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Kaede Shimizu

I wonder, are you remembered for your smile, or for your teeth?

0 · 856 views · located in Tokyo, Japan

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

Description

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KAEDE SHIMIZU...............................Guardian's Charge
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A photographer with a talent for capturing the worst sides of people, she lives plagued by the uncertainty of her future. If only she knew that the young regular at the cafe is actually ensuring she'll fulfill her destiny— a great one, at that.

...ImageAge.........Twenty Four....................D.O.B.........November 9, 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
        five foot seven | dark brown | black

        An image carefully cultivated to help her seem more confident during her unsure days in London, she has assimilated it into her being, allowed it to become an expression of herself instead of a facade to cover what would otherwise be a mousy girl. Because that's not who she is anymore.

        Her first week abroad, Kaede slashed off the long, silken hair that had once fallen below her waist, the hair that her father complimented every day. She cried, just a little, but she'd gotten too used to hiding her face behind the sheet of it. The next day she went to a hairstylist, a real one, got it touched up into a very chic lob, and acted like she was stupendously pleased with the compliments that came with her new 'do. The week after that, she pierced her ears, three more holes in the upper lobe and one in the helix. That night, her roommates took her out clubbing for the first time. She shed the dainty dresses in favor of loose tanks, skinny jeans, leather jackets, heeled black boots. In the span of a month, she went from perfect daughter to that edgy indie girl.

        The more people spoke to her, the more she realized she was no longer just pretending to be the cool personality she'd assumed. She enjoyed having casual conversations with classmates, laughing about the latest celebrity drama, even going out for drinks at night when she should have been studying. Inadvertently, she'd allowed herself to become the person she always had the potential to be. The too long, too bony limbs which had once felt only gangly, now felt elegant. Felt strong. Felt capable. In the span of a month, she went from meek to confident.


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        P E R S O N A
        Engaging | Indecisive | Impulsive | Aimless

        She may not be entirely pleased with person she is, but when she thinks of the person she used to be, she reminds herself to be proud of the miles she has come. Once a tin man with a heart locked behind a cage of iron bars, she's since allowed herself to free the captive desires and expressions. She's far more independent than she used to be, perhaps a touch stubborn even, but at least capable of doing what needs to be done without being told how, where, when, what, and why. Progress is progress. She's proud of it. She gained a sense of confidence abroad, left her frailty behind on the choppy waters separating the two different nations she both learned to call home. Now, she is easygoing and approachable, friendly without reserve, a trait that has made her a rather popular server at the cafe where she works. In a way, it is the discovery of her right to pursue the passions that light up her being that has given her a new energy. Being independent from the family she relied on for so long is the most difficult thing she has ever endured, but it has also been her saving grace.

        Of all the negativities she has managed to shed, she has not lost her vague and crippling fear of what the future will, or will not, bring. She sometimes believes she would like to be a prophet of some sort, able to see all the possibilities, all the outcomes of the paths she could take. (But then sometimes, the idea of that scares her more.) When she studied in London, she changed her major a grand total of three times and at the end of it all she came out with a degree in marketing that she knows she'll never use again. Maybe she should have switched a fourth time. Or maybe she should have just stuck with her first choice. The nebulous nature of her future is not something she cares to think of often, and as such is not something she has taken any steps towards resolving. She insists, when people ask, having no end goal in mind just means she can live her life in the present, to the fullest, without any restrictions in place to keep her from obeying the whims of her compulsions. She's also not the most honest person. But she isn't lying about the whims, the impulses. Perhaps a desperate attempt to mask her own indecision from herself, Kaede often jumps headlong into whatever her latest decision is, does not hesitate to lift her camera and snap a picture of even the most frightening looking people, does not hesitate to jump from a plane, or from a bridge. All so she can say, See? I am not broken, am not incapable. I can make this decision, can't I? She's not sure, exactly, who those words are for. But for the moment, they are saving her.

        What she lacks in motivation, she makes up for in love. She does not care about much, cannot muster the effort for those things, but when she looks through the viewfinder of her camera to focus on her latest subject, clueless and lovely for it, she does not mind that she has spent four very valuable hours sitting in the park for snapshots that will mostly be useless. Because those four valuable hours were used for the sake even more valuable work. She is not unhappy the way things are now. She is scared, sometimes, at the back of her mind, but she is not unhappy.



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CHARISMATIC..Although she used to be terribly timid, she has since grown
out of her shell and has become someone with a very outgoing, magnetic personality.


PHOTOGRAPHY..Aside from her "gift" for capturing even the most attractive
people at their worst, she also has an excellent eye for composition and lighting.


CONSIDERATE..Disregarding her inclination towards sarcasm and snark as
an expression of love towards friends, she's always sure to be there when needed most



MOTIVATION..She's a bit of a couch potato, does not like getting out of
the house to go do things if she has no interest in or love for the subject or action.


IMPULSE..When is comes to things that have no serious bearing on her
future, she is often quick to do things she should maybe think twice about before.


DEFENSIVE..She does not like being challenged, particularly about her
life decisions, and can be quick to jump on the defensive instead of listening.





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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

        Kaede lived a blessed life. She knew this, even young, because her father was always standing tall before her and her brother, rigid and firm, reminding them to never take their possessions for granted. (This was all a gift, he would say, just a blessing from some strange foreign aunt. Kaede did not understand.) Still, she was a capricious child, flighty and just a touch entitled, always changing hobbies and interests, pursuing a new passion every week. Her brother was far more subdued—quieter, gentler, softer around the edges. Three years older than she, he never complained when she pestered him or stole his things out of jealousy or greed. Then, she did not understand what the whispers behind closed doors meant that said he would be the one to inherit her father's position as liaison when she returned eventually. (Briefly, she wondered about the odd woman who had come to visit once, the one her father ordered her to call aunt despite her foreign appearance. She had not liked strangers, even then, had hidden behind the folds of her mother's skirts.) But while she envied her brother's importance to her father, it did not matter much to her. Selfishly, she thought that if her brother were to take over all aspects of her family's business, personal or otherwise, she would not be subjected to the harsh rigidity of his schedule. Her brother took supplemental lessons on managing business while she ran around outside, snapping pictures of flowers and bugs with her brand new camera.

