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Jackson Harvelle

"The Last Jack" - Wanted: Dead or Alive for the sum of $500,000,000

0 · 351 views · located in Otanis

a character in “The Skylands of Novahlis: The Heart of Otanis”, originally authored by Savader, as played by RolePlayGateway

Description

Name: Jackson Lee Harvelle (simply goes by Jack)

Age: 25

Height: 5'11"

Weight: Approximately 180lbs

Hair: Blonde

Eyes: Blue

Occupation: Jack of all Trades

Appearance:
Jack is a tall, lean and fit young man. He has golden blonde hair and deep blue eyes, which he sometimes covers behind blue-shaded sunglasses. He has a sharp nose, and is generally always wearing a cocky smile, with a cigarette between his lips. For general attire, he tends to stick with black vests, keeping them unbuttoned to reveal the long-sleeve shirt he typically has underneath, the sleeves of which he rolls up behind the elbows when "working." Topping it off, he wears black slacks and black dress shoes. As if to match the appeal, he also wears an iconic dark red suit tie to go along with the rest of his getup. A gun holster is also equipped onto his person, around the ribcage underneath his vest.

His face is a handsome one, and his skin, while often described as fair, is actually somewhat colored thanks to his countless hours under the sun. Beneath his clothes, however, one might find a great many deal of scarring in various areas of his person, strewn all across his toned body. These were left by the wounds he had received in battle -- some more fatal than others. These scars only serve to prove just how much of a survivor Jack truly is, and only when someone sees them for themselves, can they fully understand how sturdy and relentless he can be.

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Personality: Jack is an unpredictable, formidable young man who gets his kicks by acting the fool when not in the face of what he considers to be true danger to his well-being, or an otherwise fair fight. He has a goofy sense of humor and it is reflected in his attitude while on a job. When he isn't playing the total idiot, he reverts to his usual, naturally cocky and brutal nature. It's rare he ever takes a situation seriously or maturely, the likes of which only occur when dealing with someone capable of actually capturing or killing him. He can be a bit of a hothead where things he does take serious are concerned. More often than not, you might see him complain over something small just because it irked him some.

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At the surface, Jack is all of those things and more. He can't help but be a bit of a playboy when it comes to romance (if you even want to call it that, in his particular case), and a total lone wolf in the way of teamwork. Being a Jack of all Trades does that to a person. Forming bonds and allies just doesn't bode well for his kind, as it normally always leads to betrayal or disappointment. Because of this, Jack has no family or friends he holds dear. There are certainly plenty of men and women he has met in the past in which he often enjoys the company of when he happens across them from time to time, but they are few and not so deeply important to him. Every instance of "friendship" or "teamwork" he was been involved in has always been through the accepting of various jobs throughout his career as a jack. It is the only form of cooperation he will agree to -- a deal, or arrangement, if you will. Through forming something of a contract or shared goal, he can set aside his grievances over playing with others, but always retains a watchful eye on any and all who would claim they "have his back."

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Jack is a very wicked individual when it comes to violence, where a serious challenge is concerned. While he isn't a psychopathic serial killer who gets off on taking the lives of whoever and whatever he can get away with, he is not afraid to do so if he deems it necessary to his own survival, and that is his first and foremost priority in life. That said, he doesn't enjoy taking the life of another human being, no matter how much he does enjoy the feel of combat in and of itself. He likes a good challenge, and revels in besting his foes so long as he considers them worthy of such enjoyment. Otherwise, he merely mocks any and all who would oppose him, finding it fun to toy with them as he effortlessly eludes their attempts at defeating him.

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Because of his career not allowing him to trust anyone other than his own wits and instincts, Jack naturally strays away from bonding with others. That said, it isn't solely that which governs him to do so. Due to a psychological influence based on a key detail of his past, he chooses not to allow himself to get too close to anyone else. He goes by the idea that growing attached to a single person will only one day get you killed, be it through betrayal or sentimentality and need of giving everything to the safety of that one person. Because of this, he keeps everyone he meets at arm's length, never allowing them to come any closer.

But perhaps, one day, this might change... For as hardened and emotionally closed off as Jackson is, he still harbors something vaguely resembling compassion for others in need. It's subtle, but there have been a few times where he has chosen to go out of his way in order to help someone who asked for his help without anything being promised in return. These cases were never a cause for much effort or danger to his well-being, of course, or else he would have just went on his merry way. But the fact remains, he is certainly very capable of selflessly aiding others when and where he so chooses.

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At the end of the day, Jackson Harvelle is a rather complex fellow, with only a handful of people ever having gotten to know him on a personal level -- most of which are no longer living today. But really, what you see is pretty much what you get. He is a selfish asshole who enjoys the violence and the mayhem; lives and breathes for the next big job; embraces his title as a beast, or a monster, or a dragon -- with pride; never shies away from a real challenge and doesn't give up until he gets what he wants. Women love him before they hate him, families fear him, young boys want to be him, and the government wants to destroy him. What's not to love about a violent criminal like Jack? Quite a lot, actually...

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Origin: Often called "The Dragon of the Skies" on account of how vicious he is rumored to be in battle, Jack's bounty remains the highest of all the current criminals on the bounty board all across Novahlis. This is mostly in part due to his title as the last Jack of all Trades, but he has certainly earned his fair share of hate among the clueless citizens of the world, just as well as admiration for those who take up similar craft to his own. He is regarded as a legend, and most don't believe he exists because of how illusive he truly is, and only choose to believe in the possibility of his existence on account of the bounty on his head. Even the only photo ever snapped of him doesn't fully disclose his identity; only the area below his nose and down to the hem of his trademark black vest and white dress shirt are revealed. His smirk that holds a cigarette showing his true character as a man who enjoys what he does, as his iconic dark red tie blows in the wind.

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His skills in battle are a force to be reckoned with, mostly on account of just how spontaneous he can be, but also because he knows how to effectively use the skills of his craft. And use them he does... It usually takes either the stupid or the very brave to challenge him whilst knowing full well who he is, but that is of no consequence to those who harbor a mastered set of skills in their own right, such as the more experienced bounty hunters, or government captains and admirals.

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The only being Jack has ever truly been afraid of, was the first person he had ever killed: an admiral who became aware of his training at a young age. When Jack had first set out as a jack of all trades, he was careless and stupid, resulting in the world government becoming aware of his presence and quickly acted accordingly by sending an admiral after him. Jack was thoroughly beaten and broken by the mountain of a man, who seemed to find no greater pleasure than to annihilate the boy. It was only by a stroke of sheer luck and spontaneous action that Jack had managed to turn the tables right before the end.

Ever since that fateful day, Jack has found that admirals are far more dangerous than what was once the average capabilities of a man of his trade. Now he is alone in the world, with no living jacks to compare himself to. But that, when in the face of an admiral, is worthless either way. Because of this traumatic experience, Jack now remains rather wary of the presence of any admirals. He has faced off against a captain or two before, but never again has he encountered an admiral since that fateful day, much less gone toe-to-toe with one. Every chance he's had, he fled the scene and escaped the deadly grasp of these efficient killers. And with good reason: the only thing better than a bounty hunter when it comes to tracking down and ending a jack, is an admiral...

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Beyond the tale of his beginning as a jack of all trades, Jackson's past is a complete mystery to most everyone. Only those who would have known him before those days could have any inkling as to who the man behind the reputation is or was. Even the story of how he had bested the admiral isn't entirely disclosed. All that anyone -- even the government -- knows, is that an up-and-comer had managed to take the life of a renowned admiral of the Novah Alliance, thus putting him on the map. Shortly thereafter, the same faceless, nameless man had finally been given a title and starting reputation as 'The Last Jack.' From there, his legend and notoriety grew to become its very own fable. And to this day, that is all the world is made to know...

Strengths: Being a Jack of all Trades, Jackson underwent a very serious and difficult training regimen when he was younger -- one that is now lost to the world, with the exception of Jackson, as he is the last remaining Novian who took up the craft. The training involved all manners of crazy, unorthodox and rather outrageous methods designed to take his body's capabilities to the next level, and beyond. The strengths and skills he acquired through that training and over time since then include, but are not limited to... An incredible amount of physical strength, stamina, and endurance that is borderline herculean; a high reaction time, and reflexes quicker than a cat's on a good day; and a spontaneous nature that thwarts an enemy's attempts at predicting his next move or overall battle plan; a heightened sense of sight and sound, coupled with something that can only be best described as a sixth sense -- one that he learned to use through experience in the field, which allows his instinct to guide him even when unaware of an impending attack. Because of this, it is very difficult to get the drop on him, although it can be done under the right circumstances; it is simply quite rare. Alongside these abilities, Jack also has the necessary knowledge and experience of numerous amounts of jobs and styles. This is a requirement for a true jack, and Jackson is one of the best.

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As awesome as it sounds for one to hold the knowledge and experience of dozens of different styles, it doesn't necessarily mean they are the best at everything... Because a jack spreads him or herself out across many a class, it makes reaching the peak of expertise in any one style all the more difficult to pull off. A jack's cup is filled to the brim with many different substances, creating versatility. The phrase "A jack of all trades is a master of none" comes to mind in this case. A Jack of all Trades uses this as a means to combat an enemy who has mastered the skills of a single vocation with the style of every other vocation at their disposal. A jack never has to worry about losing out in terms of pure skill against a single craft, as their strategy is not to fight fire with fire, but instead to think around the problem by making use of something their enemy isn't accustomed to.

Aside from the versatility in combat, the most practical use of their craft is that there isn't a single job they cannot perform; making them a sight for sore eyes to those who require a broad range of skills for a unique and otherwise high-risk job unfit for someone who only has the expertise of a single craft. That said, the truest motivation for a novian to take up the Trade is nothing more than the desire to survive the Skylands, and in a world such as this, knowing how to handle as many a situation as you can is an incredibly useful ability to have...

Weaknesses: Afraid of admirals as a whole. Upon coming face-to-face with one, he grows incredibly self-aware, which transitions into a higher state of caution and focus that he uses to better his chances at escape. Were he to instead turn that focus onto the admiral in the form of offense, he might be surprised at what he can accomplish. However, due to the traumatic experience he had 10 years ago when he first came into contact with one, a mortal fear over what they are widely capable of has rooted itself deep within him, making the likelihood of Jack ever taking an admiral head-on very unlikely indeed... Due to the fact that he has never developed any form of attachment towards another person, Jack has yet to find a reason to risk life and limb to fight someone as powerful as an admiral. At the end of the day, Jack has only ever had to ensure his own survival, thus being why he has always chosen to flee when one has found him. The opportunity to see what he can truly do against such an intimidating foe has naturally never presented itself, as avoiding a fight that comes with a high chance of getting you killed is only common sense. It would take someone special to get him to forsake his own safety in the face of an admiral, because if all he needs to ensure his survival is to run the other way, then why would he take a stand against the embodiment of his worst possible fear?

Aside from his biggest fear, Jack's other weaknesses include him being rather arrogant. It doesn't happen often, as he very rarely ever underestimates an enemy, but there have been a few occasions where he became too cocky during a fight, resulting in the rug being yanked out from under him. This is one of his more miniscule flaws, as he normally always keeps a calm and clear head, despite what his facades might suggest.

Finally, being a jack of all trades, Jackson's skill set allows him to perform a great many number of feats, styles and jobs. In a one-on-one fight, or in a large-scale battle between two opposing sides, this makes Jack incredibly deadly. However, were he to go up against a handful of masters -- each one different from the other, he would find himself in quite possibly the toughest challenge he's ever been in... as being a jack is just as much his biggest weakness, as it is his greatest strength... And it's a weakness he doesn't know he has.

Conclusion: Overall, Jack is very formidable across a wide array of arts, and a master of none though he may be, do not let that fool you into thinking he is spread so thin as to merit such weakness that would allow him to easily fall in a straight fight with another warrior... For you would be sorely mistaken. Jackson Harvelle makes each craft held under his belt into his own unique style that many can only label as utter mayhem. Be forewarned... To go up against a jack is to stare into the eyes of the most ferocious and deadly beast, knowing the odds of walking away unscathed -- much less alive -- are not so readily in your favor...

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So begins...

