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The Weight of Soul

The Weight of Soul

0 INK

When a human being dies, their total body weight is reduced by twenty-one grams. || Group RP

8,228 readers have visited The Weight of Soul since bethelit created it.

༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ, and miraclegem are listed as curators, giving them final say over any conflict & the ability to clean up mistakes.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/the_empire_of_corpses

Introduction

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xxxC O N S T R U C T I O Nx/x C L O S E Dx/xO P E Nx/xU N A C C E P T I N Gx/xA C C E P T I N GxS A N D B O X
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        I N T R O D U C T I O N
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        人は死ぬと0.75オンス≒21グラム体重が減る。

        "Experiments have shown that when a human being dies, their total body weight is reduced by 0.75 ounces, or twenty-one grams. The weight of this spectral essence. Twenty-one grams. That is the weight of soul."

        These were the last words heard from Saniwa Jonathan Watson during his lecture on August 14, 1941. Two weeks after his appearance at the Northern Saniwa Conference, he was killed in his London home. His research, along with all his equipment, was stolen.

        In 1941, winds of change began influencing the living, the dead, and the souls occupying neither spaces. The second world war was born in the cradle of expectant anxiety; so were the taboo inventions of desperate researchers of the House of Four Winds. An international organization, the House is comprised of Saniwa -- spiritual practitioners and sovereigns of a metaphysical world.

        Watson’s thesis on "The Weight of Soul" intruded upon the very concepts of death and suffering, threatening Saniwa ideology. By claiming that vengeful spirits of the dead could be repurposed in living bodies, he inspired a callous age of enlightenment. With the best of intentions, Watson meant to ease human suffering; however, his hubris ushered in a new generation of disaster. The weaponizing of bodies, of souls, but separately--the utilitarian divide in commodifying the essence of an individual created a visceral terror within the community. The possibility of one’s own corpse being puppeted by an enemy was now a looming threat. While Watson’s thesis conceptualized the “Weight of Soul” -- it quantified the weight of fear.

        Putting aside their personal differences, the four corners of the House have decided to form an international investigation team. Elite agents from its four factions (research, spirituality, espionage, and combat) must work together to detain the transgressor and retrieve Watson's missing notes.

        But they must act quickly. The longer the research goes unaccounted, the more vulnerable the House becomes.

        The “Weight of Soul” pushes the boundary between “innovation” and “abomination,” and its advent marks the coming of a darker age. Ever escalating, the war challenges the moral and spiritual perfection of modern Saniwa society.
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D I S C O R D
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We have a Discord group! Please feel free to visit or join us here.
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i. NORTH WIND HQ - Vatican Necropolis, Italy. ii. EAST WIND HQ - Nikkō Tōshō-gū Temple Underground (Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan.) iii. WEST WIND HQ - Smithsonian Warehouse (Washington D.C., United States.) iv. SOUTH WIND HQ - Varanasi, India.


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To non-Saniwa, humans are the only people who matter; however, that could not be farther from the truth.
GHOSTS exist as ever-present, dead souls on the spectral plane and ARTIFACTS as the fusion of a living SANIWA'S soul and an object, but an unnatural fusion of science and spirituality have brought a new entity to life: the UNDEAD.



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The House of Four Winds boasts a rich legacy, born from strife but eventually united by the graceful leadership of an unwavering dynasty. Under Kazetani direction, the House formed the four great “divine pillars” that support the far-reaching organization today.


The Saniwa of the COMBAT faction perform dangerous fieldwork and guard against violent opposition, ensuring the safety of the physical and spiritual world.

ESPIONAGE agents are the House’s unblinking eye. Sporting both candid and unseen members, this faction eliminates homegrown and political insurgence.

Though the SPIRITUALITY faction is divided between traditional and contemporary practitioners, both agree on the importance of religion. More than simple rituals, they study theology in all of its facets to facilitate the Artifact and Saniwa bond.

The RESEARCH faction seeks to obtain and apply knowledge regarding the nature of incarnation and Artifacts. With funding from the House, they aim to discover all that there is about the Soul.


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Whether they came from a pedigree of exorcism or one of the Faction leaders saw potential, these Saniwa climbed the ranks of the House in their respective field. They are not to be trifled with and their Artifacts even more so.



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(SPIRITUALIST) • Most recognize Yuuki Kazetani as the stoic, enigmatic patriarch of the Kazetani: the founding family. Currently, Yuuki stands as the House’s most formidable Spiritualist with an even more intimidating support network. As the ambassador for Japan to Italy and the East Wind’s high priest, he carries many titles and the trust of every Head Priest. His avant-garde policies make him unpopular among traditionalist Saniwa, and it’s no secret that his branch clansmen mean to stage a coup; however, Yuuki’s opponents still hesitate to face him. Through impressive faction works and diplomacy, he’s inspired powerful Saniwa and legislators to take his side. More than anyone else, Yuuki controls the nexus of modern politics itself.



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(ESPIONAGE / UNSEEN) • A rich tapestry with threads from all parts of the globe has left Miyoshi Kazetani with a worldly, if not cynical view of life; his otherworldly Artifacts only add to his charmingly pretentious personality. Fresh-faced and well-groomed, his porcelain disposition belies brutal intent. Whether he reveals his true form or he stays an enigma, his exceptional control over the spiritual world make him a dangerous ally. His sly rebellion against the Kazetani, however, may prove difficult. With baroque philosophies at his breast, Miyoshi leads with a fatalistic abandon.
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(ESPIONAGE / UNSEEN) • As the ghost of the Shirotama okiya, both her Artifact's power and faction fit her moniker. Being an unseen agent, she weaves through the thralls of infiltration, stirring unrest and leeching information while Hajime keeps her hidden. Though she may be on the sidelines for this investigation she's still armed with her knowledge and the wishes of her mentor. Like the plants she studies, Mayumi can poison even the most formidable Saniwa with the touch of a finger.
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(SPIRITUALIST) • Named after the sun, Zhanqing Yang shines on two fronts: his determination and his ambition. With experience in both Japanese and Taiwanese art, Zhanqing continues his search for knowledge in both spiritual and Saniwa matters. He may be simple-minded, but his insights are far beyond his years. Through his journey, he hopes to find more about himself as well as his Artifact, Takumi's real name.
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(SPIRITUALIST) • Ut nisi nisi, tincidunt vel dolor in, posuere consectetur urna. Mauris ipsum nisl, scelerisque ac elit sit amet, dictum volutpat augue. Cras molestie, dui sed sodales mattis, odio neque volutpat arcu, sit amet rhoncus metus elit non sapien. In et sollicitudin leo. Curabitur facilisis, nisl a sodales porta, dui mi interdum eros, consectetur feugiat ipsum risus et nunc. Donec congue orci ac iaculis porta. Aenean at nisi placerat, varius nisi sed, suscipit justo.



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(COMBAT) • Unlike the other head priests, Gallant "Luck" Gandor carved himself from new money society. He came to power through affability, a devil-may-care attitude, and strong political instincts. Though his racial ignorance creates tension between himself and the West Wind’s indigenous Saniwa, he’s reached a (one-sided) partnership with his co-head priest, Resting Bull. Nevertheless, Gallant maintains overwhelming approval rate from his Wind’s Saniwa. His arms inventions garner him international acclaim, and the House financially depends on him to a wide degree. Handsome, charismatic, and ready to please--Gallant carries a likable demeanor.



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(COMBAT) • Coming from an origin of poverty and underground fighting, Claire feels out of place next to his powerful employers. Some might call him a tall bottle of ketchup and others a dirty Irishman, but most know him primarily as Luck Gandor's bodyguard. Although he now dons a better suit, internally, he feels no difference. Regardless, Claire lives another day to shoot first and ask questions later. Being assigned as Miyoshi's new escort, however, forces him to face some rather uncomfortable questions. The Kazetani heir places him in moral grays, and Claire finds his own loyalties ever-shifting.
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(ESPIONAGE / CANDID) • Ut nisi nisi, tincidunt vel dolor in, posuere consectetur urna. Mauris ipsum nisl, scelerisque ac elit sit amet, dictum volutpat augue. Cras molestie, dui sed sodales mattis, odio neque volutpat arcu, sit amet rhoncus metus elit non sapien. In et sollicitudin leo. Curabitur facilisis, nisl a sodales porta, dui mi interdum eros, consectetur feugiat ipsum risus et nunc. Donec congue orci ac iaculis porta. Aenean at nisi placerat, varius nisi sed, suscipit justo.



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(COMBAT) • A natural-born fighter with the soul of a dreamer, Lee finds something new every time he wanders onto the field. Unlike most Operation Provacateur agents, Lee carries a lightness to his personal constitution, and heartful moxie. He's an agent of adventure with a penchant for survival and a musical way of life. Although Lee carries a soothing voice, his calmness belies a staunch willingness to defend and an Artifact Skill that is equally deceptive. In thanks to his walkabout of life, Lee brings a unique sense of spirituality through land and sky.
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(RESEARCH) • A North Wind Saniwa, Jonathan Watson changed the soul science landscape with the revolutionary “Weight of Soul” thesis and Friday, his Undead companion. He theorized that one could use the souls of the living and the dead interchangeably and because of it, was killed. In life, Jonathan was known to be conversational if not slightly intense. Little else is known about him, as he led a clandestine lifestyle.



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(RESEARCH) • Ut nisi nisi, tincidunt vel dolor in, posuere consectetur urna. Mauris ipsum nisl, scelerisque ac elit sit amet, dictum volutpat augue. Cras molestie, dui sed sodales mattis, odio neque volutpat arcu, sit amet rhoncus metus elit non sapien. In et sollicitudin leo. Curabitur facilisis, nisl a sodales porta, dui mi interdum eros, consectetur feugiat ipsum risus et nunc. Donec congue orci ac iaculis porta. Aenean at nisi placerat, varius nisi sed, suscipit justo.



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(RESEARCH) • Ut nisi nisi, tincidunt vel dolor in, posuere consectetur urna. Mauris ipsum nisl, scelerisque ac elit sit amet, dictum volutpat augue. Cras molestie, dui sed sodales mattis, odio neque volutpat arcu, sit amet rhoncus metus elit non sapien. In et sollicitudin leo. Curabitur facilisis, nisl a sodales porta, dui mi interdum eros, consectetur feugiat ipsum risus et nunc. Donec congue orci ac iaculis porta. Aenean at nisi placerat, varius nisi sed, suscipit justo.



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(ESPIONAGE / CANDID) • North Wind socialite Rosalind Christie acts as the investigation team’s Candid contact. As the daughter of a renowned British novelist, Rosalind knows many well-to-do Saniwa within her region. Her keen insights and eloquent observations compliment her Artifact, Ada’s more introverted nature.



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(ESPIONAGE / CANDID) • Like the Romani from whom she drew inspiration, Hélène Köhler is a bold, vivacious soul who's complemented by a more tempered Artifact. Her blue eyes and blonde hair make her the perfect Nazi model, but her personal agenda threatens the Reich. With one hand raised towards the Führer and a knife behind her back, Hélène projects her strong character with the consequences in mind. In refusing to cede to Hitler, she rebels from within the Reich, and is fiercely devoted to her cause. Like all her weapons, the House is just a note in her song.
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(COMBAT) • When Saint Gertrude bestowed Cyril his Artifact he cared not of the reputation he gained, but of the weight Wulftrud's incarnation would carry. Excavation transformed him while the bombings over Belgium hardened his survival instincts. Despite stumbling through a rocky adolescence, Cyril surfaced as a formidable House asset, in both his spiritual and combat capabitilies. Nicknamed the "Walking Encyclopedia," he's a human lexicon with a memory as sharp as Wulftrud's claws. Although he strives to live all of history through the books he reads, his apathetic mien leaves him often on the sidelines. However, this current mission will be his call to arms.
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(ESPIONAGE / UNSEEN) • Ambition and guile come together in a designated "master of none." Amelia Renard was considered many things from drop-out to a simple waitress, but nothing encapsulates her true invisible terror. As "the woman with many masks," Amelia projects many faces to the world, most of them amicable if not meticulously groomed. She aspires to gain power above all else, and a seat at Nikolai's close counsel. After all, Samael, like all her decisions, was made to help her climb.
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(RESEARCH) • Nikolai Laforet goes by many names, but his most popular title is “The Northern Scalpel.” Sharp, severe, and calculating—he cuts through politics with precise incision. He cripples transgressors, but generously funds his Wind’s faction projects. At heart, he is a man passionate of knowledge. He hails from a noble Saniwa family of medical practitioners and thinkers, but focuses on his family's tradecraft. As the North Wind’s leading Researcher, Nikolai participates extensively within soul science; his Soul Tablets earned him great renown. He is a ghost. A surgeon. And in some ways, a king. Nikolai is a brutal phantom: felt but never seen.



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(SPIRITUALIST) • Religious devotion and literary allusion come together for a stunning tale of realism, spirituality, and finding one’s roots. Tempered by years of training, Maria Calag hits the balance between sheltered and cynical while Basilio serves as her radar and a reminder of her heritage. She may not be a fighter, but her tranquil aura and capacity to learn make her an indominable force of will. However, as Operation Provocateur's tracker, her moral limits have been irrevocably violated. Whether she survives a true child of God or agent of the House remains to be seen.

D O S S I E R / A R Cx 1



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(SPIRITUALIST) • Rani Kapoor is the child (technical adult) prodigy of the South Wind and the youngest Saniwa to become a House leader in centuries. Unlike her predecessor, she aims to protect budding Saniwa from being trained at too young of an age to prevent them from sustaining the same injuries that she did when undergoing her rigorous training. While no one knows the full details of her story, most use her as the reason why limits must be imposed on incarnation and how age plays in Spiritual growth. She maintains an air of optimism and openness, leading her to entertain ideas very easily if one can put up with her less than mature traits. At only fourteen years old, she jumped to adulthood from childhood, a childhood that consisted solely of Saniwa training. Many gaps in socialization exist which work against her when acting as a public figure. Some want an older, more experienced leader while others believe she has the right by both bloodline and power. Either way, all respect her capacity as a spiritual Saniwa.



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A U T H O R ' SxN O T E S
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We take history seriously, and will not reduce the events of World War II to a backdrop. First and foremost, we are not historical revisionists. Rather, we are dedicated storytellers balancing plot with the events of the war. The TWoS staff acknowledges the harmful, real influences created by the war, and we will address them as sensitively as possible. At times, our story mentions atrocities inflicted by both sides of the war. Certain character images will also showcase controversial flags. These decisions were made to push believability and acknowledge the events that happened under these flags rather than perpetuate the ideals behind them. If you are not comfortable with facing history, TWoS may not be for you.


T H E F T
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Please do not steal our concepts, writing, graphics, codes, etc. This whole project was created through an intense labor of love, and piggybacking on our ideas is rude, lazy, and bad form. How would you feel if something you poured your heart and soul got “borrowed” by someone else? Nobody responds well to that kind of offense! I understand we sound very strict, but we worked hard on TWoS, and we take plagiarism seriously. Please be respectful, thank you!

Also, if you see another remake of this RP by someone else, know that the GM and CO-GMs did NOT give them permission. We've worked much too long and hard to develop this piece into its current state. Any remakes or role plays in this likeness are plagiarizing our content. No one is allowed to reproduce any part of this role play, and offenders will be immediately and severely dealt with.


C R E D I T S
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The Weight of Soul (魂の重みTamashī no Omomi) is © to Bethelit [GM], ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ [CO-GM], and Miraclegem [ADVISOR]. Please do not steal my writing, code, nor edited images. All cg materials and artwork is © to the listed official series and their artist affiliates: Akaya Akashiya Ayakashi no, Joker Game, Wasurenagusa, Baccano!, The Empire of Corpses, Touken Ranbu, Ayakashi Gohan, Kekkaishi, Beyound the Boundary, Far East Canaan, ib - Instant Bullet, Urami Koi, Gunslinger Girl, Axis Powers Hetalia, No.6, Mother's Spirit, Rental Magica, GANGSTA, Fate Extra, Kuroshitsuji, Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto, and Symphonica. A majority of research was acquired via JSTOR and LAPHAM'S QUARTERLY MAGAZINE.


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        C O M M I T T M E N T
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        Check the OOC for GM announcements and post deadlines! Try to keep everyone updated in terms of the decided posting schedule. It isn't fair to anyone if you leave without so much a word, as enrolled members are all respectfully dedicated.
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        A P P L I C A T I O N
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        Applications must be done in the appropriate thread. For main plot episodes, you can apply an unlimited amount of times; however, only one character will be accepted. After acceptance you have a week to complete your profile CS. Failure to do so results in the slot being reopened. Sandbox applications can be posted anytime, even if a current arc is already running.
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        P O S T I N G
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        The posting minimum is ~300 words. At times, posting orders will be issued depending on plot requirements. Please be sensitive to your story involvement, and plan posts accordingly! Posting orders must be followed when issued; create placeholder posts if needed. Additionally, plot initiatives need to be decided upon within 72 hours (3 days) of the GM post going live.
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        Extensions of any kind must be asked for in advance. Either PM me or post in the OOC about what's up and I'll usually grant it to you.
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        IF given a special extension, please contact the GMs within 48 hours prior to your new deadline to confirm if you CAN or CANNOT make it. In worst case scenarios, plot accommodations can be made for your character. However, they do take time to craft, so contacting the GMs ASAP is crucial. If we do not hear from you, you will receive a strike.
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        D I V E R S I T Y
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        We welcome characters of different cultures, sexualities, and religions so don't be afraid to try something new as long as you research it first. As stated in the introduction, the Kazetani worked with other nations to include native religions so it's perfectly acceptable to have, for example, a Pagan Saniwa. If you aren't sure about how to approach research feel free to ask us for resources.
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        As a part of TWoS’s protocol, we screen all applicants, and reserve the right to decline service. TWoS’s plot strongly relies on OOC interaction, relationships, and good sportsmanship, so if any evidence of bad conduct surfaces, we reserve the right to refuse/withdraw character slots. We will issue warnings, strikes, and possibly dismissals on a case by case basis.
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The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 7 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
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#, as written by Alligot
Silence hung low over the table after Richter ceased to speak. For what seemed like minutes, it lingered. Amelia could feel it in her ears, each rhythmic thud, thud, thud in her temples sent waves through her vision, cutting through the silence. She didn't speak.

Your German boys have not lost their homes, Richter. If leaving is bravery, then what does that make destruction? Loss? Amelia thought, raising a glass to her lips, eyes still locked on Richter. The cool water soothed her head, somewhat - though she didn't dare touch the wine, not while she still sustained Samael's ability.

Eventually, the singer spoke. It was a blessing that Hélène was adored so - her words could dance and twirl around the two German men, wrapping them around her fingers with a fine verbal tapestry, her mere visage melting their masculine shells. Even the curt, formally practiced Kazetani was himself enamored, though that seemed to be from a previous encounter. Amelia wondered if there was something deeper under their practiced small-talk.

“And of course I’m sure we will bond greatly as roommates, Frau Austerlitz. I glad to have the chance to learn more about you and your work.”
Hélène had addressed her, and Amelia had just began to reply when she heard the clang of steel. Across the table, Kazetani had dropped his fork, becoming the victim of several curious glances, including a strange gaze from Neumann.

Something about the younger officer seemed strange. This action - this look he had developed, it seemed analytical, precise. Perhaps predatory. A slip of the Neumann mask, and perhaps a glimpse into the character motive below. It definitely didn't seem to fit the proud, condescending behavior he'd formerly maintained, where a smirk or look of disdain, accompanied by some dismissive remark might have better fit her expectations. Of course, he could just dislike the Japanese, but he really has laid into the two of them so far.

“Are you tired, Herr Kazetani?” The question was piercing. To Kazetani's credit, he played the drop off as exhaustion - which, from his maintenance of Kimura's ability, could be genuine - and seemed to spur no alarm from Richter, who politely dismissed his guest.

“Have the two of you met before? I am just curious.”
Richter continued, seeming to draw attention away from his Japanese guest, diverting it to the two 'German' women. Almost as quickly, Helene leapt upon the opportunity with her same song and dance, before turning to occupy Neumann.

In any case, Amelia had a target - it is her task to vet suspicious characters, after all, and Neumann's hostility seemed a decent starting point.

Though it wasn't him she turned to - her attention shifted towards Richter once more. "I'm afraid I haven't met Frau Köhler until today - I had previously only known her from the plays and records."

She met the older man's gaze, then glanced aside to Neumann. The man was quick to cast doubt over the two Japanese representatives, and their history. Now, she was about to cast her curiosity on his own background. "Though, the two of you must be very well acquainted, even if you're fond of all your men. What made him stand out above your other choices? What made him your Spieß?"

Amelia was careful to avoid a direct question of war. She didn't want to irritate Richter, and of the two, getting information out of the older officer would likely be easier for her. Perhaps letting the Hauptfeldwebel's common nickname slip might even warm the conversation, even if the mention brought her own recollections to surface. A nickname in the German Heer, but a code, a target, to those who had opposed Germany.

Break the spear, and the army falls.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
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KNICKERBOKER
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KNICKERBOKER
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“Hitler.”

Hitler.

H I T L E R!

Claire slammed his wine glass down with more force than intended and mutters a preemptive "my bad" as he turned his gaze away from Miyoshi. How could that rat-brain let him toast the one and only dictator of Germany? He knew how Claire felt, how America felt about that guy! In honesty he was more angry at himself for not expecting that to be the case. He was used to Miyoshi's dry if not cruel affect and this mission would be no different.

He just needed to keep himself from turning as Himmelred as his hair.

Claire lifted his glass to drink once more before gesturing to Kimura Asagi to refill his glass. Unfortunately, everyone seemed engrossed in Richter's story. To some extent, the conviction in his voice caught the redhead's own interest as he chewed on the older man's words. He understood more of them than earlier and found himself agreeing to the man's ideas. He knew little about Berliners or Bavarians (that part was all noise to him), but the idea of bravery resonated with him.

Frankly that disgusted him.

He didn't need to sympathize with these men. They weren't Saniwa and certainly weren't on the right side of the war.

Now's not a time to get balled up, Potato-Brain. He shuddered, closing his eyes.

Upon opening, he felt (or rather hears) a shift in the room. It wasn't very Kazetani of Miyoshi to commit a social faux pas and Claire had known him long enough to recognize the symptoms of soul tablet withdrawal. He hid his frown under some hard wipes of a napkin and narrowed his eyes toward the Japanese man as he deflected Neumann and Richter's questions.

“Have the two of you met before? I am just curious.”

Helene and Amelia were quick to pick up the conversation, meaning that Claire could plan his next move: slipping away.

Five minutes--no three minutes. That's a good number, he nodded.

He tapped his fingers along the edge of the table, counting down each second in his head until something resembling two minutes and a few seconds passed.

"If you don't mind, Ich muss jetzt gehen. I should turn in too," he announced as he stood, "in New York I'd be sleeping by now."


---


It only takes a few strides for Claire to be free of the dining room's atmosphere, but the sound of conversation reassures him that they are in good hands. More importantly, he ought to find Mouse's cabin. Though they hadn't gone too in depth regarding plans there weren't many places to hide on the Joffre and he doubted that the Saniwa felt like hiding in the cargo area (at the very least he hoped that no one would need to go back there). Walking down the hallway, he counted off each door until he saw Miyoshi in the distance.

"Christ Mouse," he whispered, dashing over to the Spiritualist, "how long's it been since you tabbed up?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
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CHAPTER TWO
Three Cries in the Night

TWOSTWOS
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TWOSTWOS
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Inside his carriage, Kimura Asagi quietly locks the door behind him. He discards his cigarette in a bin besides the door. He can hardly look at himself.

Instead, he looks to appraise his room.

Modest woodwork decorates the walls to give them a faux feeling of luxury. Beneath the ceiling, a wall lamp casts a pale light overhead. A copy of Das Reich has been neatly folded over his bedside table, though other accommodations had not been so meticulously prepared. Miyoshi’s suitcase arbitrarily stands in the center of the room, its corner slightly bashed. Some unseeming scratches had found their way to the suitcase’s leather hide. No doubt The Joffre’s sleeping-car attendants are careless.

Kimura Asagi frowns with a sharp twist of his mouth.

The Artifact kneels in front of the case, checking the angle of injury. He traces the nick marks with a slender finger until he finds something peculiar. A scornful sound escapes his throat, and his eyes pause a moment longer than his fingers. Three scars barely the width of his fingernail sit underneath a larger scratch mark. Although it is likely no fretful issue, he would bring this matter to his master’s attention later. Moving away from the scratch marks, he keeps his hands flat on the roof of the suitcase, his thumbs placed evenly over its fastenings.

It is then that he notices “Braun Büffel“ embedded in leather-pressed grooves. Realization dawns upon him when he remembers Miyoshi purchasing this suitcase during their trip to Kirn. Kimura Asagi doesn’t want to think about Germany, but as he stares at the luxurious hun lettering, his mind is filled with thoughts of his hosts.