        It was on a Tuesday, just outside of the school gates, that she got the call from her mother. She remembers vividly the color of the leaves hanging off the trees above her, recalls in perfect detail the texture of the rough pavement she was looking down on. Everything about the instant remains perfectly clear, except the voice of her mother, which comes through in her memories muffled, always muffled. She does not remember much about the eight hours that came after. She does remember roaming the suddenly too large house for days after, softly calling her brother's name as though she expected him, somehow, to reply eventually.

        Things were different afterwards, though nothing that wouldn't be expected. Already somewhat shy, Kaede became more withdrawn and silent, anxious, always, every moment spent worrying about what was happening while she was incapable of doing anything. Even when her brother came back, weeks later, worse for wear but still willing to smile and endure his sister's crushing grip, she did not lose that atmosphere of agitation. Understandably off-putting, Kaede spent her school days as something of a social recluse. It was not until her father offered to ship her off to England for university that she swore to herself she'd change. And she did. She realized, maybe a year or so into her time there, that while her household and family were incredibly important to her, her continual dependence on them and their company was not doing her any favors. When she returned after her years there, she promptly declared to her parents that she'd like to live alone, without their support. (She was surprised when they agreed so easily. She'd expected, perhaps, just a little resistance.) Since then, she's been making her way through life one day at a time. She decided to pursue her true passion of photography, set up a blog that's become rather popular, a series of candid photos taken of unsuspecting people followed by a brief interview with them. She's also been getting a bit of work as a freelance photographer, though she still often finds herself short of funds and working a part time job at a cafe down the street.



    Image
                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: tao okamoto
                  HEX CODE: 90a3a7
                  PORTRAYED BY: epimetheus
                  CS CREATED BY: epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: EST

                  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

                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellent
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellent
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellene
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellete
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellnte
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pelente
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pelente
                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pllente
                  just use this space for like word spam, short phrases or lnks to
                  pictures of quotes that remind you of your character. Hve fun
                  with it, they can be silly. In fact, I use this section primrily for
                  memes LMAO
                  _( MISC )

                  Kaede actually also runs a second side blog, which is just a
                  collection of terrifically and truly terrible candids of her friends.
                  Basil is often featured due to accessibility, but viewers respond
                  well to shots taken of him when some chef on Chopped has
                  just decided to whip out a blender with 15 seconds left on the
                  clock. ■ Kaede's true talent with the camera lies in her uncanny
                  ability to get candid shots of even the most attractive people
                  looking absolutely and monstrously horrible. It's her biggest
                  joy in life. She's a little obsessive about it though, and her first
                  instinct upon meeting anyone attractive is to get a terrible pic-
                  ture of them. ■ She has physical albums in a bookshelf of all
                  best (or worst, depending on perspective) candids she's taken.

━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

So begins...

Kaede Shimizu'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
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.25 INK

#, 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: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Layla
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▁ ▂ ▃xxxT H ExxxH I L L Sxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxT A I L O R E D xxxS U I T

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xxxxxxPools of aquamarine roamed the pages as the mind behind them wandered elsewhere. Cassius Dōriēwes had little interest in The Archaeology of Knowledge and only a transient interest in his newest secretary, a bespectacled young graduate from Osaka who was gentle on the eyes.
xxxxxxShe wandered the subterranean of his private study, her long fingers gliding over the spines of the books that lined its walls. She was "dusting," as impoverished mortals who could not afford servants were known to do.
xxxxxxEmiko, Emiri—or whatever it was the scrawl on her name badge read—was pretty enough. She was tall and languid and lovely in the way most flowers were, regardless of their petals' symmetry or the curve of their stem. She watched him from under a curtain of lashes, her eyes flitting back and forth in a teasing gambol of sexual tension. It was unfortunate that he felt little thrill without the chase.
xxxxxxShe jumped when Cassius slammed his book shut.
xxxxxx"Why do I have a secretary?" he asked.
xxxxxx"Ah, sir?"
xxxxxx"Honestly, why do I? It's hardly as if I run anything in my corporate empire." He gestured broadly at the world around him. "Why would I, when I've hired hands to run it for me?"
xxxxxx"Well, I'm not—" the woman stuttered. "I'm not sure, sir. I guess, maybe—"
xxxxxx"Let me tell you something— Erika," he said, squinting at her badge. He strode to the other side of his mahogany desk. "I don't talk to people hoping to engage a response. I talk at people to help me think."
xxxxxx"I'm sorry, sir-"
xxxxxx"It's alright, dear. You're dismissed." He paused and took her hand, now cold and damp with nerves. A smile unfurled from the corners of his lips, revealing two rows of alabaster teeth that would put most commercials to shame. "You're of course entitled to a bonus and a generous retirement fund."
xxxxxx"I-I've worked here for two weeks."
xxxxxx"A short time for most, and yet a very long time if you have the misfortune of living only two weeks." He laughed. "I'll have a tab opened for you under my account. Please, enjoy yourself at Apex tonight."
xxxxxxWithout waiting for a response, Cassius breezed out of the room, and wound his way to the penthouse. Music hammered in the walls, climbing into a crescendo and spilling in waves of bliss. The club was thriving in the midst of Tokyo, the strobe lights illuminating the huckleberry night in swaths of red and gold. Bodies parted like molasses, reluctant to split in the tide of lust but eager to glimpse the fox spirit that sliced through them unbeknownst to the mortal crowd. His allure was intoxicating, though that might have been the champagne pouring in spades from crystal flasks.
xxxxxxThe event tonight was in celebration of their reopening after Apex acquired not only their competitors the floor below, but the entire building in the metropolitan central of Shinjuku, Tokyo. The masquerade saw the nightclub transformed as masked figures danced and mingled in the sleek ebony and glass interior of the balcony.
xxxxxxCassius had pulled a Venetian mask over his features in the elevator, the intricate black whorls amplifying his air of mystery. He granted an assemblage of his admirers a small smile as he plucked a flute of champagne from a tray that was offered. He brought it to his lips, and tossed them a wink. They moved towards him but he slipped away into the crowd, allowing the numerous masks to obscure his retreat.
xxxxxxHe slipped the smartphone from his pocket and into his palm, his fingers dancing over the screen.


