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Trent Cress

It is nothing shy of a pleasure to die for my country.

0 · 875 views · located in Aires

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


/It is nothing shy of a pleasure to die for my country./

General Trent Cress
|Proud|Master of Combat|Nationalist|Arrogant|Demanding|Judgmental|

Age: 25
Nation: The Rose Kingdom
Height: 6'0
Eyes: Gray
Hair: Dark Brown
*Ascended command of the RK's army at a very young age.
*His father is the brother of King Rembrandt the Wholesome making Princess Morgan his cousin,
*He takes his duties very seriously and is known to punish harshly.
*It is ultimately his goal to succeed the throne from Rembrandt's first born son.
*General Cress is extremely allergic to peanuts.

General Trent Cress tends to come off as a complete ass to anyone who truly gets to know him. Consumed with power and class he is always trying to find away to make his position in life better even if it means he has to step on others to get there. He is a true foil to Princess Morgan who, despite her frivolous ignorance is still kindhearted and means well. Cress looks down on anyone who...isn't him essentially. He considers Rembrandt a jolly old fool and the Harbinger a phony, selfish old prune. Rembrandt's son, the next in line to the throne is currently on a campaign and Cress would like nothing more than for him to have an... "accident". He assumes that he should be the natural leader in any situation he's thrown into even if there is already a leader assumed. Despite his obvious flaws he is a gifted strategic planner and warlord. His record is spotless--he only comes home with victories.


So begins...

Trent Cress's Story


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Trent Cress Character Portrait: Kit Withers
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Had Haru not opened his mouth Tallyho would have taken that free food without wavering. But unfortunately he said something, and it was something that made sense which in turn totally destroyed her appetite for the hour.

“Save that for a dire situation. There is more food coming in two hours.”

And so Tallyho drew back mid-grasp, nodding at Kit in a way that said thanks but no thanks and pushed back into her headboard to stare at the prisoners as they licked their bowls clean.

It was after a moment of silence that footsteps could be heard in the halls. Half of Tallyho wondered if they were the knights on their way back to serve an early lunch, and half of her was right. Yes there were knights but no bread to break. But there was something peculiar about this approach. It was a group of three—two familiar knights flanked on either side of a man in a different uniform, just as close to him as they had been to the warriors when they were preparing to throw them in prison. But something told Tallyho that this guy wasn’t getting arrested… With his dark hair in a soft ducktail, high cheekbones and bowed lips and a shallow cleft in the chin, Tallyho decided that there was a specific musk of regality about him. If his shaven jaw and trimmed hair weren’t big enough giveaways, his attire should have told anyone, be they from earth or Aires, that he was a man of significant importance. If one were to lay his armor next to that of a standard knight’s they would immediately find every flaw and chink and dent in the latter. This man’s shoulder plates were thicker, chest plates embroidered, hints of dark blue complementing gold accents welded into the armor. A fine sword was mounted on his hip, its designer took total artistic liberties in its decoration as told by the highly detailed hilt and thick leather sheath.

Tallyho didn’t know a damned thing about this guy but she could tell this much—the likelihood of him being a product of more than ten generations of governance and selective breeding and wealth was…. pretty solid. A part of her wondered if he was the lord of this prison, a rich and well to do warden who heard about the fight and came down to show his face just to scare the rest straight. So naturally she became uneasy when he pressed his gaze upon the month warriors who were for the most part doubled over in their cots with faces twisted in frowns and remnants of tales of betrayal still fresh on their tongues.

Then he spoke. His words were clean cuts—sharp diction, lots of articulation, a posh twang to his voice with the volume of a seasoned actor.

“So… Those are the month warriors?”

He asked this and the knights on either side of him nodded.

“The church asked that we keep them here till the flock.”

“The flock? What in Goddess’ name are they doing at the flock?”

“Well sire that’s what we brought you to them for. To give them some sort of contact with the military prior to the event.”


“This is the Harbinger’s wish sire…Their test is to defeat the flock”

“What in the bloody—why do we need an entire military then? Agh, very well! Okay just let me in.”

“Would you not like to conduct your affairs from the safety of—“

“Oh shut it why don’t you!”

“Yes sire.”

The knights peeled the door open and the man meandered in. Armor clanging softly as he went, his thumbs lodged in the loop of his belt with authority. By now Tallyho was positive that this guy was a somebody because as he moved in the other men in the prison shrank back. They knew who he was and apparently Haru did too.

He did not shrink away but he did not look so surprised either.

“So,” the man hummed as he pointed an accusatory and admittedly random finger at Ryou, “Let me guess, okay? You’re… theeeeee emerald or something right? You look earthy or whatever.”

Without waiting on Ryou’s response he continued on, sizing up the group briefly before speaking again.

“And there are only nine of you? Where are the other three?”

This time he did wait on an answer so Haru chose to speak.

“Hello sire. I take it that you are General Cress?”

The red head went through all of the formalities, a brief bow, and adverted eye contact because in situations like these the wrong moves could land them in hot water.

“With all due respect sire, we actually have all of the warriors and most of the guardians present today…”

“Okay…Well where are the other three? Oh—Wait are you suggesting that these women are your ‘guardians’?” A sly grin formed with an approving nod. “Nice job. Nice job. Though that one over there isn’t that fair,” he said as he made a haphazard gesture towards Kit. “A bit of an ugly wench, yes?” He laughed alone but did it really even matter? “So you must be the fire warrior right? I’ve always heard that redheads are much more aggressive. You people burn easier too! Ironic right?”

Haru wasn’t even sure how to respond to all of that. It was legitimately too much heinousness in one breath for Haru to really sit down and dissect.

“…Actually sire… Some of the females are month warriors...”

“Seriously? I might as well tell the Harbinger to get the gallows ready! If you’re going to lie about being the saviors of Aires at least be a bit more convincing with your actors, eh oldboy?”

As he said this he approached the bowed guardian and ruffled his hair as he would ruffle a boy’s. Haru’s nose wrinkled but he did not comment.

“Is this really necessary?”

The comment was muffled and she really didn’t mean for it to come out of her mouth. And as Cress’ gaze snapped in her direction, Tallyho’s head snapped in the opposite. Massaging the nape of her neck with awkward fingers, she tried to play things off as if she’d said nothing at all, embarrassed with ears red as roma tomatoes.

Three years ago she wanted was a fucking meal…not any of these ridiculous situations.

“Excuse me? Which one of you—“

Haru made it his business to draw the reigns back. And honestly it took every bit of energy and dignity he had left in his tiny body to not shank Cress where he stood.

“Ah—Sire if possible we would very much like to discuss the details of our role in the flock?”
“Well not yet! I’m curious! Which one of you call yourselves the month warriors? Really! Go on, introduce yourselves to me!” Cress’ expression was quite smug but Haru urged the warriors to do what he said anyway.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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Falke muttered, causing the hastily scuffle backward and indignant squeak of a vendor who had been one of the few brave enough to come closer and had been getting a little too close from comfort. She had been waving her hand suspiciously in front of his face even as her voice had died off begging him to by something she was calling a blood-orange sapphire, oddly abruptly, confused as to why he didn’t even blink an eye, or look at her in acknowledgment. The older woman vendor huffed, scowling up her thick nose at him, before hastily taking herself and her false jewels somewhere else down the line that didn’t have those weird, ghosty eyes to distract, or haunt her nightmares later. Not his fault, however, mind you.

The exchange was a distinct difference to Tallyho nearly hitting a vendor and flying off the handle, very much to the ill benefit of Haru's poor laboring heart, Falke wasn't bothered as much from eagerly aggressive jewel vendors coming into his face. Probably more so do to the fact, standing behind his friend, but also could be befitted to his eyes - blind as they were, something very different for a young man especially to have plastered on his features.


Finally, Falke's wandering thoughts, purposeful in their intent to keep nervousness at bay, faded as time pressed on, finally stepping through the grand cathedral doors and into the grand room to be judged. He held tightly unto a face of complete confidence, stoic but strong, as Haru spoke and beckoned them to come forward to bow one at a time, before resettling in a line - hunched at their hands and knees in reverence.

Dorian was called forward to demonstrate his powers. A good choice, something simple, but could say more than anything that could be easily dismissed or accidentally hurt someone. The wind twirled playfully for a brief few moments, before fading. Yes, a good show. Thank the Goddess, it seemed to have worked, more or less.

He rose as the Harbinger requested, at Haru's whispered insistence and the rising shuffles of the others beside him and down the line more so technically, careful of his balance on his sore leg. He raised his hand as the brief, familiar shiver of awareness came from his hand as the dark blue glowed bright and light in the presence of the religious man and his crystal coming near. Ahh, the stone test, he could only supposed they'd passed that one test then - there would be more, of course, he was certain.

The Flock. Falke didn't seem to regard the description as fearfully and wearily as some of the others, more so taking the brutally logical thought process that at the very least if they failed this one it would be a quicker way to go then a public hanging would have been. Yes, they had all fought plenty of cyclopeans before, perhaps not a host before and not in an environment that is was due or die. But at the very least, they weren't on the way of the gallows yet and political prison and/or jail was still better than hanging. Thinking on the 'bright' side, or attempting too anyhow even if how unnerving their situation was rapidly becoming.

Trust. Yes, trust was a fickle thing. Falke obliged willingly, however, as Haru told them to trust him, the bell tolled, a single cardinal believed in them, and another ordered them to line up between the knights. Narrowing his eyes, cautiously, he stepped forward as they went outside, past the hovering crowd of false warriors, Guardians, and newer groups of citizens with downcast eyes and hearts already praying for there lost, wrenched souls. Great. Wonderful welcome party.

It took all of his will power not to physically flinch every time they entered a new room in the dungeon, being so accustomed to using every other sense but sight - it was a nightmare of sound, smell, and horrible feelings, expressions, and remarks amongst the cries of the imprisoned. He ground his back molars, even as his eyes widened a touch, struggling to remain looking calm and keeping his cool.

Finally they resumed an upward trek into part of the castle proper, of court rooms and relative quiet hallways compared to the horror show they'd just been experienced, until being shoved into a large cell, reserved for POWs or other important members of political arrest, of nicer accommodations than that of below - even if sharing with an already large group already there, clustered on the other side watching them curiously.

The girls tended to drift watchfully toward the male members of the team, taking the cue from Haru and other Guardian's that backs would need to watched in such close quarters with a lot of men, solider men, that they didn't know, let alone would want to let them know who they were. Which meant, everyone dispersing to their bunks, left Falke a rather alone. He didn't mind really, except for the fact that he had grown over the three years - and was resting at 6ft and 140-150lbs - you'd think he'd be more intimidating. But, he suspected that the image of a little fluffy kitten in the corner that could mess you up but looked still to innocent to do so was himself, and the comparable image of another, like Dorian, probably a stoic rottweiler that could mess you up and looked like it. Well, yes, that was pretty self explanatory...

Falke dozed for awhile before sleep finally carted him away late into the night into unsettling, whispering dreams, some of which awoke him briefly, until he rolled over unto the next shoulder wordlessly, dozing, only to crash quickly again. Lillian, like Ryou and Haru, stayed up during the night. Unable to sleep, or taking it also upon herself to help watch, and used to having stayed up in her animal form for odd hours and/or situations such as this before. She seemed easy, sitting upright at rest, leaning against a post of her bunk, eyes wide and watchful of their surroundings the whole night.


"Is this really necessary?”

He couldn’t help agreeing with her, of course, and his brief mental warning reflected some of the likewise feelings into her mind. However, this was an uneasy game to play, and accidental dyslexia of the mouth wouldn’t help their situation. He felt briefly the worried press of Haru's mind, something that came easier because of high emotions of stress and the bare aura of tolerance echoing from the cat guardian, as he tried to turn the situation back unto the task at hand - learning more about the flock, their next test - only to be overruled, again, by the demanding of introductions on the month warrior's parts.

“Sire,” Falke wasn’t sure what compelled him to introduce himself first, out of all the warriors, but perhaps the strong feeling he was likely one of the few that could still remain a stoic civility (that would allow them all to keep their heads for a little while longer hopefully, thank you very much) especially the face of the young noble lord, General Cress, with an obviously lacking hospitable attitude and crude language demeaning guardians and month warriors alike. He went with it, however, rising from his bunk to stand on steady limbs, briefly bowing at the waist, and adverting eye contact as best as his blearily unfocused eyes could managed.

