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Masks of the Soul

Throme

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a part of Masks of the Soul, by Cienpher.

Throme - a city of urban wonders

Cienpher holds sovereignty over Throme, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

781 readers have been here.

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The city of Throme is an ever-exciting place to live. The streets are always teeming with activity, and there is rarely an idle day for any of its citizens. There are more peaceful suburban areas near the outskirts of the city, but the heart of it is an urban paradise. In the shopping district, the greatest fashions and styles line the streets. Clothes, electronics, everything is modern and stylish. The ever-famous Damon Ito, Throme's own international star, frequents the billboards and advertisements in not only the shopping district, all throughout the city. It is said that he'll be performing in a musical later this year. This youthful star's face frequents the Throme News Station (the most reliable source for current events) - yes, the one with the overly cheerful reporter, Megan Mariot, and the never-right weatherman, Kenneth Park. If you want to be prepared for the weather, always do the opposite of what he suggests.

Back to the upcoming musical, the famous award-winning actor, Damon Ito is costarring with popular R&B singer Emma Matia to bring the citizens of Throme a spectacular show they won't want to miss. However, there are of course, the rumors that Damon Ito is dating the model, Noel Delari...

On a different note, moving away from celebrity affairs, the city has recently elected a new mayor - Ms. Aline Cosette. If anything, the woman is enthusiastic and determined to help the city to thrive. She is an intelligent young woman with a new perspective, and she well-represents the heart of Throme's identity: stylish, chic, modern, yet prosperous. She is trying to support the Metropolitan Police Force and bring them back up to standard... even a wonderful city like Throme has the odd crime now and then. Her office is in City Hall, which is a large and grand building that serves many purposes. In fact, in just six months, representatives from nations all over the world are to gather there in order to discuss matters of international importance - a conference between the nations. Ms. Cosette is to take part in this as well, and many are eager to see how things will turn out.

Another popular site in Throme is Cherry Grove Park. This is public space full of flowers in the spring and colorful trees in the fall. In the center of it is a beautiful plaza with a large and ornate stone fountain. Little children like to play in it in the hot summer days. Off to the side is a wishing well - it is said if you toss in a coin and make a wish, it will come true. There is a surprising collection of coins glittering at the bottom, but it is difficult to see from the depth of it. On weekends, a fortune-teller sets up her tent a ways off from the fountain square. She is young, beautiful, and dresses no differently than any other citizen of Throme - but she claims to have accurate readings. Her specialty is Tarot cards. Despite her normal appearance, she calls herself Madam Butterfly, refusing to divulge any other name.

There is one major museum in Throme - the Museum of Throme Art and History. Here, there are various displays of artwork, sculptures, and various historic replicas of the city's development. Fittingly enough, there is a new exhibit opening in a few months where the main attraction seems to be a mask. Rather ironic, no?

Lastly, of course, there is Throme's multi-purpose and undeniably grand shopping mall. It is not just a place to shop - there's the shopping district for that, at cheaper prices - but it also serves as a recreational center. There is a video game arcade, a movie theater, a book store, an ice-skating rink, restaurants, a concert hall, and even a theater for stage performances amongst its floors. In fact, Damon Ito and Emma Matia's upcoming musical is said to be using this revenue. One thing to note is that on weekends, there is a clown that comes and sells cotton candy and balloons by the escalator of the first floor. He calls himself Easter.
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Throme

Throme - a city of urban wonders

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Throme is a part of Masks of the Soul.

9 Places in Throme:

15 Characters Here

Amara "Amy" Calen [15] "Ah, that was... a joke? Could you tell it again? I missed it..."
Lucas Toland [14] "Grace Stone... Itex... things have gotten so complicated..."
Vera Chung [13] "No, it's fine. It's no bother really. Really! So, is there anything that I can do to help?"
Aki Evedane [5] "...Why risk something when there is no guarantee that you'll succeed? You'll just end up far worse than you already are."
Kaden Jannsen [4] "Oh, sorry, you were there? I hadn't realized. I was too busy writing. What do you want?"
Sanya Ruse [2] "Some say that the Vice President is the Queen of Cenriel Academy. But unfortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth - it's me, of course."
Deus ex Kaos [2] The Mask of the Tower
En2 [2] ???
Liesel Moringmer [2] "If you don't take this seriously, I'll kill you before Itex does, you hear me?"

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#, as written by Alasund
??? and The Chariot ; Liron River Pier


"PUPPY!?!" The Chariot burst out, nearly charging towards the other woman, but for the restraining hand on her shoulder. "Leave her be, Chariot. Release the mask." The tone to his words were different, the ... commanding feel. The Chariot almost went glazed on the eyes as she reached up and disengaged the mask. "Now, pass it here." The face twitched once, but passed the mask over, still seemingly under a spell...

"See? En, dealing with the lowers is much simpler than you would imply. She is perhaps a little wild still, but she is easily our most deadly weapon. And you cannot prevent this without reason." He smirked beneath the hood at the other Itex. "I think she knows who holds the key. And it isn't you yet. Whether or not the events conspire as you intend them, you are not yet at the end of them currently."

There was a daring to the words. A daring hidden carefully behind many layers of patience and politeness. Daring to test this woman's patience...

"You know the definition of orders, correct?" He asks, holding the Chariot's mask out as she stood to the side, glassy eyed. "Here's the Mask you needed."

The Chariot felt warm, comfortable. For some reason, giving this mask over after he asked her to wasn't hard. Then again, with how much she owed him, her life was his. Why was she feeling so ... loyal to this saviour enigma? This man she hardly knew?

For some reason, this troubled her....

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Character Portrait: Zensa Valobo Character Portrait: Sanya Ruse
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Ambra Riviere ; Cherry Grove Park


Fiddling with her cell phone, she typed the certain ten numbers before her finger hovered over the call button, worriedly. ‘Would it be a good idea to call him? What if he’s busy? He’s a senior and everything… and he might not have time to deal with me. I’m just a freshman after all… It’s also really late. Maybe I shouldn’t. Yeah, he might think that I’m really awkward or something...

For the third time in a row, she turned off her cell phone, deciding not to call him. But still, her large brown eyes continued to glance at the ten numbers that Zensa had written on a small slip of paper. His phone number. He did say that he was looking forward to meeting her, right?

Biting her lip nervously, she picked up the cell phone again, this time inputting a different string of ten numbers - the phone number of another person, and the only one that she would trust with a question like this.

“Ruse? Are you preoccupied right now?” she asked, nervously. “I have a question to ask you about Zensa… You know, the… senior who was playing the instrument on the stage… from the park?”

As her voice trailed off, Sanya Ruse spoke into the phone on her end. “Ah, no. I’m unoccupied” Her voice was sharp, as Sanya knew that there would be something interesting that she would find out - almost like a shark. Some juicy information that would bring the young girl even further into her debt. “Ask away. After all, the queen is always looking forward to helping her lovely court.”

“Well-,” her voice broke up as she started to look at her toes. Then, with a deep breath, Ambra started to speak quickly. “He gave me his cell phone number and said that he was looking forward to talking to me, but I don’t really know if this would be a good time to do it? Should I really do it now, or should I wait until later?” The end descended into unintelligible murmuring, while she clutched at the phone with shaking hands.

There was a slight laugh on the other side. “Ambra, go ahead and call him. It won’t hurt anything.” Then there was a slight pause, before the older girl spoke. “Just rehearse what you’re going to say beforehand, and it’ll turn out perfectly. I can tell.”

Ambra smiled to herself, her nerves temporarily calmed by Sanya’s belief. “Ah, t-thanks. I’ll call him immediately then.” She was just about to hang up when the older girl said something.

“Remember to tell me what happens afterward, alright, Ambra? Then I’ll be sure to help you plan the next step. You’ll thank me for telling you to approach him earlier today,” she seemed a little distracted, but her voice was still the same silky smooth and kind one that she normally used.

She nodded, before realizing that she couldn’t be seen. “Ah - yes, yes. I promise. Thank you so much, Ruse! I’m going to follow your instructions exactly and I think that it might end up fine because that’s what you said and you’re always right -” Cutting off mid sentence, Ambra blushed as she realized that she had started rambling again. “Bye, Ruse. Thank you so much for all of your help!” She closed the lid of her slightly clunky phone, before looking at it with a rueful smile. This time, she would be brave and actually speak to him without stuttering or blushing - but even as she thought that, the palm of her hand became sweaty, and she wiped it on her pants nervously.

Dialing the number once again, as she had practically memorized it by now, she waited for him to pick up, mentally rehearsing through what she would say in her mind. First, she would introduce herself - just in case, and ask if it was a good time for them to have a conversation. Then, if he wasn’t busy, she would - calmly - talk to him about the field trip. And then… well, hopefully, he would know what to talk about because she really wasn’t sure. Maybe swimming? No. Most people were bored when she talked about such things… or maybe movies? Movies. Everyone liked to watch movies, right? But what were the new movies that were coming out soon? All she knew was that Skinwalkers was coming out sometime next month… but what if Zensa didn’t like it?

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#, as written by Alasund
Post Co-written by Nivosity and Alasund De'astio


???, ???, and Kiriyu Asuki


It was with a mocking smile that she lifted one gloved hand towards the mask, waiting for the man to give it to her. "Ah, but En. You forget. I have no interest in feral mongrels." She flicked the fingers on her other hand in the direction of the Chariot, before turning her attention back to the other.

"It's in your interest to follow the orders given, En. That is all I expect." A small smile flickered behind the covering cloaks as he bent his head in mocking acquiescence.

She shook her head gently. "Ah, but you're completely wrong there. It's in your interest to have the student here in control of the Chariot mask." She stepped forward, and picked up the Chariot mask in one hand, and brought it closer to her body. "Hm. Thinking of it in that direction, I don't see why I should return this."

"Because you were ordered to, perhaps?" The words were a little testy for once, the man ... not annoyed, but certainly displeased. "You should know better than to disobey orders."

