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Maria Calag

South Wind | Spirituality

0 · 1,400 views · located in The Joffre

a character in “The Weight of Soul”, as played by maccotango

Description

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M A R I AxxC A L A Gxxxx#586644xx
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        25 (MAY 14, 1916)xxxFxxxSOUTH WIND / PHILIPPINES

        HT / 153 CMx WT / 44 KGx PETITE & ATHLETIC
        HAIR / BLACKx SKIN / DEEP TANx EYES / DARK BROWN


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ImageSPIRITUALITY
XXXXXKNOWLEDGE |x ◆◆◆◆xxxxRank-B:xxxx4 YEARS
XUNDERSTANDING |x ◆◆◆◆◆
XXXXXXXXXCHARM |x ◆◆◆◆◆xxxxArtifact 1:xxxBASILIO (S)
XXXXXXXXCOMBAT |x ◆◆◆◆◆
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i. S A N I W Axxxxxxii. A R T I F A C T (1)xxxxxxiii. F A C T I O NxxW O R K Sxxxxxxiv. R E L A T I O N S H I P S



MISSIONS COMPLETED: 38 / MISSION SUCCESS RATE: 90%



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i. Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Roman Catholic.
ii. Birthplace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Basilan, Philippines.
iii. Occupation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Documents Clerk.
iv. Morality Alignment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lawful Good.

Identifying Trait: Smells faintly of orange jessamine.





I. SANIWA

PEARL AND FIRE.



xxxAll life begins at home and in Maria's case, her story starts quite literally in the little bungalow she would grow up in for the next few years of her life. In a highly rural area where even the establishment of a hospital didn't happen until around 1953, the local midwife was the one who assisted Carmina Calag in birthing her first and only child. Unlike many children in the island of Basilan, Maria was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith a few months after her birth. Her mother's decision would eventually affect her life in more ways than she expected.

xxxLife on the farm was hard, but if there was a perfect disposition for a daughter of her background, Maria had it. She was diligent, she never complained and was realistic in her expectations. Even in religion, she dutifully followed her mother go through the motions of mass and prayer. At her young age, she had little appreciation of the customs and understanding of the why's, but she did know it was strange that her father never joined them in these little formalities. Stranger still were the stares that often followed them whenever their family walked together, most of these gazes directed at her father. He never felt ashamed of them. The girl never backed away from the differences in her father; instead, Marco Calag taught her to take pride in it.

xxxWhile she obediently followed her Carmina's every word, it was due to their dynamic as a mother and daughter. Her father's a different matter. Even if Marco were just her uncle or even a next door neighbor, Maria never doubted that she'd still have retained her respect and adoration of him. Though born and raised in the island of Basilan, his ancestors came from the mainland, hidden in the dense forests and living away from modern society. Shortly after his marriage, he sought them and was once again welcomed into their closed off family as he learned of their customs and language. When he came back, he was riddled with markings and tattoos which he proudly bore. Maria was taught of their stories of bravery and valiance against the invading forces, and how her father's direct forefathers initially left the tribe to serve the country in place of their clan.

xxxIt was thanks to his guidance that she learned of the books Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Some might say it has subject matter too delicate for a young girl, but her father disagreed. If his daughter was to blindly follow the Roman Catholic faith, it was time he revealed the atrocities done when the priests weren't dressed in their pristine robes. Wasn't it bad enough that they chose to ban it in her school, which was lead by the local church? Instead of recoiling, Maria wound up fascinated by the tale. Though many say it was what sparked the revolution, inspiring idealism in many Filipinos, the case wasn't the same for her. She grew inspired to love her country, yes, but more than that, the ending grounded her firmly in reality. Not all what you desire comes true, and even the purest of intentions may have darker roots.

xxxHer father raised her to become fiercely independent, and, unfortunately, suspicious of others' good intentions. This wasn't much of a problem in the earlier parts of her life, confined to her small barangay where everyone knew each other on an intimate level. It only truly developed as she was exposed to cultures outside her hometown. She never expected to even gain that chance, knowing her family couldn't even afford secondary education, much less a school outside their small town. Her fate changed on All Saint's Day of her 11th year.

xxx To most, it was a day of visiting passed loved ones, spending a minimum of three hours to a day on the cemetery grounds. As she and her mother sat beside her grandmother's grave, the sight of another person nearby caught her eye. At first, she thought nothing of it; they definitely weren't the only ones doing their annual visit after all. The walk home however, Maria warned her mother that an old lady carrying a big bag was directly ahead of them. Carmina saw no one. When her parents discussed it, they blamed it on children at her school sharing ghost stories and shrugged it off.

xxxAs it turned out, the struggling old lady would be the first of many invisible people. Most of Maria's unseen friends she would soon learn to call Ghosts, classified as Wanderers. Two months, and these sightings increased and her mother grew increasingly concerned. When Maria told her she'd tried to talk to one of them, Carmina finally drew the line and brought her to the church. The local priest, in his inexperience, failed to give them a solution and he elevated their matter to the bishop in Zamboanga.

xxxLuis Del Rosario was a deeply devoted Catholic and a talented Spiritualist Saniwa. All it took was a few minutes of private conversation with the young Maria to gauge the truth behind her words. When he offered to teach her of their ways, she did not hesitate. If Father Luis proved to be the Elias to her Basilio, then there was no room for doubt. With a little help from a few other Saniwa, they managed to convince her parents to let her study in Zamboanga City under the care of Father Luis. Basilan, with its considerable lack of even basic facilities required for living, never really had its own training center. Within a week, she bid goodbye to her parents at Basilan port, rosary in hand as she opened the new chapter of her life.

xxxThe bishop was very proactive in teaching his new student, and it was this devotion that encouraged Maria to take a closer look at the religion she was born into. Under his tutelage, she grew to understand the nuances and appreciate the ceremonies Before she was even asked, she already knew she wanted to pursue Spirituality and expressed this opinion to Father Luis. He was more than delighted and did all he could to have her recognized. It worked, as she gained sponsors which she would later require in pursuit of her Artifact. She was a better than average student in most aspects, diligent in her work in addition to a natural gift for understanding. It came as a surprise to many that even after she completed her basic training, she still had not gone through her incarnation ceremony.

xxxDesiring a better understanding of her chosen paradigm, Maria spent the next year and a half at the Vatican City. Here she helped in anthropological research in addition to furthering her own studies. During that timespan, she concretized her Artifact concept and within the latter half of the year, began the series of events that would lead to Basilio's creation. With his help, she was able to fine-tune her own ability at soul-detection and the two now often act as reconnaissance Spiritualists for the other factions.



Skills:x Translation and Interpretation, Memory Retention, Arnis (12 years).
Known Languages:x Chavacano (fluent), Spanish (fluent), Tagalog (limited), English (almost fluent), Ecclesiastical Latin (limited), Italian (limited), Hindi (limited).

Likes/Interests:x Animals, Theology, Cooking, Architecture, Chatting.
Dislikes:x Absolute Silence, Gambling, Alcohol, Smell of Incense.


__________

Faceclaim: Inukashi (No. 6).
Image Sources: No. 6 (minitokyo.net), Kotonoha no Niwa (screencaps)





i. S A N I W Axxxxxxii. A R T I F A C T (1)xxxxxxiii. F A C T I O NxxW O R K Sxxxxxxiv. R E L A T I O N S H I P S


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ImageImageImageHT / 183 CM
WT / 83 KG
TYPE / SUPPORT
AGE / 2 YEARS OLD

#E32519 /

AWAKENED SKILL / "MALASAKIT"
Heightened "soul-detection." In addition to sensing soul fluctuations within soul-bound beings, Basilio can also analyze emotional sentiment attached to objects. The strength of his ability correlates to the amount of spirit his Saniwa provides.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxSURVIVAL [HP] x◆◆◆◆◆XXLEADERSHIP [DEF]x ◆◆◆◆◆XXIMPULSE [ATTK]x◆◆◆◆◆XXMOBILITY [SPD]x◆◆◆◆XXSPIRIT x ◆◆◆◆◆


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II. ARTIFACT (S)

BASILIO, EYES AND EARS OF THE HEART.



xxxIn many ways, the Saniwa and her artifact are opposites. Maria's short, Basilio tall. One prefers noise, the other silence. Despite their differences, the two work as a cohesive unit and treat each other as friends of equal value. It's likely because of these same differences that they're able to work together seamlessly. Introspective and sparing with his words, he shares these same traits with his literary namesake, Basilio of the books Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

xxxIn the books, Basilio and his brother Crispin served as Sakristan of the local convent, working to help provide for the family with their absent father. With his threadbare clothes and protective spirit, he hoped to one day provide a better future for his family. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be. Crispin was soon taken away by the cruel Sakristan and Basilio accused of theft. With memories of his brother's screams, he ran, unwilling to accept the same fate. He eventually found refuge in the mountains, and was taken under Tandang Selo's wing as he recuperated from injuries sustained during his escape.

