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Luciana de Silva

"Time is the longest distance between two places."

0 · 1,816 views · located in Tokyo, Japan

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

Description

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LUCIANA DE SILVA..............................Goblin
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Centuries have passed since Luciana's death at the hands of her fiance and her revival and punishment by the gods. The goblin still searches for the mortal capable of breaking her curse and finally returning her to peace.

...ImageAge.......895.........................D.O.B.........8 Dec, 1121
Origin.... Spain...................Sexuality....Heterosexual

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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
        170cm, 5'7" | light green | brown

        Tall and slender, Luciana moves with the grace of a woman who spent their childhood learning to dance and curtsy, and wears soft, calm smiles as only one raised in a royal court can master. A youthful face belies the true age of this immortal, though perhaps a glimmer in Luciana's light eyes might hint at the many centuries she's lived.

        Once thick skirts and heavy silks hugged her slim frame, the weight of her dresses and the jewels which decorated her body signs of her rank and wealth. Nowadays she adorns herself with simple clothes, though their quality still gives a nod to the affluence she possesses. Her modern garb follows local fashions with an ease that speaks of having money to spare. However, while she will wear rings and bracelets occasionally, to most eyes her neck is always bare of accessories. Only a few may seen the chain around her neck, and only one mortal in the world may break it.

        Around her neck hangs a heavy necklace, embedded with an intricate design of diamonds and emeralds. 'Exquisite', some might say, 'a curse' Luciana would reply. She only has to look at the sparkling gems to hear the voice of the man who killed her, 'the emeralds bring out the green in your eyes'. Her fingers play across the piece whenever her mind replays that day. More than anything, she wishes for it to be gone.




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        P E R S O N A
        astute | distant | calm | resentful

        As a mortal, Luciana was born into a privileged life. Sheltered and naive, the girl left herself open to heart-break and betrayal. The path which led to her death, and the following immortality, undoubtedly changed her. Her experiences have made her worldly; far more knowledgeable about what drives people, and less likely to put her faith in the first smiling face she sees. Lucia's trust is hard to gain, and even when earned, the goblin still holds her secrets close. She keeps those private aspects of herself distant, safe beneath a calm smile and charming deflection.

        That calm demeanor is the face she displays most often to the world, broken only rarely when in private. Quiet, but far from silent, Luciana possess a natural confidence and self-assurance which sees her back held straight and her gaze rarely wavering. Occasionally, during her centuries of living, condescension has been directed her way - most often by older men presuming to know more than a young woman. A good mood will see the goblin respond with a knowing smirk and the raise of a brow, a lightly mocking 'Oh, really?' enunciated as she watches the individual dig themselves deeper. When her temper is less forgiving, Luciana has been known to narrow her gaze into a glare, her tone scathing as she corrects the mortal.

        At her worst, Luciana can turn vindictive. Forgiving past slights is not something the immortal does easily, no matter how many decades or centuries might have passed. The fault of her stubborn refusal to forgive and forget, is that any mortal who slights her will likely die without a conclusion to their argument. Yet, as things stand she can count on one hand the names of those she wishes she hadn't met. For the most part, Luciana's calm, well-spoken manner, and intelligence promotes her to those she meets. Articulate and charming, she can present a warm, poised figure when required. A quiet humour sees her lips quirk into a smile at the occasional joke, and when she happens to be struck by something truly amusing, her laugh comes just as easily.

        Guilt is an ever-present companion and a constant reminder of those Luciana has outlived; the servants taken before their time because of her selfishness, every passing friend taken by premature death or age. Her immortality is both a gift and a curse, the guilt and memory of all who have died is undoubtedly the worst part. So, when she can, Luciana tries to balance the scales by bringing luck or wealth to the few pure souls she comes across. The small kindnesses does not assuage her guilt entirely, but she gains a small amount of satisfaction at knowing she has helped. To those she considers friends, and the individuals she helps, Luciana can be protective; concerned for their well-being and ready to defend them without question if needed.




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PATIENT..A Goblin might quickly go insane if they didn't have the patience
required to wait for their bride to appear. Luciana, luckily, has more than enough.


NURTURING..More than a few souls have been cared for by Luciana as they
grow. She can be protective of friends, and will watch over them as they age.


BUSINESS SAVY..Perhaps she has an advantage in her gift of foresight, but
Luciana also has a particular talent for seeing where good investments can be made
and, because of this, has been able to expand her wealth accordingly.



TECHNOLOGY..Luciana hasn't had a cellphone since they were the size
and weight of a brick. She's worse than your grandmother with modern technology,
and probably slower at texting too.


VINDICTIVE..Once her trust is gone and her anger sparked, it can be very
hard to crawl back into Luciana's good books.


CONDESCENSION..Nothing gets Luciana's back up like being patronised.
She can't help but respond. If in a temper at the time, her response isn't always kind.





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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

      Luciana's mortal life was short, a small spark extinguished too soon. Her fate was to become queen. The destiny she fought; that was stolen from her, would have seen a golden age ushered in for the kingdoms of León and Castile. But even the gods cannot predict all. Almost 900 years later, she still reaps the consequences of the decisions she made as a young, mortal woman.

      Luciana was promised to the crown prince at the age of five, their marriage planned for when she came of age. It was a union which, had it occurred, would have brought two powerful families together. 11 years her senior, Alfonso spent more time playing with her older brothers than getting to know his bride-to-be. Family trips to neighbouring Portugal offered similar situations, where her older brothers run off to spar with the castle's youths, while the queen-to-be trailed after them demanding a companion. Frederico Delgado was one of the few who freely gave the girl the time of day, even before her future marriage meant she was of higher status.

      Of course, as she grew into a young adult, Alfonso took more of an interest in his bride. Luciana did not feel love for her fiance, but believed that she could be happy with the future king. It was agreed that they would marry in the spring after her 16th birthday. Yet, a sudden illness postponed her marriage the first time, looming war the second. So it was that she was 22 and still engaged, waiting now for his coronation, a tempting target for a trickster fox spirit. He stole her heart, and then her future lives, though at the time Luciana believed only that she had found true love. Cassius was charming, kind, beautiful, and worldly, while she was sheltered and more than a touch naive.

      They agreed to run, from her fiance and her family. It was to Portugal they went, gaining shelter with Lucia's childhood friend Frederico. He kept Lucia and Cassius safe for as long as he could, until word reached Lucia's fiance of her hiding place. Now King, Alfonso's power and reach was vastly increased. He pressured Portugal's ruler for Luciana's return, and, not wishing to increase tensions between the nations, his wish was granted. Despite Frederico's efforts, Lucia was taken forcefully back; a prisoner of the man who was to be her husband. Yet, she might have had the resilience to weather this new twist, had another betrayal not already taken place.

      Cassius, the man she had given everything up for, and to whom she would sacrifice her life, vanished. Luciana would find out later that he was what was known as a fox spirit, an immortal being who seduces and steals, deceiving mortals in order to consume their future incarnations. Heart broken, betrayed, and trapped, Lucia stood silent as her King belittled her, only to break down as he ordered the servants that had assisted in her escape executed. Luciana's death came at his hands too. A jewel studded necklace placed around her neck, his hands holding the clasp tightly as he asked the weeping girl whether she would be an obedient bride from there on out.

      "No." Came Lucia's tremulous reply, before her resolve hardened and her words became firmer. She would never be his bride, no matter how he threatened. His grip tightened, the necklace pulled too tight. The world dimmed, and death attempted to engulf the girl, yet while life left her lungs, her soul remained. For fighting her destiny and bringing about the death of her servants, Lucia was cursed by the Gods. Her soul attached to the necklace that had taken her life, and immortality filled her lungs once again with air. She became a Goblin, fated to wander the earth in search of the mortal capable of breaking her curse and letting her rest in peace.

      Revived, and possessing powers she had not in life, Lucia returned to her home in search of her murderer only to find that decades had passed since the last of her mortal years, and that Alfonso had himself been killed shortly after her own death. Since then, centuries have passed, and though Lucia has yet to find her bride, she has been able to experience much of the world. A fortune amassed over the years and expanded thanks to investments in multiple industries allows Lucia a comfortable lifestyle. She has houses placed around the world, escapes for when her lack of ageing starts to draw raised eyebrows, and various business that help stave off boredom. Perhaps Tokyo will offer an unlikely change for the immortal Goblin.




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                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: Zhenya Katava
                  HEX CODE: #b79bae
                  PORTRAYED BY: Cloud
                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: NZDT: UTC +12

                  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

                  Big hoodies come out when she's over everyone's shit.
                  Lucia has a secret collection of soft toys. Jk, they're her 'friend's'.
                  Suprise food is good food. Lucia has Kaede help her keep her
                  instagram updated.

                  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pellente
                  _( MISC )

                  Luciana speaks multiple languages, with the Iberian romance
                  languages being her preferred. At times Lucia can be slightly
                  ignorant to the value of modern items. Lucia's income comes fr-
                  om the business she started decades ago. It's prime industry is
                  realty, and she owns a lot of land around the world. The comp-
                  any also invests heavily in renewable energy and helps fund
                  various charities and scholarships. Lucia owns the building she
                  lives in and the one next door. Her penthouse apartment featu-
                  res a balcony and infinity pool from which she can see into the
                  shoe-box apartments of the guardians and reapers.

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

So begins...