She answered the cloaked man with yet another soft laugh. "But this is completely in agreement with my orders. She simply said to aid the Chariot in hunting down the Emperor. But I see no Chariot here - just a cowering child."

"You bend the rules to suit your own narrow version of the world, as always, En." Shaking his head, his mind moving quickly, the man frowned. "What if I gave you ... incentive to change that interpretation of your orders?"

She smiled once, tilting her side to the side slightly. "Now, now, En, this had better be good. I have always wanted to do a little playing around with the wind myself."

"I would think that perhaps... If I offer to aid you, and do nothing to harm your efforts, but only to help them, during the .. ah, crisis, that will soon arise?" He spoke carefully, patiently. "I would even be willing to swear an oath, to such effect."

It was then that she smiled, a certain taunting smile, before tossing the mask up in the air and catching it neatly. "Are your pets really that important to you?" With a slight smirk, she pulled a white ribbon out of the air, and entwined one end of it on her wrist, throwing the other end in the direction of the other man. "You realize that consequences for breaking it, do you?"

"Very clearly." He smiled beneath the coverings. Grabbing the ribbon, he held tightly... as it entwined itself up his arm, and over his torso, the ribbon seeming to stretch as it went. It tied a huge bow before its end fluttered in front of him.

"Thou shalt not lie," she intoned in a monotone. The ribbon gleamed silver now, before the other end of the ribbon made its way into the woman's hands. "Do you swear to aid me, and do nothing to harm my efforts, especially during the," water sloshed over the broken pier, and made her next words hard to decipher, "Should you break your vow, do you realize that this... Kiriyu Asuki will be the one to shoulder the cost?"

"Yes. And thus do I swear." His voice was quiet, calm. Almost too calm. The slight smile was hidden by the folds of his cloak. "For now, and until it is done."

The woman smiled, before with a flick of her wrist, she threw the other end of the ribbon towards the Chariot. The still-silver ribbon tied itself on the wrist of the student before it faded out of sight. Turning back to the man, she tossed the mask towards him, before turning to go. "I'll be counting on your aid, En," she called over her shoulder.

Catching the mask, then passing it to Asuki, he nodded, "Just remember, En. Now I have no way to betray you. I'll be more critical on your mistakes. I can't have you make a mistake now I follow you, can I?" Laughing, the man turned, not even waiting for the other to reply, and began striding back to the cab.

The woman stopped in her tracks, before shooting another comment to the retreating man. "Ah, En, but I would so much more prefer if you would also lose the mentality that you may question me." Then, with that said, she stepped past the wreckage of the pier, "And get someone to fix this mess." Her feathered wings flapped slowly as she lifted from the ground, and started to fly across the river.

"Of course, my lady." Sarcasm tainted the words as the small group of people came in behind, having not been so fast to respond as the cloaked man to the summons. As the police began to move, the workers quickly cleaned the pier, makeshift replacements hiding the carnage that had taken place at this spot...

Setting

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Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen Character Portrait: Treia Rawler Character Portrait: Oskana Sonnen
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Vera Chung


There was no reaction from Amara for quite some time. Maybe she was lost in thought? Why wasn’t she saying anything? The silence… it was depressing, and seemed to bring an awkward aura to the meeting - why wasn’t anyone saying anything? Whatever the reason was, the sudden silence unnerved her, and she started to speak, mostly to herself. “It’s not that difficult to fold either, really. As soon as you understand it, it’s quite simple. Hey! That reminds me! Do you guys have any idea for student council activities?” She gave the three of them a large grin, before continuing. “It’s always nice to know what you guys want when we’re planning.”

To her greatest surprise, it wasn’t Treia or Oskana who replied, but that Amara newb. “Oh, sorry. I was just thinking… Which type of roses would be best for the Greenhouse? There’s the banksiae, a beautiful yellow.” What did this have to do with anything?

Vera would have tried to like this new person - as Amara was new after all. But only if she did nothing to do with the Student Council. She hadn’t gone through the same things that everyone else did - like the death of their principal right in front of them, and they’ve already put so much time into their fight. True, it was all wasted time, but they managed to find a little bit of information at the very least.

They’re all so pretty...Hmm… I guess we should go see what species are there?” This didn’t have anything to do with what their task was… It seemed as though this newbie didn’t realize the extent of Liesel’s anger. Still, Vera continued to smile. At least, someone was making some kind of noise and saving her from the silence. “Oh, Treia, Oskana! I completely forgot! Umm… we can look at the stars another day? You two have fun, and say hi to Suna for me? Thanks! See you around!

With a bound in her step, Vera continued closer to the Rose Gardens. There was a strangely bored-looking man who looked as though something was going to happen. He could be Itex, or maybe not. At the very least, it would give her something to tell Liesel she did… plus, he seemed like a more interesting man to talk to. “Come on, let’s go!” she exclaimed before walking up to the man. “Excuse me, sir, I have a question that I need to ask you. About the roses, which color would you prefer to see in Spring? I’m doing a survey to plan a garden for the park, so…” Her voice trailed off.

The man blinked, before looking at her blearily. “Pink, I guess. Red is good also. I don’t really care. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go.” Well, that was boring. The man turned and left, without a backwards glance. It wasn’t a problem with her story - with Amara’s continued blabbering about gardens, it was the only thing that she could think of. It seemed to make sense, right? It seemed to be every week that someone approached her asking about this or that. They especially liked calling her - and asking if she wanted to buy a house.

Now what? The only other suitably interesting person around was that Suna person. But Vera didn’t quite want to go to see her, as that would instigate that she was wrong and Amara right. Was there anyone else that was close-by that she could easily turn the conversation towards? The couple that she had met when riding up the escalator was still there, but they seemed to be settling in for a long while gazing at the roses and having some sort of romantic encounter. It wouldn’t do to disturb them.

That would be rude, and it’d look bad in front of that other person.

Where was Lucas anyways? He was the King - or that was his rank after all, and he ought to be the person here that was dealing with this. Vera looked down at the ox in her hand, and looked at it, before making a mountain fold, giving the ox a better-appearing tail. Yes, that would do. But - seriously, she had to find someone else to approach.

Someone other than Suna. Speaking of Suna, she had moved away from her normal post at the door to somewhere else entirely. Glancing around, Vera couldn’t quite find where she was, but it didn’t quite matter. She was probably inside her Observatory, doing something. That was normal.

Hopefully something would come up for her to do. The silence was growing again, a certain heavy feeling that made her skin itch. “So… I guess that Liesel was wrong then? Like usual?” she said, with a frown. Another wasted Friday evening. “I can’t personally see anyone else that’d be doing anything that we could check out.” Then, turning towards the newbie, she gave her a bright smile. “Unless you can see something that I’ve missed that is?”

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Character Portrait: Zensa Valobo
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#, as written by ZenMon
Post Co-Written by Nivosity and spudjohnson

Zensa Volobo and Ambra Riviere



The phone continued to ring, and Ambra played with her brown hair before the call finally connected. All the pent-up nervousness and planning that she had gone through finally burst out of her. "Uh... Zensa. This is Ambra, you know from earlier, right? I was, uh, wondering if it might be a good idea to call you right now because you might be busy, but I thought that it might be alright because you gave me your number and I really -." She blushed again, before looking at her bed. "Sorry, I'm rambling. Anyways, um, what I meant to ask you is - are you free? It's alright if you are - I really don't mind, but you know..." Her voice trailed off.

"Ambra! Hey! How's it going?" It took him a moment, but Zensa remembered the girl he met at the park. In a way, he was glad she called him. Introductions weren't his forte; usually he fumbled with these kinds of things so badly it made things rather awkward. He hoped that this time would be different. "Don't worry so much about the rambling, I think it's kind of cute." Zensa mentally berated himself over that last remark. Already calling her cute right out of the gate, that almost never turns out well. Idiot! "But yea, I'm free. What did you want to talk about?"

Ambra blushed again, before continuing to speak in a quiet voice. 'Field trip, field trip, field trip,' she chanted mentally to herself. "Well, uh, what did you think about the field trip? I thought that y-your saxophone playing was really g-good." By the end of her little comment, her voice had already broken twice and was on the edge of inaudibility. She started to bite her lip while waiting for Zensa to continue - this was all so nervewrecking.

Zensa felt his face grow warmer. He was used to compliments, but this time it was different somehow. "T-Thanks!" Pull it together man! Be confident, or change subject! His mind went for the distraction with almost no hesitation. "It wasn't to terribly interesting of a trip, but it beat sitting around in the classroom, right? What did you think of it?" He started pacing back and forth without realizing it. Normally, he only did that when nervous even if he didn't want to admit it.

He sounded to be so sure of himself compared to her, and with a deep breath, Ambra started to attempt to mimic his calm speech. "Well, uh, I managed to not lose anything, so I guess that it was pretty fun..." Then, with a sudden quickness in her speech pattern, she quickly changed the topic. What was she supposed to change it to again - ah, right, movies. "A-anyways, do you like movies?"

The confidence in her voice almost caught Zensa off guard. He couldn't let himself be so timid with something like this, but he couldn't be rash. Another compliment? Or something else.. "Good to hear that you didn't lose anything." His mind once again berated him for yet another dim-witted comment. That's pretty close to insulting! What are you doing? He quickly answered her question so he could avoid his previous statement. "But I love movies, except for romantic comedies or things like that, why do you ask? Do you want to go see one?"

Somehow this cut into her false confidence and when she replied, it was with the faltering stammers that normally characterized her interactions with people - especially him. She was quite lucky that this conversation was going on via the phone, or her face would probably burn up. Ambra could still feel her cheeks burning. "Um... sure? That's if you're free, of course." She winced, before quickly tacking on another sentence. "I-I wouldn't want to be a bother."

Zensa smiled at the idea of going to a movie with Ambra. Inside, his pulse quickened and his heart skipped a beat. "Absolutely! What would you want to see? My treat." The words followed hers so quickly it caught him off guard. He really must've been excited by the notion of a date with Ambra. And it was a date, wasn't it? It was probably going to be. Right?