Jackson Harvelle's Story

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#, as written by Savader
Kingdom of Otanis, Docking Airspace - Early Afternoon

Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining high in the clear blue sky, while the nearby birds sang the charming song of summer, and the people of the local country were bustling in the excitement of their annual festivities. To top it all off, there was even a nice cool breeze that would occasionally roll by to sweep away the summer heat. The atmosphere surrounding the kingdom of Otanis was undeniably peaceful. The air was full of life and happiness. Truly, today held high promise of wonderful memories to be had by all throughout the kingdom... However, none were prepared for the rude awakening they would all soon receive over the next few days.

Unbeknownst to the people of Otanis, a young man with a particularly nasty reputation would be arriving at their humble country's doorstep in just a few short minutes. This man was known throughout the skylands as one of the world's most dangerous criminals of the age, and has managed to allude capture since his debut around 10 years ago. Now, however notorious his reputation might still be, the man in question has been publicly inactive over the last few years. Having chosen to take something of a hiatus, the infamous criminal has thus managed to stay below the World Government's proverbial "jackass radar." Today marks the day of his official return -- one that would eventually reach the ears of every man, woman and child across the skies. Unfortunately for the people of Otanis, the center stage of this dramatic comeback would be taking place at the heart of their very home...

And here he comes now...

Gliding along the path toward the Otanis docking station floats the Light Hawk; a small vessel piloted by a single man. That man, currently located at the bow of his ship, stands up straight with a look of determination in his eyes and a smile on his face, which was only partially obscured by the blue-tinted sunglasses resting on the bridge of his nose. Beneath the bright yellow sun, the man's blonde hair appears almost golden as it shifts in the wind blowing in from the west, along with his dark red -- almost black -- tie, and iconic getup rustling against his person. He remains upright, with his left knee bent and propped up slightly higher than his other as he holds himself steady with one hand wrapped around some of the roping off to the port side.

Now no more than a couple hundred yards out from land, the man takes in a long breath from the surrounding skies, savoring the smell of new adventure, before letting it out through his nose once more, his smile never leaving. With that, he turns away from the scenery and heads to slow his course, so as to carefully dock without crashing into a the island ahead like a total idiot.

Upon slowing to a stop in a space between two other docked ships, the captain of the Light Hawk anchors his own vessel and begins attending to the fastenings to keep the ship from floating off without him. As he goes about this routine in which all travelers must do upon reaching land, he can't help but catch the lively chatter sounding off around him. The ramblings and inner-workings of other ships and their crews can be heard all throughout the docks, showing just how popular this particular country truly was. The docking station at which every traveler's ship was currently anchored was made up of a large island full of all kinds of business, all catered towards travelers and the like. The docks were many, the scattered tools and merchandise too, and the men and women of the sky were now youthfully living up the promise of adventure they managed to acquire upon arrival to this great kingdom.

Still smiling as he finishes up his procedure, the man walks over to the starboard side of his ship, planting a foot on the rim's safeguard as he pulls out a pair of blue-tinted sunglasses, sliding them onto the bridge of his nose. His sleeves rolled up to just past the elbows and his hands now entering his pockets, he gives the immediate area a quick scan before stepping off of his ship for the first time in 3 days...

After enjoying the sensation of being reacquainted with land, the young man starts walking along the dock towards the plaza of the bustling open station, choosing to turn and look around at the other ships in the area upon finding a good spot in which to observe. He takes note of each airship and their make, as well as probable crew type. Among those, he even managed to recognize a few specific ships he had personally encountered throughout different travels in his career -- most belonging to either pirates or traveling merchants. The merchant ships were obvious to any who would look upon them, of course. However, the appearance of a docked pirate ship was less conspicuous, as the origin and nature of its crew would need to be properly concealed, should they wish to avoid attention. Giving his head a shake as he thought about this and how the peaceful people of Otanis were unknowingly harboring criminals of the state (including that of himself), he turned away from the line of ships at the docks and continued making his way toward the shopping district's connecting bridge. Along his way, he spotted a noticeboard that was standing beside an open bar that was just to the edge of the station and close to the side of the bridge leading into the markets. The nearby bar served as something of an open tavern for weary travelers who required a brief moment of relaxation before hitting the town, one of which many people were currently taking advantage of.

"Hmph..." huffed the blonde-haired man through his nose, walking up to the noticeboard. Giving it a once-over, he noticed many bounties posted atop its wood. Most were of notorious outlaws from other parts of the world, as the kingdom of Otanis typically didn't house many criminals worthy of such a large bounty. However, there were in fact a few that he had never seen before. This made his smile widen a tad out of respect for the world's ever-growing community of lowlives. After looking over most of the other posters, his eyes fell onto one rather specific poster, where they lingered for some time.

The poster was titled "High-Risk Target: The Last Jack", with a picture in the middle of what appeared to be a young man holding a cigarette between his smirking lips, dressed in scuffed-up clothes -- which happened to consist of similar style to the man viewing the poster. However, it would be hard to say that they looked alike, as the man in the picture could only be identified up to his lips; the rest of his identity having been cut out of the photo. This made the blonde-haired man's smile widen yet again as he was reminded by the picture that he could use a smoke himself. He began to pull out a pack of cigarettes, along with his silver lighter as his eyes then fell to the large number below the picture: "Wanted Dead or Alive for the Reward of $500,000,000" This only made the blonde-haired man snort out an amused huff of air as he brought a cigarette up to his lips.

"Heh, I know, right?" said a stranger beside the blonde-haired man who was also admiring the poster. "As if anyone would ever actually believe there was still a jack of all trades running amok out there..." The stranger had his hands in his pockets, similar to the person he was idly talking to, as he shook his head in disbelief. "The government has milked the threat of their kind for far too long, if you ask me. And besides, the guy calling himself 'The Last Jack'? He's been gone for a few years now, hasn't he? If they haven't found him by now, he's gotta be dead... I mean, everyone thinks so." Frowning at the poster, he turns his gaze to the blonde-haired man standing beside him for recognition, whom simply closed his eyes gently as he lit his cigarette, eventually taking a puff of smoke from its filtered end before finally opening his eyes once more.

"You don't say..." said Jack, letting the smoke out of his lungs. "Dead, huh?" After a moment, he turned his head to the man beside him, giving him a grin. "Heh... And here I was beginning to think that people just forgot about me." After this parting line, he spun on his heel and continued about his business at a leisurely pace, leaving the bystander behind to briefly question his hearing and overall sanity...

The setting changes from Otanis to Novahlis

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The setting changes from Novahlis to Otanis

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"Where is my bread loaf?" A man muttered to himself, searching in his bag. "I remember very well that I've put it here."

A young and short brunette was walking slowly, enjoying the taste of a soft fresh loaf of bread.
"Darn, I love those!" she whispered to herself in bliss before taking another big bite. The young woman was eating so fast, she was on the verge of choking at least twice. She was reminded of the surroundings when her big dark brown eyes spotted a man, seemingly devestated, loopy and lacking balance, or desire to live. He was holding a broken bottle and pointed the sharp broken part of it against his neck. Oh, how he wished for them to meet, he tried hard to make that happen, but a small hand with thin fingers was holding his wrist tightly.
"Not in the mood?" The short brown haired girl asked, tightening her grip on his arm.
"Why did you stop me? Why would you care?" the man muttered, as the alcohol scent coming from him started torturing the girl's nosdrils. "I have no friends. I have no family. All I love in life is drinking! Not water, mind you! So leave me alone!"

The man used bigger force to free his grip from the girl and succeeded. Then, his body collided with the floor, as his consciousness was no longer with him. The brown haired woman took his broken bottle from his lifeless arm.
"Well, once he wakes up will he still want to commit suicide?" she thought. Then she noticed the increasing blood puddle below his head and the sight of a rather sharp rock that most likely caused it.
"Never mind." she thought and went away. "However, his money case is heavy enough to probably win friends over with food."

"I am Wendy and I'm walking aimlessly... hmmhmm hmh mmm hmmm..." the girl was singing to herself before taking another bite from the bread. Unwittingly while walking, she was looking at a tall blonde man, as her view was sliding from his lips to his clothes and vice versa. It took her time to realize that she actually stopped in front of him, still examing him.
"Oh! Sorry!" Wendy snapped out of it. "You just seemed familliar. Nice clothes by the way." she said and kept walking.

The setting changes from Otanis to Novahlis

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#, as written by Savader
Should really follow my own words of warning better...

The setting changes from Novahlis to Otanis

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#, as written by Savader
Kingdom of Otanis, Docking Station - Early Afternoon

With his hands in his pockets and his back hunched forward slightly, Jack made his way across the connecting bridge leading to the local shopping district. Upon stepping into the narrow group of buildings that made up the island's business, he spotted a short young woman munching on a loaf of bread some few yards away as she walked toward him from the direction of some local bar. She was looking at him with expressionless fixation, which he took immediate note of without letting on that he had, merely continuing along his path until he was forced to halt before of the bread-eating girl who was now standing stock-still as her jaw muscles worked the piece of food that was currently in her mouth.

He raised both eyebrows at her for a moment, ready to ask her if she needed something, but never got the chance as she suddenly appeared to snap out of her daze on her own. After apologizing for staring and complimenting him on his sense of fashion, Jack smiled at the girl as she once again began to move her feet, passing him up and heading off down some other road.

"Nice loaf of bread..." he muttered to himself in response as watched her leave, although it didn't seem like she had heard. Jack continued smiling at her back, giving his head a slight shake in knowing that the girl obviously recognized him from his bounty, but didn't manage to piece it together in her cute little noggin. Putting the sudden interruption literally behind him as it moved further away, he too, continued on his way deeper into the market district.

Not far from where he had encountered the strange girl was a shabby little bar off to the right. Upon coming within a few feet of it, Jack stopped once again to gander at the man who was currently crumpled on the ground, laying in a pool of his own blood which clearly came from the small head wound that was barely visible through his thinning brown hair. Jack took a moment to remove his cigarette and release the smoke that was being held within his lungs as he pondered over what could have left this poor man in such a state. He'd even wondered if he was dead. After a moment, however, the man had managed a small grunt of pain as he twitched slightly before groggily going still once more; the only sign of life being his slowly rising and falling chest as he breathed somewhat peacefully. This made Jack smile a little out of amusement as he chuckled and brought his cigarette's butt back up to his lips before turning and walking through the markets once more.

It wasn't long after leaving the front of the bar that the hairs on the back of Jack's neck stood on end as he caught a whiff of trouble brewing on his six. He was unable to see who it was that was following him, however; he could distinctly tell there were a total of three pairs of feet making noise directly behind him. Without so much as a twitch in demeanor, he continued on as though nothing were amiss. The young, infamous man was taking in the nearby sights as he walked, smiling in every direction. Every now and then he would take a puff of smoke from his cigarette, but otherwise remained a simple tourist visiting the kingdom.

Still moving along as normal, Jack chose to make a turn after a small row of short buildings to the left, where he then entered a narrow alley with many stalls that were selling various items. The sun was unable to shine through to the alleyway at this time of day, and thus provided excellent cover for one's identity should too much attention ever be drawn their way. Jack would stop here and there to take a look at what the stall owners were selling, again appearing as though he were nothing more than your average tourist. He passed up each stall, until he spotted one that was selling produce, and hence decided to purchase a beautiful red, shiny apple, which he then began to juggle up into the air as he continued on.

At some point, Jack turned yet another corner, only to be surprised that it didn't actually lead anywhere. Upon staring perplexedly at the wall of this dead end, he scratched his head with his free hand and raised an eyebrow.

"Huh... Guess I should have been paying more attention to my surroundings..." he said as he took the cigarette out of his mouth, crushing the butt beneath his shoe. Shrugging off his apparent carelessness with a renewed smile, he decided to head back into town. However, as he turned around to leave, he found that his path was blocked by three drunken pirates who were looking to rob him ever since they laid eyes on his rather expensive-looking getup back in front of the bar. "Oh, are you guys lost too?" he said, sounding rather calm about their sudden appearance. "I figured this whole area was just full of shops, but I guess not... Well, at least I wasn't the only one who made that mistake, huh?" Jack gave a wry laugh as he scratched the back of his head out of embarrassment and slight apology, acting as though he really believed the three men standing before him were in the same boat as he. However, keeping up this charade of ignorance would soon prove to be rather difficult to sell, as they were sure to make it painfully obvious to anyone with half a brain that they were in fact not lost. But little did they know, the one leading their little trio wasn't so much the pirate standing at the center as it was the very man they were all trying to rob. And their target wasn't anywhere near as cornered as he first appeared...