Richter and Neumann were not pleasant men. The dinner conversation exhausted Kimura Asagi’s patience, and he hopes that he will not be deployed to speak with them again. The Artifact was never allowed to deliver than a few sentences at a time--for it seemed as if both German gentlemen were bursting with opinions of their own on all subjects. Kimura played his own part well, he is sure, no doubt. To the Germans, he is a polite, well meaning representative of the Imperial war machine. His master, in the meanwhile, had been outwardly preoccupying himself with women and sherry. His Saniwa spoke uncharacteristically little, and allowed Hélène and Amelia to spin their silk.

If Miyoshi was not suffering from pains of gout, he would have been far more effective. But…

Kimura stops his thoughts here. He stiffens for a moment.

The Artifact does not like thinking badly of his master, and knows that the latter would speak more idealistically about the issue.

He’ll say, “Issun saki wa yami.”

It is dark one inch ahead. Expect the unexpected.

But Kimura is tired of expecting, and he is concerned for his master. Perhaps their female companions could draw gold from the mouths of Neumann and Richter, but the Artifact is tired of dreams.

It has been seven years, in truth; seven tiring years, for Kimura Asagi.

They have taken their toll. Like his master, his own stability has been depleted through the marrow, and his soul had grown cold. But he is not here to complain.

Instead, he clicks open his master’s suitcase, and from its contents produces a small hand mirror. It must be a memento from Miyoshi’s mother. The Artifact brings the object up to his face and flips it open, allowing his illusory appearance to slip.

Hazel eyes become silver. Clipped, black hair turns Jamonsakura pink.

His ethereal appearance belies a tragic reality, and he thinks of the funeral from which he was born.

Drained, he eases the mirror down and reaches to turn off the lights. Then, he reclines on the bed, and succumbs to anxiety, the tug of Miyoshi’s soul feeling suddenly more distant.

Always there is a sense of darkness sweeping behind him, rising, gathering mass, and drowning him with its unpredictable and unsatisfiable need for human suffering.

What agonies his master endures, Kimura Asagi need not guess. What his master must feel, however. . .
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. . . .


Slipping.

Miyoshi feels as if he’s slipping. Rivulets of moisture dribble down his chin, and he is glad that Amelia and Hélène will not see him in this state. Grimacing, he tries not to let his mind wander to the pins and needles in his calves. His own shadow looms further behind him with each shambling step he takes, and he has lost control over the building bile in his throat. He doesn't fight it, and allows the blood to seep freely through the crevice of his lips. It is not like him to nurse his weaknesses; he chooses to consider honor over humiliation. He thinks of how his mother must see him now, her face noble, powdered, and perfumed. Could she be proud of him?

She could be.

Pain shudders through him again, and the world throbs. He sucks in his breath, drawing his thoughts away from his suffering. Later, he will join the other 2,500,000 souls enshrined at the Yasukuni Jinja. But for now--he must journey through earthly shadows.

Beyond the hall, he can make out the strong, hard outlines of Claire Stanfield’s body making his way towards him.

Even in the darkness, Claire is a formidable man, six feet tall, with flaming red hair as hot as Amaterasu's sun, ears a bit large for his head--and ears so keen that they could detect more than just ghostly whispers. Underneath his brutish figure, he is an intelligent fellow, though he has a mean habit of underplaying his worth through a curious combination of self-depreciation and self-doubt. Miyoshi finds him strange for an American, mostly because he never did what Miyoshi expected Americans to. Not that Claire paid much attention to what the Kazetani thought of him. Claire did as he felt best because there weren't many people as stubborn as he, and Miyoshi supposes, in that sort of way, the two of them are good for each other.

In seeing Claire, relief floods his own features. The Stanfield man carries unfailing dedication akin to his own Artifacts, and Miyoshi is glad that he is here.

"Christ Mouse," the Combat Saniwa whispers, "how long's it been since you tabbed up?"

“Too long,” Miyoshi interrupts, not allowing Claire opportunities for prattling. Without wasting a minute, he wraps his arm around Claire’s shoulder, leaning into his friend for further support. His fingernails dig into the slope of the taller man’s bicep, and an unexpected spasm spurs him to cough into Claire’s neck. Then, he looks away from the American. He finds it disheartening to be relying on Claire for a second time.

“My friend, keep me here for a bit,” he rasps, swallowing an uptake of blood and phlegm.

His next actions are completed within seconds.

If Miyoshi cannot trust his senses, he can trust the sacrifice of his ancestors. With his free hand, he rips his clan’s oni men-netsuke from underneath his coat. Carved by a master Spiritualist, the oni’s eyes are red, dead, and parched.

It had sipped the blood of the last of the Kazetani shrine maidens, given enough sacrifices to appease it. Gilded with gold inlays and jade set-in-stones, it looks like the device of an emperor--not the tool of an exorcist. The cursed object is a creation of his clansmen, but operates on the exact parameters of the primitive kotoribako. Unlike the cursed box, however, it needed only to drink the blood of four newborns and five holy women to be given a thirst for life.

Naturally, it does not need to be urged to begin its work.

From his palm, it smiles up at him with beady, dark eyes. Its jade-set eyeballs begin glowing with hunger, and it stares at the corner of Miyoshi’s mouth, where a blood clot has formed. Without skipping a beat, the Kazetani heir brings his thumb to his lip, and smears his own crour across the oni’s miserable mouth. The cursed object grins wider at this, and Miyoshi watches as his blood disappears from the surface of its tongue.

Lips widening, its ugly teeth animate into a dull, fitful chattering.

Warm.

Shifting his body, Miyoshi thrusts the netsuke forwards and scans the area around him, hoping to pick up a more excitable signal.

Warmer.

The netsuke’s chattering increases at an alarming speed.

There.

The netsuke chatters so loudly that Miyoshi is afraid it might wake sleeping passengers. He slams the netsuke’s jaw shut against his beating chest, and it becomes still once more.

Looking past Claire, he nods towards the shadow north of them.

“Rank A Poltergeist,” Miyoshi tersely says, fingers tight around his cursed heirloom. “It’s not here yet. No.” A pause. “She. She’s not here yet.” His gaze flickers to meet Claire’s.

The bile in his throat builds again, and he curses inwardly. The soul tablets would not take effect until another half an hour.

Not enough time.

“I can act as your decoy if necessary. The rest is up to you. Additionally--the passengers. We must be careful not to wake them. I trust that Gandor has given you Mary?”

He pauses at the mention of Bloody Mary, and remembers her fondness for bloodlust.

“We may need her darkness again.”

A spiritual disturbance in the air numbs Miyoshi’s soul receptors, and he is thankful for the Gandor pistol pressed to his breast. Its owner’s own warm heartbeat hums against its cold metal, and he presses himself more firmly against Claire.

Lips dry, he peers towards the northern end of the hallway, into the blockade of shadows. Where? Where is the poltergeist hiding?

For a split second, the space around Miyoshi feels as if the last molecules of oxygen had been torn from it. A shaft of moving darkness curls around the carriage walls in a tunneling, twisting motion, causing the walls of the carriage to tremble lightly at its touch. A woman’s voice begins speaking freely from all directions, though the poltergeist is careful not to manifest. Not yet.

A strong one, Miyoshi thinks between ragged breaths.

A violent odor of decay fills the air. The poltergeist marks the territory with her scent. From behind them, a silver woman emerges from a canopy of shadows. She is beautiful in a way that disturbing things are, and dons a bloodied dress showing that she had not died well. Bloodshot eyes pierce the duo from behind a veil of shining, golden hair. A cathedral-cut bone structure hints that she might have been more handsome in her lifetime, but her incendiary malevolence was something she took to her grave. The woman is the embodiment of lightless misery, for she is, in fact--

"A Revenant." Miyoshi breathes, his voice lower than a whisper.

When she opens her mouth, she speaks in a tongue that he does not know, but one word is familiar and all too striking:

Kazetani, she howls.

Then, she throws back her head to pull a blade from her throat, and Miyoshi feels a stabbing sensation ripping through his stomach.

Issun saki wa yami, he thinks.

It is dark one inch ahead.
x

. . . .


Light. So far, his journey has been filled with cheer and light.

Ernst Richter finds himself chatting amiably with the two party women, each elegant their separate ways. He had little sleep since he left Calais, and is glad to be in the company of creature comforts. Although they stated not having met previously, they are perfectly at ease beside one another.

Hélène Köhler. A girl with a voice like a bright, clear window of the sky. Her music represents the Fatherland, its people, and its glory days to come. How beautiful she is--the Aryan ideal. Eyes as blue as Rolf’s, skin as pallid as little Ilsa’s.

Home. She looks and sounds like home.

Never in his years would Richter have imagined meeting the burgeoning singer in person, but she sits before him wrapped in luxurious perfume. Unlike the wives of his comrades, there is nothing in her features that resembles false benevolence. Like Ilsa, her conversations are girlish and delightful, and her smiles come sweetly. However, her coquettish exchange with Herr Kazetani proved that she could speak as a woman.

Lively as caroling bells, she is off again before Richter can begin.

I am so honored to hear such great praise from my audience. It only motivates me more to know that I can bring such joy to such brave men.

Then you must enjoy your journey to its fullest, Frau Köhler, Richter warmly responds. It brings me great joy to know that you enjoy our compliments as well. Time allowing, you must meet my executive branch in Vienna. They would be pleased to meet your acquaintance, and winking, ...for you are a rising star, yes?

Neumann smirks into his sherry, his own eyes locked onto Hélène as well.

Frau Austerlitz’s voice reminds both men that she is also present. Her icy blue eyes hold Richter in their gaze.

"Though, the two of you must be very well acquainted, even if you're fond of all your men. What made him stand out above your other choices? What made him your Spieß?" she asks.

Frau Austerlitz is an intent observer, Richter notes to himself. She is like her companion--perhaps twenty years of age. There is a cool efficiency in the way she speaks to him, so different from the bubbly enthusiasm of the singer at her side. In contrast to Frau Köhler’s disposition, Frau Austerlitz is much more poised. More deliberate.

She is, he judges, the kind of woman who can take perfect care of herself with perfect ease.

His Spieß?” Neumann takes a drink of his sherry, chuckling. Obersturmbannführer, Frau Austerlitz’s question...

But Richter is already one step ahead.

The Nazi offices describe Neumann as “quick and decisive,” had a sharp mind and was “capable of everything.” However, Richter has grown to admire the man beyond his combat capabilities, and values his mind and spirit.

Smiling, he speaks naturally.

Ah, the Hauptfeldwebel is the pearl of our division. Neumann has a rare gift. He can understand the mentality of every tank driver, commander, and gunner. He reads their letters, too.

Paper hearts,” Neumann comments, his eyes meandering about the carriage.

He is a man who understands obsession, Richter thoughtfully remarks. He spends his time studying captured equipment to understand the fighting conditions of our enemies. He has sat in every allied tank that we have encountered, and would relive the lives of our opponents.

Whereas other men are busy celebrating the fruits of their victory, Richter continues, Neumann is already inside their tanks, wearing their equipment, and replaying their engagements. Men like this are diamonds in the Führer’s crown.

Richter manages to cast a surreptitious glance at his comrade before realizing that Neumann's attention is indeed diverted elsewhere. His eyes are now focused behind Hélène’s shoulder.

Behind her, the door opens, and a uniformed Wehrmacht officer, no older than Neumann, steps inside the carriage. The man is lean of body, and his eyes, cool, impersonable and crimson. Like a jaguar, he briefly scans the passengers, giving a courteous nod to Richter when he meets his eye, and freezes when he notices their female companions. He takes one look at Hélène and Amelia, and seems to be won over by a strange sensation of recognition and perhaps unease.

A Berliner? Richter wonders, though Neumann’s smile is no longer there.

Fancying that the other men had noticed his glance, the red-eyed man hastens to look elsewhere, and abruptly turns to leave.

Strange fellow, Richter muses.

Neumann agrees, and makes a noncommittal sound in his throat, his eyes as sharp as lies.

With a soft shrug, Richter sets his fork on his plate and reclines in his booth. He wipes his mouth with a napkin, and peers out the window.

It is late! I do hope Herr Kazetani recovers well, Richter cheerfully says.

There is some curiosity suspended in the air, but neither men choose to comment on it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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#, as written by Jedly
Cyril gaze lethargically oscillated starting from the late maiden who was the non-living embodiment of crippling depression, the scruffy old fart who was the living embodiment of crippling depression, and came to a halt at the Aussie, then continued to pan back. Rinse and repeat. All the while Wulf rested her chin on her Saniwa's rigid arm as she gradually caught up to him and began to put two and two together. This left the younger combat Saniwa adequate time to gauge how deep in shit mere happenstance had placed them. Had he not been in public, his head would have surely sagged into his palm out of anguish. Yes, he was already aware that the spirit had been screwed over by an estranged lover during her time in the world of the living. Aside from deep ravines that far surpassed the depth ordinary wrinkles, she was as much of a youthful flower as she was alive. Cyril continued to internally digest the situation, piecing together the jigsawed scenario with the powers of deduction and second rate glue.

She didn't gravitate to this section of the train car just out of a ghostly whim. Something tied to the poltergeist let her here like a bee to honey. Problem was, the honey was of an unexpected brand. He crossed himself out by default, which left the VIP and Cyril's comrade. In all honesty he had already narrowed down that the former was the honey. And he probably was in all actuality, given his current age and the fact that Lee didn't seem like the kind of guy to maintain a relationship to such a zenith, and then abruptly sever it. Yet low and behold, the maiden's vacant gaze didn't lie on the husk, but the guy blabbering about all of the shit that could kill other shit within the shit-colored outback. "...Tch. Royal empire my ass."

Wulf's cat nudged slightly, "Pardon? I don't quite fol- oh. Shit."

"Shit is right."

"Deep shit?"

"Unfortunately."

The two sighed heavily in unison, the girl's more pronounced and human than her partner's, almost void of life. Wulf's acute hearing picked up footsteps out of tune with the clashing of wheels against cold rails. She removed her chin from the fine curvature of her partner's arm to cast a sideways glance out at the aisle. What she reeled in was a subtle yet pertinent gesture from the owner of the aforementioned footsteps. The artifact gave a faint smirk in response, hushed behind it was the ignition that she had been waiting for. Maria continued down the car more steadfast than Notus. The older girl was most definitely aware of the storm she had just hailed. After she reclined into the posture her role required of her, Wulf confirmed that the blond Saniwa had also acknowledged the passing cue but gave no such sign. Instead there he was, stoically flipping through pages with cursory speed while a poltergeist with more than just a grudge and marital issues beamed at the passengers with glazed over eyes. If he had the power to do so, Cyril would undoubtedly will an air raid to cease just so he could finish a chapter. Hell, as much as it pains Wulf, that's giving her partner, the embodiment of apathy, way too much credit. Chances are he wouldn't even budge while sirens and people alike wailed as Do's rained volatile despair down from above.

And then it happened. A sensation dug and weeviled its way through Cyril's axis and atlas. His head slackened to rest against the window, his vision now fully encompassed by the Dames' tattered snow-white dress. Without pause the feeling proceeded to burrow its way through spinal marrow avoiding any pit stops between bone segments. Electrifying captured the feeling in a word.

Disconcerting also sufficed.

After it subsided, Cyril was instantly met with Wulf's weary gaze of mild perturbation. She had only gotten a whiff of the cat food, while the Saniwa received the whole box.

"C-Cyri-"She began, only to be interrupted.

"PROJEKT HITLER!"

The hairs on the back of her practically stood at attention. If the seats were slightly wide, she would have gotten on all fours, arched her backed, and hissed at the young adult with a swipe or two. Had she not contained herself, her cap would have been flung off by her ears. All the while this exchange strictly transpired within the mental connection between the two, completely unaware of the concerned or alarmed looks aimed their way. Samael was probably awkwardly twiddling his thumbs meanwhile an equally soulless looking Brit sulked in despondency under the loathing gaze of his late ex. Wulf had to get a grasp on this situation fast, lest she actually have to pull off something more than just dotingly hanging onto the Saniwa's arm.

"C-calm down love, it's just the wind~. Not like a ghost is tracing the train or anything~." She soothed the guise that was her lover as she shifted her wait onto his side.

"Talk some sense or else I'll burn your book."

Well that had Cyril, as the Reich would call it, sufficiently triggered. Before the blond could get off a retort his vision finally focused, only to be stared down by his artifact. He decided it was the more feasible route to digest the sensation from earlier and translate it. After a brief sigh the Saniwa delved into clarification, "I sensed something else," He started, "The Dames isn't our main worry, to say the least." Yet it still remained an issue that they needed to remedy. And soon, otherwise the Brit would expire in a fashion not to the Kazetani Senior's liking, as godawful as that sounded. "Yet if you don't excise the tumor, it will continue to grow at an exponential rate." Obviously a line straight out of a book and simplified. Wulf's ears twitched as she sighed, "Was rather enjoying reclining for a change. Well, c'est la vie."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
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“Mouse get back!” Claire yells, dragging his partner back.

Revenant, class A, he recites to himself, beings raised from the dead either to fight or kill.

“Someone’s got beef with you what a surprise,” he frowns as he draws his gun, “what did you do to raise Drusilla from the dead?”

He prepares to fire, but curses once he realizes how close they are to the other passengers. Instead, he pulls Miyoshi closer as Drusilla thrusts her knife forward.

“I will cut you from this world!”

Using the gun’s barrel, he barely blocks her before she forces him to clumsily jab his gun at her again.

“I’m tired of your interference Claire,” she hisses.

“I’m not going to hear that from a trigger ghost doll,” he taunts, dodging her next strike.

With each of her slices, Claire slides farther and farther back, pushing and pulling Miyoshi to follow his movement. Deliberate steps lead him closer and closer to the back of the cart, but Drusilla’s bloodlust only drives her to run faster.

Red eyes and thin lips form into a grin as she nears the dimly lit corner. She needs only wait for the overhead lamps to flicker before she closes the distance.

Crash.

Vials of holy water shatter on the ground, spraying the revenant. Steam seeps into her defenses, only burning her faster as she staggers toward the duo. Rigid and petrified, Drusilla falls to the ground mere feet from Claire and Miyoshi.

After setting down Miyoshi, he reaches for his last device: a pocket mirror. The object is plastic and metal with a bejeweled daisy carved in the center. It flicks open effortlessly before a pair of arms thrust forward, embracing her apparent keeper.

“Big brother you’re back!” she exclaims as she nuzzles into his chest.

”Y-yeah I am.” Claire smiles wryly before returning her hug.

“Mary I’m going to need you to do a special job for me,” he sighs as he nervously runs his hand through blood-stained, ethereal hair.

“But you always make me do jobs!” she whines before Claire releases her, “we never do anything fun!”

For a second, Claire considers grunting toward the revenant, but reminds himself that Mary is only a child. He calms himself further, careful to level with her without sounding too condescending.

“I...I know Mary, but I really, really need this. We’re in danger right now and Uncle Miyoshi-”he gestures over”-is.not feeling well.”

She crosses her arms and throws an accusatory glare toward Miyoshi.

“Are you doing drugs again?” she gestures for Claire to turn the compact over so she can glare at her uncle properly.

“I’m afraid so, poppet,” Miyoshi says with a handsome, gentlemanly smile.

“I’m not a poppet! I can come out any time I want!” she huffs before giving a two tugs of increasing intensity to exit the mirror.

Unfortunately, she is no poppet and merely bounces back to her compact.

“Er Mary,” Claire lifts open the compact once more, “we need your help because there is someone very, very dangerous.”

Peeking from the mirror, Mary shrieks, but Claire quickly clasps his hand over her mouth. He turns her over before smoothing out her nightgown with his free hand.

“Sh-shh! People Mary. There are people sleeping,” he whispers sharply, “we need to get rid of her without wakin’ everyone up.”

She pushes away his hand before puffing up.

“Alright let me at ‘er!” she announces, balling her hands into fists.

“No no, Mary, I just need ya’ to make a veil while I deal with this ghost outside.”

Claire sets down a pouting Mary, but not before giving her a reassuring look.

“When you get a little older I promise,” he says, facing the compact toward the hallway.

Despite her muttering about never getting aging, spiritual energy emanates from the mirror, cloaking the area in a thick white fog before it evaporates into a clear, seamless reflection of the sleeping cart. Anyone who passes by will see nothing more than a locked exit to the baggage.

“Thanks Mary, just keep the veil up ‘til I’m back okay?” Claire asks before shooting Miyoshi a look that said ”don’t you dare let her outside”

“But it’s dangerous! You might-”

“Mary,” Claire cuts in before his face steels, “stay where you are.”

He seizes Drumont as she begins thrashing and dashes toward the back door, forcing the both of them out before he feels the door shut behind him.

“The darkness is closing in, I can see now,” she rasps as she escapes from his arms.

“Careful Drusilla, you know how good I am at bumping off you ghosts,” he warns as he shoots forward.

Not to be outdone, she glides to the roof of the next cart, clutching her elbow.

Piker, he curses mentally as he climbs the ladder attached to the door behind him. The train shakes slightly as it rumbles along the tracks. He stumbles onto the roof, barely dodging the first of many strikes to his chest and stomach. For every bulb that lit the train’s journey, he had ten seconds of darkness to block or shoot her, but not let her escape. With the rest of the cart still lit, he knows the door is the only entrance left.

Drusilla might be a revenant, but the doll’s still smarter than me dead or alive, he thinks as he kicks away her knife.

“Come out Dru, you’re gonna have to go through me to ice Mouse,” Claire announces as he reaches his hand into the darkness.

Nothing.

“Clearly you don’t know me very well at all.”

She kicks him down and stabs downward, giving Claire a window to grab her bad arm and pull her down. Though she nearly falls, Drusilla catches herself on her knees and pins him by the legs. His grip remains firm, diverting her knife into the train’s roof before she reappears on top of him, knife at his throat.

“You’re right doll, two hordes of slaughs in Dublin and the only thing I know is that you’re a crazy, Catholic-hating bitch,” he chuckles before bashing her in the head with his pistol.

Instinctively, she raises her knife to block, giving Claire time to throw her body off the train.

“No, not Catholics, just you,” she replies, “leaving me to for dead to save the pastor!”

It takes only a brief moment for her to reappear behind Claire, but he detects her from sound alone.

“You wanted to throw him to the sluaghs!” he yells, firing two rounds into her heart, “do you think ‘cause he was sick he deserved to kick the bucket?”

“He was poisoning the House--still is,” she yells as she barely misses a swipe at Claire’s chest.

For each quip and retort they exchange Drumont blinks in and out of the shadows, taking advantage of the pattern Claire must run in to keep up with the railroad lights.

“You can’t have a dead man running a palace. You’ll only attract--”

“--attract vultures,” Claire finishes, watching for the revenant to apparate. “He wasn’t dead Dru! He had Ireland’s best healers helping him!”

“You couldn’t heal that kind of sickness with priests and holy water.”

Drusilla lunges forward with her knife, allowing Claire to take advantage of her momentum. Grabbing her arm, he tosses her forward before shooting her. She vanishes again, managing to graze Claire’s chest before landing on her feet.

“You didn’t even try Dru! The point of these missions is to help people--help the House,” he quiets his voice for a few moments, “I wanted to help you too.”

“Don’t you dare act righteous now when you’re protecting him of all people,” she hisses, “you know his true nature better than anyone.”

Claire winces, first in bewilderment and then in anger. More than the pain from the knife, turmoil wells in his body. He cannot refute her argument, but he cannot agree with her statements either. Miyoshi has his fair share of problems that could not be explained by physical or spiritual corruption which he is sure spurned his drug addiction. Everything beneath the Japanese male’s manicured exterior screams unsustainable and he hates Drusilla for being so frank with her words.

It would be easy, he often thinks, to drop him as a friend or a partner for issues of incompatibility or dangerousness but nothing is truly that black and white. If the House put every madman to rest, half of his superiors would be gone and Miyoshi isn’t nearly on the same level as those who became possessed by their inner demons. They called it something else, but even when the man they were protecting threatened to kill his Artifact Claire never had it in him to blame the guy.

“Yeah and he might be a pill popper, he might be a lot ‘a things but he’s still my friend,” Claire finally says as he moves forward, “I stick by them through thick and thin.”

Instead of waiting to dodge her next strike he fires a shot in the darkness, anticipating her evaporation before firing behind him and hearing a satisfying fall. Unfortunately for Drusilla, she hadn’t forgotten about the railroad’s pattern of overhead lights and left herself open to a second shot. She blinks back into the darkness, but each dash only agitates the shrapnel in her chest. Claire on the other hand, only continues to dodge and use her faltering stamina to his advantage. His empty-handed hits still make no impact, but the time between each apparition increases. Her slices turn from decisive strikes to slow motion swings until he finally grabs her by the arm and shoulder and slams her into the roof.

In one motion, he forces her knife into her chest, carving out a hole until he rips her heart out. Though bloodless, the color (what little is left) drains from Drusilla’s face as she uses her last efforts to wriggle from Claire’s grasp.

“Either you give up now or your next death won’t be as pretty as your first,” Claire pants, fully aware that this was only half the victory.

