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Ikeda Shiori

"I'm drowning, and you're standing three feet away screaming, 'learn how to swim.'"

0 · 980 views · located in Tokyo, Japan

a character in “Immortal Ties”, as played by rubytuesday

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IKEDA SHIORI.....................................Missing Soul
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her personality is much like the storm which cradled her as she fell; wild and unapologetic. As her breath was smothered and her lungs drenched, the storm relished its own tempestuousness. It was only when the Light pulled her from the waves that the storm finally ceased.

...ImageAge.......twenty four.........D.O.B.........July 8th, 1992
Origin.... Japan...............Sexuality....bisexual

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I. ..A D . H O M I N E M



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        A S P E C T U S
        5'8" | chocolate brown | dark brown


        one's impression tends to adjust depending on the company kept- it's only natural, after all, to change oneself and one's behavior in subconscious reaction. For the sake of fitting in and of being appreciated as a part of whatever aforementioned kind of company is present. Shiori, however, seldom changes. Her gaze always has a fire to it- a simmering heat behind the irises which betrays the tumultuous nature lurking beneath her olive-toned skin. Olive skin marked by a small flicker of scars here and there - a faded mar on her left palm, a barely-visible notch beneath her right brow, a few more not worth mentioning- and the image of a sprig of wildflower inked into her left side. Tattoos are largely shunned in Japan for their common association with gangs and the Yakuza, but Shiori loves the look of ink on skin, so pretty and so permanent. And besides, it reminds her of her mother.

        Her face is one of angles; high cheekbones and sharp brows and a triangle smile. Her eyes are rather large - a suggestion to her biracial parentage- but regardless of their shape, one would never describe them as doe-like, for little reason besides the fact that the thoughts that tend to surround doe's as creatures simply don't fit Shiori. Her looks are too harsh, more hungry lioness than gentile deer.

        And then there is the way she walks. A walk weighed down by a world on her shoulders, always one foot in front of the other, and never skipping.




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        P E R S O N A
        strong-willed | impulsive | compassionate | detached

        playing with her classmates as a child, she always bit back at the boys who tried to force her into the role of princess, captive, damsel-in-distress. Plastic sword turned to steel in her hand, the cardboard box pulled over her head, complete with eye-holes, became a shining helmet. Her squeals of delight turned to battle cries, and it soon became known that she was far more suited to heroic quests and chain-mail than to silken gowns and tower prisons. And even as young as she was then, it was not the thought of being perceived as "feminine" that perturbed her- it was the notion of rescue, of needing saving. She wanted to be the one climbing the tower, not being imprisoned within it. The one slaying the dragon, not being abducted by it. She's changed a lot since her days of playfights and naptimes, but that aspect of her character has proven a constant.

        This shows in her perpetual moments of fearsome willfulness. She is tenacious in her behaviour, and can seldom bring herself to give up on things she has already dedicated herself to. Her heart is, by all means, a staunch thing, tenacious in its loyalty to what it cares for, and what it wants.

        Impatient and reckless, she often thinks before she acts, driven by her impulses. She lives strictly by her morals, and jumps to the defense of others (it's the knight in her... that knight of her childhood, begging to swing his sword again) with little restraint. And yet, in spite of a justice-oriented personality more commonly found in the idealistic types, her own nature is more one of a realist, and borders on pessimistic at times. Ironic, considering that, at twelve years old, she became known to strangers as the miracle girl, the girl that somehow survived that terrible accident. Her face has grown since then, of course. Become more adult. But still, some people sometimes recognize her, or claim to find her familiar. More than anything else, the recognition makes her bitter and cool.

        This coolness can often lead to her being detached from the rest of the world. Her humor is sometimes a touch too dark, a bit too sharply sarcastic, too tongue-in-cheek... it puts others on edge, concerned that she is laughing at them instead of with them. Sometimes, this worry is founded, for there is indeed a touch of arrogance to her, and a self-righteousness that rushes to the surface when she is faced with criticism. She doesn't mesh especially well with people, and doesn't care too, either. She is an introvert, preferring to work on her own, and her solitude tends to bring her solace as opposed to loneliness.

        She is comfortable in isolation; when left with just her and the pensiveness that no one knows she has. She is prone to rumination, and never stops to consider just how pleasant it might feel to share the weight of years of melancholy contemplation with someone else.




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ATHLETIC..she is well-versed in self-defense and kick-boxing, and runs
regularly, both as a hobby and as a way of letting of steam


BRAVE..When she is afraid, she only becomes fiercer. She doesn't
back down, and even when terrified, she finds herself baring her fangs


PERCEPTIVE..it could be said that she understands other people
better than she understands herself, for the way she reads them



IMPATIENT..she is not a woman who is safe to leave simmering. Her patience
is nothing if not short, and she has little tolerance for irritation


ARROGANT..she often puts expectations upon herself that are unrealistic,
and sometimes finds herself pushing without the ability to follow through


INARTISTIC..she is too straightforward to appreciate nor understand aesthetics
and art. Her musical and artistic skill also leave much to be desired







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II. ... I M M O R T A L I S . M O R T A L E





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        A C T U M .T E M P U S


        Shiori's life was built on fate. Or a tremendous coincidence, depending on one's point of view. But with such slim chances, it's hard to believe there wasn't something else at play during the first spark of Ikeda Hana and Thomas Grady's relationship.

        First, of course, is the chance that they would meet in a club. Neither of them were the party types, and both were dragged along to the same nightclub in downtown Osaka by friends eager to enjoy their final weekend before work and school began again.
        Across the bar, they caught one another's eye, and what started in shy stares and small nods culminated into a flourish of bravery on Hana's part, as she approached Thomas and invited him to dance with her. Then, numbers were exchanged, and kisses were shared, and their mutual attraction coupled with liquid courage sparked what offered to be a wonderfully unexpected romance.

        And then the weekend was over, and Hana began her first year at Kyoto University, only to discover that she recognized one of her lecturers a touch more than she expected she would. The two continued their relationship in secret, exchanging smiles across the classroom, the other students naive to the meaning behind the curved lips and locked gazes that the pair traded.

        When they eventually broke up, it was a mutual thing. There was little bitterness, just the fading of passion and the increasing stress of keeping their secret hidden from prying eyes. The spark they had when they first met in the club had fizzled out, and in its place, the realization that aside from that attraction and a stubborn streak, they had very little in common. Thomas was offered a better paying job back in the US, and they said their goodbyes with little regret. Perhaps, if either party had been aware of Hana's pregnancy, Thomas might have hesitated, but neither did.