Jack was still just standing there holding the apple in his left hand as the first pirate stepped forward, who was now brandishing a knife. However, Jack didn't seem to have noticed this, as he was a bit more preoccupied with the apple that he just now managed to accidentally drop.

"Whoops!" he said, quickly bending over to pick it up. As luck would have it, the timing between both the pirate's advances and Jack's motion to reacquire his fallen apple matched up in a very unfortunate way. Well, unfortunate for the pirate, at least...

"Oof!" grunted the pirate, having just had the wind knocked out of his lungs due to the top of Jack's head meeting his center with more force than one would think from the sheer effortless motion it seemed to be. This forced the pirate to bend over as well, just in time for the head that caused this blunder to come back up at a rather frightening speed. "Gnk!!" The back of Jack's head slammed right into the pirate's nose and forced his upper body to right itself back into a standing position; the momentum of the blow sending him stumbling backwards towards his two allies, who caught him from either side to stop him from falling over.

"Got it!" said Jack, happily. He was staring at the apple with a smile, apparently glad the fall hadn't damaged it, and was now beginning to rub it clean on his vest. "Hey, you guys want a...bite...?" Jack had began to offer them a bite of his apple when he noticed that they were all currently huddled together where they first appeared a couple of minutes ago, two of which were currently attending to the third, whose nose was clearly broken. "Whoa!" exclaimed Jack, feigning surprise at the sight the pirate was suddenly in.

"Y-You're gonna pay for that, you son of a bitch!!" shouted one of the other pirates, staring vengefully at Jack. However, Jack continued on with his charade.

"Huh?! Who!?" rambled Jack, confused and appearing rather frightened as he looked left and right, until he fully turned around to face the wall behind him, effectively leaving his back open to the pirates. "Is there an assassin after us or somethin'?! I've heard of them before-- how they can strike from the shadows without leaving a single trace of their position...!" Jack continued rambling on as he squinted his eyes a bit, the two blue orbs shifting from right to left behind the tinted sunglasses resting on the bridge of his nose. Playing up the scared traveler bit as he slowly backed towards the pirates, he acted as though the attack had to have come from the direction of the dead end. "W-We should stick together and try to get out of here!" he said as his eyes opened up to their regular size again.

"Wha... Are you some kind of idiot? YOU'RE THE ONE WHO--" the pirate to the left of the one with the broken nose then chose to take a swing at the back of Jack's head, which suddenly disappeared from view as he ducked down while bringing his palms together in the form of some kind of prayer.

"Aah! Please don't kill us, O' Great Master of the Shadows!" pleaded Jack in face of the wall ahead of him and the pirates. "We'll leave this domain at once!" Adding that last bit just as the pirate's arm came flying overhead, effectively missing him, Jack then spun around with his right palm wrapping around the pirate's face, slapping his right ear and shoving him toward the side with the force of his spin. "Come on! I think I bought us some time!" he shouted at them as the pirate whose face he had just slapped collided hard with the paving of the wall to the right, the momentum of the action sliding his face across the surface where it ended with the pirate crumpling to the floor and knocking over a trashcan. "What are you-- AAAH!?" Jack gave out a confused shriek as he noticed the collapsed pirate he had just tried to save now looked as though a cheese grater chose to become rather intimate with his face; the result being a mess of torn up flesh that was bleeding profusely.

"YOU BASTARD!!" shouted the only uninjured pirate left as the one with the broken nose shook him off.

"Y'er fuckin' dead, asshole..." he growled, his mouth covered in the blood that was coming from the split now occupying the middle of the bridge of his nose.

"No, guys," warned Jack, holding up his hands in protest to their threats. "We're no match for an assassin; we should run!"

"THERE IS NO ASSASSIN!!!" shouted the pirate angrily, as he jabbed the knife he was holding toward Jack's stomach. However, it wasn't Jack's stomach that was stabbed, but instead the apple in his left hand. There was a few moments' pause where Jack and the two remaining pirates just looked at the apple that was stuck with the knife, until the silence was broken with a happy chuckle from Jack.

"So you DID want a bite of my apple," laughed Jack, all previous caution toward a supposed assault from an assassin having suddenly gone out the window. "Well, here." Jack then tilted the apple upward and toward himself, managing to take the pirate's knife from him without it being removed from the apple, making the task appear easier than it should have been to do. At that point, he began slicing out a corner of the apple for his new friends with the pirate's knife.

"How did you..." began the pirate, who was staring at the knife in the apple as though such a sight couldn't possibly exist in this world. But that shock was quickly replaced with newly found anger. "Quit...FUCKING WITH ME!!"

"BAH!!" exclaimed a surprised Jack, sending both the apple and the knife flying straight up into the air as he held his hands up high. "I'm sorry! Do you not like red apples?" he asks, a look of genuine apology on his face as he knitted his brows like an innocent child would.

"GRAAAAHHH!!!" growls the pirate, lunging at Jack with both hands, having had enough of the boy's games. He manages to wrap his fingers around Jack's neck, forcing him backward a couple steps.

"Ah! Oh no!" grunted Jack, struggling to get the words out as he spotted gravity's hand forcing the apple and knife to come back down. In a mere second, the knife had managed to stick itself into the left shoulder of the pirate who was just about to start strangling Jack, which caused him to relinquish his hold out of sudden pain, making him yell as he stumbled backwards once again. The apple, meanwhile, managed to be caught by Jack. "Whew... That was a close one, huh?" he asked them nonchalantly. "We almost lost our snack."

"What the hell IS this guy!?" shrieked the other pirate out of fear of the series of unfortunate events that seemed to follow in this man's wake.

"Hm?" hummed Jack, looking back up to notice the knife in the pirate's shoulder, which made him recoil out of apparent fear once more. "Ahhh... The assassin strikes again!"

"Aagh...!" grunted the pirate, whose shoulder now had a rather ugly centerpiece sticking out of it. And it was in there rather deep, too. "This guy is REALLY beginning to piss me off!!" As he says this, he reaches for the knife in order to pull it from his flesh.

"Oh, I wouldn't do that if I were you," said Jack, calm once again. "The assassin seems to have hit a rather dangerous mark. If you take it out now, chances are you'll bleed to death..." After a pause, Jack brings the apple up to his lips, "Wouldn't want that, now would we?" and takes a bite.

"B-Boss..." stutters the only other pirate standing, a look of worry on his face. "He's right-- you need a doctor or somethin'! Besides, this guy is--"

"Shut up!" he shouts back to his lackey, cutting him off as he lets go of the blade's hilt and pushes him away. "I can fight just as well with this thing still in me!"

"Oh no," said Jack. "You really shouldn't."

"I'm gonna kill you..." said the pirate, now pulling out a pistol and pointing it at Jack.

"Wouldn't bet on it." said Jack without hesitation. The tension in the air suddenly changed drastically, and even the two idiots standing before him would be able to sense the danger they were in... Jack was no longer wearing an expression of childlike excitement and clueless innocence; he was now staring at the two of them over the rim of his sunglasses with unwavering conviction. This was the look of a man who should not be crossed, and the pirates finally felt just how cornered they had been since confronting him.

The gun in the pirate's hand had begun to shake as he started sweating profusely. He gulped down his nerves, which came back up in the form of quivering words of retreat.

"Y-Yeah... Y'er right," he said to his ally, slowly lowering the pistol before tucking it away once more. "He ain't even worth it... Let's go..." With that, his fear-filled eyes lingered on the man for a few seconds more before he finally backed away around the corner, his lackey following him closely.

"Hm..." hummed Jack after a few moments of being alone with the unconscious pirate on the ground. Squatting down in front of him, he smiles and speaks in a soft voice. "What kind of 'boss' leaves his wounded subordinate behind after being attacked by an 'assassin'?" Laughing to himself, he takes another bite of the apple and places it on top of the fallen pirate's head. With that taken care of, he stands up and pulls out another cigarette, lighting it up and taking a puff before placing his hands back into his pockets, and then makes his way back into town...

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Entertainment District, Early Afternoon

On his way towards his ultimate destination, Jack continued at a leisurely pace; stopping here and there to take in the various sights and events that were slowly being set up for the rather large and somewhat renowned event that would be taking place later that night: the annual Grand Festival of Otanis. It was certainly a rare sight for him to behold; catching a glimpse of what the locals had in store for their friends, families and significant others. But for Jack, rare foods that were exclusive to the Kingdom of Otanis and only for the duration of that very special event, he only had one goal... The castle that was waiting at the end of the kingdom, just past the northern exit of the entertainment district.

After satisfying his passing hunger with various different delicacies he'd never tried before (nor would ever likely try again after today), Jack made to put all other distractions aside as the magnificent castle finally came fully into view before him, reminding him of why he was there in the first place. The castle was less than a mile out from where he stood now, in the main road leading towards entertainment district's northern bridge, which headed into the archway that separated the island from the royal village area in front of the main castle -- just beyond the outer wall that protected the island's inhabitants from would-be villains and trespassers.

Looking around, Jack spotted an alley to his left that ran between a couple of buildings and immediately headed straight for it. He began searching for a means to reach the rooftops of the taller buildings that could be seen all throughout the district -- hopefully without drawing too much attention to himself before he wanted it, but with the excitement of the upcoming event, it was likely that no one was paying any attention to such finer details. Before long, he spotted a ladder which led to a narrow platform that ran along the side of the building. This platform had many plants and other pottery assortments sitting just outside and below the building's window, making it appear as more of a balcony without any metal railing than it did a simple oddity in the building's design; the ladder proving to have been added by the owner at a later time. In turn, the wall of this balcony-like platform had plenty of things for an adept climber to grab onto that would help them get to the rooftop without the need of an extra ladder or an additional set of stairs.

Upon mapping out his course of action from the alleyway, Jack smiled and traced his eyes along the edge of the roof before checking if the coast was clear. Without another thought, he began his ascent up the ladder, and, once atop the platform, he quickly and expertly made his way up the wall like that of a cat or a spider; reaching the top in under a minute. Once there, he checked his surroundings a final time for any rooftop activity that may have been hidden from below before moving further, and, once determining he was alone, moved across and to the other side of the roof. There was a beautiful tree planted in a nearby garden, which had the height of its branches and leaves granting the young criminal some shade as he looked toward the castle in the distance.

"Now, let's see what we're workin' with, here..." muttered Jack, pulling out a small pair of binoculars from within one of his vest's inner pockets, before sliding his blue-tinted sunglasses above his brow, and into his blonde head of hair, as he began surveying the castle's perimeter.

Starting from the west-side of the massive structure's outer wall, he took note of the obvious guards and security measures set in place outside. Two guards naturally remained at either side of every main archway leading into the castle's village, but Jack made sure to note that these particular guards were clearly of royal rank; men and women who, while still considered to be a part of the country's law enforcement, reported to the royal house first and foremost. The sudden change in quality of armor and weapons for each guard he spotted remaining stationary at the gates brought a smirk to Jack's lips as he moved his eyes onward, now checking out the patrols atop the wall.

The men and women there were also above your average city guard, but even more-so; they were an even higher rank than that of those who guarded each gate. Naturally, of course, as the ranks above were considered to be among the castle's inner defenses. Each pillar that altered the course of the wall's path had a series of cannons, snipers, and large knights that kept watch from every corner. As well as all that, for every archway leading into a section of the castle from atop, there were yet another two guards.