xxxDespite the asylum he found in Tangdang Selo's company, Basilio knew he eventually had to return home. When he returned, all he found was an empty house and his mother's insanity. He eventually found his mother Sisa through the song she sang. In her delusions, however, she failed to recognize Basilio as her son and thought he was one of the soldiers she feared. The two played a desperate game of tag which ended with them falling together. By the time Basilio awoke, his mother was dead while another man lay nearby, close to death as well. With his dying breath, Elias instructed him to create a funeral pyre for them both and to use the gold hidden nearby to pursue an education. It's unfortunate that he never lived to see the results of his advice.

xxxWhile he proved successful in the realm of education, Basilio's other endeavors ended bitterly. Despite being turned cynical by the events in El Filibusterismo, he still took care of his friend whose loved one was about to get caught in the crossfire. This act of friendship would ultimately destroy Simoun's plans to spark a revolution.

xxxNo one would expect that someone who looked to be a member of an indigenous tribe would be named after a medicine student, much less born of a rosary. And while his appearance and personality is fully due to Maria's childish idealisms, his nature as a support Artifact is evidence of his item origins. The rosary itself is nothing special, simple wooden beads on string, well-worn by the number of hands that have run through them. What makes it so special is the number and strength of emotions that have seeped into them, feelings of both hope and despair, gratitude and grief. In Philippine culture, rosary prayers are often associated with requests and wishes; in Maria's case, most of these prayers found a happy ending. The item became a sort of lucky charm for her mother's side of the family until it reached Maria's hands, turning this informal heirloom into Basilio.

xxxThe strength of the emotions associated with rosaries became the basis of Basilio's awoken skill. Detecting the strength and kind of emotion behind an object is his primary use, which helps them identify fakes from the real thing. The pair often find themselves assisting in rare artifact retrieval due to his skill set. However, there's a much more combat-oriented side to his ability: it also extends to soul-fluctuations. Ghosts also leave behind emotional residue, and it often forms somewhere or on something that resonates strongly with them. With this information, one can infer the origins of the ghost and possibly find a more efficient way to exorcise them.

xxxMany say Basilio is a joy to work with; his Saniwa, not so much. His extremely cooperative nature makes him far from an ideal leader, but an excellent follower. Maria's meddlesome nature prevents others from abusing the gentle giant, while the Artifact finds the middle ground for the young woman whenever she goes toe to toe with someone. Despite their friendly camaraderie, there's still a clear line between the two not unlike an employer and employee. Outside business, they live together but more or less keep to themselves. Basilio occasionally does labor-based work to supplement their living expenses, as the clergy doesn't pay much. Plus, it would be difficult to explain how she managed to keep them both afloat with her meager pay.



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Faceclaim: Qaltaqa (Mother's Spirit).
Image Sources: Mother's Spirit (salsscans.wordpress.com), Children Who Chase Lost Voices (screencaps)









i. S A N I W Axxxxxxii. A R T I F A C T (1)xxxxxxiii. F A C T I O NxxW O R K Sxxxxxxiv. R E L A T I O N S H I P S



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i. S A N I W Axxxxxxii. A R T I F A C T (1)xxxxxxiii. F A C T I O NxxW O R K Sxxxxxxiv. R E L A T I O N S H I P S



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Statusxxxxxxxxx.Maria Calag.
●●●●●●xxRESPECT
●●●●●●xxFONDNESS
●●●●●●xxRIVALRY
●●●●●●xxDISLIKE
●●●●●●xxROMANCE

TWoS

"I trust in myself. That's enough for now." | Maria is a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, and takes pride in her heritage. She has a healthy amount of self-respect; some might call it arrogance, but she's simply confident in herself. She finds her own weaknesses as easily as her own strengths, although she'd be loathe to admit them to people she doesn't trust. All in all, she genuinely likes the person she's become, if not all the choices she's made.


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Statusxxxxxxxxx.Cyril Noël.
●●●●●●xxRESPECT
●●●●●●xxFONDNESS
●●●●●xxRIVALRY
●●●●●●xxDISLIKE
●●●●●●xxROMANCE

TWoS

"He needs to retake his espionage lessons in conversation." | Despite her seemingly low opinion of the North Wind, Maria is quite fond of Cyril and his Artifact, Wulf. She still remembers how high her expectations were of him and how they promptly fell flat the moment he stonewalled her with a book in the midst of introductions. However, she's seen firsthand his capabilities as a combat Saniwa and she couldn't ask for a better companion in matters that required some fight work.


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Statusxxxxxxxxx.Character Name (keep the period at the end).
●●●●●●xxRESPECT
●●●●●●xxFONDNESS
●●●●●●xxRIVALRY
●●●●●●xxDISLIKE
●●●●●●xxROMANCE

TWoS

"Opinion dialogue." | Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officiadeserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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© MACCOTANGO / © CODE & TWoS BETHELIT & STAFF/魂の重み・THE WEIGHT OF SOUL PROJECT

So begins...

Maria Calag's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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Dark brown eyes study the quiet streets, observing the townspeople close up shop or head home. Her lips move, her voice barely above a whisper. Chavacano rolls off her tongue, the language of home comforting in a place so vastly different. "Are we running late?" She cringes hearing herself, knowing full well she'd uttered several variations of that same question the past hour. But patience was never her strong suit, and travelling only made her fuse shorter.

To her left, Basilio stirs. A hand reaches into his coat pocket, pulling out a well-worn pocket watch and a flashlight. Their driver gives them a curious glance, interested in the two foreigners in his coach, but says nothing. His gut tells him that he shouldn't, and he's inclined to trust it. They would speak to him in English if they wished for his input. Plus, the male customer had a larger build he'd be better off not experiencing firsthand. With war at their doorstep, one had to look out for anything.

A few seconds later and the Artifact sighs, hiding the watch once again. "Yes. But it's not inexcusable." With all factors considered, the two made good time. If the weather had faired any worse, the pair might've been three days late.

With a heavy sigh, she rubs her neck where an itch developed. She loathes formal appearance, but understands their need. Still, she wonders just how presentable she'd still be with the scent of smoke and leather clinging to her like perfume. A small stain on the seat's material catches her eye, and she discreetly moves away from the spot. It could've been something as innocuous as tea, but she'd rather not think of the other possibilities. It would be best if she focused on other things.

"Who else are we meeting? Anyone we know?" Other than the most important details (namely, the place, host, time and date of the meeting), Maria largely ignored the contents of the summon. As she often does, she left the specifics to her Artifact.

"Cyril Noël." Her face remains unsurprisingly blank, and Basilio supplies her with additional information to jog her memory. "We met in India. His artifact's -."

"Oh, Mr. Congeniality and Wulf!" She abruptly switches to English, a hint of excitement entering her voice. If one met Cyril Noël firsthand, they would quickly understand why the nickname ill-suited the Belgian. Her sudden outburst surprises the driver, who quietly attempts to make sense of the conversation. Unfortunately for him, she returns to her native tongue. "What winds are the others from?"

"Two others from the North, two from the East, and another two from the West.."

"Well let's hope the West Winds fair better as Saniwa than they do governing another country." He's reluctant to admit it, but there was truth in her bitter words. Basilio remains silent for the rest of the trip, unwilling to fan the flames higher. Prejudice should not be on the forefront of their minds upon meeting the rest.

Thankfully, the awkward silence does not last long. The cab rolls to a stop, and the two pay their fare. Maria takes care not to slip on the damp cobblestone as they alight from the car. A footman assists her, the scent of cherry blossom assailing her sense of smell as he nears. It doesn't take long for her to deduce that he's an Artifact, although she did have to wonder about the strength of his cologne. "Looks like we're in the right place. Get our bags, Basilio, I'll go ahead."

She quickly confirms her identity with the receptionist, and checks her reflection in the hallway mirror before entering the room. Her usually long hair was tied in a loose braid, and her collar remained stiff from the starch. Nothing could be done about the faint scent of the taxi, lest she use the perfume Rani gave her. Maria doubts that's a good idea. At the very least, she doesn't feel like the farm girl she grew up as. That would suffice as her basis of confidence.

Maria enters, her gaze perusing the room before settling on a familiar figure seated on the floor. Without so much as a greeting to the Belgian, she swiftly moves to his side. Wulf gives her a smile as hello, to which she replies in kind. The two formed an unlikely friendship thanks to the socially-inept Saniwa sitting between them.