        When Shiori discovered her pregnancy, it was two weeks later. Choosing to raise the baby on her own, Hana finally told her parents about her and Thomas' relationship.

        Twelve years later, Ikeda Hana and her daughter Shiori were a fearsome pair. Close as anything, and nearly identical in personality, the two were wild as the storm that destroyed them. It was Shiori's birthday, and Shiori had begged to go to the aquarium- one of her favourite places. As they drove home, Hana tightly clutching a plush stingray (She liked the way their mouths always seemed to be smiling), the rain pounded hard on the car roof, and the roadside gutters for logged and overflowing.

        As they crossed the bridge, so did Yamada Keishi, a forty-nine year old trucker almost home after a week away. The sky was dark, and Kato Tokiko's gentle tone hummed from the truck's radio. His blinks became slower, his lids heavier...
        When his eyes opened again, his truck was on the wrong side of the road. Cars were screaming, the rain was still pounding, and through the windscreen of his beat-up blue truck, he could only watch in horror as the car he had driven into lost control, and was sent careening over the bridge's edge and into the river below.

        The water was ice around Shiori's throat. Turning to see her mother, she saw the woman limp and bloody, forehead scarlet-painted, eyes closed. The car began to fill, and as she struggled to open the door, her tears blended with the river water. Then she couldn't breath. Her mouth opened in a scream for help. Mistake. The cold filled her lungs and suddenly she was burning. Hana was still silent and unmoving. The car kept falling through the abyss. Black and cold, Shiori could see the lights above fading. Her blinks became slower, her lids heavier...

        When her eyes opened again, there was someone there. A beautiful someone. She knew in spit of their face being a blur. They glowed as they reached towards her. Their touch was warm, and she could feel their arms around her, cradling her. Then she began to rise to the surface. Wait- there was something else. Yes. Mom. You forgot to get mom.

        Then she was being heaved from the water by a stranger. Hard hands on her chest, pushing, pushing. Water escaped her lungs, and she was breathing. "She's okay! She's breathing!" Mom. You forgot about mom. You need to go get mom.

        Thomas had been shocked, maybe even horrified, to learn that his old girlfriend had had his child twelve years ago. He was even more horrified to learn that said girlfriend had died in a terrible car accident, whilst her daughter (his daughter) had miraculously survived. There was sympathy there. Sadness. Discomfort. But he was married now. He had four children of his own.

        Shiori was sent to live with her grandmother.

        Six years later, she could still see them. The ghosts. They plagued her and pursued her and begged her for help. She was a fledgling police officer now, just moved to Tokyo, leaving Kyoto behind.

        Six more years later, still here. Still a police officer.

        Still wondering why she was saved, and why she doesn't feel like the walking, talking miracle everyone claims her to be.




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                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: Sakura Heffron
                  HEX CODE: #c7c19f
                  PORTRAYED BY: RubyTuesday
                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: UTC+12:00

                  DISCLAIMER: This sheet uses
                  code written by Epimetheus, with
                  portions of her work inspired by
                  Verix. All credit goes to them.
                  _( ASSOCIATED )
                  ..words and phrases

                  her teen years were ones of ghost interactions and awesome hair
                  streetlights reflected in rained-on pavements ■ "...everything
                  screams: 'live for today', when I died yesterday." ■ looks like she
                  could kill you, could actually kill you. ■ sucks in the romance
                  department ■ not so much her resting face as her default emotion
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente
                  _
                  (
                  MISC )
                  listens to a lot of BTS
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente
                  Use this section for miscellaneous information about your char-
                  acter that doesn't quite fit anywhere else. these sections don't h-
                  ave to be a full eleven lines; make them as short or as long as y-
                  ou need.

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So begins...

Ikeda Shiori's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Teruki Satou Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Kohta Honda Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: La Verne Caron Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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#, as written by Cloud
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━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━
CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNING
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Date: Evening, 1st April, 2017
Location: Tokyo City, Japan
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xxxOnce, before Tokyo had been given its name, before tall spires of metal dominated the horizon and light polluted the sky, one could see the stars. They say it was the gods who wove constellations into the otherwise blank expanse of night sky; exposing pinpricks of light to tell stories of legends that would transcend time. Yet, as civilisation grew ever skywards, electric lights began to drown out the natural illumination of the night sky. There are still those who remember centuries long gone, whose gaze at the night sky and remember a time when it was only clouds that interrupted their view. The constellations had changed since they were young, shifting across the Earth’s sky as time flowed forward. Yet, more than one could still take comfort in the beauty of it.

xxx “A shame really.” The man commented absently, his gaze fixed upwards, past the canopy of sky-scrapers towards the sliver of cloudless ink visible above. “Once you could have made out millions of stars from anywhere in the prefecture.”

xxxThe surly teenager seated beside him grunted and shifted slightly away, unsure who this stranger was and why he had randomly started talking to him.

xxx “I made it, you know.” The man continued, an almost smug smile on his face as he leaned against the park bench. He didn’t seem to care that the youth was resolutely staring at the screen of his cell phone, attempting to tune out the rambling stranger. “I mean, I made everything really. You’re welcome by the way.” He paused and glanced at the mortal, as if expecting a ‘thank you’, or any other form of gratitude. When none was offered the man merely continued talking, “But, I am particularly proud of the stars. ”

xxxThe man’s dark eyes returned to the small portion of the sky not covered in thick cloud. He held his hand in front of his eyes, stretched out as if he might pluck the very stars from their homes in the sky. Instead, he waved his hand slowly from side to side, as if waving away a particularly bad smell. A satisfied smile lit his face as his hand fell to his side,

xxx “There, you see!” The man said, nodding towards the now cloudless sky. Though the light from numerous skyscrapers still dimmed the brightest of the stars, they seemed stronger now, shimmering happily above the world below. “Much better.”

xxxThe youth merely grunted again, his hands fiddling headphones into his ears as he attempted to tune out the well-dressed man beside him. Unfortunately, the man’s voice continued to blare through the headphones, as if the younger man’s music wasn’t playing at all.

xxx “I fancy myself as a bit of an artist, if I’m being frank.” He continued, a note of pride creeping into his words, “You see that tree there? I designed it, right down to the edges on the leaves.”