To: Kaede Shimizu

The lighting here is terrible and my disguise is hideous.
Run if you want to capture my bad side. Also I don't p-
ay you to sleep.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


xxxxxxA shadow fell over him and he glanced away from his screen. A ghost stood before him, its face obscured in darkness. His brows furrowed and lowered as his muscles tensed, prepared to defend his territory. A crack shivered across the surface of his phone as his fingers cinched around it.
xxxxxxIt was not until recently that he'd known spirits to possess any degree of opacity that they would be capable to intercepting the light or create shadows for that matter. Yet this was the second time he'd witnessed such an ominous presence. It parted its lips, as if to speak to him.
xxxxxxIt disappeared as the air brightened.
xxxxxxCassius cast his eyes upward just as the first star fell. More chased after it, beads of the universe pelting against the horizon. He heard the rustle of handbags and pockets ushering in the click of phones. The crowd captured the spectacle with their digital gaze, their gasps of awe and appreciation becoming secondary to it.
xxxxxxHe stood still amongst the people, alone in that instant with the the sky's candlelight as they illuminated the planes of his face. His full lips parted as if to taste a thin stream of moonlight, his eyes fluttering shut against the brilliance. He'd lived for two thousand years and several more centuries, but he'd never seen a meteor shower. Perhaps he'd simply never bothered to look up.
xxxxxxWhat a pity.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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                          There was, perhaps, a time when Kaede didn't spend her evenings eating takeout (or, if she was lucky that night, a home cooked meal) on the couch, camera in her hands as Basil, attention riveted on the TV screen, made the most ridiculous expressions. If there was, she didn't remember it well, and she wouldn't trade this for that for the world anyway. Since Basil signed the lease and warmed up to her voyeuristic—in a purely innocent way—tendencies, the views on her secondary photography blog had skyrocketed, commenters clamoring for the next picture of the endearingly odd looking man with sharp, elfin features. And Basil was always at his best (worst?) when watching Chopped. Kaede wouldn't call the food network her viewing of choice, but the high stakes cooking show Basil watched most was interesting enough, she supposed, so she didn't mind it terribly. And there were, of course, the other benefits.

                          A flash of light shone brightly and briefly, illuminating the expanse of their small living room for just an instant. Kaede straightened her back, pulled the camera away from her face to study the snapshot in time she'd just captured, a smile already pulling at the corners of her lips. Perfect. The mini Basil on the screen looked positively disgusting, his features distorted in a grimace of what looked like physical pain, the result of a chef pulling out the ice cream machine far too late in the game. A silent moment of appreciation was violently interrupted by the too-loud vibration of her cellphone. Kaede could not help the scowl that appeared when she saw the name of the sender, despite holding no particular ill will towards him. Cass was always deceivingly charming, but he he had his moments of shocking sadism, and the veil of allure that he wore only made him all the more terrifying. She never knew when his messages would be more ricin laced letter than carefully packaged gift.

                          "Shit," she hissed, eyes going wide. "Shit, shit, shit," she continued, scrambling to get off the couch and on the way to her room. She wasn't sure if Basil had noticed her strange departure, what with his razor sharp focus on the timer steadily counting down to last few seconds of the dessert round, but just in case he had, Kaede, intently focused on finding some semblance of a presentable dress out of her closet, yelled out an explanation. "My boss called me out really suddenly, so I'm heading down to Apex for the night," she said, as she pulled out a sleek black dress, simple and elegant, that she always kept on hand in case of situations like this. Then, true to their agreement, she said the exact same thing in English, working the words out in her delicate accent, a bizarre blend of both British and Eastern, twisting the syllables into something that often made her classmates in London ask her to say odd and inane phrases just to hear the tongue twisters said in her foreign tongue.

                          In ten minutes flat, Kaede finished what she called the club look—hastily done dark eyemakeup with a shock of red lipstick to draw away attention from any mistakes. She was not in the habit of prettying herself up often, but since that one time Cass had scoffed at her, asked to look "at the very least, presentable, if you're going to be under my employ," she'd bought and used several more shades of lip tint. She thought of Cass every time she used them, which was going to be terrible for her skin eventually, since she was frowning so frequently.

                          Halfway to the door, she remembered it was masquerade night at the club, ran back to her desk where she kept a gold leafed paper maiche mask Basil had helped her make (bless his soul, he'd somehow managed to turn soggy newspapers into a chic fashion accessory), and shoved it into her purse. In moments, she back in the living room, tugging on low heels that wouldn't be tremendously difficult to run in. "Hey, text me if you want to join, I'll tell the bouncers to let you in," she said to Basil, followed by the English translation. With that, she was out the door, rushing to the bus stop once the elevator let her off at the ground floor.

                          Luckily, Apex happened to be in relatively near proximity, only a three minute bus ride away, with a bus that came by around every five minutes. God, she thought, must have been on her side that night, because she didn't wait any longer than half a minute for the bus to come around. In that moment she decided tonight was finally going to be the night. She toyed with the lens cap on her camera as she briefly recalled the first time she'd seen Cass, infuriatingly beautiful under the colored strobe lights of the throbbing club. With the crowd pulsing around her, she'd gotten on one knee and waited. Waited until the perfect moment. Then she got the perfect shot. Except that it wasn't. What was supposed to come out as a snapshot of one of the rare times he'd look ugly, for just an instant, had turned out only as a testament to his unnatural beauty. She must have taken a hundred pictures of him that night. Not one came out the way she wanted. She'd have been slightly more mortified when he approached her to ask about the pictures if she hadn't been so miffed about her continual failure, but Cass hadn't named her a stalker and asked for her removal from the premises at all. Instead, there was a job offer. One that she'd be a fool to reject. Even without the ridiculously good pay, her work allowed for frequent proximity to the man of the hour himself, and she'd been chasing that perfect picture for months now. She persisted. He always prevailed. The closest she'd ever come was a picture of him biting into an unnecessarily large burger. His features looked distorted, sure, but they only distorted into an alternate version of perfection.