Though shorter than everyone else in the room, Maria stands with her back straight. "Maria Calag, Spiritualist." The Spiritualist hates how she has to look up to meet their gazes, but continues to project confidence as she introduces herself. Basilio enters soon after and the room immediately feels even more cramped than it already did. Why did she have such a large Artifact? More importantly, what was Cyril doing occupying precious standing room with his butt?

She gives Cyril a warning kick, urging him to join her. "Stand up, Cyril. And I mean right now."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

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Do you think this is the right place?

Mamoru grimaces. That’s what the information says. Shouldn’t we be going in already? We’re already late.

Mayumi’s mouth twitches slightly, and suddenly she’s fading around the edges.

Her artifact, a very ordinary looking Japanese man - looking supremely out of place on the London street, incredulously side-eyes her. Are you really using this now? Here?

We’re going to wait. I want to see someone else go first.

And you really need to waste spirit for that? Aren’t you a little bit excessive?

Now that she isn’t visible to humans, Mayumi turns towards her Artifact and pouts. My social training included hosting people, and entertaining them. I’m not even in the right formal clothes - neither us could even properly put together a formal western outfit. I know you’re fluent in English, but mine is awful. I just want to feel a little bit better about this. Can’t you cover for me?

Mamoru heaves a resigned sigh and turns back to watch the entrance of the building, and Mayumi gives a small smile. At least we made sure to get here early and explore the area first, if we hadn’t you’d be a wreck right now.

She gives him a dirty look, more expressive now that she’s invisible. Seeing a taxi pull up in front of the building, she and Mamoru turn in tandem to look towards the entrance. Attentively watching a small young woman and a much larger young man exit the car and enter the building, Mayumi takes a deep breath rolls her shoulders back, straightening up into a more graceful posture and her edges fading back into existence. Flattening down imaginary wrinkles in her kimono, she carefully crosses street to the entrance of the building, with Mamoru following just as gracefully behind. Quickly and quietly entering the building, she hurries to the office, just losing sight of the larger young man walking into the door of the office as she turns the corner at the opposite end of the hall. She schools her face into a placid, friendly expression and walks down the hall and waits next to the door, gesturing for her Artifact to go first.

He gives her a long suffering look, but opens the door and enters just in time to see the from earlier young woman kick another young man and berate him. Trying to suppress a slightly bewildered expression, Mamoru turns to the Kazetani Head and greets him, switching from Japanese to English. “It’s an honor to meet everyone. I’m Mamoru Shimizu, and this is Mayumi Shimizu. We’re researchers previously assigned to the GodTree project in Japan.” He turns to include everyone, “I hope everyone will treat us well.”

Mayumi steps forward from behind Mamoru and adding, “I - It’s good to meet you all.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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“All is in order now,” Yuuki gravely affirms. “It seems none of you understand the pressing matter.”

“Miyoshi,” he tersely says.

Returning to his seat, Yuuki gestures for his son to continue in his stead.

Amidst smoke and darkness, Miyoshi wordlessly moves through the room. Any barriers there might have between the room’s inhabitants are, to Miyoshi, less of an issue than the crisis he must explain.

After some preparation, he begins to speak.

“Jonathan Watson has been dead for many months and yet only more deaths follow.” Miyoshi says. “I cannot tell you the extraordinary sense of duty that has united us all, but as it currently stands, one researcher remains. His name is Albert Gammond. We know that the killer practices soul extraction. Therefore, we have been gathered to supervise Mr. Gammond’s death. He will be on the Joffre alongside us, and we are to let him die.

He pauses--and a sort of strangled gasp comes from Rosalind Christie.

Let the man die? she cries.

“Of course.” Miyoshi replies simply, after a pause. “Soul extraction is a unique practice in that both a victim and an extractor leave soul trace in the process. It’s tricky business though, as it is time-sensitive. Still, we’re a capable bunch I should hope. Even if our killer escapes us, their soul residue will not.”

Miyoshi smiles pleasantly. “So, letting Gammond die is to our benefit, really.”

“Good God.” Rosalind shivers.

“Well.” Miyoshi continues. “I should say, logic, reason, pure science: these are the proper ways to pursue a mystery. Gammond’s death should not be any different. He’s resigned himself to his fate, honestly. Father asked him where he’d like to die, and the Joffre was his answer. We are all spectators; Gammond has invited us to watch.”

His voice trails off to swirl past the open window of the small office. He settles in the uncomfortable silence he’s created, and relishes in the horror he’s established. He feels almost sad when his father disrupts his mood.

The elder Kazetani lights a cigarette, a brief flash of light in obscurity.

“That will be all, Miyoshi.” Yuuki says. “Now for introductions."

“Mr.Noel, Belgium’s best, is to protect Ms.Calag, our good tracker. Ms.Calag should be glad to have Mr.Noel’s service, as he is the best of Belgium, having graduated the top of his class. Likewise, Mr. Noel should be thankful of Ms. Calag’s social conscientiousness, lest his manners badly guide him. Any misstep of Mr.Noel’s part may lead to Ms.Calag’s end. We are lucky to have Ms. Calag among us. Rani does not often lend her favorite Spiritualists. Be vigilant, Mr.Noel.

“And Gandor’s own Mr. Stanfield. I’ve heard many honorable things about you from my colleague. My son is very fond of you. He specially requested you as a chaperone, and I daresay you will live up to expectations. You are to guard him, and Ms. Hélène Köhler, whom you shall meet later. If you fail, they will die, I suppose. Ms. Köhler and Miyoshi are irreplaceable House assets.

“Finally, Mr. Walker shall be Ms. Renard’s aide. She is the taskforce’s Researcher and Artifact specialist by extension. Often, the two of you will need to join forces, combine your equipments, and act as the team’s strongholds. Without either of you, Saniwa cannot work independently long-distance from their Artifacts. Fortunately, the two of you are experts at surviving. Mr. Walker in particular is an expert survivalist. Continue not dying.”

“Of course, Miyoshi shall be the team leader. Report to him, and he shall report to me.”

“I swear our triumph,” Miyoshi says, earning him a frown from his father.

“Miyoshi. Do not be so certain of your success.” Yuuki says coolly, to which Miyoshi thinly smiles.

It is a queer thing to hear. He looks at his father as though he has never seen him before. For a moment, Miyoshi is so emotionless that he does not trust himself to speak.

Miyoshi feels nothing; absolutely nothing. He has no sorrow, no desire for action, and no inclination to seek truth for its own sake. He understands enough about the world and the hearts of men. He does not need the honors he would gain from his duty, nor the satisfaction of learning Watson’s demise. He sees little personal profit in the entire ordeal, but chooses his words thoughtfully. There is some humor, he thinks, in only partially masking his detachment.

“Of course. If we are to die on the Joffre, we’ve at least had a pleasant journey.” Miyoshi laughs.

“Yes, I suppose that is true.” Yuuki replies, and it is Miyoshi’s turn to be surprised. “There are many paths to take in life, and death is simply just another.”

The elder Kazetani gives a slow half-smile that Miyoshi gracefully returns.

Grinning wryly, the younger Kazetani turns to face his subordinates.

“To death, the weight of soul, and a journey to end all ends. What say all of you?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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Even with his nose deep in Friedrich’s work for free spirits Cyril was still able to sense a figure materialize at his side. Before the foot coming down like a striking hammer met its target, the young adult turned to face his artifact. No words were spoken, nor were anything thoughts transmitted through a mental connection. Only the exchange of gazes occurred.

”Wulf, tell my wife I love her.”

”As if somebody would marry you.” The girl followed up ruthlessly deadpan.

”True, but still painful.

Cyril angled his vision up at the source of the kick from his seated position. Almost instantaneously, the extremely faint signs of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, and despite common belief, it was genuine. ”Glad to see you’re doing well after our escapade, Maria.” He spoke in a voiced laced in neither amiability nor derision. Only professional esteem, which in itself was peculiar considering that Cyril was the polar opposite of professional. The Philippine was one of the very, very, very few people awarded with the privilege of being on the exiguous mental list labeled COMPETENT. Her mentality was comprised of the right amounts acumen and cynicism to gaze unobstructedly through the looking glass. On top of that, she was a living and breathing example of the reason to never look down upon people of short stature. In a deriding sense, of course. As the idiom went: The smaller they are, the easier it is to stab the living shit out of you.