xxxThe teenager didn’t even glance up, too busy checking that he had plugged his headphones in properly. Of all the nights for them to stop working, it had to be when he was getting his ear talked off by some mental stranger.

xxxFrom behind the pair a female voice replied, full of barely contained impatience, “I think you’ll find that I was the one to design that tree. If I remember correctly, you were still babbling on about how sludge was going to be the next big thing.” The woman snorted in amusement. “Well, we all know how that went.”

xxx “Excuse me for trying to do something different.” He retorted hotly, even as he slid across the park bench to make space for the new arrival. Beside him, the irritated youth was silently cursing the two adults who had interrupted his brooding and was quickly stuffing his phone into his backpack. Without a word the kid stood, pulled his hood tightly over his head, and walked away.

xxxThe two gods barely seemed to register the departure, more concerned with the back and forth that had begun. “I make one mistake and you never let me forget it. I made flowers, and gave the world bees. Who doesn’t like bees?” His hands made exaggerated movements in the air.

xxx “One mistake? Oh, I can count at least three dozen you’ve made in the last decade alone.” The female retorted, slapping his hands casually away. She opened her mouth to continue, before changing her mind and instead adding, “But I didn’t come to bicker with you.”

xxxHe nodded. His partner had come for the same reason he had. He stood up slowly, stretching out his tall frame, before offering a hand to the woman. She took it with a nod, her head tilting slightly in a wordless expression of ‘after you’.

xxxA second later the two figures blinked into existence on the wind-swept top of a sky-scraper. From here they could see the city sprawled out below them; neon, artificial lights marking roads, shop advertisements, and the lit windows of residential apartments. Above them, cleared of the thick layer of clouds, was the night’s blanket of stars.

xxxThough no eyes – mortal or otherwise – happened to glance up at the tip of the building, had someone done so, they would have seen two immortals bathed in moonlight, watching their world with a confidence only the gods know. They were one and the same, and yet separate, two entities burning in a universe of their creation.

xxxHe was tall and pale, his feet rooted solidly in the ground beneath him even while his hands reached heavenward. His cheekbones were chiselled from marble, sharp enough to cut mountains. Dark eyes of endless knowledge inspected his world, while strands of hair the same pitch black were pushed back from his face with lithe fingers. His appearance was similar to natives of this land, albeit almost concentrated, as if he were the original that all others had been moulded by.

xxxShe, on the other hand, had the dark, warm skin of someone who would have been marked a foreigner had she walked amongst Tokyo’s population. Her face was softer; a smooth sculpture of beauty, with thick curls of coal-coloured hair engulfing her head. Pupils that whispered of eons gone by watched the city like a predator of old, her lips held tight in a thin frown as possibilities of the days to come ran through her mind.

xxx “Owari” He spoke her name like a resolution; a finality echoing from his lips; the end.

xxx “Hajimari.” She responded with his name; a beginning; a taste of fresh possibilities, and boundless growth.

xxx “Things are moving.” He stated, his eyes too seeing beyond the crawling traffic below. “Do you think they’re ready?”

xxx “They’ll have to be.” Owari responded, her tone firm.

xxxHajimari nodded, rising his gaze from the streets at his feet to the stars above. His hand rose, fingers splayed above his head as his eyes searched between the digits. “Perhaps a sign then.” He murmured, almost to himself. Though, Owari heard and followed her partner’s gaze to the heavens.

xxx “Many have long since forgotten us.” She reminded him as his fingers began to dance overhead. His hand made a graceful pulling motion, a soft breath left his lips, and then the first star fell across the night’s sky; a streak of pure light momentarily illuminating the heavens. More followed, creating a meteor shower for any who happened to turn their attention to the sky that night.

xxx “Well, perhaps this is for my comfort than.” Hajimari replied, his hands clasped behind his back as he admired his work. Owari let the silence build as she too watched the show above, until a dozen moments had passed.

xxx “They all have demons to face.” Her words rang with a hint of pity, for she knew the dangers that were to come.

xxx “Most are of their own making.” Hakimari responded, “They would have had to face them eventually.”

xxxOwari nodded, her curls shifting as if stirred by a gentle wind, “We can only watch now.”

xxxA look of slight guilt crossed the pale god’s face, his eyes flashing momentarily. His partner turned ever-perceptive eyes on him, her frown deepening as she sensed his intentions, “Hajimari, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, stop interfering with their lives!”

xxxAnd just like that, the aura of power and mystery that surrounded the two gods evaporated. Like an old couple, married for too long and all too aware of each other’s faults, they began trading words; barbs, insults, passive aggressive suggestions. A bird soaring above would be wise to avoid the area directly around the snapping deities, a rat might have taken sheltered in a solid pipe well below the pair too. For the less perceptive mortals, they continued their work without contemplating that above them stood two squabbling gods, or that among their number roamed immortals and ghosts. Even as the two gods disappeared, the only witness to their presence a pouting teenage boy, the world continued to move of its own accord.

xxxIn a shoe-box apartment only a few blocks from the building once occupied by the two gods, a Guardian Angel calling himself Kohaku was preparing to leave on work-related business. A short distance further, within the performance hall of one of Tokyo’s learning institutes, a blonde boy studying music gave his hands a shake as he glared at a piano piece. And further away, across vast oceans and mountain ranges carved and painted by the hands of the divines, a goblin’s hand reached for a door knob. Slim fingers curled around the brass head, her eyes shut, mind searching for the pull of her next destination. She opened the door and slid through, her eyes alighting on the clear windows of her Tokyo apartment to see stars decorating the sky.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori
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Image


thump. thump. thump. thump. thump. thump. thump. thu...

XXXThe music was as one would expect in a nightclub- repetitive and heady. A song to dance to, rather than sing along with. Neon lights flashed, erratic and urgent, and the dance floor was a single, heaving mass of sweat and libido.

XXXStill, despite the hormonal tinge to the atmosphere, one could not deny that the masquerade was a classy affair. Everyone was dressed to the nines, eager to show off both money and skin, and the masks that everyone wore exemplified the seriousness with which everyone present took the theme of the night.

XXXIt was a shame, really, that she could not even try to enjoy it.

XXXWell, no. That was a lie. She could try to enjoy it, but she knew that she wouldn't. Environments like these, with their dizzying lights, humid airs and crowded spaces, simply did not fit her idea of a good time. She preferred muted places; places of calm quiet where she could collect her thoughts without straining to hear them over cacophonous music.

