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Seung

"I look at the world and I notice it's turning."

0 · 897 views · located in Tokyo, Japan

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

Description

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SEUNG.....................................Grim Reaper
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In 17th century Joseon Dynasty, Hyeok 赫, was a strategist that due to his immense greed and betrayal toward his country caused the suffering of a thousand lives. To repay for his sins, he was turned into a grim reaper, forced to work without his memories.

...ImageAge.........406............................................D.O.B.........October 9, 1611
Origin.... Kingdom of Joseon...............Sexuality....Unknown

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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
        182cm, 6'0" | Gold | Brown


        Seung walks though life as though the world owes him a favor. Never running, never stumbling, he saunters at a pace many tell him is a beat too slow for the world’s tempo. He pays no mind to those musings however, isolated in his own world, lost and longing for something more, and trudges on with living — or whatever substitutes for that anyway. And although he has been given his duty, and with it a purpose in the mortal world, he is not exhausted not bitter, but rather he’s listless. His golden gaze sleepily takes in the morning sun with a reverence many have said to be naive. To that however, he simply smiles in satisfaction and raises an eyebrow in question. Yes, perhaps he is a measure off rhythm, but really, is it for the worst?

        Behind languid looks and muted smiles though lies a steely gaze that many are quick to dismiss. It presents the truth — and Seung is quite confident humans rarely ever want to know it — that turns soft features into hard edges that cut without notice. It’s not intentional, his unnerving countenance, but he makes no effort to correct it either.

        He wears black as though it’s going out of style, and should anyone see him in color — they’re sworn to secrecy. His work attire consists of a white button-up shirt, closed to the very top, underneath a black suit coat with similarly colored slacks, shoes, and socks. As well, he wears a coal colored wide brimmed hat when he must disappear from mortal sight.





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        P E R S O N A
        +empathetic | - malleable | + curious | - disenchanted

        In the beginning, through nightmares and daydreams, Seung had wondered what kind of punishment immortality was. He saw no reason to abhor his longevity. In fact, he saw it as a chance to live within history — to be a part of the rise and fall with civilizations, and still come out victorious. He had been a young grim reaper then, fresh out of hell and ready to serve whatever deity controlled him. He was soon to change however.

        Now, Seung views the world in a hazy cloud of colors; where nights are bright and warm, enveloping his lifeless body in solid light, and days are cloudy and cold, the ache of living seeping into his soul. Such is the reason why he longs for the moments where his eyes finally droop; and he can finally pretend the memories of a hundred years worth of work doesn’t bother him. He tries, endlessly, to be free of guilt or sympathy, and yet like ghosts his thoughts follow him.

        He’s always as prolific though, for only his worn-out journals know intimately of his inky thoughts. Sometimes as Seung runs his hands over the letters that stain white paper a deep black, he remembers that each word holds a sentiment and every sentence is a reflection of his heart. It’s the most honest he will ever been with himself, outside his head, and it’s locked away in a dresser where it’ll collect dust and decay. Truly, it’s a shame.

        No, rather than anything he’s ever wanted to be, lively and full of hope, Seung is a man made of marble — defined by the chiseling of people he’s encountered. They’ve made his smile infallible and infectious, imaginably to make the fall of bereavement hurt less. He chuckles a false sound; as if it could ever be painless. As well, they’ve pitched his laugh to sing melodically, and hunched his figure as to appear more fair. They have done so because they fear what they do not know, and he cannot fault them for being mortal. (Try as he might, and he does.)

        When they’re gone though, and the only thing that remains are memories, he cannot help but languish at the loss of contact. Perhaps it’s him wanting more than what he deserves, or maybe it’s all he can do as a final good bye — irregardless of the reason though, Seung is haunted by humans. .




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PERSISTENT..Come high or Hell water, Seung will see to it that anything he
does will be completed. It won't be the best quality, but at least it'll be finished.


ARTISTIC.. Perhaps it's a trait that has endured from his past life, but Seung
is undoubtedly well versed in the craft of painting.


CONSCIOUS..He is always aware of what people may think of him, and
so acts accordingly.



GREEDY..Seung always wants more than he can have, it's a habit that
he can't quite get rid of.


DAZED..He's always in a constant state of uncertainty, never knowing
where it's safe to walk, and where it's okay to fall.


SLEEPLESS..Despite how little sleep immortals need Seung still does
not get enough of it. It's a wonder how he functions in life.





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


        The war had not been theirs to fight, and yet Hyeok had stood at the precipice between living to see another day, and dying without a word. It had been an obvious choice, as anything ever is in the face of greatness, and should Hyeok have thought for second more, then perhaps he would never have been doomed to an immortal fate.

        There is not much to note about Hyeok’s childhood other than he was the oldest of four children, and the son of two farmers. He lived his days under heated skies, and knee deep in murky water. The kind laughter from his family filled his heart with joy and kept him sated for most of his early life. As he grew up however, his mind kept sighing for more. Happy as he was, there was a deep longing that he couldn’t seem to quiet, and so, he didn’t. There was no doubt in his mind that he would become someone the world would have to stop for.

        Hyeok had aspirations of becoming an artist, creating pictures so lovely it would move King Injo to tears. He would flood the palace with pieces art that would immortalize everyone in it, and would solidify his place in history once and for all. Perhaps his dream might have been realized should he have been born in a different time period, as he did have a hand for the craft, but as the Qing invaded Joseon for the first time Hyeok was forced to realize that it was simply not his destiny to do so.

        Instead, Hyeok found his place in the army of Joseon. Although only 16 years old he had dedicated himself wholeheartedly to fighting against the Manchu’s. And yet, despite how much he and thousands of others fought they were no match for the Qing. So came an era where Hong Taiji presided over the people.

        Hyeok remembers distinctly the winter when the Qing came back to finalize their control over the people of Joseon. He had been a high ranking soldier, full of knowledge but with no real power to act on his own. He itched to fight, to feel as though he was making a difference, and so when a woman with long black hair and a gaze that could pierce even the stars offered him a chance to rise above it all he hastily agreed. It was a moment of weakness he would regret forever, but at the time his own selfish desire got in the way of honor.

        It was simple, all he had to do was tell her where King Injo would be should an enemy attack. “Ganghwa Island,” he had replied, “but if not there then the Namhan Mountains.” She nodded her head slowly and smiled before leaving. He hadn’t even asked her name.

        The next day the war had begun, and the King of Joseon was surrounded on all sides. He was forced to retreat to the Namhan Mountains where for weeks he and other officials argued on what to do next. Time was ticking however and death was growing impatient. They were running low on ammunition, and the food they had stocked up on was quickly growing scarce. There was only one option available and that was to surrender.

        Hyeok had felt no pride when his king was forced to bow down, and yet when the woman he had met weeks earlier appeared before his eyes the guilt he had felt seemed to vanish. She had taken him to meet the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, where she retold the story of his betrayal. His heart swelled in pride, knowing that his name would be written in scrolls and whispered in reverence for years to come. At long last, he would live up to his dreams.

        Hong Taiji did not say a single word at first and as the minutes wore on in silence there came a change to the atmosphere. It grew more tense, and as the emperor raised his hand and the soldiers surrounding him drew closer Hyeok could only look at the woman in fear. The emperor had finally began to speak, but between mind numbing fear and absolute betrayal, Hyeok did not hear a thing.

        When Taiji was finished a single blade was drawn, and without warning embedded itself above his heart. As the light drained from his eyes, and his breaths became more shallow, Hyeok had realized that the world was dizzying and it had no intention of stopping.




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                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: Seo Kang Joon
                  HEX CODE: #d08462
                  PORTRAYED BY: Verix
                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: MT

                  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

                  - Never before has something been so true about him.
                  - Knows like 1-2 cool facts he recites all the time.
                  - Likes cool and funky shoes. Like light up sketchers.
                  - He has no idea what he does half the time, but hey
                  fake it until you can make it.
                  - He is shit at most things, but he will constantly
                  make you remember that he's better than you.
                  - He asks pointless dumb questions, and gets
                  bored easily and so needs to entertain himself.
                  - Makes fun of somber artistic brooding people,
                  but is one himself.
                  - Probably sleeps with a stuffed animal.
                  _( MISC )

                  - He tries really hard, he does, and he thinks his worst is
                  better than most people's best.
                  - He's actual garbagé though, and mediocre at best.
                  - Don't let him fool you with a cold resting bitch face, he's
                  the embodiment of the definition of loser.
                  - Lived alone for a really long time, he doesn't know how
                  he lured Alucio into being roomates with him. He doesn't
                  complain about it though.
                  - Will procrastinate until the very last second, because he'd
                  rather be doing other cool shit rather than boring grim
                  reaper work. Please don't enable him, you'll only feed
                  his ego and make his head larger than his brain.

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

So begins...