                          Switching to the English keyboard (because there really was no suitable Japanese equivalent for the types of messages she often sent to Cass) on her phone, Kaede shot off a very professional message to her employer.

                          TO: ☠ ☠ ☠
                          EAT DIRT, CASS


                          Followed by,

                          I'M ON MY WAY

                          Kaede was still fumbling in her bag for her mask after the bus dropped her off when the stars began to fall. She didn't look up until the exciting murmuring of the collective voice of the crowd around her grew too loud to ignore, and she did not regret it when she did. Awe kept her body still as streaks of light dotted the inky sky, the last chill of early spring passing by in a swift breeze, and Kaede was not sure the shiver that went down her spine was because of that or because of the image of divinity before her. She did not bother lifting the camera to her face—there was no capturing moments like this wholly as they were.

                          The thought of the quickly fleeting seconds jolted her back to reality, spurring her back into action. She waved at the bouncers as she passed through the front door of one of the hottest clubs in Tokyo like a wraith, sliding through the throngs of wild limbs with the fluidity of water, or perhaps of the champagne the hosts seemed to be freely pouring. She'd grown accustomed to the space in her weeks of working for the owner, knew how to maneuver to get to where she needed to go in the quickest way possible. It did not take long for her to arrive at where she knew Cass would be, gaze still cast skyward, mouth parted slightly in the lonely sort of absence of mind she was never able to catch but always knew existed. He did not look terrible. He looked bone achingly beautiful, and before the flash even went off, Kaede knew the portrait she'd captured—beauty set against beauty, a captivating figure painted atop the backdrop of a collapsing sky—belonged in a museum, or somewhere the whole world could stop by and weep for him.

                          She let the camera drop, hanging loose around her neck. "Hey," she said, with a casual grin, denoting nothing of her previous thoughts. "You lied to me." Indeed he had. The lighting looked great on him, club strobes and moonlight working in unison to highlight the elegant curves of his bone structure. It really pissed Kaede off.

                          Remembering, suddenly, her Chopped junkie friend she'd left behind, Kaede reached a hand towards Cass. "Lend me your phone?" she asked, as she was already slipping it from his pocket. On his notes, she wrote, "LET BASIL IN," then held the cell up to her face as she used her own to take a quick picture of her, it, and Cass. With the tap of a finger, the photo was on route to Basil, supposing he decided to come. She didn't thank Cass as she slapped the phone back into his open palm.

                          "So you look disgustingly amazing as always," Kaede huffed, leaning against the bannister. "I was in the middle of doing something, you lying trickster." This wasn't, of course, the first time he'd lied to her about his appearance. Granted, it was half her fault for falling for it so many times, but the chance was always too tempting for her to pass up. She was almost inclined to think he just wanted company, but then, he was so often surrounded by so many eager to please patrons, so she couldn't see how she'd be any more welcome than them. Cass was an odd bird, but she didn't not enjoy his company, and that counted for something.

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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"What the fuck?! You're never going to get that cooked in time! Come on, dude! You're definitely getting chopped this round, and you were going to win! You forgot a basket ingredient last round and still didn't get chopped. This is what happens every time, Kaede, they-" Flash. "-forget a basket ingredient and it all goes down from there."

The usual pastime for Basil Gardner and his roommate, Kaede Shimizu, is watching Chopped while the latter takes photographs that are, quite frankly, the worst he's ever seen himself. Of course, that doesn't stop him from being constantly featured on Kaede's blog, and sending the pictures to his mom on Facebook. They spent most of today in this same position, and he's sure that Kaede has plenty of material to abate her fans who constantly ask for his painful candids. Then suddenly, his roommate shot up from her seat, blazing through the house and coming back with hastily spoken Japanese, followed by a slower version in English in her foreign accent that he learned to understand and adore for its beauty. He tried to respond in proper Japanese, but she was out the door before he could form any words; it didn't help that his eyes never left the screen in front of him, where the chef he'd just been yelling at had just finished his plate.

Turns out, the other chef won, as Basil correctly predicted. As he celebrated, his phone vibrated. It was a photo of Kaede and her extremely attractive boss who he'd seen on one or two occasions. The photo also had a sign, "let Basil in". Although a new episode of Worst Cooks in America was about to show, he usually didn't pass up on going to the club, especially with Kaede. Working at the diner and living together has really brought the two together, at least in Basil's mind. Other than fellow candle-obsessed American Paola Millán, Kaede is one of the few close friends he has in Tokyo. So, with a final reluctant glance toward the screen, he turns off the TV and sends off a reply.


T O : K A E
私は途中です


Basil tried to write "i am on my way" in Japanese but there is a very good chance that it says something else entirely. Now, for the clothes. He would usually sit on the couch in his boxers but when Kaede brings her camera out he tries to be decent. For the club, he changes into an outfit that could be mistaken for many outfits that circled the runway this season. Basil makes sure to save the photo that Kaede sent to him to show the bouncer, considering a club her boss would show his face at would be more upscale than Basil would be allowed in to. "Alright, it's now or never, gorgeous." Basil sighs to his reflection in the mirror. Going out was a rare occasion for both of the roommates; between their schedules at the diner and long hours on the couch, neither saw the need to put on uncomfortable clothes and drink too much for any more time than necessary.