Luciana de Silva'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: Luciana de Silva
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Cloud
Image


Thin fingers wrapped around the brass doorknob, the hand pausing as Luciana de Silva hesitated. Behind her a sun-soaked field baked in the midday heat, the warmth seeped inside and engulfed the Spanish immortal. Like a cloak, it bathed her, and with it came memories of racing across scorched earth as a child, screeching in delight at the rare freedom from thick gowns and rigid rules. Centuries stretched out behind her, holding reminders of innocence and naiveté, when her greatest trouble had been defying the women charged with her upkeep in order to spend another small moment beneath the sun’s embrace.

Now, no other could dictate her movements. Luciana went where she willed, leaping across the globe with a single step through a doorway. She traversed the land with the ease of an immortal gift and a wealthy bank account. The only thing hindering her, forcing Lucia to move, was a never ageing face and the advance of technology which meant all it would take was an acquaintance finding a photograph of her taken decades ago, yet looking exactly the same as she did today.

Now, standing on the threshold of another move, Lucia was unsure of where her future lay. Her indecision was distinct, emphasising a reluctance to leave the country in which she had been born, and an uncertainty for where she would go next. No matter the centuries that separated her mortal life from her immortal, the land behind her still held Lucia’s heart. Yet, Tokyo had called her numerous times in the past decade, and again she felt its pull. The city thrived with mortals and immortals, among them a few she counted friends. Lucia thought of the young man she had befriended a handful of decades ago, whose face would now be wrinkled with time. Or the family which ran the Japan branch of her company, their daughter a child when she last saw them.

Lucia’s decision to shift may have been her own, but it was influenced by her connections. With a sigh of acceptance her hand pushed open the door, and Luciana stepped through. Tokyo welcomed the goblin with a show of falling stars, the tumbling streaks drawing light green eyes to the wide windows. The warmth at her back was replaced with the cool air-conditioned atmosphere of her Tokyo apartment, the rustic décor of the rural villa exchanged for the modern fittings of the penthouse abode. Lights came on at the flick of a switch, and Lucia turned to properly inspect her new home.

The apartment had been redecorated since her last visit, updating the furnishings and technology throughout. The kitchen shone with sleek metals, the marble surface flawless. Lucia’s hand slid along the marble, her nails tapping out a soft tune as she breezed past. Her gaze swung around the room and then back to the large windows, through which streaking stars were still visible. They held her attention for a moment, and pulled the goblin towards the sliding glass doors that led out onto her balcony. Outside she tilted her head upwards and indulged in the spectacle, finding wonder and beauty in the meteors despite having seen countless others. None, she conceded, were quite as beautiful as these.

Lucia remained on the balcony for a time, letting the minutes tick by. She had time to spare, immortality was good in that sense. Yet, eventually she turned her gaze from the sky to the city around her. From her penthouse, Luciana had a perfect view of Tokyo’s spectacular skyline. Skyscrapers shot into the air, feats of modern architecture lit up with electronic lights and neon messages. Constant noise permeated the air; cars on the street, the echo of neighbours and the city’s pigeons settling in for the night. Lucia’s feet directed her back inside, shutting out the noise of the living city as she slid the doors shut.

A moment later she was downstairs, her gaze studying the new details of the building’s lobby as she glided up to the receptionist. The words ‘de Silva’ were engraved above the modern desk, indicating the owner of the apartment building. It had been replaced sometime since her last stay, and polished recently.

“Miss de Silva, I wasn’t aware you were in residence. My apologies.” The man bowed as Luciana came into view. He had aged since her last appearance, his hair shifting from mostly grey to all a handsome silver. The man straightened slowly, his eye crinkling at the edges as he smiled at the woman, “You must tell me your secret, miss, you haven’t aged a day.”

“It’s no secret, Shin.” Lucia replied with a smile, “A healthy diet and active lifestyle. Plus, the occasional sacrifice of a virgin soul.”

As expected the joke pulled a startled chortle from the old man, whose humour had not diminished with the passing of years. Whether Shin suspected the truth about his boss was unknown to Luciana. He had worked for her for the past decade, time enough for age to alter any mortal, yet short enough that a change of hairstyle and difference of makeup could fool the least suspecting of souls.

“I hope you have been well. And your family.” Luciana asked, the Japanese tasting foreign on her tongue. It always took the goblin a moment of speaking a language to grow once again accustomed to the way the words felt.

“As well as I can be, miss. My bones creak and my hair is vanishing, but I am happy and my family are well.” He smiled, revealing crooked front teeth and an endearing dimple in his cheek, “My daughter is a doctor now, thanks in part to your help.”

Luciana smiled, remembering a bright teenager who had showed such an interest in medicine. A glimpse of her future had allowed Lucia to pull strings with the right people, helping to secure the girl’s future. It was only ten minutes later, after hearing more of his family, and deflecting questions of her own, that Luciana shifted the conversation to her originally intended question.

“Shin, would you be able to get a message to the Shimizus? Please let them know that I have returned to Tokyo and plan on staying for an extended amount of time.” Lucia instructed, smiling her thanks as the man nodded in understanding. The Shimizu family was one of many throughout the world who handled her affairs and helped mesh the immortal goblin into the ever-changing mortal world. “And would you be able to contact Mr Honda and inform him I’ll be visiting him within the next few days.”

Shin nodded, his hand scratching out a note to himself. Luciana smiled and thanked the man, promised to have tea with him later to allow for a proper catch up, and then breezed out the large automatic doors. Tokyo met her with all the sounds she’d heard echoing up on the balcony, but now, at street level, they were louder and brighter. She breathed it in. Despite her initial hesitation, Lucia had to admit she was glad for the change from the Spanish countryside. Tokyo felt alive and thriving in a way that the relaxing Spanish hills were not.

Once, Luciana had known Tokyo as well as any other place. She had claimed it her home for years. Yet, as ever, time had changed it. Streets she had once known well had been remade, the facades of buildings updated and altered until they were barely recognisable. The throngs of locals and tourists who crowded the streets were different too, all holding smartphones in their hands that were barely dreams ten years ago. Here and there were familiar patches of the old city, resistant to the progress changing the face of the rest of the prefecture. They were few, yet welcomed and loved; ancient temples surrounded by new high rises, and deep-rooted streets with novel, new shops.

Without a destination in mind Luciana set off down the pavement, determined to explore and rediscover the ever-changing Tokyo.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva
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xxxYears had passed and street facades had changed, yet still Luciana de Silva somehow found her way to the welcoming gates of a local temple. Though it was all but empty now, devoid of patrons since the settling of the sun, there was always a friendly peace to it. The traditional buildings and carefully maintained gardens were beautiful, simply stunning, and Lucia paused on the threshold as a wave of calmness overtook her. Nostalgia was a constant companion of the immortal, who moved through life a constant amongst the ever-shifting variations. She felt it now, as memories of traveling through these lands for the first time over a century ago rose to the forefront of her mind.

xxxLuciana’s hand came up to trace over the bright poster inviting city residents to the temple’s festival being held the following day. Cherry blossoms printed on the sheet paled in comparison to the blooms which bathed the temple in a soft, ethereal glow. In the spring sunlight the Goblin knew the trees would look even more beautiful. Luciana smiled, perhaps she would attend. Visiting her few friends in the prefecture wouldn’t take all day, and she could easily be able to fit in a walk through the celebrations.

xxxNight time was not ideal for temple visits however, and so Lucia turned and set her feet towards the vibrant heart of the city. Her heels clacked sharply on the pavement, hair bouncing in soft curls down her back with each step. Her legs were swathed in faux leather trousers, a fitted blouse and styled coat hugged her torso. Though once she would have been restricted by heavy skirts and demure head coverings, now Lucia wore modern clothing that reeked of the latest season catwalks. The goblin would never claim to be a fashionista, or a trend-setter, but money afforded her the highest quality of materials and often those came from the top brands.

xxxAs she passed through streets, both quiet and crowded, Lucia saw signs of the progress and technology that had altered the world. She idly thought of what her parents might have thought, had they been pushed into such a world as the present without having witnessed the shift of time over the centuries. A smile of amusement lightened Lucia's face at the thought. Her parents had been traditional even back in the 12th century, they would never have been able to accept this modern world. The goblin shook off thoughts of her parents, as the gloomy notions of relations long deceased would inevitably bring her back to memories of the men who betrayed and doomed her. She didn't need their memories disturbing her otherwise enjoyable night.

xxxThe sounds of club music filtered out onto the street ahead and Lucia’s gaze turned upwards to the building which stood ablaze in light. The penthouse specifically was aglow, a beacon for those seeking out a glimpse of the nightlife Shinjuku had to offer. Eager clubbers lined beneath, waiting for entry into the exclusive event. A commotion at the door caught the Goblin’s attention, her calm eyes falling to inspect the group of affluent young men being evicted. They wore arrogance like an essential layer, though one was also shrugging into a designer blazer to hide the soiled shirt that cling to his frame. Obviously, some disturbance in the club had resulted in the premature end to their night.

xxxLuciana’s gaze remained on the men as they shouted a few angry phrases to the bouncers, before picking up what remained of their dignity and strutting away. The anger and misplaced sense of being wronged seemed to storm around them, and Lucia would have bet the value of the jewels chained around her neck that they were not used to being denied. The group barely seemed to consider Lucia as they brushed past, but one – the leader with the saturated outfit – bumped into her shoulder as he passed. She turned as he pushed forward, an apology not even considered as his remained entirely focused on his own plight. The goblin’s own mind took up a similar role as unbidden images of the young man’s future flashed before her.

xxxAs scenes of his disgraceful future played, her eyes followed him in the present. Seeing the young man before her, and the one of the future locked behind bars and alienated from his wealthy family. As if feeling the weight of Lucia’s gaze, the man turned momentarily, but either her quiet confidence or his desire to leave the scene of his embarrassment was enough for him to turn back around without a word. Lucia too turned her attention back to the club, clear eyes gazing up towards the balcony where guests and music flooded out into the night air.