“I am Falke of Hales, sire, the warrior of September.” He finished, lightly; cautiously dipping his head once again for good measure. His English had gotten surprising good, enough to full even himself with his faded accent at times (of course, forgetting other times his mood flicked during the day or in the middle of the conversation, his natural German accent came right back, heavy and thick) – he could, being nitpicky on himself, could pick out bare German elements still in it, but in all honesty it could seem a plausible enough rough voice to come from the icy expanse of Hales.

Lillian remained silent, as she had not been called to introduce herself, but watchful, even despite the aura of the potential for shadows appearing soon on pale skin underneath her eyes - especially so as her own warrior stood forward first. It was a known fact Lillian, nor Haru or even Ryou to an extent, didn't bond specifically with her own designated warriors like some of the other Guardian's; her distance was not rebelliousness or a simple lack of care, but had developed from a greater meaning of her purpose - she was a Guardian of all, not just one. All the same, in the controlled, politely reverent clenched grasp of her hands, perhaps one could surmised a faint worried tremor in the tendons and fine bones of her fingers; as her own warrior spoke, one of the weakest physical links of the team relatively. A reminder perhaps again deeply hidden in her inner mind, the Guardian's were cursed with immortality, the warriors... Not so much.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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/Okay. Yeah I know… Okay…/

Tallyho brought herself to look back at Trent who billowed with laughter.

“Now that’s the spirit. I heard most men from Hales lost a finger or two before they were eight. But… You don’t look nearly as rugged as some of those brutes over yonder, yeah?”

He was obviously referring to the group of POW’s stuffed on the other side of the room, burying themselves in a circle of foreign speak.

He took a good look at Falke’s face. His strong features were recognized despite his obvious aversion to eye contact. But even so he felt as though something was a bit off… And Trent was never one to leave questions unanswered and so he knelt, eagerly peering into Falke’s downturned eyes which seemed to look right through him.

He’d met many an invalid in his day so it didn’t take him more than a wavering finger in front of the face to figure out that he was blind. And when he did he immediately peeled away from the surface of Falke’s personal bubble, exposing his white Adams apple as he released a guttural laugh.

This made Haru uncomfortable obviously. With someone as taunting as Trent the situation was pretty much out of his control now. The man swayed, drunk from laughter, wheezing incomprehensible words through his upturned nostrils before turning to Haru.

“So….So—ha! You… mean to tell me… That one of your “warriors” is a blind ice brute? What does he do? Listen the cyclopean to death?”

Ice brute. That was a term no Hales native ever wanted to hear ever. And while Haru was sure Falke wouldn’t be as offended by the term than say some of the men across the room, he was positive Falke probably found the overall exchange to be quite offensive period.

Haru wasn’t sure how to answer to that. But thankfully, or perhaps not so thankfully considering who it was, someone took the mic at least for a while.

“Tallyho Abel. February. The Sun People.”

Or maybe not that long of a while.

The blonde, seething with rage for Falke and still very red from her last comment kept her introduction short sweet and to the point. It wasn’t disrespectful per say but she certainly wasn’t going to grant him all of the formalities that Falke had and refer to him as sire, or lord, or any other pompous title. And if she did it wouldn’t make her seem any better considering what she anticipated his opinion of her “nation” to be.

“Ahh perfect…. You’re one of those. I’m sure you’re aware but you people can be so lazy sometimes... Though, you’re great to have around for parties! …I guess.”

/Falke, I’m going to murder him in his sleep.\

“Do a dance for me, huh?”

Tallyho watched Trent with wild eyes. With the slight flare of her nostrils, tight lips and tense muscles it was probably obvious that she was doing everything in her power not to act on her wishes.

“You don’t dance? Well do you sing then?”

“I. don’t. …Sire.”

“Don’t tell me you’re a prostitute?”

Tallyho was cutting it a little close with how snippy her response came to be.

“No. I’m not. Sire.”

Trent merely responded with a dismissive ‘uhuh’ which made Tallyho even angrier because it implied that he hadn’t believed her. (Not that she expected him to think well of her anyway.)

“Okay so what else do we have? An invalid, a prostitute… This team is coming out quite nicely.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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For all of the attention that a man like General Cress seemed to draw with every step and ever cutting word, when he first approached the door Dorian's attention was somewhere else entirely. That is, he was watching their fellow prisoners begin to shift restlessly, anxiety seeming to fill the room in such a way that Dorian's own rational paranoia began to grow and thrive in his mind. What, he wondered as he shifted his position so that he could see more of the room and, more importantly, more of the people in it, was happening? There had hardly been a stir when breakfast had been brought in, barely an exciting moment save for the fight that had broken out earlier. Things had been calm, though, in a way but now… now it felt like the calm that had fallen over the prison populace earlier was just the calm before the storm.

He didn't glance towards the doors until the first words were spoken, all sharp edges and a natural projection that filled the room. Dorian turned then and fought not to stare. The man standing between the two more plainly clothed guards looked like he'd stepped out of the lead role of either "The Tudors" or a fantasy series like "Game of Thrones". Visually, he was flawless, neat as a pin and perfectly coiffed, dressed in what Dorian could only assume was the finest material money or influence could buy. Even his sword looked too theatrical to be true, all elaborate decorations enveloping the hilt and a fine leather sheath that made Dae's look decrepit in comparison. The man oozed an "old money" vibe, radiating all of the pride and class that came from a fine lineage. He'd seen if before in the wealthy citizens of New York, those that still had permanent balcony seats at the opera and who looked down their nose at anyone who deigned to take the Subway.

Soon, the man came sauntering in and the prison population seemed to move as one as they shrunk back, eager to move away from this single man with an apparent bad temper and enough power to order the prison's guards around without batting an eye. Then, without any warning whatsoever, he whirled on Ryou, leveling a finger at him in a near accusatory manner.

Emerald? What…? Oh. Dorian blinked in a mild confusion, more of a shock because this had come out of almost nowhere, while Ryou opened his mouth to reply. However, the golden-haired man's mouth shut with a snap the moment the man turned from them, bored already or just eager to hear himself speak even more. It didn't take long for his identity to be revealed, although to Dorian it simply served to be even more confusing.

General Cress? Sire? His eyes flickered over to Haru, seeking the February Guardian out automatically as if he could find an in-depth explanation as to who this man was and why exactly they were calling him "sire". But there were no answer to find in Haru's gaze as their fearless leader focused all of his diplomatic efforts on delicately dealing with General Cress. It was a wonder, Dorian thought, that Haru put up with half the disrespect that the world seemed bound and determined to fling at him. Haru was a Saint, especially when he managed to keep a straight face while their military visitor went off. He managed to insult all of the women in the room in one fell swoop, saving a special insult for Kit, before turning on anyone who spoke in turn. He mocked Falke with such callousness that it took Dorian a moment to even comprehend what he'd just heard, paired with a barbed remark about Hales. Admittedly Dorian knew little to nothing about Aires, even after spending the past three years there, but he knew when something sounded racist and that… That sounded awfully racist. Or region-ist. Either way it was damn offensive, but not nearly as offensive as the way he nearly doubled over in laughter when he realized that Falke was blind.

Then Tallyho moved to speak, eyes blazing with fury but keeping herself as calm and poised as she could. It didn't help, however, against her verbal opponent who promptly started treating her like a trained monkey (a slur, Dorian figured out with disturbing ease, probably more based on her home than her gender) demanding that she dance or sing and, when she would do neither, called her a prostitute. An actual prostitute. That was- Dorian didn't even know what that was. Then, as if to put the cherry on top of the shit sundae, he had the absolute gall to just go ahead and recap all of the insults from the past minute.

If this had been anyone else (meaning, of course, someone who didn't hold their collective fates in their hands), Dorian would have punched him on principle. He didn't think of himself as a violent person, but men like General Cress didn't back off if you started a verbal fight with them. No, they fed on it like parasites feasting on negative words and emotions. However, the man before them did have some influence on if they lived or died and Dorian had survived this long without getting them all killed by showing simple restraint. Said restraint was going into overdrive at the moment to keep anything unkind from slipping past his lips. Well, there was only one thing to do.

"Dorian, also of Hales, sire. I am the March Warrior." His words were crisp and as cold as an Arctic chill. He bowed slightly before moving back to his own ramrod straight posture, but did not look downwards, keeping his gaze straight ahead. He could take, he knew, anything that General Cress chose to throw at him. After all he did grow up in New York- you didn't last long around there if you didn't get used to random creeps shouting obscenities at you for no other reason than because they liked the attention it got them. That was not to say that he was worried about someone else snapping (okay, yes, he was distinctly worried about that because General Cress had not just crossed the line, he'd crossed it, jumped back, and crossed it again with a gusto). No, he just preferred not to see someone in power harass his teammates and in particular his friends with none of them really being able to do anything about it. He'd take a thousand insults, no matter how hurtful (again, New Yorker here, he'd be fine) over watching him speak to Tallyho and Falke like that.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher
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There were very few people that Harper immediately disliked upon meeting, in his history of meeting people. His usual reaction involved curiosity, coupled with an initial judgment. For example, this guy seems boring. Let's rile him up. Or, this girl is cute. I wonder if she's flirtatious. Or even, this person looks mean. I wonder if he's secretly a My Little Pony enthusiast. Let's find out. It was only after acting on these first impulses that Harper would make a final judgment on the person and how he felt about them, if he deemed them significant enough to have an opinion on in the first place. Which was also infrequent.

However, when General Trent Cress walked into the room, it took all of two seconds for Harper to form a very, very strong opinion of distaste towards him. His eyes narrowed as he looked him top down, and back. He had seen his type before many a time at dinner parties. Sons and daughters of even more pompous rich snobs that his father worked with. Parents who looked down on his father for not being born into success, who looked down on his mother for being a woman. Children who either expected him to assimilate or treated him lower for refusing. Harper had never been very competitive outside of swimming, but whenever these snotty brats were concerned, he always did his best to beat them at everything. Even if he himself wasn't the biggest fan of his parents, that didn't mean others could treat them like crap. And if they dared say or do anything remotely unpleasant to Sadie...suffice to say all hell broke loose.

"Where am I supposed to be from again?" Harper whispered to Ondine, who was white-knuckled and doing her best to restrain herself.

"Trading Isles," she hissed back, voice strained, and added hastily, "Don't do anything stupid!"

Yet the words fell on deaf ears. Like Dorian, Harper had grown up in the Big Apple, and was accustomed to handling insults. He had thrown some out of his own. And, like Dorian, he felt protective of the group. Even if he teased and prodded and insulted--both accidentally and intentionally--all of them at some point. Even if he wasn't exactly "friends" with Tallyho or Falke. No one else was allowed to shit-talk them.

However, unlike Dorian, Harper didn't think through what he was about to say. He didn't consider how he should go about this, or plan for any consequences. He certainly didn't pause to wonder if perhaps, maybe, he should amend, or at least filter, the words that were about to come out of his mouth. He didn't even quite realize the implications that insulting the General could have on him and everyone else. The single thought train in his head was going full speed, and nothing was going to stop it.

"Heyyy, Mr. General, sir," Harper greeted as he stood up, waving a little, "The name's Harper. June warrior, from the Trading Isles. Nice to meet ya. How ya doin'?" He took a couple steps forward, but was still a safe distance away from a punch. "I'm actually also the Officially Designated Asshole of the group, and I gotta say, you're kinda cramping my style. I mean, you know what they say about assholes..."

Harper narrowed his eyes. "You only need one."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn
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#, as written by rikura
Travelling on a boat was definitely something Jason was not used to, but after what had happened at the academy, he really didn't care that simply walking across the deck tended to feel like he was walking drunk.

In only a few seconds, the entirety of his time at the academy and the event that devastated their group would occasionally flash through his mind. It started all the way from when he received his twin daggers with black hilts and long curved blades. They seemed to match his ring as they somehow reminded him of scorpions, though that didn't make sense to him because the last time he checked, Jason was a Leo... not a Scorpio. Letting that little fact pass without much thought, his mind would drift to their journey to the academy. Well, to Harper screaming bloody murder during their cart ride. Personally, he thought it had been hilarious, worrying, and annoying all at the same time. From there his mind would skim through meeting Ji Na, Karma, Kat, and everyone else at the academy. He remembered the first time he "trained" with a Cyclopean during a cage fight, gaining a smidge of understanding regarding Harper's panicked reaction to the cart ride.

The flashes continued until the night of the event. That night he'd been woken up by screaming, opening stinging eyes to a black cloud of smoke. With a sense of urgency, he and his two doppelgangers tried to get as many people safely out of the flames as possible. He arrived at the field where his fellow warriors and the rest of the survivors were gathering just as Amber revealed himself. Then his comrades, some of the friends he'd come to trust during his time at the academy, betrayed them. Chaos. Everything had been chaos, and he could almost hear the 'switch' in his mind that signaled him disconnecting and distancing himself from the situation and general reality.