”Sure you’ve been fine with that guy who’s at the apex of masculinity- Speaking of which, greetings Basilio.” Both Cyril and Wulf waved in unison at the Saniwa’s escort, who would most like have been in the midst of panic if he had claustrophobia. The blond unconsciously referred to artifacts as human beings. And why should he do anything beside that? They eat, sleep, and shit. To his understanding, those were the core fundamentals of what it meant to be “human”. Although in his mind he knew they were products of the soul, discerning between specific origins required far too much effort for the Belgian to squander. ”Hey, since you’re here, I want you to tell me what you think of this little excerpt?” Cyril abruptly switched gears without noticed, his slack stature now brimmed with energy once his gaze had been cast back to the literature in his hands. After a low breath, words filled with enthrallment flew forth. ”Even the distinction between soul and body is wholly due to the primitive conception of the dream, as also the hypothesis of the embodied soul, whence the development of all superstition, and also, probably the belief in god. “The dead still live: for they appear to the living in dreams.” Very befitting of our current arrangements, right? The last few words lost their vibrance as Cyril looked away from the book to witness Maria’s reaction. Seamlessly, the young adult was once again his lethargic self. Though hopefully the cutout would refresh the surely tired Maria and Basilio, he didn’t really make it a priority to transmit his words in a warm manner.

As much as he hated to admit it, Maria had done Cyril a solid. Back when Wulf’s personality was still in the midst of being cultivated, and at the time had bared a close resemblance to a blank canvas, the Spiritualist had “fleshed out” the girl’s colors almost effortlessly. Cyril was, one would say, in total awe. Surely being members of the same sex was a crucial factor, but perhaps it was all of the facets entailed with another human being that. It’s not that Wulf ever shirked from telling Cyril about something that was on her mind, in fact he was her go-to for such issues, in spite of the lack of lucid empathy he exhibited. He had never explicitly thanked Maria, and chances are, he never would. There was no meaning in such a petty matter.

For karma had already caught up with him.

Cyril was able to digest the words that cut through the air as well as those on the pages before him. Though, he did find his interest piqued when Myoshi nonchalantly dropped the bomb filled with quite the payload. So the people whose job was to prevent deaths would now ensure one would take place. Talk about a plot twist. It wasn’t cheesy, in all actuality, it had taken the combat Saniwa by surprise. The only sign of a response were his widened eyes, which only remained in that form for a short-lived second before mellowing out once again.

"Wait, seriously?!” Wulfetrud internally exclaimed while she shared the same expression as Ms. Christine. An anxious glance to her side confirmed that her partner was completely impassive to this revelation. She yet again envied that aloof side of him, but then again, one of them had to maintain a cool head. Her furred ears twitched uneasily as Miyoshi led the team on, not letting a single consonant fall short of any ears. Even though the Saniwa coolly made an attempt to rationalize what had slithered out of his mouth, a shiver still ran up the girl’s spine despite the amount of carbon dioxide in the room.

Of course. In the name of science. Any second now, Cyril expected Miyoshi to slip into a labcoat produced from a hatch in the ceiling and go forth as an envoy of science. Every generic mad scientist believes that his cause is just no matter the horrors that may lead up to the culmination of his efforts, for it’s all in the name of science. Though mad scientists never seemed to be chained by budget cuts and external benefactors. The guy continued to droll on until the older, veteran Kazetani took the spotlight. Cyril forced himself to hold back the urge to click his tongue after another death stick was ignited, his eyes follow its grey essence as it weakened in density. His eyes were brought back to the Head Saniwa when his ears picked up his own unwelcomed name. He could feel minutes shaved off his life as the words sank in and registered. Although, after he took the other eccentric characters within the room into account, he had gotten off somewhat easy. After the other members had received their assignments, father and son exchanged volleys that probably comprised the familial bonds between them. It would’ve been a heart-warming sight, only if the two individuals weren’t batshit and if Cyril had he actually listened to.

The young adult was now at a crossroads. A pivotal juncture. A fight with temptation. Cyril glanced up to Miyoshi and back down to the book multiple times, until Wulf nudged him in the arm with her elbow. A sigh of defeat escaped his lips as he brought the two uneven halves of the book together in one hand and inelegantly got to his feet, with his artifact in briskly in tow. ”Well, guess I have to make this official? Where do I sign in blood?” He brusquely fixed his stature and opened his mouth again, ”I, Cyril Noel, and Wulfetrud, hereby swear to protect Maria Calag and Basilio to the best of our abilities and then some, lest the former perish and return to this plane to haunt my kitchen’s sink drawer.” He felt another nudge, this time a bit harder than the first. Wulf didn’t seem to enjoy the verbal jab and pouted. ”Glad to be onboard.”

As long as there's sleep and fine wine.

Hopefully the train ride would stop Wulf's caterwauling on taking a scenic trip.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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As much as Claire would have liked the conversation to stay between the three of them, another man came to the party.

Is that how they teach roofuckers to talk down under? is what he thought and would have liked to say, but in the presence of more formal company he much preferred staying on the side of politeness.

"Don't give me that hooey, I'm just-"

As if by magic another voice, presumably the North Wind woman butted in to introduce herself to Rosalind.

Then a foreigner kicked a boy.

Then she scolded him.

Then he, Claire, the person that was there first, opened his mouth to continue. All presumptions of formality had flown out the window so he had no problem giving the Australian a talking to.

"What he means to say is that it's very nice to meet all of you," Graham finished, putting a hand on Claire's shoulder.

Claire turned to Graham, a grimace evident on his face. The two of them exchanged a hard look, seemingly unaware of the background noise until Claire relented and slouched further.

"Kangaroos included," he muttered, turning his gaze to the elder Kazetani.

The Asian silenced the room with his voice which emanated death, destruction, and the need to get canned. Similarly, his son spoke sardonically, surrounded by the characteristic mystique that plagued his character. Despite his transparency with the mission details, Claire knew that nothing would ever be as it seemed with the Kazetani family and even less so with the House. To let a man die was a terrible mission in it of itself even if it was for the greater good. Here, they were at a crossroads. They had to sacrifice the last scientist on Watson's project which meant that all the information would truly be laid to rest.

It wouldn't bother him more than the usual suicide mission, or he liked to think so, but Graham gave him a quick glance to make sure that the redhead was fine with it. The Irishman had a particular way of expressing discontent, which, in this case, meant cringing at Gammond's resignation to death. Still, they nodded off to each introduction. Claire didn't really know any of them, but smirked at the mention of his name and the sprinkle of praise that came with it. He wasn't conceited by any means, but given that he had to guard three people (two of which were irreplaceable) there was a certain honor that came with the job.

Then again, I'm sure there's tons of rats in Japan, he thought with a shrug.

Only ten minutes in and you're already making jabs at him?

A short pause dictated their thoughts before Claire replied with a cheeky grin, not only because of the thought of having Mouse replaced with a literal rat, but also because of Yuuki's blase approach to death. He couldn't tell if they hated each other or just everyone else, but neither of them would dissuade his attitude.

"Death ain't a path I plan on taking for a while Mister Kazetani," Claire replied, standing tall.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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Mayumi’s former calm didn’t last long, and having watched all the other Saniwa in the room interact so easily with each other, her anxiety reignited and her stomach began to churn yet again. The elder Kazetani’s scolding only made it worse, and her Artifact finally addressed her building apprehension.

He slid his eyes back to take in her profile from his place slightly in front of her, and carefully made sure nothing showed on his face while he addressed her over their connection.

Take a slow, deep breath. Losing your calm will gain you nothing, and you need to pay attention to what everyone is saying since I will not be the one everyone will need to talk to, and nor am I going to translate this to you. Focus, and make sure to be shrewd in your analysis. We will need it.

Mayumi’s eyelids fluttered for a second as she centered herself, and she took a surreptitious breath while the Kazetani heir slowly began his circuit around the room. It was a useless endeavour however, as her anxiety immediately returned when she heard that they were allowing this Albert Gammond to die, her blood running cold and the bile rising to the back of her throat as she had to suppress memories of a similar slaughter of an entire research project for information. Her fear and horror passed quickly, but her and Mamoru shared a wordless sense of uneasiness over their connection to the mirrored circumstances. While the others in the room exclaimed, the Artifact’s lips pressed together for just a split second and Mayumi’s hands clenched in a vice grip in her sleeves. They only allowed themselves their slips for a moment before they forced themselves back into their placid facades.

Mayumi, grateful for both her large sleeves and her more... demonstrative teammates, quietly revelled in the sense of forced calm her Artifact had pushed at her as they regained themselves. She watched as the Kazetani continued, she was entirely impressed despite herself.