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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▁ ▂ ▃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.

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Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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A blink in time, a burst of energy, and a single beat of her heart. Luciana’s lashes fluttered open as her body found its mark, her hand still outstretched, the remnants of Cassius’ touch still sending shivers across her skin. Slowly, Lucia let her hand fall to her side. The goblin blinked again, her mind sluggishly catching up to where her body had pulled her. Beneath her feet, the dirty concrete of the city street has been replaced with bathroom tiles. Delicate pink assails her sight, the aroma of scented candles, and bath bubbles intoxicate the air. Yet, these are all noted secondary, filled in the back of her mind, for what truly catches Lucia’s attention is the assumedly naked young woman lying prone in the bathtub. Lucia doesn’t recognise her, nor understand what magic or turn of fate pulled her from Cassius. The goblin can’t decide if she’s glad to be away from the fox spirit, or cursing the premature exit.

A frown creases Lucia’s brow and she resolutely pushes thoughts of Cassius to the back of her mind so that she may concentrate on the issue at hand. “Why have you called me?", Lucia’s voice fills the small bathroom easily, the Japanese flowing from her tongue in a clipped, borderline polite tone. The implication of ‘why have you called me now?’ is left off, but hopefully implied by the way her gaze turns to the bubbles and then back to the girl’s face.

Only once before had such a thing happened to her, but that small human had been a child alone in an orphanage, not a woman bathing in the nude. As an after-thought, Lucia adds “How did you call me?”

Paola's eyes were still closed when a loud voice spoke in Japanese. Her eyes shoot open and she's immediately assaulted with a second question and the visual of a extremely attractive woman standing in her bathroom. The woman, much taller in her memories, is the same one with the bright green eyes and thick necklace sharing the same green tones that Paola once thought was her fairy godmother. The last time she saw this woman was her thirteenth birthday, right before Ray and Stella came into her life.

Still, her first reaction is to back as far away from the woman, because- well, she is naked in a bathtub right now. The Japanese takes a moment to translate in her mind, and Paola scoffs indignantly. "How did you get into my bathroom?" Paola counters in messier Japanese, the words still quite strange on her American-oriented tongue. The last thing she wants to do is argue with this strange woman while she's naked in the tub, but getting out is certainly not an option until she leaves. Paola can't help but stare; the woman is achingly beautiful, and hasn't aged any since Paola last saw her. That, combined with Paola's own confusion on how Paola "called" her, leaves her scrambling for the right words. "I don't know, I didn't call you here."

Perhaps her brief run in with Cassius had soured Lucia's mood slightly, or perhaps it was merely the inappropriateness of the situation – standing fully dressed in a stranger’s bathroom while said stranger reclined awkwardly and naked in a bubble bath a step away. Whatever the reason, Lucia didn’t plan on remaining in the pink bathroom for much longer. She wanted to get back to her own home where she might relax uninterrupted and mull over the surprising events of the day.

“In future, it might be better to call me when you’re clothed.” She replied with a swift, polite smile. Lucia’s gaze remained trained on the young woman’s face, and as her initial shock dissipated slightly, Lucia began to wonder if she had met the bathing mortal before. The brows, at the least, were striking. Yet, perhaps now was not the time to contemplate the woman’s appearance. So, with a brief nod, Lucia turned on her heel.

“I’ll be leaving now.” She said over her shoulder, hand moving to the bathroom door in a smooth gesture. It swung open, revealing a small flat, yet Lucia’s focus tuned in on the expansive sprawl of her penthouse apartment and it was to that expensive accommodation that her body was transported as she stepped through the door. The smell of oils and scented candles was replaced with the faint aroma of Lucia’s air freshener, and the goblin took a soothing breath as she took another step into her own apartment.

"I don't know how I called you!"

Paola couldn't have imagined the situation happening in her wildest dreams if she hadn't been witness to it just moments before. The woman spoke of Paola calling her but without a cellphone nearby, she wasn't exactly sure what the strange woman meant. It reminded her of a faint memory, thirteen years old and clinging to a flickering candle, when that same woman appeared mysteriously into her bedroom. She wanted to know more, especially since there was no explanation as to how the woman appeared in the first place. Paola shimmies into a nearby robe when she left, and found that the woman disappeared the moment she stepped out of Paola's door. Strange, she thought, as she searched around the small area that the woman had just taken up space. With a frustrated groan, she replaced the robe with a silken nightgown before blowing out the rest of the candles around the bathroom. All too soon, she found herself not alone once more. She jumped at the suddenness of the woman. "god, could you knock or something?" Paola finally snapped in exasperated English.

A moment of solitude and then the still odd sensation of harmless fire licking at her fingers. One moment Lucia stood in her penthouse, the next she was being pulled back to the small bathroom she had just left. A sigh escaped her lips, her arms folding in front of her chest as the mortal - now thankfully covered in a robe - turned and snapped at Luciana.

“I wouldn't bring the gods into this if I were you." Luciana commented lightly, switching to match the oman's use of English. Luciana pursed her lips slightly as her gaze inspected the mortal woman's face more carefully than she had earlier. A thought occured to her and she titled her head, “We've met before, haven't we?"

The memory came in a surge of recollection. An orphanage, an birthday wish, and a sweet young girl who only wanted to be loved. Luciana offered a small smile at the reminder. “Paola."

Frustration immediately became a much too tiring emotion for Poala to continue with such a strange woman. Thankfully, she didn't have to continue in stilted Japanese, but that didn't do anything for the confusion that was making home in Paola's mind. She crosses her arms across her chest at the woman's statement about the gods. "It's a figure of speech." Paola quips, though the attitude conveyed by her voice and posture immediately drops when the woman starts to study her. She felt all too aware of her body, gangly and awkward compared to the woman in front of her, and sank further into her crossed arms, looking to the floor as her only protection from the gaze settled on her.

We've met before. Paola's eyes snap up, her stare unbridled under her raised eyebrows. Her eyes weren't deceiving her, this was the woman who magically appeared in her orphanage room as well. She'd have to ask about her skin care routine because she doesn't look to have aged- Paola.

She's never heard her name sound like that, soft and sweet and rolled into a smile like it belonged there. Paola's cheeks blossom pink as she's all too sure she's been incredibly rude to the first person who ever actively celebrated her birthday. "Yeah, that's me. We met a while ago.. how'd you find me again? I always wondered how you found me in the first place but I never got the chance to ask, I-" She looks up at the woman, and laughs, bowing her head once more. "I'm rambling, sorry. Do you want, uh, tea or something?"

Though Lucia still did not understand how she had been called by the mortal, now or during the woman's youth, she felt calmer for having recognised her. She remembered her visit to the orphanage, and the heart-wrenching desire flowing from the girl. With the recollection comes another realisation. Then, Paola had wanted something, so perhaps that was why Lucia had been called here now? The words and desires that had flowed into Luciana's mind at the first sign of the flickering fire - as Cass had held her hand - came back to her, loneliness? Perhaps there was some way Lucia could help with that.

For now, however, the goblin merely nodded and stepped out of the way of the thoroughfare, “Tea would be appreciated." Truthfully, after the last hour, Lucia could go for something stronger, but that had best be saved for when she actually knew where she was.

Paola smiled softly, beckoning the older woman towards her tiny kitchen. Setting a kettle on the stove, she leaned against the counter and examined the woman again. She always had a sneaking suspicion that this woman was more than human, not exactly an alien or something from a fantasy book, but just a feeling of otherworldliness that made her seem powerful. But her appearance alone did a lot of that, commanding attention with such a beautiful presence. Before she could stare any longer and further embarrass herself, she turns back to the stove, grabbing tea bags from the cabinet.

"So, uh..." Paola trails off, looking back, "you know, I don't remember your name. I really should, I feel bad now..."

Luciana could feel Paola's curiosity, questions regarding Lucia's unaltered age no doubt coming to mind. The goblin was usually careful about how long she stayed in one place and who she interacted with. Mortal friends and acquaintances only lasted as long as her unchanging appearance failed to raise suspicions, unless they were some of the few that were part of the generations of families dedicated to helping her integrate into each country. Paola, however, had seen Luciana a decade ago.

“Luciana.” The goblin replied, leaning back against a counter as she watched Paola busy herself with the kettle. “Though you are welcome to call me Lucia too.”

A pause, as Lucia’s gaze remained on Paola, attempting to again figure out how she had been called to the woman, and why. Answers were not forthcoming, and idly Luciana wondered if the only other goblin she had ever met – the monk Jiangyu – would have any idea as to why such a thing would occur. Paola was clearly just as ignorant to how it had happened as Luciana was, given her initial reaction to Lucia’s appearance. Perhaps getting to know the girl more might shed some light on the situation.

“What are you doing in Tokyo?” Lucia asks, almost conversationally.

With two bright red mugs settled in each of her hands, and a handful of memories that placed the woman a bit older than she looked, Paola moved the conversation to her tiny dining room table, enough for two people to chat and dine comfortably. Luciana. The name did ring a bell, and she correctly connected it to the woman she joking called her "fairy god mother". None of the other children in the orphanage believed her story, and neither did her new parents, waving it off as an active imagination, but Paola was right, and the proof is sitting in her dining room chair.