Swiveling his head, he sees her beelining for the window. Too exhausted to fully deform, she slithers toward the nearest window in a half-shadow and half-human form but Claire’s rough hands drag her across the roof. Then down the ladder, and within the entrance where they first started.

“I see we were never friends to begin with,” she surmises, her knife slipping through the rails.

“You lost me when you betrayed the House,” Claire states bluntly.

Expressionless and exhausted, he shoots the rest of his bullets into her neck until her head snaps right off from sheer force. Granted, he could use the knife, but the catharsis is too good to pass up.

“The House will fall...your friend a weak pillar,” she whispers.

Her body begins dissolving, but rather than run back the Irishman stays for the duration of her death. He whispers a few lines to put her to rest but her words weigh on his soul. During the fight he assured himself that she spoke only nonsense, but nothing keeps him from visualizing Miyoshi’s gaunt expressions. He knows he's made the right choice in both Miyoshi and back then when he abandoned her, but he hesitates to congratulate himself. Why did someone have to send a revenant for Miyoshi? For that matter, who?

He walks back inside, passing by Miyoshi to pick up Mary.

"Big Brother you're hurt!" she exclaims, touching his chest

"Oh this? It's just a...spirit wound," Claire chuckles nervously, grabbing her hand, "more importantly, did you keep everyone safe and sound?"

"You bet I did," she beams before dissolving the illusion, "I kept him safe and everything!"

"That's great, that's really great," Claire smiles before turning over to Miyoshi.

"Wait-"Mary put her hand on Claire's shoulder-"it's time for me to go back now isn't it?"

Claire smiles wryly in response to Mary's sighs of resignation.

"It's for your own safety. I can't have any passengers seeing you, finding the mirror," he states firmly, "you know what the House wanted to do with you the first time that we found you. Imagine if someone worse is on this train. Someone who wants to steal you or exorcise you!"

They have been through this conversation before, too many times for her to count but it doesn't stop her from trying anyway.

"I guess I'll see you soon," she murmurs as she sinks into the base of the compact.

Claire pockets Mary before finally sitting next to Miyoshi, too exhausted to stand. By this point, neither look to be the great, Rank A Saniwa that the mission called for and even in defeating Drusilla he feels no victory. He touches the area where Drusilla sliced him, wincing at the corruption she managed to inflict. Unlike Miyoshi he cannot heal quickly so he's hoping that the drugs will help speed up the Japanese man's healing process.

"How badly did Dru get the jump on you?" he asks, turning to face him.

________________________________________
Notes: Bethelit fed me 1-2 lines as Miyoshi and allowed me to take control of her character
I made some minor alterations to Drusilla's dialogue to fit the interpretation of her and Claire's relationship. You may do this with future ghosts you wish to fight as long as it's in character with what the ghost(s)' behavior is stated to be.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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Smiling charmingly, Hélène turns politely to Frau Austerlitz as she opened her mouth to speak.

Calculatingly Amelia asks, "Though, the two of you must be very well acquainted, even if you're fond of all your men. What made him stand out above your other choices? What made him your Spieß?" She watches as the two men shift their attention, now intent on her as if suddenly remembering she is there. She remains poised as a wolf on the hunt as Neumann passes of the question Richter, and the man is glad to boast.

Ah, the Hauptfeldwebel is the pearl of our division. Neumann has a rare gift. He can understand the mentality of every tank driver, commander, and gunner. He reads their letters, too," he says proudly, happily.

Paper hearts, Neumann comments idly, eyes roving, and Richter continues on.

He is quick to elaborate, ending ominously, Men like this are diamonds in the Führer’s crown. The sentence hangs in the air, and new information weighs on the two women silent and intent.

To Amelia, it was with only the fullest of faith and deepest of knowledge that such praise could be given by one man to another. Richter's words trampled one another in their departure, a river that did not merely flow, but gushed forth with a rare earnest quality. Usually, it takes more than a few glasses of red or sherry for these sorts of words. And from Neumann's aloof, perhaps even bashful reaction to his friend's words, perhaps this one history had the merit of truth behind it.

Perhaps.

Hélène had underestimated this man, boyish and quick to pass judgement as he seems. He throws his thoughts out like gems for the world to revel in as only a child does, but his actions had hidden to her how often precious insights had passed from his lips. He is juvenile in his ways, but it only hides how truly terrifying he can be. An important reminder then, that some monsters are not monstrous, and some idiots not ignorant.

Frau Austerlitz had began to speak when Ricther had ceased, but it seemed that the table’s attentions had shifted to Neumann - and by extension, whatever had caught his attention. Amelia’s sights drifted to a gold-plated mirror on the opposite wall, settling on the reflection of a thin man, clad in the Wehrmacht officer's decorated greys. Though - after a moment, he himself seems to be shocked at sight of their table. He averts his gaze and comes from whence he came. Hélène had twisted in her seat at Neumann’s preoccupation, and only just managed to catch a glimpse from the corner of her eye as he froze, and his eyes glinted red in the low light before he turned and disappeared again.

Strange fellow, Richter spoke.

Strange indeed, for Amelia swore she had spied a reddish tint in the strange man's eyes. Making a show of looking over her shoulder, Amelia turns to face opposing side of the room - only to see the closed door, and the other joyous and inebriated patrons. Hélène was tense now, the double confrontation reminding her of the stakes.

Quick to change the subject, Richter says, It is late! I do hope Herr Kazetani recovers well.

Recovering, Hélène turns back carefully and casts her eyes downward, surprised to see that the plate she had been eating from empty. Ah. Of course. As Amelia turns back, she quickly leans in to her, smiling again. Frau Austerlitz, it seems that we are done with our meals, if wouldn’t mind accompanying me to our quarters for the night?

Hélène’s face, girlish and eager, is betrayed by a tenseness around her eyes - the man had spooked her. Richter’s dismissal rings the silence, pressing down upon them. It is getting late, I think it would be for the best.

Hélène quickly jumps on the out, only barely holding back the desperation and discomfort she is stifling. They carefully depart, Amelia leading the way with goodnights and goodbyes. She follows, softening their exit with more of her weaponized charm.

It was wonderful to meet you both, I am so glad to have had to opportunity to talk and I eagerly await a chance to speak to you both when your busy schedules allow. In favor of the later hour however, I will have to bid you goodnight. After their replies she smiles, curtseys lightly, and turns to follow Amelia into the next car.

. . . .


Hélène deftly steps into the sleeping cart with her long skirts swishing softly as she moves to the side, Amelia quickly closing the door behind her. With no more audience, Hélène’s charming but vacuous impression falls, leaving her tense but grim. Peering around the hall, they see no one.

“That man had red eyes,” she says to the Frenchwoman, quiet and grave. Her companion remains silent, caution visible in her gaze despite the increasing fatigue laid upon her falling shoulders.

Amelia strides toward their carriage, sparing only a quick, hurried glance around the room. Seeing nothing out of place, she gestures to her associate while glimpsing into the empty hallway - to ensure the pair had not been followed. Hélène is quick to follow her into their room, efficiently closing and the locking the door, before she turns to her own things. The memory of the odd man hangs over them, deepening the silence as they sort through their luggage. Amelia takes a tad longer to unpack, fumbling with more than one strap, mind occupied and features furrowed in thought. Though once they are sure there is no surveillance, the quiet breaks.

“You’re… quite sure they’re red, yes?” Amelia questions, slipping a hand within her coat to check her pistol.

“I only saw him for a moment, but the light reflected red, no matter how dim. He was… more than strange.” Hélène shrugs into her much warmer French coat, grateful to add another layer on top of her dirndl. She quickly checks over her own Gandor pistol, before placing it in one of her many hidden pockets. “I can go look to see where he went, if you would like stay here and contact your Artifact?” After a slow, weary nod and gesture from Amelia, she quickly turns around and walks back into the hallway.

. . . .


Setting down the radio, Amelia’s thoughts turned to her artifact, and the accompanying drumming in her temples. Familiar thoughts met hers, and for several seconds, there was not an uttered word. Leaning on the camera, she allowed herself this brief respite, for with the color of her Artifact’s thoughts, she knew the answer to her own question before she even began.

Is that poltergeist dealt with?

Not yet. They're still planning on the - eh, how and when, I believe.

There was a sympathetic layer to her Artifact's words, and it seemed only amplified by her impatience and pain both. That percussive pain was beginning to grate, the incessant scratch in her head. It pounded and pounded and pounded -

Amelia. Only a few more minutes.

Of course, it was simple for a sniper to suggest patience.

Nonetheless, she began to hum as she did from time to time, beginning to unpack the radio. A small quirk - or even a trick, perhaps. He had said keeping a tune in his mind kept the frost from his hands, and the seductive allure of his dreams far from his thoughts. Perhaps it was a trick of a different sort - for she felt her artifact withdraw from her thoughts. Surely to conceal a smug attitude from providing a placebo for her issues.

Yet, that bit went here. This slid out of a concealed nook, and secured another thing here. It was impressive, how such an otherwise large and cumbersome object could be hidden so, and so simply converted. These three things - the admiration, the music, the ever-present frustration towards her artifact - they occupied the alarmingly short time she had alone before someone would fling the door open.

. . . .


The door closes loudly behind her as the empty hallway warps and fades, almost like a mist, or possibly a mirage. It was an odd experience, her vision fading away at the edges, slowly moving inward, only for her to see what she felt she had been seeing along. Hélène’s thoughts jump and scream in her head, fighting each other; her muscles twitch in fear and her heart beats like a wardrum in her ears, calling her to battle.

The tone of Herr Stanfield’s voice implies that things have deeply gone wrong.

With no time to think on his conversation, she memorizes as much as she can to examine later. Revealed in the peculiar experience, Stanfield’s back is turned to her, his body blocking whoever he is talking to.

As she takes a step towards him, he suddenly shifts and she is shocked to see Herr Kazetani on the ground, smears of blood around his mouth. The squirming feeling of panic hits her hard in the gut-almost like a sucker punch. To see such a capable Saniwa on the ground looking worse for wear, what would the rest of them come to?

No longer performing for her Nazi hosts, she runs towards them, only barely conscious of the puddle on the ground as she leaps over it. Getting even closer, her heart rate jumps yet again to see such a reputed bodyguard bleeding as well. Aghast, it is almost impossible to stop herself from asking rapid-fire questions.

“I do not have anything in my luggage for this, do either of you have anything that will do?” she asks even as she herds Claire closer to her room. Without even pausing to hear them answer, she emphatically gestures the Gandor man to her door before offering her arm to Miyoshi, who takes it with some reluctance.

Inside, a very bewildered Amelia is met with the bloodied, beleaguered Claire, followed shortly by Helene supporting a wavering Kazetani.

With both bloody men back in her room, she closes the door and turns to survey them in better lighting. The obvious nicks and cuts on Stanfield were concerning, but more alarming was the seeping blood soaking into his waistcoat. A glance at the man still on her arm shows no more injuries than the blood from his mouth, so she quickly deposits him on her bed exchanging a grim look to Amelia’s puzzled expression.

Setting her coat atop the radio, Amelia questions, “What - what even happened?” as her eyes drift between the two battered men.

Lips quirking, and jaw clench in irritated stress, Hélène replies more sharply than she intends. “Why, I’m not quite sure. I am rather preoccupied with treating their injuries at the moment. I’m sure that they can tell you once we have the luxury of time.” She sends a scathing look at the two men seated on her bed, daring them to act before they are well.

“Unless whatever or whoever did this is dead and gone, I’d like to know if I should be holding a gun in hand in case they come through that door to finish the job.” Amelia retorted.

“I've no doubt that the Revenant won't be returning,” Miyoshi firmly says. There is a certain stillness to his gaze, and he does not smile.

Finally , Hélène reaches for Stanfield. “Will you be needing bandages for that?”

“Don’t worry ‘bout it Hel, it’s just a flesh wound,” Claire winces as he takes off his jacket, “take care of my old...friend first.”

Other questions strain from behind her teeth, but the dark emotions behind their eyes stop her from badgering them. Stubbornly ignoring his protests, she quickly takes off the apron of her dirndl, and binds the cloth over wound, and ties the apron strings tightly around his chest to stop the bleeding.

Moving to the other side of the room, Amelia soaks and offers a handkerchief to Helene. The other woman uses it to begin the long process of cleaning his less serious cuts, focussed and intent. Narrowing her eyes, she glares in frustration at the layers of cloth in the way. Setting down the cloth for a moment, she crosses her arms. “Your shirt. Take it off. You’ll only contaminate these further.”

Meanwhile, Amelia rummages through one of the smaller pieces of luggage, fumbling through a small pile of clothes to retrieve a small canvas sack, a symbolic, faded red cross peeling from the front. The rusty latches give way, revealing neatly wrapped paper boxes and a few metal tins. She pries a pair labeled “Pansements”, offering them over her shoulder to Helene. “These are - how do you call them in English? Dressings? They’ll keep the deeper cuts clean - after they’re washed, of course.”

Hélène takes them gratefully, giving a long look at the Frenchwoman before turning back. With a deep breath, she sets them carefully on the clean sheets next to Claire. Taking up the wet cloth again, she concentrates again on the newly bared wounds. As she finishes with the last of them, the panic in her veins slowly abates.

Miyoshi’s voice breaks the singer’s focus temporarily.

“Ms. Kohler. If it’s of no trouble, would you be so kind?” Miyoshi evenly says, his voice masterfully controlled. “Just my mouth,” he says, crafting a well-fashioned smirk despite himself.

In spite of the situation, she can’t help smiling at the line. “Of course Herr Kazetani, how remiss of me.” Her own voice is miraculously even, and somehow even manages to come off as warm. She turns to wet her own handkerchief in the sink, and looks at imploringly at Amelia to disinfect Claire now that he is free of blood.

After an odd glance towards the duo, Amelia pointedly focuses her attention towards Claire, exhaling a subtle, quiet sigh as she rips open another package.

“Typical Mouse, flirting even when he’s on the verge of death,” Claire mutters, briefly leaning to Amelia, “he would sell himself out to Nikolai if it made him blush.”

“It was worse earlier. They seemed about ready to ravish one another on the table.” Amelia replied in a low whisper, pinching together a nasty wound on the abdomen while she applies a bandage.

“At least you’ve got your eyes on the road,” Claire winces when the bandage touches raw flesh but covers it up with a laugh, “I’m hoping he’ll snap out of it once the--”

He catches himself before he continues.

“--once the shock wears off.”

Amelia pauses, seeming to listen, but continues regardless. She is silent for a few moments, before speaking as she reaches for the kit once more, “Once the shock wears off, then, perhaps it’d be worth mentioning how a Revenant took two rank A Saniwa by surprise.”

“We expected an assassin,” Claire replies tersely, “but not one after Miyoshi.”

On the other side of the car, the singer is yet again drawn into the Kazetani’s games. Hélène carefully takes his jaw in her hand, fingertips brushing lightly against his throat. Tilting his face towards the light, she leans closer, licking her lips in an odd mixture of nervousness, arousal, and concentration. She gently wipes at the corner of his mouth, moving down his chin to catch the dried blood crusted on his jawline. Satisfied that the last of the blood is gone, Hélène leans back again, giving his throat one last gentle caress before stepping away from the bed.

“Hmmm,” Miyoshi hums, seemingly satisfied with his treatment. Something in his voice indicates that he has more planned for her, though his intentions are masked. His eyes remain locked on hers, and his placid smile grows more devilish as he watches her expressions grow. He seems to have regained enough strength to catch her hand, audacity learned from his British compatriots, and pulls her in slightly.

His lips gently brush by her ear, and Helene feels his warm breath at her neck.

She gives a full body twitch, barely stopping a shudder from running through her body. She grinds her teeth lightly even as she blushes intensely, unable to stop herself from leaning into him.

“That was highly adequate Ms. Kohler. Thank you,” he says, playfully tugging at her wrist. The Spiritualist places a light peck at her pulse point, and releases her when he finishes. He retains a nonchalant mien, and she realizes with annoyance that she is helpless against his sensuality.

Too flustered to speak, she stands for a moment, sharing his body warmth. With a deep breath, she remembers where she is. Hastily steps back, she eyes him from under her eyelashes with a mixture of hunger and wariness. Her cheeks still bright red, and breathing still a little too fast, she asks him drily, “Feeling better already, I assume?”




Note: This has become a 4-way collaboration post with Eva, Bethelit, Alligot, and me (Miraclegem). On a side note-this post has the highest number of hexcodes in the history of TWoS (6)! Fittingly this is because it has the most collaborators of any post.

The setting changes from The Joffre to 1941, World War II

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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!xmashelp

The setting changes from 1941, World War II to The Joffre

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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Cyril tried his best to remain as nondescript as he could after putting the finishing touches on the bathroom’s door lock. Years of breaking into the nuns’ storage boxes had culminated into an acumen at tampering with locks. With his fine handiwork he had worked the lock into a state of permanent occupation. The Saniwa proceeded to peer through the door located at the train’s rear. What he saw, or rather, what he didn’t did not sit well with him.

”We’ve got a problem.” Cyril curtly notified his “other half” as he took his seat. ”Bathroom was occupied. Hope you didn’t miss me.” Cyril verbally told Wulf, straining what he could amount to be an affectionate smile. He practically felt the years withering away. The man produced the same book from before and began to flip through its contents.

”Lee wasn’t at the designated spot. We’ve got a hiccup. Need to fill his role, fast.”

And thus they needed somebody who could fill the now vacant position in their plan. Granted, this wasn’t a foreseen development. Who knew their VIP had ticked off his lover so bad she had come back as a ghost to haunt his borderline deceased ass?

The neko (Wulf) tossed a quick glance over at their stoic co-worker seated quietly across. Unfortunately they couldn’t call upon the blond for a helping hand in this endeavor, since they couldn’t leave their objective to fend for himself. Which meant that the only other viable option was young belle currently dying inside while struggling to maintain a conversation with another sentient human being.

”Hmmm...”

A few seconds of suspense transpired. Needless to say this wasn't to Cyril's liking. A flag set off by Wulf was all he needed to know that something was in store for him.
The Saniwa gulped down trepidation. ”W-what?” He queried as the girl reclined in her seat. ”Well, we can’t make a commotion or anything.”

Yes, that’s quite obvious- Is what Cyril wanted to say. But a light bulb suddenly went off, yet he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. ”Well, let’s think. We’re supposed to be a couple deep in love and everything…”

At that point Cyril’s face met the bindings of his book. ”Are you alri-?” The Saniwa threw a hand out to the girl, having foregone the containment of his despair. He had already conceptualized their plan, too vividly for him to bear. After regaining some of his composure the young adult sat back up, ”Okay, Wulf, listen very closely…

”In the wise words of Nietzsche: God is dead.” He never expected he would have to think up a way to gently describe the causes, effects, and visual signs of motion sickness, let alone through a mental connection where only the deterioration of countenances could illustrate emotions. They both had been rattled by the experience. ”I think I’m going to barf…”

”Good, you’re getting into the role just fine.” A sour Cyril mentally quipped.

Wulf narrowed her eyes at Cyril’s blank facade. ”Let’s just get this over with.” The girl let out a sigh before she slumped over the side of her seat, hands cupped tightly over her mouth as she began to let out quickened heaves.

Maria stills in her seat, listening to the conversations around. Something wasn’t quite right. It takes her several seconds before she realizes it was Wulf’s breathing. She rushes over, fearing the worst, the people around them looking at them curiously. Her ragged breathing almost echoed when the carriage hushed. Could the poltergeist be affecting her? Could Basilio have mistaken her abilities?

When she kneels in front Wulf, the clarity in the Artifact’s eyes reassures the young Spiritualist. This was a ruse; something must have happened. She stands, taking into account the stares, particularly of the people around her and the German she’d been conversing with only moments before.

“What’s wrong?” Maria leans in close, the words barely a whisper in her ear.

“Lee isn’t there, we need you with us. Samael needs to stay with Gammond.” They both understood the need for secrecy. The Saniwa nods to confirm her understanding, and Wulf continues. “I had no say in this, just know that I regret everything and all is well. Am I pulling off “morning sickness” well? ”

Humor comes alight in Maria’s deep brown eyes, but she once again nods, and assists the woman. She places a gentle hand against Wulf’s stomach, and the onlookers look amused at the turn of events, but at least return to their current business. Her voice, slightly louder than it should be, makes a production out of leading her to the carriage bathroom.

Basilio continues to sit, although amusement colors his mental link with his Saniwa despite the poker face he kept. Interesting excuse. Maria responds with a quip of her own, saying something about how being partners with these two would never fail to make any mission a lively one.

Upon reaching the curtain that hid the bathroom from the rest of the carriage, dark brown eyes looked squarely at the blond man hiding in the shadows. She shakes her head, gesturing towards the outside in question.

“I’m feeling rather under the weather, would you mind bringing me to my quarters, miss?” Maria turns towards the statement and then responds in a voice that would be audible to those who bothered to listen. “Of course. Your partner should know where you’ve gone if he comes looking, right?”

She opens the carriage door, letting the Combat faction take the lead, and closes it behind them. “Lee should’ve been here.” Disapproval quick in her eyes, she stares at the window to the other car, but sees nothing that might reveal his disappearance. But now was not the time to deal with it. The three climb to the car’s roof, where the poltergeist awaits, attracted by the sound of approaching footsteps.

“Will you dance with me?”

Moonlight trickled down on the steadfast Joffre and cascaded onto the few standing upon its roofs. The picturesque sight, coupled with the soothing atmosphere of the cool midnight created the perfect scene. Had she been alive, almost any man wouldn’t even hesitate to dance with the belle regardless of the fact they were atop a train car. Almost.

Cyril kept his stance low, following suit with his comrades. Since he wasn’t much of a seasoned train rider, he had to pay special attention to not be swept off his feet by the winds hitting them at full force. Unfortunately for the poltergeist, she too failed at sweeping him off his feet.

”Sorry, I prefer to read about dance scenes rather than take part in one. A lot more enchanting, and nowhere near as much effort required. Maria, would you care to take her up on her offer?” Cyril began to work his hand into his suit pocket in a struggle against the bellowing wind.

The glare that greeted Cyril’s statement was answer enough.

And the empty stare that met that glare was not amused. Didn’t seem like Maria was in much of a mood to entertain monotone jests. Well, that only left…

”So, what you’ve got for me, since I don’t expect you to be pulling my M1 out of that magic suit of horrors.” Having gone through this sequence many times, the girl already knew the drill. The apt twitching of her fingers said so. Cyril produced the pair of brass knuckles he had stowed away within his suit and placed them on Wulf’s now outstretched fingers, followed by a flip knife which she quickly pocketed. . ”Ah, you took the time to clean off the grime from last time! I guess you do really care now and then.” The girl seemed to be more preoccupied with her new means of combat than actually speaking directly to the Saniwa. She then leaned forward, like a predatory cat about to pounce. This time around the prey was a rotting dame, singing enchantingly in the downpour light, words rolling oh so primly off her tongue.

“Where is Albert Gammond? How much do you know in regards to The Weight of Soul?”

“Not on this train.” The Dame stares at her, obviously in disbelief before brushing her off and turning to Cyril once again. “How many accomplices do you have?”

The Spiritualist grits her teeth, having had enough of people overlooking her just because of her sex or race. Without warning, the poltergeist lunges, almost knocking Cyril off his feet before Wulf saves her Saniwa from becoming a Belgian waffle.

Maria moves that much closer to the center, not wanting to meet the same fate. Unlike the blond, she does not have the luxury of a misstep while her Artifact sat in the carriage below them. “You two alright?”

”Yeah.” Wulf replied before Cyril could even utter a syllable. Within a moment the Artifact had disappeared and was making headway towards the Dames along the rim of the car, minimizing the clanking of her footsteps. ”We’ll find an opening in a bit, but for now this is up to her.” Cyril managed to enunciate over the wind. Despite their intensity Wulf continued onwards, almost unfazed. The poltergeist didn’t make an effort to enlarge the gap as the Artifact contracted it, so within moments the two were face-to-face.

The girl was the first to strike by bringing her fist around, knuckles bolstered by brass. The Dames briskly sidestepped the punch, but was instantaneously met with a roundhouse kick. The space between the two opponents didn’t even have a chance to expand beyond what Wulf accepted to be a healthy balance between upfront and breathing room, to her leverage that is.

While punches were thrown and dodged, the two bystanders idly observed the scene from the sidelines, practically useless. While his eyes continued to regard the fighting panning about in front of them, Cyril’s mind was preoccupied with other matters. ”The Weight of Soul” the Dames had queried them about. Even if the answer had been confirmed, it would probably be lying somewhere in Kazetani’s office, aging away much like the man inside. Still, the Soul was a parable that intrigued Cyril and many Saniwa greatly, let alone its weight. But why a random poltergeist that just so happened to have a love-hate relationship, now sans love, with their VIP would bring up such a paramount prospect. Unless-

”DUCK!” Wulf’s callout derailed Cyril’s train of thought and placed him back on the tracks of reality. She had just placed a solid kick into the Dames’ abdomen when her voice pierced the night. He found his back instinctively hitting the cold metal as the train submerged itself in the darkness of a tunnel.