XXXIt would have been rude to refuse the invitation, though. Areum had insisted on putting her and her team on the list, and had seemed so delighted to do so. No to mention that the rest of the team were so damn chuffed about being able to attend such a high-profile event at such a glamorous location- cops didn't experience those kinds of perks very often.

XXXSo here she was.

XXXLeaning back against the bar, the police officer looked out unto the crowd with an unreadable expression. Like everyone else, a mask hid half her features. Unlike everyone else, her mask was painfully plain; a simplistic, black, matte thing that inspired little majesty.

XXXA shy giggle to her right made her cringe, and she looked towards the couple. The girl was dressed prettily, in a forest-colored dress and black heels which wrapped around her calves. The girl kept subconsciously pulling at the dress' hem, and her feet flexed uncomfortable in the touch-too-tight footwear. Dressed up and dragged here by a friend, no doubt. The man standing beside her had a smooth smile beneath his silver-lined mask, and he leaned towards her with a natural swagger, as though he already knew exactly how his night was going to go. He waved a hand at the bartender, gesturing with two fingers and calling out the name of a drink that Shiori didn't quite catch. The girl looked surprised, flattered, a touch embarrassed.

XXXShe couldn't understand the reason for her stare, but she found herself somewhat hypnotized by the girl's awkwardness. Her shy responses to the flirtations of a handsome stranger. Shiori's stomach felt heavy- was that envy, deep down inside her? God, she hoped not. How pathetic would that be?

XXXAs a drunken man stumbled into the pair, the girl let out a small squeal of surprise. The stranger's arm slipped around her defensively, protecting her from the stumbler's spraying drink. Shiori almost smiled, but instead she frowned. "Do you mind?!" The man said accusingly. He and the 'drunk' met gazes, and Shiori felt a stab of distrust. A sense of the plasticity of the man's supposed rage. She looked to the girl's unprotected drink, catching the sight of fizzing; a pill dissolving in the topaz liquid.

XXXThat fucking asshole.

XXXShe rose from her chair with purpose, face stony and fingers itching to become fists. Striding towards the two, she cut between the pair. The two looked at her in confusion. "Ah... Can I help you?" The girl was the first one to speak. Up close Shiori could see the row of false lashes on her left eye beginning to come loose. Shiori gestured to the man.

XXX"Do you know this guy?"

XXX"Uh... no. But who-"

XXX"I wouldn't drink that, if I were you. This asshole spiked it."

XXX"Look lady," The man had risen from his seat, his face contorted into a (very) forced smile. "You can't just go around accusing people of-"

XXXHe was cut off by her badge, a silver thing that glittered enticingly in the strobe lights. "Are you denying it?" His jaw flexed, and he smirked again. He held up his hands in mock-surrender. That... isn't the reaction I was supposed to get.

XXX"Nothing happened, officer." He took the girl's drink and poured it onto the floor. The liquor splashed at Shiori's shoes. "No harm no foul, right?"

XXXLeaning close, he read the police ID before his eyes flicked back to hers. "Officer Ikeda, huh?" Smile. "I'll remember that."

XXXPicking up his own drink, he did not spare his almost-victim a second glance as he turned from the bar and headed back into the fray. Shiori scowled at his retreating back, before turning to the young woman still sitting at the bar, stunned into silence. "Th-thank you. I had no idea-" "It's fine. You didn't drink any of that, did you?" She waved a hand at the now-empty glass. The woman shook her head. "Good." "It's so horrible, I never would have thought he-" "It's not your fault. It's not like assholes wear a uniform." Shoving her badge back into her jacket pocket, Shiori smiled at the woman. "Go home early tonight, okay?" "Uh, yeah... okay."

XXXNodding to the girl, Shiori returned to her own seat, waving the bartender over and finally deciding to have that drink she'd been resisting since she'd arrived here. She opened her hand to catch the drink as the bartender slid the jameson-on-the-rocks into her hand, only to frown when he paused. "Uh, I noticed what you did there, and it was good of you, but-" "If you noticed what was going on, why didn't you do anything?" The bartender flushed, a guilty look on his face. "Uh, well, it's just that- that guy... he's a regular." "Oh. So date-rape is part of the club-membership pack?" "No! It's just- Well... he's Nakantani Keichi... Son of Nakatani Yuji."

XXXA moment of frozen horror. "... You mean, Secretary of Defense Nakatani Yuji?" An affirmative nod, and a sympathetic look as the bartender slid the drink over to her. "This one is on me, okay?" Flexing her jaw, Shiori took the glass from his hand, and turned back to the crowd. At one of the tables, she could see Nakantani Keichi leaning against a wall, surrounded by friends. He caught her gaze, and smirked, raising his glass.

XXXSmug little shit. I'll remember that.

XXX Officer Ikeda? I'll remember that.

XXXShe moved to take a much needed sip of her drink, only to find she'd already downed it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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Seung & Seok Areum
GRIM REAPER | #D08462 | FOX SPIRIT | #D24038



      The sound of another occupant moving into the booth left Seung mildly more happy than he had been moments before. Such a feeling was not meant to last however, and as his neighbor began to speak his mood only soured, “I didn’t know you frequented ‘The tipping point’. My charge might visit here tonight. Please don’t take his soul. I’ve only just received his case and it would look terrible on my record if he died the first night in my care.”

      Sighing heavily he then took a sip of his drink, “Only after work,” he lifted his head so his eyes could meet his neighbor's, “Haku, Reapers only take the lives of those destined to die, we don’t get to choose.”They remained silent until the bartender came and the Angel ordered a glass of water. Seung felt a sense of understanding knowing it was probably to save money. He would have offered the man a drink but knowing Alucio and his penchant for more expensive drinks, he would need to cut his losses where he could. Adding another expense would be detrimental.

      With nothing else to say they lapsed into a comfortable stillness until another figure slid into the booth and rested her head on the table. Seung sighed and gently pat her head.
      "I'm so sad. Takumi will never love me. Is it because I'm dead?”
      “I think it may be because he doesn’t know you.” Before he could say anything else though the other half of the rent came walking in and sat down next to him. "I didn't think tonight was one of gathering nights."
      “You left me on read.”
      Alucio pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Minako with a soft sigh. Seung would have been touched had his roommate not ruined the moment by drinking his sake without even so much as asking. If that was how he wished to be then so be it.
      “Indirect kiss,” his voice was monotone and without thinking he made a heart with his thumb and index finger. Hopefully he wouldn’t spit it out.