It didn't take long for Basil to arrive, but the confrontation with the bouncer was quite a time taker. He believed more in the photoshop abilities of a stranger than his acquaintanceship of Cassius and Kaede. Once he showed his I.D., proving that yes, he is Basil Gardner and that is his actual name, he made inside and grabbed a drink from the bar. A small, pink-colored drink graced his fingers before his sights set on his roommate, looking absolutely dazzling in her club wear. He made sure her eyes were set on his before he winked at her, but kept far enough away until he was allowed near the club owner.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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Dress & Hair
                      Seok Areum
                      FOX SPIRIT | 1392 | #d24038


                      The evening haze colored their surroundings a gradient of orange and white from the sun as it slowly withdrew from the sky. A quiet bliss settled over the occupants of the room, and for a few moments it seemed as though time would truly stop; where stormy clouds would cease to pour, and birds would conclude their songs to silence. In those few moments one could capture all the loveliness of the world in a single snapshot.

                      It was an awful hopefulness that Areum had been certain she squashed centuries ago. It appeared however that time had not done its job properly.

                      The sound of rustling sheets pulled Areum away from the window — where she had been watching the city streets moments before — and next to the woman lying in bed. Carefully she began to stroke a mess of black hair that fell from the pillow like a waterfall. A quiet hum was all the thanks she received, and when she went to pull her hand away a much smaller one grabbed onto it in earnest. Areum frowned, and used her other hand to pry the woman off her.

                      “I enjoyed our time together,” she paused and stood up, brushing invisible dirt off her black dress.

                      Immediately the woman rolled off the bed clumsily and reached for her hand once more. However, in a practiced movement Areum avoided contact by tucking a fallen stand of hair behind her ear. Nothing was said, but even through persisting white noise both could hear each other perfectly. Kaori kept her gaze lowered, trying to fight off tears and a heartache she knew would last for months, while Areum looked upon the scene with disinterest.

                      “You can’t leave me like this,” she finally demanded, her voice softer — more timid — than what she had hoped for. Areum sighed and walked to the bed where she quickly draped the sheets over her ex-lover. “You — you promised me.”
                      “I did,” her reply was nonchalant and left the other speechless, “but only to a woman who loved me.”
                      “But I do! I — ” Kaori’s hands were white from gripping the sheets too hard, and her voice was melodic in the way only broken things ever were. If Areum had been any other person then perhaps her heart might have tugged at the sight, but more than sympathy or regret all she felt was certain type of loathing that settled in the depths of her stomach. It was time to see if she had succeeded.
                      “Prove it.”
                      Without needing further instructions Kaori quickly pulled Areum down to her level and kissed her as though she would die without it. Too bad she couldn’t see the irony in her actions.

                      With the woman’s warm hands cupping her jaw Areum remembered the night she found the girl lying on the street half dead — cold and lifeless and without a single soul to care for her. When subconsciously her hands tangled into the other’s black hair she was prompted to think of early morning breakfasts and secret smiles not meant to last. As she withdrew from the kiss however she felt satisfied knowing the woman loved her for all her imperfections, and all her misery.

                      “I love you,” Kaori was breathless and as Areum looked into her eyes all she could think of was how empty the night sky appeared to be.

                      Silence suffused the room and almost mechanically Areum backed Kaori into the bed before picking up the fallen sheet, and using it to tuck her in delicately. She gave the woman a chaste kiss on the forehead, not noticing the tears freely falling from the other’s eyes. Too self-absorbed was she in a job well done that the pale figure reaching out for her went unnoticed.

                      With one hand firmly on the handle to the exit Areum spoke genuinely, “Thank you.” She closed the door behind her with a soft click and smiled.

                      Taking out her phone she then pulled up Kaori’s contact number and without hesitating deleted her existence.

                      -

                      Procuring another flute of champagne from a passing waiter, Areum felt the high of her evening begin to wane. The masked countenance of patrons began to bore more than bemuse her, and in alcohol she could only find so much satisfaction.

                      Already she was on her fourth glass, and yet she heard no pounding in her ears, felt no feeling of elation, nor saw the blurry colors of a red and gold night. Downing the drink in a single breath she then placed it on a nearby stand for someone else to clean up. It was all the same, and it tired her.

                      So perhaps it was a combination of both fatigue and boredom that she was made to believe with Kaori gone she needed another disaster to fill her void. There was no rhyme or reason to her want, her need; and in a span of a few moments Areum knew she needed another tragedy to smile prettily at, to claim their heart as hers. The feeling scratched at her soul with claws that tore through arteries, and didn’t wait for her to rest.

                      Such is the reason why when a man in a black mask and a tuxedo tailored to perfection, caught her attention she greeted him warmly. Her smile softened into something manageable, but her gaze held a glint that promised a future of either ruination or salvation.

                      She drew him close, her hand wrapped around his loosely made tie, and just as she was about to ask for his name, their evening was interrupted by the sudden barrage of stars. He drew away like a bird caught in a dream and quickly left the scene — the only note of his existence being the red silk tie she managed to slip off. How careless was she to let him run off without warning.

                      As another attendant passed by Areum immediately grabbed another flute, and when she drained its contents gone, shattered the glass with her right hand. The shards fell onto her black dress, and reflected light as to reminded her of shooting stars. Stars she refused to acknowledge. Stars that stole away her prey.

                      Some lager pieces had pierced her hand, but she took care of it by wiping on it on her dress. As a consequence the lacy fabric snagged onto it and caused her hand to bleed a more beautiful red. Without thinking she utilized the tie as a makeshift bandage, and grimaced at her handiwork. It could use some improving, but it would do.

                      All thoughts of a night well spent went up in flames, and as she made a move to pull her phone out — no doubt to yell at her dear friend Cassius for his absence— only then did she spot her gracious host brooding by the balcony.

                      Silently she walked through a throng of people all staring in awe at the meteor shower, and slipped next to Cassius’ side. He was as handsome as Areum remembered, but in the pale moonlight she couldn’t help but think he looked just as dead as he was supposed to be. Curved cheekbones emphasized the planes of his face, making him look all the more gaunt, and the deep set eyes that would have once enraptured her heart now looked haunted. Perhaps she was just projecting though.