"Tch, these guys sure do run a tight ship, don't they..." said Jack, welcoming the challenge with a smile. Moving his binoculars further toward the right from where he started, and taking in more or less of the same security measures spotted in-between, he soon laid eyes on a rather tall, somewhat unique tower that stood a bit out of place. It was further past the outer wall and attached as part of the actual castle itself, of course, but it was such a magnificent construct that it naturally drew attention. Jack recalled catching a glimpse of it from when he was down on the ground, but he had no idea how much of a sore thumb it was until he got a view of the place from a higher elevation. Chuckling to himself, he lowered the binoculars for a moment to size the place up for reference, and even still, the tower was clearly the tallest of them all. "Huh..." huffed Jack, bringing the binoculars back up to his eyes. "I wonder what you've got hidden away up in there, Your Highness?" It was clear to him that whatever the tower was for, it wasn't for lookout. The design, and sheer height of it -- not to mention the large window near the top -- said it was for something else entirely. So, in that case... just what could the king be using it for?

Putting his curiosity for the tower aside, Jack continued his surveillance of the castle for another few minutes, making sure to keep track of each patrolling guard's route, memorizing them quickly. When he felt he had seen enough, he finally lowered the binoculars, pocketing them once more as he scowled in thought at the large castle far away. He brought a hand to his chin as he began devising a plan of infiltration, but that only lasted a few short seconds before he realized there would be no earthly way possible for him to sneak into the castle -- at least, not one that left him unnoticed. Upon coming to that realization, a smirk formed on his face once again.

"Well," he said, sliding his sunglasses back into place over the bridge of his nose. "If that's the case, then I might as well make as much noise as humanly possible." He gave the castle a nod, as if to agree with his own statement. Without further adieu, Jack looked left and right, searching for something 'loud' in which he could borrow. It was then that he took sight of the nearby single-manned firework vessels that would be used for later that night flying about the sky above and around the entertainment district. With that, his smile broadened upon now knowing what he was going to do...

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Upper Entertainment District, Rooftops - Early Afternoon

Jack made to move on to a taller building; one that the small vessels drifting by would frequently float relatively close to. It took him a good minute to reach such a spot, but once he did, it was all but a matter of time. And sure enough...

"Time to get operation "Heart of Otanis" underway!" said Jack, planting his fist in the palm of his other hand, showing his excitement for the mayhem he was about to cause as his eyes followed the small vessel carrying a large shipment of fireworks toward the rooftop he was currently standing on top of. After about 15 seconds, Jack made his move. With perfect timing, he estimated the distance and required power of the jump he would need to make in order to reach the vessel. Upon kicking off the edge of the rooftop, leaving dirt and dust in the air around the spot his feet had left, he soared through the air. Had anyone been looking up in that particular moment, they might have caught sight of a rather peculiar scene; one that only a few could justly draw accurate assumptions as to just what the hell was going on above them...

With ease, Jack managed to fly into the side of the ship, slamming his chest into the thick wood as he threw his arms down onto the deck for grip. The sound that came from his body colliding with the vessel was more than loud enough for the captain to notice he was being boarded, which he did.

"Hey!" he shouted, immediately turning around and making a beeline toward Jack. But it was too late... "The hell d'you think y'er--" the captain began to say, only to be quickly elbowed in the solar plexus, instantly winding and knocking him out cold. Jack caught the unconscious man with his shoulder, and gently rested him on the deck.

"Sorry, pal..." said Jack, the smile on his face not really showing any apology for his hostile action. "But I'm gonna have to borrow your ride for juuust a sec." Without any trouble at all, Jack now found himself with a way into the castle: straight through the wall. Of course, there was currently the matter of dealing with the only other passenger.

Taking the helm, Jack turned the ship back around, stopping a few feet above the rooftop he had just leaped from. Docking the ship in midair for a moment, he used that time to drop the poor guy whose ship he stole down onto a pile of straw. With that done, Jack gave the sleeping man a two-fingered salute and spun the wheel of the ship toward the left, changing his course and flying for the castle once more.

It wasn't long before he made it within about three or four-hundred yards from the castle's outer wall. And that was when he needed to act. It was then that he slowed his course into a steady cruise, which allowed him the time he needed to start working on altering the fireworks. 'Making the "fire" in 'em better', as he put it. It only took him around 2 minutes to finish setting everything up, and once he was done, Jack had managed to concoct himself quite an impressive and rather dangerous, albeit hopefully non-lethal, fire hazard in which he would soon be unleashing upon the castle's unwitting guard. A few extra touches, and he had every large firework cannon strapped down and aimed outward from all sides of the ship. He didn't have any specific target that he was aiming for, as this was merely meant to be a smokescreen, but he figured the general direction of a handful of guards on the west wall would be a good place to start...

"Right!" yelled Jack, clasping a hand down on his bicep as the elbow connected to it bent and brought its clenched fist up in front of his face. "Here we go!" Without hesitation, Jack lit the long fuse that was tied to a large network of them, all leading to each of the cannons. He made a toothy grin at the small flame as it now traveled rapidly toward its goal, and then looked onward as he approached the outer wall. By now, the lookouts would have surely realized that his course was aimed straight for the castle, but that's when Jack struck, proving too little too late in the guards' observation. Narrowing his eyes with a smirk, the first set of fireworks went off, firing a hail of bright light and smoke toward the line of cannons mounted on the wall ahead, making the guards stationed there yelp in utter surprise as they ducked down to avoid what they must have thought were cannonballs. "Olé!" said Jack with a quick double-clap of his hands as the booms of the fireworks went off. The distraction of fireballs raining down over the guards' heads gave Jack the time he needed to proceed to the next phase of his plan, which had him quickly heading down into the hull of the ship he was borrowing as shrieking fireworks began going off from every direction of the ship.

The guards all began to scramble. Because of their unprepared reaction to suddenly being attacked, they had lost their chance to shoot down the unknown vessel that had managed to pass straight over their heads and toward the castle itself as it continued firing explosive material not only forward, but now in every direction, creating a large amount of smoke and flare around the ship itself, which effectively masked the presence of the person who had to be on-board orchestrating the entire plot.

"Shit!!" said one guard. "It's headed straight for the castle!!" He and the rest of the frantic guards began making attempts to shoot the vessel down with their own weapons, but to no avail outside of sending wooden debris scattering all about, falling toward the ground below. It was at this time that the vessel lost some of its altitude, allowing the deck of the ship to be seen from the wall above and behind it. Jack, now beneath said deck and within the confines of the hull, chose that moment to unlatch the emergency cargo exit of the ship, which resulted in an light explosion due to the gas in each hinge disengaging, thus sending the thick, hatch made of wood and metal flipping toward the ground some odd 300 feet below. Quickly tying off the end of a rope to an anchor on the ship, Jack tested its resistance, and once satisfied, planted his feet down onto the edge of the gap left behind by the absence of the hatch.

Looking down over his shoulder, Jack was able to confirm that, judging by the layout of the ground below, he was about to collide with the west side of the castle's main wall. Smirking to himself as his blonde hair blew in the radical wind flying through the ship as it fell, he made a brief comment on hoping he got the angle and timing right. And that's when he pushed off...

Hanging onto the rope with a tight grip, Jack swung underneath the hull of the ship as it reached the wall; the collision of its bow serving as an emergency brake for the brief moment it had before being ripped apart by the impact, which sent Jack's momentum rocketing toward a large, beautifully decorated window made of thick, colorful glass. Bracing himself, Jack swung his feet straight through, planting them onto the gorgeous pane, which shattered into a million pieces as he was flung inside -- the ship now broken into a hail of wood, metal and fire as it plummeted toward the ground outside. Giving a grunt as he righted his position in midair while letting go of the rope that was now rapidly snaking its way back out the window to follow the ship it was tied to, Jack twisted and landed straight on his feet; knees slightly bent, fists clenched and back hunched forward where he remained as he felt the rumblings of his work settle into a muffled heap on the other side of the thick wall behind him. After a moment, he rose up, placed his hands on his hips and looked left and right down the hall he was in.

"Huh..." huffed Jack, furrowing an eyebrow out of thought. "Figured it would have been louder than tha--" The sound of a large explosion below his feet cut Jack off as the walls and floor shook with a heavy quake -- the sound of the fiery explosion launching skyward from the ground outside the window he had crashed through reaching his ears, giving him an idea as to what had just happened. Turning around to face the window, he saw pillars of black smoke rising from ground. "Ah... Now that's more like it!" said Jack, grinning proudly as he stared at the result of his handiwork, nodding a bit. Without another moment wasted, Jack dusted his hands off with a couple of loud claps. "Welp, nothing left to see here!" Upon saying that, Jack turned and began making his way down the hall at a leisurely pace, all the while ignoring the frantic state the castle was now in; barely noticing the cries and shouts of the men and women who were looking for the person or persons responsible for the attack, or the scurrying of servants that would pass him by from time to time -- all of which were far too busy to even notice right away that there was someone among them who didn't belong...

The setting changes from Otanis to Novahlis

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(CURSE YOU LOCATIONS TAB!)

The setting changes from Novahlis to Otanis

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Image


I'd been just turning to descend from my little lookout post, headed for the stairs leading down towards the welcoming familiarity of the library, when it happened. Suddenly, with several tremendous crashes and bangs, flashes of light of all imaginable colors lit up the walls. I covered my mouth to stifle my gasp of surprise and worry as I rushed back to the edge of the balcony, peering over the railing at the castle's stone palisade as the guards scrambled about wildly. At first, I thought some of the fireworks - which always served as the climactic finish to the day's festivities - had gone off prematurely, by accident, but a moment's contemplation told me that this couldn't have been possible. Had such a thing happened, all the blasts would have been concentrated in one place. As things stood, this was more like an artillery barrage than an innocent mishap. I could feel my heart beating faster in my chest as, unbidden, the image of a black ship cresting the outer wall flashed across my mind. No. I denied those memories, refused to believe that such a thing could happen aga-

...But as it was ought to, reality immediately proved me wrong, for gliding over the wall in the next instant came a small aircraft, trailing smoke all around it - although whether this was from the fireworks or the damage it had evidently sustained from the return fire from the walls, I couldn't have said for sure - as it began plummeting towards the main courtyard. Just a few moments later, it fell beneath the edge of the palace, and out of my sight. My eyes went wide in horror as the ground seemed to shake beneath my feet, signaling what exactly had gone on beyond my vision. The ship must have crashed into the castle itself! A moment later, a tremendous roar split the air, and a surge of flames rose upward along the wall. Although the foundation and some of the siding of the castle was made of stone, its newer sections were constructed equal parts of wood and metal. The interior of the entire west wing must have been burning by now, and that, combined with the damage the crash must have dealt, would likely cause that whole area of the palace to begin collapsing, which would in turn cut my tower off from the main corridor leading back into the heart of the palace. But worse yet, the airship had crashed near the servants' quarters, and already, I could hear screams rising up from the wreckage.

I wanted to rush out, to go inspect the damage and help save anyone I could. The loyal men and women now caught in that fire didn't deserve this. And yet, I found my legs completely unable to move, my eyes unable to draw themselves away from the flames spreading along the wall and into the garden. I couldn't avert my gaze from the carnage unfolding beneath me as countless tiny shapes rushed to and fro across the court, their shadows dancing madly in silhouette against the hellish light now engulfing the west wing. I couldn't draw myself away from the edge, because deep inside me, I knew that there could only have been one reason that the palace was once again under attack.

It was the same as that night ten years ago, the night on which my mother had been killed. They'd taken her life, but they had failed to get me. Now they were back to finish what they had started.


"It... it can't be..." I murmured, memories blurring with reality until I could have sworn that I saw the black shape of that accursed ship looming in the sky overhead, hidden just beyond the clouds of smoke rolling out over the castle walls. "Please... no... Don't come for me... Don't come back here again...! Don't hurt anybody else over me!"