Maria gets on all fours, trying to orient herself in the dim light.. She hears it before she sees it; Wulf’s surprised yelp, and then the sound of someone nearby forcefully finding purchase on the train. When her dark brown eyes look up, shet meets the unnervingly blank gaze of Dames Blanches, Cyril’s blond hair laying against the roof. Her heart stills for a moment, then breathes when she sees him shift.

The ghost continues on, and Maria scrambles to stand and assist her fellow Saniwa to an upright position once they’d passed the tunnel. Considering them no longer a threat, she makes her way to the next carriage. “She’s after Gammond. We need her to stay here… but she’s just going to keep pushing us off the train.” If one were to stare at her now, they would almost see the gears in her head spin, and the little light bulb go off.

Reaching into the pockets of her dress, she brings out a small puffer gifted to her by Rani. She’d been taught of its uses and purpose, and now she hopes that whoever made it hadn’t failed their leader.

I detect a lot of anger and vengefulness up there. Basilio intrudes in her thoughts, and Maria quips back, finding it an inappropriate time for his droll remarks. Tell me something I don’t know, Basilio.

Then I’m of no use to you. Once again, she’s left alone, though the faint threads of her connection with her Artifact remain, only waiting for her to pick up. She focuses on the task at hand, spraying the Belgian beside her with the Jasmine perfume five times before returning the small bottle into her pocket. “There, now you should be irresistible.”

Cyril remained frozen as Maria pumped an overpriced essence not once, not twice, but five times onto him without the slightest remorse. Now as much as he hated to admit it, Maria was a pragmatic thinker with her head tight on her petite shoulders. So there had to be some underlying reason why she decided to murder his sinuses. And then it hit him like a train. Cyril’s gaze slowly panned from the Saniwa to their target, the unsettling chill intensifying the closer his vision got to the poltergeist. Not only did she completely discard Wulf’s existence, but she had seemed to discontinue the campaign for Gammond’s blood entirely. The gaze void of any life was locked solely on the blond, as if it had no choice in the matter. One could say she was attra-

“There, now you should be irresistible.”

Recalling the Southern Saniwa’s upbeat words, Cyril’s narrowed his eyes at the very speaker. ”You know, Maria, here’s a befitting quote: When you stare into the abyss, the abyss tells you to go fuck yourself.”

Maria moves away before she gets caught in the collision between Cyril and their unwelcome visitor. “We must all make sacrifices for the House.” Her words were but an echo, a reminder of Yuuki Kazetani’s acceptance of Albert Gammond’s death.

”Implying I’m not already dead ins-” His retort was cut off midway when the Dames broadsided him, nearly introducing Cyril to the ground, had he not caught himself. The young adult struggle to maintain his grip while his legs dangled wildly in front of a certain passenger’s window. Meanwhile, Wulf had watched the entire scene pan out and wanted to find shelter in a facepalm. But since her partner had now become the perfect distraction, she might as well, as the man dangling from a thread would say, “Carpe the fuck out of this diem.” Wulfetrud’s eyes met Maria’s for a split second, a cue that she would register instantly.

Basilio gazes out the window, wondering about that brief flash of humor that had gone through in his connection with his Saniwa. It was then that he noticed a foot jutting off the carriage roof, and he suddenly pulls the curtain on his stall, hiding the figure from view. At the people’s curious gazes he shrugged and leaned his head against the glass, making them assume he simply wanted to sleep.

Despite the serenity of his expression, he was forced to scold the people fighting atop him. Maria, I’m sure you’re all doing your best, but someone almost saw Cyril’s foot. His eyes shut close, concentrating on listening to the sounds around him. Covert isn’t exactly our specialty, and I don’t think even someone from Espionage could explain why someone’s body is hanging off the side of a civilian carriage.

Got it. I’ll see what I can do to distract her. Maria nods almost imperceptibly at Wulf, and then brings out several small vials from her pocket. This time, a clear liquid fills it to the brim that most Saniwa would instantly recognize it as the holy water provided by the House. In one practiced move, she pulls the cap on five, and throws the liquid at the Dames Blanches.

As soon as the liquid spritzed over their opponent, Wulf had already traded the brass knuckles out for the flip knife she had received earlier. Now that she had bludgeoned the poltergeist enough, it was time for precise, but crucial strikes. The young combatant flipped out the blade in one deft motion and bore its serrated edge at the now immobilized ghost. She rocketed towards the Dames and leaped past the poltergeist, leading her knife through her opponent’s jugular. Without a moment of pause she pivoted upon the fulcrum of her heel and dug the blade into the side of the defenseless opponent. She then freed the blade once more and looped around to the Dames’ front, meeting her vacant gaze once again. To be frank, it was borderline impossible to delineate between poltergeist’s and that of her partner. But there was one minute difference.

A soul with some weight to it.

In one closing act Wulfetrud plunged the knife deep into the Dames’ chest and continued to part snow white skin like butter. She had the poltergeist’s back to the train roof now, continuing to drive the knife through the side of the heart that no longer beat. Wulf sternly stared into ghost’s eyes. During her time as a member of the living, she must have been an enchanting person. Yet now she was in these circumstances- hell, what was before the Artifact was no longer a dame. Wulf flinched slightly as a cold grip with remnants of life in it wrapped around the arm guiding the knife that sought to extinguish those very remnants.

“You’re going to suffer as I did. Thanks to my master this train will collapse and you will fall under the weight of soul.”

Her statement caught Maria’s attention, the young Spiritualist holding her hair back as she made her way towards where Wulf held the Dame still. “Whose soul? Your master’s? Who’s your master?”

The poltergeist shifts her head, turning to look at her with a gaze more unsettling than her song. “Will you dance with me as this train collapses? For we will all fall under my master.” Tan hands grow cold, and chill seeps into her the pits of her stomachs. She begins to sing once again, the ending lines of ‘Ring around the roses’ lending the air an unnatural chill as she slowly turns to dust. The world became silent, but Maria could’ve sworn she could still hear the echoes of her voice.

Her throat suddenly dry, she turns to Cyril once again. “Do you think she’s telling the truth?”

The poltergeist’s parting words also left a sour taste in his mouth. ”Well if she is, Gammond isn’t the only person dying on this train tonight,” His eyes fell to the spot where the spirit had lain, digesting the lyrics in their fullest, “If she’s telling the truth, this train’s going to burn.” He remained transfixed on the empty space for a few moments before he made his way back to the ladder, “Well, I guess we know why this is a high priority assignment.” Wulf paced her way to the Saniwa’s side and handed him back the weapons to conceal, “And besides Maria, I’m sure that sharp lad you were chatting with earlier is missing you. Wouldn’t want to keep him waiting.” For a sparse moment, a smirk surfaced and submerged itself just as quickly.

“Just as I’m sure you’ll want to get back to your partner, sick as she is during her early months.” She smoothed her skirts, threw her vials to the distance and turned to Wulf. “Wulf, am I decent?”

Wulf tried her best to hide the crimson caused by Maria’s earlier comment and sheepishly nodded, ”If anything, I think your throwing arm has gotten better. Have you been arm-wrestling with Basilio as of late?”

“Come on, Wulf, don’t converse with the enemy.”

Wulfetrud tuned out her partner’s wry comment and gave the Southern Saniwa a kind smile, “Was a pleasure. But given our current circumstances, I don’t think our job is quite yet done.” The Artifact still offered a courteous nod and motioned for the ladder. ”Well, shall we? We’ve got a train to save.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
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“Feeling better already, I assume?” Hélène bristles, though Miyoshi hardly flinches. Hélène Köhler is still a woman after all, he thinks, amused. She is an aroused and angry woman, and an angry woman, as the Kazetani heir is well aware, is a victim to her own devices, and is a source of profit to a level-headed gentleman who keeps his cool.

“Much better,” Miyoshi assures. He speaks placidly than indignantly, knowing that he would thus provoke her further. Her well-known perfume assails his nostrils, and he wonders if she powders her skin with the same fragrance. With an insolent smile, he makes a note to find out eventually.

He looks at her, at her fierce gaze and steady hands, and suddenly an odd memory leaps to his mind: receiving Higekiri at the height of his boyhood. Like the katana and other historic trifles--Helene’s reactions are also his to appraise and elevate.

Wealthy men often commissioned sculptures and paintings of beautiful women, but Miyoshi finds that lush lips and graceful bones are best in the flesh. He could use them, weaponize them, and fashion them to suit his own needs--and the German woman is but a pearl on his string. His escort’s usefulness, however. . .

His eyes fall to Claire’s waistcoat, its muted greys now the same scarlet as his clansmen’s camellia. Noting Claire’s wounds mechanically--the Kazetani assumes that whatever could disappear in a few month’s time could hardly be counted as violence. He corrects his last impression rapidly, as Claire’s wound slightly re-opens, leaving the taller man bashfully aware of his own vulnerabilities.

Miyoshi thinks: we were completely overwhelmed.

What the two men must look like to their female companions. The Spiritualist frowns. His mind shapes itself around his reality.

Despite hiring a bodyguard, spending thousands of francs, and making effort to appease Imperial war machines, Miyoshi is never able to assign worth to his House endeavors. He tries picturing himself in uniform, with a Guntō at his hip, but the picture seems absurd. Through his military training, he carried thoughts like Holy Shield for the Emperor, deep honour, and prideful Kusunoki, though his heart feels no sharper for them. There are many hours when he’s bleeding through his throat again, and it suddenly occurs to him that his suicidal ambitions might be frightfully obscene. The current moment is no exception.

Wordlessly, Miyoshi gestures Claire to follow as he makes a start to leave.

“Thank you for the way you’ve looked after us,” Miyoshi politely says to Amelia and Hélène. “Please join me for breakfast, I’ll reserve us a private table. I’m sure we can discuss the…the events of tonight in the morning. Until then, goodbye, Ms. Renard.” and with a tilt of his head, “And of course, Ms.Kohler.”

Miyoshi leans in to whisper a good night, lingering a moment longer to ensure that his own Douro Cologne Eau de Portugal would be remembered. Underpinned with labdanum, his scent is rather intense--engulfing Helene’s light florals in musk and leather. He seizes the opportunity manfully, as exordium to more exciting pleasures for a later time.

Amelia clears her throat, throwing Miyoshi and Hélène both a pointed look. She motions towards the door with a slight nod.

He entertains the Frenchwoman’s signal, and stirs from his place.

Finally strong enough to support himself, the Japanese man stands staring at Hélène's door, which is adorned with a lurid, painted handle. He pulls it with minor force, satisfied at the return of his motor skills. With Claire at his side, they take their departure, closing the door behind them.

Once again, they return to the familiar boundaries of a hallway of shadows. Underneath their feet, the train shifts, shrugs, and pulls.

. . . .


Within the hallway, the memory of Drusilla remains. Miyoshi’s blood swarms where she touched him, though his body, tempered by Kazetani training, will soothe it in time. With a tired feeling in his shoulders and eyelids slipping heavily over his eyes--the Spiritualist recedes into himself. Fifteen paces to their room, fifteen back, Miyoshi thinks, noting the distance it would take to efficiently return to their room from the opposite end of the hall.

The two Saniwa move carefully towards their chambers, with the American ensuring that they are not being followed. For the rest of the journey, the only sound is of men walking with minimal echoes. Their travel is marked by the sporadic and muted lights passing and receding, and Claire’s dogged breathing.

Upon reaching their destination, the Japanese man grips the doorknob.

With a soft tug, their carriage door clicks open, and he flicks on the light.

Miyoshi pauses.

Inside, Kimura Asagi had been lying on his bed and looking at the ceiling, trying to guess when his master would return. At the sound of Miyoshi’s footsteps, the Artifact starts, and gazes back at his master with some fixed and patient concern.

“Master,” he breathes.

There is a pause, shorter than the first. “Kimura,” Miyoshi responds, giving him a curt nod, before striding over to a suitcase hidden behind the bed, producing a gramophone, and setting “Träumerei” into a quiet spin. Then, looking up from Schumann, he surveys his new environment.

It isn’t much, Kimura criticizes, and gestures vaguely to the room.

They weren’t much either, Miyoshi mentally shrugs, referring to their German hosts. But this place is adequate.

I hate it.

You musn’t be like that, Kimura. They are but ever dutiful pawns. The room says as much. Bugs?

None. No devices. They are rude, but not suspicious too much.

See? Adequate.

His own room is as ugly as Hélène’s, though slightly roomier, and as consequence was much in demand; as a trade-off there is an ill-lit ceiling and minimalist fixtures that make the Joffre appear archaic. It might have been beautiful before the war, but it is currently an atrocious mix of styles, upholstery, and ill-colored woods. A cheerless electric spotlight bathes their ceiling in an otherworldly glare. Claire doesn’t seem to mind his carriage as much. Miyoshi, like his Artifact, is too exhausted to complain.

He seems tired enough, calm but tired, and his Artifact moves quickly to assist his needs. Kimura Asagi, who had been in the room for longer than his Saniwa, appears to be familiar with where amenities are stored. A minor search reveals that the Germans had neither prepared them coffee nor tea. With some frustration, Kimura remedies this by producing a handsome tea kit and brewing his master creature comforts. After passing tea to Miyoshi, the Artifact moves to his bedside. He opens his notebook, and begins coding messages to Rosalind and Yuuki, much to his Saniwa’s approval.

With Schumann playing lightly in the background and china hooked between his fingers, Miyoshi turns to Claire, and seats himself on his bed. A tin of Huntley & Palmers lie in his lap. He eats the biscuits one after another, all the ones shaped like pretzels, then the checkered ones, and finally the fig-filled ones.

“Claire,” the Kazetani commands, after nibbling the last of his confections.

“Huh.”

“Let me guide you through treating the corruption.”

Miyoshi looks dispirited, and his voice lacks its usual theatrical edge. He gives a quick flick of his head, gesturing for Claire to kneel. The latter succumbs with some reluctance.

The bodyguard sighs, and reaches into his breast pocket to produce a bottle of oil and a cigarette box. Mumbling beneath his breath, he slots a cigarette between his lips, lights it, and prepares the holy water next. The Irishman rubs the oil on his wounds, and presses his hands together in an act of atonement.

Then, Miyoshi, quite sensibly, begins speaking to Claire as he would a Catholic priest, no doubt part of his worldly Spiritualist training.

“Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy, help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit,” the Spiritualist recites, dabbing a spot of oil on his bodyguard’s forehead.

"You never answered me Mouse," Claire states, distracted and eying the man's abdomen, "how badly did she hurt you?"

“Pay attention,” the Spiritualist says crossly. “I am fine. My body can heal its own.” It isn’t the truth, but he doesn’t feel like explaining.

Perhaps Claire thought that he looked at Miyoshi casually enough, but evidently, his own features informed the Spiritualist otherwise. The latter’s own patience slipping, he stares at Claire for a long time, speaking only when guiding counsel. Through it all, he maintains an air of tranquil assumption, ignoring Claire’s furtive looks of concern. Seated, Claire appears rather childlike, hunched below the Spiritualist’s lithe frame. He looks up at his friend with his signature brand of innocent, frank curiosity that Miyoshi finds absolutely frustrating, but difficult to abhor. Frankly, the Spiritualist is simply uncomfortable with sincere, emotional openness, and seems wholeheartedly focused on ridding his subject of spiritual corruption. His own eyes are firmly planted over the anointed spot on Claire’s forehead.

“May the Lord who frees you from sin,” he circles the blessed oil on Claire’s hands, “save you and raise you up.”

The smell of myrrh and tobacco floods the Spiritualist's nostrils, and Claire looks up at him, a new unlit cigarette trembling at his fingertips.

“God our healer in this time of sickness you have come to bless with your grace. Restore him to health and strength, make him graceful and ready to embrace your will. Grant this through Christ our Lord.”

Miyoshi finishes with a final trace over the afflicted area, voice powerful but lacking the exaltation of a true follower.

“That should do it.” he says with a satisfied hum, nonchalantly reaching for his warm beverage.

“Aren’t you still bleeding?” Claire tries again, only to earn him a second frown.

“No harm done,” the Spiritualist says with some sharpness, his British accent growing more prominent with his irritation.

In the midst of Claire, certain common ideas often became inexpressible, only because Claire is wholly opposed to Miyoshi’s fatalistic philosophies, and therefore immune to his reasoning. Yet, Miyoshi has always known that Claire fears for him, much like his own Artifacts. Although the Kazetani heir carries a carefully manicured disposition, Claire senses instability in the shorter man. And some danger that naturally comes with the Kazetani lineage.

“She said,” Claire bravely starts, voice lowering. “Dru called you a ‘weak pillar.’ I never knew her to be a liar, but are you really gonna stay standing after this?”

“What do you mean.” Miyoshi testily says, taking more seriously the very real and persistent menace that is Claire’s unfailing dedication.

“How much longer can you be Kazetani heir if you’re still taking drugs, still doing all of these things that you keep secret,” Claire stands abruptly upright, “nobody outside of the House knew about this mission. Dru. Who is dead. Is after you. Someone raised her, someone powerful has it out for you.”

For a moment, the air around them tenses, though Miyoshi efficiently dispels the feeling.

“Goodness,” Miyoshi says, eyes closing with some relief and a carefully placed chuckle. “Is this what it’s about? Be a dear Claire. Many people have it out for me. You of all people should know.”

“You’re avoiding the answer Mouse,” Claire retorts, “it’s not Joe Schmoe trying to kill the great Miyoshi Kazetani. This is someone who specifically knew you were here and I want answers. Either it’s someone in the House trying to off you or we’re facing an even greater threat. Why kill you and not me huh? Or Rosalind?”

His own calm is wearing thin, and Miyoshi finds himself becoming increasingly more pointed and unpleasant. Though he’d once made his own subtle but unmistakable passes at Claire’s naivete--the Irishman had been the only one to snare him this evening, and the Spiritualist knows that gratuitous cruelty would make for a magnanimous escape. He changes his strategy, and meets Claire’s eyes in the same way that a schoolteacher would placate a small child.

“Bully for that. Perhaps it is my own father? With this kind of thing, you can never tell, you know.” Miyoshi says. It is a baroque suggestion, but there is nothing objectionable about it. It is on this occasion, he is sure, that the elder Kazetani's "well connectedness" could effectively be used against him. A known rebel--Miyoshi, despite his heritage, is not above being assassinated by his own father.

His words strike a chord.

The air stretches tight, and Claire's jaw trembles. At the sight of Claire's response, Miyoshi fights to keep his aristocratic face from gleaming with pleasure. The Irishman stops again, unable to form words. The latter's eyes continue looking for other places in the room to steady himself on (including Kimura Asagi who proves to be no help) before he finally settles on the floor.

“Maybe your father has his reasons,” he finally replies, turning toward his bed.

“So you agree then,” Miyoshi slowly says, his face carefully impassive. He does not make himself an easy opponent.

“I almost died for you, Mouse,” he says, whirling around, bewildered at how little effect any of his previous words had on his friend. His body goes numb, however, at the sight of the Spiritualist’s lack of expression. The latter’s lips are sealed in a thin line, his posture uncharacteristically rigid. Miyoshi isn’t the type to yell or shout when angered; instead, he chills.

When Miyoshi finally speaks, his words cut like Higekiri, with absolute ruthlessness and precision.

“You almost died for Luck Gandor as well--more often too.” he coolly says. “You don’t owe me anything. As I am no true agent of my father, you are not beholden to my life. You can leave me dead if you wish.”

He sets down his tea with a loud clink before rising altogether, gathering friction at his heels.

“Good night. I am so sorry to have disturbed you.” he manages, his voice poisonous but tightly controlled. He does not sound sorry, but both men know that Miyoshi Kazetani’s apologies, truthful or not, are hard-earned. Regardless, the espionage agent makes no attempt to hide his hostility towards the Irishman, and retires to his side of the room without so much of another word. With deft movements of his fingers, Schumann is silenced, the song fades, and the room is grotesque once more. Miyoshi sheds his immaculate suit. His expression is completely closed off.

Fighting Claire was a decision he strategically made. The argument would make for a more obedient bodyguard later, Miyoshi thinks. He will feel guilty, and he will press less.

With some assistance from Kimura Asagi, he slips into an expensive jinbei. The Artifact acts as if he hadn’t witnessed his master’s tirade, but casts Claire a curt, arctic glance. He knows the truth, however. Intellectually, at least, Kimura understands the purpose behind the battle. There were greater issues to address, namely, the drugs. . .

His eyes travel to Miyoshi's clavicle.

. . .and wounds. The Artifact is careful to avoids touching his master’s skin, but briefly acknowledges where Drusilla had made her mark. The area is a light blue now, fading in thanks to Miyoshi’s spiritual prowess.

Catching his Artifact’s lingering gaze, Miyoshi pulls his jinbei’s collar firmly closed. There is a tightness to the gesture that Kimura recognizes as anger and perhaps annoyance.

“Ah, master, I’m sorry--” Kimura starts, but stops when his Saniwa offers him a haunting, placid smile.

“Goodnight, Kimura,” Miyoshi says with some finality. His eyes are empty. He does not hold his smile for long.

“Good...Goodnight,” the Artifact responds, shaken, his words barely audible.

There is some loneliness in his Saniwa’s gaze that Kimura doesn’t dare dwell on. In some atavistic part of his brain, he knows how his master must feel. An old anxiety swirls in his mind again, and he finds himself at an ancient loss.

Reclining on his bed, he listens to the rise and fall of Miyoshi’s breathing, to the beating of his own heart, and to the silence that reinstalls itself after all life ceases to exist.

. . . .


Miyoshi knows that Kimura Asagi isn’t asleep, and is listening to him. It’s been this way since as long as he can remember. Kimura watching. Waiting. Listening. But it doesn’t matter what Kimura hears. In the morning, he would reprimand his Artifact for a larger grievance, nevermind his own "spat" with Claire.

They were being watched today, or rather, listened to, Miyoshi is certain. There was a man seated behind Hélène, speaking to no one in particular. Although the man had been facing away from them, his body language gave him away. He was gone before the train pulled from the station. Neither Claire nor Kimura seemed to have noticed. Miyoshi curses Kimura Asagi’s loss of focus. In the Artifact’s concern for his Saniwa, he kept track of less. No. This wasn’t Kimura’s fault. It was his own.

Who was the man? Judging by how spooked Hélène looked--something had occurred while he was absent. Did the man return? Had the women seen him? Would Hélène speak? Would Amelia let her? Would he ask Amelia?

No.

The question is--would Amelia trust in him?

He thinks of the knifelike Frenchwoman. Unreadable eyes. A manicured appearance. In his brief moments of meeting her, he recognizes similarities between her psychology and his own. She wouldn’t easily give if it meant that she had nothing to take. The thought that Amelia might try to dominate his authority on the mission would normally have angered him, but he recognizes her manner and ability as helpful to his goals. Truthfully, he is glad she isn’t as transparent as Hélène, lest he’d have to seduce her too to test her predictability. Intellectually, he does not think her beneath him.

No matter. He would work around her. On his own, be it through violating Richter, Neumann, Hélène--or all three of them--he’d get to the bottom of their spy. Whether he and Drusilla are related, he would find out.

There are only three answers, and depending on the course of his interrogations, one would surface to be the truth. It wouldn’t matter for long regardless. The mission ends in Vienna.

From the folds of his jinbei, he palms a small omamori, and sleeps with it close to his skin. Its very smell is like that of a corpse, a tomb, the heavy inertia of soul. Always, he carries it beside him; it is hidden, but ever-present. Unlike most omamori, it promises death.

Gammond would die tomorrow, and Miyoshi is glad.



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A/N: I was fed some lines by Eva for Claire; she allowed me full control over his character for this scene as well. Therefore, this doesn't count as a collaboration post. Additionally, Alligot also fed me a line for an interaction with Amelia.


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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I hope your wound festers.

The thought slips into his mind seamlessly as he lies, back to his roommate and legs curled to fit the slightly-too-short mattress. He traces the faint line Drusilla cut into him, briefly aware of the help his “partner” gave him to turn the corruption into a mere scar. With his ward being a powerful Spiritualist he sees no harm in wishing the man ill and feeling Miyoshi’s eyes on him (however briefly) only cements the thought into his mind. What gave the Japanese man the right to be so shady? If he had nothing to hide then why did he deflect everything and turn it onto him?

He turns his neck to glare at the man in question before the rest of his body follows.
There are times when he hates the good luck he’s had and this one of them. Working under Gandor, head of the West Wind, his loyalty to the House is especially important since the head himself has no favored allegiances. He is faithful to everyone and his actions show it, but right now Claire can’t even look at Miyoshi’s face and that would reflect poorly on his boss.

Lifting his blanket, Claire decides that he ought to investigate the original attack site for any other signs of activity.

For Gandor, the thinks. Not Mouse.