                      In Areum’s haste though she hadn’t noticed the photographer, Kaede if she remembered right, leaning against the banister and looking for all the world as beautiful as twilight. Her allure did not lie in conventional standards — no, the red lipstick was much too hurried and the black dress, while beautiful, seemed awkward on her. However, there was something wild about her. Something free and sharp that made Areum want to try and diminish her light. Of course, she wouldn’t — after all Kaede was Cassius’ employee and they had an unsaid rule about that kind of thing, but still Areum could dream.

                      “A beautiful night, made all the more lovely with the sight of you,” she said looking directly at Kaede. “My business proposition still stands should you tire of Cassius.”

                      Whatever look he may have given her though was promptly ignored as Areum caught sight of a blonde haired boy winking at their photographer. With a glare she whispered to the two of them, “The man in the yellow vest is trying to catch your attention, should we intervene?” It was not as if they had any claim over the woman, but with a restlessness still thrumming in her veins she felt the need to antagonize whomever was in her way.

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: 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: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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The heartbeat of the club thumped against his chest and as always, he forgot why he didn't spend every waking moment partying. The low thrum of the bass from electric beats oozing sex into the vibrating crowd. Club goers clawing and thrashing again each other, sweating into the night just to make sure they had good stories in the moment. The atmosphere of it equally set him on edge and set him free, it was exhilarating! Even more so as he heard Kaede call him over and noticed her wide grin above the rest of the passers-by.

"Basil," A velveteen Italian voice broke through the utter chaos of the club and streamlined Basil's attention to Kaede's boss, a man exclusively known to Basil as Cassius. As Basil moved forward -a feat that seemed to occur because of Cassius's beckoning hand rather than his own mobility- he was met by his beloved roomate Kaede, who carefully maneuvered him into a hug, weary of his drink and her camera. He returned her greeting with a simple "hey Kae!" before she pulled him close and whispered "be careful of these wolves," in her thick, twisted accent. He looked back over. at Cassius; beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but Basil would be hard pressed to find anyone that didn't recognize the beauty that radiated from this man. Basil often witnessed the utter frustration his roommate felt when a perfectly timed candid developed into anything but the horrid features that often disguised Basil's face when he was to grace that small screen. Even the camera saw it as an injustice to twist Cassius' beauty into the perfect photo for Kaede's blog. His eyes were depths Basil has never seen before, a smile so white and pearly- "the attire suits you-or perhaps it's my club." Cassius smiled, and Basil couldn't imagine being anymore aware of his appearance at that moment, "you should come more often."

Basil would definitely make a point to "support his roommate's profession" much more often, if it meant being in the company of Cassius. Basil let a smirk grace his features, taking a sip of his drink to calm the shaking that would surely encapsulate his voice. "If you insist, I'll certainly make more appearances." Basil's deep voice mingled with the dip of the music's beat and if he hadn't pulled closer to the small group, he doubts they would have heard him. Cassius' gaze turned to the stunning woman beside him, and once again Basil's breath hitched. How did Kaede get so lucky as to be surrounded by such beautiful people?

The woman is stunning, a raven-haired figure with eyes so alluring he didn't know how to look away. "I believe you've yet to meet. This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction." And right he was. He suddenly felt so... small? Like the mouse unaware that he's scampered into the mouth of a snake. This was a feeling he wasn't entirely uncomfortable with yet strangely wanted at the same time.

The woman took notice of him at this moment, and he felt like he should shield himself but did know how. "It's a pleasure to meet you-" She sends her glance to Cass for approval, instead of confirming with Basil, "-Basil. A friend of Kaede is a friend of mine, and so I hope we'll see more of each other in the future."

Suddenly, the woman stepped into his personal space, examining every feature on his face. It seemed an unbearably long time to have someone stare at his face, but she pulled back, her concentration not swaying from Basil even as she spoke. "Should you ever wish to model for my magazine, feel free to contact me. I'm sure we can have something arranged." Before he could speak, and probably embarrass himself with the utter excitement and praise that would spill from his lips haphazardly, a commotion exploded in the middle of the club and Cass and Areum were gone within seconds. Kaede grabbed him by the wrist and they too gravitated to the center of the club, though Basil was not moving of his own accord.

He stood right by Kaede but he mind was far away. Modelling? It's something he's wanted to do for most of his life, and Areum entertained the thought so casually, without him even mentioning it; usually he would send headshot after headshot without any reply. He would definitely need to come around more, especially if Cass could introduce him to people who so casuall offer him modelling deals.

"-I'm open to suggestions."

Basil zoning out moment, dreaming of all the pairs of gucci sunglasses he could buy, turns to Kaede. "Uh... what are we talking about?"

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
━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

Date: Early afternoon, 2nd April, 2017
Location: Kan'ei-ji Temple, Ueno Park
Tokyo City, Japan

━━━━━━━━━


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: Kohaku Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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    The breeze was crisp and cool, and the cherry blossoms fluttered to the ground in soft wisps, painting the sky with watercolor brushes of a gentle pink. Kaede stood, back against a tree for support, with her face tilted up towards the sky, letting the petals graze her skin as they fell, like little strokes of a bird’s feather. The peace of the moment temporarily distracted Kaede from the discomfort her clothing gave her. Perhaps a touch overzealous, Kaede had been determined to fully get into the spirit of the festival, dug out her old kimono and geta, even bought a new pair of tobi socks for the occasion. Now that she was there, and had been for several long minutes, she was beginning to regret the decision.

    She’d grow accustomed to it soon, she knew, as was the process every year, but for the moment, it was nice to catch a breather. With a quiet exhale, she opened her eyes, taking in the soothing baby blue shade of the sky. It really was a lovely day. Shame that she was wasting it sitting around and waiting. With an only slightly irritated grumble, she glanced at her wristwatch for what must’ve been the third time in five minutes. What was taking them so long? Her feet were starting to hurt from the standing, and the traditional pin clipping her hair back was starting to feel like it was determined to pull locks out of her scalp.