In a way, Kazetani’s pragmatism is quite impressive. This “scientific” outlook sounds more like desperate platitudes of a dead man to himself, but it also sounds just creepy enough to be the sentiment of a researcher who worked on the project that pioneered soul extraction. I’m not quite sure who that was supposed to comfort however, us or himself; We’re still going to use him as bait and watch him die, it's an empty platitude.

Not everyone has watched the wholesale slaughter of a research team before, and not everyone has the guts to feel fine watching someone purposefully die as bait. It’s not like you aren’t feeling sick just thinking of it. Let them have this if it makes them easier to work with.

Mayumi made the mental equivalent of a face at him through their connection, and listened attentively as Ambassador Kazetani began on the introductions. While the rest of the team’s long and impressive resumes made for impactful introductions, it surprised neither of them that Mayumi was so replaceable. She felt Mamoru’s slight frustration and displeasure at being relegated to a disposable poison dispenser. The contrast to the strength and prestige of his former incarnation compared to his current form was frustrating, and had begun to grate.

Tentatively through the connection Mayumi offered her thoughts.

I’m sorry.

It’s fine. It’s nothing that won’t change in time. This is good for us however, underestimation is our best weapon.

Mayumi finally felt as though the ground had solidified under her feet again.

Underestimation is key.

She clung to the thought and used it to propel her into a greater sense of calm and purpose. Anchored in pragmatism once more, she continued to listen to the Kazetani heir as he closed his father’s introductions. She reflected on the proceedings, and mused to herself.

If nothing else, the Kazetani has outdone himself with his cynicism. It’s very impressive in it’s own way. I think he may in fact have become the most cynical person we’ve ever met.

Mamoru snorted in response, but tellingly didn’t protest as he shared in his Saniwa’s gallows humor. He chipped in for the both of them, and carefully articulated their willingness to join what was shaping up to be a possible suicide mission for all the belief the Kazetanis' had.

“We will do our utmost to ensure the success of the mission. Thank you for allowing us the privilege to support you; we will work hard to live up to it.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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Maria could only roll her eyes at the exchange between Cyril and his Artifact. The two shared a lively dynamic, at odds with the relationship she shared with Basilio. She simply nods in response to the quote as the older Kazetani begins to speak. His words carry a weight far heavier than they sounded, and it was with Miyoshi's briefing that she came to understand why.

A hand clings to the fabric of her skirt, her protest lost in the grip of her fingers. The smoke that first looked so mysterious now felt like a smog that would choke her. Her face grows pale and she feels sick to stomach, but keeps her lips sealed. Instead, she breathes, counts to ten. Basilio's face betrays nothing, and instead gives his Saniwa a cursory glance. Her thoughts could be seen on her face, but the Spiritualist did well to hold her tongue. A rare instance, but Maria knew it would not do her well to disagree with their plan. Basilio simply braces himself for the mental explosion that was sure to come in a few seconds. His Saniwa did not dwell in her negative mindsets long.

Sure enough, he was blasted with a cacophony of swears ill-suited to a child of God.

How could they do that? Fire stirs within her, putting color back in her cheeks and a spark in her eyes. Life is a gift. Each soul is special - there should be another way. There must be; this is simply the easier way. Fear keeps her words from leaving the safety of her and Basilio's shared mind. The man simply indulges her internal rant, though Maria suspects he tuned her out after a certain point.

Basilio feels a sliver of unease as Miyoshi's final statements hang over the air like a knife. Does anyone ever really resign themselves to death? Maria does not reply, and instead busies her hands with her braid. It was a question she could answer for anyone but herself. Would she go against mission orders if Albert Gammond asked for her to save his life? Her throat dries. It scares her that she could not instantly answer yes. She tries not to dwell on it, but the quiet provided a perfect moment for introspection. She knew that as Saniwa, she made decisions that went against her moral compass. She expected it even. But never anything to this extent.

The heavy silence finally comes to a close as Yuuki Kazetani speaks once again. The pair look in the East Wind head's direction at the mention of Maria's name. Genuine relief pervaded her conscious as she learnt that Cyril and Wulf would be their partners. She did not doubt their abilities - she'd witnessed them firsthand. But more than that, they would be a welcome distraction from what she conceived to be a moral atrocity.

Through his introductions, Maria learnt more of the others in the room. Her Artifact comments on it before she can, a true testament to how peculiar they all were. Their appearances don't match their résumés. A small smile forms on her thin lips, a modicum of good humor returning. The two exchange small quips to alleviate the tension she felt.

Clearly. The West Wind are loud folks, aren't they? The Kazetani are too fatalistic; they could definitely use a dose of sunshine.

On the same level as us? Isn't that a bit much?

Of course. At this rate they need it. Her spirits lifted, she affirmed her decision, even if reluctance colored it. She waits for a pause, then speaks, her voice carrying a forced enthusiasm and confidence. "I'd disagree about haunting your sink; it's probably filthy. " Turning to Miyoshi, she agrees with a nod, then turns to Cyril. "We'll be in your care."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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“Nice one mate,” Lee replied dryly to Claire's quiet jab. He could feel Peter mentally poking him, but Lee simply shrugged him off, and began to take in the other arrivals. He noted the antics of the other Combat pair, acting more like a couple than artifact and Saniwa. He also noted the familiarity the shorter Saniwa-- South Wind if he had his guess, showed them. Her artifact was a large man himself, giving Lee a run for his money in heft and height. His eyes lingered on the man for a moment before he continued to scan. The other pair were a woman and a man, though they mostly kept to themselves, and did not display the... oddities the rest did.

Including ourselves, He felt Peter interject. Lee could only nod in agreement. It was true, their-- his Peter reminded him, introduction wasn't the most professional. The last arrival, a man and a young girl was finally made their entrance, and Lee raised an eyebrow at their garb. A kimono, they must be the other East Winds.

Lee nodded at their greetings before he turned toward Peter. I know what a kimono is, mate. I just never seen one. Peter smiled in response, but said nothing else.

It was about then the elder Kazetani began to speak. At his words, Lee snapped to attention and took on a more professional demeanor, with Peter following suit. Their spines straightened, their shoulders squared, and they held their wrists behind themselves looking almost disciplined in the process. Their shoulders never shifted at the Kazetani's spoke, but Lee did mutter “Poor bastard,” under his breath once he heard that they were going to be using a man named Albert Gammond as bait. It was grim business, but Lee said nothing else. It sounded as if the man made his choice, and if their mission was to supervise his death, then that were their mission. There wasn't anything they could do about it but follow orders. Though, the way the younger Kazetani delivered the news as if it was something completely ordinary didn't sit too well with Lee.

Next came the proper introductions, where the elder Kazetani to names to faces. While he had already heard of Claire from Gandor, the rest were strangers, and it was nice to know what to call who. Both Lee and Peter committed names to memory. Near the end, the Kazetani revealed that they were to be Ms. Renard's aides. He turned toward the woman, and offered a dry smile before dipping his head in a greeting. “That's the plan,” Lee replied to the request of continuing not to die. He rather liked living, actually.

With that, the Kazetani's finished speaking, leaving Lee to mutter, “A bloody morbid bunch,” under his breath. He felt another mental poke from Peter, but then an agreement. A lot more fatalistic than we're used to, that's for true. Let's hope the rest of 'em aren't like that. A quick scan of the room, and the varying expressions on their faces, and Lee decided that, no, they probably weren't. The woman called Maria particularly had her emotions plainly written on her face.

Turning back to Yuuki and Miyoshi, Lee and Peter nodded in unison. “Death's only another beginnin', mate. Though--”

”We aren't plannin' on dyin' any time soon.” Peter finished the thought for them. With that, Peter turned toward Amelia with a smile. “You're in good hands Ms. Renard.”

“Hope we can say the same,” Lee added with a curl to the corner of his mouth.

The setting changes from Kazetani London Office to The Joffre

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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CHAPTER ONE
An Important Passenger on the Joffre

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- seating arrangement -

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Under German command, the Joffre proceeds towards Vienna at a quarter to nine.

At 9.15, the train dutifully pulls out of the station, and Miyoshi stares out blankly at the repaired French countryside. This is not the France he remembers from his childhood. He is suddenly aware of how ugly Calais had become. German efforts largely renovated the buildings, but an atmosphere of loss remains. The landscape is marked by a foreign sadness, and there is nowhere pleasing for Miyoshi to look. The air is thick with rain and dirt; not since he stepped into the train has he breathed air so unadulterated by dust.

Miyoshi exhales, expelling cigarette smoke into the French winds. Then, he closes the window, centimeter by centimeter, until the world outside has been removed completely.

Inside the Waffen-SS dining car, his Artifact bites into a slice of beef; officers laugh among themselves; and everything smells of rain.