      Just in case however he made a move to call the bartender over, only to notice the man had appeared seemingly out of no where. Minako ordered her drink and when she nervously responded, “I love—to sleep,” she looked helplessly at the three men — most likely asking for death. Seung had no idea how to handle the situation and so promptly kept his gaze lowered and forgot to order another drink. He as well needed sleep after dealing with his friends.

      The bartender then named the price of her beverage, and had to almost pry the card out of her hands. Minutes later the man returned bringing with him her vodka and money. She downed her drink as if it were water and tried choke back her sobs. It was saddening and Seung was clueless as to what to do.
      "Is she... Okay?" he asked.
      “I believe so. Thank you,” he took the card from the bartender's hand and waved him off to spare Minako some humiliation. He was her friend after all.
      “You don't even remember my name.”
      “You never gave it to him, if I remember. Right, Haku?”
      Before their discussion could escalate however a man came to their table with a bright smile. Seung didn’t trust him, but nonetheless listened to whatever he had to say.
      “What can I get you all to drink today?” a frown appeared on Seung’s face, cautious of his overly happy disposition. “Ah, it’s already been paid for.” He should have started with that line.

      That got Seung’s attention and so promptly he ordered a drink he had been eyeing all night long, “I’ll have a bourbon then.” He didn’t ask who had been generous enough to pay for their drinks, the attendant's attention already having moved on, and so looked at his friends expectantly. After all, they should thank the person who had essentially saved them rent money. Mortals could be so nice at times.



      ( • • • )


      It had occurred to Areum multiple times before that although it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a life without Cassius, she deeply resented the thought of it. Perhaps her mornings would be a little less bright, and the sound of her soul would sing more loudly, but in comparison to who she was intrinsically — nothing would change. And yet, even the mere thought of separation brought a dull ache to her heart she thought would have faded with time.

      As another attendant passed by Areum plucked a glass of champagne off their tray and shifted her gaze from the man in yellow to her new drink. She furrowed her eyebrows in dissatisfaction as she finally took notice of its taste. It was much too sweet and left a tangy flavor in her mouth, not even vodka could smother its presence.

      While in deep thought, Areum had been deaf to whatever pretty but meaningless compliments Cassius was most likely gushing. It was only when the pitch of his voice lowered that her attention was finally on him once more. "I believe you've yet to meet. This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction."

      She raised an eyebrow and finally lowered her drink. Before her stood the man she had been glaring at previously, and with a new perspective, she smiled.

      “It’s a pleasure to meet you —” she gave a quick sideways glance to Cassius, “Basil. A friend of Kaede’s is a friend of mine, and so I hope we’ll see more of each other in the future.” Without warning she stepped closer to the man and stared at his face in concentration. She noted his thick eyebrows that framed doelike eyes and the way his pout was wide but very pretty. He was an eccentric kind of attractive, and it made her want to stare at him all the more curiously. “Should you ever wish to model for my magazine feel free to contact me. I’m sure we can have something arranged.” Slowly she backed away and focused her gaze on Kaede instead. It was unspoken that she would be the photographer, and for Areum that would only be an added bonus should he accept.

      "Excuse me,” Cassius interrupted and before she could get a word out the man was gone. Areum rolled her eyes but in doing so caught sight of the event unfurling that Cassius must have seen as well. In her mind, she praised her friend for taking a swift course of action and let him deal with it himself; however, it was the familiar face of the woman sitting at the bar that made Areum move to help.
      “Forgive me, I’ll be back in a moment,” walking with purpose she quickly slid between the patrons who still hadn’t noticed the debacle and kept dancing. They were either too drunk to notice or too self-absorbed to care.
      Silently, Areum sat down next to Shiori just as the bartender supplied her with another drink. She tapped the counter to order the same beverage as well and placed her empty champagne glass on her right side for someone to clean up.
      “I saw what you did, and I’m very grateful but —” she turned to look the officer straight in the eye, “—why didn’t you arrest him?”

      The bartender finally finished creating her drink and placed it in front of her hands. Idly she traced her ring finger along the rim of the glass and awaited her response. She had the authority to act, so why didn’t she? Was it the fear of repercussions, or an inability to serve due to being off the clock? Her thoughts was cut short however by the sight of men storming away from where Cassius stood watching. Areum recognized them for who they were and in a quick act of vindictiveness dumped the contents of her drink onto their passing forms.

      There was no logical reason for what she did, and like most things Areum didn't think of the consequences, but the feeling of revenge was too good to pass up. She let out a small condensing smile and a quiet laugh. The apparent leader snarled and made his way to Areum to which she gave a disinterested sigh, “Perhaps I should call Mr. Dōriēwes over.” A pointed look to her friend had the men freeze before backing away slowly. A grin spread across her face.

      When the men left and all that remained was a stillness, Cassius' strong voice echoed in the silence and promised the patrons a round of free cocktails. Applause and laughter filled the room bringing life back to the party, and with a weary grimace Areum focused her attention back to Shiori.

      “I have someone I’d like you to meet,” without warning Areum took the girl’s wrist and lightly tugged at her to follow. She cut through the center with ease, her disposition not allowing for any jostling, and finally made way to where she left Kaede and Basil. She needed Cassius’ opinion on the girl, and more than anyone she knew, he understood her needs the best.



Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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XXXJust as she was raising the glass to her lips, Shiori caught sight of a familiar face, and her brows softened. She could never decide exactly how she felt about Areum- the fox girl that didn't know Shiori knew she was a fox girl and certainly didn't seem to mind expressing her remarkable oddness. She was flirtatious and daring, not that Shiori was especially adept at picking up the former, and had taken to overdramatising the robbery debacle that Shiori had helped her sort out. Shiori liked her, there was no doubt about that.

XXXBut god, what a damn cipher.

XXX"“I saw what you did, and I’m very grateful but why didn’t you arrest him?” Shiori looked down at her glass for a moment, a jab of frustration in her gut. Trust me, I would have given anything to cuff that asshole then and there...