For a while afterwards, the warrior didn't know how to respond to the others; With the apparent mental and emotional shock of the event. The academy being destroyed, being betrayed by people he'd thought of as comrades and friends, the physical wounds and death, seeing the other warriors and guardians distraught... This wasn't something he could brush off as nothing. He couldn't tell everyone not to worry, not to take everything so seriously, that things weren't really that bad, because they really were that bad. He couldn't ignore the reality of the situation this time. Worse, he couldn't help but feel he could have done more, should have done more, to prevent some of the injuries. Some of the deaths. His way of coping with life, however, was never taking serious things very seriously. Emotionally disconnecting from heavy situations, and sometimes people. He was simply confused about how he should react and respond to the others and to the situation as a whole.

With that in mind, training with his doppelgangers and with his long twin daggers became somewhat of an obsession throughout their voyage. It wasn't a secret to anyone that Jason wasn't the strongest or most aggressive guy in the group. He'd never been too keen on any of the training they'd done back at the academy, so his sudden obsession would appear extremely radical and out of character to anyone. It helped him put his thoughts into order, though, and after the event it's an understandable change. Balance, control, speed, fluidity, stealth, aggression, agility, coordination; He wanted to improve on everything so that maybe next time, he wouldn't turn out to be so useless. Maybe next time, the sufferings and the deaths... they wouldn't be so great.

At the same time, though, the past was the past. What happened happened and that would never change, no matter how much one dwelt on it. Life had taught him that when you can't control particular events, all that's left is to move past them as best you can. With his way of thinking, Jason opted to stay optimistic in front of the other warriors in an effort to lighten the mood on the ship. His efforts didn't seem to have much effect, though. Other than training, he'd spend the days doing anything he could to keep himself occupied and to keep the despairing atmosphere from affecting him too much. Conversing with whoever would give him time became a normal part of his day where he would bring up any random subject that came to mind. When no one would talk to him he'd simply talk to one of his two doppelgangers or play his own little games that more times than not got him into trouble. Apparently, using the ship's railing as a tightrope hadn't turned out to be his best idea. Watching Tallyho and some of the guys dance, however, turned out to be a "safe" distraction where he wasn't bothering anyone or doing something stupid.

Listening to Haru's spiel about the Rose Kingdom and how they all needed to behave, Jason shrugged, interested in whatever cultural aspects came up, but otherwise not caring. He could avoid causing trouble. He thought he could at least. His eyes slid to the loudest of his companions. Harper, however, he supposed could and maybe would land them on the chopping block.

Jason felt himself becoming almost giddy at the eccentric styles some of the people adorned themselves in. It was, to him, a comical sight, really. He had enough money for clothes, since he tended to help with chores and such at the academy, but definitely didn't have enough for anything too fancy or eccentric. He honestly didn't see what was wrong with what he was wearing, ya know, other than a few tears and stains, but he did as Haru suggested anyways. He ended up with an outfit he thought to be clown-like, but that seemed to fit in with what he saw others wearing.

Afterwards, on their walk to the inn, things were quite uneventful. Seeing the Harbinger's entourage, though, was quite an event. In his mind, quite an exaggerated event. Wasn't the guy supposed to be the religious leader or something? With how they carried themselves and with how the people responded, it seemed more like he was an emperor-king dude. Jason had in his mind to give an exaggerated flourish of a bow when they passed, but restrained himself with the thought that the others, mainly Haru, the other guardians, and Kyle, would more likely than not pummel him for stupidity. Plus he had an obvious feeling that being sarcastic towards the Harbinger would land him and the others in deep trouble.

"Nah, dip, Sherlock," he said to himself when the carriage was up and moving again. It wasn't too much longer before they arrived at the Yellow Rose, the inn they apparently were to stay at. Jason lingered in the commons area for a while, aiming to try and approach Tallyho to talk about Airian culture and such, but finding that task impossible after a loud groan escaped the girl. It probably wasn't the best response, but Jason couldn't keep a small laugh from escaping him before Lillian appeared, saying something to Tallyho, followed up by Haru. Apparently everyone was to come down for dinner. Because he was already down, Jason opted to simply join the cat guardian in waiting for the others.

Dinner was nice. Though, Jason couldn't help feeling that Haru had an ulterior motive behind the finer-than-usual dining, but shrugged it off as the cat guardian briefly said something about how tomorrow would go.

Then came the oh-so-dreaded-test-day. It didn't seem to start out too well in Jason's mind with all of Haru's picking and such. He even flinched from the cat guardian a few times. Jason really wanted to get this test over with, despite whether they passed or failed. He hated the tense and jumpy atmosphere. Haru needed to loosen up. Seriously.

Putting his hands behind his head, Jason glanced around at the ridiculous amount of people standing in line, adorned with jewels that imitated his and the rest of the month warriors'. What was even more bizarre were the vendors selling fake stones, and people actually buying them! Jason usually thinks 'to each his own" but these people were crazy. None besides his crew were true warriors, so he imagined they would all end up dead. Hundreds of people, simply for trying to imitate them. Of course, if they somehow failed, they'd be joining the fakes.

Finally, it was their turn. Jason automatically gravitated close to Kyle, who he viewed as one of his best friends since arriving in this other world. The August warrior's relaxed, somewhat annoyed demeanor shifted to something uncomfortable and bothered in the presence of the Harbinger. He felt something... off here, though he couldn't put his finger on it. He glanced around quickly before following Haru's example of bowing his head. Jason found himself becoming fidgety in this place. As the others hurried forward, Jason followed suit. He could feel scrutinizing eyes, and it took everything not to glance up at them again. Before he could entertain the thoughts of Haru choosing him to do anything, Dorian stepped forward, his powers activating as gusts filled the room. Jason held his breath until the show ended. He stood as the others stood, and kept his eyes on his ring as it glowed, apparently passing the stone test.

The August warrior felt relief, his relaxed demeanor returning, only for a moment though. He stiffened as the flock was mentioned and explained. Woah, woah, woah. Hold on, partner. Sure training had become an obsession for him in recent months, and he wasn't bad at fighting those monsters, but they were talking about, what? An army of Cyclopeans?

Yeah, pretty much. Ha! We won't have to worry about a hangman's noose if we failed this one. I'm sure the Cyclopeans will take care of that, though I don't plan on failing. If we do fail, however, there's nothing we can do about it. But we haven't failed yet, so we can do something, right? Unless the something turnsout to be the wrong something rather than the right something and we ended up failing anyways, or maybe... Wait...

Jason shook his head, clearing away his advancingly confusing thoughts. He decided to go with his usual stance of 'whatever happens will happen.' Still feeling uncomfortable, he fell in line between two knights just as the rest of the warriors had.

The journey to their holding cell was unsettling to say the least, walking through the rows of dirty, pathetic prisoners. Arriving at their temporary home-away-from-home wasn't much better. The POW cell, from what he could tell was in much better condition than the ones below. However, he realized very readily that their group seemed alien compared to the rest. Especially in the sense that half of their group were the only females present. This wasn't a safe place, but there wasn't really anything they could do about it beside being careful.

Jason didn't really sleep much, but the little sleep he got was more than enough. He was quieter than normal, watchful rather than engaging once he awoke. He pretty much sat on his cot, observing things and making notes in his head until a person he automatically noted he didn't like appeared with two knights.

The man stepped into the cell confidently, the rest of the prisoners besides the month warriors shrinking back. His dislike for the man increased as soon as his mouth opened in speaking to Haru... Then Falk... Then Tallyho...

What the hell!? Jason was beyond annoyed. Mocking his companions... Calling Tallyho a prostitute! Jason wasn't one to be very serious about things, but he wasn't passive either. If you did it right, it was fairly easy to annoy him, and this guy was pushing it. Jason didn't have a guardian to advise him like some of the others, and was about to do something stupid, but Harper beat him to the punch. Now Jason didn't particularly like or dislike the guy, but right now, he definitely loved the annoying guy. Jason frankly didn't care about any possible consequences, and was even going to step forward to join Harper in his show, but wasn't given a chance to with Dorian's harshly barked, "Harper!"

Jason cleared his throat, not sure how to go about anything, so figured he'd introduce himself as if the Harper thing was no big deal. May as well. With a shrug, and a kind of small grin, Jason somewhat exaggerated a flourish of a bow (mostly to turn attention from Harper), kind of like what he'd been tempted to do two days ago on the streets when the Harbinger's entourage had passed them. This time he obviously didn't suppress the urge, though his voice he made contrastingly pleasant, even, and respectful, something none of the warriors or even the guardians had heard come from him. The tone sounded strange coming from Jason, especially with his slightly grinning expression.

"I am Jason of Solace, the warrior of August. I humbly ask you excuse my friend, Sire," and then he may possibly have ruined it by adding, "However, with all due respect, Sire, making assumptions and judging one's ability and value based by appearances and nationality tends towards a poor judgment, no?" With that, the unnaturally even and respectful tone could easily be identified only by those who knew him as being something purely mocking, highlighting his distaste for the arrogant jerk of a dude.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn
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An invalid and a prostitute.
Prostitute? It finally triggered what the word meant.

Prostituta. That cabrón of a general had called Tallyho a prostitute.
Xabier was a mild person most days, he wouldn't pick fights or get involved in childish squabbles.
However he had an ingrained sense of honour and loyalty from growing up in a large, close-knit, stereotypically spanish family.

There were many things he would put up with, if the General had insulted him instead, there would have been no problem.
Xabier wasn't as bravado macho as the other men but he would willingly fight for his family.
The one thing he could not stand was someone dishonouring family.
There was a line and General Cress had crossed it.
Tallyho and Falke were like family.
He had the right mind to snap right there and then. Call out the hijo de puta with dramatic hand movements and puffed out chest.

Become the father, protect the family.

But it was obvious from the painful silence that if he said anything out of place, it'd end up hurting them instead.
This was what was keeping him from doing anything.

Dorian didn't comment and just introduced himself coldly.
Good. Good. Let's just get through this without screwing up.
It was like building a house of cards, one wrong move and the whole thing comes crashing down.
Up came Harper for his turn.
Don't say something reckless Harper, he tried to magically communicate across, keep it polite and short.
Alas he wasn't Falke, so Harper didn't get the message.
His introduction was rude and insulting and completely blunt.
It was so stupidly reckless, Xabier could've killed him. Or kissed him.
One or the other depending on what condition they were in in the end of all this. If they weren't dead, that is.

He watched in silence as Dorian once again held the peace. It was getting increasingly harder to dislike the guy. Xabier had started to waver a little. He had started to be a little nicer to him and it wasn't just because he was Harper's friend.
Dorian had done a good job keeping the team safe in the first test, Xabier would remember that.

Jason was next and he added a little more pressure to the house of cards. Any more movement and they'd crash.

He decided to go next to get it out of the way. Pretending he hadn't noticed any of the others he took one step forward.

"Xabier Sanchez of Constance, Sire. October Warrior."
He knew that his accent was still pretty strong so he kept it brief. While it was popular with pretty girls, he knew there'd be trouble if this General noticed it. As proficient in English or the common tongue as he was, Xabier still thought in Spanish. He still talked to his Iluntasuna in Basque.
It was as clear as anything that he wasn't from around here.
He could only hope that after the other more obvious personalities, it wouldn't be noticed.
General Cress was a proud man, that was easily noticeable.
Hopefully he'd ignore Xabier's presence and concentrate on his wounded pride.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Trent Cress Character Portrait: Kit Withers
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#, as written by Linnea
“I see. Here’s hoping it is never needed.” Kit said, discreetly putting the food away. If all went well, it would rot. It was a strange feeling, though, nostalgic in a way. The last time he had offered food to comfort someone was when Hannah was concerned about a friend of hers getting married to a rather rude man. He made a mental note to start the practice up again if he ever had access to a fully stocked kitchen. As if the group would have such luck. Really, he was just dreamily making plans to ease his own nervous mind, but it was nice to think about.

He stopped planning meals when he heard the knights coming. What a shame, planning meals was actually helping a little. So much for comfort.

A young man walked into the cell, a far cry from the two knights accompanying him. Instantly, he began to insult the group.
Ugly wench? Kit smiled, simply to stop himself from decking the man in the face.