    She shuffled—the most efficient way she could move at the moment, her legs still unused to movement in the heavy folds of fabric she had donned—to a nearby bench, breathing a sigh of relief when she felt the pressure on her instep relax. From slightly to her right, the waving flag of a takoyaki shop taunted her, and her stomach growled quietly with a longing. If only it wouldn’t be such a labor to cross that great divide of two hundred meters. Sadly, she turned away, focusing instead on the beauty of the nature around, intending to use it as a distraction once again.

    With his prize clutched proudly in his hand - a small goldfish swimming in circles within the water-filled plastic bag - Kohaku set off towards his charge. He let the emotions flowing through their one-way connection wash over him; the discomfort she endured because of her attire, the appreciation of the natural beauty around her, the hunger that quietly gnawed at her stomach. The guardian angel smiled sadly, perhaps belatedly wishing that he and his grim reaper acquaintances hadn’t spent their last few yen on the fish game. Perhaps otherwise he might have been able to alleviate that last negative emotion by offering his charge some small festival treat.

    Regardless of having nothing to offer, Haku made his way forward, before his feet came to a standstill barely a few metres from the women. He tilted his head, soft eyes on the woman as she rested on the bench. He had a sense of familiarity wash over him as he watched her, his gaze gliding down the intricate kimono with a appreciation for the beauty of the garment. Something, somewhere buried deep in his heart ached, and Haku felt tears pooling at the corner of his eyes.

    Bewildered, and not quite understanding this sudden onslaught of feeling, the guardian quickly wiped the tears from his eyes, blinking away the droplets clinging to his lashes. His other hand clung tightly to the top of the fish’s plastic bag, only loosening his grip when he realised he might be stressing out his new pet. The guardian collected himself, pushing aside his own emotions in order to focus on those of his charge

    “Hello, may I have a seat?” Kohaku inquired as he closed the distance between himself and Kaede. He bent slightly at the waist as he spoke the formal Japanese, “Miss Shimizu.” he added with a small smile in greeting, having spoken with the woman enough without glamour that his doing so now would - hopefully - not put the photographer off.

    Having been so entirely engrossed in the energy of the festival atmosphere (as well as the visions of takoyaki dancing in her head), Kaede was just a touch startled when Kohaku approached her. His appearance was not, however, unwelcome in the slightest, and a wide grin spread over her face once recognition had set in.

    She was familiar with the unassuming man by way of her part time job, one she found herself working fewer and fewer hours at lately because of a certain arrogant figure in her life, but that was besides the point. Haku had been a fairly regular customer at the cafe and for reasons she didn’t really understand, she’d always felt an ease and comfort around him. Haku felt familiar, in some strange way, and she’d grown to enjoy his company and conversation.

    “Haku!” she greeted him, despite his initial example, informally. She’d been insisting on using informal speech with him for their past three interactions, but he hadn’t budged an inch.

    She patted the empty space on the bench beside her, a silent invitation to sit. With a smile, she said, “Hi. What brings you here?” She half assumed he was, like her, waiting on friends. But then again, she’d never seen him in the cafe with a group, so there was really no way to tell.

    The guardian angel nodded his thanks and took a seat beside his charge, pushing his lips up into a small smile at her greeting. It always surprised him to find himself so warmly welcomed, his pessimistic expectation usually encouraging Kohaku to believe he will either be ignored, or turned away with scorn. Perhaps today luck was on his side, for both parties he had approached - first his grim reaper neighbours, and now his charge - had accepted his appearance without hesitation.

    “I came to taste the takoyaki.” Haku answered somewhat honestly. He had learned that truthfully telling your charges you were there to see them did not always go well. “And yourself? Are you meeting friends?” He continued, his gaze skirting around the crowded area as if expecting a group of mortals to come and sweep Kaede away. Thankfully, no such group of young people approached, and Kohaku was pleased that he might have another few moments with his charge before she was whisked away.

    “Your kimono is beautiful.” He added as his attention returned to the mortal woman beside him. The guardian carefully set the bag of water with his goldfish delicately on his lap, one hand ensuring that it didn’t roll down the gentle slope of his legs and onto the pavement at his feet.

    A laugh bubbled at the back of her throat when Haku told her his intentions for attending the festival. It was an endearing breed of innocence, Kaede thought, that made her feel at peace with him. Yes, surely it was that.

    Beaming at his compliment, she glanced down, observing the rather traditional pattern of the kimono. She’d grown accustomed to seeing it, had thought of it as ‘typical’, but his observation made her view it, just for a moment, in the same light as when she’d first seen it in the store—as brand new and beautiful. It’s nice, she considered, to have good thoughts reinvigorated.

    “I was supposed to,” she said, gathering her quickly straying thoughts. “But I don’t think I have any idea where they are.” A frown made its way onto her face, and she checked the hour on her phone once more. It wouldn’t be entirely unlike those two to get sidetracked by something, but she hoped they hadn’t completely forgotten about her existence.

    “About that takoyaki,” she started, somewhat sheepishly. “Have you had it already? I was going to get some, but I don’t think I can walk it.” She laughed, already turning to reach for her purse. “Want to share? My treat.” She felt a touch of guilt for using him as a bread shuttle, but she hoped he wouldn’t be opposed to idea of eating with her.

    Kohaku stared at the mortal with no small hint of wonder in his gaze. Had he misheard his charge’s words? Had the too-few balls of takoyaki he had already consumed altered his mind and made him believe that Kaede was offering to share takoyaki with him? Surely, he was supposed to be the guardian watching over his charge, rather than his charge watching over the guardian. Regardless, Haku was all too willing to accept Kaede’s offer. He could still encourage her while snacking on the delicious treat, after all.

    “If you would hold my fish, I will bring you back as many as you wish.” He told the woman, glancing down at the aquatic animal swimming in tight circles in the bag. Haku felt compelled to explain, “I won him in the fish game.”

    “Oh,” she said, unable to fully muster the surprise she expected from herself. Of course he’d won a goldfish in the fish game for no reason other than to have a fish. It made perfect sense. “Yeah. Sure.”