XXXHer thoughts translated through her expression, but she did not vocalize them. Instead, she gestured to her glass, prompting another drink. "I could have, but he would be back out again in an hour, tops." She resisted downing her second drink, instead taking a large sip before explaining in an defeated, matter-of-fact tone. "She didn't drink it, and he didn't assault her, so technically, he didn't do anything wrong. He just thought about doing something- and I can't prove that because he tipped the evidence all over the damn flo-"

She didn't get to finish her sentence, for the woman with whom she was speaking suddenly turned and sprayed the contents of her glass over a group of well-dressed gentleme-

XXXAreum, I think I love you.

XXXIt took a brief moment to recognise the group, although their leader took significantly less time to note: it was her latest foe, and the young man looked at Areum with a contemptuous look before noting Shiori by her side. He flexed his jaw, forcefully shrugging of the embarrassment. Raking an angry hand through his dampened locks, he shot Shiori a final, warning glare before leading his friends out of the club.


XXX"Thank you for tha-"

XXX“I have someone I’d like you to meet,”

XXX"Wha-" Without warning, Areum grabbed onto Shiori's wrist, and the latter sheepishly followed the woman through the sea of colour that now seemed to be celebrating the wonder of 'free cocktails'.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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#, as written by Cloud
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━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━
CHAPTER TWO: THE FESTIVAL
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Date: Early afternoon, 2nd April, 2017
Location: Kan'ei-ji Temple, Ueno Park
Tokyo City, Japan

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xxx A sea of delicate pink blossoms fluttered in the faint spring breeze, a show of nature’s intoxicating beauty revealed for the world to see. Lanes of sakura trees turned the pavement below a rosy hue, while in other places the falling flowers had carpeted the grass in blushing blooms. The Hanami custom was old, a traditional indulgence by the people of Japan and those world-wide to walk beneath spring’s buds and admire the astounding beauty of it.

xxx In Ueno park, lanterns hang on invisible ropes between the trees, arching across lanes and illuminating pathways during the nightly yozakura. Yet, even during the day, as wisps of cloud pass overhead, the lanterns only add to the festive feel. Kan'ei-ji temple is a Tendai Buddist temple within the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. It sits in the park, a beautiful array of centuries old architecture within the modern city.

xxx Fires from various civil wars and earthquakes have seen the original facades diminished, yet still the temple stands tall and proud. The five-storied pagoda and the Ueno Tōshō-gū shrine still remain as gems of the original temple, beautiful relics of a time gone past. Today, as the midday sun passes overhead, the temple grounds were thriving with activity. Cherry blossoms coloured the grounds pink, while the laughter of young children brought smiles to many who passed by. Stalls set up in one of the courtyards offered delectable treats; yakitori, grilled chicken on sticks; takoyaki, pancake balls with tempting chunks of octopus in the middle; watamep, cotton candy in all colours and styles, and more.

xxx The temple’s festivities were set to continue throughout the evening and into the early night, when the lanterns strung up would offer soft illumination. However, as early afternoon struck the festival was well into full swing. Some families take to the lawns beneath the cherry blossom trees, where picnic blankets allow them to stretch out and admire the blooming petals, while others content themselves with pulling young children around to the games set up for those who require a bit more entertainment. Also present are young couples keen to take in the romance of the sakura blossoms, their hands intertwined as they whispered endearments to each other while walking beneath the blooms.

xxx It was one of these couples that caught Lucia’s gaze as she stepped off the bustling street and followed one small, winding path towards the heart of the temple. They were young, late teens or early twenties, and yet their devotion to each other was clear. As the goblin passed the love-struck couple, she caught a glimpse of their future, intertwined for decades, their hands still clinging together as they age from young and fresh to gnarled and old. Luciana smiled softly, a hint of sadness perhaps beneath the warmth in her eyes. She had once been in love, a foolish affair, yet her story had not ended in happiness as this couple’s story would.

xxx She bypassed the devoted couple with a quick side-step, sending them a hint of good luck as she passed. Ahead, the path opened out into the main courtyard of the temple, a busy thoroughfare of festival seekers. The smell of freshly cooked food and sweets drifted between the crowd, tempting any with a nose or hint of hunger towards the wooden stalls edging the courtyard. Overhead, unlit lanterns and streamers added further decoration, even as the cherry blossoms were the real draw card.

xxx “I’ll take two yakitori, please.” Lucia intoned in flawless Japanese, nodding in thanks as her money was exchanged for the chicken sticks. The dress hugging her body floated around her knees slightly as a faint breeze snaked through the crush of people, and Lucia followed it beneath the tall pagoda and around to where a lawn of grass unfurled beneath a stand of sakura trees. A free root offered the perfect seat, and Lucia tucked her feet to the side as she sat beneath a shower of rosy petals, her gaze drawn upwards to the light blossoms blushing softly against the sky.


xxx “Beautiful” The goblin thought to herself, a feeling of peace settling across her shoulders. She left her mind wander to the twists of the day before, her thoughts less tense than the swirling cacophony of feelings that had assaulted her the previous night. Following her departure from Paola’s apartment, Lucia had spent a long time deciding on her next course of action. Her first instinct was to leave, to run from the city where she had seen and touched her ex-lover. Yet, the goblin couldn’t shake the sense that she should be closer to Paola, if only to investigate the mysterious way the girl had called her.

xxx To stay, or to go? It was the decision that had taunted her throughout the night, and though the goblin hadn’t landed on a conclusive answer, here she sat, still in Tokyo. The tough choice of the previous night seemed all the easier to face now, beneath the sakura. She would stay, would face Cassius if ever they came upon each other again. She was not the same young, naïve woman she had been as a mortal, she was stronger now, more sure of herself. She could handle it. Yet, even as her resolution settled, she remembered the feel of his hand on hers, the colours of his eyes, feel of his breath against her skin…

xxx A flicker in the corner of her eye dragged Lucia’s thoughts from the fox and she turned, searching the crowd of blossom admirers for the movement. Her brows moved into a frown as soft green eyes fell on the dark figure of a ghost. He looked as out of place amongst the pale blossoms as a bear would look in a colony of honey bees. Taller than the natives around him, and dressed in regal, medieval garb that was only now worn in theatrical plays, he was a man out of time and out of place. Though, it wasn’t the unsettling wrongness of his appearance that had Lucia pushing herself to her feet in a second. No, it was the familiarity of his face, the way the deceased soul’s gaze seemed to pin Lucia to the spot, as if he had sought her out from the beyond.

xxx The goblin took a step forward, a jolt of fear racing down her spine. “It cannot be…” She thought, wishing the distance were less so that she could be more sure, even as she wished to be miles away and safe from the soul’s eerie glare. She strained her eyes, even as a crowd of young Japanese temporarily blocked her view. Lucia took another half step forward, only to stop as the crowd passed and where the ghost had been, was nothing. He was gone, like a mirage teasing the goblin with images of her past. Had it been him? Or had the events of the previous day caused her to remember the less fortunate parts of her mortal life?

xxx Luciana took a shuddering breath, her hand instinctively flying to her neck where her fingers traced across the jewels that clung to her skin. She remembered the necklace tightening, the memory of the hand that had ended her life stark in her mind as she stared at the empty spot where he had just stood. But no, that was centuries ago. No ghost could last for that long. She forced her shoulders to relax, let her legs buckle as she regained her seat. It had been her mind, nothing else. She was safe.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

"Lovely, aren't they?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she froze.