Overcome by my fear, I did the only thing I could. I turned tail and ran, nearly tripping over the hem of my gown as I tumbled down the stairs into my bedroom. The passage back into the castle would be too dangerous, while dropping from the window of the sitting room and into the courtyard would only make me a target. It wouldn't be long before the guards arrived, meaning for the time being, I just had to keep from being found. The tower only had one way in and one way out, and I'd hear anyone trying to break in long before they could reach the higher floors. If I just hid a little below the top of the tower and managed to avoid notice, I could then slip out and lock whoever it was trying to attack me in. At this point, I felt utterly sure that this attack was deliberately meant to continue where the enemy had left off ten years ago, and although I didn't know who my assailants were or why they wanted me so badly, I absolutely refused to fall into or by their hands. I wouldn't give them the satisfaction of besting me as they had my mother. And so, telling myself that it was the safest plan available to me, I made my way into the rather empty ballroom near the middle level of my tower. In the corner, there was a small, elevated podium meant to house musicians or other such performers. Unbeknownst to whoever might have been searching for me, however, it also contained a small, almost unnoticeable trapdoor leading down into a little storage chamber for instruments and equipment. Pulling this door silently open, I dropped into the dark crevasse below, and then closed it immediately behind me, plunging my vision into complete blackness. As I waited there, I listened intently, hearing only the sound of my ragged breath and my own racing heart, but feeling sure that at any moment, I would hear the door beneath me swing open, and the sound of footfalls pounding up the stairs...


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With all the commotion going on down at the ground floor of the castle, the corridor that Jack was currently walking through was rather empty and void of life. The occasional maid or servant would quickly scamper past him, paying no heed to the uninvited guest that was strutting about as though he justly belonged. Jack found that somewhat amusing, although he understood how a large and fiery explosion of unknown origin could steal the attention of anyone nearby. That said, he couldn't help but laugh at how easily fooled the guards were. If they hadn't already figured it out when they couldn't spot anyone on the ship before it crashed into the side of the castle, then surely they would have realized by now that there was an intruder in the castle...

"Hah! Dumbasses..." said Jack, bellowing out his thunderous scoff in regards to the kingdom's shoddy security. Just then, however, a group of three guards came running from around the corner to prove Jack wrong -- all of whom immediately skidded to a stop, sliding past Jack upon noticing his unfamiliar face. Jack, hands still in pockets, kept walking as though he hadn't seen them. The leader of this trio of guards, however, was not so ready as to let him go unnoticed...

"Halt!" the knight shouted at Jack's back. "You, with the sunglasses; identify yourself!" After being addressed so directly, Jack had no choice but to stop in his tracks and turn around to face the knight who was clearly in charge. He turned partway to face him from the side, and raised his eyebrow at the three rather armored-up guards.

"Hmm...?" hummed Jack, giving his own chest a point with his finger, as though they might be talking to someone else. "Me?"

"Yes, you!" said the knight. "Do you see anyone else with sunglasses around?" Jack wore a look of ignorance on his face as he took a moment to look around the hall, searching for whether or not there may in fact be another person with a similar appearance. Finally, he brought his gaze back to the guards and shook his head lightly as he gave them a shrug.

"Nope, I sure don't." said Jack. The leader of the trio showed his annoyance with Jack's antics immediately, and moved toward him, halberd raised in a threatening manner, upon which the two other guards beside him chose to raise their own swords out of alert.

"You dare act a fool before a knight of Otanis?!" shouted the proud knight, resting the tip of his halberd's blade just under Jack's chin. "I order you to identify yourself!"

"Ah, right, right!" said Jack, a smile forming on his face. "I'm Jack," Giving them a nod, he raised a single hand in greeting. "And who are you~?" His tone of voice was filled to the brim with sarcasm, giving off the impression that he was a total smartass.

"Jack..." said the knight, pausing for Jack to finish the line for him.

"Huh?" questioned a confused Jack, until it seemingly clicked in his brain. "Oh! No, it's just Jack." The knight gave him a confused look as he lowered his hold on the halberd for a moment, wondering what this strange man was up to.

"Blasphemy -- every man, woman and child has a first and last name. Now I order you again to give forth your own!" The knight quickly regained his demeanor and pressed the blade of his halberd up against Jack's neck, which Jack instinctively leaned back from a bit, his hands raised in way of surrender.

"Whoa... Careful with that thing! Someone might get hurt..." Jack said this with an apparent worried look on his face.

"Enough games, heathen!" growled the knight, anger clear on his face. It was obvious that this particular man was not so ready to be had by Jack's silly antics. "I'll give you one last chance to identify yourself before I remove your head from your shoulders!" Jack's expression changed from worry to calm and confident. His lowered brow and wicked grin sent a chill through the air as he spoke these next words...

"I told you already, didn't I?" he said, staring straight into the knight's eyes. "My name is Jack..."

It took the knight a moment to register what this man was implying, and immediately after the thought that it could be true had entered his mind, he decided to take no chances by quickly thrusting his halberd forward, aiming for Jack's trachea. This, having been easily anticipated by Jack, proved to be ineffective, as Jack had slid out of the way and to the side, as though his body were made of water, before taking a couple of cautionary steps backward.

"KILL THE INTRUDER!!!" shouted the knight, ordering his men to take up arms against what would likely be the most dangerous adversary they would ever come to face. Crying out with gusto, the two other guards charged forward, swords held above their heads. Jack simply gave them a smirk and took a single step toward them. The two of them were rookies at best -- their loud war cries and lack of strategy proved this, and Jack would be sure to exploit it. Both guards, having simultaneously tried to attack one target at the same pace, were easily passed by. Again, like water, Jack slid between them straight down the middle in a blur of motion as they swung their swords down. As Jack lunged forward, he managed to slither his his arms under each guard's own armpit, locking them tightly. If time could be stopped for a single instant, this picture would appear to be giving off the slight impression that the guards were dragging Jack off to jail from either side. However, given Jack's confident smirk, it was made clear that Jack was the one in control of this little grapple. As soon as he planted his forward foot down onto the marble floor, with his rear foot acting as an origin point for the following technique, the two guards were defeated...

One moment it seemed that the castle's intruder would be slain on the spot. The next, both guards were pulled off their feet and spun like a couple of rag dolls. The heels of their boots dragged across the crimson colored carpet strewn along the hall's marble flooring as Jack pivoted at the center, tearing a ring into the fabric and stirring up dust around him and the two poor saps he was swinging. When he was finished with this quick, two-step movement, both guards were let go -- the momentum of the reversal forcing them to switch places, where they immediately slammed into either wall of the corridor opposite each other. They gave out a yelp of surprise and natural pain, before sliding to the ground; their consciousness soon leaving their bodies behind.

Jack straightened his position out once again, appearing as he did before his interception of the two guards, a smile still on his face as he dusted his pants off. There was no time to dilly-dally, however, as the knight who was leading the dynamic duo was already on the move to take Jack down himself.

"RAAH!!" he cried, lunging forward with another thrust of his halberd, aiming straight for Jack's face. Jack merely bobbed his head out of the way, returning to his peculiar water-like movements displayed just previously. "DAMN YOU!!" Not giving up, the knight maintained a perfect stance as he kept a rhythm of strikes flowing forward. But this proved to be a fruitless endeavor, as Jack was effortlessly sliding out of the way of each thrust, his eyes closed and his hands in his pockets as he bobbed and weaved -- his calm smile never leaving his face. "GRAAHH!! STAY STILL, YOU LITTLE...!!" Now more than frustrated, the knight began to over-compensate his strength to try and out-maneuver Jack's speed, which ended up making matters worse for the proud man. Now panting from fatigue, the knight's actions began to slow. However, he wasn't about to give up. He was determined to land at least one strike on the son of a bitch who dared to break into the king's castle, and worse yet -- the sector where the princess resided... Wait, the princess! So that's what this was about! The knight was sure of it now, as he continued lunging after Jack, whom continued to dodge. "I KNOW WHY YOU'RE HERE, MONSTER!!" he shouted, never once letting up his advances.

"Oh, is that a fact?" mocked Jack, as he opened his eyes slowly while still dodging around.

"YOU'RE HERE FOR 'HER', AREN'T YOU!!" he shouted again, now beet red in the face and sweating profusely. "WELL I WON'T LET YOU HAVE HER, YOU HEAR?! I SWEAR IT ON MY LIFE; YOU! WILL! NOT! HAVE HER!!!" As the knight screamed this at his enemy with every thrust of his halberd, Jack's expression fell from one of amused play to something of a quizzical scowl as he took in the words of the knight.

"Hmph..." Jack sighed through his nose, now taking a large step back, breaking the focus of the knight, who had grown used to the previous distance. Eyes widened in surprise, the knight almost fell forward with the weight of his last thrust. This gave Jack an excuse to end this pathetic excuse for a fight. With yet another quick step forward, Jack turned to the side and slid down the length of the knight's halberd, stopping halfway to wrap his right arm around the dark wooden staff like a snake on a the limb of a tree. This startled the knight, who put his full weight behind him in an attempt to free the halberd by pulling it right through Jack's armpit and, hopefully, remove his opponent's arm from its body in the same instance. However, this proved to be impossible as Jack's vice-like grip over the halberd's staff left the weapon stuck in place as though it and his flesh were one. The knight struggled further and grunted as he tried to free his precious halberd, no longer even thinking about how much danger he was currently in, what with having no means to defend himself against an enemy as close as Jack was. It was then that Jack chose to bend the elbow of his arm that was still wrapped around the knight's weapon, flexing the muscles in his arm to add pressure to the technique.

"GAH!!" exclaimed the knight, surprised. In one swift motion, the knight's halberd was instantly destroyed. The sound of wood splitting filled the air as the staff handle snapped in two, the force of which sent the knight reeling backward from his previous attempt at pulling the weapon free. The bladed end of the halberd was still tucked underneath Jack's armpit, pointing out from his back. His grip now adjusted to the new length of the weapon he stole, Jack made one final lunge toward the knight, who was still recovering from the disarm. Without hesitation, Jack brought the splintered end of the halberd straight into knight's center. A hollow, metal sound rung in the hall as the knight's armor was dented into his solar plexus, knocking the air out of his lungs. "G-GUH-HUuhhhhh...!!" With the will to fight effectively knocked from his body, the proud knight slumped to his side, a tear of failure finding its way out of his eyelid as his consciousness faded into darkness.

After a moment of silence in the hall, Jack let the broken halberd fall from his clutches; the sound of wood and steel clattering against marble through the expensive carpet resounding down both ends of the hall. Not taking his eyes off the knight collapsed on the floor in front of him, Jack took out a cigarette, scowling in thought as he squinted his eyes while lighting his fresh cancer stick. Blowing out the first puff of smoke with a small "hmph", Jack smiled at the unconscious knight. However, this wasn't akin to his usual, cocky smirks, but rather one of approval. It certainly wasn't enough to overcome someone like Jack, but the knight's determination alone was something worth acknowledging. He tore his gaze from the sleeping knight and moved it towards the large broken window. Taking another puff from the filter between his lips, he turned halfway around and looked down the hall he was originally heading, and reached a brief, conflicting thought: 'which way do I not want to go?'

However, that question would be answered by someone other than Jack...

"Wha--!" sputtered a guard, who had come around the same corner as the last three.

"Hmm?" hummed Jack, turning his attention to the lone man.

"I-I-INTRUDER!!!" exclaimed the guard. He was now shaking with obvious fear. First day newbie?

"Heh," chuckled Jack, turning to face the guard fully now. "You want some to, eh? Alright, bring it on, buddy!" Jack gave the young man an inviting nod while his hands were still in his pockets. It was then, however, that the lone guard was greeted by the comforting presence of fellow guards. Four of them, to be exact. Jack laughed at this. "Hell yeah! NOW we're talkin'!" Upon saying this, Jack brought his hands out of his pockets and began cracking the knuckles of one with the palm of the other. Before he could start on the other hand, however, five more guards showed up to back up the initial five. Jack's expression lightened a bit as he saw this, but shrugged it off as nothing he hasn't dealt with before. But then ten became eighteen... And eighteen became... "........" Jack was speechless. His jaw dropped slightly, his cigarette falling between his expensive black shoes to leave a slowly forming burn mark in the more expensive red carpet beneath his feet. He couldn't take his eyes off of all thirty of the guards that seemingly came out of fucking nowhere.

"Ha... Haha...! YEAH!!" shouted the original guard, feeling brave now that there were 29 of his friends there to back him up. "How d'you like them apples?!" Jack closed his mouth as his face fell into a blank expression while he held up a finger before responding with the only thing that seemed to make any sense...

~~~
Around ten minutes later...
~~~

A few floors above and a couple of halls away from the broken window, a young maid was humming a soft tune as she swept the long rug of the corridor, appearing as though she were having a wonderfully quaint time cleaning up for someone else despite the state of commotion the rest of the castle was currently in. Unfortunately, her merry attitude was then interrupted by the sound of what she thought could only be a thousand feet heading her way. She turned just in time to see a young man with blond hair and askew blue-tinted sunglasses, dressed in rather handsome attire running for dear life as more than fifty guards were chasing after him without the slightest hint in giving up.