He keeps the oil nestled in his box of cigarettes and the key in his pants pocket while his gun rests in its holster, fully loaded in case anyone follows him. He doubts that anyone will be tailing him at this time of night, but the shiver in his spine tells him not to relax. A few patrolling officers throw him a look that is quickly met with a challenging one of his own. His wild, red locks and equally crimson eyes tag him as Gandor’s bodyguard and the company’s main gateway to American armaments. They could choose to overlook him, but to offend him would be a grave mistake indeed. It’s a new feeling, he thinks, to flounce about without another, higher-ranking party by his side but reminds himself that he has as much authority as any other Saniwa on the train.

Mouse included, Claire scoffs.

Miyoshi’s patronization angered him and fueled further accusations, but Claire could normally take that. He hates it, because the condescension is something new, almost exclusive to Miyoshi. Nobody else pulls the “be a dear” or “take Sterling around the block” card on him when his opinion isn’t necessary so the method and the timing felt like a slap in the face. Did their time in Shanghai mean nothing? Is every grievance just going to be met with lip service and avoidance tactics? Perhaps it is easier to avoid things because then he does not have to deal with them, but if that is the case why make such directed jabs?

Instead of smoke and mirrors, the Kazetanis are a collective mist, concealing via controlled information and even tighter appearances. Compared to Yuuki’s opaque fog, Claire can see vague shadows in Miyoshi’s miasma in the form of Kimura Asagi, drugs, and the camellia. He is sure that even amongst other Kazetani, they all remain nebulous to each other. Still, it does not stop the redhead from digging up post-argument retorts.

Everyone is an agent of your father. You’re only here because he asked you to be.

Claire exits the sleeping cart and tightens his hood, but falls in the face of punishing winds. Climbing onto the roof only exacerbates the chill whipping against his face. Instead of standing, he lowers his stance into a crawl to check for evidence along the sides of the roof.

We might have a better chance of finding it if she buried her knife in Mouse instea-, Claire cringes before he can finish the thought. No, he may ask for great pain but death is another matter.

Perhaps he has jumped the gun too quickly. He wants to think that he has the moral high ground on that end. Compared to Miyoshi’s normally grim comments, he reserves his death wishes for those who do tangible harm or faraway figureheads; Miyoshi’s worst crime was putting him in a position of danger.

Corruption, Claire affirms, let him be corrupt and nothing more.

Leaping from the restaurant to the passenger and baggage, he grabs his compact from his other pocket and lets his little companion emerge once more…

...only for her to freak out.

“Eek! We’re on top of a train, a train!”

“Mrrph Mary you need to let me see or I’m going to drop it!” he says, struggling to open his eye against her iron clasp.

“I’m going to fall?”

For all of the trauma reflected on her body she still carries the quirks of being a child. Wrapping her arms around his head, she gives him little in the way of vision or a chance to loosen her grip. Despite not having any earthly perception of temperature she shivers at the sounds of the billowing trees and the sense of something dangerous.

“Mary, please,” Claire backs up until he can fall harmlessly onto his bottom. From a less tall perspective, she purses her lip before peeling herself from Claire’s face.

“So what’s our next mission?” She asks, settling for “sitting” in her brother’s lap.

“I’m going to need your help again,” the redhead announces, pointing behind her.

“You seem tired Big Brother, shouldn’t you do this in the morning?” she tilts her head, more calm now that she didn’t have the fear of Claire dropping her.

If I wanted to do this in the morning then Uncle Miyoshi would probably, guilt trip me, is what he wants to say, but he settles for something less divisive.

“It’s a secret mission,” he lowers his voice into a whisper, but clears his throat when Mary shoots him an odd look.

“I need you to help me find that bad lady’s remains. You know, like all Revenants have?” he turns the compact around so that she can see the scope of the train, “she’s here somewhere but I just can’t find her.”

“Oh well I can help! I just need to-” she looks down at the compact before pressing her lips together.

“Relax, Mary,” he ruffles her hair, “I just need you by my side.”

She nods as Claire affixes the compact to his front pocket, returning to his previous state of crawling. Unlike fights he felt comfortable having her tail by his side since the worst trouble she could possibly get into is attempting to wake the other passengers and she knows that he will close the compact as soon as she tries to misbehave. She provides a softer, more stable type of partnership that doesn’t result in his resentment or someone coming back from the dead and attempting to kill him.

There’s a thought, having a partner you can trust, Claire grumbles a slight but continues toward the next cart.

“Big Brother I’m scared,” Mary whispers.

“We’ll only be here a little bit longer,” he assures.

Claire narrows his eyes as he scampers much more slowly toward the end of the civilian sleeping cart. Feeling for the ladder he descends and runs his hands across the exterior of the doorway until something silky appears under his fingertips.

What is this? He pulls the piece of fabric from a door that closed too quickly and stares at it for a few moments. Red, soft, rotting. It may not have had any thumbprints, but he bet dollars to donuts that it belonged to Drusilla. And if a piece of her dress is here, the rest of her body cannot be far behind.

He turns toward the cargo, but prodding from Mary is enough for him to refrain from walking over.

“Can we go please?! Now?” she urges, “I don’t feel safe here.”

Claire grabs the compact to keep her from shaking, but the terror in her face compels him to reach toward his gun.

“Don’t worry. We don’t have to go if there’s something bad in there,” he says, glancing at her pale expression.

“There’s...monsters in there. Strong ghosts,” she manages, reaching for Claire’s hand, “they feel like her.”

There is no arguing there and Claire sets course back to the VIP sleeping cabins.

He doesn’t complain at Mary’s questions about Drusilla nor at her insistence to clutch his torso during the entire excursion. Instead he gives her a reassuring smile and the occasional platitude. His mind, unfortunately, is on other things.

For such a strong, spiritual presence, why did Miyoshi not catch wind of any of this? If the aura of the ghosts on the train are so overbearing that they made Mary, who keeps gunning to fight, then there should not have been a reason for Miyoshi to miss their presence upon boarding. Half of him wants to chalk it up to personal selfishness (he has been voluntarily taking soul tablets), but would it really be fair to pin everything on him if Mary herself had not detected anything until right before they entered?

“Are you and Uncle Miyoshi going to take care of all the bad ghosts?” Mary asks, gently tugging at one of Claire’s strings.

“I…” Claire hesitates before sighing, “I’ll take care of them. Mou-Miyoshi is...”

“Are you two fighting?”

The question cuts through the wind and air before hanging in Claire’s ears like dead weights. Had she always been this perceptive? She clearly slid into her mirror after the battle.

“I thought I told you not to eavesdrop,” he replies flatly, “how much did you hear?”

“I just don’t think you two should fight,” she murmurs, “people keeps secrets sometimes. You did it too, to protect me.”

Though he has only known Mary for about a year, he’s come to know everything about her from birth to afterlife. Her abilities to obscure visibility and detect ghosts or ghouls combined with her transparency have made her invaluable as an asset to his missions; however, there is no doubt that they are not on equal footing. He could put her away at any time and her C Ranking status meant that most Saniwa (as well as more dangerous ghosts) could kill her without issue. The only reason she is still alive is due to Gandor and...Miyoshi.

Two of the more important people in his life and he did not truly know either of them to the extent that he knew her. One of them, he initially had no issue wishing death upon.

“It’s just...different though. I don’t want you to get hurt.” Claire stops only a few feet from the door to lean against the door, “he’s just being selfish.”

“What’s the difference?” she asks, tilting her head.

“You’ll...you’ll understand when you’re older,” he says, before glancing at the door.

“You always say that,” she shrugs, resigning herself to the compact.

Claire slams the device shut before switching it out for a lit cigarette. When he enters the sleeping cart, he feels safe enough to blow smoke without regarding anyone else who might be patrolling. What is more important is the “discussion” (read: telling him the things he did wrong) he is sure that he would receive from Graham. He always had to be the first to look at both sides of a situation or drag Claire’s collar before he leaped into a fight.

He’d probably say something like ‘kind of a double standard isn’t it? Well he did it first. He should know. But then he’d say ‘that’s childish’ and we wouldn’t get anywhere. He’s here acting like it’s so bad that his old man’s head of the House and kind of hates him when he’s never been beat.

“He doesn’t know what it’s like to hop on a train and run the fuck away!”

“Stille!” an officer whispers harshly.

“Yeah your old man too,” Claire says, blowing out smoke. Clearly the officer had forgotten their earlier exchange of looks.

Though the patrolling duo walks off, the redhead remains rigid. Miyoshi never really could walk around without being recognized. It isn’t as though Claire never thought of the scenario himself, Miyoshi severing ties and trying to be someone else but nothing he did would ever detach him from being a Kazetani. Even with Kimura Asagi’s power he could never be invisible the same way Claire was during his earlier years. Even now, if the redhead wants to, he could dye his hair and live life as Joe Schmoe, combat extraordinaire but a Kazetani death would ripple across waters.

The Kazetanis aren’t veiled by mist, they’re trapped in it. It only makes sense that Miyoshi might not want to get others too involved in his family because he still wants to protect them.

“I’m a fucking asshole. I’m a fucking asshole,” Claire sighs, slapping his forehead, “fuck man.”

Whether or not Mouse is truly being shady, the Irishman should not have jumped to conclusions for doing essentially what he would have done. Lord why did he need to be so insensitive? So impulsive? He is sure that Graham would be chiding by now if not smacking him over the head. He should only be so lucky that his Artifact is busy with Helene’s.

Unfortunately, he isn’t privy to waking Miyoshi up for the sake of groveling so he reaches into his pocket to feel Drusilla’s fabric scrap for some reassurance. If not an apology he knows Mouse would be happy to find a clue or two regarding the state of the train.

He stamps his cigarette out before noticing a hunched over male fiddling with a lighter.

“Need a light?” he asks.

From across the room, red eyes glance at the taller male before shoving his hands in his pockets and walking off entirely.

”Hey! Where are you-”

A single match drops from Claire’s fingertips before his jaw drops, both uncertain and uncomfortable with the sight before him. Rather than chase after however, he heads back to his room. He feels done looking for trouble tonight.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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As Maria enters the carriage once again, she informs the blond man that his partner has retreated into their sleeping quarters. She returns to her seat, where the German she'd been conversing with voices concern over herself and the woman she'd assisted. She thinks of Wulf, who remains hidden and away from her car.

"We're both fine. I just made her some tea and chatted with her to soothe her." She mentally applauds herself for the flawless lie, a small smile almost making it to her lips before it freezes in place. The chill is unmistakable; the Spiritualist in her recoils as the Saniwa-side grips onto the feeling like a lifeline. It fades, then returns, like the ebb and flow of the tide.

She picks up her connection to Basilio, whose face remains impassive as she feeds him information and expands on her Artifact's abilities. Can you tell what it is?

Too far. I'll need to get closer; it's coming from further back.

Then go. It'll be suspicious if I leave again. She politely covers her mouth at a forced yawn, to which her conversation partner gives her a sympathetic smile and allows them to settle down into silence. Behind her, Basilio mutters a quiet apology to nearby parties and exits his booth, looking as if he simply wants to stretch his legs. A quick study of his large frame will reveal some truth in his excuse.

Basilio makes his way to the next car with people only giving him a cursory glance. There are some others in the corridor, but all are simply making their way to either the toilets or their own booths. Outside, the quiet French countryside echoes with remnants of war littering its pastures, softly lit by the moonlight.

Basilio, could you check if Lee is in his booth?

He quietly travels down the hall and makes a discreet turn towards Booth 2, opening the door just slightly - enough to tell him that neither the West Wind nor his Artifact are inside. A frown appears on his face, although if it is from the missing persons or the murderous feeling that hangs in the air is debatable. Neither of them are here. He continues, taking in what he can as he feels Maria's energy travel through him. Basilio pauses, takes note of the guard stationed in front of the door and turns back. Unable to travel further, he feels a slight wave of disappointment at being unable to learn more.

It's stronger here, but I can't go any further, and it disappears too often for me to lock onto. All I can tell is that it aims to kill, probably sometime soon. The news concerns him, but supports their theory; the Dames Blanches might've been a simple ruse to expend their efforts and resources.

Maria, seated comfortably in the civillian car, comes to the same conclusion. She retrieves pen and paper from a small bag underneath her seat and begins writing German words with their English translation next to them. Should anyone care to look, it would appear she is simply reviewing her vocabulary. After a certain point however, her words change to reflect a summary of the evening's events.

      dames neutralized
      something else present; murderous, foreboding; back of train
      dames may have been used as ruse
      lee and peter missing
      worth investigating


She discreetly tears away the page, and stands, making her way to Gammond and Samael. Fixing a polite smile on her face, she gestures towards the papers left on the table. "If you're finished with these, may I borrow them?" Samael nods and hands her the newspapers; as they exchange, she wordlessly slips the slightly crumpled note into his larger hands. With the German press in hand, she thanks him and returns to her seat. At almost the exact same time, the carriage door opens and Basilio enters.

The two sit down without even looking at each other, although the shared worry evident in their connection speaks for them both. Are we going to look for it later? Basilio eases into his former position, looking at the inky black of the French night.

Maria nonchalantly flips a page, most of it gibberish to her untrained eye. Probably. It depends on what the Kazetani has to say.

Then I guess all that's left to do is wait. He leans back, and settles in for a long night.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
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For a bare few seconds, Amelia managed to retain what scant composure she had assembled within the duo’s presence. It didn’t last long, and her temple sunk into the very mattress the two men had previously bled upon. The carpeted floor dug into her knees from every bump and shake caused by the train’s rapid travel, but she paid the discomfort little mind, for most of it was devoted to maintaining slow, conscious thought.

You can let it down, now.

The familiar touch of her Artifact’s mind had graced her own, and no sooner had the message ended than Amelia released the ability. The relief was instant and euphoric - the headache turned to a mere dull throb, her vision cleared significantly, and she felt conscious. Tired - but without fear of fainting.

They finally took care of the poltergeist?

A sardonic amusement took hold of her thoughts for a moment, though she was unsure if the origin was her own mind, or Samael’s. Perhaps both. At least Gammond was safe -

Not at all, unfortunately. They think it was a distraction - a, yes, a ‘ruse’? What kind of word -

Focus, please?

A distraction perhaps, for some ill intent she’s sensing in the back of the train. Also - it seems the Australians are missing, which would explain why your radio’s been quiet. Now… should I be passing anything along? Did Kazetani say anything?

Not a word. Him and the American were ambushed, somehow. Second poltergeist, meant for him instead of Gammond, though.

Nothing? Well, do you think he was attacked because he might know more - get rid of the person who’s most likely to recognize the assassin?

Amelia called to mind the events that took place just minutes prior. How could Kazetani know when an assassin is coming? He couldn’t even sense his own - and - and honestly -

And he’s human too, right? We tend to make mistakes, and besides, an injury for them would have ended as a pine box for you. Now, when you can, ask him to throw those of us in here a line.

In the morning, then. I’m not certain where their quarters are now - and for tonight, I don’t think we’ll encounter any more excitement. Can you tell the others about the second poltergeist, and to pay attention for a man with red eyes? He was wearing an officer’s uniform and seemed to be avoiding Saniwa on sight.

Samael didn’t reply, but Amelia could tell he was standing up. He would pass it along. Pushing away from his mind, she opened her eyes, revealing Hélène who had not moved an inch from when Amelia had closed them.

After the two men had left, Hélène had stood motionless for a moment, eyes still caught on the door. Although her vision had stalled on it, she couldn’t see anything but Herr Kazetani’s last departing smirk, his musky cologne still stuck in her nostrils, and seemingly clogging her thoughts.

While her roommate was preoccupied in her own thoughts, Hélène blinked quickly, shivering in a full body twitch as if to throw his presence off her mind, and walked over to lock the door in a haze. Without thinking on it, her body continued to move around to small room, packing away various belongings and changing into vastly more comfortable night clothes. All the while, Hélène still couldn’t rid herself of Miyoshi’s specter, his actions haunting her thoughts as her body moved automatically.

Her emotions were slow to react, leaking through in a trickle: one by one. The first to return was a blinding rage-at his audacity, at her helplessness, at the situation in general. It was a familiar feeling, and she took solace in it as the guilt and embarrassment slowly crept back in. Done with her tasks, Hélène returned to a motionless pose, staring listlessly at her bags as she stood in front of her bed. Her body swayed slightly with the motion of the train rushing into the night, but her only real movements were the minute twitches of her face as she tried to process all her thoughts.

Fruitlessly, she tried to smother them, to purge them from her mind. Eventually, in a futile fit of frustration she pushed them to the back of her cluttered mind for when Walter could easily dispose of them.

“Hélène,” Amelia’s voice slithered through the silence, quieter and gentler now that they were the only two.

Distracted from her inner turmoil, Helene looked up. The all-consuming mix of frustration and powerlessness that had been churning in her stomach and bubbling up in chest like the awful burn of bile was settling slowly, and as she slotted it away the rest of the world finally came back into focus. The furrow between her brows flattened out, and realizing that her jaw was still tightly clenched, she released it, surprised at the remaining ache.

Looking over at her roommate, Hélène felt the guilt and embarrassment compound yet again. The Frenchwoman had sat atop the bed, and looked as put-together as ever, her eyes gleaming with raptor-sharp competence even as her exhaustion faded her edges. Blinking quickly, she realized that Amelia was waiting for her reply. “Yes?” She asked softly, inquiring-but hesitant now that her firm footing had been lost.

"What history do you two have to let him get to you like that?” Amelia asked, pressing the issue.

Hélène’s cheek twitched slightly in an aborted grimace. “Not much of one, to be honest.” She looked down with a depreciating smile. “I met him briefly in Vienna at a recital of mine. It seems as though he is much more dangerous and magnetic than I ever thought.” She was quick to make eye contact again as she cautioned Amelia, “Our meeting was very brief, I did not think much of it at the time.” Hélène looked into the middle distance, the warm glow of the memory curdling in light of the man’s recent actions. “He was… charming, elegant, but very brief. His impression was made more from his beauty and exoticism than from anything he said or did. We exchanged no more than five sentences to each other, but it seems he has been keeping an eye on me for much longer than I have on him.”

“He thought he could control you when you met - and now he knows that he can. Why is that, when you’re as capable? Why do you see him as dangerous, instead of the other way around?” Amelia countered, adjusting her position. She sat straighter, her sharp gaze unwavering from Hélène’s.

Hélène stiffens, readjusting herself to face her roommate fully. Her eyes are steely when they meet Amelia’s again. With a grim smile she replies, “He is dangerous in the same way Herr Neumann is dangerous-a child toying in people’s thoughts, reading everyone as an open book. He had met me for less than an hour, and yet was perfectly able to push my buttons. He is a snake charmer, and not every snake he charms will be harmless.” Her smile turns pained. “I knew exactly what he was doing when he was seducing me, but I still fell for it. If he does the same thing tomorrow, I might yet fall for it again. He is dangerous because he is powerful in quiet ways, independent of station or wealth. His power is cannot be lost or taken away, and it can tame even the greatest of foes.”

Amelia’s thoughts turned to the man in question. Her knowledge was limited to the elder Kazetani. Head priest of the East wind, with rumors alluding to his iron grasp of power and strong intellect. The younger seemed similar - his hold on the others around him was apparent, and he walked and talked with self-assured, cunning authority. He knew the power and control he had over others, and seemed to relish in it, if she were to judge based on his treatment of Hélène tonight.

But, he wasn’t a machine. Whatever illusions of invincibility Hélène believed were wasted upon Amelia. It seemed he had fallen ill at the table, taking a quick retreat. His recuperation could explain how they were ambushed so easily, and also Claire’s slip of the tongue. Kazetani’s health could be worse than he lets on - and if so, perhaps his strong grip on both Hélène and others was false as well?

After the few moments of silence, Amelia grabbed the bed’s edge, shifting herself closer towards Hélène, “That power isn’t as invincible as it seems; if you let me, I can show you how to protect yourself from those games men like him like to play.”

She extended her hand, palm up, to Hélène.

Hélène blinked slowly for a second as she processed what her roommate meant. Oh my. It seems I walked into the play of more than one gamesmaster tonight. Let us see how well this one treats her pawns, shall we? For a second time that night, she was charmed despite herself. No stranger to stepping in and around the webs of others, she was glad she no longer took offense to the machinations of most. It had made her life much less stressful at the very least.

With a boyishly gleeful smile-a devilish tilt hiding in its corners-she took Amelia’s hand. “I would be delighted to see myself protected from the games of men.” Her smiles turned a little wolfish. “And I would love to see how you play this game as well.” She gave Amelia a friendly, conspiring look to soften her words, eager to see how she would do, these two women against the world.




Note: This is a collaboration post for between me (miraclegem, playing Hélène) and Alligot (playing Amelia Renard and Samael).

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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#, as written by Jedly
A war embodied a series of battles, some caused by a chain of connected events, whilst others were isolated by pure circumstance. The Dames Blanches' appearance this twilight night would point be classified as part of the latter header under normal circumstances. A sub-group of the species was known for taking nightly strolls to scare the living shit out of any living soul that may be so unlucky as to stumble upon them. Evidently, they were on a train. Didn't take a nuclear physicist to figure that one out. Additionally, Dames acted as harbingers of imminent death. Lo and behold, this mission's integrity solely rested on the premise of making sure Gammond kicked the can. Given that the decrepit excuse for a human being had more crippling depression than a tragic love story, this correlation was too attested by the facts.

It also just so happened that this particular Dames actually did start in a tragic love story with Gammond. While there was nothing more Cyril would love to do than be an audience to their VIP's tale of how he became such a deadbeat, the man was probably too dead inside to get past the introduction. Yet another eventful tale lost to the grips of time, much like the many that proceeded it and those that are to follow. The dots connected so perfectly that it had to be a disturbance that transpired of its own accord. None would be the wiser.

Except for the Saniwa aboard this train, the more spiritually-inclined ones that is. Despite his official alignment with the Combat faction Cyril was able to take part in Spiritualist efforts, sometimes with even more acute diligence than christened members. So when the entire span of his spine was encompassed by an electrifying sensation, a red alert of sorts, the young adult drew the educated conclusion that the shit would hit Kazetani Senior's face in the near future. The feeling lingered and gnawed at the back of his neck. The duration of its presence was a palpable sign that the Dames may, as Cyril had wagered, was not linked directly to Gammond or the other blaring correspondence, but a feint to throw its would-be pursuers off its tail. But why make its existence vividly known after it had gone to such great lengths to enshroud itself with a puppet? This prospect bugged him just as much as the feeling still eating away at his bone.

As expected, the Belgian wasn't the only one to take note of the recent dissonance. Up until now Cyril had steeled himself in his seat in contemplation, his book from earlier lied on the now empty space to his side, devoid of its original passenger. Out of the corner of his eye the Saniwa traced the movement of a certain man who had just rose to his feet. With a burly build and defined characteristics, the guy was a far cry from nondescript. Yet passengers were far too preoccupied to take note and gawked every time Basilio displayed signs of life, out of both admiration and envy. If he could care to summon enough energy to smirk, the blond probably would have done so at the sight. Even though many of his attributes...contrasted with Maria, they seemed to be a very coherent team based upon previous accounts. Seemed being the keyword, but it wasn't as if the authentic exchange of words that denote Cyril and Wulf was a shining example to follow. In fact, their arrangement deviated far from the norm, but that was a sleeping bear to rustle for another time. The South Wind members were of the more exemplar variety.

After Samael carefully brought everybody up to speed about what occurred concerning the other team, Cyril's perturbation that surfaced just before they engaged the Dames was now put to rest. Though this news only served to exacerbate the issue now at hand. Something still remained, and with an intent to kill. One would normally jump to the deduction that Gammond was the target, but the pejorative last words of the ivory maiden now reverberated in Cyril's conscience.

"...suffer/die as I did. Thanks to my master this train will collapse and you will fall under t... dance with me as this train collapses? For we will all fall under my maste... Cendres, cendres, Nous tombons tous…!"

"Fuck, I really need a drink right now." If Wulf was still awake to hear Cyril's inner agitation, she did not make any form of response. Hopefully she was getting some well-deserved rest.

The macabre phrase continued to echo until they gradually subsided to a faint whisper, finally leaving the Saniwa at peace. He wasn't sure if the second poltergeist gave any pointers, but gist is their job was nowhere near finished. Now was time to segue into the next act.

Cyril rose from his seat and shot Gammond what seemed to be a well-meaning smile. Or perhaps their VIP's now incessant fidgeting was a sign that the young adult had to work on expression techniques. There's a reason the restaurant he was employed at had him working in storage. Still that didn't stop him from offering an outstretched hand, "Sir, if I'm not mistaken, I believe you and I have been assigned the same sleeping quarters. If you would like, I will gladly offer my assistance in escorting you there- you do look rather tired, sir." While he sprinkled words of altruism, the stern gaze only visible to Gammond and Samael said "Take the damn hand before I puke." After all, he could only expire so much energy that could be efficiently used in combat, or more importantly, reading and drinking.

To the passengers still seated the painted scene looked like a young lad acting out of compassion. With Gammond reeled in close, kept neatly within adequate range for Cyril to sock an assailant, the two were turning in for the night.

"Good night."

White noise.

The girl was most likely fast asleep and could be woken up if Cyril "yelled" enough in his thoughts, but hopefully the remainder of the evening would be uneventful.

Hopefully.