“I’ve heard you try very hard in your job. My compliments.” Kit silently prayed that the young man wouldn’t understand or care about his subtle insult. Instantly, he regretted the impulsive behavior. Kit bit the inside of his cheek after that, knowing that if he continued to speak any more his pride and vanity might cause him to say a few rude things. He decided to keep all insults and rude comments in the back of his mind, just in case. If the fair general should ever be in a position that he was considered less important than Kit, the redhead would know exactly how to tell him where his sword should be shoved up.

“I am Autumn Jones, sire. I am the November Warrior and I am also from Solace.” Autumn said to the man with a hint of venom in her voice. She had tried to sound pleasant and welcoming, but it proved to be very difficult. She bowed, loose strands of hair falling out of her braid. If only this man didn’t hold their life in his hands, she would have drained him of his energy on the spot.
Kit smiled, an obvious cue to Autumn that she really should have sounded like she didn’t want to strangle him. Hopefully the other warriors would catch on. Though their harsh words were understandable, this was neither the time nor the place.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Autumn Jones Character Portrait: Jason Carter
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It took every ounce of Skylar’s self-control not to slam Trent right in the perfectly sculpted jaw.
Growing up around brothers and then moving to New York City had definitely given her a tough skin, but it had also taught her not to take anyone’s shit. Nobody, especially not this douche mover, had the right to think poorly of her because she was a woman.

“Wonder what all the armor is for, probably over compensating for something else.” She muttered under her breath, soft enough so that only anyone standing right next to her could hear.

Bryce, who had been unusually quiet the past two days, shot her a look. “Hey,” He hissed, elbowing her in the side. “Don’t do anything stupid.

However, unlike Skylar, Harper didn’t know how to follow orders or when to filter his thoughts. Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head as he so blatantly insulted the general, and as much as she liked him, she wasn't going to deny that what he just did was really fucking stupid.

Skylar was slightly surprised to hear Dorian reprimand him, an unfamiliar edge in his voice as he said the June warrior’s name. Jason followed suit in defending him, followed by Kyle. What surprised her just as much was the slightly venomous tone in Autumn’s voice, something completely out of the ordinary for the generally bubbly girl.

“Actually, Sire,” Skylar said suddenly, knowing to keep a pleasant edge in her voice and a smile on her face. “I’m emerald.” She stepped forward, batting her eyelashes for good measure. “Skylar Grayson of Constance, May month warrior.”
She hesitated for a moment before bowing, throwing in a little curtsy as well.


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: Autumn Jones
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Harper's careless words were paralyzing, and it took Ondine several minutes to realize he had actually said it. That those words really had been spoken. That it was this that Trent was reacting to.

She would have slit her ward's throat, if that was what it took to take back those damning words. In fact, she would have shouted Harper's name herself if Dorian hadn't done so. It was probably better that it had been Dorian, rather than her. Even though Harper had glared at Dorian with a look that was equal parts wounded, offended, and "how dare you interrupt me!", it did shut him up.

But of course, it was too late. The flame had already been lit. Even if the other warriors had already wanted to speak darkly, Harper had opened the floodgates in making it acceptable. It just spiraled on, growing worse and worse, wave upon wave of snarky tones and comments, to the point where even the genuinely respectful introductions would be automatically misjudged.

To top it all off was Trent and his very, very, very annoying mannerisms. If this was any other situation, Ondine would have killed everyone right on the spot, starting with the general and ending with Harper, just so he could see what he had wrought. That damn boy!

Trent's retreating footsteps were not even out of earshot when Ondine moved. In two angry stomps she grabbed Harper by the shoulder, whirled him around, and backhanded him as hard as she could across the face. She didn't even wait for him to recover before slapping him again on the rebound, this time with even more intensity.

"You idiot!" she hissed into his face, voice so venomous she could taste the poison in her mouth. It took every ounce of restraint to keep herself from screaming and/or spitting at him. "I would ask if you didn't think before speaking, but I already know the bloody answer! Now the only question to ask is whether you think at all, but I'm certain the answer would still be the same!"

"What, I should have just let that guy treat us all like shit?!" Harper demanded loudly, eyes watering and voice quivering slightly from the pain, cheeks red and swelling. Small bubbles of blood dewed out from five trails her nails had blazed on his left cheek, stretching from his jawline to the bridge of his nose, the skin breaking across the softer flesh. A handprint was clearly visible on his right side, and a scratch running tangent to his lower eyelid was reddening.

Yet Ondine still felt like she hadn't hit him hard enough.

"Yes, that is exactly what you should have done!" Ondine snapped, her black eyes flashing against the stormy seas that were his. "You talked top shit about knowing how to play the game, but clearly that's all that was. Top bull shit."

"He called her a prostitute!" He shouted back, gesturing forcefully at Tallyho. "He didn't even listen to her!" His hand moved to point at Skylar. "He pretty much pretended you and everyone else without a Y chromosome didn't exist!"

"Words are only words if you don't react to them," Ondine argued icily, "Especially his words. If you knew anything about politics--"

"Don't even talk to me about politics!" Harper yelled, "You were a fucking pirate! No rules, nothing! I had to live that shit every day, every hour, every fucking second. Assholes like him were part of my life, and I fucking hated it!"

Ondine couldn't help herself. She lunged forward, grabbed him by his collar and dragged him away from the others before slamming him against the stone walls of an empty corner.

"I don't care whether you fucking hated it or if you fucking loved it," Ondine spat, voice as sharp as a knife and low, "This isn't about you or your bloody soap opera of a life, and it never has been. You're not the fucking main character, you're not the tragic hero, and you are not the victim."

"I never said--"

Ondine slapped him again.

"Would you--"




Finally he shut up, left cheek smeared with blood and right so red it practically radiated heat.

"Now I want you to understand something," Ondine continued, her fury spiking her words, "I want you to realize exactly what your stupid words did. You know how important first impressions are? Well you've given us one hell of a bad one. And because of your oh so favorite politics, we are going to stay in bad favor, so that even if we do succeed with the flock, those who hold all of our fates will still doubt and suspect the worst. You have jeopardized all of our lives for a petty insult. You have made our journey a thousand times harder. You have ensured that from now on, all those who meet us will already have a sour taste in their mouth from rumors and hearsay of this event."

"It wasn't just me!" Harper blurted out indignantly.

The slap that followed was louder than all the others that preceded it.

"You were the instigator," Ondine finished bitterly, her own hand stinging. "Just as you always have been. And if after three years you still haven't realized that, then you are truly the stupidest man to have ever stumbled upon Aires."

"I AM NOT STUPID!" Harper roared, but any possible indication of a lunge or attack was quickly halted as Ondine slammed an elbow into his shoulder before kneeing him in the gut.

She left him as he crumpled to the ground, dress whipping as she made her way to Haru. She sat on the cot across him, arms crossed, as if she hadn't just assaulted her own warrior. She shut her eyes, and kept her mouth likewise. A plan. They needed a plan.

Back at the corner, Harper had pulled his legs in, face buried against his knees, muttering over and over, "I'm not stupid. I'm not stupid."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Trent Cress Character Portrait: Ondine Azur
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Skylar was a little pissed. It wasn’t like she wasn’t used to being blatantly ignored, but she’d used her nice voice and everything to try and please Trent. She’d even batted her eyelashes and curtsied for Christ’s sake!
Unfortunately for all of them, Trent seemed set on his decision after Harper’s little outburst, walking away before any of them could say anything else to change his mind. Great.

Just as quickly as he’d left, Ondine was down Harper’s throat. Skylar wasn’t quite sure what to make of the situation, Ondine beating and reprimanding him like he was a little boy who’d snuck a cookie before dinner. It was like being at a friend's house and watching them get scolded for mouthing off, a weird sort of embarrassed feeling settling in the pit of her stomach as she ducked her head.

Her loyalties were torn at this point. Harper was her best friend, but his comment towards Trent may have singlehandedly ruined their chances at being taken seriously as the month warriors, even if they did wind up passing the test. Still, the bright red slashes across his face showed that Ondine seemed to have already done a pretty good job at letting Harper know how badly he’d screwed up.

With a short sigh, she walked over to the corner where Harper was sitting.
“I’m not going to bullshit you and say that what you did back there wasn’t the stupidest fucking thing you’ve done in the three years we’ve known each other,” Skylar said as she approached the older male, arms folded across her chest. “Although I’m pretty sure Ondine already let you know that. Hey, are you sure that she isn’t also part cat because she really clawed your face up.” She cracked a smile, trying to lighten the seriousness of situation.

She paused before sinking down beside him, not caring at this point if she ruined her dress. She wasn’t used to this whole advice giving sort of deal, finding herself at a loss for words. “Sorry I can’t heal you like Gwen or conjure up some ice like Lux, but I just wanted to make sure you were alright. And to say thanks for sticking up for us girls I guess.”

Even if doing that did almost cost us everything, she thought. Still, she was pretty sure the bright red handprint on his face showed that he already knew that much.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav
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It was like a morbid game of follow the leader, Dorian thought numbly as he stared on at his teammates with a muted sort of horror. It was as if he'd never spoken up to verbally halt Harper's sneering insults because the moment after Harper shot Dorian a withering, almost pouting glare, the next person was already off on their own thinly veiled insult. It was, he thought with mounting terror intertwined with a rush of anger, as if they thought they were being so clever, so sneaky that the man before them wouldn't be able to pick out their snide tones and not so brilliant insults. They thought they were immune to any repercussions and, yes, he deserved them- he deserved a whole lot worse- but here was a man who held a distinct power over them, vital information stored in his mind that they needed. Only a select few (Bless Skylar and even Xabier's attempts at keeping themselves out of the fray) followed his own example, the others following Harper in various stages of insult like lemmings jumping off a cliff one by one.

They want to die, Dorian decided, as Jason sidled forward with a mockingly respectful tone, as Kit, who was supposed to be protecting them, added his own two cents followed by Autumn with venom dripping form her words and Kyle and his saccharinely sweet but obviously (at least to Dorian) fake respect. They want all of us to die. They were willing to put their lives in danger because someone had insulted their friends and, yes, the words had been clearly awful, but words were words. They hurt, of course they did, when they were flung at you, but they weren't worth risking everything you've worked for over.

And then General Cress was gone with nothing but a smirk, stinging pride, and unanswered questions desperate for survival in his wake. They'd blown it, and he really could say they because they were a team and whatever happened to one of them impacted them all, and now their smarmy and smug but only resource was gone with a swagger in his step and maniacal giggles echoing as he made his exit.

In that moment, Dorian hated them, ever last person who'd deigned to try to be smug and clever in the face of a pompous jackass. He hated all of them because they hadn't kept their damn mouths shut. This was bigger than hurt feelings and horrible men with too much who took pleasure in picking at his prisoners. This was the fate of Aires, of Earth, of all of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. If they died here and now, facing down a herd of Cyclopeans and a monstrous one larger than they'd ever seen, they'd damned everyone. Every last person. But hate he could deal with, could compartmentalize and shove deep, deep inside the depths of his mind so that he could function and survive and interact with these people. He'd save it for a wild storm where the wind would be his outlet or, in the case of certain traumas that kept him up at night, woke him with a scream caught in his throat and sweat drenching his skin, he saved it for the therapist he knew he was going to need when he returned to New York. Wrong.

Haru was staggering away, desperation and loss clear on his features as if he'd been dealt a deadly blow and was waiting to bleed out, to die. He was in shock, barely making it to his cot before he crumpled onto the thin mattress, doubling over in grief. There were no words Dorian could offer, no hopeful bits of information, because he'd done all he could for Haru moments ago when he'd followed his example with aching politeness despite the fury that had bubbled up within himself with each insult dealt.

His gaze -sympathetic and more than a little bit fearful because if Haru didn't know what to do, if he thought this was bad, then they were all fucked- was drawn from the mournful Guardian by the loud, echoing sound of flesh meeting flesh. He whirled just in time to see Ondine launch herself at Harper leaving him with a throbbing, glowing red cheek and nail marks cutting into the flesh of his face on both sides. They were shouting at each other and it was so, so stupid because the damage had already been done and here they were arguing about what had just happened. And then she was beating him again, another slap so loud that Dorian flinched where he stood. Harper was right, he knew, loathe as he was to admit it- she shouldn't be taking this out on him because of course Harper had been a stupid, selfish bastard when he'd broken the unspoken promise to Haru that they wouldn't mess this up for everyone, he hadn't been the only one. The fight finished with a flurry of movement leaving Harper crumpled on the floor, his repeated words near hysterical as Ondine sauntered away as if nothing had happened. Nothing at all. Wrong.