"AAAAHHHH!!!" shrieked Jack as he flew down the corridor like a man on fire. "DON'T YOU GUYS EVER GIVE UP!?!!" He shot straight past the pretty young maid, who followed his blur with her head, a concerned look on her face as he and his pursuers trampled down the hallway, dirtying up the rug once more, until they finally rounded a corner and disappeared from sight altogether.

"Oh my..." spoke the young maid, bringing the tips of her fingers to her chin out of surprise. "Hmm..." She hummed softly as she then turned those fingers into one places on her bottom lip as she thought for a moment, before finally speaking to herself. "I wonder what that was all about... They were heading in the direction of Princess Arianrhod's tower, too... Hmmm... Oh!" Her train of thought was then cut off once she realized she needed to redo all her previous work in that hall. "This is no time for daydreaming, Fionna! You have work to do!" she said in the third person, a worried look on her face as she hurried to get back to cleaning what she had already cleaned, voicing frantic moans and groans as she tried to make up for lost time...

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Character Portrait: Mr. Nex Character Portrait: Jackson Harvelle Character Portrait: Mister Nex Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Mr. Nex


"Gambit."

"Blasted lands!" Bull tossed his hand of cards down in frustration. Florence hung her head and Murdock eyed Mr. Nex warily. Mr. Nex began to rake the cash over to his side of the table and then begin to neatly and efficiently organize them into near perfect stacks.

Murdock had removed his hat and continued to eye the Mercenary. "How is it that you have won the last four hands in the row, yet before that, you had only one the whole hour. Now you seem like a straight up fellow, Nex..."

"Mr."

"...What?'

"My name, it's Mr. Nex. Please don't forget the Mr., it's rather important." Mr. Nex had been counting his money while speaking, only to look up at Murdock at the end of the sentence. His face placid, his eyes betraying nothing about his emotions. Murdock simply raised his hands.

"Fair enough. Mr. Nex. Back tot he matter at hand, how is it that you suddenly got so good at Gambit?"

"Yeah, you're fuck'in cheating aren't ya?" Bull added.

"He ain't been cheat'in, Bull. My peepers had been locked to his hands the second we started. Don't usually trust men who wear suits like that, but he hadn't reached down, made an itch or even a sudden movement. He clean." Florence stated, defending Mr. Nex.

Mr. Nex grabbed the deck of cards and began to shuffle with the expertise and dexterity of a professional magician, stoping half way to adjust his shirt cuffs and rolling them half up his sleeve as if to show them his innocence. He then continued to shuffle and began to deal. "It's a simple matter. I'd be happy to explain......after this hand." He said, with a shred of cheek in his voice.

Bull snorted, to no ones surprise. Florence and Murdock sighed at the same time. They all picked up their cards nd began to play.

Murdock began a conversation. "So, why do you think they're keep'in so many of us in the castle on stand by. Sure there are plenty a treasure here, but they got an ass ton of knights and the like. With the amount of pomp they walk 'round with, their training's gotta be worth a at least two licks. Gimme two." Murdock placed two cards down. Mr. Nex burned and dealt him two.

Florence seemed to mumble something. "Walk 'round with all that pomp, but they train'in ain't taught'em noth'in 'bout how treat a human being like a human being. Four" throwing down four cards, she slumped further into her chair.

"Don't mumble when ya talk girl, ain't polite, and sit up straight. Taught you better." Murdock said sternly, his parent side showing. Florence simply mumbled again and adjusted her posture in the chair. Mr. Nex burned the cards and dealt four to her.

Bull piped up at this time. "It's obvious ain't it? The girl. That princess they got up in that tower. She's gotta be....magic or something right? One."

Mr. Nex burnt it and dealt him. "Why is it that you think she's.....magic, Bull?" asked the mercenary.

Bull took the card and glanced at it, placing it among his hands. "Well, why else would the King of Otanis put so many extreme measures for her. All of us, the Knights, the walls, the tower. Shit(sheee-it), I even heard from when of 'dem maids that she don't even leave the Tower. Like ever. If she don't cry diamonds or somethin', why go through all the trouble?"

Florence seemed to give Bulls theory some thought, but Murdock and Mr. Nex stared at Bull like he was crazy. It was Nex who spoke first. "You aren't a parent, are you, Bull?"

Bull quirked an eyebrow. "Whats that got ta do with anything?"

"Because ya darn idget, thats his daughter. If a father had the power of a kingdom, you'd be damn certain he'd do everything possible to protect his daughter. I may not agree with his methods, but you can be damned sure i understand 'em." Murdock said, ending his statement by glancing over at Florence.

Florence rolled her eyes. "Pa, I ain't a little girl anymore. I got a killstreak and everything. One of these days you've got to accept that."

Murdock simply gave a heartfelt smile at her. "Ain't never gonna happen. No matter how many men you plug or how tall you get. A father is never going to see his daughter leave pigtails." His eyes grew warmer and Florence seemed to get flustered."Daddy..."

Something akin to the ghost of a smile briefly flickered across Mr. Nex's face.

"I believe to sum up, Bull, it's most likely something to do with the Queens death."Mr. Nex stated. burning three of his cards and refilling his hands. He then threw in a few high bills. "Sixty five, call."

"Call. I heard about that. What happened again?" Bull threw in his money.

"We ain't from here boy, I don't know. Someth'in probably to do with assassins. From the big WG in my opinion. See your sixty five and raise you 20." Murdock nonchalantly tosses in 20 more.

"Call, ya bluffing old codger. Ya really think the Govnt killed her? Ain't this supposed to be an independent country?"

"Call, again. Why the queen, if anything, wouldn't it make more sense to kill the King?"

"Damn, boy, I don't know why. It's just a thought." Murdock said angrily, waving the question away.

"Whadda you think, Mr. Nex?" asked Florence.

Mr. Nex called. "I think we should get on with this hand." He stated calmly. He then began to place six cards face down on the table into a circle pattern. He then flipped one over, revealing a six.

"Anyways, to get back on subject. I understand what we're protecting, but why? Why hire so many of us? What threat could so many knights not handle?" Murdock asked, removing two cards and placing them on the six, face down.

"........Jacks." Bull said with purpose, holding his cards from play. Mr. Nex snorted slightly through his nose.

"What? What's so funny about that? You don't believe they exist?" Bull said defensively.

"It is conceivable that a Jack is left out there, but I seriously doubt that that wanted poster is genuine." Upon seeing Florence held her cards, Mr. Nex flipped another card over. This time, a Queen.

"How'd ya figure that?"

"Several reasons. The bounty is far too high for any one being to possess or for the Government to realistically pay too one man. That, and the picture is far too vague and dramatic. A mysterious vest and bow tie with no face. A faceless villain to kepp the good citizens of Novahlis cowering behind the pant legs of the Admirals. I'm sure they feel a tad useless around now. The threat of a Jack keeps them relevant." Mr. Nex placed a card face down on the queen.

Murdock held his cards. "Suppose it makes sense. Never much took in anything they said."

"I can like the thought of a guy like a Jack of Trades out there. Fight'in the good fight and living free. It's kind of romantic." Florence kind of rolled on. She placed a card down on the queen next to Nex.

Murdock gave a quiet snort while Mr. Nex just gave a Hmmm.

Bull eyed them. "I'm with Florence...sort of. I don't dream about no her Jack, but that bounty could make a man for life. That much money and I could retire in fame and fortune. Mark my words, A Jack is out there and Bull is gonna catch him." He stated as jabbing a thumb at himself.

Mr. Nex just gave a pandering nod as Murdock and Florence rolled their eyes. Just as Mr. Nex flipped over the third card, the sound of fireworks and panic could be heard from the nearby walls.

"The hell is that!" said the trio at nearly the same time. They all heard guards shouting, stating that an intruder was in the castle. Not a moment later, the siren in the lounge went off, calling the Mercenaries to action. "Come one yall, lets get a move on! Lock and load!!" Murdock called as he began checking his gun. Florence, mimicking him, went right along after.

"Finally! Some action!" Bull stood from the table and charged after his companions.

Mr. Nex stood, adjusted his sleeves back to normal and threw on his coat. He was about to run out when something caught his eye. The third card he had flipped over.....was a Jack. Mr. Nex's eyes lingered on it for a moment, then headed toward the door.

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Ten Minutes Later...

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Mr. Nex had decided to forgo his suit for the sake of time and was currently running at a great apce around the castle looking for anyone suspicious. Apparently dressed in the outfit that people described as similar to the poster of the Jack. Not saying that out loud, bu the outfit they described sounded like it.

Mr. Nex was somewhat shocked to see how utterly non-plussed everyone in the castle sans knights seemed to be. This was what Mr. Nex's assumption of a major breach in security, yet the staff just seemed to blissfully go about their day as if nothing was wrong. What the hell was wrong with these people?

Mr. Nex was running to a T intersection of the hallway when what sounded like an army ran past. It was a man being chased by around 50 knights. The man ran by fast, but in Mr. Nex's head, it was freeze frame. He noted the vest, the tie, the glasses, the hair.

As the knights pass he simply looked at the scene for a moment. Almost in disbelief at the utter ridiculousness of it.

Mr. Nex shook his head and began to check interception points for the intruder and himself. He marked a hallway in the distance through a window and crawled out. He then began run on the outside of the castle, looking to intercept this Jack wannabe......he hoped.

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Character Portrait: Jackson Harvelle Character Portrait: Mister Nex Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Savader
Mr. Nex made his way across the castle's rooftop edge with grace and confidence. Nothing you would see in a circus but every movement conserved energy and was made with purpose. No flourish or fanciful movements. Pure purpose.

He quickly ran across a narrow beam connecting two wings of the castle which was used to support some kind of large chandelier over a courtyard of some kind.

His gaze ever changing between the intruder to the access point, the mercenary quickened his pace as to keep in time with the gold-haired fool.

Mr. Nex leaped and landed on the edge outside a window at the bend of a hallway. Seeing it was locked, Mr. Nex carefully used the back of his knife to slip through the small space and unlock the window. He then climbed in, turned the corner, secreted his knife away and waited.

Jack's eyebrow twitched ever so slightly when he was hit with a sudden wave of awareness pointing his focus towards the end of the hall, where he spotted the tall Mr. Nex, noting his very nice-looking suit, as he stepped out from around the corner. The man appeared to be quite calm and collected, unlike the mob behind Jack, and this raised a red flag in his mind; one that told him this guy was different from the rest, and not in a way that was beneficial to him...

"Oh, God..." groaned Jack. "Not another one! Is this a CASTLE, or a House of Horrors?!" He continued sprinting down the hall, growing closer and closer to the mysterious suited man ahead, all-the-while never dropping his act.

As the distance between them lessened to a mere 50 feet, Jack made an assessment of the suited man, noting everything from his height, build, estimated weight, and demeanor, all the way down to his choice of clothes, current expression, and even his hairstyle. Jack wasn't able to reach any conclusive evidence as to who or what this guy might be, but one thing was certain: he didn't just happen across Jack while out for a simple stroll through the castle, but rather, seemed to have anticipated where he would go next and made to head him off. This told Jack the man in the suit not only had an intimidating presence, but also that he was likely very intelligent. Due to the fact that he seemed to be rather out-of-place within the halls of a castle, combined with everything else Jack was able to ascertain from his appearance and apparent battle experience, he deduced the man was likely either a mercenary or an assassin. However, an assassin usually would have chosen to hide in wait until his target had come close enough to kill from the shadows; only striking when the moment was perfect. This guy, on the other hand, chose to reveal himself to his would-be enemy without a second thought, which suggested that he was either the worst assassin in all of history, or his skill set simply didn't rely on stealth tactics worthy of labeling him as one in the first place.