    Not the strangest trade-off she’d ever done, but somehow odd nonetheless, Kaede reached out with one hand to take ahold of the fish while passing off her wallet with the other. “Get two! Wait. No, three. Four?” She paused for a moment, weighing her options. She hadn’t eaten all day, on one hand, so two takoyaki was certainly appealing. But she might fill up on takoyaki, and then she wouldn’t have the chance to eat any other festival food, and that would be nothing short of tragic. This was giving her a headache. She rubbed at her temple, brow furiously creased. “Ah, you decide. I trust your decision.”

    Haku took the wallet and nodded, his expression serious as Kaede spoke. He would decide, and he would decide well. With a quick nod, the guardian angel got to his feet. The crowds were thick, yet he was well trained in slipping through masses of people unnoticed. The takoyaki stall drew him in, his nose and stomach answering the tempting aroma of deep-fried octopus. The small family in front of him took their purchases, their young child bumping into Haku as they passed and offering the angel a brief insight into the little boy’s joy. Then, Haku’s own joy was doubling as he handed over money confidently to the cashier in exchange for four takoyaki.

    He bowed his thanks and returned to Kaede, holding the sticks of food in both hands with her wallet safely tucked in his pocket. “I decided on four.” Haku admitted as he rejoined his charge, holding out the delicious treats to the woman, “I hope that was alright.”

    Kaede felt jubilation rise in her chest at the sight of Haku returning with snacks in hand. Perfect,” she breathed, once he’d arrived.

    “Thank you,” she said, with a flash of a grin before biting into a ball of takoyaki with relish. She was glad he’d decided on four after all. Everything tasted better when you were hungry, and takoyaki already tasted incredible normally. Kaede saw a brief flash of what she was sure was heaven.

    “I like your fish, by the way,” she added around a mouthful of food. “He’s very pretty.”

    “What do you think I should name it?” Kohaku asked conversationally as he bit into his own takoyaki, the pleasure melting on his mouth. Wait until he bragged to Alucio and Seung that he had had more takoyaki without them.

    “Hmm,” hummed Kaede, already halfway through her first stick. “I’m bad with names,” she admitted, then paused, pursed her lips in thought. “How about… Sakana?” A moment passed before she laughed. She’d wanted to present a fully serious option, but nothing had come to mind, leaving her with “Fish” as her top choice. Haku would figure something out.

    A smile pulled at Kohaku’s lips and he nodded fake seriously at the suggestion, “If I get another fish I could name it another fish.”. ‘Another fish’, was probably not the best name for any hypothetical future fish Kohaku won at a festival or bought. Nor was ‘fish’ the best candidate, though he appreciated Kaede’s humour, and the laughter that erupted from her with ease. He took a bite of his treat, considering what else he might name the creature. “What about…”

    The words trailed off as Kohaku’s gaze fell upon a man standing in the crowd. He stood within the courtyard, swathed in old robes that didn’t look as out of place in the temple’s grounds today - the day of the festival - as they might have either side of the festival. Yet, even as families passed by, as the breeze picked up blossoms at his feet, he gave off the aura of being centuries in the past. Kohaku sensed the death in him, that he was not of this world any longer. He was a ghost, but no deceased soul had ever sent the same icy chills down his spine. No phantom had ever stared as unflinchingly at the guardian angel as this one was doing now.

    Haku did not know the soul, had no memories from before he had been welcomed into the ranks of guardian angels. Yet, he felt as if he should know the man; the middle aged, Japanese man whose eyes were hard and angry, but somehow reminded Haku of the sad eyes he saw every morning in the mirror.

    “Haku?” Kaede’s voice cut in, rife with concern. “You alright?” The kindly man’s face had grown somewhat distant in the last few moments, his expression taking on a rather melancholy quality, rather worrying given the suddenness of it.

    “I-...” Kohaku began, though he barely knew how he intended to finish the sentence. Instead his voice caught in his throat and the words stalled. His gaze slid from the familiar yet wholly unknown deceased soul staring him down, and fell on another. This deceased soul did not bare the eerie familiarity of the first, yet this deceased soul had a similar aura of malevolence. As Haku watched, the second reached out to a passing family and yanked on the hair of a young woman. The woman cried out, those with her spinning around to try and find her assailant. Except, that none save any immortals in the area (or those touched by fate to see more than the mortal realm), were able to see the hostile ghost.

    “I think we should leave.” Haku finally spoke, his gaze turning from the two deceased souls to the woman sitting beside him.

    Kaede opened her mouth to protest, but the lack of levity in his gaze stopped her short. She followed his line of sight to where he’d been looking moments before, and caught sight of several people stumbling forward, or leaning back suddenly as though they’d had their hair tugged. If she didn’t know better, she might be inclined to believe it the work of malicious fae. But is that what he’d noticed? And how?

    “What’s going on?” she said, turning back to face Haku, voice carrying the same sober tone he’d spoken to her in. “Do you see something?”

    “Trouble.” Haku answered vaguely, rising to his feet and turning to offer Kaede his hand. He wanted to get his charge out of the area as quickly as possible. He could sense one of his newer charges somewhere within the festival grounds, but he had to trust that the corrupted souls a few feet away were confined to this area of the festival. Besides, Ryan was a mortal capable of holding his own. No, Haku’s first duty was to make sure that whatever was unfolding, would not hurt the charge beside him.

    What? questioned Kaede, for what felt like the eightieth time in the last five minutes. Haku was strange for sure, but he’d never been this strange. Nevertheless, she reached up and grabbed ahold of his proffered hand. Odd as it was, Kaede felt a sort of calm around Haku, a quiet assurance that she’d be safe with him. “That’s not unclear at all,” she grumbled, struggling with her geta to take even, steady steps. She had no idea why Haku was in such a rush to get away from the area, but he seemed so grave, she hesitated to ask.

    Kohaku gripped her hand securely, supporting her as she stood and then ushering his charge away from the hostile souls. He could feel the first deceased soul - the one that reminded him of something - staring into the back of his head, yet when Kohaku glanced back over his shoulder, the first was nowhere in sight. Instead, the second ghost was wrecking as much havoc as an intangible being could, which was surprisingly more than any spirits he’d previously seen.