He didn't know what to do after that display of aggressive violence, didn't know if he should be horrified or offended or perhaps even traumatized. And then came Skylar, walking over to Harper like nothing had happened, her tone blasé and a tiny attempt at a smile on her face. Wrong.

And then Haru exploded.

Dorian wasn't sure if he was awestruck or terrified, but the moment Haru's rant began, he was frozen to his spot, staring at Haru with impossibly wide eyes. Haru had never yelled at them before, hadn't sworn at them even all those years ago when they still tended to burst into hysterics at the drop of a hat. Logically, Dorian should have known that Haru had felt that way, had felt as used and abused by a thankless group whose assistance in his work was basically limited to trying not to mess up. But hearing it flung back at them, words piercing and full of righteous fury, Dorian's didn't feel defensive or understanding- he felt like he might cry. Like he was a child again and a trusted authority figure (his Aunt, his teacher, possibly his mother if he could bring himself to remember her) had turned on him, had emptied the darkest depths of their hearts with words aimed to hurt, to sting, to wound in a deep, deep way.

“Shut up little man or I’ll give you something to really complain about!”

Everything froze, an icy chill settling over the room's inhabitants. It was, Dorian knew instinctually, the eye of the storm that they'd fallen into, hit once by Haru's words, now to be bombarded by whatever happened next. In that moment, frozen and contemplative, Haru looked terrifying.

Haru didn't disappoint, darting across the room to meet his opponent midway in the beginning of a magnificent brawl as a thick circle surrounded him, swallowing the Guardian and his opponent in a sea of cheering and crowing ex-soldiers, eager for blood to be spilled.

"Shit. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit," That chant of swears was the only warning Dorian had before a splash of gold flashed by his eyes. It was Ryou who'd been frozen during the onslaught of anger and hate, now running hot on Haru's heels and launching himself into the fray the moment the first soldier's friends or allies or fellow cellmates just looking for a fight joined in. It wasn't anger that fueled him, but concern and fear and panic like he knew that Haru would be fine if left alone, but he didn't want it to come to that, couldn't let him do this by himself. It was unnerving, really, to see Ryou and Haru fight or to watch the swarming mass of humanity around them and knowing that Haru and Ryou were buried beneath actually throwing punches and kicks and putting their finely honed skills to work. This was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Gwenneth Yuan Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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Chaos. The situation had dissolved into utter disarray. Sometimes this group made her doubt everything she had ever been told about herself in the past three years. They were an entirely dysfunctional bunch; they always had been, and it seemed like they alway would be. This well-established reality, just now fully realized to an extent further than ever before, often cast doubt in Gwen’s mind.

As often as Haru spoke of destiny as and much as the others believed, the situation simply did not add up. If they were so destined to be together and save the world, one would expect to see a little more cohesion within the group as a whole. The few close friendships that did exist did not make up for their defective group complex. And even Gwen herself hadn’t integrated into the group.

Gwen couldn’t live on faith. Her abilities, while certainly real, had still never truly convinced her to blindly trust in the Month Warrior myth. The entire situation was, and always had been, completely dependent on the twelve of them taking Haru’s word and trusting the crazy mythology of a world completely alien to their own. This slight flaw in logic had been tickling Gwen’s mind since the Academy, and now the doubt come flooding forward stronger than ever before.

The threat of death seemed very real. In honesty, the fate awaiting her was a much grander one than ever she had suspected. On the streets of New York, she would more likely have succumbed to hypothermia or starvation than have perished in a street fight. And at least she’d had an interesting life to live over the past few years. She really couldn’t ask for much more.


After Trent’s departure, Gwen calmly walked back to her cot and sat down. She wasn’t sure she knew how to express the range of emotions raging inside her. She settled, crossed-legged, on the cot, dress billowing over her knees and onto the floor. Her face was deceivingly calm.

She had felt different since they had arrived in the Rose Kingdom. Something about the tragedy at the Academy had flicked a switch in her mind; she wasn’t the same anymore. But rather than feeling angry or hopeless or upset, what she felt instead as she surveyed the fighting and shouting and panic was pity. Waves of stress rolled over her from all sides; she could feel the panicked heartbeats and gasping breaths and overwhelming cerebral crackle from Haru and Harper and the others.

She closed her eyes as the chaos raged on, strands of loose hair dangling from her previously neat braid and onto her face. She wished she had the ability to calm their minds somehow, but that wasn’t her area--that went to Falke, if such a thing was possible with his powers. But she couldn’t stop thinking: if only she could somehow soothe the stress and fear, if only she could help…


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Falke der Herrscher Character Portrait: Xabier Sanchez
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"You guys okay?" He asked Tallyho and Falke quietly.
"Forget what that guy said, he knows nothing." His accent grew stronger with his disgust.
Xabier had wanted it say something further when Haru started ranting and raving.
His words harsh and biting.
Apparently they were only fuck ups with no brains.
That hurt.
"Shut up little man or I'll give you something to complain about."
A POW from Hales called Haru out and it was if the world froze.
Within moments it was full scale brawl between the POWs and the angry Guardians.
Their skills were terrifying to say the least. Haru alone looked like he'd destroy them all with ease, let alone the others.
Why? Why did it have to turn out like this?

From the corner of his eye he noticed more movement. This time it was Harper.
Harper had become a tornado, flinging his arms about destructively.

"Harper?" He held his hands up in defense.
Xabier walked cautiously over to the crib. The older lad had stripped down and flung everything he had on across the room. Now Xabier wouldn't mind this usually but this was hardly the time and place.
Scooting around the rush of people fighting, he picked up the clothes, still slightly warm.
"Qué haces ahora Harper?" He muttered.
He was aware that he shouldn't speak any Spanish for fear of having someone overhear, thus further dooming their team.
But he was furious and little reminders of home kept him focused.
Xabier tried his best to ignore the full on brawl. He wanted to yell and punch something, but didn't. There was enough anger in the Guardians to fill his appetite for a while. That, and he had his heart set on harnessing whatever he felt in this moment and letting his Iluntasuna have it. They seemed to thrive on anger. All the better for possible revenge.

Xabier went past Skylar.
"Don't worry about the joke, it was funny. Everyone is a bit on edge, yes?" No smile. He couldn't.
He hadn't laughed at the joke, but he didn't want her to feel bad. There was enough bad feeling in this godforsaken place.
Xabier turned to the half naked guy.
He was curled up and emotional.
"Harper, you're not stupid." He crouched down by the crib, clothes in one hand.
"What you did was reckless but I think you already get that."
Xabier had wanted to say something softer, more gentle, but stopped.
Was it okay to comfort him? Would he just make a bigger mess?
Scrunched up face like a crying child, his necklace gone, Harper looked a mess.
Screw it, he thought. It wasn't the time to worry about what the others may think.
He leaned over and touched his hair gently.
"Now can you please put your clothes back on."
God, he never thought he'd ever say that.
Removing his hand from the hair, he patted his shoulder in a friendly, you're-my-bro way.
He was worried about Harper but didn't say any more. His face showed it all.

He appraised the slapped, red cheek. It was bleeding a little and really did look a cat had swiped at him.

Whatever annoyance at Harper had disappeared the moment Ondine had slapped him.
She made his blood boil.
It was clear that if the roles were reversed with Ondine being smacked about by Harper, all hell would break lose.
Instead they all watched in silence.
Maybe this type of punishment was okay here, but Xabier couldn't stand it.
They already had to put up with a bully. One slap was justified.
Shit, even he wanted to punch him at one stage.
But the amount of slaps by Ondine was excessive.

He also felt a sense of shame at Haru's words. Xabier had tried his best, given the circumstances.
It became increasingly clear that these Guardians were not who he thought they were.
Who he had waited for, for over three fucking years.
If his guardian was a person who'd beat him or make him feel like shit for a mistake, then maybe he didn't need a guardian.

Sure, he respected the Guardians. He knew that they worked hard for the group.
But it had become difficult to admire them the way he had before.

*what are you doing now, Harper?


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: Haru Karokav
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“Now that’s the spirit. I heard most men from Hales lost a finger or two before they were eight. But… You don’t look nearly as rugged as some of those brutes over yonder, yeah?”

Falke barely inclined his head in agreement, but remained silent, even as the General obviously began referring to certain members of the group of POWs on the other side of the room, burying themselves of idle chatter even as they attempted to ignore the present of the young (if not awful persona, is what he ought to be labeled as) noble-man. It was the truth, he guessed, anyhow. Save for the nasty scar that decorated just under his left ear and a chunk of his throat line, well hidden by that damn confining collar of the doublet, Falke was relatively unmarred - and yes, all his fingers were accounted for.

It seemed to have gone easy enough, but Falke was hardly surprised upon following his own polite, rather unassuming introduction, that the General, Cress, immediately invaded his person space with a finger flashing in front of, calling names, and laughed hard, a deep belly laugh, in his face. To be entirely truthful, it was something he suspected had been a long time coming; and certainly he was infuriated and flustered at the same time about it, nothing could be done for him - an invalid, ice-brute.

Being named an invalid was a common enough hurt, an old wound to his soul. And while he wasn't certain the direct meaning behind 'ice-brute', except that it sounded like a region-st slur, or close enough to one that it was definitely not anything nice to say at the very least. He was offended by the overall exchange, but remained lock-jawed and indifferent, silently continuing to avoid eye-contact. Playing the game, so that the others and himself could hopefully survive until another sunrise, and/or the next test.

Lillian breathed an uneasy sigh of relief with a brief flare of her nostrils in relative silence, before returning to a thin, neutral lip. Calming her minutely trembling fingers with a gentle squeeze. No, the situation wasn't as in control as it could be, but with a man like the General there wasn't much telling that anyone (let alone Haru, even) on their side would be able to rein in control; but Falke had handled himself well enough, keeping his thoughts on the situation in check and the overall success of the group as a whole on his mind.

“Tallyho Abel. February. The Sun People.”

Tallyho had moved to speak. Taking the mic and laughing spot-light off himself, if for a brief moment. He could feel her, much like a second mind underneath his skin; a seething rage for his own recent treatment, the redness still prickling her cheeks from her last comment, and emotions of anticipation of what the General's opinion of her "nation" was going to be. She kept herself as calm and poised as she could, and Falke gave her all of the silent mental support that he could in the against a verbal opponent that could care less about any one person - much less not too trodden on physical disabilities, ethnic/cultural groups, emotions, etc. No, he delighted in it, seemingly.

/Falke, I’m going to murder him in his sleep.\
/I know, I know the dirty pig deserves it, and I vould help, but... Figuratively, only...\

Goddess above! Was it almost over? Falke didn't know how long Tallyho would last much longer holding herself together with slightly flared nostrils, tight lips, and tense muscles, or frankly... How even he, with his surprising lengthy patience and forced/falsified good will attempts, would be able to last another 10 introductions of everyone else without potentially losing a screw, or two, in the process. Especially as the General went right ahead, recapping all of the insults from the past minute - Falke the invalid, and Tallyho the prostitute (dancer, singer, performing 'monkey'); daring another to step forward and amuse him even more.

"Dorian, also of Hales, sire. I am the March Warrior."
"Heyyy, Mr. General, sir. The name's Harper. June warrior, from the Trading Isles. Nice to meet ya. How ya doin'? I'm actually also the Officially Designated Asshole of the group, and I gotta say, you're kinda cramping my style. I mean, you know what they say about assholes... You only need one."

Falke felt like one of the accidental times that Tallyho had shocked him good. Good as in not so great feeling, not at all quite like a mild static shock you could just shake off. Making it feel like his blood was hardly moving at all, chugging at an impossibly slow pace, and filled with ice-cubes - running cold. Was Harper trying to get them all killed? It was getting hard keeping an indifferent posture and blank face, but he remained outwardly calm. Let the General laugh it off, again, hopefully keeping moving forward, please...

"I am Jason of Solace, the warrior of August. I humbly ask you excuse my friend, Sire. However, with all due respect, Sire, making assumptions and judging one's ability and value based by appearances and nationality tends towards a poor judgment, no?"
"Xabier Sanchez of Constance, Sire. October Warrior."
“I am Autumn Jones, sire. I am the November Warrior and I am also from Solace.”
"Excuse my friends, most excellent general, it's been a rough couple days and many of us aren't quite used to the... Environment of your fair city. Oh, you want me to introduce myself? Kyle Keaton, April Month warrior at your service."
"Actually, Sire, I’m emerald. Skylar Grayson of Constance, May month warrior.”