(may write a little part for Wulf, just wanted to get the important stuff on paper)

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
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CHAPTER THREE
The Red-Eyed Man

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At 9.05, Miyoshi steps out from his carriage, with Kimura Asagi gliding behind him. Both Japanese men sport charcoal suits. Noble in their demeanor, they emerge like land gods amidst the morning light. He feels strangely at ease as he steps outside; he feels weightless. They pass a few soldiers, and give cursory nods of gratitude to their hosts. Miyoshi begins speaking in his maiden tongue once they are alone.

Tell me, Kimura,” Miyoshi says. Who will be meeting us upon our return to Kyoto? The item that needs to be checked. You remember.

Kimura Asagi appears slightly startled. Miyoshi hasn’t mentioned “that item” since Operation We. Purposely, of course, so that he could spring it on his Artifact as an oddly misplaced memory. Nevermind Gammond, “that item” is worth more than the The Joffre’s onboard passengers’ lives. Miyoshi’s resurrection of “that item” cannot mean anything pleasant, this much, Kimura is certain.

Zhanqing Yang,” Kimura Asagi says eventually. The name unnaturally pops out of his mouth. It is one the Artifact worked harder to remember, and to pronounce correctly. ...You...you passed the Artifact to Zhanqing Yang.

He has agreed to meet us?

Of course,” Kimura Asagi says simply. Well, as a matter of fact, master, he purchased his tickets separately. But Taiwan is not far from Japan. I can’t tell you when he will arrive. Vienna is not our real goal, I assume? It is Zhanqing Yang.”

A stupid question.

Miyoshi does not respond. Instead, he continues towards the door, tugs it open, and steps out into the dismal air. He pauses on balcony, and peers upwards. Instantly, violent pollution fill his lungs. The smell of burning charcoal cloaks what would have been an otherwise perfectly pleasant cool, gray morning. Away ahead, a million miles in the Pacific, his father was looking at a different sky while condemning him under this one. Yet, the fine press of his collar keeps warmth at his neck.

Finally, without turning to face his companion, he speaks with horrible relish.

No. Vienna is still our real goal. We are on a German-commandeered train Kimura, not a Japanese steamer. How can a man so skilled with an iron be less deft with his mind? Keep up. Now, you are very confident he will not betray us?

Kimura Asagi feels humiliation rising in his throat, but he forces himself to swallow it back.

He does not have the soul of a traitor. Such is the kind of man he is,” the Artifact says thickly.

“We shall see. We have something to look forward to,” the Spiritualist says slowly, denying his Artifact neither a useful nor comforting response. With little time in between, Miyoshi looks at Claire’s silhouette through the opening door ahead.

Come. Let us go.

At this, Kimura Asagi says nothing, giving the distinct impression that he disapproves of his Saniwa's initiatives. In truth, things were often this way between them. They were pleasant enough in each other's company, but if one was around the other for too long it becomes obvious that their affections are complex in their mutuality.

Claire is easier, Kimura Asagi thinks. It’s why master likes him more than me.

Kimura Asagi looks away from the scene, but he can hear his Saniwa’s smile when he greets the American.

He hates it.

. . .


“Good morning Claire,” Miyoshi says to his comrade, who appears ruffled by his sudden appearance. Claire lets out a small grunt before slipping a cigarette between his teeth. Nevertheless, Miyoshi keeps his own face carefully unreadable. Calculations are being made behind the shield of Miyoshi’s own gaze, and he speaks easily. Still, their previous spat has imposed a certain coolness on his behavior towards the Irishman, and the Spiritualist pushes it for dramatic effect. It would only be a matter of time before the Combat Saniwa pledged greater commitment as moral compensation.

When they reach their table in the dining room, Miyoshi seats himself beside the window, leaving space for Amelia and Helene. Kimura Asagi reclines in an empty booth behind them. Aside from the three House agents, the rest of the dining car remains empty. Soon, Miyoshi joins Claire on indulging his own smoking habit. He savors his test draw, settling into the byes and byes of tobacco, brass, and cypress.

All of a sudden, Claire jolts upright. Very quickly, he lowers himself to the cushions and floors, and presses his hands against them for bugs. He then steps on the benches, shoes and all, and examines the ceiling above them. Cursing inwardly, Miyoshi begins to speak loudly, masking his companion’s movements.

“Have you heard word from Gandor, Claire?” Miyoshi seethes.

“No, I can’t say I have,” Claire says, his confusion markedly present in its loudness. He continues checking the cabin with the zeal of a schoolboy on a treasure hunt. Oblivious to his carelessness, Claire answers the question with complete honesty, to Miyoshi’s abject horror.

“Is that so? Please give him my regards,” the Spiritualist says, his heart rate soaring. To both of their benefits, Claire finds nothing but Miyoshi is certain that he has lost his patience.

When Claire finally seats himself, he beams at his friend with sheepish pride. He remains oblivious to Miyoshi’s trying spirit (a testament to the latter man’s composure) but settles into a furrowed expression once he readies himself to talk.

“I saw something last night, after I left,” Claire states gravely, smoke billowing from his mouth.

Miyoshi’s eyes flicker for a brief moment, tapping the ash from his cigarette. Something seems to be banking in Miyoshi's silence. He sets his jaw but says nothing. Claire hesitates before producing a rotting, rogue patch of cloth from inside his waistcoat. He passes it under the table, nudging Miyoshi with his foot.

Manicured fingers lift the cloth from calloused hands, and to Claire’s surprise, Miyoshi looks at him as if he’s actually interested. He runs the silk through his fingers before gazing at its torn, decaying edges. Claire speaks before Miyoshi can get in a single word.

“Mary and me, we tracked down the source of Drusilla’s remains down to the cargo carts.” Claire sighs, closing his eyes. “She was too freaked out to continue, said there were other strong ghosts like Dru. I thought they might have been elsewhere on the train but just as I was about to head back to the cabin I saw a red-eyed man.”

“Nothing like your normal guy. White skin, white hair, he didn’t even reply to me,” Claire finished, putting out his cigarette. His mouth remains a half-frown at most, slouching to meet Miyoshi’s eye level despite the back strain.

“Good,” is all Miyoshi has to say, before taking a long pull of his pipe.

Claire’s eyes widen. Before he can question why, Miyoshi speaks.

“I reckon that’s the best news we’ve had in awhile,” Miyoshi says, sighing to mask deeper disappointment. He leans further into the wooden backrest behind him, and closes his hands together.

“But we didn’t find anything,” Claire sputters.

“It’s not what you found that matters,” Miyoshi evenly says, trying to keep his voice low and non-confrontational. “It’s that you found anything at all, despite the circumstances. It is considerate of you to share, Claire.”

“I…” Claire isn’t sure what to say, visibly relieved but caught off guard by the return to their usual form. “Thanks, Mouse.”

“Yes, of course.”

From the other side of the booth, Miyoshi breaks into a smile. Something in Claire’s uncertain expression pleases Miyoshi. Even in the most propitious of circumstances, Miyoshi takes pride in his ability to make Claire nervous. Given the current state of affairs, there is nothing to celebrate, though Miyoshi figures Claire is too stupid to realize otherwise.

If it wasn’t obvious already, it should be obvious now. The Joffre… they were being set up.

“When I was a young boy, I was very interested in art.” Miyoshi relates, breaking the silence. “One day, my father took a large earthenware pot into my room, the one usually reserved for guests, and had me burn my paintings.”

Claire drops the burnt cigar before turning toward Miyoshi.

“Holy shit.” Claire says. “What’s the point?”

“What’s the meaning of it?” Miyoshi raises a brow.

“Sure.”

“Because I was proud of them. It was a teaching moment. Anything can go up in fire, no matter how proud you are of it.”

“Why are you telling me this. Why not open with ‘here’s a plan for how we ah going to take down the killa, Clayuh?’” he asks, pulling off his best Londonian accent (which sounded more Cockney than anything), “what does this have to do with anything?”

Miyoshi’s gaze cools for a moment before his eyes shifts towards the open window. His expression changes entirely, and something about it earns Miyoshi more nervousness from Claire. Never in all their years of friendship had Miyoshi ever brought up elements of his past, let alone his childhood. Something is wrong. The Spiritualist bends forward and folds his arms.

“What I'm saying is, father isn't above sabotage. Not even to a child. Father pulled Rosalind. Clearly he was not impressed by the events of last night.” Miyoshi smirks. ”She was my leverage. Our team would only have access to her abilities if my performance was praiseworthy. Change of plans. Rosalind didn’t write anything. Why, she might not even be on this train anymore.”

“Does this actually surprise you?” Claire sighs, gesturing to the empty air. “He’s never satisfied.”

“Of course not.” Miyoshi drawls. He chews on his pipe for what seems to be an eternity, until his eyes flicker to meet Claire's. ”By the by, we’ve heard nothing from the Australians.”

For some time, neither men speak; tendrils of smoke pool in their silence.

“Well.”

“We’re on our own then.”
the redhead crosses his arms before he slides down his seat, “--this is what I wanted anyway: for us to be the big damn heroes.”

“Oh don’t be like that, Claire. We are figures of sizeable importance.” Miyoshi laughs. “We are… ah… as the Germans call us, ‘Unbesonnen.’ People easily seduced by reckless behavior.”

When the door creaks open, his mouth settle into a smile. “Ah, the women are here.”

He exhales a strong odour of tobacco and cypress, before passing a small and cold object from under the table.





TWOSTWOS
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A/N: I was fed some lines by Eva for Claire; she allowed me full control over his character for this scene. Normally, this wouldn't qualify a collaboration post. However, since the story doesn't demand heavier participation from Claire, Eva's contribution here suffices. This is a special case. In the future, these kinds of posts will be kept to a minimum, or combined with larger collaboration posts to fill everyone's formal quota.


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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ImageImage

Maria stares at the ceiling, the night spent sleepless and cramped as the Dame Blanche's words echoed in her mind. Though physically alone in her sleeping booth, the tether between her and her Artifact remains, a constant companion. She does not enjoy the lack of human contact though. Basilio feels not only the physical exhaustion and emotional discomfort of his Saniwa, but also the mental toll that a night of watching Gammond took.

The civillian car is quiet and relatively empty; Basilio takes this as a chance to stretch his legs in his seat. He breathes in, the scent of stale cigars and sweat filling his lungs, before he releases the tension in his body. He knows that his words have little chance to sway her decision, but still finds it difficult to resist expressing his concern. The newspaper in his hand rustles as he flips a page.

Maria, we should stop using your power. You'll be too tired if you keep this up. The flash of irritation rang with clarity through their connection, the answer apparent before it was shared.

We both know that isn't an option. In her booth, it and reporting failure to either Kazetani. She shelves the current subject, choosing to push her frustration towards their two missing comrades. I haven't heard the door to Booth 2 move at all.

Basilio studies his surroundings, though he does so out of habit than any real hope. They're not here either. He pauses again, knowing she would be reluctant to continue the mission. He knows the imminent death of Gammond is a fact his Saniwa finds difficult to forget. But she had expressed her agreement, and a word once given... Maria, the Kazetani group should be awake by now and free from the Germans. Should you convene with the others somewhere?

Uncharacteristically silent in her response, she takes a few moments to collect herself. Though weary and morally at a crossroads, she had duties to fulfill.

Her Artifact correctly takes her silence as affirmation, remaining in his seat while she thinks through a course of action. He simply watches the morning light filter through the windows, illuminating the dust motes floating within. He knows better than to press. He simply waits, knowing she would speak when she so chose.

Since the Australians have left their booth vacant, that would be an ideal place to meet. Find a way to bring Samael here, I can contact Cyril from here. A small smile curves on her lips at the memory duo, the first one in many hours. It grows bigger as she remembers Cyril's reaction to her perfume. Samael's presence is non-negotiable. He's our only means to speak with the Kazetani.

The simple thought of the name wipes the smile off her face, setting her thin lips into a grim line. She forces herself to stand, smoothing her skirts and running a brush through her hair. The 'presence' is quiet for now, and she breathes in relief at the slight reprieve. After writing on a scrap paper, she heads out. A quick glance out her door reveals an empty hallway, dark eyes darting back and forth between the two ends. In one smooth movement, she softly knocks and tucks the simple "B2" through the door crack. She then quietly slips into their meeting place, taking care to remain unseen and unheard.

The task that befell her Saniwa was not quite as simple. He thinks for a moment, then decides to go for a simple approach. A pale hand reaches for a pen, and he answers the crossword for the paper he'd been reading earlier. He purposely leaves B2 blank and even encircles it, as if struggling to answer the question.

He speaks in an accented German, sending a silent prayer no one would think of it as anything other than Italian. "Excuse me," In the booth across, a blond Artifact turns to him, no trace of recognition on his face. He feels a mild stab of envy at his poker face, though this is overruled by his appreciation. Basilio's brown eyes gaze levelly at the blue before he points towards the newspaper's crossword. "Would you know the answer to B2?"



Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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#, as written by Jedly
It was but an average tranquil start- rays of the morning sun poked into the passenger car and rested on the carpeted flooring, envoys underscoring the beginning of yet another day,.

”Fuck.”

Avians soared gracefully through the sky above and trailed the locomotive as it ventured forth on its railed journey.

”Son of a cat shit.”

Yet another harmonious beginning to what would surely be a day empty of strif-

”Whoever the fuck designed these curtains should have never been conceived.”

Well, unfortunately, not everyone wins. Hence the existence of the concept losing. Cyril, in this case, had drawn the short straw, comparatively diminutive than his will to act upon his agitation. The Belgian reluctantly stirred from his sleep and massaged his temples before letting out a blatantly obnoxious yawn, without the slightest regard for any of the booth’s other passengers. His eyes lethargically panned about the room, taking in every facet at his morning stride pace. In reality, Cyril had slept fairly well considering the events of the prior night. When ones childhood is spent in an orphanage with a cash flow of the occasional franc, a humble outlook on life is furnished. While the accommodations were by no means exemplary, they undoubtedly sufficed, even though they dwelled in comparison to the treatment his teammates in the former cars were receiving. Though as painful as it may be, to some of the aforementioned comrades, even the embellished arrangements could be considered a downgrade.

But there was no time to dwell on the monetary disparity between paychecks and familial wealth, a few issues that could potentially detriment the Joffre’s commute and their mission stilled remained.

First, his branch senior and his spectacled companion were nowhere to be seen. Since they were a long ways from the outback, there wasn’t the slightest of a chance they had wandered into some monstrous concoction of nature. Perhaps they were deemed suspicious and found out, and as a result were escorted to a more secluded car. With them gone, contact with the other team was effectively cut off. Well ain’t that fucking grand.

Second, the driving force behind the events which transpired last night still looms in the shadows, just out of the waiting eye of the Saniwa. It was a power to be reckoned with, having escaped both Maria and Cyril’s gaze. And with a vendetta against trains, it was evident that the Saniwa had to act rather than stagnate.

A sudden knock at his door wrenched Cyril from his internal mulling, followed by the sound of paper crinkling through the crease of the booth’s door. After checking the state of the room’s other denizens, the Saniwa decided to follow his task instead of defaulting to the more alluring option, which was drifting off back to sleep. Cyril casually removed himself from the bed and scrutinized the scrap. He only found a curt message surely written with a cursory hand.

The Aussie’s former booth.

”Wulf?”

Silence.

”Wulf, quit licking your palms.”

”I beg your pardon?” The reply finally resounded in a peeved tone.

”Is the tarsier out of her enclosure?”

Cyril proceeded to prepare himself for the day, starting with the necessary attire.

”Yes, she left the booth in a hurry. Thankfully, Gammond made it through the night.”

Cyril wasn’t exactly sure if that was anything to be thankful about, but he decided to not step on the feline’s tail.

”We’re meeting in booth 2. Last one there covers the bar tab for the next month.”

Well, it works out that Cyril is the only flow of income in the Noel household, or perhaps it was the fear of covering the guy’s monstrous appetite for alcohol, but Wulf was already outside of the booth well in advance. The latter opened the door and let herself in, leaving a space for her Saniwa. Cyril gregariously closed the door behind himself, ascertaining their privacy, and took his seat. ”It seems we have a few matters to squabble over. Maria, being the verbose individual you are, I believe the honor of spearheading this befalls upon you.” With a blatant cop out to speaking more, Cyril reclined in his chair, awaiting the arrival of his comrades.

”How was your sleep, Cyril?” Wulf poked to fill the silence and to kill time.

”Sufficient. Yours?”

”The child and I rested quite well, thanks for asking~!”

Ack.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
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Do you know the answer to B2?”

There was a heavy pause in the air as Samael scanned the page. The sudden question had truthfully caught him off-guard, and he was not foolish enough to believe that Basilio had suddenly gathered an interest in word games. He feigned searching the page, running a finger across the coarse surface as if his sight hadn’t passed over the offending column several times already. He mused on the question, knowing that the crossword answer he could currently provide would not be the one that Basilio was searching for.

The silence grew in weight and size, seeming to suffocate the two of them - seemingly statues frozen in time, both searching for the same answer. Wait too long, and it would look conspicuous, as would asking Basilio to clarify what he meant.

The word. Verstehen. To understand. Samael spoke confidently, much more comfortable in his native tongue than the other artifact. He offered a genuine smile to the other man, continuing, It’s a common word, but I had trouble with it as well, my friend.

Little else was exchanged between them as Basilio seemingly lost interest in continuing the conversation. Had he provided the answer? Was understanding an answer? What did they need the fair-haired man to understand? Was there new information? A new threat? Did he have to carry a message to Amelia? Could she help him figure this out? He could feel her mind in the back of his - dim and muted while she slept. She needed the rest, he shouldn’t wake her unless he was absolutely sure.

He stood up despite the fire growing in his legs. As he stepped away from the seat, he folded the newspaper under an arm, pacing about the car to work out both the knots in his leg and mind. These thoughts did not anger him - he was fond of puzzles, but he knew the longer he paced without the solution, there could be a risk to the others.

Another passenger began eying him with curiosity. Samael had likely been walking in a circle for a few minutes, so to avoid attention, the man turned his path towards the car door - the Joffre’s narrow aisles guiding his steps. He slipped through the brisk air from the crowded passenger car to the darker quiet of the sleeping car.

Perhaps they had found the Australians. Were they suspected by the passengers on the car? Any number of things -

A brief movement near one of the sleeping booths caught his attention, two figures slipping through a doorway, their movements hidden from most by the dim lighting. Their movement seemed familiar - was it the two Saniwa?

Dread - not from fear of a threat or danger - welled up within him as he approached, seeing the duo disappear inside a carriage. Even with the lack of light, he could easily read the polished silver lettering next to the door.

B2.

I am -

A tad foolish. You… you should have told me sooner, rather than walking about clueless like that. And it’s even incredibly simple, yet you thought of every other… other possible and incorrect solution beforehand. Amelia’s thoughts - jumbled and disoriented as they were, fresh from awakening flew crudely from her consciousness to her partner’s. Yet, with her irritation, she could only feel bemusement from Samael on her status of mind. He knew she coped poorly with mornings - and even worse when she was quite so exhausted.

An unforgiving, cold breeze graced Amelia’s features as she sat up. Her body felt restrained by the chains of her sleep, aching with pains that had no physical mark. Her mind was unwilling to separate with its rest, even with a natural awakening. The events of the previous day had left her drained, in no small part due to her artifact’s ability.

She released her grip of the pistol under her pillow, observing the room around her, much grander than she was personally used to - but she was sure it likely felt spartan to those such as Hélène. As her senses slowly recovered from sleep, Samael passed along the information he had gathered earlier in the morning.

The Australians were missing or captured. A poltergeist held at bay, the possibility that the poltergeist might be a distraction for something much worse - a threat that Maria previously detected in a far end of the train. A revenant who was able to nearly kill Stanfield and Kazetani - apparently a second, unheard-of assassin. Plus, a man with red eyes and pale features in uniform who seemed to recognize the Saniwa, and actively avoided them. Other things - minor details that would be slipping her fatigued mind.

She rubbed her temples in a vain attempt to minimize the throbbing in her forehead. Her vision was blurred from fatigue. Yet, Samael was helpfully quiet, his thoughts and words filling the gaps and lapses in her’s.

There were too many variables to keep track of - especially with how little Amelia knew. Those in the civilian car had been updated, and now, it would fall to her to both relay the information and to squeeze the two men for more. What was a simple errand had turned into a dangerous proceeding, and Amelia did not enjoy her lack of control and information on the situation.

Those in the civilian car had been updated with all that Amelia knew. Now it seemed the task of relaying information and also keeping the mission on track fell to her, granting her a much stronger grasp over the situation than she had expected.

. . . .


Hélène slowly drifted up from the depths of sleep, listening to the muffled clatter of the train rushing along the tracks. Keeping her eyes closed, she savored the simple rocking of sleeping car. Despite her sound sleep the night before, her mind still felt dumb with exhaustion and bright flash of emotions that usually accompanied her waking hours were clumsy and muted. With a puff of air to cover her displeasure, she reluctantly pushed herself up from where she had been curled to glance across the small room.

Across from her, her companion had already risen. Amelia sat straight, having already adorned a pale azure dress, with three buttons fastened at her neckline. Her hair was slightly damp - the curls carefully maintained. However, her features seemed pallid, with dark circles barely concealed beneath her eyes, and in her lap sat an already spotless Gandor pistol, cradled in an oiled cloth. Her hands continued with the careful and practiced work of the various parts and small, minute tools needed for its maintenance.

Hélène eyed her companion, politely keeping her silence as the Frenchwoman eyed her back, hands ever busy. After a moment the German woman shuffled off the bed, gathering a clutch among her things before leaning against the far wall next to the window. She stooped a bit, and began prying it open. The rushing of the train sounded more clearly as cold, wet air wafted in, replacing the vague smell of dust and stale air in her nose. Hélène carefully opened the clutch, and after a quick glance at Amelia, pulled out a lighter, small metal case, and a long cigarette holder. Placing the bag down, she took a cigarette out of the case, placed the end in the holder, and deftly lit the end. Quickly, still leaning on the wall and slightly hunched over to reach the window, she angled the lit end carefully towards to open window. She closed her eyes and took a slow, deep breathe, shoulders relaxing and face smoothing as she pressed her face to the window gap as she exhaled. Muscles held more languidly, she leaned back a little and slowly shifted herself around, crouching to keep the cigarette near the window opening and absently smoothing her night clothes down.

The rattle of the train and the quiet sound of Amelia’s movements created a lull of soothing white noise. Softly, Hélène began to hum as she watched the countryside rush by. The further into the song she progressed, the more defined her singing, until she slowly wound back down to a thoughtful silence. Glancing down at her still burning cigarette, she barely held back a regretful grimace before taking a deep lungful of smoke and plucking the remaining barely burnt stick and flicking the entire thing out the window and into the wind.

She quickly straightens, carefully putting everything back to rights, rubbing her right hand against her night clothes as she turns toward her companion.

“I’ll assume the night didn’t treat you well.” Amelia said, the slide locking into place with a click. Satisfied with the action, she folded up the small cloth on her lap, concealing the small, oily tools within.

Heading back towards her luggage, Hélène prepares for the day as she gives a slightly bitter laugh, Ja, truly awful for the throat but sorely needed nonetheless.” Grimacing as she pulls out more German fashion, she heaves a sigh and begins assembling herself a suit of armor, an article of clothing at a time. Regretfully passing over her makeup and perfume, the German woman expertly styles her hair before turning to take stock of her roommate.

“Ready to face the machinations of men?” Hélène asks with a sardonic smile, eyes jaded but with a playful tilt to the corner of her mouth.

“For a few hours, now.” Her companion replied, allowing herself to smile in kind as she opened the door.

As Amelia steps out into the hall, Hélène adjusts the fall of her dress and smoothes out her face. The cheerful face and bright eyes of yesterday are back, and she goes to join the beautifully severe woman now stepping out into the morning sun. With the singer following closely behind, Amelia opens the door to the dining car to see the almost empty car, and expectations cloying along with the smoke in air as they carefully seat themselves in the open seats of the booth.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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The morning and scenery both pass by in a fitful alternation of sturm and drang, the window permitting view of a colorless scene through fogged glass and heavy rain. Crushed raindrops gather and flood the remnants of the French countryside. There’s nothing to be admired beyond the glass, Miyoshi thinks. Its canvas creates no impression that the world can change at all.

He hasn’t told his companions, but a month ago, he’d boarded a commandeered French train not unlike the Joffre. While the train was engineered as a luxury experience, it was not any more beautiful. The food situation was pathetic -- passengers were allowed 1200 calories a day, very little bread, and a suspicious amount of tobacco and wine. All of it to feed the occupying forces, and to reassure the French that they were cared for. The Joffre is hardly dire, but Miyoshi dislikes it equally much. So far, the cohabitation is bearable due to the good discipline of the occupying forces and his own country being allied with Germany. Regardless, all false benevolence comes to an end. After some time, the Germans will become more reluctant and aggressive, and be more vocal of their suspicions. Miyoshi remembers how Neumann looked at them.

Silent and watchful and unblinking.