Seung'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

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: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Aera Lee

0.00 INK

#, as written by Verix
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                      Seung
                      GRIM REAPER | 406 | #D08462


                      There was something in the air unspoken that drowned Seung in it’s sadness. He could feel it pushing at him like waves created from an unforgiving ocean - letting him resurface for a single breath before pulling him down once again. It was as if the world he knew was made water, and the only way to save himself was to sink.

                      He watched helplessly as the woman in white fiddled with her cup, her brown eyes flicking between him and the tea before resolutely closing them shut. Seung itched to place his hand on top of hers, to feel the warmth of her touch against his, and perhaps to give her some sort of comfort.

                      “What . . . will happen once I’m gone?” she said, her gaze finally meeting his in an act of, what he supposed, defiance. Underneath the table he curled his hand into a fist and squeezed tightly.

                      “The world will go on,” the tone in his voice did not match the tune of his thoughts, and although intentionally misinterpreting her question he longed to tell her the truth. If only he could. The woman slammed her hands on the table, almost spilling the tea, and stood up. Her eyes were red and filled to the brim with fresh tears and an anger directed toward him and the world.

                      She said nothing, but her breathing was labored and her head was bowed. Her mouth opened as if to yell or scream or shout, but all that came out was a choked sob that rendered her whole frame frail. Seung had the curious thought that if he were to touch her, as he deeply wanted to, then perhaps she would disintegrate and turn into ash before his eyes.

                      Seconds passed by in silence and when her frame stopped shaking she sat down with a heavy plop. The life had been drained out of her and Seung could only observe. He was about to say something, anything really to permeate the stifling stillness, but a quick motion from her left him in awe. She grabbed the cup in front of her and without hesitation lifted the drink to her lips greedily. There was something mesmerizing about the scene, and despite having watched plenty of mortals accept the tea he couldn’t help but think perhaps something was different.

                      When the woman finished she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and let the cup fall to the ground gracelessly. Seung said nothing and simply stood up to walk her to the door where they had come from. She remained silent. They always did.

                      He shut the door softly and leaned his back against it with a deep sigh. All the air seemed to rush back into his lungs and his head was finally above water. He willed himself to stay afloat even for a few minutes, knowing full well it was a useless gesture. For he knew that once he returned home the sound of her sobs would follow, but he could pretend for now that it didn't bother him.

                      With slow methodical movements he walked back to the table and picked up the cup from the floor before bringing it to the sink to wash. He let the cool water from the faucet run over his hands like a blanket and when he was finished simply set it aside to dry. It was a part of his routine that he could preform with his eyes closed. He wouldn’t of course, but he’d think about it.

                      -

                      The moment Seung walked through the door to the outside world he shivered. It wasn’t as though the weather was anything unusual, but he’s always had an aversion toward the cold that never really faded with time. Regardless though, he continued to walk the city streets, wearing only a dark pinstripe suit and his only pair of black oxford shoes. It was one of his nicer outfits, as well as one of the most expensive. It had taken him a few months to save up enough money to buy it, and when he did Seung was reluctant to wear it as to not damage the cloth. Alucio had shown no outward reaction, but Seung could have sworn he heard the man whisper, ”. . . Yeah. Ok. This is life now.” Looking back on it, Seung couldn’t help but agree.

                      It was that train of thought though that reminded Seung that he should text his roommate. He had no real reason to, really. It wasn't as if they had agreed to meet one another consistently; God only knows how much they bumped into each other in their tiny apartment. But Seung didn’t feel like returning home where he knew it would be quiet, and he would be alone with his thoughts.

                      Quickly he pulled out his phone and began to text the man with an idea he knew the other couldn’t refuse.


                      To : M’lady Pard’ner
                      Come to the tipping point, first drink is on me.


                      Seung pocked his device into his pants, satisfied with his invitation. It wasn’t often he was generous enough to pay for someone’s drink, and so considered his offer to be nothing less than a sealed deal. He only had to wait for Alucio’s text for confirmation.

                      Rounding the corner a block away from the bar it was then that Seung noticed the sky had somehow turned lighter. He paid it no mind, and focused on getting to his destination, but when he bumped into a man who stopped to look at the sky Seung grew curious. Above, the stars shot across the sky too fast for him truly appreciate them, and so with a determined set to stance he kept walking.

                      He did however begin to pay attention to the people surrounding him, and for him that was a better sight than any star could manage. The people gathered on the street with their phones out ready to capture what they probably thought was an unforgettable moment. Seung knew better though, years of living made him apathetic to scenic beauty.

                      Slowing his pace even more he took in the sight of a few women gathered in a small ice cream shop, amazement in their eyes and their hearts bared for all to see. He smiled, and tore his gaze away from a scene he knew he was not supposed to witness.

                      -
                      He arrived at The Tipping Point a few minutes later and let his body acclimate to the the warm temperature of the room before sitting down. The bartender quickly made his way over and Seung ordered the cheapest sake to pass the time before Alucio would show up. When it arrived he took a sip and grimaced. Drinking was a lonely art.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker

0.00 INK

#, as written by Cloud
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The apartment Kohaku called home was small; a claustrophobic collection of tiny rooms which seemed to grow smaller every time he entered. Though tidy, maintained with obsessive care by both its occupants, none could bypass the fact that it barely fit one resident, let alone two. Haku’s bedroom, he had to admit, was pleasant, and gave off a vibe of being more spacious than it was. A combination of good lighting, both from the electrical bulbs and the room's one window, a clean environment, and minimalist furniture no doubt helped give the illusion of space. Small pot plants decorated his desk and bedside table, and throughout the apartment he shared with his fellow guardian, other small greenery could be found. Haku liked the delicate blooms the best, the ones which needed a caring hand and soft whisper to yield an inch of growth. It took a special kind of patience to cultivate those plants, patience which Haku was thankfully gifted with.

Time management was also a skill learned over centuries of working as a guardian angel, and as Haku glanced at his wrist watch – an old analogue face with a solid crack across the glass – he realised that he was going to be late. This was through no fault of his own, he would have pointed out to anyone had he not been alone. Rather, the fault lay with his new charge, who apparently was early.

“Naturally.” Haku breathed, as if he had always expected the slight inconvenience caused by the change of time. A cynic at heart, the angel was rarely surprised when things didn’t go his way. It was almost as if he anticipated disappointment, accepting it with a forlorn sigh as his due. Now was no different, and with barely a complaint uttered he collected himself and set off.

The guardian did not, as one might expect, head down towards the street. Instead, Kohaku took the stairs to the roof. Long strides carried him up several flights of the concreted stairs, ignoring the sound of yelling which echoed from one floor, and the blaring of televisions on various others. Cold, electric light illuminated his path, before, with a sigh of relief, he stepped out under the moonlight. A cool breeze swept across the angel’s face, momentarily caressing away the creases of worry that lined his forever young face. Dark, melancholic eyes turned heavenward, towards a cloudless sky that seemed to hang in the moment, like a breath waiting to be released. Then, the exhale. A spark streaking across the engulfing black; pinpricks of light making their descent to earth in breath-taking bursts of light.

Kohaku let himself indulge for a fraction of a second, his gaze aching for some forgotten feeling. Then, tearing his eyes away and casting them to his feet, the angel let out a sigh. He could only assume that there would be many eyes on the sky tonight, and despite his glamour rendering him invisible when he flew, Kohaku knew that a few of Tokyo’s millions might see him pass – the immortals and touched mortals. All he could do was mentally apologise for anyone who was distracted for a single moment from the falling stars by his flittering frame, before he stepped off the side of the building and took to the air.

Translucent, shimmering wings burst from the angel’s back, keeping his body aloft and pulling him higher into the sky so that Haku could skim over the tops of Tokyo’s steel horizon. He was faster than any manmade machine, making the journey in a collection of seconds. His toes scuffed the top of the hospital roof, heels settling down a moment later. His wings curled away, once again invisible. No stranger to the hospital roof, Haku turned his feet towards the stairwell entrance.

Unlike the reapers who lived in the apartment below his, Kohaku regretfully did not own a suave black hat as part of his uniform, instead he wrapped the image of another around his frame. He opened the door to the stairs as a grim young man and stepped through as an older man, face wrinkled by time and forgotten worries, hands gnarled and broken. His plain clothes whitened and lengthened into a doctor’s coat, while a nametag on his chest informed any who read it that he was a senior doctor in the neonatal ward.

At this time of night visitors were rare and the corridors were quieter than the day, yet still the halls buzzed with activity. Patients and staff murmured between each other, machines whirred and beeped, and the hums of phones ringing, trolleys being wheeled, and more echoed throughout. Haku’s footsteps barely made a noise as he navigated through the maze of hallways. He followed the unexplainable connection that pulled him towards his charge, like a thin cord that linked him with the mortals he was to watch that vibrated with their emotions. He could feel her now, bewildered, and curious.