Could it get worse? Yes, yes it could. Even with the helpfully polite, calm, and solid introductions of a few others. Most seemed more than willing to throw their lives away, less than helpful to their cause, and apparently wanting to die wholeheartedly - rotting with sarcasm and venom oozing in their tones.

Shocked silent, he didn't move, Falke stared. Not in a way designed to be particularly rude, but in an unabashed, piercing, inquisitive way that made you wonder if you have food on your face or your skirt is tucked into your underpants. He couldn't believe he was even here with these, these... Whatever, and stuck in this mess, and... Goddess above, they wanted everyone to die. They were willing to put their lives on the line because of simply insulting words. Yes, they hurt, of course they did, when it was directed at you or someone you cared about, but it wasn't worth dieing for.

“Actually I seem to have forgotten. Oops... Alright I’m done here!”
“Ah, with all due respect. I must know the details about the flock… ”
“Oh, oh, oh right… Yeah… I don’t really feel like telling you inbreeds anything really. You’ll see when you get there. After all, it’ll end the same way.”

General Cress just laughed, giggling maniacally as he kicked up his heels like an idle school girl, and left with nothing but a smirk on his lips. Haru was at a staggering loss, with no knowledge of the future to come, or anything they remotely needed to know in order to survive the next few weeks until facing an army of cyclopean with 12 warriors, and half the number of Guardians. Ondine launched herself at Harper, leaving the latter a pathetic slobbering mess and the former strolling away like nothing had happened. Skylar attempting to tell a joke to lighten the situation. Then Xabier attempting to comfort his 'friends', in varying amounts of emotional intent and meaning behind his words. And Tallyho...

Through their mental link, he felt her guilt, despite it not being her or his own fault of being called names, but by lighting the match of situation at hand that had been started from that very exchange. He could assume he would have felt it himself, even if a ridiculous notion in the long run if however somewhat reasonable to think at first, but he was overwhelmed and mentally incapacitated by the raging cerebral crackle from everyone in the room.

It was painful work, separating himself from the panicked thoughts, stupid ideas and ideals, and chaotic anger and fury, and it only got worse after Haru exploded into a rant. Feelings of anger or hopelessness or sadness or pity, others stress and stressors rolled across his inner circuits like a live wire and puddle of water unfortunately having the opportunity to mix together. It took all his energy not to wince at the onsault, calming his own mind steadily - silent, lock-jawed, and wordless.

“Shut up little man or I’ll give you something to really complain about!”

Falke blinked, a moment of clarity in the storming sea of mental activity, as everything froze. The echo of Haru's biting words finally catching up to him, understanding them, and only now feeling the traces of guilt butterflying deep in his gut. And then, Haru darted across the room into a magnificent brawl with the ex-solider who had made the latest quip, joined by fellow guardians, Ryou and Ondine, and other POW soldiers, the pressure returned for a brief moment - slowly becoming background noise again as he focused to ignore everyone else's chattering minds wanting to be heard and calm himself.



Two weeks later...

The flock of cyclopeans were fast. They always had been during training, but instead of waiting for the swarm to close the distance, Falke darted forward in a blink of an eye at Haru's bellow "Go!". Having enough presence of mind to bolt far to the side of Tallyho's screaming, lightning-inducing fit of rage and terror, before crashing into the first wave himself - meeting beasts with his dual-bladed weapon whirling out in front of him – a rapid series of slashes broken by the occasional lightning thrust.

Colored sparks showered out every time the blades met talons, and black gold spilled and sprayed as flesh was parted. It felt as if they were fighting in a blizzard of miniature stars and oily blood. His assault was unrelenting, aggressive, and precise. Even after months on the ship and two weeks stuck in prison, the cuts and parries came so swiftly from muscle memory and properly useful fear aiding him on. Monstrous alien screams and heavy appendages slammed hard into his upraised weapon, so that he felt the shock all the way to his bitingly sore leg when they hit. Ghastly wails accompanied by shattering onyx shards signaled the collapsing fall of a cyclopean. And on, and on, and on it went...

Falke wasn't sure what sparked a sudden sense of intuition, much less something that would have came from the mindless gargles and growls, hisses and spits. But he glanced upward at a spare moment, drawing a brief ragged breath, before being sucked back into the hard pressed melee of the frontal lines forces bashing. Minute rays of sunlight flashed across his grime and sweat-stained cheeks, barely alluding to the touch of a gentle warmth, quite unlike the raging battle-ground around him stifling heat. It had faded in strength since they'd been brought out first, near the point of time that the sun began its fall below the horizon, to now a time he could only guess at being dusk falling ever closer to night.

Yes, that was it. The bigger ones would be coming when they lost light, and probably focus their efforts on the gates, walls, and month warriors who's powers perchance gave off a little more light and energy than the next. Which would be soon then, one could only hope or assume. Effectively putting them even more in the dark, and while Falke had dim memories of being able to see a faded light once when he was young than continued to fade into nothing - he still well understood the basic human fear of the dark, and how well (or unwell for them technically) it could be used against them or to another's advantage.

Falke's limited powers had felt as if they were useless and/or petering out by the roaring thoughts of the others running on the back-burner as white incomprehensible background noise, even as they had ramped themselves up for the battle, and during it thoughts and emotions and feelings were likely abundant and loud; but they were to quiet to feel or tell about whatever was going on, so he'd ignored it, focusing on the task at hand - fighting, and trying to not die namely.

But now, he focused with a agonized wince at the familiarly painful experience as Haru's frantic, nearly excited, and focused aura of mental activity crashed into his mind eagerly. Putting his own slowly growing weariness in his braced and wrapped leg, and his anticipating emotions of rage and useful fear on the back burner of his own mind - in order to not distract from the task in hand. At least not anymore than keeping his weapon and himself moving in the midst of the fray, multi-tasking for now apparently; he hadn't figured it was possible, but whatever, it seemed to be working.

Idly he transferred his own thoughts and intuition about the coming events and potential figures, sometimes snagging something possibly useful to Haru's knowledge from one of the other month warriors or cyclopean he grappled with that had been loud enough enough that he'd even 'heard it, and keeping a mind's eye out to the others situations - he wasn't a healer by any means like Gwen, who's word he'd definitely trust over his own, but he still could give vague information to the fiery haired guardian when asked of it, mostly, more or less.

/The bigger ones should start arriving soon, what do you wanxdrctfgvybhuji...\

The mental connection abruptly shorted as the arm he had been dodging around, lashed out in another direction he hadn't intended on it going - namely, in the direction of his head. Falke gasped between gritted teeth, staggering dazed look in his eyes, even as he ducked again, swinging the stave up with deliberate perhaps orthodox method of getting rid of that dammed arm with a haphazard slice. Before his brain finally caught up his sixes and sevens, and he finally dispatched the beast - giving himself a momentary breath to collect himself.

/What do you want me to tell the others to do?\

Falke finished, shortly. Oi, so much for multi-tasking with his powers and fighting at the same time. Goddess above, that had rattled his noggin good. He shook his head with an odd twitching movement, as if that would make anything run faster upstairs, to try and rid himself of the lingering disorientation - before jumping back into the fore-line in continued silent, exhausted rage.


On the top of the wall, Lillian had placed herself to Haru's immediate left. As other Guardian's seemed more than intent to man the cannon when the time came or haul up a warrior or two whenever extraction would be needed. Ryou as his right handed man already had likely claimed the other side. And for the fact that she simply had sharp eyesight; while an extra set wouldn't necessarily be needed, but more than appreciated if need be.

Her dark eyes, narrowed in the limiting light, danced from one warrior to the next to the cyclopeans still coming, on and on. Calculating and silent, measuring everything with equal interest and purpose. They were doing well enough, for now...


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Aria Delaine Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel
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An obscenely ugly and absolutely careless behemoth blocked out the last rays of sun as the wall bustled with activity, both above and below. Above the wall, Haru and Nikita, though unnecessarily, called all hands to pull up the remaining warriors. The demon didn't even care about crushing its own! And the human warriors were even smaller than those! At the base of the wall, some of the smaller monsters crushed against it in a second living barrier. Kyle closed his eyes again. He couldn't allow himself to give in to this new terror, lest he lose his narrow control "I can do it! I have to do it!"

Haru's hot breath tickled the back of his neck. He swallowed and peeled his eyes open. The Boss gave his final instructions and the boy nodded slowly and whispered, "Yes, Sir." He noted the pale grey square in the dim twilight and did his best to focus on just that spot, to ignore all the shouting and running behind their place on the wall, the tensely snapped orders of General Cress not too far from them. He started trembling again. Focus, Kyle, Focus!

Commander Haru gave the order. Kyle raised his hands and straightened his back. The behemoth stepped into the grey square. A whoop pierced the air again and Kyle let his balloon burst. Smaller cyclopeans who lingered at the edge of the moat tumbled right into the muddy pit or fell back under the water as it pushed forward to cover the behemoth. The water dripped into puddles underneath it. To make sure he did the job, Kyle lifted up those puddles and tossed them over the beast once more. In a final burst of energy he called out, "Tally!" Then the boy collapsed, his breath coming in ragged gasps. Please let this battle be over. He really didn't think he could do any more.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Princess Morgan the Graceful Character Portrait: Trent Cress Character Portrait: Harbinger XII Character Portrait: King Rembrandt the Wholesome
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It was easy enough to say that the battle had taken a toll on everyone. But it was over now, and the citizens were still cheering and chanting—throwing their expensive alcohol over the side of the great wall with red, gleeful faces. Tallyho, though not completely coherent and probably unconscious, could somehow feel the presences about her body. She did not however feel comforted by them until a cloth steaming with a familiar warmth dabbed her face dry.

Haru had not moved from his spot. Instead he sat there on the ground—knees bent and spread on the cobblestone like a child’s in the grass of a meadow. Breath shallow, eyes unblinking. Time seemed to run slowly for him and he did not resume the normal standard of time until callused fingers pressed into his shoulder. He looked up to see a decorated officer, one of a substantial ranking but not nearly as high as General Cress. He did not introduce himself but delved right to the point:

“All of you are to come with us.”

His voice was not authoritative however. It was actually quite accommodating. Almost as if he were saying, “Don’t have a place to sleep? Here we’ll take care of you—hospitality.”
And Haru found this particularly ironic because as his gaze panned back he caught sight of knights in the same uniforms that escorted them off to jail.

But Haru knew that they had nothing to fear this time and gave the blessing. Medics from the group moved in without warning, scooping up warriors who had collapsed from exhaustion or were significantly injured.
The walk they shared was no walk of shame. She knights did not bind the warriors by the arms and march them down the street. But meandered around them like agents of protection, offering a hand if someone stumbled. They were taken to a military occupied house where each party member was given a comfortable bed to share in the presence of about three others. They were fed, allowed to clean themselves up, and redressed (quite simply) before being left to rejuvenate before moving to what the knights assured them was going to be a more fitting location.

But they weren’t to leave until certain agreements where made. Haru was made aware of the required session well into the beginning of their stay and on the third day he was preparing to go to the courthouse.

“So what is this for again?” Tallyho asked flatly as she appraised Haru from the doorway for the main room, her thick hair pulled into swollen twin braids, a partially opened pomegranate clasped in her right hand.

Haru straightened his tie as he plucked at his form in the mirror.
“It’s politics.”

“I am going out there to meet with the important people. To ensure the government’s support of the group and our protection.”
“All of you should be ready to move on to the next place by the time I get back.”
“And what if this doesn’t work?”
“Trust me, we can’t lose now.”

Haru didn’t leave much time for Tallyho to express her doubt before fleeing the scene. Black coattails slipping out the door.

Haru would be lying if he said that he wasn’t at least a little bit worried. His palms were sweating a bit—why he hadn’t felt this way since he was alive the first time. He guessed over and over in his head which authorities would be at the table: A cardinal from the church and a man from the military perhaps? Members from the king’s council? He tried to plan out what they would say, how he would respond to their questions, try to appeal to their interests.

But when he walked into the room he was a bit surprised to see who he saw. There were about twelve men in the room, all in various uniforms and from varying occupations in the government but towards the end of the table were three noble chairs. The first contained a more familiar body. There sat General Cress, a small scowl on his face but nothing overtly vicious. Across from him was an older man clad in regal apparel. A feather in the hat, puffy sleeves, a grand get up. It was only after a moment of pondering that Haru realized that this was King Rembrandt the Wholesome. The low key but celebrated king of Ve Marie, and unlike General Cress the King offered an expression of genuine welcome. Between them, at the head of the table was none other than the Grand Harbinger himself, his frail, ring clad fingers posed on the table like a mannequin’s.