The woman asked her reason for being in Tokyo, and unwanted memories assaulted her again. Her subconscious drew her hand from the mug's handle and onto her empty stomach, as if the life that was building inside her was still there. Her mind fills with daydreams of hearing her son giggle, hearing his breath, his heartbeat. It was painful watching the man she still loves somehow detoriate as their baby detoriated inside her, so she had to go.

Paola looks back up, realizing she'd been in her head for far too long. "Sorry, I uh-" Her voice is lost and far away, and she holds onto the mug's handle again to ground herself in this reality, with no baby and no man to love, "I came to Tokyo to open a candle shop." Paola finishes matter-of-factly, sipping on the tea and relishing the burn of its heat; the pain is easier to focus on than the harsher burning in her heart.

Luciana didn’t know what passed behind Paola’s eyes, Paola’s mind seemingly far away from the small apartment they sat in. Lucia didn’t press, merely waited as she sipped on the warm tea in her hand. The heat of it sent warm waves through her body, settling into her stomach. Only when Paola blinked out of her reverie did the goblin settle the mug of tea on the table between them. Curiosity tugged at Luciana, but she let it be for now. She still wanted to know how the girl had called her, so whatever this past memory that had pulled Paola away was, it could wait. Assuming the goblin saw Paola again, of course.

“An interesting trade.” Lucia murmured, “Is it going well?”

Paola let the final waves of dull pain pass through her before answering Lucia's next question. "As well as it can be, running a candle shop." She laughs softly, thinking of the meager earnings she counted through every night. Thankfully, Ray and Stella are more than happy to help her, but she never tries to take too much, leaving her in this small, small apartment with horrible color combinations.

But this apartment isn't why Lucia is here. Paola also sets her mug down on the table, folding her arms across her chest. "But you aren't here to chat, I assume. How'd you even get here?" Paola can't even hide the confusion in her voice. Nothing in her right mind can explain to her how Lucia even got into her apartment, into the bathroom where she was peacefully bathing. Shame, it was a nice smelling bath bomb she used too.

“I suppose repeating that you called me here, twice, might seem a bit redundant now.” Lucia replied with a soft sigh, tilting her head slightly to once again inspect the woman sitting opposite her. Paola didn’t seem supernatural, she didn’t give off any vibes other than that of your average mortal. And yet, somehow she had managed to pull Lucia to her a total of three times in her short life. “I do not know how I got here, only that it was at your bidding. I was hoping that you would tell me.”

Paola shakes her head, frustration clear on her wrinkled brows. These aren't the answers she's looking for, and Lucia certainly isn't gaining any further information either. "I don't know what to tell you, Lucia, I really don't. I was literally just taking a bath and suddenly you were in my bathroom!" She snaps, much more aggravated than she meant to be. She mutters out an apology, uneager to find herself on Lucia's bad side. With another sip of her tea, she hopes the older woman can have some insight for the both of them; though in all honesty, Lucia seems just as confused about the situation as Paola.

“I have a friend, perhaps I can contact him and ask.” Luciana suggested, taking a final sip of tea and ignoring Paola’s slightly raised tone. Jiangyu had never mentioned such an occurrence before, but she knew no other goblins to turn to. “Though perhaps today was a chance, who’s to say if it will happen again or not.”

Settling the mug back on the table, Lucia pushed back the chair and raised to her feet. “I should leave. Thank you for the tea.”

And just like that, Paola feels the loneliness creeping back in. She didn't notice it leave before, but with the notion of Lucia leaving, it is here again, almost tangible. But this isn't one of her friends she can persuade to stay the night, she hardly even knows Lucia. She looks away from the older woman, unsure of what to say. "See you later!" "We should have tea again soon!" "I hope I'm not naked next time!"

"Sure, yeah, it probably won't." Paola replies, trying not quite hard enough to sound normal, "But um. Thanks, I guess- for having tea. With me." Paola mentally punches herself for sounding so stupid, but tries to make up for it by opening the door for Lucia to leave. Something inside her begs for Lucia to stay, that there's more to this story than either of them are allowing, but there's nothing that'll make the words come out of Paola's mouth. Just stay, for a moment longer. "Goodnight, Lucia."

A momentary hesitation held Luciana in place as her eyes attempted to read Paola’s thoughts. No such luck. With a nod, and another word of farewell, the goblin turned towards what she assumed to be the front door. She didn’t necessarily need to use the front door, but she felt that given the weirdness of the day, keeping up some small appearance would be better than nothing.

A last glance back at the mortal had Lucia’s mouth parting once more, “I’m sure we’ll see each other again. Goodnight, Paola.” With the words spoken she opened the door and stepped through, transporting herself once again to her own apartment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Minako
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xxxxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxxxxxMemoriesxxxxxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxxxxx# D2AD9Dxxxxxxxxx

xxxxxxHer fingers glanced across the silk fabric as if it might dissolve beneath her touch. Minako felt the near-imperceptible ridges of the thread and dye that gave life to the butterflies and cherry blossoms woven through the tapestry. The kimono was the most beautiful thing she’d ever owned, yet in the century since she’d received it, Minako had never worn it. It sat in its box, perfectly spread as if awaiting its owner to slip into its folds at any moment. It took up more space than she had, occupying the whole length of her wardrobe. Of everything she owned—however few there might be—this kimono was her dearest.
xxxxxxSaya Takashima had been her first charge. Minako still remembered her first breath, and the shockingly determined grip of her tiny hand. Minako had glamoured herself as the midwife who would care for the young girl after her mother passed in childbirth. She remembered the day Saya wore her butterfly and cherry blossom-speckled robes when she finally came of age. She’d been the most beautiful girl in the world.
xxxxxxWhen Saya laid on her death bed, she’d met her guardian angel again, who was now disguised as a young nurse at the hospital after the midwife passed of old age. The skin around her eyes had crinkled when she smiled, and she’d clutched the nurse’s hand with more strength than one would except from a woman nearly eighty-nine years of age.
xxxxxx”I know who you are,” she’d said. “Thank you.”
xxxxxxPerhaps it was the dementia taking hold, for surely Saya could not have known. Yet on her last day of life she gifted the young nurse with the butterfly and cherry blossom kimono her mother had worn when she’d been alive. Forever ago, when she’d been a geisha named Yumiko freed from service by the love of a samurai’s son.
xxxxxxMinako had wept for what had to be a small fraction of eternity. She had wept as if she’d been Saya’s own mother, for it certainly felt as if she had. Her superiors had declared her mission a success, when in the last of her years Saya had given all her wealth to establishing a shelter for those widowed by World War I.
xxxxxxMinako pulled the nagajuban around her shoulders, the white robe swishing at her ankles like the breaths of long grass. She had never worn a kimono as herself, only as a glamour over another glamour of an old woman or a pretty girl. It felt strange to wear it now, but she had felt the call of the silks like an ache in her chest this morning.
xxxxxxShe tightened the undersash of her robes and pulled the tobi socks over her toes. The scarlet kimono fit her perfectly and for a moment she was unnerved. But of course she was only average in size and height; it was no surprise it fit her.
xxxxxxMinako wrapped the gold obi around her waist slipped her feet into the sandals.

xxxxxxA cherry blossom fell on her nose. Minako lifted her fingers to pluck the petals from between her eyes, only for it to flutter to the ground. She supposed such was her fate. To be in the presence of passing beauty but for it to never be in her grasp.
xxxxxxShe searched the temple for the shadow of a feather that might indicate Haku's arrival, but the tide of people made the task impossible. Minako wandered instead through the stalls, staring longingly at the culinary delights on offer.
xxxxxx"Little girl," called a familiar old man. Minako gave him a terse smile. Little girl? Good heavens, she'd been twenty-eight when she'd been, well, executed.
xxxxxx"Abe-san," she greeted. The man often sold desserts in their neighbourhood from his bicycle. "You're still alive!"
xxxxxx"And you're still alone!" he replied, spreading his arms as if questioning the feasibility of such a notion with the multitude of living men in Tokyo.
xxxxxx"Haha!" she barked, perhaps a little too aggressively. "Haku will be here soon."
xxxxxx"Still chasing that handsome boy?"
xxxxxx"For over a century, if you can believe it."
xxxxxx"I'm sure it feels that way." Abe beamed and offered her two fish-shaped cakes stuffed with adzuki paste. "My treat for you and your future husband."
xxxxxxMinako snatched the taiyaki from his hands, eyes watering as she bowed repeatedly and bathed the seller with words of gratitude. She bit into the soft centre as she left the store. There was no chance she'd share the sweets with Haku.
xxxxxxShe was so engrossed in consuming the food in her hands she failed to notice tree in her path, or the woman seated at its roots. Minako startled when she nearly tripped over her.
xxxxxx"So—" Her apology was halted by the remnants of a strange pool of emotions that rushed into her. She tasted the lingering scent of confusion and fear on her tongue. Salty and bitter against the flavour of the taiyaki. When the feeling ebbed, Minako stared open-mouthed at the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen.
xxxxxxEyes the shade of Spring leaves were set in skin the shade of burnt caramel. She was what Minako had always imagined Angels to be when she'd been alive.
xxxxxx"Gomen—" she continued in Japanese, before thinking otherwise. "Ah, I'm sorry," she said again in English. "Are you hurt?" Emotionally, physically, spiritually. Minako fumbled for a way to scatter the discomfort of speaking to the splitting image of the deity's perfection. She felt her hand shooting out to offer the woman her unbitten taiyaki. "Fish?!"