His pace quickened, and soon he was pushing through the doors to where the new born mortals were wrapped snuggly in blankets. There were half a dozen babies within the room, none no more than a day old. Though Kohaku had never seen his new charge before, he knew without needing to read the name tag that Aoi was in the cot at the end. His hands gently picked up the small human, as careful as if the new born was his own. A soft smile appeared on the angel’s glamoured face, a rarity indeed had anyone other than a baby been around to witness it.

“Somebody was eager to meet the world.” Haku whispered, his gaze kind as the baby girl’s own large eyes met his. “You’re early.”

The baby didn’t respond, but Haku could sense its sentiment; the pure, uninhibited emotions of an infant. He had always held a special place in his heart for children. Why, he was never quite sure. Haku only knew that here, holding the precious bundle in his arms, he felt more complete than he had in years. Yet, even as he soothed Aoi back to sleep, Kohaku could feel the pull of his other charges. He was needed elsewhere.

“I will see you again, Aoi.” He whispered to his charge, placing her softly back into her crib. He hesitated for only a moment, watching the small puff of her cheeks as she breathed, “I wonder what you will become, and where you will find greatness. What joys and hardships will you face?”

Though guardian angels had a hand in directing fate, even they were naïve to the destinies their charges held. Their job was to keep them safe, to nudge them in the direction that would lead them to greatness. A hard job when that greatness appeared elusive. Once, before the world had become that much more accessible, a guardian could follow their charge from infanthood to adulthood. Now, however, over half of his charges moved across the world, to become the responsibility of some other amnesiac immortal. In return, he was given the cases of those guardian’s charges who found their way to Tokyo.

Another of Haku’s newest charges was within the hospital, though this was a grown man rather than a new born soul. Like the first, Kohaku followed the intuitive connection towards the American, reading what he could of the man’s emotions as he went. As he passed under the artificial lights of the hospital bulbs, Haku altered his glamour slightly. The face remained the same, yet each step saw years fall away. Hair slowly thickened and darkened, wrinkles disappeared, and his figure straightened, until he appeared to be a man in his early thirties. The lab coat was gone too, replaced in an empty corridor with the plain clothes of an office worker.

New charges always took a small amount of time to plan for. Though Kohaku was connected to the man’s emotions, there was an unpredictability about handling a charge Haku wasn’t used to that offered some difficulty. It was for this reason that the angel stopped mid-step and frowned, shook his head slightly, and decided to try a different tact. It would take a few interactions to fully learn what might help Ryan Prosker, and he thought he’d keep it short and simple for the first.

Five minutes later a small figure sporting pigtails, a pair of thick glasses, and a girl scouts uniform, turned the corner. Braces lined her teeth, and various badges pinned across her chest displayed her status as a senior girl guide. Haku’s glamour could have been no older than ten, yet the tiny Japanese girl walked with the determination of a centuries old man. It was only when she was within sight of her target, that the girl scout slowed. Haku had come prepared, and reaching into his (her) pocket, he pulled out a small packet of girl guide biscuits. The chocolate flavour.

The glamour’s shoes made a light tapping sound as she danced across the hospital floors, reaching Ryan Prosker quickly. Japanese spilled from his mouth, the tone that of a prepubescent girl, before Haku thought better of it and translated his original statement into heavily accented English.

“Sir, would you like some cookies?” The girl guide smiled brightly at the man, her gaze unwavering as she pushed the packet towards him. “Life is full of constant disappointment and heart-aching.” Haku added, his feminine voice momentarily sombre, the English awkward on his tongue, “But whenever I begin to question the pointless cycle of life, I find biting in a cookie is helpful in the calming of my mind. A momentary pause, before an additional attempt at help, “The exit is down the left path.”

Perhaps it wasn’t the smoothest translation from the Japanese, but Kohaku had never claimed to be a linguist. With a quick bow, the girl guide pushed the packet forward and let go, before quickly turning on her toes and skipping off. Haku could only hope the cookies cheered up his charge, yet he had no doubt that more interaction would be needed in the near future.

Once out of sight around the corner, Haku ducked through a side door and found himself stepping once more into the brisk night’s air. Sirens screamed close by, car horns echoed throughout the night,, and above it all the last few stars began their descent from heaven. Kohaku jumped into the sky, the material of his girl guide’s skirt flapping in the breeze created by his wings. Invisible to all below, he once again let his wings transport him, though this time he remained between the buildings, weaving through them as he followed the map in his mind. His feet touched down a moment later, glittery slip-ons meeting the dirty pavement of a back alley.

The door to the bar jangled as the ten-year-old girl walked in, surprise appearing on her face as she spotted the dark suit and familiar face of her neighbour. The girl guide slid into the seat opposite Seung, offering a glum nod of acknowledgment directed towards the reaper as she settled in. Only when Haku was certain that no eyes were on him did he shed the small girl glamour, letting his natural form take precedent.

“I didn’t know you frequented ‘The tipping point’.” Haku said, his gaze taking in Seung’s sharp suit with a hint of envy. He would love to own such a flattering and expensive piece of clothing, yet even if Haku had the money to afford it – which he didn’t – he was sure it would only bring out the bags under his eyes or accentuate his already prominent ears. “My charge might visit here tonight. Please don’t take his soul. I’ve only just received his case and it would look terrible on my record if he died the first night in my care.”

The bartender came over, a selection of drinks in his hand. Haku shook his head slowly and asked for water instead. The bartender frowned slightly before stepping away, and Haku slumped further into his seat in dejection. He didn’t have enough money to purchase luxury items like sake, not when he’d just given away a packet of girl guide biscuits for free. But, he supposed that was part of his dues. A punishment for the sin he committed in his past life. Such was the after-life.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung

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▁ ▂ ▃xxxF L Yxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# D 2 A D 9 Dxxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxW H I T ExxxD R E S S

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xxxxxxThe chair shattered against the wall. Minako flinched as she witnessed wooden shards rain to the ground through the narrow kitchen window, the noise muffling the sound of weeping trickling through the house. The neighbours were quiet, long accustomed to the war zone that raged within the four walls next door.
xxxxxxThe angel returned her gaze to the shadows of the building, waiting for the creak of a familiar bedroom window to swing open. Finally, she heard the sound. A dark head emerged from the ledge, followed by a tangle of limbs that fumbled blindly for the ground beneath it, still many precarious metres away. Yuki Honda was a certified genius with dreams of pursuing neuroscience and parents who would not spit on each other if the other were on fire. She also lacked the ability to gauge distance, though Minako supposed she need not worry about such inconsequential affairs when she had a guardian angel to watch after her.
xxxxxxYuki fell from her bedroom window.
xxxxxxMinako beat her wings—incandescent pools of light that hissed against the soft grass and exhaled a breath of air to cushion Yuki's fall. Still, the mortal girl fell hard. She groaned and rubbed her lower back, which would no doubt ache for some time.
xxxxxxMinako watched her scuttle away from the chaos of her abode, that had long ceased to be anything but a prison with a lovely facade. She felt her charge's guilt for abandoning her younger brother to their parents and their vengeful acrimony. It coated her tongue like a film of ash, until Minako felt Yuki's emotions so closely as her own that they permeated her fingernails. She had never mastered the ability to separate herself from her charges, though in this instance she felt she deserved it. Yuki's brother was only eight—what a a pathetic excuse of an angel she'd be if she cast the young boy to his fate simply because he was not promised for greatness. Yet as Yuki moved further from her brother, so did Minako, like a balloon on a leash.
xxxxxxYuki lifted the hood of her sweatshirt over her face as she moved through Tokyo, another body jostled in the crowd. The blare of horns and cacophony of footsteps crowded even one's own thoughts, but Yuki felt more free in the throngs of overpopulation than she did in the inescapable cavern of her home. Her guilt retreated, but Minako's did not recede.
xxxxxxA cluster of apartments rose in the distance, a young boy standing at its feet with a bundle of roses clinging to his palms. A wide grin lifted Yuki's cheeks as she raced towards him. She threw her arms around his narrow shoulders and he laughed, catching her like a cool tide that washed over him. Yuki spilled pure and unabated joy, filling the pool of Minako's heart and bringing to the angel's lips a smile even wider than her own.
xxxxxxThe young lovers tilted their heads to the sky, their lips parting in awe as they took gulps of the universe. Minako watched the sky fall as her wings broke open behind her. Light spilled from her spine as she shot from the ground, spinning like an arrow as she broke through the trees and clouds.
xxxxxxA laugh burst from her lips as she dived through the night sky, drifting lower until she hovered above the kaleidoscope of cars and signs. She landed softly in a cluster of trees, her wings vanishing as her bare feet touched the ground.
xxxxxxHer hair lightened, paling and curling until it was the shade of lavenders. It grazed the edge of her collarbone, and the black lace that wrapped around her thin neck. A thick ring of kohl lined her eyes, juxtaposing the flash of silver at her brow and the ring wrapped around her lower lip. Fishnet tights hugged her narrow thighs, echoing the fingerless gloves that clutched her palms. She walked through the city, stopping at a small Japanese restaurant and slowing only to snatch a cigarette from the lips of a stocky man leaning against a street corner.
xxxxxxHer charge stared aghast as she threw the cigarette to the ground, grinding it beneath her spiked boot.
xxxxxx"Don't smoke," she said. "It's bad for your lungs. Your teeth will rot. And you'll be single forever."
xxxxxx"Excuse me?" he said after a moment of shocked silence. "Who the hell do you—"
xxxxxx"I bought you a bento box." Minako placed a takeout box in his outstretched hands, which he might have been intending to use to strangle her. "Chicken teriyaki. No sesame seeds."
xxxxxx"How did you know I was allergic—"
xxxxxx"It's not too late. He'll forgive you." She gave him a small smile and a gentle pat on his hand, before disappearing into the tide of passersby on the sidewalk.
xxxxxxShe moved through the city until she reached a familiar bar. The Tipping Point was dimly lit, but she spotted the two lanky figures easily. Minako slid in beside them, and planted her face on the table.
xxxxxx"I'm so—" she began, her voice muffled behind her squished lips, "—sad. Takumi will never love me." She thought of the hulking brute and the way his face had swollen to twice its size the day he'd discovered he was allergic to nuts and seeds in all its forms. He'd remained impossibly beautiful in her eyes.
xxxxxx"Is it because I'm dead?" she bemoaned.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio

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                          The crisp breeze of the evening brushed past Alucio's face, the alerting chill welcome on his always unusually warm skin. The tall, stolid man stalked down the city sidewalk, pace kept at a brisk, steady tempo, his long trench coat trailing behind him like a sentient shadow. Tucked under his arm, he carried a stiff black hat, waiting for its moment to fulfill its purpose. Despite walking along the outermost edge of the pavement, he still found himself taking a step this way and that to avoid bumping shoulders with some oblivious passerby, the scowl lines around his mouth growing deeper with every close encounter.

                          He arrived, thankfully, at his destination before his face could permanently be stretched into an ugly expression of displeasure. As he lifted an arm, pressed a palm against the cool glass of the hospital door, his other hand took the hat out from under his arm. He stepped over the threshold as he disappeared from mortal view, brim of his hat pulled down low over his eyes. Glancing briefly down at the thick white cardstock cupped in his palm, he set off towards the West Ward, the rubber soles of his worn leather shoes clacking against the linoleum floors. The echo of the sharp crack felt acutely lonely under the flickering fluorescent lights of the hallway, and for a moment, Alucio slowed his pace, soaking in the otherworldly atmosphere of the stretch of hall that seemed to go for miles. It was unnerving, in a very pleasant kind of way. He closed his eyes—still stepping assuredly forward, no hesitation in his long strides—and listened to the low ringing of tinnitus in his ears. If he concentrated, he could still hear the buzz of activity somewhere in the distance, but there was nothing but silence where he was going. He could see why. It smelled more like Death the closer he got to his destination.

                          He rounded a corner, passed a long string of hospital rooms, decay emanating from each one, until he paused in front of 267. Yes, this was the one. He stepped inside and paused again. A silhouette stood at the window, illuminated by both the moonlight and the unnatural city glow of street lamps and office lights. Alucio was not sure who looked more like a shadow: her bent figure against the dark sky, littered with erratic flashes of light, or her discarded husk of a body lying limp on the starchy sheets of the hospital bed. He crossed the room until he stood at her shoulder. She said nothing. For a moment, he looked on with the old woman, two sets of mournful eyes watching as the sky fell apart.

                          Then, with a short sigh, he looked down at the small card once more. "Ogata Yutsuko," he read off, monotonously. The buzz of activity came back, grew louder with each passing second. "Eighty six years old. Born on February 11th, 1931. Died at 7:24pm on April 1st, 2017. Cause of death is a heart attack." He took a glance at her impassive face. "This is you, right?"

                          The attending physician burst into the room, followed closely by two nursing assistants. The lights flashed on, dimmed the magnificence of the outside spectacle. Very simply, in a warbling voice, the old woman answered, "Yes."

                          Alucio nodded, took the gnarled hand of his latest assignment in his own, and stepped around the doctor and nurses gathered around her bedside. He looked towards the heart monitor, still sounding its steady alarm, and thought that death and silence did not sound so different after all.


                          It was not until he was halfway across the spacious lobby of the hospital that his phone sounded an urgent beeping from his pocket. Hastily, he fished it out, brows furrowing at the sight of the text message from his colleague and roommate. Mentally, he noted the plans before replacing his cell; it would be far too unprofessional to respond during work. Another acquaintance caught his eye from the far end of the lobby, the visage of a little girl flickering and mildly translucent, giving way to the image of a familiar somber looking young man. He considered, for an instant, greeting the angel, but quickly thought better of it. They were, after all, nothing but neighbors, weren't they? Going out of his way to say hello would be strange. Instead, he stepped out into the chill of the evening once more, gently guiding the old woman in the direction they needed to go. They were silent all the way there.

                          She drank the tea with little fuss, a small smile perched on her thin lips, mostly hidden by the prominent wrinkles around her mouth. He admired her, if only a little, her peaceful disposition. When he'd told her so, she'd only responded, "I have lived long enough to see all I need to see."

                          "I'm glad," she said, as her features smoothed out, spine straightened, "I got to see the stars before the end."

                          Alucio only hummed a low note in response. He stood, moved to the door, and she followed suit, walking steadily on elegant legs, reaching him just as he swung it open. She breezed past, paused on the first step of the stairs. "Thank you," she said, inclining her head slightly, and Alucio returned her smile. He watched until her figure was entirely enveloped by warm, white haze.

                          As he placed the used tools in the sink, Alucio remembered Seung, likely already waiting at the bar. He opened the conversation and wrote:

                          TO: TENANT
                          OKAY.


                          And then he turned on the faucet.


                          The walk to the bar was a brief one, and in just a few minutes, Alucio was hastily pushing the door shut to prevent any more cold air from entering. "It better be the good stu—" he began, but died off as he looked up from his shoes and saw the three occupants of their usual corner area. That was two more than the one he was expecting. "Oh," he said, stopping short.

                          He shook off the surprise and slid into his seat next to Seung. "Hello," he said, lifting a hand in greeting towards Haku. He might have greeted Mina as well had she not been slumped over, facedown on the bar, moaning incoherently. "I didn't think tonight was one of gathering nights."

                          He considered the female angel for a moment, thought of the consequences of his potential actions, then, with a soft sigh, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. "Here," he said, sliding it across the wood. "The bar top is covered in germs. Put this over it." Without waiting for a response from her, he turned his attention towards Seung. Or rather, his sake. He didn't ask before swiping the glass and taking a long swig.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum

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▁ ▂ ▃xxxM A G N E T Sxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxx# B 3 8 4 8 1xxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxA P E XxxxN I G H T C L U B

