Starlight Storage

Storage

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a part of Starlight Storage, by cl.love.

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Storage

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Storage is a part of Starlight Storage.

139 Characters Here

Matchmaker, Matchmaker [4] Private RP - Completed
Starlike Friendships [3] Private RP - Ongoing
Trust Is Earned [2] One-On-One RP
Until We Meet Again [2] Private RP - Completed
Universal Starlight [2] One-On-One RP
I Care [2] One-On-One RP
Forgiveness [1] One-On-One RP
The Ice King [1] One-On-One RP
Do You Love Me? [1] One-On-One RP

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0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
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ImagexImagexImagexCHIBA SATOSHI ❋

fc ; Kozume Kenma / Haikyuu!!

"What's the point in friendship if everyone leaves eventually?

hex codes ;
#EE1D24 / #F16522

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Oyamazaki, Japan

There's chaos in other parts of the Chiba house: children screeching at each other, pots rattling on the burners, women in a heated argument over something that's more than likely unimportant. Satoshi hears none of it. He sits hidden away in his room, gentle music in a foreign language playing from the family's AI intercom system. Satoshi sits with his back to the wall under the window, the sound of birds and leaves rustling in the wind mixing with the strum of a guitar. A book is open in his lap but he can't find the will to concentrate on it. Maybe because he's read it too many times, maybe because it was his mother's favorite novel, and her voice still lingers in his head, memories of her quietly reading it to him in the moonlight. xx
Nine years since she passed, and her spirit still lingers... Golden eyes glance over at her photograph her it sits in the little cupboard he'd made into an altar, three red spider lilies wilting in a vase next to it. Chiba Kirie's smiling face stares back at him. And, like every time he's looked at that photo - or any other photo of her, even - all he can see is her cold, dead eyes. xx
Satoshi looks away and ignores the sinking feeling in his stomach. He flips to the previous page in his book, having been too out of to comprehend the words, and is on the second sentence when he hears it: a sound he can't describe. There's nothing in his house that could possibly make a noise like that, so what in the Hell is it? To confuse him even further, an odd light seems to ripple across the room, warping everything in sight and making Satoshi feel almost ill. And as suddenly as it all happened, the light show and the strange noise are gone, nothing left behind except the reminder of a cryptic note. xx
'When you hear the call, go to Berlin. Find the doctor named Schreiber. Tell him your name, and all will be explained.' That must be the call she meant, right? Satoshi wonders, staring into nothing. I mean, what else could that have possibly been? xx
There's a moment of silence, the music timing out and turning off, and Satoshi takes a long look around his room. He has little in the way of belongings; he could easily fit it all into a suitcase and a couple of duffel bags. Everyone in his family has a money card linked to the household's account, which has more than enough money for him to make an international trip without putting a dent in the family's funds. And this was his mother's last request, wasn't it? There's no reason to stay. xx
Berlin, Germany

The airport is crowded, and Satoshi's tempted to make himself unseen if only to avoid anyone's curious stares; he looks like a teenager, and he's carrying a duffel bag over each shoulder while dragging behind him a suitcase that's more than half his height, so he isn't easy to miss. He pulls his hood up over his head and lets his hair curtain his face as he makes his way slowly toward the airport entrance. The crowds thin at the pick-up area and he hails the first cab he sees that isn't already taken, asking to be taken to a hospital with a name he doesn't even bother trying to pronounce; he simply hands the driver a paper with the name written down. It was the only hospital in Berlin where a "Doctor Shreiber" was employed. xx
When they arrive, the driver politely offers to help Satoshi with his bags, to which he quietly declines, hauling his things in and trying not to notice the uncomfortable stares he gets from people wondering why a kid with a shitton of luggage is at a hospital. He makes it to the front desk without conflict and asks for a doctor Shreiber. "Of course, I'll call her for you." He waits patiently as the woman disappears, returning a few moments with an incredibly pretty woman. She looks straight at him and Satoshi cowers from meeting her gaze. "I'm Doctor Schreiber, can I help you?" Satoshi fishes through his pockets and pulls out the letter he'd found months after his mother's death, hesitating before handing it over. "I'm Chiba Satoshi..." xx
The woman glances over the note and looks back to him, and Satoshi catches her stern stare before he looks to the floor once again. "Follow me." He shifts the straps of his bags where they're digging into his shoulders before dutifully following the woman down a couple of long halls, until they're the only ones in sight. She leads him through a doorwa yand Satoshi tries not to be suspicious; he still knows nothing of why his mother sent him here, or who Doctor Shreiber is, or why there's a bored-looking young girl sitting on a couch in the room Doctor Shreiber leaves him in, politely asking him to wait. xx
Satoshi takes the opportunity to set all his luggage down, and he shuffles quietly to a seat, hugging the duffel bag with his mother's picture inside close to his chest. There's silence in the room, and he tries not to wonder if he's made a mistake. xx
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Character Portrait: Not So Different

0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
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ImagexImagexImagexTAEMN SEO ❋

fc ; Jeonghan Joshua

"I'm Seoul's 'Prince Charming' or so they say. What a title to live up to."