And so the negotiations were to begin.

Those who stayed behind at the inn before the group was arrested were welcome to reunite with the group the day they prepared to relocate. When Karma caught sight of her adoptive father (Ryou) she clung to him mercilessly. On the day that Haru went to his meeting he came back with little more to say than a firm, “Let’s get out of here everyone.” And so she followed, not entirely sure of the situation at hand. They ended their escorted walk by the time it was sunset on a finely paved path before a grand gate. Before this gate stood a tiny, almost doll-like woman.

The little woman pushed her spectacles up to the bridge of her nose, with round frames that, despite how uncomplimentary they were to her face, long and thin as a grain of white rice, somehow grew to look fashionable the more one looked at her. And it wasn’t hard not to look at her. Her mousy hair was cut into a demure bob with bangs that hung over thin brows in heavy, even layers. Her aging ears peaked out from her locks occasionally, as she bobbed her head this way and that when speaking, revealing lobes that were beginning to grow downwards, and reminisced over heavy earrings worn in her youth. Fine wrinkles made vertical lines on the area above her lips and under her nose. It seemed as though she had pinched too many babies’ cheeks and made too many kissy faces for a normal person’s taste. She was small in stature, substantially shorter than Haru or Tallyho at least, with slender, no, dare I say, ‘twiggy’ limbs that moved with so much expression you might think they’d break by sheer velocity. She was a sharp dresser though despite her unconventional look. Her dress was red, a bold bright red with grand shoulder pads that squared out her frame nicely and long buttoned sleeves that cropped right at the wrist, and a petticoat that was fuller in the back, making her breast-less profile a bit more of a representation of what men in songs say when they mention ‘womanly curves’. As she pulled open the gates and walked them further down the path she did not neglect to mention that she made her own dresses. She hadn’t even introduced herself.

“I’m sure many of you have heard of the plaza, the most famous part of Ve Marie’s castle, but most of you might not have ever dreamed of entering. Yes, this has been the living complex of the royal family since its construction in 1300 A.B. Many of the royal family’s cohorts have lived here also, most recently our great Harbinger and now you.”

Tallyho shuffled slowly, taking it all in. The plaza was already supposed to be the most well-manicured thing on the continent and she hadn’t even gotten over the courtyard which was impeccably groomed and full of shrubbery cut into various, visually tantalizing shapes. Tallyho felt quite simple really. How did the flowers grow in perfect square plots according to color? How could nature do that? Grow red roses next to yellow with such a bold transition? Poor girl hadn’t even considered the fact that the gardener’s might have transplanted them. Nonetheless, her attention was taken to the assortments of marble people who posed frivolously around the grounds, heads thrown back, and water spewing from their puckered lips and onto fountains and pavement.

Soon they were entering the building. Two armored soldiers pulled open grand doors that were about as high as three Haru’s put together. As the group filed in, the chatty woman, now identified as Mildred, continued her speech.

“This is the stair room. Giovanni Rembrandt—who was the king in power at the time of the plaza’s construction—had marble imported all the way from the Sea of Milk in order the pave the floor. On the walls there are paintings of some of the Kingdom’s most valuable and legendary knights done by visual masters and national treasures such as Piku, Geoffrey the Red and Fenwick. And of course those two spiral staircases—which is why this is called the stair room—“

Mildred snorted at her own joke.

“The story behind these magnificent pieces of architecture was that when his Royal Highness Giovanni’s wedding anniversary was coming up he asked his wife what she wanted for such an occasion and she told him that she wanted more space. This surely put him in a dilemma because most of the castle’s important buildings such as the great library were already being built around the plaza, so he couldn’t knock those projects down. But she wanted more space. So he contacted a few skilled architects and they found that the only solution was to build upwards and they just never stopped. The plaza is already up to four stories, which is well over the limit if you ask me! Nevertheless, Kings after Giovanni realized this also and expansion on the plaza officially stopped in 1463 A.B, BUT there are still spots at the top of the plaza where fifth floor construction already started and was never attended to. Anyway, later on today I will show you how to get upstairs and how to get to your respective rooms. Did I mention you are living here? We have enough space in here for all of you to have your own spaces if you so choose. The royal family isn’t nearly as expansive as it was in years before. Come, come…”

Mildred made a turn down the hall and began to show the group other facets of the plaza. They stumbled across studies, baths, relaxation areas, most of which Haru found rather indulgent and unnecessary. Nonetheless, he listened when Mildred insisted on talking about what scandals the plaza has kissed and where and why.

Tallyho was the most excited about the dining room which was, in essence, the size of the academy’s dining hall but with one long food ridden table that everyone who lived in the plaza was allowed to sit at and partake in. Her mouth welled with warm saliva as she eyed the food which was continentally diverse and abundant in every way:
Baskets of produce, white corn grilled over the fire ready to be peeled from their husks and slathered with fresh butter. Strawberries and bananas huddled into bowls with peaches whose pits where buried in soft orange flesh, uncooked banya complete with its prickly peel and ready to be cleaved by prying, hungry fingers. Pies, meat and fruit alike, some small enough to warm just the palm of one’s hand, rose jelly of many varieties and colors, breads and puddings drowned in cinnamon and sugar. Fine cuts of tender meat, pork and beef and chicken and fish that wafted delicious aromas down the hall. Large shrimp and salmon wrung from eastward piers. Cabbage and ginger soups and hot cereals. Finger sized cakes accented with coco beans for decoration. Tallyho was extremely hesitant about leaving this room, and wished that the tour had ended there. Not just because she put more thought into foods than her actual peers but because that was probably the most well put together spread she had ever seen and she wanted to experience it before someone messed it up for all of them.

As they left the room Tallyho’s senses were overtaken by a soft, melodious sound. The calming whistle of strings and the ting of the harpsichord and suddenly a voice, a voice that upheld itself with a humble beauty.

“It seems she is practicing,” Mildred hummed quietly.

Just as she said this the voice died down, allowing the harpsichord and violin to dominate the melody, each chord and note vibrating with certainty and precision down the echo of the hall. Fingers bounced on the harpsichord’s keys with a special pep in a solo before the violin bellowed in with sharp, firm strokes of the bow. Mildred led them closer and the voice rang again, not singing actual words but frivolous ‘ah’s’ and ‘lah’s’ that were just enough to convey the chipper tone of the composition.

Tallyho, along with the others lumbered towards the room where two young women chimed away with their instruments and the third, very much like a candid song bird who slipped her way into someone else’s practice twittered away, her back to the door as the strangers entered.

Mildred urged them to be quiet until the young woman finished the piece, her soprano sent calming reverberations that could have urged the baby blue paint on the walls to shudder and melt.
Soon her voice became softer and softer until it was nothing. The young woman on the harpsichord peered at the large audience with curiosity. The violinist turned too. And soon the singer, with a slow grace turned her attention to the new distraction, a host of strangers fumbling through her plaza with saucer eyes.

Tallyho studied the young woman. Honey hair hosted a set of curls and not the kind of curls that Tallyho or Lillian wore. These were curls most likely for fashion if anything else—a purposeful beauty trend. Her heart shaped face and high cheekbones gave way to gray eyes that glimmered with a lust for life. Her lips were tight, as if she were trying to suppress a smile or a laugh, small white hands fidgeted at the skirt of her yellow dress. With a slight tilt of the head, the kind that, instead of for confusion, was used to condemn a rascal in the act while still being polite, the young woman spoke to Mildred.

“Now certainly you weren’t standing there the whole time?”

Her face was becoming pink and it was apparent that she was a bit embarrassed.

Mildred laughed, “Oh, don’t be silly Princess!” She turned to the warriors and gestured towards the girl who she had just referred to as a princess.

“This is Princess Morgan, the only daughter of King Rembrandt and the younger cousin of General Cress.”

Then she turned to Morgan.

“Princess, these are the Month Warriors. The only and true.”

Any grace the young woman had prior to introductions was thrown away in one brief moment. As the musicians behind her exploded into their own chatter of excitement. Morgan hopped slightly, her hands moving from the fabric of her dress towards the group in a gesture of disbelief.

“Oh! Oh, oh, oh! You were the ones who did the flock! Oh! How I wish I could have seem that! Oh I heard so much about it though from my cousin! I heard that all of you were Za-ping and pow-ing and the boom and bam!”

As the princess howled relatively unbelievable sound effects she moved with purpose, her tight fists punching the air daintily as she posed like a super hero from a 1950’s comic book.

“Okay, okay that’s enough Princess…”

“Oh do they have plans already? Let me take over the tour huh? I’ll show them their rooms, and take them to the gardens down the way if they really want!”

“Princess… I’m sure they don’t—”

“Ooooh Oh pleeeaaaase Mildred? Please?”

Mildred looked to Haru for approval. The cat guardian glanced around the room, relatively caught off guard. Why were they asking him anything? He thought he was off duty.

“Ah…Whatever is most convenient for you Princess…” he struggled to switch to his diplomatic cap.

“Oh just call me Morgan!”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Skylar Grayson Character Portrait: Kyle Keaton Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Harper Calloway Fields Character Portrait: Tallyho Abel Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn
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(Note: This post is meant to move things along plot-wise. This plot-moving portion was suggested by Lauren herself and planned by her as well. I've just written it because God knows why. )

Things were moving now, the awkward but momentarily lull after the battle whisked away as medics hurried onto the scene, collecting the unconscious and wounded and prodding at those still standing as if to make sure that they too wouldn't suddenly collapse. Dorian allowed Tallyho to be carried away, satisfied with his work even if his handkerchief was in dyer need of a wash or two. Or ten. Regardless, he stuffed the piece of fabric back into his pocket- more because his clothes were a lost cause at this point and a little Tallyho-snot and extra blood couldn't ruin anything- and, waved off the ministrations of a nearby medic who retreated with some relief (Dorian liked to pretend it was because he didn't want to drag someone as tall as Dorian off, but deep down he knew with the amount of Cyclopean blood drenching his body wasn't helping his natural resting bitch face).

The walk this time was incredibly dissimilar to what they had endured the first time guards tried to take them anywhere. There were no jeering crowds, no pitying stares, no being sandwiched between two knights apparently intent on keeping you from having personal space. The atmosphere was lighter, loud and joyous, and the jeers had transformed into whoops of joy and shrieks of triumph. It was unnerving to feel like the center of the crowd's attention as one of the few month warriors still walking on his own, and he ducked his head. That didn't take the attention off him per say, but at least he didn't have to see anyone that way.

"Cheer up, Dorian. Wear your victory proudly, Mr. March Warrior," Ryou's hand was on his shoulder, even if his eyes were dancing over the crowd, searching for familiar faces. It occurred to Dorian then and only then how desperate Ryou must be right now having been locked in prison without any contact with his child, his students. The grip on his shoulder suddenly tightened and Dorian followed Ryou's gaze, picking through the crowd until he saw a blotches of pink and white suspended next to each other, waving frantically. Karma was perched on Liam's shoulders, probably shouting something indecipherable and Mori on Dae's, unmistakable tracks of fat tears of relief pouring down his pale cheeks. Ryou's grin was now blinding and Dorian couldn't help but crack a smile of his own.

When they arrived at the safe house, Dorian's destination was clear. He made a bolt for the bathroom practically diving into the heated water to wipe the gore off of his body. God, this was what he missed most- cleanliness and not smelling like he'd taken up volunteering at the local slaughterhouse. The prominent beginnings of a beard were shaved away leaving only one errant knick in his haste. Dressed in new clothes- and damn if they didn't feel better than any Armani suit or Versace shirt ever did (that was an absolute lie, but Dorian felt the occasion called for some exaggeration)- he finally allowed himself to sit down, eat, and to accept the fact that his muscles would never stop feeling sore.

The days passed swiftly until a certain nervous energy began plucking at the air. Maybe it was because something awful always happened when Dorian finally had time to put his feet up, but he couldn't find it within himself to simply relax. This feeling was heightened when Haru disappeared for a day with politics on his mind and hopes heightened by their victory. Ryou himself was about as badly off if not worse, lingering near the window during the day and tossing and turning at night. It seemed no matter how pleasant the housing, being separated from his students, his children was now nearly unbearable after catching a glimpse of them.

That was until the day of relocation when Karma burst into the house, rushing into Ryou's arms like a pink blur, Mori not far behind with Dae and Liam, lingering back with the sudden onslaught of affection from Kyle but only for a moment before joining in on the massive group hug. Dorian had to look away, not sure if it was out of his own reservations about PDA when Ryou started peppering their faces with kisses and seemed unwilling to let any of them more than a foot away from him or if it was to give them privacy as Mori quietly sobbed against Ryou's side and Dae and Liam clung to Ryou's hands fiercely. The older two separated after some time and congratulations were apparently in order for the month warriors and didn't it feel damn good to have people who had taught them, who had watched them grow into the people they were today, praising what they'd done?