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xxxxxx"Hey." His eyes remained shut. "You lied to me."
xxxxxxCassius responded with a noncommittal grunt. Of course he'd lied to her. Dishonesty was his resting state; deception unraveled from his tongue as easily as Kaede's first thought fell from hers. The fox granted stolen lives found the young woman almost as refreshing as she was pretty. Almost.
xxxxxxThen again, she was very pretty.
xxxxxxCassius peeked at her through one eye, noting the swathe of colour on her lids visible beneath her mask. A smirk emerged on his lips. He wondered, did the defiant mortal girl dress up just for him?
xxxxxxBefore he could part his lips to usher a flush that was equal parts rage and embarrassment to her cheeks, she interrupted him. Her hands found his pockets, to which he arched a single brow. Cassius flashed a devilish grin just as Kaede captured his likeness on his phone.
xxxxxx"So you look disgustingly amazing as always," she said after returning his phone to his custody. "I was in the middle of doing something, you lying trickster."
xxxxxx"Were you redecorating your home with countless images of me?" he teased. "I wouldn't blame you." Cassius leaned against the bannisters, fingers flitting to rub his stubbled jaw. "Who did you smuggle into my club? Someone worthy of your company, I hope. You deserve nothing less."
xxxxxxCassius took a step forward and leaned down so their noses were nearly grazing. "But not too worthy," he murmured. His eyes followed the path of his knuckles that grazed the slip of dark hair that brushed her collarbone. "I wouldn't want to battle them for your attention." He straightened, moving away as a grin revealed the dimple in his cheek and his shock of straight white teeth. "Prison ages you, I hear."
xxxxxx“A beautiful night, made all the more lovely with the sight of you,” a melodious voice spoke. Cassius had barely noticed Areum's approach, though centuries spent in the company of a person so much like himself had a way of rendering her so much a part of his own existence that she barely seemed a separate entity at all. “My business proposition still stands should you tire of Cassius.”
xxxxxx"We could always share," he mused. "Surely you remember how well that went the first time." The humour was veiled in memory, spoken of pasts long gone and none but the two fox spirits could recall. He remembered clearly having claimed the mesmerising mortal for his own before the younger fox spirit attempted to steal her away. They had fought vehemently, only to realise the mortal not only had no more reincarnations left to give, but that she was wholly devoted to her soulmate of four lifetimes. They'd become companions ever since.
xxxxxx“The man in the yellow vest is trying to catch your attention, should we intervene?” asked Areum.
xxxxxxCassius traced the path of Kaede and Areum's gazes as they moved away from him to land on a lanky figure with a swath of pale hair, made all the more dazzling by the lights that spilled from the corners of the balcony. Cassius smiled and tilted his head, urging Basil near.
xxxxxx"Is that who you brought along?" said Cassius. "He was already on the list. I know how inseparable the both of you are. Besides—" Cassius lifted the flute of champagne to his lips and drank deeply, his jade eyes never leaving the tall boy, "—he's quite pleasant to look at.
xxxxxx"Basil," he called as Kaede's friend neared, his vaguely Italian accent flourishing the name in a slow purr. "The attire suits you—or perhaps it's my club." He smiled. "You should visit more often."
xxxxxxHe cast an appreciative gaze in Areum's direction, noting the dainty curl of her nose and the swell of her lips, which she'd no doubt been using for more than smalltalk. Dark lace curled around her body, an alluring orchestrated masterpiece of swells and dips that captivated many patrons of his club. She was impossibly beautiful in the objective sense, but he felt when he gazed upon her what he did when he'd travelled to a dazzling limestone cave hidden in Malaysia before mortals had discovered it and hollowed it for minerals.
xxxxxxAreum was breathtaking, but so lonely it ached.
xxxxxx"I believe you've yet to meet," said Cassius, his voice low. "This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction."
xxxxxxA parting of the seas caught his attention and Cassius turned to watch as a girl marched purposefully through the throng of bodies to challenge a man and assist a rather inebriated woman. Cassius frowned as the man flashed a lopsided grin and emptied the contents of a glass on the ground. The reality of the situation dawned on him as his bartender's furrowed brows mimicked the tense line of his mouth as he spoke to the defiant girl.
xxxxxx"Excuse me," muttered Cassius to his companions, though he was already moving towards the bouncers by the entrance of the illuminated balcony. "Get him out of my club." Cassius nodded towards the entitled man lurking in the fringes with his friends. "Them, too."
xxxxxx"But sir, that's—"
xxxxxx"I don't care if he's the reincarnation of the last shogun himself," Cassius interjected. "We don't tolerate sexual violence of any kind in my establishment."
xxxxxx"Yes, sir." He watched as his broad employees marched to apprehend the men, a feat far more difficult than it appeared. They proved adamant in their desire to remain and their resistance had drawn the attention of one too many attendees of the masquerade. Finally, Cassius strode towards them and wrapped his hands around the biceps of two exceedingly aggressive men.
xxxxxx"Ow!"
xxxxxx"What the—"
xxxxxx"I would appreciate it if you would leave," said Cassius, his grip tightening for emphasis. "Quietly."
xxxxxx"Shit, whatever. Just let go. This club's lame anyway."
xxxxxxTheir departure amplified the quiet that had befallen the Apex. The scene had stifled the enthusiasm that had thrived prior to the commotion. Cassius turned to address his audience.
xxxxxx"Free cocktails for everyone!" he called out.
xxxxxxThe crowd cheered, and the party returned to its former splendour.

▁ ▂ ▃ ▂ ▁


xxxxxxThe handkerchief smelled of snow and pine, or love and eternal devotion. It was always difficult to distinguish. Minako emerged from hiding, her wide eyes lifting to gaze at the reaper with overwhelming parts awe and adoration. Her lips parted and shut, only to part again and slam closed. Minako gaped and floundered in the tide of emotions and unspoken words. She was a dam breaking open, a tree split by lightning, a cliff at the brink of a waterfall.
xxxxxxI love you, I love you, I love you.
xxxxxxThe words caught in her throat as they always did, where they'd slumbered for two-hundred and fourteen years, or seventy-eight thousand, one hundred and ten days. How she wished everyday she'd spoken them to Satoru, who'd chosen another without ever knowing her heart. Who'd died believing she'd loathed him.
xxxxxxPerhaps if she broke herself open and gave away her pieces to whoever might take it, she would eventually discard every part of herself that he'd touched and decided he did not want.
xxxxxx"T-hank you," she stuttered. "Are you— How are—"
xxxxxxShe clutched the handkerchief to her chest. The words wouldn't come. They never came. She would die with them but the irony was that she already had. Yes, surely Takumi could not love her. The mortal girl she'd been had died long ago, and the persona that had taken her place was certainly not not dead. Minako was an animated corpse. She was worse than an animated corpse. She wasn't even a hot animated corpse like those presently seated beside her.
xxxxxx"Germs are the only things that will touch me." She planted her face on the table, and folded the handkerchief into a perfect square, which she would keep for prosperity for the rest of eternity.
xxxxxx"You look like you could use a drink."
xxxxxxMinako lifted her head to meet the eyes of the bartender.
xxxxxx"What can I get you?"
xxxxxx"Yes."
xxxxxx"I'm sorry?"
xxxxxx"I'll take anything you'll give me." She gaped.
xxxxxx"Vodka on the rocks...?" the bartender began tentatively, his expression conveying that he was finding her stranger by the minute.
xxxxxx"I mean, I'd prefer a bed..."
xxxxxx"What?"
xxxxxx"I love—to sleep." Minako turned away to stare intently at the three immortals beside her, her eyes screaming for help or death. I hate myself, she mouthed, her eyes rolling into the back of her head.
xxxxxx"That'll be two-thousand yen."
xxxxxxMinako swallowed a deafening cry. "Sure." Put me out of my misery, she told her companions telepathically as she slipped her debit card across the counter.
xxxxxx"Um, can you let go?" the bartender prodded, tugging at the card Minako pressed with white knuckles against the table. Minako darted her gaze towards the door, contemplating the speed at which she could run to avoid the authorities. Finally, she allowed the bartender to tear her savings from her. She was sweating.
xxxxxx"I'm going to pretend I ate the next week. Am eating? Will?" Minako's voice was shrill as she suffocated on her cries, all the while draining her glass of vodka between her choking. "Everything's fine. I'm fine. I love life. Life hates me but it's okay. I love to suffer."
xxxxxx"Here's your card back."
xxxxxx"Keep it. You've taken everything else," she gasped. "Like my dignity."
xxxxxx"Is she... Okay?" the bartender asked slowly.
xxxxxx"You don't even remember my name."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker

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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
"A good drink will dull the senses, a great drink will erase them altogether."




Ambience --- Hex #AE0202 --- Leather Jacket




You would think that a man who was capable of flying his way through a hail of gunfire and rockets would be able to easily find his way out of a hospital. You would be wrong, because Ryan was having way more trouble than he cared to admit. One hand held the English to Japanese dictionary, while another hand aimlessly waved about in an effort to figure out his bearings. He could just start taking doors at random, but that would present another set of problems that Ryan was not wanting to deal with. His attempts to stop a couple of people in order to get directions were either met with him being ignored or stared at as he laughably tried some Japanese phrases. Either way, he was about ten seconds away from jumping through a window and seeing if he could simply fly to the bar.

It was at this moment that a young Japanese girl wandered up to him. A girl scout? In a hospital? At night? By herself? There were so many questions Ryan wanted to ask but thought better of it as she immediately launched into a tirade of the unknown language, stopping for but a moment as Ryan raised an eyebrow at the girl. His fingers flipping through the pages, trying to find enunciations that matched up the the rapid pace of speech this child had just given to him. “Uhhhhh…” Ryan murmured to himself, his eyes darting from the pages to the girl and back again. It was but a second later that she spoke in English, broken but definitely understandable.

She asked if he wanted some cookies, and before he could respond, she spoke again. ”Life is full of constant disappointment and heart-aching...But whenever I begin to question the pointless cycle of life, I find biting in a cookie is helpful in calming of my mind.” Ryan stared at her for a moment, caught between shock and surprise at the little girl. It was almost like she was reading his mind, and considering the amount of things he had heard and/or seen come out of this country, part of him wondered if that wasn’t in fact true. Before he could say anything, she pointed him towards the exit, shoved the cookies into his chest and skipped off. Ryan found himself staring at her for far longer than any adult man should stare at a small child, and shook his head.