hex codes ;
#16BCB4 / #00736A

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The proposition of making collaborative music with the person who inspired him to join the music business in the first place is very well the last thing Taemin would ever have imagined coming to him. He's only been making music 'professionally' for barely more than a year now- has only been popular for far less than that. Jisoo Kang, the literal God of the Korean music world, has no reason at all to want to work with someone as new to everything as Taemin is. And yet, here he is, a stack of paperwork in his hands, sitting at the end of probably the fanciest table he's ever seen in his life, his manager and a few other important-looking people sitting at the other end, patiently waiting for the person he all but worshipped as a teenager. xx
Of course, it would be a lot easier to sign the paperwork if Jisoo would actually show up, but Taemin is patient. Has to be. xx
"You sure you want to agree to this?" Nari, Taemin's manager, asks, arms crossed, from the seat next to him. "You can still say no." Taemin gives him an awed look, as if doubting why he'd say such a thing. "Why would I ever want to refuse?! Jisoo Kang is the person who inspired me to make music professionally in the first place, getting to actually meet him is a miracle in and of itself, not to mention we'll be collabing." Nari says nothing more, though the look on his face is concerned at best, which makes Taemin wonder. Just what is Jisoo Kang actually like? Nari's surely met him; maybe this is a sign?? xx
I've been dreaming about meeting him for a good half of my life, so he'd pretty much have to be the world's biggest asshole to ruin this. He thinks to himself. He bides his time doodling little pictures of Jisoo's face in the margins of the paperwork, writing little snippets of his song lyrics beside them, wondering if the show that he's a fan will help to impress Jisoo at all. xx
The door opens. Jisoo walks in and starts to speak, and Taemin's first thought is: Shit, he is the world's biggest asshole. xx
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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ai no Hana

0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
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Minami Kenji

FC - Mamura Daiki ; Theme - After The Rain by Yanagi Nagi

Dialogue - #F5999D ; Thought - #81CA9D

" Yesterday rained, but tomorrow will be sunny; because there's no such thing as an eternal rain, right? "

- - - - - - - - - - -
Kenji watches his grandmother walk away with as blank an expression he can muster when he's so filled with confusion and frustration that he's genuinely considering asking this teenage Korean boy to please leave. But that would be so many levels of impolite. His grandfather wouldn't have wanted him to be impolite. Hell, his grandfather is the one who invited this kid here in the first place, even though he surely had no idea it would be this kid in particular. Kenji's never even heard of Kyung Minseung, so this letter must have been written so long ago that his grandfather had not once thought to tell the story of it. Kenji feels a little sad, that his grandfather had a friend so close he gave them an offer like this, and he never told Kenji. It had seemed like Kenji had known everything about his namesake, but perhaps the man really was just that mysterious after all. xx
A faint whisper of wind signals to him that his grandmother is gone, having used her alchemic teleportation circle. Of course she'd only have used the elevator because she had a guest. Of course. With proof that they're now completely alone, Kenji turns to Seongjae and forces himself to unstiffen, levitates the dirt on his hands back to the worktable, carefully untangles the clematis vine from his arm and leaves it to slither back to its arbor against the wall. He then bows to Seongjae politely and wrings his hands together in front of him, speaking quietly. "I'm sorry if my grandmother was a bit too forward, she tends not to let people question her. If you want to leave now that you know my grandfather is passed, I wouldn't blame you." You dumbass, you're not helping the situation! "For now, I can help find you a room to stay in. I doubt my grandmother will let you pay for a hotel when we have the space for a guest." xxx
With a simple hand gesture for 'follow me', Kenji leads the way back to the elevator and presses a button on the bottom of the panel. The button is labeled with the two kanji characters meaning Minami. He says nothing as the elevator plummets downward, stopping after a few short seconds. This time, instead of the gate opening onto the first floor of the shop, the back wall opens onto a long hallway with wood floors and open shoji doors on the left, showing glimpses of a garden outside. "Please wait here a moment." Stepping into the hall, Kenji turns back around and places a hand against an invisible wall that runs from the top of the door frame all the way to the floor. A spell shimmers across the surface of the invisible wall and after a moment, Kenji moves back, gesturing for Seongjae to enter. "This doorway is enchanted so that only members of the Minami family can enter, but you should be able to walk through it now." xsx
Kenji leads Seongjae down the long hallway and around a corner, the garden visible from the left throughout the journey. The shoji doors along the right side of the hall are all closed tight, and no sounds can be heard from within. He pauses next to a stretch of wall just as plain as the rest, and opens it to reveal a room with nothing but a neatly folded futon in the corner and a clearly enchanted window with a view of a roaring ocean. "I'm sure my grandmother has a plan to put more furniture in here, likely enchanted to look however you want it to, but for now, do what you like. The room itself is a pocket dimension that will adhere itself to your own magical energy, meaning no one can enter without your permission. As such, you won't be able to find or enter any of the other bedrooms in the hall, so don't worry about accidentally stumbling into one. Feel free to wander about the house and the shop, but please don't touch anything. A lot of items are enchanted and can cause issues if handled incorrectly." Feeling like he's been talking for hours, Kenji deflates. xxx
"I apologize if I seem frank. I'm not... I'm not used to having guests. Especially guests my age. If you have any questions about... anything... just ask." xxx
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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rain & Rice Patties