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

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

Flash

Torrential rain and radio music.

Flash

Screaming horns and screaming people.

Flash

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

Flash

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

"Hey- hey, are you okay?!"

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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




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

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

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


Ueno Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Are you ok ma'am?

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My name is Shiori. Ikeda Shiori."

Setting

Characters Present

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

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Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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ImageRyan Prosker \|/ Ikeda ShioriImage




Well Ryan’s translation and Japanese butchery went about as well as one could expect, since the woman appeared to get the gist of what he was trying to convey anyways. Now that he got a decent look at the woman, he could see that she wasn’t one hundred percent Japanese, or at least that wasn’t his impression. She reminded him of American Japanese population back home. Mixed heritage perhaps? He was overanalyzing things and had to mentally stop himself from doing so. Luckily his thoughts and maybe overlong staring were interrupted by the woman finally responded to his horribly mangled question. Unfortunately, she answered in her understandably flawless Japanese, leaving Ryan staring at her with one of the most clueless looks of his relatively short life. It took a moment for him to start flipping through the book, mouthing the words she stated in hopes that he would stumble upon something that would help him in figuring out what she had just said. That was it, when he got the time he was downloading a translator app onto his phone. This book thing was murder on just about every facet of his life. Luckily she either must have realized this or simply switched languages on a whim as she answered him in broken English a second time around.

It wasn’t the worst English he had ever heard spoken, even if she did mispronounce one of the words, but Ryan wasn’t going to say anything about it. After all, he had come up to her with the basic equivalent of slobber dribbling down his chin in the language department. Instead, he simply gave a smile as she introduced herself and held out a hand. Ryan took the hand in a firm shake, opting to stay within the English language if she could understand him. It would be easier that way, at least he thought so, since he wouldn’t have to flip through a book every time he wanted to say a word. “Nice to meet you, I’m Ryan Prosker.” Ryan stated, before giving her a bit more of a once over. A dizzy spell shouldn’t be common, especially in one as young as herself. “Are you sure you’re ok? I can go get you some water, food, help maybe?”

Ryan Prosker… This guy has got to be American, Shiori offered the stranger a smile and a nod.

”No, it’s okay. I’m fine, really.”

How could I not be? All I’m suffering from are traumatic flashbacks of a time that left me with the magical ability to see the ghosts of the recently deceased… Fine. Just dandy.

She hadn’t spoken, but regardless, Shiori was shocked by herself. Had she always been this bitter? Perhaps she had. Perhaps she’d just grown accustomed to her own undeviating resentfulness.

Perhaps.

Acerbity aside, Shiori spoke in a friendly tone to the stranger -Ryan Prosker, the undoubtedly American stranger- as she tried her best to speak in a language that she was only semi-familiar with.

”Is it your first time here?”

She nodded her head slightly in vague gesture towards the cherry blossom trees.

Ryan gave a somewhat sheepish smile, coughing slightly as he tried to bypass the very obvious ‘I’m a tourist’ vibe he was giving. It would have helped if he knew someone in this country that could actually spend some time with him during the day, but such was the way of life. ”Yeah, not exactly good at fitting into a place where the culture is practically alien to me.” Ryan stated, taking a small bite out of his yakitori trying to shake off the ‘fish out of water’ vibe he was getting even as Ikeda was attempting to converse in English. He felt somewhat guilty, practically forcing her into a language she was not fluent in in order to have a conversation. ”Been wandering around, butchering your language and trying some new things to get a better feel for your country and the festival.”

Shiori had to smirk at that, for even from the brief glimpse into the man’s attempt at Japanese, ‘butchering’ had proved a fairly adequate description.

In a way, this could work for him. He didn’t like the idea of simply leaving her, because he had seen one too many proud people decline help when they could really use it because they were simply too independent for their own good. ”To be honest, if you’re willing, I could use someone to guide me around and translate some of the harder words for me.” It was a bit forward maybe, but sometimes it was best to simply go for something rather than attempt to beat around the bush.

Shiori paused, slightly surprised by the forwardness of the request. Or perhaps impressed, knowing that she, in his position, would take years of aimless wandering before deigning to ask for help.

She glanced back at the man that had thrown her, and met his gaze as a breath caught in her throat. But then he looked away just as quickly, and the alien pull in her chest twinged once more. No familiarity from his end… she couldn’t decide if she was relieved or disappointed.

Or maybe she was just going mad.

Regardless, she forced herself to bring her attention back to the young tourist in front of her, and nodded with as friendly a smile as she could muster considering her tumultuous state.

”Buy me a yakitori, and you’ve got yourself a deal.”

”Done.” Ryan stated without any sort of hesitation. He slipped the dictionary back into his jacket pocket and beckoned her to follow him. He continued munching on what was left of his own yakitori. He lead them both back to the stall where he had originally gotten the food to begin with, rapidly finishing his own food before ordering a couple more from the man who didn’t bother saying anything in Japanese, remembering Ryan from just a few short moments ago. As he handed over the sticks, Ryan passed him the money and gave one of them to Ikeda. ”Are there many festivals like this here in Tokyo?” Ryan asked, launching right into the questions. He was hoping to keep the answers to something she would easily know without any research, but as a side objective he was also trying to keep her talking and somewhat focused. Even if he didn’t know the cause or particulars about whatever that little episode was, he could at least try to make the most out of meeting someone new.

His attempt at small talk neither irritated nor shocked Shiori, despite the fact that she was wont to avoid it every other day. She hated when people thought it necessary to fill every silence with useless babble for the sake of the noise. And yet, she also acknowledged exactly how damn antisocial and morbid that sounded, even in her head. Christ, I need to lighten up.