“What?” Ryan asked more to himself than anything else. He looked down at the cookies, then back up at where the girl had skipped to. “What?” He repeated to himself, catching a few looks from passing nurses and doctors. He wasn’t sure what exactly had happened, all he knew was that her English was better than his Japanese, and that embarrassed him. He stared at the package of cookies, chocolate flavor, and wondered if this was some elaborate plan to poison him using an unassuming yet somehow creepily knowledgable girl. He shook his head and walked in the direction that she had pointed him towards. He was left with more questions than answers as he found the correct set of doors that would lead him outside. Note to self...make a map. Ryan thought to himself as he opened the package of cookies and peered inside. He picked one out of the box as he made his way towards the exit, looking it over before giving it a bite.

Mmmmm, chocolatey.

The crisp air outside was a welcome reprieve to the stuffy atmosphere he had just been subjected to. He stood outside the doors for a moment, his hand repeatedly dipping into the box and munching away at the cookies inside. He peered around at his surroundings, everything alien to the American as he didn’t even attempt to make sense of the signs and writing around him. He pocketed the dictionary into his jacket and took out the note that Konatsu had handed him instead. On it were directions written to the bar as plainly as he could make them, only an idiot wouldn’t have been able to find it.

Then again, Ryan had to get help from a girl scout just to exit a hospital...so the odds were not in his favor.

He started wandering down the street, the slight amount of wind pulling his jacket behind him as he peered through the nearly empty streets. Bits of litter floated as if pulled from invisible strings, windows were alight with activity like fireflies, but souls seemed to be absent from his view. It took a few minutes before he saw another person, which was a blessing as he had slowly been convincing himself he had died and been put in purgatory or something akin to a slow form of psychological torture. The lack of bodies was getting to him, he could feel himself getting agitated and antsy at the fact that he was practically alone in an unknown world. How he wished his buddies could have made the trip, or even if there was one more English speaking person walking beside him. He hated solitude, despised it with every fiber of his being.

With only the passing moments of people wandering by to keep his mind from spiraling into a desperate search for conversation, he could sense that familiar feeling of irritation welling up inside him. It felt like his entire body was restless, but would eventually evolve into an itch he couldn’t scratch, until it felt like his entire body wanted to spasm. He had once been told this was all a psychosomatic reaction to his natural inclination to always want to be surrounded by people, but whether it was in his head or not, it felt just as real. Luckily, before it could get any worse, he arrived at the bar that Konatsu had pointed him towards.

Ryan took a moment to size the place up, and to be quite frank it seemed about a half step up from a dive bar. Maybe Konatsu came here to avoid all the high profile people he had to deal with on a daily basis. It could have been his oasis in a desert of snobby lawyers, idiot executives, and stupid shareholders. Ryan double and triple checked the name and Kanji on the note, making sure he was in the right place before replacing the note into his pocket and digging for more cookies. His hand came back empty, so with a frown he looked inside the box to see that he had eaten them all in the short time it took him to get to the bar. Oh man I’m going to have to run that off later. Ryan thought to himself as he wondered how hard he had been pigging out just now, lost in his own thoughts. He looked around for a garbage can, and found a dumpster on the side of the building. He tossed the empty box into it before making his way inside.

The interior was dimly lit, either on purpose or because they couldn’t afford better lighting. Several tables were placed around the room, oddly enough they were the ones he was used to eating at. Ryan had the impression he would be kneeling at every establishment he went to, with the tables that might as well have been floors. Aside from that, it wasn’t bad. The atmosphere had a homely touch to it, the kind where the ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe seemed to perpetuate the air, although he doubted that was the case. There was a bar counter with stools as well, and despite there being several people in groups among the tables, Ryan opted for the spot closest to the supply of alcohol. He didn’t know anyone, add in the fact that the language barrier made it extremely difficult to communicate and you have yourself one hell of a recipe for great misunderstandings. It was fine though, so long as people were around him and chatting away, Ryan could get rid of his antisocial anxiety.

As Ryan took a seat at the counter the Bartender came over, an aging man who looked to be about in his forties. He was completely bald although it was most likely from choice, and a surprisingly few wrinkles marred his face. If it wasn’t for the other physical facts, such as his slightly hunched posture and aging skin on his hands, Ryan could have easily mistaken him for someone closer to his own age. “Watashi ni nani ga dekiru?” Ryan didn’t bother trying to answer, instead he fished out the note in his pocket and looked it over. There were phrases written, including one that introduced him as a friend to Konatsu. He narrowed his eyes at the phrase, but luckily Konatsu had been kind enough to spell out the pronunciation of the words.

“Watashi wa Konatsu no tomodachidesu.” Ryan stated, heavily aware that his accent was most likely making the Japanese nearly unintelligible. The Bartender widened his eyes slightly and gave a smile.

“Ah! You must be Prosker-san!” The bartender stated in heavily accented English. Ryan looked up, pleasantly surprised that the man understood English at all.

“Oh thank God. You know English?” Ryan asked, severely relieved at not having to deal with a language barrier that would result in him simply emphasizing just how western he was. The Bartender shrugged.

“Here there.” The man stated, turning around and grabbing a bottle that Ryan could only hope had something that would knock him on his ass. “Konatsu-sama call ahead, he say put everything on his bill. You drink free tonight.” Ryan blinked for a moment, he had been expecting a discount not a free ride to blissful drunk town.

“I’m going to owe him something fierce…” Ryan muttered as the bartender looked under the counter.

“Gomen'nasai?” He asked, of which Ryan took a wild guess as to what that meant.

“Eh, nothing. Just muttering to myself.” The bartender nodded before seemingly cursing to himself as he reached underneath the counter and pulling out nothing. He cursed, or at least Ryan took it as cursing, in Japanese several times before placing the bottle on the bar.

“No cups, I get cups. Be right back.” The bartender stated before moving towards a curtain, yelling something in Japanese and getting yelled at back by someone with a slightly deeper voice than his. Ryan looked at the bottle, and naturally it was all in the language of the natives. He couldn’t understand what it said, so he took to taking a look around the bar instead. There were a number of people in the building. There were a couple of people huddled in a corner having a hushed conversation, a lonely looking man having a drink by himself and a group of four with a woman face down on the table. That sight brought about a confused look from Ryan, but there didn’t seem to be any immediate distress so he didn’t think it was warranted for him to intervene. All in all, the atmosphere was melancholic. Considering his own emotional fragility at the moment, this was not something that he wanted to be around.

It was then that the Bartender came back, carrying a few cups and placed them all under the counter while leaving one in front of Ryan. He muttered to himself in Japanese, and while the language may be different, the verbal cues of griping because of a lazy or incompetent worker was universally understood. The Bartender took the bottle and poured the liquid into the cup. “Sake, drink.” The man stated, to which Ryan grabbed the small bowl-shaped cup and brought it up to his lips.

“Domo Arigato.” Ryan stated, and immediately the Bartender’s face turned sour.

“What you call me?! You have nerve!” The surprise at the Bartender’s sudden shift in mood combined with the strength of the drink was enough to make Ryan gulp in surprise and start a coughing fit as he held up a hand, speaking in a hushed whisper as he attempted to swallow what he could in time to say something.

“What did I say? I thought that was thank you! Was it not thank you?!” The Bartender’s expression deadpanned for a moment before he burst into laughter, slapping the table slightly.

“It is! I make joke!” He continued laughing as Ryan cleaned up his face, grabbing the towel the Bartender eventually offered him.

“Ah yes, make fun of the American and his uncultured ways, how civilized of you.” Ryan stated in a mocking tone, although his smile was wide and genuine. He didn’t mind being the butt of a joke so long as people were having a good time. Besides, it helped him push everything that had just happened to the back of his mind. He was never good with dealing with his own emotional issues, preferring to ignore everything that wasn’t beneficial to the people around him. “I think we’ll get along just fine. What do I call you?”

“Miyata Yoshinobu.” The Bartender replied, cleaning up a bit of the spilled sake with a smile still on his face. Ryan took another shot of the Sake, breathing through his teeth as the alcohol hit his system.

“And...Miyata is your family name right? You place your names backwards to western culture?”

“Yoshinobu personal name, Miyata family name.” Ryan gave a nod.

“Alright Yoshi, then while I’m drinking on my friend’s tab, might as well let everyone else get in on the fortune too. He’s rich, he can afford it. Get everyone in here a drink of their choice and charge it to Konatsu.” Yoshi seemed to hesitate slightly before Ryan gave a wave. “He could buy this Bar with his pocket change, he won’t look twice I promise.” Yoshi yelled back into the kitchen-type area, and out came a younger looking gentleman. Most likely it was Yoshi’s son as his tone seemed to convey...a familial order to it. He barked some orders in Japanese and soon enough the man was moving from group to group asking them what drink they would like and explaining that it was already paid for.