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Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza
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xxxxA head of blonde curls shifted, shuffling beneath the warm cocoon of blankets. Early morning sun filtered through blinds, painting the bed in horizontal beams of light. The figure beneath the sheets wriggled slightly, distorting the bands of light as a disgruntled groan left his lips.

xxxx “Go away” Came the muffled cry, directed at the intruding light that had woken the blonde prematurely. With a grunt, Marlon’s slim hand reached from beneath the protective collection of blankets and searched blindly for his second pillow. His fingers brushed against the pillow cover, clutched at the soft cushion, and pulled it quickly over his blanket covered head, attempting to block out all light entirely.

xxxxIt didn’t do much, and within a minute Marlon was pushing blankets and pillows aside to draw in a breath of fresh air. He squinted at the obtrusive sunlight, as if glaring at it would somehow make the light disappear and enable Marlon to return to sleep. Yet, surprisingly, it did nothing, and with another pout, Marlon pushed himself out of bed.

xxxxA curse escaped his lips as his foot banged against something – a textbook – and then he had to wobble on one foot as he clasped the tender toes. Eventually, without maiming himself further, Marlon made it to his door. Breakfast was eaten standing in the kitchen, a bowl of cereal and milk while Marlon danced from foot to foot on the cold tiles.

xxxxThe apartment he shared with Wyatt was small, a given in a dense city like Tokyo, but it was comfortable and close to everything they needed. The kitchen-living room-dining room was cosy and filled with their shared items. Sheet music littered the coffee table, mixed in with his university assignments. Marlon knew he should probably take a look at them at some point today, but his hands were itching, and as he turned to stash the cereal bowl in the dishwasher, Marlon already knew that he’d be heading to the university’s music rooms for a morning practice.

xxxxThat’s where the blonde found himself an hour later, ‘tinkling the ivories’ as one old pianist used to say. He moved through an easy Beethoven piece, twisted his fingers around Liszt, and had begun a set by a local artist when thoughts of the previous day truly hit him. Marlon had been deliberately trying to keep his mind off the suddenly appearing monk, Jiangyu, both because thinking of those abs was distracting, and because he wasn’t entirely sure that his encounter with the monk hadn’t been some figment of his imagination… albeit an imagination that somehow incorporated Wyatt and a hot chocolate and…

xxxx “I wonder where he went last night.” Marlon mumbled to himself as he stood, shuffling through his music idly as he replayed Jiangyu’s exit at the café. It was as if Marlon had blinked and suddenly the departing monk had vanished as he’d passed through the door. Perhaps Marlon had merely missed him disappearing into the crowds outside. Marlon readily admitted that his eyesight was slightly impaired thanks to hours staring at piano music, but surely not bad enough that he’d mistake a man stepping through a door for completely disappearing?

xxxxMarlon gave his practice another attempt, but every note struck was accompanied by a reminder of the previous day’s oddities, and eventually Marlon gave it up for a lost cause. Packing up, the young man left the university, phone in hand as he brought up the contact information for Wyatt.

xxxTo Wyatt,
xxxxxxI’m heading to the cherry blossom festival at Ueno Park. Meet up if you’re free?


xxxxHe wanted to get Wyatt’s opinion on Jiangyu, after his friend had had a chance to sleep on it. But, until he made contact with his roommate, Marlon would entertain himself at the cherry blossom festival. He’d not been to one before, having arrived in Japan too late for them last year. Yet, at the advice of several local friends, Marlon was not about to miss them this year. So as midday passed Marlon set his feet towards a bus stop, from where public transport would deliver him right to Kan'ei-ji Temple’s doorstep.

xxxxThere were already crowds streaming in and out of the temple, young children pulling happily on their parents’ hands or couples clutching at flower souvenirs. Marlon only hesitated slightly, checking his phone reflexively for a reply from Wyatt, before slipping his phone into his pocket and stepping forth.

xxxxA skewer of delicious takoyaki found its way into Marlon’s hands at the exchange of some money, his tongue licking some of the sauce into his mouth.

xxxx “Urgh, yes.” Marlon said in English, his taste buds happy as he savoured the treat. The pianist’s feet pulled him along with the crowd, hazel eyes rising to take in the pink ceiling of blossoms. While he was usually drawn instead to thriving bars and clubs with music that made your ears ring the next day, Marlon had to admit that there was a certain appeal to the slower paced events like this. The sakura was beautiful, and the takoyaki was mouth-watering.

xxxxMarlon’s phone was pulled out again, his thumb tapping through his apps before arriving at snapchat. Extending his arm, Marlon smiled, held his remaining octopus balls up in frame, and took the photo. He added a smiley face emoji and typed a quick ‘When in Japan’ in the text bar before adding it to his story. Now everyone would see how much fun he was having. Except…

xxxxBiting his lip, Marlon glanced around. He wanted a better photo, but with only an arm of limited length, he would need help to take it. His eyes darted to a group of young college aged men joking with each other, but despite the way his eyes lingered on one’s full lips and dimpled smile, he discounted the youths and instead landed on a pair of women beneath one of the cherry blossom trees. The smaller woman was dressed in a kimono, delicate and small, she could as easily have looked at home in the Japan of centuries ago. She appeared to be offering the other women, who was clearly not of Japanese descent, a bite of her festival snack. Stumbling over to the pair, Marlon plastered a friendly smile on his face and waved with his free hand to grab their attention.

xxxx “Konnichiwa,” Marlon said in Japanese, “Would you be able to take a photo of me, please?”

xxxxHe held his phone out hopefully, having flicked the device from snapchat to his phone camera. Who knew, if the photo was any good he could plaster a filter over top and upload it to Instagram. That’s what technology was for, after all. Though, as Marlon’s gaze drifted between the two women, he began to wonder if he’d accidentally walked into a conversation best left alone. The woman seated on the root, whose smooth olive skin made Marlon want to ask what cleansing routine she followed, seemed particularly unsettled. Shit, he should have asked the dimpled college boy.

xxxx A tug on his pants momentarily drew Marlon's gaze from the two women, down to a young child who was holding aloft the thin wire of a sparkler.

xxxx “Uh, arigatō." He thanked the child as he took the offered sparkler,
holding the tip towards the adult hovering behind the child who held a lighter. Another thank you left his lips as the handheld firework caught alight, before Marlon leaned in to blow out the flame flickering at the top. The red flame disappeared, replaced with the white crackling sparkles, and Marlon once again smiled and thanked the kind child before the kid and adult left to find another soul to gift their sparklers too.

xxxx “Um, do you think you could take a photo of me still? With this?" Marlon asked the two woman, waving the sparkler in his hand at the same time.

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Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai
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    It was not the asperity of his untimely demise that broached his emotions with such sudden vigor as had surfaced the previous day. Jiangyu had long ago leased away the manner of his death to the governance of his time. Contending powers dueling for the rights of dominance and riches, Jiangyu had never been hardened to the feral tendencies of man or the ruthless tactics of aristocratic finagling. Jiangyu would admit, with albeit a grimace of the irony it intimated, that he was glad he was killed to release him from these hellish responsibilities.

    Buddhists dedicate their efforts towards freeing themselves from the cycle of karma, but along with this pursuit they cannot but help to recede to the intertwining causalities that dictate it. Jiangyu always found himself caught in these webs of what-ifs and could-haves. Over the years he wondered as to the effect his proposed leadership would have had in the grand scheme; if China’s decline could have be reversed or at the very least delayed. Yet that all came for naught as he sat idly by and empires of yesteryear rose and fell, ravaged by war and disease; pilfered by the foreign powers staking claims to his peoples’ land; the perversion of the culture itself throughout the eras. Jiangyu’s aggravation was not his death but what he had failed to do during his living.

    Thus the outburst the day before had been the culmination of years, maybe tens of hundreds of years, of dormant emotions focused into a moment’s… release. The monks always said that evenness of the mind was the first step toward leaving the cycle of reincarnation, but in that instance Jiangyu felt a serenity that training had not afforded. Besides, if not for his act of intemperance who is to stay that karma would have etched the lines of his encounter with Marlon? The sordid matters had melt away and for now Jiangyu was content with the idea that the universe had something greater planned for him.

    These thoughts stirred in his head as his shapeless lump moved about the covers. Was it the sun’s brazen sheen working its way past the mossy drapery or remnants of mirth from the evening prior that awoke him from his slumber? Jiangyu could not tell. No matter the cause, the verve of his morning routine was unrelenting despite the sedative haze of sandalwood smoke that clung to the air and the soreness of his limbs. As he edged his way past the cocoon of vines that ensconced his quarters he emerged much like the butterfly, revitalized and transformed.

    The village was spared Jiangyu’s harsh rebuke for as he had headed for his lodgings the night prior, he witnessed none of the revelry he was used to. It was as if the monks had finally returned to their consecrated sensibilities; perhaps there was hope for even better tidings to come. It seemed that Jiangyu was guilty of error instead, for he realized, as he passed the empty stalls in the village, that he was late for the morning assembly.

    He bustled along, his cloak flowing behind him as he passed, not sparing a sight to the wondrous tapestries of green that undulated with the wind in the valley below. He was reminded of the day’s beauty with the penchant vigor of spring aromas that filled his lungs as he hurriedly sped to the training grounds.