So what was that one movie called? Skin - Skinwalkers! "Uh, I think that... Skinwalkers? It's coming out ..." In her mind's eye, she tried to remember that movie poster that she had seen on the street before. But to no luck. Even with her eyebrows crinkled up, she couldn't quite remember when it was going to play. "Maybe? I think..." What was it even about? Uh... hopefully he'd know. She winced again - maybe she should have planned the conversation better. "Do you think it'd be a good movie?"

A small surge of relief flooded his mind. "Acctually, I was wanting to see that myself. The plot seems interesting, and the trailer really drew me in." Zensa was excited that she chose a movie that he was also interested in. It would probably give them more to talk about and provide more opportunities for them to connect and get to know each other. Now all that was left to do was figure out when they would go see the movie and if his chest could withstand his heart beating faster and faster as the phone call continued. "When would you want to go?" He tried to ask as calmly as possible and fervently hoped it seemed that way.

With his reply, Ambra's heart beat faster than she had ever believed that it could. Her eyes dilated with surprise - she had never thought that he would accept her request and so quickly too. M-maybe Sanya really was right about them. She could hardly hold back her surprise and excitement. "Really?!" She took a deep breath before responding to his question. "Any time you're free really..."

The excitement in Ambra's voice made his pulse speed up again. "Yea! Any time you want to go, I'm game. When would be the best time for you?" More questions popped up in his head, but he kept them back. One step at a time Zensa, one step at a time. Take it slowly. He attempted to calm himself while he waited for her to reply.

With a worried look around, Ambra tried once again to remember when it was supposed to start. What if she said some sort of date when the movie had already stopped playing or... hadn't started yet? "Maybe the first day?" she finally squeaked. Her other hand covered her eyes nervously.

Zensa smiled when Ambra squeaked. It was just like her, and something he liked about her. "Opening night it is. Do you want me to pick you up or just meet at the theatre?" His brain was attempting to tell him to calm himself, but the message went unheeded for once. It was almost impulsive. He still hoped he wasn't being really forward about this. It might complicate things in the long run.

Relieved that the older senior agreed with her, Ambra dropped her edgy hand from her eyes, and gulped loudly. "Well, uh, I'll - I'll see you there then?" she suddenly said. She took deep large breaths in the attempt to control her heartbeat, but to no avail - she couldn't stop the butterflies in her stomach. Ambra couldn't believe that s-she and Zensa were going to go to the movies - together!

Something he had said had definitely had an effect on Ambra. He could hear her taking deep breaths faintly through the phone, like someone who was so shocked by something they didn't know how to react. The thought of Ambra doing something like that made Zensa smile widely on his own end. "Sure. It's a date then!"

The word 'date' made Ambra's cheeks flush an even brighter red, and she was only able to choke out her reply. "If you say so..." Her eyes were wide with astonishment - she didn't think that this would happen. Her attention was diverted when her mother walked into her room with a jacket over her arm. "Um, my mom wants me to go buy a binder now so... I'll see you at school?" she suddenly mumbled, loudly. "B-bye then?"

"Sounds good. I'll see you at school then. Until then, Ambra." Zensa ended the call and exhaled a breath he didn't know he held. He had a date with someone. The thought was still alien to him, but alluring at the same time. His devotion to his musical career had limited his personal life, but the prospect of starting it was one that excited him in a way he had never felt before. Despite the wound in his chest, he raised his arms over his head triumphantly before heading back to his apartment. Hanging around the docks looking like he did would raise too many questions.

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Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen Character Portrait: Treia Rawler Character Portrait: Oskana Sonnen
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Treia Rawler; The Roof


Suna had come up to them asking about a package. They had been so close to delivering it, but then Amy just HAD to butt in on them. It was a good thing that she hadn't seen the package; that would have been a disaster! Amy sure seemed eager to talk to them. Maybe, since Oskana had the package, she could lead Amy away from the transaction? Wouldn't Amy think it was weird, though? She didn't really care anymore - all she REALLY wanted to do was write, and all this Itex stuff was really taking time away from that.

"Hey, Amy. Do you want to go down to shop for a new hair tie with me? I need another one because the one I had before snapped after that little tangle-up, and I can't really borrow yours forever, you know?" Her voice was lighter, higher pitched from her better mood - she had just sighted the cutest old couple. It gave her a previously nonexistent faith in the world. Of course, that was a sarcastic statement. She DID have faith in the things that happened, but it was very little faith, of course.

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Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen Character Portrait: Treia Rawler Character Portrait: Oskana Sonnen
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Suna Sundevale : The Roof [Sagaro Mall]


Although none of the children had said anything, it seemed as though she had been correct in her assumption. They were the ones who were picked up, probably off the street, to be the messenger and representative of her customer. Somewhere, in the deepest trenches of her mind and empathy, she felt bad for them - after all, who knew when they would be deemed useless and left in the back alleys somewhere as a body. Evidently, when one was engaged in activities that were skirting the law, it wasn’t the most intelligent idea to keep underlings alive for very long. No one knew when they would spill all the details. Oho, it was true that there would be a police investigation into these matters - but only before they got diverted onto other cases by the offering of money. Oh, Throme’s justice system may have improved to greatness, but even then, people were only but human...

But there was no matter for this. Suna was just about to deal with her hated job as a bank, when another… distraction-type person ran up. It was one of the female gender, as evident by the length of the hair. With a sigh, she refrained from pushing onwards. A business transaction wasn’t to be broken off in the middle no matter what - who knew how many of her deals in the past had been broken off, after simply a few minutes worth of a pause. It gave them time to reconsider, to weigh their choices, to think that perhaps not selling to her would be more profitable.

The girl spoke, with a voice that seemed to irk Suna. “Hey, guys, it doesn’t seem like it was a big deal, and I got out of it!” Well, she personally hoped that it would have been somewhat more of a deal if just to make her leave. Suna pursed her thin lips together, before directing her attention elsewhere. Similar to advertisements, such distractions tended to last a while. “Now, let’s go to the-.

Oh, would she hurry up and leave already? Then, the girl turned in her direction and started to address her - perplexing behavior. “Oh! Suna!” Who? Did she even know this person? It sure seemed like it by her ridiculous greeting. “It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it? We were just about to go to the Observatory, but I was pulled away.” So… was this supposed to be flattery or somewhat? Well, the girl’s speech was quite familiar indeed, and Suna couldn’t say that was flattering. Not by a long shot. “Did you finally buy that telescope you’ve had your eye on? I hope you can get it delivered soon.” Suna almost wanted to ask her if this had to do with her wish to feel familiar with her, or… something more malicious really. If there was any doubt left, it was obvious that this girl knew her. Or, more truthfully, thought she knew her.

Personally speaking, Suna hoped that information about her business transactions weren’t quite as … common-place as it seemed. So where did she meet this girl, and why was she so blindingly familiar. Well, it wouldn’t hurt asking, would it? Before she could react, one of the children spoke. “Hey Amy. Do you want to go down to shop for a new hair tie with me? I need another one because the other one snapped after that little tangle-up.”

Suna almost laughed to see what this line of their conversation was going to lead to. One of them would distract the distraction herself for the entire point of finishing. If only she wasn’t one of her business partners. Who knew which one of them had the package that she was to protect - with her life if necessary. She wasn’t going to deal with it herself, but there was this tiny question that was wiggling in the back of her mind. “Who are you, and why in the world do you think that you know me?” Her voice came out blunt and cold, more so than she had thought. Perhaps it was a customer from the past - she didn’t know where else she would have contact with children. It wasn’t as though she remembered those moneys; they were just her source of income. “And on that topic, we have something to discuss, so please leave.” Tact was never her best subject.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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Vera Chung


She only meant to give the newbie the opportunity to say anything, but Vera certainly didn’t expect that the girl would actually take her invitation and start expressing her own desires. “No, if Liesel’s normally wrong, she’s likely wrong now.” She had to admit that she wasn’t the best fan of the smoking scientist, but she had pride in her Student Council status. Liesel was a member of them. “If she said Rose Gardens, I don’t see anyone here? Probably misinformation or something like that. So, if we’re done here, I’ll -.” she suddenly stopped, and despite her irritation, Vera followed her gaze.

Vera!” shouted a highly familiar voice. Ah, it was Lucas - finally. He would be able to take charge of all their duties so that she could return home without the hassle that Liesel tended to bring. “I’m sorry I’m so late. Did I miss anything?” Vera felt a smile return to her face, and she turned in his direction - to see some stain on his previously white shirt. Even with the distance between the two, she could tell that it was a bright red in color. Like blood. And by the looks of it, it was still quite fresh.

What had happened? With almost a hurried wariness, she walked a few steps closer to the Masked King. Had Itex finally struck for the second time? For the previous couple of months, they had always been waiting for Itex to do something else atrocious - maybe go after another one of their ranks. It was comparable to sleeping underneath a boulder… one was always waiting for the boulder to crush you. He seemed to be pretty stable in terms of walking, so there was nothing really important about it, right?


“Ah, well as I was saying, Liesel’s probably wrong, and I see nothing. If you need me, I’ll be in the Observatory. I’m not going to waste such a beautiful night just standing around here waiting for nothing. See you later!” As though she thought that somehow Lucas’ arrival brought the plague with it, the annoying new tagalong made her way and all but teleported away. Vera’s eyebrows twitched in irritation - it wasn’t everyday that people were willing to ditch her extremely lovely personality for the chance to talk to an antisocial loner.

So, it was just her and Lucas who were actually going to do something now. Paying no attention to the blood on his shirt because they would just get him to a hospital if something had actually happened, she waited for him to tell her what there was for them to do. He did need to know what had happened right? Plus, there was a growing lag in the conversation that even the muted dialogue between the strangers could not mask. With that in mind, Vera started to speak, making sure to keep her tone light. “We were trying to figure out who could be the Itex person that was going to deliver the package that Liesel was talking about.” She pursed her lips, before smiling. “Well, there was a shady looking guy over here, so I decided to talk to him. Apparently, he didn’t think that my conversation was as riveting as it would have been.”