0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
x//❝ お い : FUJIWARA, KYOUxxxxxxx

rain&ri
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It had been a normal day, really. Kyou had woken up at sunrise to find the world bathed in a gentle fog, had spent the morning out in the garden copying online sheet music into his notebook while his family slept. As the fog burned off in the sun and the rest of the household awoke, Kyou hid his notebook away and took his usual role as the obedient firstborn son. He greeted his mother as she came out to make breakfast and let his father take the first of the coffee, carefully evaded his sister's attempts to kick in his shins under the table throughout the meal and tried not to let on that he was truly becoming frustrated with her stupid idea that they were at war. xx
His mother had left after breakfast to lead a tour throughout Katashina, and Kyou watched her speak quietly to his father about something he could tell had to do with him, if their not-so-well-hidden glances toward him were anything to go by. Kyou made no mention of the conversation to his father and his father gave no signs that he wanted to talk about it. As soon as their mother was out of the picture and their father was shut up in his office making phone calls, Mika mysteriously disappeared, and Kyou really couldn't care less what she was doing. xx
He'd headed out through the garden and up into the forest, following the small, barely visible trails that only a Katashina local should be following. While some would see every tree as identical to the next, Kyou knew the forest better than he sometimes felt he knew himself. The forest was the one place he could be himself, where no one could see him drawing the Sailor Scouts, or talking to himself, or playing the violin. The one place that he felt completely sheltered from the world, where he knew how to hide and run from all the people around him. xx
It had been a normal day, until he returned home at dinnertime and found his parents standing in the front hall, waiting for him with proud expressions that should have been encouraging, but only made Kyou feel nauseous. xx
"Darling, we have such wonderful news! The Takehashi family has offered up their daughter's hand in marriage!" xx
And just like that, the world came crashing down around Kyou. For the first time in a long time, he couldn't tell his parents how excited he was, couldn't pretend to be happy with their wishes, couldn't bring himself to follow what they thought was right. And so, instead of speaking his displeasure like a normal human being... he ran. xx
- - -

It may be summer, but the air is already growing cool, grey clouds making the sun seem to set early. By the time Kyou has made it through the forest and to the tiny, abandoned shrine where he hides his violin, the sky is dark, and the breeze is cold. Kyou flops down onto the steps of the shrine and simply cries. Perhaps it is a childish thing to do, crying as an adult over something he's known would happen eventually, but somehow the promise of marriage had never felt so... real. On an idea, a possibility, a plan in his parents' heads that he'd one day get them to leave behind. Something he'd one day gain the confidence to defy, which clearly didn't happen. xx
Kyou cries until he finally feels too ridiculous to continue letting the emotions flow out. How stupid is this? Who gets so upset about getting married? That should be the most satisfying thing in this society. And for it to all be planned out, with no effort on his part, isn't that a dream? So need for dating experience and broken hearts! xx
No, he thinks, It's not what I want. But it's what my parents want, what they believe is good, what they'll accept of me... so I can't refuse, can I? Not if I want their approval. Not if I want everything to stay as is... He doesn't want everything to stay as is, because what it is now is pure misery, but change is far more terrifying, isn't it? xx
Kyou shoves down the nausea and his contradicting thoughts and debates going back home. He's a good twenty paces into the forest again when he realizes he's still holding his violin, and hey, here's the number one thing in his life that his parents think is truly useless. What better way to rebel than to play a song they hate? Kyou pulls out the instrument from its case in a clearing just off the path and, knowing no one will be around to hear him at this time of night, starts to play Bohemian Rhapsody, an American song his mother can't stand. xxx
It sounds terrible, but Kyou really isn't in the mood to care, so he plays loudly, scowling at nothing in particular. xx
"Hey, what’s up with all the noise?" Kyou jumps half a foot in the air and his bow slips, letting out a squeal that has even Kyou himself cringing as he whirls on whoever spoke. Surprisingly, it's not someone he recognizes- a tourist, most likely, though it seems pretty idiotic for a tourist to be walking in an unfamiliar forest at night by themselves. "I- I thought no one could hear me. Most people don't go out walking in the woods here at night..." xx
Kyou lowers his violin and puts it safely away in its case before turning to the redhead. "Who're you, anyway?" xx

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0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
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XX Yu-Tai

Tai dreams of fountains and trickling streams, of ocean waves lapping on a sandy shore, of wispy winds in his hair and brushing against his face and carry all the sounds of his busy life far away. xx
When he wakes up, he feels cold and alone, a feeling that has been present his entire life. Even in his childhood there was never a time when his mother or father or even one of the nannies cuddled up with him in bed, who tucked him in, or sang him to sleep. Only one person has ever shown him that kind of comfort. Tai blinks open his eyes and looks toward the thick curtains, the ones Eiyo always opens in the morning. They're still closed tight against the sun. He's not around. xx
Most mornings he would simply go right back to sleep until his companion arrives, but today he has other plans, which hinge on him looking like he's still asleep. Unfortunately, Tai's overactive mind refuses to stay still and his body flops around underneath the covers with it. The blankets are thrown every which way but still at least halfway cover him, and his hair is probably tangled all to hell, but finally, Tai hears footsteps in the hallway. He burrows back down. The doors open. xx
Familiar footsteps, a tinkling of metal dishes on a metal tray, and a sudden blast of light against his eyelids. Tai squints against it even with his eyes closed and his face half-buried in his pillows. xx
"Are you seriously still asleep? Get up, your bending lesson is in 10 minutes." Tai has to stifle a smile, because this is the voice he loves to hear. He can picture Eiyo standing over him, arms crossed over his chest, face scrunched up in displeasure. He feels the boy standing close to him and knows that's what he's doing. And then comes his opportunity, as Eiyo steals Tai's blankets. xx
Tai shoots his hands out the second the blankets are gone, grabbing at Eiyo's wrist and pulling him so he trips on the bed frame and topples onto the mattress. In a skillful role he likely can only manage because of the element of surprise, Tai twists them both into the middle of the mattress and wraps around the boy like a starfish, nuzzling into his neck. "Stay here with me instead." xxx

