insane.

He had to get out of here, just for a while. He needed to breathe and suddenly it felt like all of the oxygen in the room was gone, his breaths short and shallow, and, no, no, not here.

His hands stopped their gentle ministrations, removing themselves gently from Karma’s now silky smooth hair, all of the tangles having been removed long ago

“Mori?”

The white-haired child looked up at him with his large, all too knowing red eyes.

“I need you to take my place. I need to-“ Need to what? To scream? To sob? To curse the goddess? To punch something until it shattered beneath his hands. “I don’t want Karma to be alone.”

Maybe desperation had bled into his voice, maybe some of the urgency welling up within him was exposed, but for whatever reason, Mori bobbed his head in a minute nod before swapping places with his teacher, easily climbing up despite his short height. Ryou planted a small kiss on the top of Karma’s head, then Mori’s, before hurrying from the room. The staircase wasn’t long, but it felt like it took hours before he was once again seeing real light, the light of day instead of the artificial flames of lamps below deck. He didn’t stop, however, until he reached the edge of the ship, hands clenching onto the railing for dear life as he stared at the horizon. Oh, Goddess. The sky was on fire as the sunset, the vivid reds and oranges from the night before painting over soothing blue, but what was worse was the promise of still darkness afterwards, of the night that remained after the great flames of the sun had vanished leaving only a disturbing, unpleasant calm.

Ryou was a carefully constructed but ultimately fragile structure of emotions barely being held together. All it would take was the slightest push before he broke, crumbling into so many pieces, dissolving like charred wood into ash. He wasn’t breathing easier and the heaviness from below hadn’t let up until he felt a hand grip his shoulder, fingers squeezing almost painfully tight, although any contact felt painful at the moment. He knew who it was instantly, a familiarity and intimacy built between two friends of the dearest sort giving him no option but to recognize the man behind him with only a simple touch. With that touch, he broke.

Rivulets of fat tears raced down his face, streaking his cheeks with water that only deviated slightly as they dipped slightly into the scar on his face, barely hesitating at his stubble covered cheeks before dripping off his chin. He was sobbing violently, shaking with a great force, and he was speaking, but not with words. No, they were sounds strung together that expressed the sorrow he felt, the sadness that no words could adequately express. Despite their height difference, he clung onto Haru, face buried in his shoulder in a last ditch attempt to not expose himself to the world he had to stay strong for, but unable to stop now that the dam had broken. It was all he could do not to collapse on shaky legs, to stand hunched and trembling as he was.

Some time later, the tears ran dry and the sobs stopped only because exhaustion didn’t allow him to tremble quite to violently. His breathing was deeper, less shallow and less frequent, but he didn’t look up. Control had come back to his tongue and finally, real verbalizations of known words appeared tumbling from his lips.

“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” He gasped, never saying what he was sorry for. Was it for wasting Haru’s time? For failing his students that had died, that he’d left behind, that he’d seen breaking just as he was now? For failing his children and friends, for not being able to see what they were doing, what they were going through?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Nikita Machari Character Portrait: Princess Morgan the Graceful Character Portrait: Alatáriël Oronrá Character Portrait: Ji Na Chae Character Portrait: Huan Kin Delun Character Portrait: Amber (Edwin Bradley) Character Portrait: Kit Withers
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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...