My, how much did she hate people leaving her. She was to be surrounded with those that were pleased to listen and follow with her every train of thought. It was already two today - and how irritating that was. “Well, and then, you see that the new person certainly isn’t helping my efforts all that much.” Her eyes wide and large, she addressed the King in a low whisper. He would be able to do something about it. “What if she’s Itex? What if Liesel was wrong? It doesn’t really matter either way - but I don’t think that she should be part of us. I - I wouldn’t want for someone to be dragged into this problem who doesn’t understand the problem… what if she underestimates Itex and hurts herself?” Fine, she couldn’t really complain about the newbie’s actions, as she wasn’t exactly helping herself, but there had to be some way to make sure she wouldn’t intrude on the sanctity of their greenhouse.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kaden Jannsen Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Zensa Valobo Character Portrait: Deus ex Kaos Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen Character Portrait: Coraline Starling Character Portrait: Treia Rawler Character Portrait: Gage Vandergear Character Portrait: The Hermit Character Portrait: Oskana Sonnen Character Portrait: The Star
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Throme - Friday, September 27 (4:30 PM)


How fast the clock does turn when there’s nothing important to do.

That is if one was normal. Just a few Fridays in the past, Masked and Itex met each other in a dramatic showdown, not unlike a fight between rival gangs. The thing at stake this time was not territory, but a small nondescript package. What exactly was inside that thin box? No one really knew for sure. Only that it was important.

It would take eight minutes for those on Earth to notice if the sun went out. It would still be warm; it would still be bright. It took longer than eight minutes for the conclusion of this fight to be seen.

Was the package worth it? The Masked were the ones who walked away with the package, and Itex was left there empty-handed, but no one side came out of the proceedings unscathed. A game with a wounded victor. This was the breaking point for the poor stability of a certain Miss Coraline Starlings. A few days after, the harried looking maiden turned in her resignation from the Student Council. This was almost like bowling; the first pin to fall. Liesel Moringmer was murderous.

The Vandergear family was next in line. Chasing some illusory job in nearby Lore, the family burned its own roots in Throme and moved for the sake of greed. It was fortunate for Liesel that her heart possessed a remarkable capacity for wrath. The delicate tea cups were not so lucky. Neither were the flowers.

But this strand of bad luck did not allow Itex to leave without its punishment for failure. A certain female who went by the name of 'En' claimed Oskana Sonnen's blood, time, and responsibility. While she did not disappear per se, Cenriel Academy was without a student when she was transferred to rival Thromain Institute of Fine Arts. But her partner was not spared either. Treia Rawler, with her lucky stars shining from the heavens, remained relatively untouched, with only a warning to show for her troubles. Itex, like Liesel, was not a believer of keeping their murderous intent bottled inside.

The beautiful observatory was without its owner for a week, before she reappeared, looking none the worse for her time. Perhaps there was something hidden under that smile of hers, but nothing was visible to the average eye. The clear nights kept the popularity of that rooftop attraction high.

Friday, August 16th. A day that would mark the transfer of humans from the thrifty Maybelle Avenue to more reputable Sagaro Mall. Many wallets became far lighter due to the ever-growing paranoia. Hector Mason, a man with two daughters who worked nights as a security guard, was seen in a puddle of his own blood. Was there a serial killer hidden in the depths of that brilliant district? The police found no leads or evidence. Despite attempts from shop owners to catch more customers, those that dare enter that shining crime scene were few and far in between.

Judgement did not have anything interesting for the Itex for the longest of time.
Liesel had no leads.

Perhaps they were waiting for today. The day that the package pointed to as important. So what exactly was in that package of Itex? It was with hoping expressions that the Masked had opened the case, to fall downtrodden.

A letter.

To whom it may concern:
After months of research, we may have stumbled upon something of great importance. The previous sample that we have received is an enigma, to say in the slightest. Despite weighing like an average granite shock of the same size, its chemical bonds are completely nonsensical. Instead of forming bonds in order to gain eight valence electrons, many of the carbon atoms possess nine or even one with six. Perhaps you were right in saying that this was a strange rock.

When attempting to find the volume of the sample, we were astonished to find the rock glowing upon contact of water. We were unable to find the source of this energy, but it is believed it is some sort of chemical reaction. Other than the output of light, we have discovered no other abnormalities. Our sample glowed red, bright red, but we shall be asking for further samples to support this hypothesis. It would not surprise me if it was a fluke. If it wouldn't be an issue for your organization, if you'd send us another shard, we would be much obliged. The things we do for science. Until then, we'll be sending back the sample on 9.27. Please do send a messenger to pick it up. This cannot fall into unaligned hands.

Sincerely,


The letter was signed, but illegible and smudged, seemingly on purpose. It appeared as though the writer was unwilling to give up his or her name. The letter continued with an address.

Nivcien Science Institute, Throme
Research Division


It is now September 27. Yet another Friday afternoon. The weather had mellowed in the months, with the leaves already in the process of dying. They were dull brown, many of them withering in the streets and on the trees. A steady wind made its way through Throme. Life is unfair, but yet it brings hope and excitement. Perhaps their adventure will beat reality television's entertainment value on this blustering November afternoon.

Those whose souls belonged to Itex ought to be making their steady way to the back rooms at Brio, where that violent angel of doom, Judgement, was doubtless waiting for them. The Masked had likewise, been summoned by Liesel to deal with their recently collected information. How will both sides dance this afternoon? That is a story to hear.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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Vera Chung | Greenhouse -> Throme


Shooting the older woman a smile, she placed her purchases gently on the closest flat surface. As she straightened up, it was just in time to catch glimpse of that friendless, irritating upperclassman that was astonishing enough, younger than she was. It was almost obvious, ‘cause Vera was 100% certain, more than that really, that that kid… Amara, lacked any portion of intelligence. Today, she was a mess, with leaves and flowers in her hair and tie missing. This debris was doubtlessly stolen off of the beautiful plants that thrived in their greenhouse.

“Hey, Amy! Why did you get here so early? There’s still time to spare before… well, you know,” here, Vera flapped her hands as though she had no words to explain what she had to state. “I just took a little detour and stopped by the marketplace, and then I was able to find this set of teacups. Doesn’t it look amazing? Is the pattern alright with you?’ she asked then, gesturing excitedly in the direction of her purchases. “They weren’t that expensive either.” Catching a glimpse of Liesel’s pursed lips, as the woman’s hands tightened against the lighter that she was oh-so-conveniently holding, Vera quickly pulled Amara’s arm and attempted to drag her towards the door, babbling all the while.

Without a pause to see if the girl had said anything, or listening, Vera continued. “So, Amara, I think that we haven’t been able to really talk to each other yet. Since Lucas isn’t here yet, we might as well go on ahead and have a nice conversation since we’re the only girls on the student council now. Is that okay with you?” she asked, with a bright grin. She was one of those Valencia brats, right? With their tutors, snobbiness, fake posh attitude, and idiocy. It wasn’t everyday that one of those transferred over to Cenriel - heck, there were many rumors flying around about her before she came.

“What’s Valencia like? I’ve heard so much about it,” All of it bad, of course, “but I figured that since you were the one who really understands it, you should know it better than Sanya and her posse. I bet it’s not as good as Cenriel, right?” And if they were able to let go of their mistaken pride, and look somewhere other than their own little circle, they would doubtlessly be flocking to Cenriel Academy like the sheep that they are.

Throwing open the door, Vera breathed in the feel of the fresh air and cold breeze that had pervaded Throme through these months. She did not spare a single thought to what Amara would answer - Vera was absolutely certain of her own opinion and well, nothing would shake her of her conviction. The cloudless sky allowed the bright sunlight to shine through without impediment, but even its warmth couldn’t ruin the feel of this day. It marked the start of the transition to winter, which Vera was looking forward to.

“We should be heading towards Nivcien Science Institutes, so that shouldn’t be too far away. It’s just a few minutes by subway away, anyways. I think it should be Line 5? Yeah, the light purple one. Do you have any change on you? You need like 50 cents to ride the subway - the government cut prices, because they want to save the environment. Have you heard about the new decree? There was this complaint, so they have put all of these fuel efficiency, energy saving laws in place. Isn’t that so progressive of Ms. Cosette?”


Waving a farewell to the uniformed guard that made sure that no one strayed off campus during school hours, she made a left turn, and continued to walk on the flawless sidewalk. A blue convertible screeched by, with the driver blasting loud music and bobbing his head to its thudding beat. Behind it, a public bus, with a flashing 101, stopped at the Cenriel Academy bus stop, as an old lady stepped out of the bus. Vera gave her a face-stretching smile, before quickening her step. She really would help her, especially in front of Amara, but it really was rude to offer help before the person asked for it. Vera personally felt it humiliating.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen Character Portrait: Liesel Moringmer
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#, as written by Witless
Amy Calen; Greenhouse -> Throme


Ah, what a confusing welcome. The first word heard was "teacups," and Amy had no idea how the topic had reached there. There was supposed to be a meeting today, correct? She could have sworn that was so, but before she could get more than a few words in edgewise (they were "What? Teacups? Where ar- Ah!" for those interested), she was dragged toward the door by the hand. And then followed the irritating conversation, probably to the bystander as well, but Liesel was always irritated, or so it appeared.

"What are you doing? I can walk by myself!" overlapped with "So, Amara, I think that we haven’t been able to really talk to each other yet."
"No, that's right. You won't let me. Wait, Lucas? What's that got-" overlapped with "Since Lucas isn’t here yet, we might as well go on ahead and have a nice conversation since we’re the only girls on the student council now."
"Well, what does that have to do with a-" overlapped with "Is that okay with you?" with "-nything..." hanging out awkwardly at the end.

What was with Vera? She seemed to always wish to be in command, but she was so immature about it! Talking over others, not letting them speak their mind, not encouraging an actual conversation. And no matter what, Amy never seemed to be able to find free space to say anything in. Well, aside from this awkward silence (okay, it wasn't a long awkward silence, but it was awkward nonetheless) while they paused in movement and voice. Speaking of... Amy opened her mouth to speak, probably something along the lines of Okay, Vera. What should we talk about? There really wasn't much to talk about... But Vera got there first, starting to speak again, and it was a battle to speak against the torrent of questions.