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Waiting Afield At Dusk

0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
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XX Sato Itsuki
Itsuki can feel eyes on him, and it is absolutely distracting him from his notes. But he refuses to turn around and engage with the person he knows has been staring at him all goddamn day.

It's been a good two weeks since the class seating arrangement changed and in those two weeks it has become abundantly clear that Yamada Hiroyuki, who now sits right behind Itsuki, apparently has nothing better to do during lessons than stare holes into Itsuki's skull. Itsuki has no idea what he's done to deserve it- they've only spoken a handful of times. Was he not polite enough? Did he unknowingly say something that offended him? Or is Yamada simply spacing out all day long?

Itsuki doesn't know, and he kind of doesn't want to know. So he keeps his eyes on the board and does his best to ignore the staring. He learns to tune it out, after a while, but every time there's a lull in the lesson his thoughts drift back toward Yamada, because dammit, now he's curious.

Itsuki has zero plans to confront Yamada about all the staring and is ready to leave once class is done, but Yamada clearly has other intentions, getting right in Itsuki's way after the bell.

"
Sato-kun!" Yamada says, instantly drawing attention to them both. "Hey, hey, are you busy? 'Cause, well, I was wondering, maybe you'd want to go with me to the marketplace nearby. Just for fun! I could get you a snack or something, and we could hang out for a bit after?"

Itsuki doesn't respond right away. He's caught off guard. It's been a while since anyone has invited him out, as most of their classmates have either hated him from the beginning or realized he's as boring as they come in the friendship department. Yamada clearly hasn't gotten that memo. Tragic. Itsuki plasters a smile on his face and hopes Yamada does alright with disappointment.

"
I'm sorry, Yamada-san, but I'm afraid I can't. I have to study before cram school tonight. But thank you for the offer. Have a good night."

And with that, Itsuki leaves, hoping Yamada will get the message and this will be the end of it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nighthawk

0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
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XX Callum
"Sir Callum of the royal guard, your Majesty, as requested."

Callum steps into the room and bows before the King. The servant girl who had fetched him bows as well, then quickly retreats, shutting the massive doors behind her. King Jannon sits upon his throne of sparkling white marble, the silver of his crown glinting in the afternoon light, shadows casting across his face from the stone pillars that hold up the golden-painted ceilings above.

"
You called for me, your Majesty?" Callum asks, standing before the steps of the dais.

"Yes," The King replies. "I have orders for you. They are of the utmost importance- the future of Pellem Vero depends on your success. If you fail, you shall disappoint me and our people."

Callum nods, feels a shiver run down his spine.

The King speaks his orders, speaks his plan, and Callum's heart hurts. It has been a long while since his heart has hurt in such a way. The King is all-powerful, the King is all Callum lives for- but there's a voice in his head, a voice that insists King Jannon cannot be of his right mind.

After all, what kind of King orders for his own daughter to be killed?


XX ❋
A breeze whistles through the trees and Callum takes a deep breath, takes a second to appreciate the sunlight streaming through the forest canopy, takes the opportunity to clear his thoughts.

Callum rides beside the intricate silver carriage that carries
Princess Deryn and her many cases of books. Four other soldiers ride in front and behind the carriage as an escort. All of them are very clearly on edge, and Callum wonders if they know the King's plan, if anyone else received orders similar to his own. There's a part of him that doesn't want to be alone in his hidden knowledge.

And as much as he loves this forest, as much as he wants to feel at ease in this place, Callum too is on edge. He carries secrets with him that will change the fate of everyone he's ever known. He knows he isn't going to the peaceful Prendre L'air as just a Knight ordered to protect the Princess.


I mustn't think of that now, Callum tells himself. Just focus on Deryn. Making her happy. Just follow her orders until the King sends for me with new ones.

And besides, Bertrand will be there.
The caravan is heading to Prendre L'air to celebrate a wedding between royals, but Callum can't help thinking about Bertrand, about their childhood- those stolen moments that are now faded in Callum's mind. He's missed Bertrand, all these years. He knows Deryn has as well. But the three of them are different now; he and Deryn surely are.

The trees ahead part to make way for a distant cityscape, and Callum clears his thoughts once more. This is not a time to be reminiscing about his time as a happy, carefree child.