    The sight that met him never failed to amaze. All the temple’s monks, with the uniformity of a cohesive unit, transitioned to the next stance in their routine. They eased into formation letting nature’s repose guide their movements, gravity readjusting the weight of their limbs to the fulcrum of their poise. Jiangyu hoped to join with little disturbance, however it appeared his late arrival failed to go unnoticed. He saw his friend Chen-tao beckon him and soundlessly edged his way to the adjacent open space next to the monk.

    Is everything ok Jiangyu?, Chen-tao whispered in concern, “ I did not notice you retire from the evening practice yesterday. It was as if you disappeared and now you simply saunter in unaccounted for?
    Jiangyu could not contain a light-hearted chuckle, “Fear not my friend, all is well! There were, uh, matters I had to attend to. However, I am glad I am here now…”

    These last few words trailed off as Jiangyu turned to face Chen-tao only to be greeted by a familiar shock of blond hair. He stepped back aghast, Marlon had taken Chen-tao’s place or had he… He was suddenly hit with the sensory explosion of his surroundings. Beautiful rosy petals hung overhead but they were eclipsed by the milling throngs of people that lay before him. His reactions were numbed even as he was pushed past by the grumbling couple he had carelessly shoved.

    “Umm, fancy seeing you here, Marlon.”, he muttered sheepishly

    He had been so bemused he failed to notice the two others present at this reunion. He was soon to realize that the olive-skinned belle that sat before them might be the key to figuring what exactly was going on.

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Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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                      Seok Areum
                      FOX SPIRIT | 1392 | #d24038

                      Areum often wondered if the world was nearly as bad as she thought it to be. Her view was cynical at best and morbid at worst, expecting the worst of everyone and everything. Perhaps she was too stubborn to realize the inherent goodness in people, or maybe more realistically it was because she surrounded herself in chaos, but the events of the night prior left her without a change in thought.

                      The man she had dumped her drink on had been one of many parasites that thrived off the unfortunate. She despised them. They were infectious and multiplying, a small blip of darkness that continued to paint her whole dark.

                      Alone she could admit that it was people like him that had created a person like her for they shaped her worldview in the way they persisted to exist.

                      Walking briskly down the streets of Tokyo Areum could only contemplate her thoughts within the confines of her own mind. The cold air pressed against her face and grounded her back to reality. Her face was colored red and the wind mussed her hair, but she kept her gaze steady and continued to walk with a certain kind of finality.

                      Her feet eventually carried her to a boutique where above the entrance the word Wicker was inscribed. She did not hesitate to open the door and walk in as if she owned the place. Areum surveyed the room appreciating how the minimalist aesthetic complimented the bohemian vibe, but her attention was drawn away from the beauty when she caught sight of what she came in looking for.

                      Reverently she picked up the the lotus shaped candle gently as if afraid it might break otherwise, and brought it close to her face to smell. She hummed in satisfaction and noticed how its delicate fragrance was realistic enough that if she were to close her eyes she could be fooled into thinking it was a real flower. It was perfect.

                      Without much thought Areum grabbed an armful, being careful not to smoosh them, and got in line to pay. She stood silently while the other patrons looked at her oddly, but she kept her expressional neutral and patiently waited for her turn. When it finally came time to check out she gracefully placed the candles on the counter and pulled out her card to pay.

                      “Did you find everything all right?” the woman behind the counter asked to which Areum simply hummed in response. The casher recounted the amount owed and without hearing the number Areum payed and left the shop just as quickly as she came.

                      -

                      The bag felt heavy in her hand, and grounded her in a way she hadn’t realize it would.

                      The memories it invoked flooding back, and although she had long since abandoned the practice of Buddhism she still felt an unexplainable pull that demanded her to recognize Vesak day.

                      She remembered with clarity the moments in time when her soul felt at peace, and the worries of the future did not loom like a thundering cloud. It was a much simpler time, and one she could not regret even if she tried.

                      Hearts had the tendency to change though, and over the years she came to realize her her religion had seem to at once become too holy for her. It was a surprise for everyone, even herself, when she announced her departure. They had been kind and thoughtful though — not once begrudging her for the decision she made. It had been a bitter sweet ending, but a crucial one nonetheless.

                      Telling Jiangyu hadn’t been too difficult. They both knew it was not the end, knew that despite the decades that might pass and the distance that may separate them, they would be the one constant in life they could count on. After all, what was the point of being immortal if not for the ability to see the past within the present.

                      Areum stopped walking and let her gaze refocus on the scene before her.

                      Pale pink petals colored her vision, and the dazed expressions of many gave indication as to where she was. She had heard off-handedly about a festival occurring in Ueno Park, but she hadn’t thought much of it at the time. Standing in the midst of people praying however reminded her that she was not meant to be there, and that her very presence was a violation.

                      There was a difference between celebrating in the safety of one’s own house, and another in a public and sacred area. The festival of course was not celebrating Vesak, as it was too early in the month for that, but it was similar enough to unsettle her.

                      Having shaken off her stupor Areum made a motion to leave but an almost imperceptible shift in the air caused her to freeze. A body, previously not in the crowd, had appeared.

                      Areum watched as the petals surrounding the area then fluttered to the ground like flies dropping dead in midair. The man who materialized did not take note of his disruption but rather staggered back and caused a couple to push past him mercilessly. He was tall, outrageously so, and took on a stance that looked much too familiar.

                      She did not sigh, but her stomach lurched involuntarily.

                      As if blown by the wind, Areum found herself walking toward him and the group he was with in an unusually unsteady gait. She clutched shopping bag tightly while her focus was oddly set on interrupting a conversation she had no part to play in.

                      Areum had no reason to be apart of the discussion other than her want to make sure the man was truly who she thought it was — a weak excuse even to her own ears.

                      (If she were being honest though she’d admit that it felt like her soul was being dragged, and despite wanting to resist she simply couldn’t.)

                      Slowly, she made her way toward the group and saw the chance to intervene by way of a young boy to act as her catalyst. He had curly blonde hair that reflected the light, and a hopeful but uneasy expression on his face. And despite knowing he would be shocked by the sudden appearance of Jiangyu, Areum calmly walked up to him and smiled.

                      “I can take your photo if you would like,” she said, pretending as though Jiangyu had always been there. “Unless you would rather have him do it as the two seem to be . . . preoccupied.” She gave a sideways glance to the three mythics — Luciana, Jiangyu, and a Guardian Angel, and a knowing look to the boy.

                      Their encounter felt like fate, and Areum was helpless to stop it.


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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#, as written by Layla
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▁ ▂ ▃xxxP I E R R Exxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxL A Y E R E DxxxJ A C K E T

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xxxxxx"Oh gods, I think he's dead."
xxxxxxThe syllables floated into Cassius' consciousness and reverberated in the 84 by 23 inch ebony and mother of pearl box he laid in. The interior smelled of money, though perhaps that was the gold leaf that encased its exterior trickling in. He opened his eyes.
xxxxxx"Izanami!"
xxxxxx"I'm not the goddess of life and death, unfortunately," Cassius murmured in response. He gazed at the two men who watched him, one with abject horror and the other with the exasperation Hideo Irashi was famed for after fourty-six years in Cassius' employ. "Though I once calmed a rogue stallion on behalf of Jesus' apostle. What was his name? John? Michael?"
xxxxxx"M-Mr Doriewes," his intruder stuttered. "I mean no offence to your foreign customs, but why are you lying in a coffin?"
xxxxxx"Casket, actually. Coffins went out of fashion centuries ago." Cassius raised his body into a sitting position. He gave the other man a small smile. "As to why I'm in one, well, I thought its soundproofing might provide some time to reflect. Clearly not. I suppose I'll have to commission another."
xxxxxxIn truth, he spent some nights sleeping in a casket in preparation for the death of this body. Whilst he never intended for such a day to come, he liked to be prepared. Even immortals were vulnerable to decapitation, drowning, atomic explosions, et cetera et cetera.
xxxxxx"What— Why—"
xxxxxx"Mr Doriewes," Hideo interjected. "Priest Tadashi here was hoping to thank you personally for your donation to Kan'ei-ji Temple."
xxxxxxThe Shinto monk fiddled with his robes. "Yes. We are grateful for your generosity and wish to invite you to our festival today as an honoured guest." He paused, as if doubtful of the words he spoke. "We would love for you to attend. Truly."
xxxxxx"I will attend."
xxxxxx"You will?" Tadashi's eyes widened.
xxxxxx"Certainly."
xxxxxxCassius rose from his casket and offered the man a respectful bow before Tadashi left, leaving behind a narrow-eyed Hideo who looked just about ready to throw his employer back in the casket and chain it shut.
xxxxxx"You greeted the priest in a coffin," he accused.
xxxxxx"Casket," Cassius corrected. [color=#5e7d7e]"And frankly, you should have told me he was coming."
xxxxxx"I did."
xxxxxx"Well, I pay others to remember such things so I don't have to."
xxxxxx"You fired your secretary."
xxxxxx"Goodness, you should know to never let me do that." He gestured at the door. "If there's nothing else, I'd like to go back to reflecting on existence."
xxxxxx"It's morning."
xxxxxx"Exactly."
xxxxxxHideo departed with a sigh and Cassius folded himself into the coffin, imagining for a moment what it must be like to perish after a single, ephemeral lifetime with no hope of a second. Cassius closed his eyes, and dreamed of golden queens, sweat soaked skin, and sea green eyes.