"What’s Valencia like? I’ve heard so much about it..." and Amy began once more to try and speak her mind.
"It's, well, a high school. Pretty, I guess you could say, and..." but that was drowned out as Vera spoke again: "but I figured that since you were the one who really understands it, you should know it better than Sanya and her posse."
Amy sighed, following as they neared the door and spoke under her breath, "Sure, ask but don't listen. That's so polite of you." as Vera continued speaking, "I bet it’s not as good as Cenriel, right?"

Vera thrust the door open, and went out, dragging Amy (whose lack of a hair tie was now more evident as it whipped around her face in the breeze) in tow as she tried to get an answer out. "Well, they've both got their benefits. I mean, both are, are good at academics and are prestigious... Umm... *pheh* Well, I think I like Cenriel better, but I don't know, I mean, I'm not, I haven't, well, been here... long enough?" The hair getting in her face and mouth didn't help at all, and she rummaged in her pocket for a hair tie, found none, and started as she noticed Vera had continued walking away without her.

Amy rushed, stumbling once or twice as she caught up with Vera to hear something about a bus, 50 cents, the environment, and Ms. Cosette. "Ah, um... Where are we going? There's a, a meeting, right? Shouldn't we be in the Greenhouse?" A bus. A bus? No, no, no, no, no. That wasn't going to happen; she'd walk if she had to. Did Vera know how small those were? How many people jammed into them, pushing up against you until you could scarcely breathe? How dreadfully stifling they were? No. She could get her own ride. Or something. But not a bus, never a bus. And where was Vera taking her, anyway? It was all so confusing...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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Vera Chung | Throme


With a soft smile, the aged lady brushed past the pair, before continuing down the sidewalk with hardly a pause. “Good afternoon, dearies,” she uttered with a tinge of a northern accent. Vera merely nodded her head in greeting before watching as the bus screeched off, leaving behind the curious scent of pepperoni pizza. The high school student wrinkled her nose irritably, before getting distracted by Amara finally saying something.

Ah, um… Where are we going? There’s a, a meeting, right? Shouldn’t we be in the Greenhouse?” Amara asked, while Vera mentally rolled her eyes. Really, there was no helping people. It was just like the newbie to have no clue about anything at all. It was all very simple. It wouldn’t be harmful to get there early - after all, who knew if the Itex would show up with their guns blazing, looking to get back at them for their spectacular failure from the roof.

Vera forced a smile as she continued to explain everything to the slow-witted peer. Making sure to keep her voice as impeccably cheery as usual, she attempting to describe the current turn of affairs to the extraordinarily dumb student - it was just proof that Valencia’s trendy rich kids weren’t all that smart away from their smart phones and all that junk. “Remember the note that we found on the roof? We’ve planned to do something and maybe get the Grace stone fragment that they were talking about. Liesel’s been gloating about her success for the past weeks - er, when she wasn’t breaking things and screaming because the others left.”

“Anyways, there’s nothing to worry about. Lucas will know exactly what’s going on when he arrives at the greenhouse and see us not there.” And if he doesn’t, Liesel would be willing to point him in the right direction after reprimanding him for being late. “And since I really don’t want to end up being late and having to run and try to hurry, I figured that we might as well get a head start and start now. Come on - are you ready? You have your 50 cents ready for the subway ride, right? It won’t be very far anyways. I think you can probably convert your argen to cents there, but there’s always a long line in front of the machine ‘cause no one ever has the exact change. So hurry up, I’m raring to go and finally beat Itex at their own game.”

There. If the newb didn’t understand it even after that lengthy explanation, Vera was going to hit her on the head and hope that the trauma would help her regrow her paltry brain cells. It was too bad that Gage and Coraline had disappeared off into the depths of nowhere - heck, Vera had lost track of where they had disappeared to. It was really a shame that they had lost the ability to continue on their path. With their aid, the student council wouldn’t even have to cart around this brainless idiot. “So, are you ready yet?” Vera leaned in closely, before whispering in Amara’s ear. “You do have your mask with you, right? Or at the very least, you have your code phrase firmly in your brain?” Even though it was highly improbably that Itex would have a discrete sprinkling of agents in the area, there was no way that she would lose her most valuable possession.

“Everything will happen perfectly, but there’s no point in losing an opportunity to transform into someone better right?” she continued whispering, before pushing Amara forward slightly. “Don’t you love that thrill when the power just takes over and you become someone that’s just utterly perfect?” Then, Vera quickly plastered a smile on her face again, before skipping forward a few steps, feeling the wind in her hair. “Come on, Amy! There’s no time to waste on a Friday afternoon! It’ll just be a few stops by subway - and when we’re done with this task, we can go home and finally do something really worthwhile.” Vera couldn’t help but scan the sidewalk behind them, looking to see if their president had caught up with them… While there was no point in worrying, it felt odd to be on an Itex mission without Lucas.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen Character Portrait: Twisted Emperor
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Lucas Toland | Cenriel Academy → Throme


Often times it was easy to forget that ‘student council president’ was only a ruse, a cover-up title for something else entirely. There were many reasons for this, but it all came down to the fact that he still held all the same responsibilities, day after day, organizing events, contacting clubs, making sure the office knew what the students wanted, if they were satisfied, etcetera, etcetera – all things Lucas, in all honesty, only marginally cared about. He had too much on his mind as the so-called ‘leader’ of the Masked to spare hours of his supposed spare time for something as mundane as school.

But of course, the school itself didn’t know the full story, so Lucas Toland was unfortunately, subject to reminders of his unwanted status day after day after day. Yes, it was really a brilliant oversight on Mr. Torrings’ part… unless it wasn’t an oversight at all. The man had always had a peculiar sense of humor and it was more than likely that this had been some elaborate joke before… well… the incident.

Still, the fact remained that every day, Lucas had to juggle schoolwork, Masked duties, student council responsibilities, and every so often a family arrangement, often all at the same time… and he was anything but a multitasker. And this afternoon, as lovely as the weather was, it seemed that every sentient being in existence was trying to prove this point.

“I’m sorry, but we really need them printed by tomorrow…” Lucas protested, balancing his smartphone to his ear with his shoulder while attempting to finish off his email to the school counselor. Apparently budget cuts meant that the upcoming junior retreat wouldn’t be taking place at the beach after all, which had earned him much undeserved protest. And some students even had the gall to, while complaining, also make requests on behalf of their own little groups, one such group being the academy newspaper committee. It should have been one of their own club officials trying to reason with obstinate half-listening adults instead of him, but no. Their club leader asked Lucas, and he just couldn’t say no. It just never happened. Ever.

Sometimes, he infuriated himself.

“Y-yes, I know that we’ve only paid for one set, but – ” he was interrupted by the classroom door opening, and a vaguely familiar face peered in. Long dark hair set in braids, a serious countenance – Jeanne Haden. She was in his biology class, and always sort of distant. What business could she possibly have with him today of all days? With an apologetic smile, Lucas gestured to both his phone and his laptop, then mimicked writing on a piece of paper. The other girl shrugged, before taking up a post-it from the teacher’s desk near the front of the room and scribbling onto it.

Ah, shoot. The email had somehow turned into a log of his conversation instead of a report on student accounting. Why was it just so hard to do two things at once? Sometimes Lucas wondered how he even managed to breathe while thinking at the same time – well, perhaps he wasn’t that bad, but he was feeling more than irritated and perhaps just a tad self-critical at the moment. There was really nothing more to say.

Given the circumstances, he should have just given up and headed over to the greenhouse about… twenty minutes ago, and he would have been able to had he just said that simply two letter word that began with an ‘n’ and ended in an ‘o’. Ah, and now there was an orange square of paper on his screen. Lovely. He gave a half-hearted wave and smile to Jeanne, who just gave him a strange look before leaving. Thankfully, she closed the door.

“I… I don’t think the school would be willing to pay another… office-assistant-is-absent-please-write-the-announcements? No, no, sorry! That was, um, I was distracted.” As if things weren’t frustrating enough, just after that last blunder, he heard the tell-tale beep of his phone indicating that his time was up – there was another call on the line, and he had one guess as to who it was.

Hoping that for once, just once, she would take the hint, Lucas rejected the new call. It started up again almost immediately, competing with the bored drone of the printer company worker who was talking as if he didn’t understand a thing about how the system worked. The two noises, possibly the most aggravating noises Lucas had ever heard, just refused to stop. He had been trying to keep hold of himself and just finish the work himself before he left, but…

… He didn’t care anymore.

“I’m sorry. I’ll be right back,” Lucas mumbled before setting the phone on the desk. Then, taking his time with slow, careful steps, he made his way to the classroom door and locked it. Checked the handle once. Twice. Secure. Good.

With one last resigned sigh, he held out his hand, then with only a moment’s hesitation, murmured to himself, “… Confidence is the key.” There was a flash of light, and a sudden weight upon his hand. It wasn’t heavy at all, really, more just a presence than anything. A mask. Torrings’ mask. The Emperor’s Mask. Those titles seemed to place so much importance into the one object, black and gold checkers across the right half of it, but in the end, it was his to use. And he chose to use it now. With yet another sigh, he fit the piece onto his face.

An immediate surge of reassurance. A sudden pressure upon his conscious mind. The weight of a gifted mask, Liesel had called it, as if she knew what she was talking about, but it wasn’t all that bad. Uncomfortable, but bearable for now.

But more importantly, now, he could actually get things done. Striding back and sweeping up his phone once more, Lucas brought it to his ear. “Alright, then. Let’s cut the nonsense,” he said flatly. “You delivered us our order on time, yes. I think I’ve made it clear that is not my complaint. My complaint is the fact that your printers saw fit to butcher the order, smear the ink, shuffle the pages like a deck of cards, and frankly did everything to ensure that it is anything but acceptable. And then you’re asking us to accept it.” Pointless protests. Tapping open a new document for his email, he cut the other party off. “Connect me to your superior.” Startled silence. “Well since you insist on being a hindrance, connect me to your superior,” he repeated, tone almost flippant in its nonchalance.