After all, Deryn is the one who will be marrying Bertrand. Best to let any lingering feelings go.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Silhouette

0.00 INK

#, as written by cl.love
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XX Briar Harvent

"What if we just... ran away?" "What do you mean? Run away from what?" "What if we ran away from this place? They're using us, well, you. So what if we just, you know... left." xx
Briar looks at Oscar with a little flurry of thoughts twirling about in his head. A part of him wants to think this is just a joke. After all, Oscar isn't exactly known for taking things seriously. Another part of him is rapidly weighing out all the possible outcomes of actually leaving, or, well, trying to leave. He's never once heard of anyone just up and leaving an Institute, and that's the kind of rumor he thinks would spread through the ranks like a wildfire in dry grass. And still another part of him, a very quiet, hidden part of him, is already constructing a plan to leave the Institute alive. xx
"What if we did?" Briar asks, voice low. He knows what will happen if they're caught discussing this. "What would we do then? Where would we go?" Oscar huffs and appears to be pouting, to which Briar just rolls his eyes. He does realize that he... didn't really answer Oscar's original question, just threw a different question right back at him. "Well, I have my family. I could go see my little sister. Then, we could just... be together. All of us." He says, very matter-of-factly. xx
Briar thinks about the word family and what it means. The Institute leaders, the Head- surely they are what he can consider family. Could he leave them behind? Yes, he thinks. I could. But if we get caught, what will they think? What will they do?I'm already in trouble often enough just for- Briar shoves the thought deep down, the thought that if he weren't friends with Oscar, if he just ignored the kid like he did everyone else, the leaders would never scold him. But he knows he could never ignore Oscar- not after eight years. It would be like ignoring his own conscience. xx
"They would never let us leave. The leaders would find out about our plans, catch us on our way out, hunt us down- we already get punished enough because you can't seem to take orders." He knows it's a low blow, and Briar instantly regrets it when he sees Oscar stiffen. "Don't you see? That's the point. We're not robots, we should make our own choices, Briar!" He says, almost shouting but not quite. "Besides, with all the training they've given us, we have exactly what we need to escape. All of us. Our squad, we're family, and we need to look out for each other. Together we can do anything!" And then Oscar's eyes are on him- bright, determined, piercing straight into his soul like an arrow to the heart. Briar is mesmerized. xx
Briar still doubts. He still doubts Oscar, doubts their abilities, doubts himself. But those eyes are bearing down on him and even he doesn't have the will to disobey. Not Oscar Wilson. "... okay." xx

XX ❋
Oscar's argument is sound to their squadmate's ears, and before long, all three of them - Whistle, Walker, and Whirlpool - are latched onto Oscar's every word. Briar feels comforted that they all agree with Oscar's idea, and he also feels an immense anxiety. Escaping with five people is going to be much more conspicuous than if it were only two, and if they get caught, the consequences will be more dire. But Briar knows Oscar wouldn't leave without them, couldn't abandon them. xxx
Their plan forms through everyone's contributions, and they go to sleep with their minds filled to the brim, running through their roles and simmering with both excitement and, most likely, dread. xx

XX ❋
The evening before their escape is to take place, Briar finds himself unable to sleep. He knows he needs the rest, but his mind is racing, running through every detail of their plan and swirling out of control with anxiety. Their chances of success are slim, so very slim, yet they have to try. Have to, because Oscar asked them to. Because Oscar called them his family- something that is so very precious to him. There's a weight in Briar's chest that is becoming familiar, a weight he has no idea how to place, and it only grows heavier when quiet footsteps move toward him in the dark. xx
He knows it's Oscar even before a finger prods him in the shoulder, and he shifts over in his bunk without a word, making room for Oscar to crawl under the covers with him. He rolls over to face his friend and can barely see the outline of his face in the dim lighting. Briar offers up his hand. xx
Oscar takes the offering in his own hand and instantly, his voice is echoing in Briar's head. Can you promise me something? Briar questions what the promise is. Silence. He closes his eyes, lets the warmth of Oscar's body wash over him, the familiar comfort of having someone so close. Out of nowhere, another feeling washes over him like a waterfall- fear. Oscar's fear. It catches Briar completely off guard and he grips Oscar's hand just a little tighter. I'm scared. The voice in his head says, and Briar knows. If I fail, protect them. My family. And Briar understands, for once. xx
Briar has power in his ability, and Oscar has power in his voice. Together, they make the perfect soldier. And. whatever happens tomorrow, Briar must protect Oscar's family. His family. Whether the word 'family' means their squad or Oscar's parents and sister doesn't matter. Briar can feel his companion's fear and knows Oscar can feel his. They're both scared, scared of failing, scared of succeeding and not knowing what to do next. And Briar's willing to bet the others are scared, too. xx
"I promise. I promise to protect our family. No matter what." He whispers the words aloud, to make the promise more real, more true. But you won't fail. I promise I won't let you fail, Oscar. xx