“Generous with other people’s money.” Yoshi stated, to which Ryan gave a shrug.

“Better I spend it on other people than just myself, don’t you think?” Ryan asked, taking another shot of Sake as once again thoughts of his parents came unbidden to the forefront of his mind. There was only one way that he was going to get through tonight in any form of happiness or blissful ignorance. ”Now, keep hitting me with the strong stuff till I can’t see straight.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu

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#, as written by Verix
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Seung & Seok Areum
GRIM REAPER | #D08462 | FOX SPIRIT | #D24038



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

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

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

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

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

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



      ( • • • )


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker

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#, as written by Cloud
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xxxIt made no difference how many times reaper Seung reminded Haku that they did not choose who died, merely followed the cards assigned to them. The guardian still maintained the prejudice that their mere presence must not be lucky for any mortals in the vicinity. Yet, as Seung reminded him of the fact, the guardian merely nodded solemnly in response rather than argue. Best not to upset a grim reaper after all.

xxxA moment of comfortable peace passed between reaper and guardian instead, the sounds of the bar’s other occupants and the steady beat of vehicles rumbling down the road outside soothing after a day of work. Haku sipped on his water, wishing once again that he could afford anything more than the free drink. A despondent sigh escaped the angel, his shoulders slumping slightly as his gaze left the sad glass of water. His lips parted, words collecting on his tongue, before a small figure joined the quiet pair with a thump and a sorrowful exclamation.

xxxKohaku knew Minako’s moods well, and was well acquainted with her inclination to find love in the smallest, most meaningless of gestures. A passing stranger might smile at her, and the diminutive guardian angel would assure Haku that she was in love. She felt too strongly, opening herself up for disappointment whenever a fresh sweetheart failed to return her newly developed devotion. On more than one occasion in their decades of friendship, Haku had found himself comforting his fellow angel, offering a quiet shoulder to cry on as he patiently waited for her to right herself.

xxxAt least now Haku had the support of his neighbour. No two neighbours, he corrected himself as Alucio joined the quiet table. Kohaku returned Alucio’s greeting, raising his hand vertical and giving a short wave before letting his fingers wrap around the glass of water and pulling it closer. He should have asked for a straw. He watched as Alucio offered the distraught guardian his handkerchief, and Kohaku suddenly had the sinking feeling that he’d be spending the next week hearing Minako waxing poetic about Alucio’s generosity. The male guardian bit back a sigh and returned his attention to the glass of water.

xxxThoughts of sinking into a hot bubble bath distracted Kohaku from the chatter of the table, his mind already swimming with sweet scented candles and luxurious bath salts. Bath bombs were his guilty pleasure, the rare item he allowed himself to splurge on. Not that he did so very often. He would use a candle right down to the stub, and lay in a bath until all the bubbles were gone and the heat had completely vanished. Anything to make the most of his spent money.

xxxOnly the sound of his name draws Haku away from his mental bubble bath, and he gazes up to stare blankly a Seung. Having missed the earlier conversation, Kohaku merely nods and agrees uncertainly, “Right.”

xxxThen a worker is at their table, and Haku’s lips quirk into the first almost-smile of the day. A free beverage? What luck is this? With a quick nod, Haku picks up the menu hastily and skims down the list of cocktails, wines, and other assorted alcoholic drinks. He’s half scared that if he takes too long, the offer will disappear. Yet, as soon as he finds something he likes, he glances up and finds the bartender waiting patiently for the order.

xxx “I’d like sex on the beach, please.” Kohaku informs him, ignorant to how such a phrase could be turned around in any other situation. Yet, the barkeep’s face does not break into a mocking smile at the cocktail, but a regretful frown.

xxx “I’m sorry sir, but that drink was discontinued last week. You must have an old menu.”

xxxHaku is handed another menu, his disappointment and resignation clear by the set of his shoulders and gloomy mask. Nevertheless, he selects another drink – a respectable beer – and hands the menu back with another sigh. It’s only then that he notices the man sitting at the bar. He can sense the man’s emotions, the connection slightly sluggish thanks to the few shots of Sake he’s already consumed. The bartender follows Kohaku’s gaze and gives a happy nod,

xxx “Yes, the American has kindly bought the whole bar a round.” He informed the table, nodding towards the figure of Ryan Prosker.

xxxHaku nods absently before his elbow shifts, prodding into Minako as he drew his eyes away from his charge. “I’m going to talk with my charge. If you’re capable of sitting straight and tearing your gaze from the table, I would appreciate any advice you could give me on him.” Haku mumbled, before a gaze at the men in black sitting opposite them made him add in a quieter voice, “And make sure the reapers don’t kill my charge.”

xxxWith a nod to said reapers, and a promise that he would be right back, the guardian angel slid from his chair and gained his feet. He felt almost naked without a glamour on, but knew that it would be redundant to leave the bar only to come back wearing the image of another person. He may as well wear his own face. Subconsciously, Haku tugged on the lobe of his almost-too-big ear and set off, dipping around tables empty and occupied as he made for the counter.

xxxHe didn’t entirely have a plan, but knew that talking with his charges would only help in his mission to enable them to meet their great fate. So, he took the seat next to the American and drew a rare smile onto his face as he faced Ryan. His lips were unaccustomed to such a position, and the smile quickly fell into a more neutral position as he addressed the man seated beside him.

xxx “Hello, do you speak Japanese?” Kohaku asked in his native tongue, before switching to his less-fluent English, “Or should I thank you in English?”

xxxMovement to his right momentarily drew Haku’s attention away, and he was rewarded with the sight of the bar tender sliding a cool beer into the guardian’s waiting palm. With a nod of thanks to the worker, Kohaku turned towards Ryan once more, his beer held out towards the American – an age-old, wordless invitation to clack their drinks together and ‘cheers’.

xxx “To what are you celebrating?” Kohaku continued, his tongue feeling uncoordinated as it pronounced the English words.

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Cloud
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━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━
CHAPTER TWO: THE FESTIVAL
━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

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

━━━━━━━━━


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio

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#, as written by Cloud
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A sigh escaped the guardian angel’s lips, the soft sound of defeat dying swiftly as the man stood. He was tired, his back aching from the countless hours spent hunched over in concentration, and for what? To lose at the last moment. To find himself eye to eye with yet another disappointment. Haku was used to failure, expected it even, but this here struck deep. His chair scraped back, wooden legs screeching against the hard floor as Haku dropped the old gameboy on the table, turning sad eyes away from the flashing ‘Game Over’ that decorated the black and white screen. Super Mario had defeated him again, and he could not bare to watch listen to the taunting tune any longer.

The guardian stretched out stiff joints, rolling his shoulders and cracking his fingers as his bare feet walked towards the apartment’s exit. In light of his recent disappointment, Haku needed a distraction, and luckily for the angel, work would offer nothing better. Rubbing his eyes, the guardian slid his feet into shoes and left through the apartment’s entrance, closing and locking the door behind him. He turned and took two steps across the hallway, fist raised so that his knuckle might lightly tap against the doorway opposite his. Distraction would hopefully come earlier in the form of two other immortal beings.

The subdued sounds of a few short thuds reached Alucio’s keen ears just as he shut off the running water in the sink. Lucky timing. Not that it meant anything. He glanced down at his gloved hands, sudsy and far too wet to be opening doors. He was preoccupied with his work regardless. Half the used dishes still lay dirty in the sink basin—in fact, he’d only turned off the water momentarily while he scrubbed at one of the pots. The water bill had been a little high last billing period, and Alucio no longer had the luxury of leaving the faucet running while he washed the dishes.

“Seung?” he called, albeit not very loudly. In a room not much larger than a closet, one did not need to speak loudly for their voice to travel far. “Door.”

The other reaper didn’t hear the soft knocking and it took Alucio’s call to bring him out of contemplation. His succulent had died and he had no idea why. Seung stared at it for a few moments, willing it to come alive, but upon realizing it was hopeless he sighed and grabbed the pot before making his way to the door.

Opening the door Seung spotted the morose face of his neighbor greeting him. It did not surprise him to find Haku in such a state, after all they were neighbors and he had seen the man at some relatively low points in his life, but it did pique his curiosity.

“Haku, are you alright?” It was the polite thing to ask having seen his sorrowful face, but Seung felt as though he already knew the answer.

Another sigh escaped Haku’s lips in response, his gaze shifting mournfully to the ground as he shook his head. “I am not alright.” He responded glumly, “Super Mario has defeated me again, and I fear I am in need of distraction from the crushing disappointments life continues to throw at me.”

Seung looked down at the plant in his possession and silently nodded in agreement. He knew the feeling all too well.