The email was, by this time, finished, edited, and sent. He started on the weekly announcements next. Really, all he had to do was copy paste the one from last week’s, change a few dates, and add information on the upcoming basketball game. Two minutes at most.

“No, I am not ‘just a high school kid’. I am a customer, a representative of the consumer that is one of the most respected schools in the city, and expect to be treated as such. Now, will you reprint those miserable excuses for final products or will we have to continue this tiresome conversation?” Some vague notion in the recesses of Lucas’ mind voiced its protest, aware that he was going way overboard over some stupid school publication, but when the other party finally conceded, there was nothing but a slight satisfaction. What an idiot. This whole hassle could have been avoided if they had just listened to him in the first place. “Good bye. I expect them tomorrow in the administration office by ten o’clock in the morning, and if they’re not there, we’ll be having another, less congenial, chat.”

He was on the line with Liesel with an economical flick of his thumb.

“I’ll find the others within eight minutes, I am well aware of what time it is, and yes, I know exactly the number of times you have attempted to call me. Now Liesel, take your rantings elsewhere and if not, make it quick because it’s really quite beneath me to indulge you in your temper tantrums.” His expression was deadpan, practically bored, as he typed away on his keyboard, waiting for the woman to break the silence.

Her voice was diluted at first, just a muttering of, “Oh, you’re wearing the mask again, are you?” before rising to her usual level of force. “Damn it, Lucas, take the damn mask off and get to the subway this instant! You are at school of all places and that’s enough of a risk as it is! We can’t have you gallivanting around in the Emperor’s mask, do you hear m – ”

“Hear, yes. Listening, no. We’ll continue this in five minutes,” was Lucas’ clipped reply. He could still hear the scientist shouting as he ended the call and blocked the number as well, sending his completed work to the office assistant at the same time. Now all that was left to do was make his way to the buses and the mission could finally commence… or he could simply transform and reach the center that much more quickly. There wouldn’t be worry of traffic at the very least.

However, there was of course, that nagging sense that the right course of action was indeed to remove the mask now that the task was done. Lucas knew this… but he didn’t want to. Why on earth would he possibly want to remove the mask when it gave him so much power and, really, made him so much more competent? Really, he might as well just live with it on. It would be doing the world such a favor…

‘But I go through this every time.’ The thought served to act as a barrier, severing the newer personality away from his old conscience. ‘And it would be an outright stupid move to walk out wearing a carnival mask!’

So with that thought solid in his mind, Lucas managed to bring himself to reach up and pry the mask off his face. Several sensations came washing over him – a chill as if losing a protective embrace, relief that he had managed to win against the ‘weight of a gifted mask’ once more, and most prominently… utter horror at his words towards the terrifying woman that was Liesel Moringmer.

And yes, he was very late.

Cramming his mask into the inside pocket of his backpack – the webbed one usually saved for pencils – he fumbled with his laptop, managing to untangle the cords before throwing that in as well and taking off at a sprint. He almost ran right into Jeanne, who was outside the door with hand poised in the air in a knock. He called a hurried apology before skidding a turn down the stairs and out the front door. Passing the guard, he managed a smile and a wave before setting off campus. He wasn’t sure where the others were, but a quick glance at the greenhouse had assured him that they weren’t there.

Finally, however, something decided to go right for him. Down the street to the left, although they were a little far, he could make out two distant, familiar figures. Although slightly out of breath, he secured his bag over his shoulder and pressed onwards, calling out, “Vera, Amara, wait! Sorry – I got a little held up with… stuff.”

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Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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#, as written by Witless
Amy Calen; Throme


So... they were finally following the note, were they? It was about time, a month since they found it, right? Who would have thought that back then, Amy's first mission, moments after being "inducted" into the Masks, that Liesel would actually get something right? The others still appeared disillusioned, like it was all a stroke of luck, but Amy had high hopes, that everything would work out fine in the end. Liesel knew what she was doing, and the others were strong enough to support her! And the masks, they held real power, something she had never felt, something she was at once enticed by and fearful of trying. But why...

...the subway? Really? Not only a mass of people, fighting for tickets, for space, for anything, but it was underground! No hope of escape if anything went wrong, crushed by the bodies, the heat, the stench, even without... ugh! It's too much. Really, she couldn't go there. There was no way! People touching you, crammed into a tiny box, flying underground at who knows what speed, people rushing furiously on and off, no time, no space, no air, no, no... just people! All the people and nothing to do about it! How could others stand it? And she had more than enough money for a taxi ride, so couldn't they? There was a much simpler way to go about this, but Vera? She seemed to enjoy torturing her, watching for inadequacies at every turn. "The subway?" She managed to squeak out before Vera continued.

"You do have your mask with you, right? Or at the very least, you have your code phrase firmly in your brain?" The mask, right. She had the phrase, of course. It had been memorized a while back, though there had been no chance to use it until now. When you're not used to it.... Simple words, maybe too simple. At times, it was hard to avoid saying it on accident, but she had managed so far. To Vera, she nodded in assent, hoping it was registered before Vera continued on with her speech. Talks about the thrill of transforming, but Amy hadn't done that. She hadn't, right? "But... I haven't... umm..." Again, she was pushed by Vera's insistence, moving ever closer to the subway. No time to waste? To get on the subway? She shivered at the thought, and tried to stop Vera. "But... but... umm... the subway... it... umm... I can't!" It wasn't going to do anything, of that she was sure, but she wasn't sure what else she could do. "A taxi? I have... the money. We could get there? By taxi?"

From behind her, suddenly, "Vera, Amara, wait! Sorry – I got a little held up with… stuff." Lucas! Finally someone else to take the brunt of the attack! She turned to Vera, "Lucas is here! Umm, why don't we, umm, get his input?" She scampered toward Lucas, putting him between Vera and herself. "Hey, Lucas, um, we don't need to take the, subway, right? Umm... we could, a car, right, a taxi, something? Can you talk sense into Vera? The subway! Really! Think of all the people! She can't be serious? ...right?" Lucas would listen, right? He was on her side, there to help them? And it would be more direct, faster, better! It was to get there before Itex, so why not? "And it's... faster, the taxi," she mumbled as an afterthought.

Amy looked up at Lucas, glancing between him and Vera, a plea for help, for safety. Something had to be done, and they were there to do it. So they all had to be there. Lucas understood that, right? He wouldn't leave her behind just because Vera wanted the subway? Worse yet... drag her along? She'd... she'd... well, she had Lucas there to help out. So everything should work out just fine! Everything would work out.

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Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen Character Portrait: Liesel Moringmer
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[Liesel’s portion was written by Cienpher.]
[Niv! You used my account!!!]
[Yes, yes, I got that... D: It was an accident okay! ... And it was a good post too. >.>]

Vera Chung | Thome


Caught in her own thoughts and the current of her relentless speech, the young sophomore missed the vast majority of whatever her companion was speaking about, except when they quieted slightly, just in time to catch the final pieces of her outburst. “A taxi? I have… the money. We could get there? By taxi?” The insistence of hers in taking a taxi bewildered Vera slightly, and she turned from her scanning of the road to stare at her. What was going on in her mind?

There was nothing questionable about taking a subway, right?

Her opinion immediately leaned towards the negative. Amara was most likely trying to show off her great affluence. Vera mentally rolled her eyes and her absolutely transparent attempt, and even then, the black-haired girl was certain that how much money the other could pull out of her wallet wouldn’t surprise her in the least. Valencia brats were always the same even if they changed their abode.

Thinking of this, she was lucky to catch a glimpse of a rapidly approaching person, whose brown hair and recognizable appearance made him their missing Student Council President. “Vera, Amara, wait! Sorry - I got a little held up with… stuff.” Her smile brightened extremely noticeably. Finally, just finally, he had caught up, and perhaps he would actually know what they were supposed to do.

Lucas is here! Umm, why don’t we, umm, get his input?” Vera had no idea what they needed his input on, but before she could say anything, the annoying brat had darted towards the junior. If she didn’t know anything, her companion seemed almost terrified. “Hey, Lucas, um, we don’t need to take the, subway, right? Umm… we could, a car, right, a taxi, something? Can you take sense into Vera? The subway! Really! Think of all the people! She can’t be serious?… right?

… ‘Talk sense into me?!’ … Wait, what?! That can’t be right.

Vera opened her mouth to interject her own opinions over the blabbering of the newbie, before, Amara continued in a near murmur. “And it’s… faster, the taxi. Vera ignored what seemed to be terror. It was just a mindless gushing of words from the other’s part, all because she evidently had no compassion for the environment or Vera’s own opinion. The optimistic sophomore’s eyes narrowed slightly, before stepping towards Lucas with an almost invisible scowl on her face.

“Lucas, I think that with this traffic, it’s better to use mass tra -.” Her voice was cut off when her jarring ringtone slowly emanated from her pocket. “Sorry, I’ll just take this call,” she murmured, the minute traces of anger leaking out of her tone. Rummaging around, she took out a glossy silver cell phone, before holding it up to her ear. After a few minutes pause while her phone did something high-tech, the electronic connected the call and emitted the oft-heard tone of Liesel. More precisely, an extremely irritated Liesel.

“Liesel?”

As always, the woman was in no mood for pleasantries. “Tell me the royal pain has finally decided to grace you with his presence, and if he’s there, tell him he better unblock my number or he’s dead.” Vera stared blankly at empty space, before her mind connected the two ideas together. The sheer idea that someone would be willing to block Liesel was akin to committing suicide. The royal pain would be a reference to…

Vera thought Amara, just because she was annoying, but Liesel hadn’t been particularly angry with her. Which left… Lucas. That was strange... He was always the one who was always listening to the irate woman, and had never provoked her before - not that she could remember, anyways.

“Yeah, he’s here,” the black-haired girl replied. “Do you want me to pass him the phone?”