Warmth from German candles envelopes him. A feast has been laid out for his companions: roasted apples, boiled potatoes, sauerbraten, and schweinshaxe.

Too much. All certainly too much.

There is a sickness to this scene, he comments towards his Artifact.

Sickness you are not responsible for. Kimura Asagi reminds him.

Seated beside him, Kimura Asagi appears disguised as his IJA engineer companion. No longer sporting his natural look, he carries a Japanese image as well-tailored as his suit. He looks like his master; a cold, intelligent type, devoid of moral searchings. On the surface, they belong here, with the uniformed Nazis.

Behind him, a table of officers burst out into song. They sing Rise! Rise! All glory to the fatherland! He tires of the anthem, having memorized enough of it. Around him are men powered by German pride. With some humor, he wonders what it must feel like to be a fanatic. Few of his beliefs match their own.

For instance: Jedes Leben ist kostbar. Every life is precious. It is a Shinto thought. It is not one that Germany’s Führer nor his father would agree with. For now, it is perfect for him.

Light colors his face as he lights another cigarette.

The carriage door swings open a little wider, and a rugged Waffen-SS officer in his late forties steps out of it into their dining room. A patch over his left eye barely conceals a large scar marring half his face. Something in his expression is unruly, and he carries a rawness akin to animal brawn. A hard jawline and strong cheekbone structure suggest that he had once been handsome. There is a sleeplessness in his eyes, as if they can no longer return to dreams. A younger uniformed man follows him with a suggestion of pride in his manner. He shuts the door behind them, and stands more firmly. Like Miyoshi, this young man’s face is clean and committed; he is supremely confident in his privileges.

For a moment, the two appear lost, before the elder one recognizes Miyoshi, and efficiently moves towards his table.

Miyoshi extends his cigar box to the two men, and they oblige with curt “danke”s.

“Thank you,” the elder man briskly repeats, lighting his newly acquired cigar. He glances at the seated Saniwa, then back to Miyoshi in particular. "Under the circumstances, I am afraid I could not arrange separate sleeping quarters you and your companion. Though formalities are necessary, I beg that you can forgive my limits, Herr Kazetani."

“You have been kind enough.” Miyoshi politely reassures. “I am sure my partner and I will not dislike your accommodations. Please, won’t you dine with us, Obersturmbannführer? And your comrade as well?”

Surely, the latter’s position had affected the younger man's brain. He is thoroughly engaged in brushing the lint off his coat, and seems wholly engrossed in the task.

“Hauptfeldwebel.” the older man says a little louder. His voice is calm, but there is on his face an exhausted tug.

“Of course,” the younger man abruptly replies, expressionless, before sitting down.

“Well then, that takes care of that.” The Obersturmbannführer says, unruffled, pushing aside a chair for himself. He then begins formal introductions.

“I am Obersturmbannführer Ernst Richter. My companion is Hauptfeldwebel Karl Neumann. Hauptfeldwebel, this is Herr Kazetani, son of Viscount Kazetani. He has come here as a companion to Herr Asagi, the tank engineer, you remember, from months ago. He is here to for our Char D2’s.”

“Herr Asagi? I am afraid I do not remember. But what interest do you gentlemen have in the Char D2?”

Neumann gazes at Kimura Asagi spefically with some rancidity, his fingers playing at his NCO braid. He is not, however, prepared for his question to be met with calm coolness.

Kimura Asagi stamps out his own cigarette. Miyoshi’s silence indicates that he should speak. After all, Kimura Asagi prepared for this--being in the IJA for over a year. The Artifact took courses at the Japanese Army Science School in his audition for this role. While indeed a spy, he is also a true engineering scholar.

Fortification (築城学), Civil Engineering (土木学), Traffic Engineering (交通学), Mapping (測量学), Tactics (戦術学), Artillery Studies (砲兵学).

He remembers them all with strong familiarity.

Mathematics (数学), Dynamics (力学), Physics (物理学), Chemistry (化学), Drawing (図学).

Those, he recalls as well.

Like his training, his confidence is entirely genuine.

“The IJA have created Otsu-Gata Sensha from the Renault NC1. We have been making purchases from France in the past twenty years, but they refuse to sell us more advanced technology. Or perhaps, they cannot afford to. Regardless, this poses a problem to us.

“A problem?” Neumann smirks.

“We do not have an indigenous tank production capability,” Kimura Asagi says matter-of-factly. “And our tanks are still vulnerable. Take our Ke-Ni, for example. It has thicker armor than the Type 95, but she’s an inefficient vehicle. Her gun’s muzzle velocity is also still too slow. While you Germans have made strong strides in tank technology, we are leagues beneath the Russians.”

“The Russians,” scoffs the younger German, but his superior responds more gravely.

“The Russian T-34s.” Richter closes his eyes.

“I’ve heard stories,” Kimura Asagi stiffly says. “But not much beyond the complaints of our allies. I am a company leader. The information is heavy to hear.”

“Indeed, as the T-34’s have caused us great burden as well,” the elder officer agrees, likely from firsthand experience.

His eyes rest on Claire. When he speaks, Miyoshi realizes that he’s been observing Claire for awhile.

“I have seen this man before,” he says.

“He is Herr Stanfield, the American arms manufacturer,” Miyoshi evenly says.

“The Gandor boy.”

“Yes,” Miyoshi responds. And then decides to add: “Though he does not speak German.”

“Hm.” The German smiles, seemingly satisfied, and his interest shifts to the women seated across him. “Frau Austerlitz? I am told you are here to create a film about our company. I have yet to see your work, fraulein. Surely, your movie will bring light to the unselfish heroism which our men are excellent examples of. And we formally meet, Frau Köhler.”

Neumann bravely cuts in, a little shy, but clearly attracted. “Frau Köhler? The Frau Köhler?”

“Truly beautiful in person now as she was months before,” his superior chimes. Your operetta in Berlin! I saw it! You were the jewel of Der Obersteiger. Sei nicht bös! I was in the audience! Your voice is captivating, like magic. And your eyes...”

He scrutinizes her through his single, unblinking eye.

Himmelblau,” he finally decides, smiling at Hélène. “Your eyes. They are sky blue, like my son’s. My daugher, like you, enjoys singing as well. Perhaps you can teach her when the war is over.”

“Exceptional,” Miyoshi murmurs. Calculations are being made behind his watch, and he signals for Kimura Asagi to change the subject.

“Your children,” Kimura Asagi pauses. “Do you miss him?”

“I do.”

At the mention of his family, the tired officer comes alive.

“They ask me: Wouldn’t you rather be in Berlin? With your children? Watching the lines march, away from all these’”—he waves his hand at the window—”’remains’? But I tell them that I will go where I need to, as the charcoal burner of the country, I will burn what the Führer needs me to burn. And so I am here, Herr Kazetani.”

At this, Miyoshi raises his glass just long enough for the gesture’s meaning to sink in.

“To the fire in your spirit,” Miyoshi toasts. “To Germany and its Führer. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer.

Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer,” the Waffen-SS men agree.

“Soon, Germany will win the war.” Miyoshi notes with false pleasure.

He smiles, knowing that Amelia, Hélène, and Claire would do their part to win the soldiers’ favor as well.

It would not be very hard.

Kinderleicht, he thinks.

Child’s play.

. . . .


In the civilian carriage, Albert Gammond watches the passengers with utmost curiosity. As he scans the weary travelers surrounding him, his physiognomy undergoes a curious change. An expression gathered there that could only be described as half puzzled, and half concerned. Though he has resigned himself towards death, he is still nonetheless afraid.

Beside him sits a serious-looking German man, and across him, a young couple.

Perhaps it is his Saniwa training, but he has the sensation that something huge and empty is about to devour him whole. He notices it then.

A poltergeist.

Hanging from the window beside him.

It does not move.

It does not do anything.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Basilio leans against the window, his face devoid of emotion as he absorbs the scenery. He does not enjoy observing the fragile peace of the French countryside, but he forces his gaze to settle there. He avoids speech, lest he reveal his guise. Thankfully, no one does, as the rest of of the carriage is preoccupied with their own conversations.

Maria, seated in the booth behind him, makes small conversation with the man across her. He is German, proud of his heritage and another zealous in commending the Führer in his efforts. His gaze studies Maria with curiosity and a hint of distance. She feels self-conscious, but pretends to look to the ground. Much like Basilio, she avoids eye contact, though her reasons were far simpler. Her irritation with her designated role as Gandor's 'exotic ward' would be all too visible.

"Is it true you all still wore rags and lived in small huts? His curiosity overrode his good manners and Maria fought the urge to punch his gut. She stalls, trying to gain some semblance of calm before replying. He realizes his overstep and smooths over by steering the conversation to lighter territory. "Your German is excellent, despite only learning for this trip. Your teacher was commendable.