xxxxxxThe air was perfumed with the scent of cherry blossoms. Cassius parted through the tide of people.
xxxxxxHideo had tried his best to accompany him on this excursion, siting a burning need to consume monstrous quantities of okiyaki, but Cassius had heard such excuses before. No one would babysit him. He was a god-like immortal—better even, for surely he was nowhere near as dull or sadistic as them.
xxxxxxHe searched the crowd for Areum, knowing she'd be here. It wasn't hard, he saw her familiar sweep of dark hair, glossy and smooth in a way no ordinary human's was without an extensive haircare regime. She stood amongst a cluster of people comprised of a towering man who was strikingly handsome—of course Areum would find him first; a curly-haired blonde with the face of Cherubs and angels; a caramel skinned—
xxxxxxCassius marched forward without thinking, ready to fold Luciana in his arms before she could vanish into flames again. His palm was wrapped in gauze where she'd scorched him. She had to be a goblin. The thought, the implications, had haunted him till dawn. He neared the group.
xxxxxx"Yes!" a slight Japanese woman said in accented English. "Of course I'll take your picture. The both of you?" she asked, eyes darting between the blonde boy and the tall man. "Unless—" She turned to Areum. "You would prefer to take it? Anything is fine, of course. I mean, we could both take your picture and you could burn them all because the angle makes you look like a whale but that would be mean to whales. Haha!" She slapped a hand over her mouth. "I mean, not that you're—"
xxxxxxCassius stared at the kimono-clad girl, lips parting as recognition set over him. She was as frazzled and prone to spilling her thoughts as she had been when he'd spoken to her while she swept the steps of her okiya and wept oceans from her eyes. He had cared for her like a little sister. Though he'd known she'd become an angel after her death, it had been some time since he returned to Tokyo. The only notable difference he could see in her was her height. Ayame appeared to have grown shorter, if such a thing were possible.
xxxxxx"Oh god," she said suddenly, and Cassius noticed then that she was watching him watch her. "I'm uncomfortable being surrounded by so many attractive people."
xxxxxx"Surely that isn't possible," he purred, voice low as he closed the distance between him and the group. "You have seen your own reflection, haven't you?"
xxxxxxScarlet stained her cheeks and neck. Her lips parted and shut, eyes round as she searched for a face in the crowd. Cassius flashed a dimpled grin.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

"Lovely, aren't they?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she froze.

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

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

Flash

Torrential rain and radio music.

Flash

Screaming horns and screaming people.

Flash

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

Flash

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

"Hey- hey, are you okay?!"

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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




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

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

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


Ueno Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Are you ok ma'am?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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#, as written by Cloud
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The goblin’s body still retained the slight chill of uncertainty as she made herself comfortable at the roots of a sakura tree, her lithe fingers tracing over each encrusted jewel chained to her neck. Luciana needed a distraction, and was somewhat surprised when a distraction was delivered in the form of a small, beautifully dressed woman. A body jolted against Lucia’s seated form, threatening to topple over roots and goblin alike before quickly righting itself. Lucia turned, half expecting to find the haunted phantom of her past, only to meet the gaze of an, apparently, shell-shocked woman.

The start of an apology fell from the angel’s mouth, those lips which had shifted to form the word remaining open as the immortal stared at Luciana. The goblin returned the woman’s gaze, her eyes admiring the way delicate silk wrapped around the woman’s frame, an exquisite example of the Japan’s traditional wear. Luciana’s eyes returned to the immortal’s face, the angel’s own. She felt her own lips forming a half smile as she watched emotions flitter across the woman’s face, before a tasty morsel was pushed forward, the taiyaki offered an apology.

“I’m unhurt. Luciana responded, before shaking her head and adding as she waved the remaining skewer of chicken still in her hand, “Thank you, but I’m fine.”

The unsettling sense that had previously washed over the goblin at the appearance of the old soul was diminishing rapidly in the presence of the delightful angel. Lucia parted her lips to ask the woman’s name when another voice intruded. He was young, with a shook of blonde curls and features that made him stand out from the crowd. A cell phone was clutched in his hand like a lifeline, held forward slightly to the woman he’d ask to take his photo. Lucia turned her gaze to the Japanese angel, happy to let the other woman answer the young mortal if it meant Lucia wouldn’t have to reveal her ineptness with modern technology.

Only, before either could take the blonde’s photograph, a sparkler was pushed into his hands, his lips pursed to blow out the small flame at the tip, and at his side appeared the immortal monk Luciana knew as Jiangyu Bai. She stood in a fluid motion, eyes questing from goblin to mortal with unspoken queries. Jiangyu’s reaction was one of shock, mirroring Lucia’s own feelings when she had been called into Paola’s bathroom the previous night. The goblin’s gaze flicked to the sparkler in the boy’s hand, now forgotten as he turned surprised eyes on the tall monk, and she began to wonder if his actions had something to do with Jiangyu’s sudden arrival.

Not even a spellbound historian would deign to envision the assembly that seemingly appeared from the musty-scented texts he read or the interlacing worlds he fantasized. Jiangyu was in his traditional garb and once again a spectacle to the peering eyes of the city dwellers. He was even more out of place as his gangly frame towered above the passersby. This hypothetical historian could neither imagine the salubrious smiled that fancied the lips of the giant as he quickly rebounded from his initial shock and assayed the other members of the group. Jiangyu was not the only one who stuck out, for a glance sideways revealed the fair-skinned woman wearing the kimono. He was glad that there were others not completely lost to the adulteration of the modern world and he was quickly enraptured by the vibrantly sewn blossoms in the kimono’s swirling fabric. His eyes did not linger long for they shifted posted to the subject of his wonder.

Lucia , He felt her name rumble through his vocal chords but it failed to a part his lips. It had been years since they had last seen each other and even now, as ever, his thoughts quelled as he set his gaze upon her stoic features. Jiangyu had often been told that his was an expression difficult decipher, but few were able to elicit the same irritation from his perspective besides Lucia. She irradiated an air of discontent and grief that grayed the soft lines of her appearance. And yet she never oozed enough gloom to think it courteous to ask what ailed her; whatever it was, was not for others to know.

From the background Jiangyu heard Marlon’s voice, in its infinitely boorish way, ruin the unspoken bond

“Are you stalking me?” Marlon responded to Jiangyu, eyes narrowing to slits as he squinted at and around the man. “Because… “

Marlon’s words were cut short as Luciana spoke, “Jiangyu?”

The pair had little time to gape at the man, as their party was soon joined by another immortal. Marlon’s gaze followed the swish of her translucent tails, before settling on her face. Marlon may not be attracted to women, but he could still see the beauty in them. She spoke to him, offering to take his photo just as the Japanese woman accepted his request for one. Marlon’s eyes snapped to the Japanese woman as she rambled in accented English leaps better than his bumbling Japanese.

“Uhh…” Marlon stalled, confused and under the distinct impression that he’d just been compared to a whale. His hand remained extended, phone hovering between the two women and unsure which he should trust to temporarily hold his prized cell phone.

Jiangyu’s face reddened at the sight of her lackadaisical intrusion. Here he had just barely adjusted to Lucia’s presence only to see her jet black hair cross his vision. No matter what guise she wore or how she altered her appearance, Jiangyu could only see the visage of the innocent girl who had arrived at his doors all those years ago. Jiangyu could have imagined far better ways to consummate this reunion, but instead he was met with his former pupil’s condescension where there should have been joy.

Jiangyu could have sworn that Areum had caught a glimpse of his face yet she only answered to Marlon’s triviality. When they had last parted ways there were no ill feelings held between the two, but now by her cunning, jaundiced slip under his detection, Jiangyu fumed at this gesture of her old mannerisms.

Buddhist monks refrain from intimate contact with loved ones for their company only sets a stumbling block in the path of enlightenment. Be this as it may, monks take comfort in the each other's’ shared goal of spirituality and cleansing. It seemed that Areum had no problems detaching herself from the former when she came under Jiangyu’s tutelage at the monastery.

Areum had not only shown that she had long ago forsaken her ties of kinship but that she was loath to forming anyrelationships. Such a predisposed renunciation hinted at the greater pain hiding inside her. To separate oneself from those they hold dear should be a difficult proposition; one that culminates in a cathartic release upon the realization that such sufferance is but perpetuated by the cycle of life and death. For Areum it seemed she had not known any such experience; where the feelings of love should have been was already where a pit of emptiness laid claim. Of course the monks had not turned her away for she had shown genuine passion for self improvement, but the darkness in her heart was uncanny.

Jiangyu had known well what had driven her away all that time ago. Areum wished to reject her humanity and instead feed off the short lived happiness of egocentrism; cutting loose all the ephemeral lives she had lived, not thinking to what meaning they had served her. The Eightfold Path can only begin to aid those who let it guide them; Areum had never done so.

To extract all this from this such a sudden encounter seems far-fetched and perhaps Jiangyu did hold some dormant dislike for the person Areum had left behind at the monastery. No matter, Areum’s refusal to recognize him was very telling.

And then, out from the showers of floating blossoms came a vision in black and denim. He was a god walking among men, beautiful, chiselled, perfect beyond words, and Marlon felt his heartbeat increase in what some might call the onset of love. It wasn’t love, however, but the lust of a teenage boy who had just laid eyes on a walking wet dream. Marlon’s body reacted quickly, pushing his phone forward for either of the women to take as he took a step towards, his free hand moving to tug on the newcomer’s sleeve.