XX ❋
Briar hears the gunshot before he's made it to treeline, hears a garbled scream- Maximus. But he can't bear to stop and look, can't bear to watch his friend fall. Seconds later, another gunshot rings out, hitting Adriel this time, and Briar's vision becomes clogged with tears. There's screaming and gunshots and the familiar sounds of Matthias fighting someone- everyone- anyone to protect the others. Briar can feel Oscar at his side, can hear his breathing, and he doubts. He doubts that they'll make it. They've lost three of their squadmates, and the treeline that will conceal them is still several meters away, and the leaders are shooting at them, possibly killing them- and he's- xxxx
One more gunshot rings out. Oscar screams, falls, fails. Briar keeps running while the pact they'd made that morning plays on repeat in his mind- " No matter who falls, keep running. Don't stop." xx
Briar slows, looks back. Maximus is crying out in pain, blood seeping out of a hole in his shoulderblade. Adriel is struggling against a leader's grip while another leader seemingly digs the bullet out of her side. Matthias is still fighting, but it's clear he won't last. And Oscar, his Oscar- tackled to the ground and staring right at him, right into his soul with that desperate, determined light in his eyes even as the leaders crush him, he's not even that far away, Briar can help him- xxx
Keep going. You promised. The words pound into him and Briar stumbles back, shocked. There's no time to contemplate it, no time to congratulate Oscar's evolution in telepathy, no time to even respond. Briar turns, leaves. He keeps going, because he did promise. He promised he'd keep running even if the others fell, he promised he would keep Oscar's family safe if he didn't make it. xx
He also promised that Oscar would make it. He promised, there in the dark, to not let Oscar fail. xxx
There are more gunshots, but Briar is at the treeline, and he ducks into the forest with a terrible pain in his chest that grows every second. He forces himself to compartmentalize, shoves down his thoughts of going back, of being able to help his squad. He can't break this promise to Oscar. xx
(The other promise, that late-night, now-broken promise, will haunt him for many years to come.) xx


XX five years later
Briar blinks his eyes open and stares up at the white ceiling above him. There's just enough light seeping through the window blinds to illuminate a long crack running from just above his head to just above his torso- a product of a nightmare and a lot of violent thrashing on his part. He drags a hand across his face and rubs the gunk out of his eyes, forcing his sight to stop being blurry, then carefully sits up. He has to slouch to keep his head from bumping the ceiling and Briar wonders why he's still stuck on a top bunk when his roommate is more than half his height. Speaking of... xx
Briar leans through the opening for the ladder and peers down at Cedar. The kid has thrown his blankets onto the floor in the night, one foot is tangled in his pillowcase, and he's somehow flipped around so that his head is where his feet would normally be. Definitely not a peaceful sleeper, but a deep one nonetheless. Briar smiles to himself and climbs down, tiptoeing outside. xx
The windows are open in the hallway and Briar squints against the light. It's raining outside, just a sprinkle, but the sky is bright despite the cloud cover. Interesting, how rain can be like that. He heads down the hall and into the sitting room, where Maia and Aiden are sat on the sofa reading together. They're snuggled up close and Briar smiles. Maia looks up when he walks in. "Good morning, dear. Are the boys still sleeping?" She asks, referring to Cedar and Nick. Briar shrugs. "Cedar's definitely still out cold, but I don't know about Nick. I don't think he ever sleeps. " xx
Everyone laughs at that, and Briar heads for the kitchen. Maia and Aiden go back to reading while he makes himself breakfast- since they all have such shit sleep schedules, no one really eats together, except on the rare occasion they're all home and hungry at the same time. Nick comes wandering into the kitchen with a laptop in hand about half an hour later and tries to steal some of Briar's leftover fried rice, and they battle with forks for a few moments before Nick freaks about food getting on his computer and moves farther away. Nick pouts and Briar blankly flips him off. xx
"Children, stop fighting!" Maia calls, glaring at them from the couch while Aiden giggles. "Briar, can you go wake Cedar up? He's got a mission review in an hour and I'll be getting the piss if he's late." She asks. Briar mumbles a yes around his last mouthful of food and carries his dishes to the sink. Nick tries to trip on his way back out of the kitchen and Briar smacks him over the head in return, ignoring Maia's half-assed scolding as Nick practically screams in 'agony.' xx
Cedar is flipped into a different-but-just-as-uncomfortable-looking position when Briar walks into their room, and his snoring is even louder on account of his face being pressed into the mattress. Briar presses the back of his hand to Cedar's cheek and the kid's eyes instantly shoot open, giving Briar exactly .04 seconds to back the fuck off and avoid a 5'0 ball of fury directed right at him. xxx
"Dude, it's me. It's always me. Calm down. Maia says you have a mission review in an hour, so I'd probably get ready to go before she beats you into oblivion." Cedar flips him off and Briar forces himself not to smile as they both get dressed. Cedar, despite Briar surging energy into his cells, still pulls of the exhausted-and-grumpy look. Briar ignores his glares like a champion. xx
Cedar leaves for his review, Aiden leaves for his full-time normal-people job, and Nick leaves for his hovel of a bedroom as soon as he's got food in him. Maia stays sitting on the couch, but when Briar looks up at her from the graphic novel he'd started thumbing through, she's staring at him with a serious expression that has his stomach sinking. It's the kind of expression she has when something bad has happened, or is going to happen. "What is it?" He asks, part of him not really wanting to know. He sets the book aside. She hands him what she and Aiden had been reading. xxx
It's a file, a mission file, and Briar sighs. "Word is, there's a high-ranking Institute officer going around the city, taking out our people. We've lost six members in the last two months, and all of them were disguised deaths." "They have Lily over?" "Yeah. Point is, they want me to send you out there, since you have the most knowledge on how the Institute does their missions. But you can say no. I know being out near them can be scary for you, sometimes." xx
"No, I'll go. It's fine." Briar says, skimming through the file. It's all rather bland information- general description of the person, how the victims died. Something about it is familiar, but Briar figures seeing anything from the Institute would be familiar, after spending so long there. Maia searches his face for discomfort, and Briar gives her a reassuring smile. "I'll be fine. Really." xxxxx
Maia nods and smiles back, and Briar finishes reading the file. "Well, let's go find this asshole." xx

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XX Rika

This isn't the longest it's taken Rika to make progress on an assignment, nor has it been the most difficult, nor has her charge been the most insufferable. But damn has it been the most boring.