The smoker answered in the negative, and Vera acceded, before hearing the telltale monotone beep that signified that the other party had hung up. “Lucas - it was Liesel,” she stated with a frown, arms on her hips. “She… seems to be upset with you, and really wants you to unblock her from your phone. Really? What were you thinking? She’s going to kill you and break stuff - and I just bought those teacups for the student council.”

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Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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Lucas Toland | Throme


Now Lucas wasn’t exactly sure what had transpired between the two girls while he was stuck at school, but from what he could gather, it seemed to be at a stalemate… and he was expected to make the final choice. Taxi or the subway? Was it really such a big deal either way? Both girls of the Masked certainly seemed to think so, although he couldn’t for the life of him understand why. Still, Amara seemed almost frightened out of her wits, and that was concerning. He wanted to help, but at the same time… ‘That didn’t turn out so well with Kaden,’ he though sheepishly, scrabbling for anything that he could say to calm her down.

Unfortunately the boy didn’t have time to linger on the thought because he was distracted by Vera’s ringtone. Startled, he turned to her – why did he have a bad feeling about this?

Liesel?

Oh. That’s why. Even before Vera spoke, Lucas dropped his bag in a hurry, fumbling with both hands for his cell phone. Even from his distance, he could hear the frightening woman’s words, and he certainly didn’t miss the death threat tagged at the end. Why had he ever thought that using the mask was a good idea? Using the mask at school was never a good idea, no matter what the circumstances – he always ended up doing something monumentally stupid, embarrassing, or just plain offensive to everyone he cared about. Somehow, for some reason, he never seemed to learn this. It took him three tries to successfully unlock his phone in his rush before quickly unblocking the familiar number. His phone beeped mercilessly as countless missed notices flooded his screen. Wow. Liesel had a lot of free time…

He literally, visibly cringed when Vera asked if she ought to pass her own phone to him – that would have ended in bloodshed. Liesel would develop some means of science for the sheer purpose of murdering him over the phone. “It’s all that printer person’s fault,” he groaned under his breath, bringing his palm to his face. Internally he reminded himself, that no, no it wasn’t, it was no one’s fault but his own, but it was just overall such a bad day, that he didn’t want to take responsibility. In fact, deep down, he knew he did too much of that anyway.

By the time Vera was done with the call, Lucas was thoroughly more troubled than before. He hadn’t thought that possible at this stage. He heaved a sigh before answering, “Yeah, I know it was her, and I didn’t block her – well, technically it was me, but… I didn’t mean to!” He then lightly kicked his backpack on the sidewalk and added, “It was the… you know what I’m talking about.” His phone buzzed again, most likely with another murderous message to add onto the whole gigabyte’s worth.

“So, anyway, we need to get to the science labs, right?” he asked, changing the subject. He managed to hide his exasperation with a smile, but it was clear from the slump of his shoulders he didn’t quite have the same vigor from before. All the same, taking a few steps forward, he added, “I think there’s heavy traffic around this time of day on Main Street and Parker Avenue, so a subway trip might actually be better… uh, unless you’re say, uncomfortable with it, Amara.” He only realized belatedly that there had been more to the conflict than just subway vs. taxi. “Is there some kind of reason you want to take the taxi? I mean, it’s kind of a waste of money and all, too…”

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#, as written by Alasund
The Chariot ; Throme


Laughing, twirling, changing winds. How they played against the rooftops and the trees. Whoosh, the breeze.

Then suddenly, the breeze bored her. The Chariot shook it's head. Wandering was getting boring. And that mask that she'd been told to capture was no where to be seen. What a pity, it would be so fun taking them on too. Her sword was so hungry too. It would be starving by now.

Sighing once, she scaled easily up a tree, briefly considering a squirrel before discarding thinking about it. She was so bored. Maybe Itex would fix it when she went in to meet with whatever emissary they sent this time around. Maybe. Just maybe she could go in with her mask on, and see what happened to those who ended up late.

She wasn't going to be late this time, after all. The jingle of the alarm on her phone warned her she should start moving, but the Chariot let herself look around from the height of the tree first. Boring. Boring. Boring. Boring.

As she scaled down from the tree, she remembered for a brief moment about her currently odd coloured eyes. People would probably wonder at a girl with red eyes running down the street. Shaking the concern aside, she slipped Caledflwch into the Kendo sword case, and took off running. Most people wouldn't get a good enough look anyways. And really, she didn't care. Who could care when you ran as fast as the wind? Not that she was. She was sensible enough not to run too fast.

... Maybe, just a little.

She grinned. It wasn't fun not to take a dare. Soon enough Brio loomed up, and the Chariot smiled. On time, this time. Maybe she could surrogate the odd interloper from last meeting to make things more exciting. Steal some apricot whateverthatstuffwas. She was hungry anyways.

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Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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#, as written by Witless
Amy Calen; Throme


What, so now Lucas was taking Vera's side? No reason? No REASON??? How could they not understand? The bodies, the heat, encroaching every instant, growing closer and closer together until you just can't breathe, packed into the train, moving who knows how fast, because of the people, the darkness, the ground, trapped, trapped, trapped! HOW COULD THEY STAND IT??? It made no sense. Perfectly logical, perfectly logical, and if they wouldn't listen to reason, she at least would.

Amy took an almost threatening step toward the already worrying Lucas, her fluster at Vera's onslaught forgotten for the moment. "How could you not see the logic here? It's right in front of your face! Sure, money, time, but... the people! Think of all that could go wrong!" She hmphed, glaring sullenly at Lucas, now the target of whatever anger had suddenly appeared. "If you won't... If you don't... If... I..." She put her head in her hands, turning away to think, of the possibilities, thoughts rushing past before she decided, a few seconds pass in thought.

The mask. She could take it and transform, either letting that new personality go and get her there or... was there some skill she could use? She was regretting taking the time to experiment with the mask. She had considered it once, even putting the mask on, bringing up the words (had she said it? no, she couldn't have; she'd remember), but nothing farther. She had no idea of the skills, the looks, and what if the transformed... being? was unnatural? What if it didn't fit in in society at all? She'd have an even worse time getting to the subway, and getting a taxi would be even harder. Assuming that were the case, she'd have to go by foot, attracting whatever notice came, with nothing to do to detract from the notice. There would be no good repercussions from Liesel after that... And Lucas was having a hard enough time as it was. So no, she couldn't transform. Or wear a brilliantly gleaming mask in broad daylight for no reason. An Itex member might see. So what did that leave her?

Well, she could take the subw- NO. How did that thought even enter her head? That was out of the question! Unless... could Lucas or Vera do something? Well, if so, probably only with their masks. So back to the first idea, as a no. Subway was out of the way. Good. Now, on to whatever's next?

That left... the taxi. Whether they came or not. There wasn't anything they could do to stop her and no blatantly obvious reason not to do it. Well, there was the traffic, but didn't they have time? They had some... probably. Most likely. There was no time on the letter, and the traffic would clear up. More likely than not, Itex worked covertly at night, after visiting hours, closing hours, whatever time there would be the least disturbances. So they had time to spare that she could use. So that was her decision.


Turning now to face the both of them (now they were arranged in a sort of obtuse triangle), Amy gave her ultimatum. "I'm taking a taxi. I have the money, so come with me or not. Take the subway if you want; I'll meet you there. Bye." By the last, most of the anger had disappeared from her voice, leaving a dispassionate, impersonal tone. She gave one last look, then turned and strode away, nearing an empty part of the street and waving for a taxi. There was no need to look back. What happened happened. She'd done what she had to, and now it was their turn. She'd see where she stood in this group. And whatever consequences came from it...

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Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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Vera Chung | Throme


Images of shattered porcelain danced inside Vera’s mind eye. She actually really liked those cups in the first place, and also dreadfully missed having cups of tea during the meetings. There went her amazing plan - they were probably only little pieces by this time. Well, whatever, Lucas can buy them the next time because it was his fault. The student council president sighed before answering her question. “Yeah, I know it was her, and I didn’t block her,” Vera’s mind went blank as she tried to figure out how to connect these two pieces of information together. First, Liesel said she did, and then Lucas said he didn’t. “Well, technically it was me, but… I didn’t mean to! I was the… you what I’m talking about.” Oh! A spark of comprehension dawned on her. Lucas had been using his… Emperor’s mask during school and somehow hadn’t been caught. She rounded on him with her hands on her hips, but anyways, it really didn’t matter.

So, anyway, we need to get to the science labs, right?” The older boy smiled and took a few steps forward. “I think there’s heavy traffic around this time of day on Main Street and Parker Avenue, so a subway trip might actually be better…” Vera shot a grin at Amara - she knew that Lucas would’ve taken her side against the Valencia brat. And it was obvious why, too. Not only was the subway better all arond, but he must’ve also seen through the newb’s disguise and seen just how odd she really was. “uh, unless you’re say, uncomfortable with it, Amara. Is there some kind of reason you want to take the taxi? I mean it’s kind of a waste of money and all, too…

She knew that she could count on Lucas to realize her logic, and the lack of thinking on her part. Wasn’t it obvious from the beginning - everything pointed towards taking the subway. But Amara obviously wouldn’t understand anything anyways. The newb looked almost as though her life rested on being able to take the taxi. “How could you not see the logic here? It’s right in front of your face! Sure, money, time, but… the people!” … Well, it was obvious she was from Valencia here. People in Throme being threatening? Vera could’ve laughed had this conversation gone on longer than necessary. “Think of all that could go wrong!” ‘You mean like missing our stop because I fell asleep or that someone tries to sell you newspapers?’ Vera couldn’t stop that slightly catty thought, but refrained from saying anything.

Wow, she really was emotionally vested in this topic. Not that Vera wasn’t, but the newb looked… strange. “If you won’t… If you don’t… If… I…” Placing her head in her hands, the girl turned around her before doing some mockery of thinking. “I’m taking a taxi. I have the money,” Vera scoffed mentally, but gave no intention of her scorn on her face. “so come with me or not. Take the subway if you want; I’ll meet you there. Bye.