“I don’t mind who takes it, but I want him to be in it.” Marlon mumbled. The mortal didn’t even care that the man possessed tails matching the other woman’s, surely his unearthly beauty was a result of the curious apparitions.

To Marlon’s delight, the man turned and offered the mortal a smile that gleamed brighter than the golden, midday sun. “It would be my honour.” The fox intoned. Marlon tried to keep the excited squeak from passing through his lips.

While Marlon drooled, Lucia’s recently acquired smile quickly vanished. Her brow wrinkled in a frown as first one fox slipped into their group, and then another. To be sure, she saw his beauty too, yet with it she also saw the danger and felt the heat of anger swell within her that had propelled her to run the previous night.

With her fists clenched, her gaze a heated brand on the fox’s body, Lucia shifted forward. Her hand wrapped around the blonde boy’s collar, pulling him back easily from Cassius’ danger radius despite the sounds of protest that left the mortal’s lips.

“What’re you…” Marlon began, trying to squirm out of the woman’s grasp even as he stumbled over a tree root and fell back against her.

“Best to stay away from him, boy.” Luciana responded, though her gaze remained on the fox as she spoke, before flicking to Jiangyu. “I was going to seek you out. I have a question, but I will find you later.” Lucia told the monk as her hand released the mortal. For now, the company had grown too crowded and she needed space. With a nod of farewell to the guardian angel, Lucia turned away from the group.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My name is Shiori. Ikeda Shiori."

Setting

Characters Present

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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      "I hear the blossoms are beautiful this time of year."

      "Maybe Kaede's hot boss will be there, you wouldn't want to miss that."

      "Basil Gardner get your lazy ass from in front of that TV and go to the festival with me!"


      That last one seemed to do the trick, combined with the threat of taking a razor to his head and cutting off all his icy blonde locks. He was already suffering from his brown roots covering most of his hair, and the shave would take away all the blonde he loved so much. So, he prettied himself up for a day at the cherry blossom festival and met Paola outside her candle shop, across from the culinary school he spent many nights catching up on projects. Paola is a sight for sore eyes, as always, and the pair make their way to the festival as soon as they're together. "You're a very lucky lady, Paola Millán, I don't miss the All Stars round of Chopped for just anyone." Basil huffed, linking his arms with the woman as they made their way to the festival. The only reply he received from Paola was rolled eyes, but that was to be expected from the fiesty girl.

      She is right, the blossoms are quite beautiful. The square is packed with people, and the smells all around are heavenly. Basil swore that Kaede said she would be here, but considering he was only half awake with a rerun of Iron Chef playing on the TV from when he didn't turn it off the night before, she could literally be doing anything and his mind just filled in what he wanted to know. The pair found an empty bench to observe the festival first; neither had much in the sense of friends, but could look for the one or two people they were close to besides each other.

      Paola wanted to see Lucia again, to talk with her. She didn't understand how the woman ended up in her apartment, or why she wanted to see her so badly, but yet the feeling pervaded. At first, she wrote it off as a dream, but something inside her wanted it to be real. "This random lady showed up at my house last night." Paola mentions, much too casual for Basil to take lightly.

      So many questions started to run through his head. His mouth stayed posed, ready, for his questions but none would come out. Finally, he managed to ease a question out, and they continued out in a flurry. "So, uh- did you know her? Well, obvious not if she was random, but, what did she want? Was she pretty, do you like her? What happened?" Basil rambled on before Paola finally stopped him. She could barely answer most of his questions, except: "Very pretty. Beautiful, and- she's here."

      That had to be Lucia. Paola noticed her walking away from a small group, some of them Basil seemed to recognize. She didn't register him speaking, only grabbed his wrist and tugged him behind her as she trudged toward Lucia through the thickening crowd. Murmuring "sorry" to every person she shoved past, and ignoring Basil's protests as he was helplessly yanked behind her, Paola was determined to get some answers from the older woman this time. Real answers.

      But, as she came closer to Lucia, she realized she had no idea what to say. A simple hello wouldn't suffice, and "why were you in my bathroom last night?" didn't sound too charming either. Still, a harsh, desperate "Lucia!" escaped her lips as she finally threaded through the crowd to Lucia.

      Basil, after being led through the crowd, notices Cassius only a few feet away from the woman Paola saw at her house last night.
      Cassius would have the best idea of where Kaede is at, considering he's her boss. He's never approached the man without being invited by the man's alluring voice, so just walking up to him seemed awkward. He gently touched Cassius' arm to gain his attention. "Sorry to bother you, Cassius, but have you seen Kaede? I think I was supposed to meet her here but I'm not exactly sure." Next to Cassius is a familiar blonde. He didn't know the other man well, only that they bumped into each other one or twice.

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Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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#, as written by Cloud
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The cherry blossom festival was supposed to be relaxing, a chance to indulge in the banquet of beauty offered by mother nature. Leaves cracked beneath her step in what might have been a satisfying 'crunch' had the goblin been in the mood to gratify the whimsical aspect of her nature. Yet, as Lucia stalked away from the group of immortals and mortal, she barely noticed the delicately fluttering blossoms above. Instead, the animosity contained within her gaze ushered temple patrons out of her path, as if they sensed the danger in accidentally hindering the woman's escape. Lucia barely registered the crowd's movements either though, for her gaze was distant, focused on memories buried beneath centuries of life.

He had been beautiful, a flame of light beside the dim embers of others. A beacon; the false light of a trickster. Yet, all she had seen at the time was his smile, that inviting face, the way his eyes would appear to light up as she entered the room. Most likely, that had all been Luciana's imaginings; attempts to place feelings where Cassius had only seen her as his next century of life. Still, she had let herself love him. Dreamed of a future where they would be together and happy, free from her fiancé. Able to be a couple.

How naive she had been.

Lucia's feet brought her to a standstill, and the goblin blinked images of the golden skinned man away. She was in a quieter courtyard where families littered benches; taking a break from the bustling vibrence of the main grounds. Lucia took a step to the side, where she could lean back against the temple wall and allow the shadow of the building at her back to cover her face. A century ago she had seen him again, from a distance, wearing that same damaging smile. He hadn't seen her then, no, Lucia had made sure to leave before Cassius could glimpse her. But, she had seen the lively turn of his lips, the way his throat stretched as he tilted his head back in an infectious laugh. Still the same, even if the clothes had changed.

If Lucia was smart, she would leave now. Find any entrance way and step through to some place across the globe. Run away from the man who had taken her heart before he could wound her again. And what then? Run away again whenever they happened to cross paths again? Why should she be forced to leave?

A tired sigh passed from her lips. She was not the same weak mortal she had been, death and centuries of immortality had changed that. No, she would not run. Not this time. Besides, Lucia had a mystery to solve and it revolved around a young woman who claimed Tokyo as her home. Lucia wouldn't leave until she had been able to ascertain how and why, the mortal girl had been able to summon her.

Pushing off the temple wall, Lucia - with much less heat in her gaze - set off. However, she had gone barely a step when the object of her previous thoughts appeared, calling her name. Luciana turned, her gaze landing on the mortal. The young man Paola was with branched off from her and Lucia briefly followed him with her eyes, only averting her gaze when she spied him joining up with the group she had just left through the crowds of people.

"Hello Paola." Luciana greets the mortal, feeling mildly perturbed as she realised Paola was of a height with the goblin, if not slightly taller. Perhaps she hadn't noticed the previous night given Paola's nudity. "I didn't expect to see you here." Lucia added, her words spoken in English. The goblin caught herself from glancing back over her shoulder towards the group she had just left, instead she nodded away from them and further into the temple grounds, "Would you like to view the blossoms with me?"

Lucia was about to lead the way, when a shiver passed down her spine. She felt cold, like an icy bolt of fear had just chilled her despite the pleasantness of the day. The feeling was not unfamiliar, for barely half an hour ago she had had the same feeling. Then, as with now, she had felt watched; as if someone was glaring malice at her. Shifting around, Lucia's gaze instantly found the source of her unease, and as before, her blood ran cold.

He was closer now, standing silently in a quiet hole within the crowded grounds. Twelfth century silks covered his pale flesh, rich in colour beside the pallid white of his deceased flesh. Jewels decorated corrupted fingers, the gold bands wrapped around blackened digits. His face still contained the same haughty confidence of royalty, death had not taken that from him, but not it was also mingled with a black, consuming hate that seemed to radiated from him. Though the mortals walking beside him could not see the ghost, they seemed to instinctively avoid the spot where he stood.

"I think I should leave” Lucia said, her voice weaker than intended. Her gaze did not leave the man who had killed her, and so she didn't miss the way his lips slowly rose into a predator's smirk; dangerous and deadly. His eyes twisted to the side. Luciana followed his gaze and found herself watching as another deceased soul materialised beside a small family. Dark ribbons of hair partially hid her face, while old, dark streaks of dirt and blood ran up this deceased soul's arms. A passing man was stopped in his tracks as the newly appeared soul pushed her hand into his chest. Though the mortal couldn't see him, he certainly felt something, for barely a second later he was collapsing to the ground and clutching at his chest while the deceased soul grinned madly above him, licking her hand.

Lucia pulled her gaze back to him, only to find her once-fiance had again vanished. If anything, this made her feel even more unsettled. More commotion behind her drew the goblin's gaze to another pair of corrupted souls, their garb similar outdated as the other had been, their intentions just as malevolent. It was definitely time to leave.

"Come with me." Lucia said, returning her attention to Paola and offering the mortal a hand, "We need to leave."