Yes, he thinks. We must tolerate the Germans for a night longer, although France must endure them for many more.

The door swings open, and the women emerge, snapping him out of his thoughts. There, enhanced by the glow of natural light, Helene settles across from him, Amelia sitting beside her. Even in the bleak morning, Helene’s delicate countenance remains unruffled.

“Well,” the singer starts, some intrigue in her tone. “This is the officer’s table.”

Amelia looks on in mild bemusement while Claire flushes to match his hair. Miyoshi smothers the urge to glower at Claire’s embarrassment. That fool, of course this is all intentional. Instead of answering, Miyoshi pushes the women cigars before leaning into his inhale. It is a slow, oppressive morning, and he expects things to follow suit.

“Well, Herr Kazetani?” Amelia questions, critically examining the cigar, before choosing to light it.

“I didn’t make a reservation.” Miyoshi parries, keeping his aplomb in place. “This conversation is not long enough to warrant one. That is, if Ms. Renard will cooperate.”

At the sound of her name, their eyes meet. The Frenchwoman warily studies him as if to say, Well, go on.

Miyoshi doesn’t mind her scrutiny, and scrutinizes her right back, brown eyes with a touch of frost. In truth, his genteel guise prefers silence, but Amelia’s provocation compels a reply. He breaks the tension and removes his pipe.

“It’s a setup,” says Miyoshi, releasing a rank cloud. “We are three members short and Gammond has yet to be killed. Is this not a strange affair? Were the Australians planted by the enemy? Can we even trust either of you?”

It isn’t unlike the Germans to arrest without apparent reason. In fact, Miyoshi is positive that the Australians had been sent to an unknown destination, or shot without explanation, accused or suspected of being communist collaborators or saboteurs. His own kind would have done the same. There is no room for clemency in the kempeitai.

A hand tensely wraps around his wrist. Claire’s fingers are ice cold.

“Hey Mouse, don’t go around assuming thin-” Claire breaks in, but his companion barely flinches.

“Wrong. We need to assume that anyone could betray us. I need to be sure, is all.” Miyoshi sharply remarks. “For all we know, this could be sabotage.” Every nerve in his body has lost its patience, earlier from Claire’s carelessness, and now from having to repeat his knowledge. However, he’d been taught how to curb his own tells. His pale face betrays a smile, but his eyes and brows cease all activity and become rigid.

“It’s all just given me a great deal to think about,” he says after a moment. “And I’d reckon the two of you know something that I could not. I felt an otherworldly presence at dinner. It was in the room after Claire and I left.” Curiosity wins over his impatience. He keeps his gaze turned towards the women. “And so? Did you see anyone? If you lie, I will know.”

There is a brief silence. Then, a flicker of annoyance crosses Helene’s Aryan features, only to be replaced by a calm tilt of her head. The quieter of the two chooses to speak.

“I hadn’t assumed there was any trust, Kazetani.” Amelia begins. “We cannot sabotage a mission we know nothing about. However, Ms. Kohler did mention seeing a particular gentleman.”

The Frenchwoman’s features remain unreadable, but Miyoshi detects her control. She remains utterly still, and Helene blossoms and animates.

Helene says, “I saw a red-eyed man at supper. Rather peculiar, and only for a moment. He arrived after you left, and departed as soon as he'd come.”

“I saw him late last night,” Claire interrupts, “White hair, fiddling with somethin’. He had Spiritual energy. You wouldn’t have to be a Kazetani to feel it. Those glowin’ red eyes looked straight at me when I asked if he wanted a light. There’s trouble coming.”

He seems to read Miyoshi’s mind, and adds, “The women could take care of him.”

“Yes.” Miyoshi agrees. “In the East Wind, we quite like them, because they have the ability to pass unnoticed where a man would be stopped and suspected. If Claire and I were anywhere near the others, we would be likely be detained. But the two of you are special. You could simply be ‘lost.’”

“You imply that Ms. Kohler, Germany’s darling, would escape notice on this train?”

“Of course not. I’d never have you go fishing without bait. What did you think Ms. Kohler was here for?”

At this, Amelia smiles, but she neither agrees or disagrees.

Why isn’t she proposing her own plan? Why does she continue to divert attention to Ms. Kohler? Miyoshi wonders, watching. Europe is her domain — she should have advanced intelligence on these men. Following the events of last night, we’re hardly in proper shape to be without a plan. We’re inventing a fire, not building it. Did Nikolai put her up to anything? Or was she offered as a rogue element?

No, that he cannot believe. The war had not changed the Head Priest’s conservative proclivities. The people of Moscow responded to the initial German attack with a flood of volunteers to join the North Wind. Volunteers came from the intelligentsia, from factories, and from schools. Most did not have adequate training, and were little worse off than soldiers in the regular army, who were equally poorly equipped and trained. It is in his nature to assign high-ranking Saniwa sparingly, so Amelia and Cyril could be considered generous, and even superfluous. Perhaps then Miyoshi measured Amelia incorrectly. Just what is her purpose?

Helene, on the contrary, seems keenly aware of hers.

“I’ll be of no use to anyone if I can’t be myself. I’ll do it.” Helene curtly says, though Miyoshi isn’t convinced she dislikes the prospect.

“Not a bad idea,” Claire nods. “last night everyone was all over you. I’m for it, Mouse.”

Miyoshi does not have to fake a smile. The words come easily. “Very good, it’s decided then.”

A pause. The blowing of smoke.

“And by the by, were any of you aware that the Australians are missing? Detained, perhaps. Shot, I think.”

The quiet is fretful, unnatural. But created for Helene.

Other than himself and Maria, Amelia would be the first to discover the Australians’ disappearance. But would she tell Helene? He watches the singer for confirmation, and takes pleasure in the fruits of his labor. He sees it in the way the color drains out of her cheeks. The skin around her eyes stretches wide. She’s consumed by the revelation’s gravitas.

Nien! She gasps, posture rigid with distress. She goes on with strained agitation: “But— it’s only been a single night!”

This hardly seems to bother Claire, and he looks inquiringly at Miyoshi, but the latter is preoccupied. Swirling his contraband tea leaves, he’s reminded that duplicity lives everywhere. Good. Amelia does not trust Helene. The women share an empty bond.

Setting down his pipe, he exhales and rests his eyes. Very softly, he speaks without sympathy.

“Well, now you know.”

A worn smile rests around his eyes, but disappears at the sound of Claire’s voice.

“So Helene wasn’t told.” Claire, accustomed to the machinations of spies, pushes his hands through his thick, red hair. “That Ms. Austerlitz is next.”

This interjection gives Miyoshi pause; he reflects on Amelia's vulnerability. If her Australian accessories were detained, she would not be far behind. The winds are favorable, and the Germans are on his side. Surely, Richter would be glad to drive a bullet into her brain. Perhaps the Frenchwoman should fear him most. Miyoshi could expose her. As kempeitai. Or better, as a tool of Japanese foreign policy.

The image of ordinary citizens, hopes crushed like black velvet, lie bare for him to see. His mentor’s voice fills his head. Yakumo’s baton is marked with brutality, his eyes rimmed with an impression of invincibility.

Give them oxygen to burn, Kazetani. Yakumo says. Give them enough oxygen to burn, and they’ll snuff themselves out.

Allowing someone like Amelia to flame unchecked, watched with concern only by that which she was tasked, would be sufficient. If she betrays them, Nikolai would assassinate her, and if she survives the Nazis, she would create her own undoing. He could wait to see what she will not show him.

His fingers dig into his knees.

This is good. This is excellent.

Miyoshi keeps his voice polite. Patiently, as if time is a faraway concept, he pours himself tea.

“Well. Then isn’t there somewhere,” he says. “she needs to be? It’s almost time for our hosts to join us.”

When he finishes, he wipes his mouth. He folds his napkin and places it beside the window. His hands are flat on the table. Neither of the women say anything. Even Claire is silent. No one is smiling now.

Had he expected them to be openly informative?

Of course not.

With the slip of his tongue, Miyoshi rearranges the glyphs of power. A lone camellia doesn’t wait for opportunities to bloom. One might think him frustrated, but his true opponent is time. Now, seconds slip beneath his feet. A vault of darkness hangs overhead; the combined efforts of himself and Kimura must not go wasted. The Germans must be pleased. All light would be snuffed out.

The decade-old knots inside Miyoshi begin to loosen. Some unexpected steel emerges in his voice. “I’ll have Kimura transferred to the Maria Calag.”

He looks up, some gland within him leaking fatalistic abandon.

“I’m sorry?” Claire chokes.

“Yes. I insist. Kimura shall be of better use there. Report nothing to my father.”

He smooths his face into porcelain dispassion.

Each time he faced his father, Miyoshi could not help feeling that the man was a dissimulating demon or a kami efficient in judgement. In the space of time Miyoshi had joined the East Wind, he had of his own accord as good as destroyed half his life. Always, the absence of personal freedom separated him from a life without neurotic suffering. But the past is only a ghost that cannot be exorcised, drifting, wailing, and vulgar when given attention. And so, Miyoshi cannot help but feel as if a stage in his life has ended. A fog has lifted. He will be thrillingly alone.

Tapping the bowl of his pipe, Miyoshi says without hesitation, “Kimura, you’re dismissed.”

“Now? Are you certain?”

Kimura’s surprise comes across perfectly natural. If he dislikes the arrangements at all, he hides it masterfully.

“Yes.” Miyoshi says with iron certainty. ”Postponing the inevitable bores me.” Then transitioning into Japanese, Issun saki wa yami.

A pregnant pause fills the air. Kimura looks knowingly at Amelia. Then, he solemnly answers, “Very well.”

The Artifact rises, his defiance well-masked, and begins to shift, stone turning to flesh. He bows gracefully at his Saniwa superiors and briefly pauses before his master. There is a faint glint to the Artifact’s eyes, a ghost-light disappearing as quickly as it appeared. Miyoshi does not look at him. He already knows what Kimura sees. What Kimura feels is always the same: sadness, bitterness, but never resentment. The insolence that Kimura thinks, however, comes as a start.

It’s too early, master. You know this.

Their eyes meet, but Kimura doesn’t linger for long.

The Artifact retreats; the Saniwa mentally paces.

Miyoshi tugs at his collar and tries to swallow. He can feel the lymph nodes on either side of his neck compressing in consequence to Kimura’s distance. He rights his tie. In a few minutes, he is standing.

Saying that he has business to attend to, the Spiritualist curtly makes his leave. A constant stream of officers pass him, nodding as they come. He makes to the empty sleeping car before the first cough erupts.

Wiping his mouth, he thinks, Tonight will be the beginning.

Ikuzo.


A feeling of infernal responsibility stirs inside him. Always, the weight in his soul swings pendulously. Slowly. Impossibly. His heart scrambles to deliver oxygenated blood as he recalls an excerpt from the American Naturalist: Even the heart, which in higher animals, when agitated, pulsates with increasing energy, in a snail, under similar excitement, throbs with a slower motion. . .

But this agitation is preternatural: going beyond nerves and stimuli. It’s the deep rush of a rising concerto, the rills and crescendo of something with an unstoppable desire to burn. If his body is a shrine, his heart is the pale fire of mokurō candles, singed through the wick. The pulsing in his ears resurrects an abyssal feeling he thought was dead. Like a man possessed, he can only breathe, hear, and listen.

Listen to this, Miyoshi thinks. This is me.

The rhythm plays on, blood continues to build within his throat, and the cough that inevitably comes feels like a joyful spring. Seizing his breath, he swells with life. A feverish fit of hacking explodes from inside his chest. His face remains pallid, but there’s a crimson mess on his handkerchief. No, a red camellia. An imperious symbol. One that can be destroyed.

Vengeance begins with expulsion. It’s born from immortal hate, and sponsored by the study of revenge. It flushes a wronged soul with the blood of its bloom and makes him new again. Violently. Obsessively. Makes him whole.

Suddenly, Gammond’s death feels unimportant. Something else has become bigger.

Maybe the diviners were wrong.

He was perhaps more like samurai than priest.

. . . .


Without his conscience, he’s left with only his nerves. But oh, how strange it was to see himself now, standing absolutely rigid before his own death throes.

Before him, the door to his room swings open, the lights blink on, yet he hesitates before stepping in. To ease his headache, he focuses his gaze on an alabaster Madonna -- Claire’s religious aid -- lying idly by the gramophone. Was it there before? Something is off.

Concentrate. Look for clues. What’s different about the room from before we left it? Claire’s belongings have been moved. No. That’s not it. Searched? No. Perhaps. What?

The blood pooling in his veins violently quivers.

Sending Kimura Asagi away prematurely was a poor gamble. He feels a stabbing, paralyzing pain in his skull, and an intense buildup in his throat. The absence of his Artifact feels more significant with each ragged breath. He’s quick to clamp his hand over his mouth. When he peels his hand away, his lips are freckled with blood, and red discharge swings between his tongue and palm.

His hand is now stained with old, congealed blood, and the new signs of the fresh.

It isn’t supposed to be so soon, he thinks. But I have my bodyguard. He will follow.

A large hand presses into the small of his back, catching his fall. The rain outside spills so softly, almost soundlessly, but to Miyoshi, it begins to roar.

When Miyoshi’s vision returns, he finds that his throat is dry, and that he is not alone in his room. A presence unlike any he’d encountered tugs at his soul. Playfully, almost. His blood burns like an open fire.

Looking up from the floor, he sees an unfamiliar shadow. “Where is your companion, Herr Kazetani?” comes a voice that does not belong to Claire. Deeper. With a purr. Thickly accented English. Rain hums loudly against the roof and walls.

Despite his dread, Miyoshi’s blood boils with adrenaline. His facial expression, his eyes, the power concentrated in the depths of his thoughts, everything that fuels him to this point -- fills him with euphoria, and perhaps, savage joy.

Slowly lifting his head, he meets the eyes of a beaming Karl Neumann.

Yes. This could be it. He could kill me here, but would that truly be interesting?

“The bloody hell should I know,” the Kazetani grins, and spits a mouthful of clot and cuor. This time, if he does not reveal his true self, he will not get away at all.

What follows next can only be described as a blur. Five bashes and leaking liquid. Karl Neumann stifles a scream.

Outside, the rain tumbles like laughter, the sun bleeds through, and the clouds fold in rapture.



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A/N: I was fed some lines by Eva, Alligot, and Sophie; they allowed me moderate control over their characters for this scene. Therefore, this doesn't count as a collaboration post.


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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Maria enters the booth later than expected, having taken a brief detour to distract prying eyes. She slips into B2 quietly, but confidently. Anyone watching her might assume she’s simply retreating into her private quarters, but the true owners’ whereabouts are currently unknown. And that troubles her.

She greets the combat Saniwa and his Artifact with a small tired smile, slipping into the seat across them. She says nothing for the moment. Wulf looks expectantly at Maria while Cyril continues to read. Just before she opens her mouth to speak, the door opens to reveal a not quite familiar face.

“Hullo, Ms. Calag.” Kimura Asagi says lamely. If he isn’t content with his transfer, he veils his displeasure well. The Artifact’s gaze is softer than his Saniwa’s. He acknowledges Basilio, Cyril, and Wulfetrud with a polite nod, but doesn’t immediately seat himself. Instead, his eyes are fixed on his shoes.

The Spiritualist waits a heartbeat, but he continues to stand and stare at the floor. She finds herself looking down to see if something is there, but she finds nothing amiss. Understanding finally dawns, and she gathers her skirts then pats the seat next to hers. “You can sit here.”

Meanwhile, Wulf notes the sheepish spirit of the new arrival. In an effort to coax the young man into the car, the girl gives her newsboy cap an amicable tip. She offers a warm, greeting smile to account for Maria’s tired disposition, “Good morning, monsieur! Come on in, we don’t bite! Well… maybe Cyril will.” It is difficult to discern who was Saniwa and Artifact between them.

“Thank you,” Kimura sheepishly says, and sits upright in a manner reminiscent of his master.

As he takes his place, Maria brings out the contents of the small box she’d received. Supplies for the battle ahead. The thought is grim, but she thinks it appropriate all circumstances considered. “Kimura Asagi, you can have these.” The Gandor pistol she hands him looks new, as if it had never been fired. “Both Basilio and I are poor shots.” She says, answering the unspoken question.

She hands the ammo right after. Thin lips harden into a line as she stares at the weapons, reluctant to give up her last means of defense, but acknowledging they’d be better in other hands. Basilio, sensing her distress, picks up their tether.

“Are you sure?”

“And on the likely chance he gets damaged if left unarmed, how do I explain myself to Kazetani? You felt it.” She could still feel the remnants of that presence; the feeling of disgust sits on her gut like lead.

Basilio shifts in his seat, equally uncomfortable with the idea of leaving his Saniwa at such risk. But she had made up her mind; her Artifact knows better than to press. Maria feels him retreat, and she grits her teeth. The last item in the box is a small packet of medicine. She pockets the amphetamine tablet, begrudgingly acknowledging the drug’s advantage.

She looks at Cyril, who’d spent most of the past few minutes reading his book. Irritation colors her voice as she threatens him. “If you keep reading, I’m going to throw that out the window and laugh while doing so.”

This earns her a faltering smile from Kimura, and he peers curiously over at the Belgian boy and his companion.

The agitated words fall flat of their target. As if to spite the petite Saniwa, Cyril’s eyes remain glued onto the pages before him. His gaze then flicks up to his co-worker, stepping out of his sect off mental bubble to regard her existence, and without missing a beat, dives back down into the scripture. “If you did that, we would be at a substantial loss, Maria.” Cyril finally said.

Brown eyes look to him in question, but no sound leaves her lips. Wulf shifts her weight onto her partner’s shoulder and cranes her neck to indulge in the book’s context. She focuses and narrows her eyes in a manner completely identical to the other reader, a habit from an evident source. “Huh. For once, he’s not closing himself off into escapism reading.” She announces with an unsettling level of earnest surprise, reading along through the pictorial passages of the compendium.

If the comment had irritated him, Cyril gives no explicit sign of it. Then again, he has definitely grown used to such playful jabs. “I am trying to find spirits that are related to Dames Blanches and have an affinity for manipulating entities,” He states coolly. While his voice gave no hint at his progress, his body language spoke volumes. With a posture shittier than usual and a few rustled blond locks, it was clear that Cyril had made little headway. One could go so far as to say that he was stumped, but his internalized pride would never allow him to say it.

“One thing is for certain, we’re definitely dealing with a B, perhaps even A class spirit here. To boot, we’re also down a couple heads.” Cyril scans over faces of the other unofficial denizens of B2, taking in their individual reactions to the crossroads before them.

At this, Kimura frowns, and looks sharply at Cyril.

“I should say, Mr. Noel, when you mention ‘down a couple heads,’ do you mean that you know what happened to the Australians?” He pauses for an instant. For a moment, he seems to vacillate about whether to press for more information. Then he turns to Maria, looking somewhat pliant, and adds, “My apologies for being so forward. But if either of you know anything, please tell me.”

As soon as he asks his question, he appears to regret it. Although Kimura carries himself with cool efficacy, he seems like a child who spoke out of turn. Ironically, Miyoshi’s absence gives the Artifact an impression of lost agency. In the short time that he became acquainted with Maria, Cyril, and their Artifacts, he displayed a surprising amount of hesitation. Kimura’s behavior is unexpectedly old-fashioned and obligation-bound, and he assumes none of his master’s contemporary flair. The old-world element to Kimura’s conduct feels natural yet his self-sufficient demeanor is mechanical. Very rapidly, he appears increasingly aware of his position, and finds the mettle to remark about the killer at large.

“Someone had already attempted to kill my master last night by sending a Revenant; that someone has not been found. My master believes we are being set up. We are at a loss, I suppose.”

He looks down at his hands gravely; his glance is not untinged with concern. While Artifacts are incapable of fatigue, Kimura seems to be suffering from the exhaustion of mind and spirit, no doubt an extension of his master’s own. The Saniwa beside him studies Kimura quietly, thin lips pressing into a hard line at both the news and his current state. It explains much, yet more questions open at the supposition.

After processing the display ranging from fraught inquisition to internalized despair, all Cyril and Wulf can visibly respond with is a few blinks.

“I don’t know whether to dogeza or seppuku.”

“Cyriiiiil, I feel like a samurai is going to bust through the door at any moment! This is the forties, right.”

Cyril clears his throat to detract himself from the mental exchange and get his mind back on the Joffre’s track. The Saniwa takes in Kazetani Junior’s familiar in an effort to determine the most pragmatic manner to proceed. The guy was without a doubt more polite than his master, lacking his shrewd outlook on reality, but seems to be substantially bound to his master’s side.

He pauses and earnestly fixates his vision on the new arrival, “Right. Neither of them can be located, and they were absent from their quarters last night,” Yet the news of a setup was rather confounding, even to somebody such as Cyril, who typically has a glass half-empty perspective of people, “Due to this revelation, we can assume that our comrades were either captured, fled, or worse…”

The Belgian’s words trickle off his tongue, like a faucet running dry, as he recedes into a momentary muse. Even Cyril feels a ping of remorse, especially after the fact that he had hoped to garner even a few iotas of advice from his senior, especially one with a comparatively decorated career. This mission was, much like for a number of his teammates, their first endeavor that carried such gravity to it. A loss on the first night, in conjunction with a supposed setup, only leaves a bad taste.

“Well, we encountered a Dame - <a Baguette Blanche> - yes, a Baguette Blanc-” Cyril narrows his eyes at his fiendish partner and deeply exhales, “We exorcised a Dames Blanche last night that could have potentially been connected to Gammond. While this observation bears some weight, what is truly of a greater importance is the spirit’s passing words,” He spoke sternly as he recounted the previous night’s events, his spine still chill to the bone after the experience, “The Pissed Former Housewife alluded to a master behind her efforts, and that this soundly moving train is doomed to burn, under the ‘weight of soul.’ Disconcerting, no?” Whether the wry comment was necessary is up in the air, but for certain, both groups experienced encounters involving a mastermind. “Does that suffice, Kimura? I am certain Maria can fill in the gaps, as I was a bit preoccupied with being thrashed around.” Visibly tired from expending the effort to divulge the information, Cyril returns to the compendium.

“Your explanation of events was adequate, though not said in the words I would have used.” Maria turns to her left, where the Artifact absorbs the information provided to him. She awaits his reaction, curious to see how much of the Kazetani is in the bashful man beside her.

“That’s quite alright, if not concerning.” Kimura murmurs, paling slightly. “But the poltergeist identified Mr.Gammond by name. It’s all so queer.”

He interlaces his slender fingers, blinking. Then, realization dawns upon him, and his breath hitches with a start. Turning to Cyril and Wulfetrud, he confides his fears. “Whoever installed that spirit means to mark us. Choosing the...Baguette—“ he pauses, coloring slightly. “...the Dames Blanche was intentional. They all speak, you see. Every Dames Blanche has two goals — to be heard and to be pleased. She’s the first messenger, and I’ve no doubt there will be more.”

He shakes his head — gently pained. “Ms. Calag. Do you have anything you wish to add?”

“Yes. Let me collect my thoughts a moment.” Though distress clearly reflects in her eyes, the Spiritualist manages to keep it out of her voice. She understands that much of the decision-making falls on her now. While not usually uncomfortable in a position of leadership, she understands the gravity of the situation. She meets their eyes one by one, though Cyril firmly decides not to meet hers while he peruses the compendium. For once, she lets him be, knowing any information he might find could be beneficial to their rather dire straits.

With her second of reprieve done, she speaks. “If she means to mark us, then Cyril, Wulf and I have long been identified as members of the House. Suffice to say our covers our blown to whoever sent her.” Maria scans the window, as if expecting to see another Blanche. “In addition to all you’ve shared, there is one last thing.”

She bites the inside of her cheek, uncertain of how to deliver the news. Straightforward would be better, she thinks. The Spiritualist straightens in her seat and closes her eyes, trying to recreate what she’d felt as she spoke. “Something’s at the back of the train, towards the tanks.” An expression of disgust tinged with trepidation forms on her face without her awareness. “I think sending Wulf and myself would be best.”

She slumps, and speaks honestly. “It scares me; the fact that it does means it should be investigated with caution. If it’s our…” Maria pauses, reluctant to say murderer. “Our target, then we have no choice but to leave it alone and follow the trail. But if it’s another party, we have to stop them from interfering.” Again, the thought of leaving Gammond to die makes her sick, but she breathes deeply to force herself to calm.

Weary from the night and the news of the set-up, she turns to Kimura once again. “I assume you weren’t just sent here to act as messenger though.” Kazetani wouldn’t send his Artifact for something so simple, and she berates herself for not realizing it earlier. “Does he need something that he thinks would require assistance?”

“Your insight is as good as Rani says. On the contrary, my master sent me here for my protection.” Kimura says easily. “Sometimes the eye of a hurricane is the best safe harbor.”

While it might not be the truth, Kimura makes a convincing display of it.

Maria’s expression speaks volumes of what she thinks of that statement. If the Artifact had been Cyril, she’d have left it at that and he’d explain himself soon enough. But this was Kimura Asagi, not the Combat Saniwa across them.