He followed Haru without any hesitation, taking up his default position by Tallyho's side until they arrived at their destination. A grand gate loomed over them and he took a moment to marvel at it before they were approached by their guide.

Mildred certainly made an impression. Small in stature, she dominated the space she stood in with her bold outfit leaving him suitably impressed by the fact that she'd designed it herself (no one should be that surprised- he knew his designers with all of the expertise of someone who had unlimited access to far too many fashion magazines and who also had to dress a man whose idea of formal wear included a bright yellow shirt and an vivid, polka-dotted orange tie unironically).

She played tour guide with an immense amount of expertise, leading them through Ve Marie's castle with an onslaught of information as if to make sure that they were appropriately amazed and humbled by being able to see within the castle's walls. And it was magnificent, no doubt about it, and for the first time in a long time Dorian let himself simply enjoy the experience. It was clearly the creme de la creme of Airian society, unnecessarily extravagant but serving its purpose of grandeur.

The music was the first thing to distract Dorian from Mildred's monologue. He may have been able to purposefully ignore the delightful scents wafting from the dining hall with all sorts of meats and sweets to tempt and tease the palate coquettishly, but he would never be able to ignore the strains of what was unmistakably a violin dancing with the strains of a harpsichord. There was a third sound as well, a delicate almost fragile melody of not-quite-words intertwining with the music, like a small bird tittering away in a high but pleasing tune. Even if they hadn't stumbled upon the room (or not stumbled- Mildred would never do anything so frivolous as stumble), he would have spotted the singer instantaneously, just as petite and sweet looking as her voice as a blush rose on her cheeks.

He shouldn't have been surprised that she was a princess, but he felt perfectly justified in his shock that she was related to General Cress. The thought was pushed aside for a time as the lady-like impression Princess Morgan so dutifully gave off shattered with her exuberant whoops(although Dorian wasn't exactly sure how good any of them came off if General Cress was the one telling the story) and excited gesticulations. She seemed more a child than anything, but that wasn't bad. In fact, it was rather pleasant and absolutely charming given the people he'd been dealing with up until now. It was, however, completely overwhelming for someone to act as if they were actually heroes, not a ragtag group of often bickering and dramatic young adults who just barely survived everything that ever happened to them.

She was begging now to take them on her own tour, an insider's look at the palace, and who were they to refuse? When her wish was granted, she swept out of the room movements too excited to be graceful as they started on Grand Tour: The Sequel. Except, of course, it wasn't too terribly grand. For all of her enthusiasm, her mind was scattered, jumping from one subject to another in an eternal game of hopscotch. Here she went on about her favorite hiding place as a child, just perfect for hiding from nurses and maids before her mind wandered to a particular vase that she'd nearly broken once. They spent the majority of the tour in the gardens once more, Morgan dancing through the foliage like a particularly distracted fairy, stories trailing off into new ones and points half made. While it wasn't nearly as educational as Mildred's dutiful recounting of the castle, it was infectiously fun.

The tour bled into dinner where they were presented with a meal far grander then they were used to although not as large as one would assume when dining with royalty. Of course, to be fair they shouldn't have been eating with the Princess- she'd simply refused to leave. Morgan plopped down between Mori and Karma seemingly finding kindred spirits in the two children who had only just now agreed to let go of Ryou after clinging to him all day, although her conversation carried over to anyone and everyone who would listen. It was nice, for once, and Dorian found himself speaking slightly more than usual, adding an odd comment every once in a while between carefully cutting up his meal (and wasn't it something to have different spoons for soup and dessert) and idly pushing any and all banya products from his plate to Tallyho's.

The evening came to a close as they were dropped off at what Mildred had dubbed "the stair room", with instructions on how to find their rooms. The rooms were for individuals, a luxury that no one had known to expect, although some chose to stay in their rooms together, like Karma who refused to leave Ryou's side and the Academy Three who were about as likely to sleep alone as Dorian was to, say, have coffee with a Cyclopean. He hated coffee. Then and only then did Princess Morgan leave their side, cheerfully calling out goodnights until she disappeared from sight.

Most retreated to their rooms automatically, drawn by the promise of soft beds and clean sheets. Others lingered, socializing as they pleased even as the night wore on. Soon it was late, the moon high in the sky and the stars twinkling and illuminating the sky.

It was after tucking Karma in and waiting a moment until soft snores began to emanate from her small body that Ryou left his room. He made his way silently down one of the halls housing the guest rooms, rubbing tired eyes as he passed by closed doors. His destination wasn't that much of a surprise as he stopped outside Haru's room, raised hand hesitating for almost a moment before knocking gently against the door. As much as sleep called to him promising him his first restful sleep in ages now that he had his children back, he'd seen the nervous look on Haru's face, the strain pulling at his friend and, as with all things Haru, he wasn't able to resist.

Dorian too had strayed from his rooms, but for something far more pleasant. He'd been with Tallyho, her room illuminated by candlelight and the artificial glow of his cellphone. It was only a quick trip, at first, to check in on how she was settling in and to get a charge for his phone, but he'd quickly been drawn into their art game as they scrolled through the saved images on his phone. But now it was getting late, both already letting out a chorus of yawns until the call of sleep seemed unavoidable.

"Right again. Vincent Van Gogh," he nodded, exiting the screen from the swirling "Starry Night" painting. He sat up from his place on her bed, stretching broadly, fighting against lingering aches and pains. "And that'll be all for tonight. Get some sleep, Tallyho." The advice fell on deaf ears, Tallyho having fallen asleep sometime after giving her last answer. He smiled briefly, pulling the covers of her bed over her before blowing out the candle. The room was still eerily bright from the moon peeking in from the window as he made his way to the door only to hear… Only to hear something outside. He paused, an ear to the door. Was it someone? Yes, it was. It sounded like someone pacing up and down in a tight circle outside the door. What in the world…? Should he wait for them to leave if only to avoid having to talk to someone else?

Nope, he decided as he fought back another yawn. With any luck he'd make it by the person with nothing more than a cursory "hello, goodbye" and be in his room before it. Besides, it was probably just another one of the month warriors or guardians trying to tire themselves out before bed. With that in mind, he moved to the door, opening it slowly, eyes searching for the nighttime pacer if only to better avoid running into them.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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Dorian had always had bad luck. Well, not bad luck necessarily just not good luck. Or at least that's how he explained situations like these that he had more and more frequently found his way into because here was General Cress looking particularly out of sorts, his perfectly coiffed appearance now disheveled, biting at his thumb anxiously. This was, Dorian was well aware, not good luck at all.

But it wasn't bad luck either in that the General didn't move to stab him on the spot or throw him in any more prisons. Instead, he demanded answers without giving room for them before dubbing Dorian "one of those" in the same way one would refer to a particularly offensive piece of garbage. Dorian, for all of his pride, remained unoffended. One does not live in New York, after all without developing a certain tolerance for the awful shit that other people said and, when it came to those too wealthy and proud to actually resort to insults, how they said it.

“I suppose I should assume my status as a gentleman and express my your….group.”

It was more than Dorian had expected, to be honest, as the General used strained civility, even if it was dashed away with a quick "Which one are you again?" Well, if someone who openly disliked them as much as General Cress did could play nice, even if he wasn't particularly good at it, Dorian could as well.

"Thank you, General Cress," He replied, head bobbing in a slight bow with all of the practiced ease of one who had dealt with asinine wealthy people for the majority of his life. He even attempted to make his low monotone sound genuine just for the occasion. "I'm the March Warrior. Dorian-" He cut himself off before he could continue, not knowing if the addition of his last name would break this farce about all of the month warriors hailing from different parts of Aires and also unwilling to tag on the title "of Hales" in case the General decided to start asking questions.

He paused for a moment, at a loss.

"Goodnight." Yes, that seemed safe. He turned to continue down the hallway to his own room, eager to escape what could quickly devolve into some sort of royal incident but pleased that it had been him who ran into General Cress as opposed to, say, Harper. Or Kyle. Anyone else on the team with the exception of Haru or Ryou, really.


"Hey," Ryou echoed, slipping through the entrance as soon as Haru allowed him because he did so please. Haru, quite frankly, looked awful, exhausted and dull with none of his usual sparks of brilliance shining through. He waited for the door to close before fretting over the February guardian like a particularly concerned mother hen, plucking his undone tie off his neck and laying it flat on the nearest surface.

"Goddess, Haru…" He breathed, concern worming its way into his tone even as he left out the obligatory "you look like death warmed over" or "you look dead on your feet" or "you look like you need some booze". He didn't say anything else for a moment, guiding a pliant Haru back to his bed to sit down, only just stopping himself from tutting over Haru not having changed yet. Apparently all of his parental instincts had returned full force once he'd been reunited with the Academy Kids and it was rather hard to turn off.

"What's going on, Haru?" He asked after a moment, sitting next to Haru.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Dorian Roberts Character Portrait: Ryou Zerinn Character Portrait: Haru Karokav Character Portrait: Trent Cress
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"No, no I'm not done talking to you."

Dorian stopped dead in his tracks, and, after a moment's hesitation, he turned around to face General Cress attempting and failing to contort his features into polite interest. It could still be worse, he mentally hazarded. At most he was about to be verbally harassed by a member of the royal family. At best, the other man just wanted the last word in their semi-conversation before leaving. Regardless, he far preferred that whatever this was was happening to him and not, say, to one of the more volatile members of the Month Warriors Team. Which was basically all of them.

He didn't expect, however, to be asked to join the General on a hunting trip. Well, he wasn't asked, really. It was more of a thinly veiled order that was too well worded and reluctantly given to actually be labeled as an order outright. The point remained that his entire day tomorrow had just been planned out for him and he as well as anyone in charge of him (which he limited to Ryou and Haru because there were far too many Guardians for him to be looking at more than what he considered the most sensible two for guidance) had no say in it. There were, he was sure, far better ways to spend his day than wandering around surrounded by strangers loyal to General Cress armed with weapons, hunting and playing nice.

He was left in somewhat of a daze, barely reacting at the hearty slap on his shoulder as General Cress wandered off without asking for a reply. He paused in the hall for a moment before hurrying off towards his own room, dread for the day ahead of him washing over his body and a vague question of how did someone just get gout hovering on the tip of his tongue.


Ryou stayed seated silently next to Haru, hands reluctantly folded in his lap as the February Guardian spoke, but eyes never leaving his crumpled form. It was a wonder, really, how Haru had stayed put together for this long with those thoughts, those orders weighing so heavily on his mind. It wasn't just a setback- this was supposed to be easy after the hoard, after they'd shown off their shiny new month warriors, putting on the facade of them being every bit as heroic as their past counterparts. They were supposed to get royal and religious backing, to get the best support they could in the form of supplies. That's how it had worked in the old days.

But, as he was constantly reminded throughout this journey, this wasn't the old days. Things had changed, usually for the worse. Now the connection between the group and the Crown was more of a shackle, weighing them down with extra responsibilities and attaching them to men who didn't have their best interests at heart. They had to fight in war if so called upon, had to please a man who already seemed bound and determined to despise them. It wasn't Haru's fault, though- that was the world they lived in.

And now he was laughing almost hysterically as tears pricked at his eyes looking downtrodden, beaten down by the world they lived in.

"Haru, come on. It's not your fault," The Monkey Guardian said, honesty dripping from every word. "You're brilliant, okay? I know that things would be a lot worse off if any of the rest of us had gone in your place." Which was true. None of them had the patience or tact for diplomacy as they'd seen in the prison and in countless other little ways.

Hands finally unfolded from his lap, one arm reaching around Haru's shoulders still wracked with pained laughter.

"Things are bad, of course they are, but we could have come out of this a lot worse. If this is what we have to work with, we'll make it work."

There was that subtle we, a gentle reminder that Haru wasn't alone in this, that it wasn't him versus the entire world, even if it did feel like that.

"We're here to help you, Haru," His voice was low now, a deep, soothing sound as he leaned against the man who had taken on the impossible role as their leader, tightening his grip around his shoulder. "I'm here. For anything you need."

And maybe it was the nonexistent distance between them or the hurt look on Haru's face that broke him, but Ryou found himself leaning in impossibly closer, lips hovering over Haru's cheek before he could even recognize his own mistake.