Whatever the case, Jack wasn't looking to throw down with an experienced mercenary or a foolish assassin. He had better things to do, and a limited time frame in which to do them. With that in mind, and without taking his eyes off of Mr. Nex, he immediately went to using his peripherals to scan the rest of the hallway's path for means of escape, making a mental note of the long black table to the right carrying an assortment of beautiful potted plants atop its sleek wood, along with other decorated ornaments that spiced up the hallway's overall image. Aside from that, there was the more obvious path to the left, between the wall to Jack's left and Mr. Nex's right, but something told Jack this guy would easily anticipate an idiot with zero tactical experience wanting to take such a route, and therefore thought against it. Finally, there was the closed window just behind the man in front of Jack. That would serve as his portal to freedom.

Mr. Nex's face never changed as the intruder began to loudly curse his luck. As he should. It wasn't hard to underestimate him, as he was making a ruckus with a tow of around 50 guards. Though, the fact that he was so easily outpacing them without looking the least bit tired was definitely something to note. The fact that he had supposedly already defeated a few of them and didn't have a visible mark on his person meant that he was dangerous.

Though, that meant that he probably knew he was dangerous, thus overestimated his chances. Which is most likely why he was in such a situation. Would he use caution, or blind confidence? Either way, he looked at least 10 years younger than Mr. Nex, so he probably wasn't very cautious. All of his senses were telling him that he was some form of great threat, but something about him made Mr. Nex want to underestimate him. It was a perplexing thought.

He decided he would test him. He didn't want to endanger the guards, so he palmed one of his few throwing knives. Mr. Nex stepped back two paces towards the window, leaving a bigger gap for the intruder to get by and into the next hallway, baiting him. When he came a little closer, Mr. Nex let loose his throwing knife with deadly speed and precision, aiming for his right shoulder, herding him towards the bait. His body gave no indication that he was going to throw the knife until it was already loosed, but he decided to see just how the intruder would react nonetheless.

Jack followed the knife with his eyes as though time had slowed around him, and with a slight twist of his body, he moved his shoulder out of the way of its path, allowing it to just barely graze against the fabric of his black leather vest, leaving a slightly frayed scuff of faded color in the fabric.

The knife continued along its journey past its intended mark and into the shield of a guard not far behind, which ricocheted off of its metal and flipped upwards towards the ceiling where it stuck into the wood of a support frame.

"Huh?" pondered Jack aloud, putting on airs as to what it was that just shot past his head. "The hell was that...?" The answer to his question, however, would not be given, and the question itself was soon forgotten when Jack audibly voiced his notice of a gap Mr. Nex had deliberately made just for him. "THERE!" he shouted, making a lunge for said spot. This was, of course, a feint.

Placing one foot forward as if to make a break for the newly-made opening to the left, Jack allowed this foot to skid across the carpet before coming to a dead stop, creating leverage for his next motion; a juke. He suddenly sported a wide grin on his face as he kept his eyes on Mr. Nex that he was sure to notice as Jack spun around, his hair twisting with the motion as he moved his body not towards the opening so generously given forth by Mr. Nex, but towards the narrow, seemingly impossible path between him and the long black table. As he spun, however, he brought out with him his 9mm pistol, and aimed it straight at the other man's face. There was no more room for Mr. Nex to evade towards the right, as he had already moved there to open up a path for Jack to take on the left, thus meaning he would have to close that opening once again if he wanted to live, as Jack was going to pull the trigger one way or another...

The intruder should not have been underestimated. Not only was he skilled, but he had identified what the mercenary's plan was and immediately made to counter it. Now, Mr. Nex was staring down the barrel of a gun. It didn't show on any form of his person, but Mr. Nex was angry. He suppressed and channeled it into getting out of his current position and into a more advantageous one.

Mr. Nex immediately went limp and leaped back and towards the hallway to his right, his back leading and already 2 feet from the ground. He quickly palmed three knives and loosed 2 of them. Hoping to get lucky, but planning on having Jack forced against the wall. He kept the last knife as a pride saver. Of course, Jack had already begun to pull the trigger when Mr. Nex quickly made to evade the shot that was let off soon after. With Mr. Nex safely out of the way, the window behind where he had previously stood cracked outward from the bullet-sized hole that was now lodged in its pane.

Not even half a second after the gun was fired did those two hidden throwing knives fly towards Jack as he ran along the side of the long table to his right, forcing him to immediately take evasive action in the form of a dive-roll.

Unfortunately, at the angle Mr. Nex was in, he had little leverage and speed at which to effectively attack, thus a fatal wound could not be guaranteed. In actuality it likely wouldn't even slow him down. But, as he aimed for Jack's face, this knife would do the one thing Mr. Nex felt feasible at the time. It would make the intruder remember him. Just as his back hit the ground, he rolled back and stopped to witness what had been wrought.

The first two blades having been easily dodged when Jack had dove over the long table, his body slamming into and breaking several potted plants as he went, the golden-haired 'dragon' made sure to set the palm of his right hand down onto the floor at the end of the table closest to the cracked window once he cleared most of its length; his chest hovering over the edge of the sleek black wood that was now cluttered with broken pottery as the knives that would have hoped to do him in stabbed into a painting on the wall above it. He kept the momentum of his earlier dive and continued his action now in the form of a one-handed front flip. His legs were raised above the back of his head as they took the lead, sending the soles of his shoes facing the window he had previously cracked with a bullet.

But even as he pushed off, Mr. Nex's trump card was already on its way to meet its mark. Jack's brow creased seriously out of surprise when he managed to catch a glimpse of that unmistakable blur of silver hurdle towards his left eye. He gave a startled grunt as he jerked his head out of the knife's path just in the nick of time; the cold steel of its blade having only managed to break the skin of his cheek, leaving a thin mark in its place. The knife joined its sisters just to the side of the painting they were lodged in as Jack's feet planted into the window, shattering the softened tissue of its glass and allowing him to escape the hall without further injury.

Jack completed his single hand-stand vault once he had reached the wooden platform outside of the window, which served maintenance workers when on-the-job. His feet planted firmly on the rickety boards, forcing them to let out a whine that would suggest their faulty craftsmanship. Without allowing his pursuers the chance to catch up with him, he immediately shot his head to the right and spotted some roping that ran upwards toward another set of rafters, grabbed hold of its rough material, turned to the window and aimed with the gun that was moved from his left hand to his right, and fired off another shot at whoever might have stuck their head out to reacquire a line of sight on their perpetrator. Not even a second after their head had disappeared back into the hall to dodge the shot did Jack drive his right foot down onto the wood platform as hard as he could, effortlessly destroying the only way for them to follow; the broken boards of dead tree and rusty nails descending in all forms of twisted motion towards the courtyard below.

It was then that the men within the hall were forced to curse their failure and order each other around to find another way to head the intruder off. The halls were soon emptied once more, leaving only a few knives lodged in the surrounding walls and ceiling, shattered pottery, and a broken window frame to suggest what had went down...

Not long after...

Two unconscious guards were slumped together on the ground just behind the stone border that was raised a couple feet above the rooftop floor, and just past them atop that border, was the man who had left them in such a sorry state.

"Man..." complained Jack as he sat up on the roof of one wing of the castle, his legs draped over the side as the wind gently rustled against his hair and clothing every few seconds, his sunglasses resting on his right thigh. "What a pain that was." He picked the remaining shards of glass out of his hair and clothes, letting each one fall towards the ground far below his hovering feet. After his person was effectively cleaned of all the uncomfortable materials left over from his daring escape, he paused as he brought a thumb up to the scratch on his cheek and wiped. "Hm..." he hummed, inspecting the smallest traces of dried blood that had coagulated in response to the tiny open wound given to him by the man in the suit making contact with the air. He rubbed the evidence between his thumb and forefinger, causing it to fade into dirt on his skin. Jack stared at his thumb for a few seconds afterwards, a serious look in his eye as he thought about the well-dressed mercenary he had encountered. He hadn't expected to meet someone like that in a palace. The king must have been quite worried about intruders of a certain caliber if he went to such lengths to protect its halls... But this just made Jack even more excited.

Jack's lips curved up into a smile as he continued to stare at his thumb, lost in thought. He wondered if he'd run into that man again. He hoped so. He'd hoped to pay him back in full, if nothing else. Closing his fist now and raising his gaze from his dirtied thumb to the far out from the kingdom, Jack let out a chuckle. The cut on his cheek was so miniscule that it would fade within a day's time, nevermind leaving a scar. It was the impression of the man who had inflicted it that would truly remain. It wasn't often that someone could injure a man like Jack, and so that alone -- miniscule or otherwise -- was enough for him to acknowledge such an existence. Encountering someone like Mr. Nex a second time could prove fatal, but the thought was still somewhat enticing all the same. It easily appealed to Jack's love for a good fight. Survival was his utmost priority in any given situation, of course, but he still couldn't help enjoying the thrill of battle.

After this short moment of respite, Jack finally stood up, slid his sunglasses back over the bridge of his nose and brushed his hand off on his pants. Mr. Nex was certainly an unexpected bit of fun, but Jack had more important things to think about right now; such as finding a way back into the castle without alerting the guards so soon after managing to throw them off his trail. He turned his back to the sky and looked around the area of the castle rooftops.

"There..." he said, his tone of voice heavy with purpose upon taking notice of the tall tower some hundred yards away. He could see the faintest glimpse of red curtain drapes flapping in the wind from around the tower, suggesting that there was an open window or balcony just out of view from where he was standing. He would be sure to make use of it.

After stepping over the guards he had knocked out and making his way towards the tower, avoiding any other patrolling guards' ever-watchful eyes as he went, Jack managed to come up to the base of the tower from the roof. Even from where he stood, so high up from the ground floor, this tower continued to reach up and into the heavens. Jack placed a hand on its stone walling and looked up, letting out a whistle as his eyes traced the tower's top. Smiling and giving the stone a pat with the same hand, he moved towards the right and up a steep triangle-shaped part of the roof. He assumed there must have been some kind of chapel or library beneath him, but it didn't really matter all that much right now. Keeping his right leg bent at the knee and his left straight and to the side so as to remain leveled on the uneven footing, he brought his hand up to his brow, blocking the sun as he spied the balcony in the tower more clearly now.

"I can make that jump," he said to himself. "Royal curtains should be made of some pretty sturdy crap, right?" He shrugged with his hands upturned and his eyes closed, as if what he had just said was the most natural assumption in the world. Whatever the case actually was, Jack's mind was made up, and so he set out for the window by moving along the sharp top of the roof. He made it look as though he were walking on a tightrope, but his balance was unimaginably perfect; he might as well have been walking on even ground.

He finally stopped when there was about 50 feet left between him and the edge of the pointed roofing, leaving the tower's balcony a good 80 feet out from him, and 15 feet above. It would be a narrow leap, and an even more narrow opportunity to successfully grab the curtains flapping in the wind every so often, but he was confident that he could pull it off. Then again, Jack rarely ever thought things through before doing them; it's what made him such a scary opponent to face, after all.

The time had come. He waited for about a minute, perched up on the roof like a statue as he studied the winds and the curtains they were blowing. When he was sure he had a good idea as to when the breeze would align with the moment he leaped from the rooftop, he moved. His body was lightning as he ran across the narrow path with little effort, until he reached the utmost end and kicked off as hard as he could. The tiles of the roofing he had jumped from were destroyed from the sheer pressure he had impacted upon them, sending their broken remains clattering down either side of the sloped roof. Jack was easily 15 feet above the initial starting point thanks to that powerful leap, and his expression was grand and confident as he rapidly approached the crimson drapes that were his target. But it wasn't until he reached for them that he realized just how stupid this idea truly was... You can judge the distance of two points with perfect accuracy, and even calculate just how much power you would then need to put into a jump in order to leap between them. But you cannot accurately anticipate how the occasional breeze might effect a curtain...

Jack's confident expression dropped into one of panic as his fingers grazed the curtains just barely as he passed and kept on passing. He let out a surprised yelp as he plummeted towards the ground, only for it to be cut off by a grunt of pain from reflex of having the side of his stomach collide with the end of a large flagpole that was erected outward from the tower some 30 feet below the balcony window, further along the tower's large cylindrical shape. The force at which he slammed into the flagpole caused the hinges of the mechanism that both kept it rooted and allowed it to fold towards another window bent and broke, removing the one and only thing that was keeping the flag properly raised, and sending Jack swinging with it and through yet another window.