Two and a half weeks have passed since Rika was assigned to one Tachibana Ichika, and it's been the most repetitive two weeks of Rika's second life. 7am, wake up. 9am, school. 4pm, study. 9pm, sleep. Rinse and repeat. Bi-weekly student council meetings have been the only deviation from this routine, and helpful as those meetings were, they were also incredibly uninteresting.

Does this girl do anything besides study? Rika's not too hopeful.

She learns through their nightly rendezvous that Yua is having a similar problem with her charge, which has Rika laughing- of course the two workaholics belong together.

Problem is, it's not exactly easy to get them together when they're both too busy studying.

One night, after Ichika has finally gone to sleep, Rika sets aside the book she snatched from the school library and leaves to meet with Yua. She finds her easily enough- Yua is the only customer in the cafe, and in her face Rika sees the same frustration she's been feeling since they began.

Rika feels a little bad for Yua. After all, this is her first assignment as a cupid. It seems a shame that her first job has her stuck with a fake prince, day in and day out.

"
I have a feeling we may need to choose another approach," she says, a tired smile playing on her lips. "It seems these two aren't going to be doing us any favors by making it easy."

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XX Yoshida Nao

Nao has never really believed in ghosts, but enough has happened in a few short weeks to make him think they might just be real, and that there's one haunting either him or his house.

Haunting him, most likely, because things only ever seem to go missing from his bedroom.

In just under three weeks, Nao has lost notebooks, textbooks, his favorite pencil, the batteries to his desk lamp, his phone, and his entire schoolbag. And while he found everything eventually - in different parts of the house, including the backyard - he's convinced something doesn't like him.

Or perhaps just really hates school. It doesn't slip Nao's attention that the stolen items all have to do with school in some way, though he's not quite sure why a dead dropout would haunt him.

The more he thinks about the logistics of his maybe-ghost, the more outlandish the idea seems.

Nao does his best to ignore the problem, though it does start to get on his nerves the third time he has to track down his homework and finds it in one of the kitchen cupboards. What purpose does a ghost have in hiding things? They're not even trying that hard to get rid of the things they steal.

Then one night he comes back into his room after showering to find his manga shelf has been reorganized. Or rather, books have been pulled out and put back in the wrong places.

He doesn't fix the shelf, doesn't want to put any more energy into the idea. But try as he might, Nao ends up distracted from his studies by conjured images of some hikikomori floating around his room, reading his manga and watching him sleep. Nao doesn't sleep well that night, all told.

The next morning, nothing has been moved, not even the still-unorganized manga on his shelf.

Nao silently hopes his maybe-ghost is gone for good.

School is expectedly normal, the normal amount of classmates stopping Nao on his way to class and initiating conversations that are the normal amount of bland. Nao puts on his princely smile and converses, then files away the new names he's learned and prays no one else bothers him.

A perfectly normal morning.

At least, perfectly normal on the surface.

It isn't until Nao takes his seat in class that he realizes something is different. The desk in front of his, which was perfectly empty the day before, now holds a head of blonde hair he's never seen.

He expects the homeroom teacher to announce a transfer student when she walks in. She doesn't. He then expects his classmates to question the new girl when they see her. They don't. No one so much as bats an eye at her existence until halfway through homeroom, when Tachibana takes the chalkboard to discuss some new school decorum and her gaze lingers on the new girl.

It's then that Nao realizes there's another girl he's never seen sitting in this classroom, and as if by some miracle, he can see Tachibana realize too. At least now he knows he's not seeing things.

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XX Sato Jirou

In a big city like Tokyo, where there's a massive amount of schools to choose from, it's common for elementary school students to graduate and never see one another again. Middle school is the same, and Jirou suspects that he won't see his high school classmates after graduating, either.

And yet, despite the fact that not one of Jirou's friends have been in the same school as him once he graduates, he's managed to find the same group of Type-A bullies in every single one.

It's incredibly annoying that what attracts said bullies is his plainness, rather than the plethora of actual grievances he's sure they could find if they looked hard enough. Hell, he could get expelled just for being seen in Kabukichou, but no, these idiots are pissed off because he wears glasses.

Glasses that very nearly got broken with that last punch, Jirou might add.

The four boys from another class whose names Jirou never bothered learning all tower over him, offering up insults and suggestions for torture that Jirou mostly tunes out. There's nothing these arrogant dumbasses can do to intimidate him. Their punches aren't even particularly hard.