The guardian’s gaze shifted up, meeting that of the grim reaper before him, “So, would you and Alucio like to come to the Cherry Blossom festival with me? I believe Minako is already there.”

“Of course,” he backed up from the doorway and yelled, “Did you hear that Alucio? Let’s go.”
Seung set the plant down next to him as he carefully stepped into his slip-on shoes. They weren’t expensive enough to justify being outright worried, but he learned long ago that being cautious was rarely a bad thing.

Alucio had heard that. He’d heard Haku’s invitation quite clearly despite the angel’s naturally low, mournful tone. He had not, though, intended to act like he had. Things were hectic for him at the moment, what with the dishes and the messy countertops. Later, he even had plans to clean out the closet. Seung was free to go, of course, though it’d be nice if he’d help dry the dishes once in awhile considering he didn’t do much else.

With his back to the doorway leading out to the living room, Alucio scoffed. “Let’s go.” Since when did Seung feel he commanded such authority over him? He quickly finished drying the last bowl in his hands and crossed over to the front door where Seung was still putting on his shoes. With one hand, he waved a greeting in Haku’s direction, with the other, he slapped the back of Seung’s head. “Watch your tone,” he said flatly. Then, with a polite lilt, “Good morning, Haku. Thank you for the invitation.”

Seung stood up and rolled his eyes before silently mocking Alucio for reprimanding him.

Haku gave a lazy wave in return to the second reaper, watching his neighbours as Alucio reprimanded Seung. He was somewhat surprised that Seung had so easily accepted, and was now hopeful that Alucio might be able to make time in his busy schedule to accompany the pair to the festival.

“Good morning, Alucio. I hope you’re coming with us to the festival. I hear there will be takoyaki. My favourite.” A smile almost pulled at the corners of Haku’s mouth, before a dire thought crossed his mind and instead his lips fell into a frown, [color=#7C9AA4] “Unless they’ve run out of takoyaki already.”

“I’m sure they haven’t,” answered Alucio, slightly absently as he focused on tying the laces on his shoes. “And, yes, I suppose I can join you. My next appointment isn’t until tonight.” He didn’t mention that he’d completed all the housework there was to be done—alone— or that he’d been planning on going to the festival regardless of company.

“Shall we?” he asked simply, slipping on his long trench and grabbing his hat off the coat rack. It always paid to be prepared.




The trio made a dreary sight as they turned the corner, all dark colours and downcast eyes. At least, Haku’s eyes were downcast, his shoulders slumped despite having found two companions to accompany him to the festival. He pushed his hands into his pockets, casting a quick glance at the two grim reapers, as if expecting his two ‘friends’ to suddenly leave him to his lonely musings.

“Thank you for accompanying me to the festival.” Haku sighed softly as the gates to the temple rose above them. The guardian angel gazed across the crowds, his nose attempting to decipher in which direction the takoyaki were.

“It’s our pleasure,” Seung said. Wordlessly, Alucio bumped Seung’s shoulder with his own, pointing off to the far left where a tall banner waved in the wind, advertising the festival’s rather famous takoyaki.

“That’s what you were looking for, yes?” he questioned, inclining his head toward Haku.

Haku nodded, his gaze following Alucio’s line of sight to the stall selling takoyaki. Haku’s stomach pulled him forward with a grumble, his eyes taking in the octopus balls with joy.

“Two takoyaki, please.” Haku requested as they arrived at the stall, the guardian’s hands reaching out already for the offered food.

“420 yen, please.” The stall holder replied, holding the takoyaki at bay while the money was handed over. Yet, as Haku patted down his pockets he realised that he had forgotten his wallet. His heart jumped into his throat, disappointment - an already constant feeling for the angel - seemed to seep further into his bones. Perhaps he had enough change to buy just one takoyaki?

“I have… two 10 yen coins.” Haku offered, letting his change clutter onto the stall’s bench before turning imploring eyes on his companions. “Does anyone have any change?”

With a semi-surprised arch of his brows, Alucio turned his torso to rummage through the pocket of his coat. He hadn’t brought his wallet, not quite expecting to have had to pay for anything. But he rarely cleaned out the pockets of his coat, and there was always some odd thing he found when he needed it most. Sorrowfully, he pulled his balled up fist from his pocket and slowly opened it, revealing five receipts from varying times of the past two decades, two crumpled up 100 yen bills from circa 1940, and a dingy 50 yen coin. He offered his meager findings to Haku, mentally totaling their new count up to 270 yen.

Seung looked at Haku with exasperation not because he was asking for money but because he too had very little on his person. Regardless he reached into his jacket and pulled out a 100 yen coin. He sighed, and handed it over to Haku. “Let’s share it.”

Haku thanked them, grateful for his friends. For surely they were friends now, they had helped him purchase takoyaki. Well, one takoyaki, which he would have to share. Nevertheless a third of one takoyaki would be better than nothing. Handing over the change to the bemused seller and taking one of the takoyaki skewers, Haku gave the remaining change back to Seung and Alucio before taking a bite of one of the octopus balls. He bit back a pleased moaned, his lashes fluttering closed against his cheeks as the taste exploded on his tongue. Only when he’d swallowed did he reopen his eyes, gazing longingly at the remaining balls that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy.

“Seung?” Haku offered the skewer to the grim reaper who took it gratefully. He ate only one ball and savored the flavor before holding it out to Alucio who declined with a quick wave of his hand.

“None for me, thank you,” Alucio responded to the unspoken offer. Festival food was never quite his style.

Seung shrugged and passed it back to Haku. From the corner of his eye however he noticed a stall with ‘Kingyo-sukui’ written in large lettering. He nudged Haku’s shoulder and pointed where children were gathered around a small aquarium, “That looks interesting, would you like to play?”

Haku followed Seung’s finger, eyes alighting upon the children attempting to scoop little goldfish out of the tub of water. Next, his gaze landed on the price, guilt rushing over him that he’d have to borrow money again even as he took another bite from the takoyaki in his hand.

“Alright. I could use a goldfish.” Haku finally replied, thinking that a cute fish might be a good gift for the charge he was planning on meeting later.

With that settled Seung drifted toward the vendor and watched an oddly intense focus on the children before him. Of the three children playing only one successfully caught a fish by using slow movements and taking her time. With that in mind he gave the vendor the change from the takoyaki and received a small paper scoop.

“Watch closely, I know a technique to correctly capture it,” he said with full confidence and kneeled before the tub. He didn’t tell them all his knowledge came from watching a child.

He placed the scoop into the water and moved it slowly toward a nearby fish only to have the paper rip open. Seung sat there, shocked beyond belief.

From behind Seung came the sound of a soft snickering. Alucio’s facial expression barely betrayed the amusement he felt from seeing the failure of his roommate, the slightest uptick of his lips the only indication.

Stepping forward with an atypical amount of confidence, Alucio handed his 50 yen to the vendor, twirling the handle of the scoop between his fingers with a practiced skill. Before he placed the instrument in the water, he shot a glance in the direction of Seung, an eyebrow raised in a silent challenge, as though he were saying, “Yeah? Watch.

The scoop flashed under a multicolored fish, whisking it up out of the water before it could even notice the paper net underneath it. Up out of the water it came; the paper held for an instant, quivered, then, with a shock, burst open, letting the fish escape back into the tub with a splash. Alucio could only watch with a wide-eyed disappointment.

Haku watched both of the reapers attempt to capture fish, sighing with weary disappointment as each failed. It was his turn next, and the guardian had no hope for being able to complete a task that neither of the others had accomplished. Yet, he still stepped forward, pushing up his sleeves to keep his shirt dry and taking hold of a paper scope. He knelt down by the tub, eyes searching for a target. The little fish was on the small side, more golden than orange in colour.

“Hello, little fish.” Haku cooed as the scope slowly came up under the animal. He expected the scope to break at any moment, but somehow it didn’t. He pulled the scope out of the water, the fish swimming quickly around in the little pool of water stored in the scope. “Oh, I did it!” Haku smiled softly, looking surprised more than anything.

The stall holder congratulated him and quickly put Haku’s fish into a plastic bag before handing it to the guardian. Haku held his new pet up to his eyes, watching it for a moment before looking proudly at Seung and Alucio.

“Would you like me to teach you?” He offered, his eyes glittering with subtle humour.

“I think the game is rigged,” Seung stood up defiantly and looked at Alucio, “You agree right? My paper was too thin.”

Alucio nodded, subtly sullenly. “They do say only one out of three win.”

“I think I read that somewhere too,” he agreed, ignoring Haku out of jealousy.

“It’s a psychological method of tricking people into believing they’re capable of winning.”

As the two reapers continued to bicker, Haku’s gaze fell on a distant familiar figure. He could sense her emotions through the bond that connected guardian with charge, and with a wave of farewell to the sore losers, Haku left, his prize fish in hand as he made his way towards Kaede.