"Danke." Her reply is curt but polite, able to keep her anger within the confines of her and Basilio's shared mind. "No, we -" She pauses, feels a note of discord in the train's spiritual harmony. "I'm sorry. If you'll excuse me, I feel a bit sick. I'm not used to trains."

He looks at her with concern, even offers to assist her (although learning she's Gandor's ward likely has a lot to do with it), but Maria refuses. As she stands, she surveys the cabin, and walks slowly, pretending to feel faint as she uses it as a chance to peruse for evidence. She finds the ghost. The Spiritualist pauses to 'regain her strength', but her dark brown eyes meet Samael's blue ones for a brief moment, then flick to the left to indicate the poltergeist.

As she enters the space that held the toilets and the door to the outside, Maria speaks to her Artifact. Basilio, there's a ghost near Albert Gammond. Search it of its intentions; I'll be informing Lee.

Do you need a distraction? Her next set of actions worries him, but he decides to follow his Saniwa.

That would be useful, yes. Almost immediately, she hears a clatter of books and papers. Basilio 'accidentally' spills the items on his lap, and takes the small commotion as her cue to quickly open and close the door behind her. The evening's cool breeze greets her first before her eyes acclimate to the darkness. Though seemingly tranquil, she knows just around the lefthand corner a ghost waits.

She breathes, feeling both blessed and cursed that she's unable to see the moving railings beneath her. A silent prayer passes her lips as she steps from one cabin to another, hoping that tonight's mission does not end simply because she slips. Thankfully, her feet find purchase, and she enters the sleeping carriage, with luck that no one notices her entrance.

The Spiritualist takes a brief moment to collect herself, hiding in the shadows of the carriage. Basilio, it was number two, correct? In this quiet space, that soft tug she feels as Basilio makes use of her spiritual power becomes evident.

Not now, Maria. But yes. The Saniwa feels sheepish at the reprimand, but it's enough to reassure her that she remembers the details well enough. She peeps through the door, taking care that no one else loitered around the walkway. Her steps are quiet, but quick, unsteady in their rhythm. Her heart accelerates with every squeak of the train, afraid that it could be the door of a booth.

It feels like years when she finally opens the door to booth two, with relief visible on her face as her gaze meets the West Wind's. "There's a poltergeist by Gammond." Her words are soft but harsh, easily conveying the urgency of her message. "It hasn't done anything yet, but I'm having Basilio check on him now."

Setting

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Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Jedly
Image


Every abrupt back and forth sway of the train effortlessly broke his concentration as he attempted to chew through the book in short, jutted, forced breaks. His inability to focus on the literature clenched so tightly between his hands that it looked like his fingers would burrow through book was also attributed to the girl to his side, who was currently acting under the feint of a better half. Scary thing is, she played the role with stunning finesse and authenticity, almost as if he true emotions had taken ahold of her heart and generated the words that gracefully left her mouth. The iconically sheepish Wulfetrud flawlessly put on the performance of a vivacious maiden, seeing the sights and sounds regardless of the wartime hindrances with her true love, a not-so sociable Belgian who far surpassed the level Stoic. ”Oh, I believe being reserved has more than just a few good qualities!” or ”He may seem a little standoffish, but he’s a softy at heart, really!”

She had rehearsed lines similar to those above in the case that somebody happened to note the apparent disparity between the two lovebirds, as any human being with even one partially operational eyeball would. Most would assume that not even love could overcome such a stark contrast, but- ”Why let love dictate who we harmonize with when we can just abide by our own hearts and minds?” Wulf couldn’t lie, she may have revised a certain statement Cyril had made about religion a few weeks prior, but as they say, cats never forget. If the duo hadn’t set themselves on the Combat faction, and Cyril was one to really let his personal stances bleed into his choices in the field, then surely Wulf would have force- nudged her partner to take part in Espionage, even though he had no tact when it came to, as he described them “life threatening social altercations”. Although Saniwa were clandestine by default, the artifact just relished the conception of her slipping her way into a corrupt organization’s numbers, or stealthily stealing high value information and sneaking past waves of guards. Of course, this reverie may have been a tad bit influenced by the array of spy and mystery books painstakingly organized in their flat’s bookshelves. It was one of the few things Cyril was earnestly attentive with.

But this mission more than sufficed. Yet the young girl couldn’t shake the underlying feeling that some other force made her carry herself and the act with such credibility. She didn’t have enough time to think before the words had already flew from her mouth. While Cyril dragged himself through an experience that could be likened to walking on glass, Wulf attempted to propagate some genial conversation with Samael and the unresponsive mass of disheveled and aged skin that was Albert Gammond, their VIP, a hazy visage of who was surely an astute and bright Saniwa. Was being the key word. For a man who had resigned himself unto the clutches of death, in Wulf’s eyes the person before her and the mental image she had manifested prior surely didn’t resonate. She at least expected him to be huffing on a death stick in silent acceptance, hell, maybe two or three at the same time just to express how done he was with living. A demeanor that fit with a phrase Cyril fancied, ”Gaze upon the field of fucks that I give, and see that it lay barren.” and then he would envelop himself in whatever he was reading just a moment prior, or rest in a pool of apathy. She felt like she was talking to a pair of brick walls, watching powerlessly as her words bounced off of their impermeable facades.

Soon enough Even Wulfetrud gave up and shot a giddy smile at Cyril, one that a lover overcome by infatuation and ardor would sport. She maintained the vibrant countenance, though she was forced to summon a fair amount of resistance to not reveal the internal turbulence she was currently experiencing. Although her eyes were undividedly locked on Cyril’s deadpan face, she could see an unfocused individual in the background, lying motionlessly on the other side of the window.

”It’s still there...” Wulfetrud whined over the mental connection they shared while she maintained her cool.

”Powerful observation.” The Saniwa coolly shot back as he narrowed the eyes that currently danced across the book’s page.

Flip

”Shouldn’t we… deal with it?” Her voice was chocked full of perturbation, but the girl felt like she already knew the imminent answer.

”I’m still reading.” Cue internal sigh, followed by Wulf’s withering faith in humanity.

Flip

”And why should we ‘deal with it’? It’s not like it has lashed out at us or has given any visual sign of such intentions. For argument’s sake, say we did decide to engage it. It’s borderline impossible to do so from within the car should it decide to join us in here, and taking it on outside were draw just as much attention. On top of that, we would be limited to melee weapons since people would freak at a gunshot, and the last thing I want is a bunch of ticked of Nazis telling me to burn my books again. Even though the whole thing could potentially be written off as ‘Armed and crazed occult group dressed in black suits takes over the Joffre’, I don’t want to get an earful from the higher-ups. As my rule of thumb goes, no matter if its human or spirit, if you don’t regard its existence, it’s not there.”

Flip

He raised multiple good points, save for that expected endnote, but still it was a surprise that he could reason with her on a rational level and skim the pages at an almost inhuman speed. The Saniwa didn’t even cast his stray gaze over to the girl for even a moment.

”But rest assured if it does exhibit any hostile intentions towards Gammond, you and I will put it down. Sounds good? Ah, here it is.” Using the arm she was already tightly wrapped around as a support, she leaned over Cyril’s shoulder and peered down at the page he had finally came to a halt on. Turns out he was reading the extremely vital and pivotal compendium right in the open, just with a different cover to hide the far from nondescript rite on the front board. Wulf read at a pace nearly as fast as Cyril. Her past life as an abbess vied with her partner’s prowess in the world of literature digestion. She instantly put two and two together and connected the description on the page with the snapshot practically embedded into her mind.

”...So it’s not Sinterklaas.”

”Not funny.”

”I had a giggle. So, estranged lover…?’

Wulf’s perspective slowly panned up to Cyril’s blank expression.

”Cyri-”

”No.”

Well, it was clinging to their window for a reason. Samael didn't strike her as much of a romantic, so that left…

”Not worth it. He’s already dead. I don’t think telling him that his lover’s ghost has come back to haunt him will make a difference, and besides, I’m sure he’s already aware of her presence, even in his current state.”

So that’s how it was? Two souls that had forced apart by unforeseen events, and after finally being given the chance to reunite they squander it? No. After tonight they would reunite, despite the ties they broke off. Gammond’s soul would leave the confines of his body, and Cyril and Wulf will put the poltergeist to rest, and only then would the two finally become whole again, even though they were parted of their own or one party's intentions.