Jirou takes a hit to the stomach and he falls to the floor in a heap. Someone laughs, but it fades as Jirou sits up and stares off into the distance, struggling a bit to regulate his breathing- not that his expression would show it. Someone steps on Jirou's fingers and he barely even flinches, just does his best to keep his fingers flat and spread apart so they can't twist somehow and break.

Jirou can tell the bullies are getting bored, and he wishes they'd get bored faster. Break is almost over. And then, as if in answer, the boys scatter like they were never there.

Jirou doesn't bother wondering why, just takes the blessing as it comes and heads back to class.

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XX Minami Kenji

Despite taking the first opportunity to escape conversation with Seongjae, Kenji finds he can't get the younger boy out of his mind. He supposes something as strange as a Korean teenager arriving at your door with a letter from your dead grandfather, asking to be tutored... well, it's something you don't forget easily, and there aren't enough customers to distract him from thinking about it.

Kenji wonders just how long Seongjae is going to stay. A while, probably- his grandmother had invited him to stay for a full apprenticeship, after all. Kenji's not sure how to take it all.

He knows how he's taking it. He doesn't like it. But then, when did he ever like new people?


With oji-san, probably. Kenji thinks to himself.

As with every memory of his grandfather, Kenji droops a little, wishing more than anything that the man could be there with him. He would've liked Seongjae, Kenji thinks- knows, even.

The bright red trumpet vine flower resting on Kenji's shoulder rubs its petals against his neck, its vine curling tighter around his arm to get his attention. Kenji's thoughts are derailed and he takes a moment to just breathe, thoughts of his grandfather sinking deep down withing him.

And, as if echoing the vine's efforts to distract him from his grief, someone calls his name-

Seongjae.

Kenji can't help the way his shoulders tense, the way his breath catches. He's skeptical of this kid. He can't help that either- letter or no letter, Seongjae is a stranger, and Kenji has never had the patience for making friends. There's a reason he spends all day every day surrounded by plants.

He turns from his not-really-being-worked-on-worktable as the trumpet vine slowly uncurls to observe the newcomer. Seongjae is standing at a respectable distance, an easy but still bright smile on his face. Kenji nods a greeting, more or less assuming that Seongjae will speak first.

"
I know I talked to you earlier, but we still don't much about each other! And if I'm gonna be here for a bit, might as well get to know each other, right? Ask me anything you'd like!"

Ask him?

Somewhere in the back of Kenji's head, a voice that sounds disturbingly like his grandfather's is telling him that this might be the first time a stranger has given Kenji the chance to ask questions first, instead of just asking him questions and only offering to answer his as an afterthought.

And as much as Kenji would like to avoid meeting new people... he kind of already has. It's clear Seongjae isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so what's the harm in small talk?

(Kenji's sanity, he thinks briefly, before offhandedly realizing he's being incredibly rude.)

So, instead of turn the boy away like part of him wants to, Kenji gestures to the stool next to his, one usually used by his grandmother. Then he turns back to his plants, confident in his ability to multitask. As Seongjae sits, several plants reach out to him, a few of the shier flowers blooming.


Huh. They must like his energy. Strange.

"So," Kenji starts, almost whispering, tripping over himself. "What do you plan on studying?"

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XX Kobayashi Akihito

Akihito has spent a good several years convincing himself that everything he saw and heard in his childhood was entirely in his head, and he believes it, because it's true. It has to be true.

But of course, life is not on his side, and the day after his meds are reduced, he has a vision.

He's in the school greenhouse, early one morning, snipping wilted blossoms off a dahlia. And all of a sudden, he's somewhere else entirely. He sees countryside whiz by, smaller houses that grow as the train passes and picks up speed. He sees people holding handrails, reflected in the window.

It takes a long moment for Akihito's brain to catch up, for his thoughts to align and make sense again, and then he's pulling out, blocking the visions before he can get lost in them.

Fuck


This has to be because of the lighter prescription. It has to be. Fuck.

Akihito takes time to breathe, tries not to panic. He refuses to think about what he saw or why or what it means; he's come too far with his therapy to regress now. He can't regress now. He can't.

The last thing he wants is for his father to make good on his threats and hospitalize him again.

Luckily, that vision is the only one, and he manages to finish deadheading the dahlia and watering the entire greenhouse by the time the warning bell rings. And, luckily, no one appears to bother him on the way to class, though there's nothing anyone can do to make him believe it'll last.

And he's right. It doesn't last. Just not quite in the way he'd expected.

The homeroom teacher walks in, and there's someone with him that no one recognizes. A transfer student. Not too strange, he thinks. But then the kid faces forward and Akihito's breath catches.


Hikaru.

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XX Cedar Peverell

Cedar, after watching his brother leave in a fancy magic carriage and his sisters leave on a fancy magic ship, had been thoroughly unimpressed by the incredibly normal train on platform 9 & 3/4.

Now that he's sitting on it, however, he sees the appeal- no seasickness or fear of heights.

He's also been fairly lucky, having found an empty compartment that isn't bracketed by noise on both sides, something he can't say for most of the compartments he'd passed to get here.

The compartment isn't empty, however, presenting Cedar with his first chance to make a friend.

"
Can I join you?" He asks the other boy, a little too casually. He can hear his mother scoffing. "I want to read before we arrive, but everywhere else is far too loud..."