“You have more of your Saniwa in you than I thought.” The fact both irritates and amuses her, though more of the former than the latter at the moment. “But if we’re the eye, that means the wall is nearby. Kimura Asagi, what does your master want?”

“Truthfully, I wish I knew.” Kimura replies. This time, he doesn’t seem to be lying.

That earns him a wry smile from the Southern Saniwa. She pats his arm—a rare gesture of comfort and solidarity. “If he’s sent you here, I assume he expects something to happen. With that in mind,” Her tone becomes brisk. She looks to the pair in front of her, looking to Wulf in particular. “As said earlier, Wulf and I will investigate. I think it’d be best if Samael and Kimura stand as guard.”

Her thoughts stray to her own Artifact. “Basilio’s ability to discern spiritual energy exceeds my own if activated. I can send him to make rounds and see if anything is out of place.” She speaks nothing of the strain it will leave on her. If anyone thinks of it, her steely gaze is enough to stop the comment.

“For Cyril,” He does not even look up from the compendium. “He’ll remain on standby should Wulf and I require assistance. In the meanwhile, he can continue his search for information.”

The plan gives her some semblance of control of the situation; Maria grabs onto it like a lifeline. It reassures her, even if the unknowns and uncertainties continue to outnumber what they could manage. “I believe that’s it. Cyril, Kimura, what do you think?”

“It’s sensible,” says Kimura. Some surprise colors his features, but his tone conveys relief. He turns to the Belgian boy seated across from him, waiting expectantly.

Before even a flicker of awareness lights up in Cyril, another present soul takes the initiative. Wulf, who had been quietly digesting the discourse between the missing link between Saniwa and Artifact and their team leader, finally breaks from the hushed composure identical to her partner’s and pipes up, “While it is a pragmatic decision to have Basilio as insurance, I do not doubt for even a moment that someone with veterancy such as your own isn’t aware of the drain such extensive deployment would have on the mind and soul,” The girl meets the Saniwa’s gaze and reveals a warm smile befitting of a former abbess, “And if you’re going to have my back, I need both of those in one piece.”

She sounded like a nun offering advice on how to reach His grace, but that’s just the kind of sheepish yet doting combatant Wulfetrud was. Following up from this advisory, Cyril merely nods in affirmation, equally with the plan as with his Artifact’s words. It was evident that he was by far more engrossed with the scripture before him- in fact, the air around him felt charged, almost as if he was… stumped. But refusing to even budge, the designated reader read on, yet presents the self-control to shove an extra magazine Wulf’s way.

“Keep her safe.” Cyril brusquely says before delving back into the literature.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
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The rain had subsided. The sun shines bleakly through the thin curtains, beaming slits of sunlight when Claire swings the door to their room open. It surrenders easily, the knob colliding softly with the wall. The bland decor and clashing fabrics are a welcomed sight for once, giving the Irishman ample time to decompress from his earlier engagements.

What ought to have been an easy trip proved to be more of a petting zoo as Claire navigated the dining halls of the upper class car. Matches were in short supply and a source of community for smokers of any nationality and even he had to concede that they (the “they” referring to every European) were treating him better than the first night. Maybe they finally know who they’re dealing with a small part of him thought, or perhaps they merely wanted to practice their English.

Every “hallo, American man!” was met with a gruff “hey”, but the few women were met a more cheeky “what’s buzzin’, cousin?” Well, the brunette ones anyway. His own car consists mostly of men and it seems that the few women who are there are either maids, rich debutantes, or the blonde duo. Not too many interest him, but a breakfast of awkwardly conversing with the Germans (the few that weren't patrolling the cart) has helped him acclimate to showing off his humorous side.

Nonetheless it did not prepare him for what lay directly under his eyeline--a body by the name Neumann.

“Mouse what the fff-” he silences himself before turning over and closing the door.

He scurries toward Miyoshi, his hand cupping around his own mouth.

“Mouse what the fuck happened?” Claire whispers harshly as he points an open hand at the unconscious body, “don’t you think there was another way to handle...this.”

“No,” Miyoshi says, without looking up. He licks his teeth.

Claire squats down to observe the body, grabbing Neumann’s right hand.

“We’re going to have to get rid of this,” he asks, raising it to inspect the damage, “they can’t know he was here.”

“Very good. Ave Maria, I suppose.” comes Miyoshi’s lackadaisical reply. He tosses the Madonna in a single dispassionate movement.

I leave you alone for ten minutes and you knock this Nazi out cold, Claire thinks, though he can’t deny a twinkle of pride when he sees the statue tossed away in his peripheral vision.

If Miyoshi was telling the truth then they would need to act quickly to prevent themselves from being discovered or worse, having the Germans turn on them. He brushes his fingers over the broken knuckles with some curiosity as he tries to formulate what plausible explanation he might have to drum up should anyone be on the other side of the door, but finds himself at a loss. Maybe they dropped a piece of furniture on his hand while they were rearranging the room? No, the better course of action is preventing any further slip ups.

Claire chews on his lip before standing up and reaching into his pocket to pull out the compact from the previous night.

“Big Brother, you’re awfully early toda-!”

This time Claire has the foresight to preemptively clamp his hand around Mary’s mouth before whispering slowly in her ear.

“Mary I’m going to need you not to scream because there is a bad man passed out and we’re going to need you to shield this room. Now are you not going to scream when I let you go?”

A vigorous nod allows the redhead to let go before Mary darts around the room, flailing in a mixture of frustration and shock as she sees the unconscious soldier.

“That’s the bad person!” Mary hisses before covering her mouth again, “what did he do?!”

“That is what we are trying to find out,” Claire sighs, rubbing his temple, “I need you to cover this room and make sure that nobody can see or hear us. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt okay? It will be just like all those other times.”

Mary pauses for a moment, turning back at her redheaded companion. “You aren’t going to kill him are you? He’s just a human after all.”

“Don’t worry,” Claire smiles reassuringly, gesturing for the ethereal girl to float down to his level, “he will be fine. We just need to scare him a little.”

“Oh well I can do that!” Mary grins before holding her hands up like claws, “boo!”

Claire can’t hold back a chuckle. “I know you can and you are real scary but we don’t know how much he knows about us so we can’t risk him runnin’ around screaming about a ghost on the train. Next time okay?”

“Fine.” Mary folds her arms and turns away, “But just because he’s knocked out already.”

As opaque fog covers the walls of the room Claire shoves Neumann onto the nearest chair and binds the German’s hands together with his belt. Like all supplies, they were, unfortunately, in short supply of either rope or Artifact.

Don’t worry he’s a Nazi just like all the rest of ‘em. He’s more dangerous to us if he escapes,, Claire thinks to himself as he pushes the Nazi to the center of the room. He does not want to break the man’s foot, Nazi or otherwise.

He knows nothing about enacting interrogation nor does he want to. Hearing one of his former mentors talk about the mythical “third degree” of interrogation was enough to turn him off from such missions, along with the subsequent resistance training that followed his Rank A promotion.

Though his experiences with water curing, sleep deprivation, suspension and ice showers never left any scars they validated his decision to never enter the world of espionage.

The West Wind is clever like that, showing easily you can break a guy without even leaving trace, he thinks before frowning at Neumann’s broken hand.

They are far past that point now.

“Hey wake up,” Claire grunts as he lightly slaps Neumann awake.

“Herr Kazetani!” the German jolts awake only to be met with a grab.

“Hey you aren’t talkin’ to him. You’re talking to me!” Claire warns, jerking the German’s head to him, “what do you know about the contents of this train?”

From the corner of his eye, the Irishman sees Miyoshi approaching and crouching beside him, eyes glinting with a wicked curiosity.

“They are German supplies and armaments,” Neumann replies evenly, “was this not what we discussed at dinner?”

“Then...” Claire pauses for a second before standing to his full height, “let me rephrase that. What sort of people are on the train, besides the civvies, the us, the staff? Is there anyone or anything important that you Germans are holding onto?”

“There are at least fifty people on this train Herr Stanfield. I cannot be expected to know everyone’s name,” Neumann responds, “was this not what we discussed at dinner?”

“Answer the question!” Claire punches the Nazi’s stomach, “where were you after dinner ended? Did you see anyone?”

“I-“ Neumann lets out a large series of coughs before doubling over. Heavy breaths leave his mouth as he gasps for air, unable to contain himself before Claire delivers another to his jaw.

He hears a subdued shriek from the corner and internally winces but keeps his face steeled.

“I was reading Volk ohne Raum in my room. I can show you if you doubt me,” the German wheezes.

Claire narrows his eyes before pulling out a cigarette from his pocket and lighting it, taking a long drag. Clearly, a direct line of questioning is not going to work.

He isn’t creative either, not like Miyoshi.

Glancing back, the Japanese Saniwa gives Claire an expectant nod towards the chair before stepping back towards the door.

If he’s going to let me be, I’ll need to let him be, the American shivers, closing his eyes for a second. He hates that look, but he is sure he hates Neumann more.

“So you were in your room the entire time? No bathroom breaks? No late night cigars?” Claire asks, smoke billowing from the corners of his mouth.

“What-” Neumann huffs before taking another breath, “-do you want me to say? I am a lark,”

“That’s fair, I used to be an earlier riser too,” Claire admits, “how early would you say you slept? Nine? Ten?”

Neumann glances up for a second, licking the blood from his lips. He mimics his interrogator’s grim expression.

“It’s hard to remember. I only read a few pages before sleeping,”

“It must not be a good book then. Do you remember anything else about last night?” Claire inquires, leaning closer to him.

“You seem irritated, Herr Stanfield,” Neumann raises a brow, “Are you looking for something?”

In an instant, Claire pulls the cigarette from his mouth and drives it into the Nazi’s neck before it drops to the ground.

“Don’t get smart with me,” he hisses through gritted teeth, “what did you hear last night? What did you see?”

“I told you I was reading, I could hardly hear anything besides the rumbling!” Neumann exclaims, wincing from the red ring forming on his neck.

“So you heard rumbling?” Claire calms, “can you describe the rumbling?”

Neumann knits his brow, his lips in a thin line.

“There was a fair amount of thudding but I assumed they were nothing more than raucous passengers.”

“Did you hear any names?” Claire inquires, “I’m more of a faces guy so you will have to forgive me.”

“Where are you leading me Herr Stanfield?” Neumann deflects, “as I told you before I have no inkling of when I fell asleep. It could have been at any time.”

“Well do your best to remember because your next answer is going to be mighty important if you don’t want that burn on your neck to have a friend.” Claire replies as he grabs Neumann by the hair.

“I give you my word,” Neumann sighs, rolling his wrists against his bindings.

“Try feeding him a tab,” Miyoshi smirks. “Just my guess.”

Claire raises a brow before his face lights up in realization. He lets go and reaches a hand into his overcoat pocket. Pulling out a tin box, he pops the cover to reveal several white tablets.

“Have you seen these before Neumann?” Claire asks, holding up one of Miyoshi’s pills to Neumann’s line of sight.

“This is your big question? I thought you had something more important in mind Stanfield,” Neumann responds before narrowing his eyes, “I am not one for foreign med-. ”

“If you want to keep breathing you’ll do your best to swallow,” Claire snaps, shoving the pill into the soldier’s mouth and clamping his jaw shut.

With his other hand pinching Neumann’s nostrils Claire’s hands remain taut as his eyes move toward the tied man’s throat. Miyoshi watches his partner with a bizarre sense of adoration, keeping his eyes fastened on Claire’s moving fingers.

As a lump slides down his throat, the Irishman forces the German’s mouth open.

“Tongue up,” Claire orders, inspecting Neumann’s mouth for any traces of white.

Were it not for Claire’s fingers in the German’s mouth he likely would have heard Neumann saying “I told you I would keep my word”, but instead both of them settle for waiting until the redhead slinks his away out of Neumann.

For once he keeps silent, crossing his arms as he watches Neumann for any movement.

I hope he is right about this, Claire thinks as he glances at his partner, he can’t keep doing this.

As much as he despises Miyoshi’s usage of the soul tablets he knows that now is not the time to be glad he is one step closer to depletion, especially when they are still in danger.

Turning back to Neumann, low breathing turns to deep gasps of air as he beings shaking against his bindings. As his shoulders popped and legs trembled as small movements turned into large, jerking convulsions.

A cry of pain erupts as the Nazi topples over, curling and unfurling at the stomach.

“What did you-”

“Karl Neumann!” Claire exclaims, as if to drown out the sobbing in the background, “Nazi soldier, German, and judging by your reaction a Saniwa.”

A fit of coughs only seems to confirm his, truly Miyoshi’s theory as Claire walks over to the prone soldier and gives him two kicks to the abdomen.

“How many corpses are in the cargo hold Neumann?” he yells as pulls the chair upright, “we know that there are revenants on this train!”

Neumann suppresses another cough, drool pooling down his uniform. “That has nothing to do with me. I am here strictly on military act-!”

Before he can finish, a cry of pain escapes his lips as another punch hits his stomach.

“Don’t lie to me,” Claire commands as he takes hold of the Nazi soldier’s collar, “Miyoshi may have broken one hand but you still a whole body.”

Neumann hitches his breath.

“If you were just here on orders you wouldn’t have popped into our room and my partner wouldn’t have had to defend himself now would he?” Claire asks, hitting Neumann square in the jaw.

“I…” the German grits his teeth, head swaying from a mixture of the drug and the swirling in his stomach.

“Who is reanimating those corpses Neumann?”

“I-” He holds his breath but is unable to stop the flood that exits his mouth. The smell of blood and acid fills the air as Neumann retches across his lap. As the color drains from his face, his body slumps over, intoxicated by the strain and the bruises blooming across his body.

“Son of a bitch!” Claire curses, recoiling to avoid the mess. He kicks the chair down, knocking Neumann to the floor before delivering a swift kick to the top of the German’s bowed head.

First he deflects, then he lies, and now he has the audacity to vomit all over him?

“Get. Back Here. And. Answer. The. Question!” Claire huffs, kicking the Nazi harder with each word.

You have to be kidding me, we were so close! Claire groans, his hands balling and unfurling.

He turns around for a brief second but finds no reprieve in the calm Miyoshi whose smarmy grin only widened.

If there were a way for him to punch Neumann back to consciousness he would be all for it. Unfortunately, those unaccustomed to soul tablets are not so lucky and most certainly (Claire bites his lip) he had gone too far in driving the answer out of Neumann.

Perhaps today is just another day for the Spiritualist and IJA member but his throbbing knuckles and acrid arm are no more glorious than Drusilla or even the Nazi he beat senseless only moments before. To what end did he need to keep kicking him when a single soul tablet ultimately gave them their answer?

He glances back to find Mary’s fog still present yet her figure is nowhere to be seen nor her voice despite the earlier attempts to block it out.

“Mary are you still here?” Claire whispers, only to be met with silence.

“Mary we’ve got everything we need. You don’t need to keep shielding the room,” he tries once more.

“Why, Big Brother?” the young ghost squeaks out, “you never told me what he did.”

“I told you he’s a bad man.” Claire as he reaches for the ghost’s compact. “He isn’t one of us. I was trying to-”

“You were being a bully!” Mary yells, finally reappearing, “you said he was a Saniwa too like you and Uncle Miyoshi!”

“That doesn’t mean he’s on our side!” Claire presses his lips together before producing a weak smile, “Please, everything is over now so you can rest easy.”

He opens the small, pink compact only for Mary to float into the leftmost corner of the room.

“No! I don’t want to go back with you! You killed the revenant and now you killed him too!” Mary sobs.

“Neumann isn’t dead Mary, he’s...” Claire trails off, opting to to open the mirror and setting it away from him, “you don’t need to come with me but I do need you to go back inside. We still don’t know who else is on this train and I don’t want you to get hurt. I swear it’s for your own good..”

“How can I trust you?” she shrieks, “how do I know that you won’t just smash it like you did to him?”

“You’re right,” Claire sighs, “I’m not trustworthy, but I would never do something like that. You are a sister to me. Everything I’ve done I’ve done to protect you...because I care about you. I promise I won’t ask for anything else I won’t even touch you. You’ll stay in here until the mission is over and I will hand you over to someone...who isn’t a bully. Someone better.”

Not waiting for an answer, he walks to the opposite edge of the room before turning around and holding his hands up. For what feels like an eternity he hears nothing until a chills whip past his neck and the temperature undulates through the room.

Perhaps he ought to have let Mary take the reins on this mission.

After Claire hears the compact snap shut, he moves to pick it up and drops it on his bed before approaching Neumann’s drenched form.

Despite the shallow breaths indicating signs of life, Claire hardly feels any less remorse or disgust while digging through the unconscious, odious man’s pockets. Cigarettes, wet matches, a gun, a deck of cards, all standard fare for a soldier.

Laying the items out on the desk, he frowns and spreads the deck apart, fingers moving from card to card before finally pushing out a King of Hearts that appeared a bit thicker than the rest.

At first glance it appears to be a defect yet the rip in the corner tells him otherwise. Peeling away at the back of the card, Claire finally lets out a gasp as he pulls out a small red card with a black border.

“Hey Mouse, what does this mean to you?” the redhead asks, holding the card up to full view.

Two chrysanthemums and a purple ribbon across the center.

At first, the Japanese man does not speak. Claire sees Miyoshi’s fist curl and unfurl.

“Hanafuda group,” Miyoshi says, voice thick with something other than blood and bile. “They are here. We are not the only Saniwa organization aboard this train.”

At this, Miyoshi falls into his usual muffled, breathy laughter. He’s shaking, and for all their years of friendship, Claire cannot fathom if the laughter stems from insanity or mirth.

“See,” the Spiritualist finishes, wiping a palm across his mouth. “We’ve captured one.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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One after the other, her breakfast companions begin to depart, hurried and purposeful. The air swirls the last plumes of smoke from the ashes in the tray on the table, and for a moment Hélène contemplates the visual as she grapples with her mounting fear. The heavy weight of panic presses in on her, unseen danger coming from all sides, and for a moment she almost can’t breathe.

But just as quickly as her dread overwhelms her, it lifts again, problems and plots successfully shoved into a dark corner to contemplate later. There are enemies on all sides, now. I longer have the luxury of indulging my distress. Failure is not an option. The manta helps to settle her, the familiar thought a double-edged sword. She had almost forgotten, in her preoccupation with the games of the House. To lose three agents in a single night alone meant the deck was no longer stacked in their favor, that the Kazetani’s accusations held far more weight than she initially thought. If they were compromised now, among enemies seen and unseen, it would do well to keep together where they could, out of fray where they couldn’t, and unmask their enemies when possible. They were, as her countrymen say, in des Teufels Küche sein.

Looking up, Hélène regards the American across from her, his red hair fiery and his eyes bright. He would need to follow in a moment, and she had the dubious pleasure of covertly interviewing as many officers as she could find, in hopes of running into her proverbial needle in the haystack.

“Before you leave, if you could tell me more details on your encounter with the red-eyed man? You mentioned seeing him late last night,” she interrupts the slight lull with a business-like focus she did not show the night before.

“I told you everythin’ I had to say. He had red eyes, white hai’,” Claire stops before clearing his throat, “‘scuse me. Red eyes, white hair, and this powerful aura like nothing a normal guy would have. I was taking a smoke break in the hallway of our car before heading back to me and Mouse’s room when he was just standing there. I offered him a match and he just stared at me, not saying a damn thing.”

He shakes his head.

“I didn’t want any trouble so I just let him be,” he finishes with a sigh.

Ach,” she says softly, “I see. Thank you for the detail, Herr Stanfield. I will do my utmost to uncover him.”

Hélène’s mind spins with new information, the rising panic that this unknown Saniwa was just outside the door while she slept last night all together too daunting to fully contemplate. Her thoughts stutter with fear for a moment, and she lets the redhead go with an absent minded farewell, still turning over the facts in her mind. The singer rises from the table, mindful of the censure she might receive at seating herself at the officer’s table even as she worries at this new issue.

He was dressed in an officer’s uniform, appearing at dinnertime in this dining car; It follows he should be taking his meals from here. He left immediately after seeing Frau Austerlitz and I, but he left the way he came. Did he he wait us out in the passenger car? He must have… and ran into Herr Stanfield on his way back. She snorts, a little incredulous as a plan coalescences into shape. It seems I will have to smoke him out of the passenger car at very least, and besiege this car too. She smiles wryly to herself, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to starve out an officer before, this is a mission of firsts.

Plans made, her thoughts turn darker and closer to home. She had lightly thought Amelia a gamesmaster, but to hear second hand such vital information… perhaps to be in the grace of a Frenchwoman was a poor place indeed. With how precarious the woman’s position had become in just a night, Frau Renard and her vague promises of alliance the evening before cast a more sinister light on her offerings of friendship, and her tight-lipped hoarding of intelligence even more still. Paranoia rearing, Hélène wanders with purpose out of the dining car, through and pointedly past her shared sleeping space and out into the whipping air between cars.

With a firm tug she opens the door to the passenger car, steely purpose filling her as bolsters herself for the charming mask she doesn’t quite feel, and a naivete she can no longer cosset.

. . .


Some interminable hours later, having faithly made small talk and covertly attempting to poke at various officers’ backgrounds while seeming to invite flirtation without quite encouraging it, Hélène’s resolve feels less like steel and more like badly made ersatz meat, watery and bland where it should be supple and flavorful. For a moment she thinks mournfully of the day’s meals, while not quite awful even with the company she had had to endure, disappointing all the same.

The day had past more slowly than she’d hoped but more quickly than she had been prepared for, and now here she sat, leaning against the wall of the dining car at the same table she had started at, an odd sense of symmetry. She plays at leisure, resting her head against palm and idly watching the night fly by through the window. Her inattention is, of course, only a ruse to discourage any other enterprising individuals from joining her at the her now empty table. It had been full and lively only a couple hours before, her company at dinner a popular commodity, but as it had grown later and later the car had emptied out again as the men had left for their duties or their beds. Hélène leans a little harder into the wall, and sighs quietly, the vision of the sweeping darkness outside blurring as she eyes the lightly rattling door at the end of the car through her lashes. None of the men she had meet today had matched Herr Stanfield’s description or her memories even remotely, and blurring of her thoughts made it clear that her need for sleep was a looming threat she could no longer ignore.

The impotent frustration of her failed hunt mixed quietly into the dread of returning to sleep, creating a muddy anxiety that crawled through her bones. Discovering what would be waiting for her in her sleeping quarters was a double-edged sword she was not ready to catch. The truth of her roommate’s fate was an ultimatum she was too exhausted to receive, but time waited for no man and certainly never any women. Achingly she admitted defeat and strolled out into the bitter night as fear and adrenaline wound through her guts.

. . .


Stepping in from cold, Hélène softly shut the train door behind her, blinking into the deeper shadows of the sleeping car. Movement out of the corner of her eye jolts her, and she spins to face it in surprise.

Red eyes blink back at her from pale, handsome face, and before she can stop herself, she blurts out in astonishment,
“Ach! It’s you! ”

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The Joffre

The Joffre by bethelit

In character main plot.

Yuuki Kazetani’s London Office

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The Orient Express

The Orient Express by bethelit

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Kazetani London Office

Kazetani London Office by bethelit

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1941, World War II

1941, World War II by bethelit

Arc One: The Weight of Soul

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View All » Add Character » 9 Characters to follow in this universe

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani
Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto
Character Portrait: Cyril Noël
Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
Character Portrait: Maria Calag
Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
Character Portrait: Zhanqing Yang

Newest

Character Portrait: Zhanqing Yang
Zhanqing Yang

East Wind | Spirituality

Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
Hélène Köhler

North Wind | Candid Espionage

Character Portrait: Maria Calag
Maria Calag

South Wind | Spirituality

Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
Geoffrey Lee Walker

West Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Cyril Noël
Cyril Noël

North Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto
Mayumi Miyamoto

East Wind | Unseen Espionage (Research)

Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
Claire Stanfield

West Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani
Miyoshi Kazetani

East Wind | Unseen Espionage (Spirituality)

Trending

Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
Geoffrey Lee Walker

West Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Zhanqing Yang
Zhanqing Yang

East Wind | Spirituality

Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto
Mayumi Miyamoto

East Wind | Unseen Espionage (Research)

Character Portrait: Cyril Noël
Cyril Noël

North Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani
Miyoshi Kazetani

East Wind | Unseen Espionage (Spirituality)

Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
Claire Stanfield

West Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Maria Calag
Maria Calag

South Wind | Spirituality

Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
Hélène Köhler

North Wind | Candid Espionage

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Character Portrait: Cyril Noël
Cyril Noël

North Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Maria Calag
Maria Calag

South Wind | Spirituality

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani
Miyoshi Kazetani

East Wind | Unseen Espionage (Spirituality)

Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
Geoffrey Lee Walker

West Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Zhanqing Yang
Zhanqing Yang

East Wind | Spirituality

Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
Claire Stanfield

West Wind | Combat

Character Portrait: Hélène Köhler
Hélène Köhler

North Wind | Candid Espionage

Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto
Mayumi Miyamoto

East Wind | Unseen Espionage (Research)


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