"Agh!" cried Jack as the glass shattered upon being assaulted with the back of a fully grown man and a broken flagpole, swinging both of them inside the tower's ballroom with the force of a hurricane. Jack tumbled into several things on the way, creating a ruckus that, thankfully, couldn't be heard from outside of the tower on account of being so many floors up from its entrance on the floor he escaped from earlier. Finally at the end of his blunder, he crashed into an armchair and brought it down with his momentum and added weight, effectively flipping him over so that his chest hit the floor. Groaning motionlessly for a few seconds, he eventually lifts his head to look up at the window over the toppled armchair with one eye shut tight, taking in the view of the now-destroyed window that had a flagpole partially bent around its frame; the flag dangling from its pole in tatters. "Damn..." he said in a strained voice. "I just can't seem to stop breakin' shit..." He smiled wearily at those words and let out a weak chuckle before allowing his forehead to fall back into the hardwood flooring of the ballroom.

After another moment of rest, he finally forces himself back up with a groan. He wasn't so beat up that it was difficult for him to move, mind you. He was simply feeling a tad bit annoyed with how things had turned out. As it so happened, Jack didn't really believe his plan to grab hold of those red curtains in the window of the floor above him was foolproof; he just didn't want to take the time to come up with something that was. He was aware of there being more than a single window of the tower he was now in before he had even entered the castle, as well as the addition of a fair amount of flagpoles sticking out of its wall, and thus knew he would have had a second chance if he did in fact miss the drapes. That said, he still wished it would have panned out for him. Crashing through window after window was rather uncomfortable, to say the least...

Checking over his person to make sure nothing was missing, Jack's hands stop at his face, finally realizing his sunglasses were missing. He cursed the air and began looking around at the floor for the blue-tinted babies, stepping over all kinds of junk he knocked free and broke in the wake of his entrance. His search led him to the destroyed window frame where the wind was casually blowing in to gently push the torn flag about. He stopped and soon spotted what he was looking for: his sunglasses were partially closed around the broken window frame and dangling as though they were clinging on for dear life. Jack smiled and picked his trademark sunglasses up, checking them over.

"Lucky~" he sung, happy that they were undamaged. "Alright, now..." He paused, raising an eyebrow as he turned away from the window and back to the ballroom while sliding his sunglasses back on. "Where in the hell am I...?"

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Character Portrait: Arianrhod ferch Sahalin Otanis Character Portrait: Jackson Harvelle Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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I can't remember how long I spent there, huddled in the dark chamber beneath the floor. Given the size and elevation of the stage above it, it was actually much more spacious than one might have expected. You might expect that this would be reassuring, given my current state of panic. However, as the room contained nothing save myself and a small box pushed aside into a corner, the surroundings I couldn't see began to grow in size until I felt like there might be someone else hiding in the darkness, waiting until I let my guard down to strike. Naturally, this fear was utterly baseless, but although I knew that, I still couldn't feel safe.

I took a deep breath. I'd know when and if someone was coming long before they arrived. I still hadn't been discovered, and could rely on my hiding place to conceal me for the time being. The guards would surely arrive soon, so until then, I just had to listen closely and wait for the sound of the tower door opening to signal the appearance of either a friend or a foe. Despite my misgivings, the world within the four walls around me was utterly silent.

...Until, that is, an ear-splitting crash resounded from directly above me. I instinctively cowered, covering my head as I heard the sounds of shattering glass and cracking wood. It sounded like a cannonball had crashed right into the side of my tower, but I knew from experience that wasn't the case. If the room had been hit by artillery, there'd have been a much larger impact. I'd have felt the floor shaking, and probably would be able to smell smoke and fire. Then... what had happened? I got my answer when an unfamiliar voice suddenly spoke from almost directly over my head. I covered my mouth, stifling a gasp. I couldn't make out what had been said, but given the irreverent tone of the speaker, it wasn't hard to guess that whoever was currently in the ballroom must have been the intruder. It sounded like a man, probably fairly young, but with a remarkably deep voice - usually a surefire indicator of a powerful build. Given that he'd come this far, I could only assume that he was incredibly dangerous. Trying to control the panic that had swept over me, I concentrated on nothing more than remaining utterly still, stifling even my breath so as not to be heard. The footsteps began to move away slowly, but just as I was starting to calm down, they turned right back around and passed only a few feet from the entrance to my secret chamber, then stopped.
"Alright, now... Where in the hell am I?" Spoke the voice again, this time rendered perfectly clear due to its proximity to where I lay hidden. While this did confirm my suspicions as to the intruder's hostility, it did raise a few questions. For example, why was he here, specifically, if he didn't know what purpose my tower served? Maybe he wasn't with the Black Ship after all. If he wasn't looking for me in particular, that did make things a little simpler. So long as I remained unseen and didn't become a liability in the form of a witness, this infiltrator probably wouldn't target me specifically. In that case, I'd stick to my original plan. If he would just leave, I could sneak out and get away from all this. And yet, despite my hopes, I couldn't hear any footsteps or any other sign of movement. "Please," I prayed silently within my mind. "Please just go away..."

It seemed like an eternity passed in silence. Just me, my heart racing in my chest and my breath caught in my throat as I waited in the darkness for any sign that the tresspasser hadn't located me, and the mysterious, terrifying intruder in the room above. Would he leave? Would he search the room? If he did, would he find me? I curled up in the farthest, darkest corner of the room I could find, fearing that any minute the light would shine down through the trapdoor above me and would reveal my presence to the enemy. Yet, that moment never came, as, to my relief, I could hear the sound of footsteps turning and moving away. A door opened, and those same footfalls began methodically climbing the steps to the next floor up. The air that had been denied me by my fear flooded back into my lungs, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I waited until I couldn't hear the footsteps anymore, and then I rose, dusting myself off. I crept slowly closer to where I knew the exit was, climbing up a small ladder towards the trapdoor above. There, I listened closely, trying to make sense of the noises coming from the my bedroom on the next floor up. I flushed slightly, feeling an indescribable sort of frustration at the knowledge that some uncouth ruffian was going through my private quarters. The sounds of doors opening, footsteps pacing back and forth... it seemed as though the intruder was searching for something. Renewed dread began to fill me, as I realized that the only thing he could have been looking for here was me. Was he trying to capture or kill me after all? No matter. As of yet, I hadn't been discovered, and I certainly didn't intend to be. All I had to do now was escape. I'd open the door, sneak out without a sound, get down to the sitting room, and flee into the palace. Yet, I didn't want to make my move too quickly. Hesitating, I waited to see if any new sounds would appear. It wouldn't do to flee one pursuer and run right into some tardy accomplice, after all. For a few minutes, I waited, but when no such threat appeared, I decided to chance it. So, opening the latch of the trapdoor as quietly as I could, I raised it gently over my head, pulling myself out from underneath it. Then, lowering it, I tried to bring it silently back into its place - but my hands were still shaking. As I slipped my fingers out from underneath the edge of the trapdoor, I found it slipping from my grasp, shutting itself with an echoing, hollow thud. My eyes went wide in fright as I heard the footsteps in the rooms above me abruptly halt, and then begin making their way ever closer with a purposeful gait.

My plan was ruined.

I'd been found.


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#, as written by Savader
With nothing of particular interest to Jack there in, what he could only presume was in fact, the ballroom, he made for the door towards the left of the stage he had landed on, opening it to reveal a spiral staircase leading upward that was embedded between the wall of the ballroom and the wall of the tower. His eyebrow raised slightly as he peered up the steps as they went further along and around the bend until they were out of sight, he gives the air a bit of a frown before partly closing the door behind him and starts his ascent.

Jack knew there was likely to not be anything of worth or interest to his mission there in Otanis, but he was curious as to what the room he would have originally entered had his dodgy plan not fallen through. At any rate, it was likely the top floor of the tower, and thus wouldn't hurt to check out if he was going to head downstairs from the ballroom anyway. It's not like he'd be coming back up this way again, after all.

When the young knave finally made it to the top of those steps, he found himself in front of another door. Like the one he had left downstairs, it was partly ajar, allowing a bit of light to shine through its crack between it and the frame surrounding it. Dust particles were floating here and there to better pronounce the light that was seeping into the stairway, and after eying the light a bit and giving what was visible of the room through the gap, he gently pushed the door open with his fingers. It glided almost silently as it revealed more and more of the room until it inevitably came to a stop once it met the resistance of the stopper no far along its guided trajectory.

Jack's eyes rolled around, taking in various details of the room. Already from just the way the things within it were made to work within the confines of its shape, he knew immediately he was in someone's private quarters. Taking further note of the choice in color of the paint on the walls, the large white dresser with golden embroidery, the much, much larger king-sized bed fit with impressive magenta drapes and other fastenings that were strewn between each corner's tall bedpost, which made the piece of furniture appear as though fit for a queen. His eyes moved over to the balcony beside it, smiling wryly at the crimson curtains that were rustling in the wind that was soothingly blowing in from outside. Immediately to the right of that was a long white table filled with all sorts of various objects, knick-knacks, and everyday items, including a moderately sized mirror with beautiful woven wood set around the glass as its frame, completing the set of what Jack could only presume had to be a place solely for a young maiden to put on her makeup and jewelry. Finally, from there and all the way to Jack's right beside the door he had came through, was yet another door, which he discovered, after opening it, too, was very obviously a wide dressing room that spanned in the shape of a hallway that seemed to wrap fully around the width of the tower and this bedroom, until it came to a stop partway around. It was well-lit within the large dressing room, and after deciding there was likely nothing of value to him among the countless dresses and unique outfits within, he scoffed out a wry chuckle and gave his head a half shake, turning away from the dressing room and moving to the opposite end of the white table.

To his left from there was a final door that led to a room mirroring the structure of the dressing room just to the other side; the wall at the end being the only barrier between this room and that. Jack soon moved his attention away from the bathroom there and over to a bookshelf that was pressed against the wall; a fancy-looking armchair sitting beside it. Every row of the bookshelf was filled to capacity, and there were quite a few note-worthy books from famous authors about incredibly old and daring fairytales, adventures for the brave and bold, and a fair amount of romance novels. Jack rolled his eyes at this as he randomly picked one up off the shelf and skimmed through its pages, giving out further disdain as he did. Still, no matter the taste of whoever owned this room, it was apparent that they liked to read. The books on the shelf were visibly worn in places, indicating that they were either all this person had to read, or that they were simply their favorite works. Considering how large a room this was and how it was full of all things made fit for royalty, Jack had to figure it was the latter and not the former, as a person of royalty could have just about anything they wanted -- a larger selection of books naturally being the least of their troubles.

He put the book back where it belonged and, giving one final glance around the room after exploring all it had to offer his intrigue, Jack set his eyes on the one thing in which he hadn't investigated: the balcony. He walked up to its stone border, placing his hands on its warm surface, and peered out at the grounds as the drapes beside him flapped noisily whenever a breeze happened to roll by. The view from that balcony could easily grant whoever stood from it a wide range of the castle's property, and even a decent view of the rest of the kingdom to the left, out towards the south. It was then, after noticing the now-somewhat dissipating black smoke still rising up from the wreckage at the west wing of the castle's front laying out of view of the balcony, that Jack realized his entrance could have easily been witnessed from this very tower, had its inhabitant been standing right where he was at the time of his arrival...

As luck would have it, just as Jack pulled himself away from the stone of the balcony, a thick, muffled thud resounded up from within the ballroom below. This made Jack halt in his tracks, listening for any other sounds of movement. He quickly decided instead to not give whoever it might have been that made their presence known a chance at escaping and possibly alerting the guards of an intruder. As he made his way towards the door, a couple theories popped into his head: one was that the noise could easily have been something falling out of delay from his earlier entrance, as that was certainly a very possible result. Another, however, made him a little more wary, if not equally excited. And that was the proposition of the unknown source below being that of the man in the suit from before, finally having tracked Jack down. In any case, whoever or whatever it might have been that made such a noise, Jack was about to find out...