Not to mention that he wasn’t awkward about it. And his conversation seemed to stem from legitimate curiosity as opposed to forced interest. Plus, it actually felt quite nice, this feeling of a potential friendship blooming, so she replied in earnest.

”Oh, yeah. We’ve got a thing for festivals.” She thought for a moment, ”You’ve got the Kanda Festival, or the Sanja Festival, if you’re the rager type.” She smiled, tucking her hands into her pockets as she glanced over at him, ”They both happen in May, though. Are you sticking around until then?”

”I might be.” Ryan stated as they simply started walking in a direction, munching on their respective foods. ”I’m on leave from my job for the month, with the promise of extension if I need it.” Ryan stated, not bothering to go into specifics. He had just met this woman, there was no need to explain his slightly complicated reason for even being in this country. Shiori, in turn, nodded slowly, resisting the urge to interrupt as to acquire about his particular job. Perhaps it was the cop in her, but she was prone to turning conversations into interrogations if she wasn’t trying otherwise.

”But regardless, I love social affairs, so if I’m around for either or both chances are I’ll show up at some point.” Ryan said with a genuine smile on his face, taking in the Cherry Blossom trees with a somewhat serene feeling about him. He hadn’t spent much time feeling ‘at peace’ lately, so this was a nice change of pace.

”So were you born in Tokyo then?” Ryan asked, getting straight to the point before raising his hands slightly in an almost ‘surrendering’ posture. ”I don’t mean to pry, but if you’ll forgive my bluntness, you don’t look one hundred percent Japanese.”

Unoffended, Shiori shrugged blithely, ”No, you’re not prying. I was born in Kyoto; Japanese mom, white dad.” She smiled nonchalantly as she took a bite into her yakitori, ”He went back to the US before I was born. He knows I exist, but we haven’t met.”

Maybe a blessing in disguise, you never know, Ryan thought to himself as they continued walking through the festival. ”Ah, back to the land of the ‘Free and the Brave’” Ryan commented dryly, doing his best air quotes with his fingers while holding onto his food. He gave a smile at his almost inside joke, knowing full well the stereotype of Americans felt around the world. He sort of wanted to continue down this line of questioning, see if she ever bothered to try and get into contact with him, but felt it was a bit too personal for him to ask, seeing as they just met. Instead, he decided to switch the topic slightly. ”So you’ve lived here your whole life then? Tell me, what’s a native of Kyoto do to keep herself afloat? What’s your business?” Ryan made slightly exaggerated hand movements to signify he was trying to be light about this, but he did have an issue where he didn’t realize he had entered ‘personal’ territory until it was too late. Hopefully he wasn’t pushing into topics she didn’t want to talk about or coming across as the creepy dude who asked too many questions...Oh man, now that was going to be in the back of his mind the rest of the trip.

And yet, it soon became clear that the question didn’t bother Shiori in the slightest. In fact, she seemed to puff up with pride as she replied. Nothing too obvious, just a slight rise of the chin, a small roll of the shoulders, a little curve to her lips. Body language aside, however, she responded in a casual tone, ”I’m a cop, actually.”

”No shit? Does that mean I shouldn’t reveal where I’ve stashed all the cocaine I have?” Ryan smirked a bit, taking yet another bite from his stick food. ”But seriously, that’s pretty damn cool...you must have some cop stories, so c’mon, dish!” Like a little boy in a toy store, Ryan’s face lit up with more than a little excitement and anticipation. He lived for learning about people, and being a cop opened the conversation path to so many different and new experiences that he couldn’t help but relish the opportunity to pick the memories of someone who had lived through them.

”Well, I think so.” His compliments only bolstered her job-related pride, but she waved her hand modestly, a touch embarrassed. ”Stories?” She thought for a moment, before smiling. ”Well, there is one I’m pretty proud o-”

Her words caught in her throat as she caught sight of a girl a small way ahead of them. Or, at least, she looked like a girl. Shiori, however, knew better. As the ghost raised her bloody hand to an unsuspecting festival-goers chest, he staggered and fell, much to the ghost’s apparent delight.

One day. Can I just have one day without some malevolent spirit fucking it up?

She glanced back to Ryan, ”One sec-,” before running over to where the man had collapsed. Kneeling down beside him, she reached for his shoulder, speaking once again in her more comfortable tongue, ”Sir, are you alright?”

A shadow in her peripheral vision, and she looked up. Dragging her tongue across her bloody fingers, the ghost grinned at her, eyes wide behind the streaks of raven that fell across her pale face. Meanwhile, Shiori’s own expression wasn’t fearful, instead, it was darkened by a cold hostility.
But the soul wasn’t deterred. If anything, it was riveted.

Things took a turn for the unexpectedly worse as someone in front of them seemed to drop from what Ryan could only think was a heart attack. He was clutching his chest and collapsed to the ground, almost instinctually Shiori had rushed to the man’s aid and Ryan felt himself pulled towards him as well. Despite the general chatter having switched back to the native Japanese, Ryan got a feel for what was being said. ‘Are you alright?’, ‘How are you feeling?’, etc etc etc. Ryan didn’t bother to ask anything, knowing that with Shiori there, a cop none the less, that the situation was well in hand without him butting in. So there he stood, like a lump on a log unsure as to what exactly he was supposed to be doing, but was surprised when he looked back down at Shiori and the man who collapsed to find her staring at him with an icy glare cold enough enough to melt the sun.
”Uhhhhh...did I do something wrong?” Ryan asked, genuinely perplexed as to this rapid shift in her demeanor towards him.

Shiori did not break away from the soul’s stare, and as the soul’s smile widened, she flexed her jaw in frustration. As Ryan’s voice broke the balloon of silence between the two, the soul’s eyes dragged towards to mortal. The malevolence in her (its?) gaze was palpable, and she looked him over a moment before glimpsing back to Shiori. In an act of apparent spice, she reached a pale, sharp-fingered hand towards Ryan.

Moving at a speed she didn’t realize she had, Shiori was on her feet and pushing Ryan out of the way. As she stepped forward, she felt an icy hand drag itself across her back, and almost immediately afterwards, a scorching agony broke out between her shoulderblades. Gritting her teeth, she managed to stay on her feet, and wrapped her fingers around Ryan’s wrist.

”We need to go. Now.”