Blah, blah, blah. Vera really couldn’t care about what she had to say. Her tone didn’t make it any better - it sounded as though she was talking to a tree or something. The girl strode away and made an attempt to take the taxi, before Vera looked at Lucas with annoyance in her eyes. “Let her do whatever she wants. I’m going to take the subway.” She then shot Lucas a smile and a shrug. “I wonder what’s gotten into her. She’s been pushing taking the taxi for the last couple of minutes - it’s time that we could have used in a more productive manner.”

While Vera was quite upset that her voice sounded petulant, she turned and kept walking down the street with the assumption that Lucas would follow her. That much was a given - the subway was so much more important and helpful and great and… well, basically everything. That Valencia brat would have to deal with the consequences of her little fit. The subway station was just a few minutes away, and the black-haired girl merely stuck her hand in her pocket and felt the few argen that were rattling around there. Perfect. Just enough money to take the subway.

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Character Portrait: Kaden Jannsen Character Portrait: Aki Evedane
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Aki Evedane; Brio


“Ah, children, children,” Mrs.Haverland waved her bright painted hand airily through the air. “They are the reason for my existence. My nephews are so cute! Aki, did I show you a picture of them before? They are positively angels!” Despite the irritated looking high schooler’s shake of the head, she preceded to dig through her wallet to pick out a slightly battered photograph. On it was a child, probably of no more than three years of age with a chubby pout carrying an equally plump stuffed tiger. “Can you believe that the oldest is now almost in middle school? How fast they grow! I always meant to -.”

“Mrs.Haverland. I believe we have gone over this topic perhaps three times in the last ten minutes,” interrupted the black-haired, blue-eyed junior. “If you have nothing of importance to say, would you mind releasing me? I am quite busy, and this is not the most effective use of my time.” He pushed himself out of the comfortable booth to leave, before the school counselor pulled him back into a seated position.

“Now, now, Aki! I am afraid that I’ll have to write a note about that.” She drew her hands up in the much-hated air quotes gesture that she was much in the habit of doing. “Impatient. Doesn’t listen to superiors talk. And how many times have I asked you to drop the formality? We have these conversations almost every week, so I don’t see a point in you calling me Mrs.Haverland. Just call me Sarah.”

“Mrs-.” There was no way that he would forego his formality for the sake of a simple woman who really did not understand the subtleties of emotion. Aki had the itching doubt somewhere in the back of his mind that she was only putting up his facade to bother him. He knew that the school would not, in any case, hire anyone claiming to be a counselor who did not even understand the very basics of their profession.

“Sarah.” She waved one hand in his direction as though swatting at a particularly annoying mosquito. “How many times do I have to -.” Since it took her this long to get something this easy, it might have taken her the entire of her life to get her degree… that is if she actually had earned one and not bought it. But enough was enough. Her mindless prattling was really getting on his nerves.

“Sarah Haverland,” said Aki in a tone that brokered no competition.

She frowned in what she thought to be a grandmotherly way. “Now, now, Aki. Please don’t make me do this, but I’m afraid that if you keep this up, I’ll have to write something about it in your recommendation.” The air quotes appeared again, and Aki barely managed to keep himself from walking off. “Doesn’t listen to those he should.” She took her time in taking out a embellished pen from her cheap-looking purse, before she scrawled something on the yellow pad of paper in front of her. It was already filled with her signature loopy purple handwriting. Looking down at it, she uttered, almost nonchalantly. “I see that we have much to correct for the end of this year - do you really want all this negative stuff to go to the colleges you’re applying for?”

In response, he merely caught the eye of a nearby harried waiter. The silver-haired one. “Excuse me, but could we please have our check?” He waved his hand towards the empty cup in front of him, holding a mostly-gone cherry Amerstall. He had spent the better part of his time attempting to explain the taste which he had only remembered through the blurry metaphors of his other’s faulty memory. Thank goodness that food seemed to pique its interest - people seemed lacking. It seemed pretty much the same, although lacking the peculiar taste of apricot.

It was around this time that he assumed he had stumbled upon the strange meeting, and although not stumbling upon anyone that he recognized (there were a lot of people who decided to spend their Friday afternoons in the crowded café, especially from his school), Aki was determined not to lose the opportunity to perhaps find the clue he had been waiting for. Such an opportunity only came once a week anyways.

“What are you doing, Aki?!” came an angry look from his counselor. Her arthritis forgotten when it no longer served her purpose, she stood up and called back the waiter. “Forget about your previous order from this upstart kid. We’re not leaving.” Such a statement ruined the ambience of the café. It was much too loud and much too forceful. Eyes were quickly drawn to their corner of the busy building, and Aki wished that he was anywhere but here. He hated the attention of those much too bothersome and dour to create their own entertainment.

The waiter, however, seemed only mildly affected by the confusing turn of events. He remained standing there, as though waiting for their little disagreement to finish. Seeing as Miss. Twinkletoes didn’t seem like she would drop the topic anytime soon, he decided to give in. All these eyes staring at him was, while not a strange occurrence for him, still a very irritating one. It was just like things to go perfectly against his plan. “Very well, we shall wait.”

“I’m glad that you actually know what’s good for you,” came the insipid reply, before Aki purposely turned his eyes away from the babbling, stout lady. She evidently noticed because she started spouting angry phrases, one after the other as though they were going out of style. “You! Aki, are you listening to me? Do you want me to write about this on your recommendation? Hm? Doesn’t think before acting? By this point, I don’t think that any of the universities that you were planning on going to -.”

Once she got started, the only thing that he could really do was to tune her out. Instead, he scanned the crowded café for the strange people that he had met last time. Then, catching sight of another person from his school, hurrying through the crazy business of Brio. Because there really was nothing to do (and that counselor showed no signs of shutting up any time soon) he followed him with his eyes to see him disappear into the curious back rooms.

Could it be…?

Could this really be what he was looking for?

And what were his classmates up to anyways?

Well, there was no way that he was going to allow such a clue to escape him. Ignoring Old Miss Twinkletoes’ increasingly loud protests, “Aki, is this is any way to treat a lady? You’re not leaving, are you? What are you thinking? You’d better be not leaving,” he got up to leave, just to be latched onto by the irritating counselor. Luckily for him, his weapons training finally came in handy for once, and he managed to unbalance her enough to slip away. The blue-eyed boy slipped into the stream of people, but kept his eyes firmly placed on the door that the guy from the park disappeared into.

Perhaps he was being quite the noticeable spy, but there was no way that he’d dare take out his mask in such a visible and prominent location. Mrs.Haverland stood on the very tip of her likely-fuchsia toes and tried with all of her might to find him again. He ducked down lower, pleading to whatever force of goodness in the world to make her go away, before sneaking into the very center of the swirling stream of people.

Now I wait…

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Character Portrait: Lucas Toland Character Portrait: Vera Chung Character Portrait: Amara "Amy" Calen
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Lucas Toland | Throme


If someone asked Lucas exactly how long he stood at the bus stop, confused and speechless, he wouldn’t have had an answer. In fact, his only response would probably have been, “Too long,” – at least, that was how it seemed to him. He would, however, be able to elaborate on the things that ran through his head during the duration of time he stood there like the indecisive idiot he was.

‘Great. What do I do now?’ was his last coherent thought. The things that followed couldn’t quite be called coherent, and they were more a coalescence of feelings and impulse than anything even reminiscent of rational thought. He was torn between confusion and frustration, but his immediate and most prominent emotion was simply concern. Perhaps paranoia might have been the better word. Now Throme may have been one of the safer cities in the world, but that meant nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Especially with Itex around.

There was a reason they were supposed to travel as a group after all! Although they knew near nothing about the illusive organization, it was evident that Itex was powerful and deeply involved in the workings of the city. That was made abundantly clear when Mr. Torrings… passed away. He knew that, and the others should have known that too! It was clear that they didn’t because otherwise the girls wouldn’t have bickered and split up over… over transportation. The destination was the same place anyway!

… He just didn’t understand girls.

He sighed at the thought, kicking his bag. It scuffed across the sidewalk, hitting the metal pole that held up the universal bus sign. No, that wasn’t it – he just didn’t understand people in general. It was times like this that he missed Gage or Coraline. Either of them would have been able to prevent this situation. Either of them would have been so much more of an asset to this team. Always levelheaded, the former Jack was always ready for anything. The former Queen was a far more sensitive person than he ever was, and she always resolved conflict when it arose. This line of thought was depressing. “Why did you both have to leave?” Lucas muttered under his breath, before something caught his eye.

A large blue bus was coming down the road.

Immediately his hands flew for his cell phone – had it really been so long already? He’d been standing there long enough for the next bus to pull up? As if to prove that yes, he had, the bus ambled along the sidewalk before heaving itself to a stop by the sign and the boy. Lucas stared for a moment at the vehicle, wide-eyed, phone in one hand with the other tucked in his pocket… before reaching down and grabbing his bag. He’d wasted enough time thinking, reminiscing… whatever he was doing.

He claimed a seat near the back – fortunately the bus was empty enough that he had a free space next to him for his bag. However, unconsciously, Lucas tucked his bag into the corner, trying to keep it from sight. After all, due to his lack of good judgement before, he had something dangerous in that bag… No one could see him with that mask. His hand immediately reached for his throat, touching the cord that slipped under his shirt. He knew it was a risk to wear that stone around his neck as well… but that was the start of everything. He wasn’t willing to give it up.

He spent the first few minutes of the bus ride in silence, pondering, staring out the window. The city of Throme was deceptively peaceful. “It’s wearing its own mask,” he murmured with a wry smile. That was a terrible pun, but it was also true… and only those with masks themselves could see what lied beneath the cover of the city. And these thoughts brought him in a complete circle back to his initial thoughts.

Vera – the subway could be dangerous with all those people… but she was smart. Lucas probably didn’t have to worry, but that didn’t mean that he could stop. As for Amara with the taxis, it wouldn’t be the first time someone he knew was swindled out of their money…

Finally, he gave in and did something he probably should have done a long time ago.

He called Vera first, solely because she was closer to the top of his call log.

And now he waited.