”I know what you’re thinking. A happy ending, like a Gan Jiang and Mo Ye ending.” Cyril brought the two parts of the book together with a resounding clap and set it to his side, then fixed Wulf’s flat cap which had moved from its original place. Of course this was all speculation. Maybe Gammond and the glassy-eyed poltergeist hanging onto the window shared no connection at all, and this was but a happenstance event. But they didn’t know that, and really, they didn’t need to to finish the job.

”We’ll make it happen.” Cyril leaned on his seat, sinking into the lethargy he aligned himself with.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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#, as written by Alligot
Samael couldn't help but marvel at the accommodations - if only a bit. Before all of this, sitting in a cabin like this would have been considered a luxury. Hardly a shake or shudder, a roof, windows with drapes, as well as ample space to sit. Now, he himself sat here, such things now considered a basic commodity in travel. More than once, his hearing caught complaints on the lumpiness of the seats, or the poor quality of the carriage, and he would vividly remember standing for hours, packed into a metal carriage with other young men, all of them cold and wet but ravenous for war.

Even still, a more disturbing image entered his mind - that of his Opa, grandfather, and of the man's lamentations of luxury. Samael had died for only two decades and he was already thinking the same. Before he knew it, he would probably start to complain about his aching joints - and his saniwa would never let him hear the end of it.

But the trip was pleasant. He engrossed himself in German newspapers, and he was rather interested with Das Reich - specifically the small, impassioned essays by a man named Goebbels. Between the reading and Wulfetrud's attempts at making conversation, time passed rather quickly. He even had moments of shock - forgetting that he was tethered to his saniwa as he was, so surges in her emotion would catch him off guard. Of course, he tried to avoid thinking directly of her - not out of spite, but to avoid disturbing her own concentration. She was among wolves, after all.

Though - his situation now seemed hardly better. His thoughts had been interrupted by Maria's insistent glance, alerting him to the woman who clung to the window just outside. Her head was crowned by a delicate-seeming circlet of flowers, and an antiquated dress was shaking and fluttering from the violent, high-speed winds. He was quick to avert his gaze - it would be best to avoid drawing it's ire, especially in such close proximity to Gammond. Samael's elbow pressed against the older man's side, as well as his thigh remaining in contact. All he needed was to ensure the slightest touch, and as long as Gammond stayed still, they would both be fine.

If anything, his job was easy. He merely had to avoid moving - that, and making sure Gammond did the same.

"Tell me, mein freund, do you happen to know the answer to five across?" Samael asked in a rather plain tone, lifting the indicated part of the newspaper to Gammond's notice.

Maybe it wouldn't hurt to divert the older man's attention, especially in light of Basilio's small 'mistake', and the subsequent moment Maria took to leave, escaping from his peripheral vision. A plan for removing the poltergeist was surely soon to be in motion.





It had been a sickening feeling. Her home. Her once-beautiful home. It was a venom that settled in her abdomen, rising to her lungs and stealing what air she could siphon from the dust and the stifling rain that seemed to choke her. It burned through her arms - to her fingertips, a heat that she was sure would turn her skin as red as the devil's.

Calais had died. It was not battered and bruised like London. There were nearly no remains to identify, and what little there was had been desecrated beneath the shadow of a foreign flag and the heavy footfalls of invading boots. Horrid Germanic structures of concrete and steel replaced once-unyielding, ancient walls of stone, brick, and wood. It felt like a monstrous recreation of what she once held dear. A mere model, rendered by incompetent hands.

And even after the train had departed, the image remained in her mind, the city's skeletal dust still seemed to litter the air. Here, she dined with the army responsible. Amelia itched to draw her Gandor, hidden and holstered upon her thigh, but on this train, she was Amelie Austerlitz, young, unproven German director. Ambitious, proud - of both her work, and her country. And Amelie Austerlitz had no cause to use that gun. Amelie Austerlitz would never dream of harming those who served her country.

It was a mantra she had to practice every time the assumed any mask. To tear down what had once motivated her - given her cause for breath, and replace it with scaffolding.

Besides, she was unsettled enough as it was. She could feel Samael's ability sapping her body and mind. A rhythmic ache in the base of her skull, and an occasional needle or two of pain in her fingertips. She had not been sustaining him for long - and at this distance, the effects would not say mild for long. Thinking of Calais would only harm her facade further.

So, when Richter addressed her, she provided a genuine smile. She sat straighter - leaning forward and uncrossing her legs. Her hands set her silver aside to lace together upon the table. A slight tilt of her head. Subtle motions that would sell her character. Avid. Attentive. Perhaps even reverent. Hopefully no tell of the woman who, deep inside, wanted nothing more than to see these men laid low.

"A pleasure, Obersturmbannführer." She replied with delight, "And my production will not just shed light - it will exalt their heroism." She spoke her last claim quietly - with a momentary sombre timbre.

While the officers were shortly infatuated with Helene, Amelia intently listened and set herself towards the (admittedly well-cooked) pot roast. She made mental notes as the conversation shifted from Der Obersteiger to mention of Richter's two children (and his obvious love for them), and of smaller details - such as Claire's hushed statement.

Sie sind bernsteinfarbenen, Stanfield. She thought, amused, as she also gave toast with the rest of the tables. She hardly even noticed the small, small niche in her mind that was angered by Richter's dismissive gesture towards her country. (Or, what remained of it.)

"Obersturmbannführer, you did talk of heroism earlier - and if you don't mind me asking, surely you've seen some examples from the brave men under your command?" She was hesitant and cautious, for with and without her mask, she knew that such subjects could be treading on uncertain footing.

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Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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“Anything interestin'?” Lee asked as he played with the toy car Sterling had given him. Across the small table, Peter sat with one of the two-way radios granted to them by Gandor beside him. The artifact had the reciever pressed against his ear and pencil and pad nearby. Peter looked up from the pad with perhaps the most bored expression Lee had ever wittnessed on the man's face.

“Not unless you wanna know how big this drongo's like his tits,” Peter delivered in a deadpan. Lee chuckled and nodded, tapping the cigarette on the nearby ashtray before returning it to his mouth. “Big, if you're curious.” Peter added.

“Figured,” Lee answered. That was how it went for a large part of their trip. Mostly chatter from Germans who felt like they had nothing to fear. There were pieces of news that filtered through the radio, some moderately important commands that didn't effect them in the end. They'd been careful to always flip back to the frequency of the second radio just in case Amelia had need of them, but like the night, it was quiet. Lee had taken the lull to catch up on his reading as he drove the toy car back and forth on his side of the table. While he had accumulated a number of new westerns during the trip across America to meet with Gandor on the East Coast, most of the trip both to, and across America consisted of both Lee and Peter trying their best to learn enough German in a short amount of time. They'd become functional in the language, but there was no hiding that they were not natural born Germans.

Still, it wasn't anything they couldn't get around with some charm and a few witty lies. They were cameramen, after all, documenting the glorious rise of the Third Reich and the heroes who helped build her. It certainly helped explain away some of their equipment, such as the camera case that their radio sat in and the long tripod case that held their Gandor rifle.

Eventually, they heard someone at their door. In quick practiced motions, Peter dropped the receiver from his ear and flipped the top to the case the radio sat in, effectively hiding it from sight. All to naught, it appeared, as Maria entered the room instead. Lee and Peter exchanged glances before both visibly relaxed. They listened as she explained the situation, and at the end, Lee shrugged.

“Too much to hope for quiet night, huh?” He said rising. “Well, we can't leave it alone,” he added. It was their job as Combat Saniwa to deal with issues like these. Reaching down, Lee picked up his coat and swung it over his shoulders as Peter spoke.

“I ain't gonna be able to help mate. Someone's gotta man the fort,” he said, tapping the camera case hold the radio.

Lee nodded, and placed the cigarette back in his mouth and tucked Sterling's toy car into his shirt pocket. “Right, we'll just grab Cyril then. It's his job too,” Lee decided. After that, he took the Gandor pistol and hid it away behind him under his coat. Peter looked at it for a moment before glancing upward to Lee.

“Try not to use it, yeah? Shit's loud.”

Lee nodded, “I know. Just in case.” After flattening the collar of his coat, Lee turned toward Maria and nodded.

“Well. Let's get him.”

Setting

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Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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"It's a woman." She pauses, trying to recall what few details she'd gleaned in her brief glance. "Long white dress, brown hair. I didn't get a good look." It troubles her that she failed to take note of more than that, but perhaps the information she would receive from her Artifact may wind up more useful than any physical description.

In the next carriage over, Basilio collects his things from the floor with the assistance of some strangers. Maria. The Saniwa gently severs the flow of power at being called, knowing he had finished his task. What he's learned troubles him, though his tone remains impassive as he relays the information. She can't be stronger than a rank C.

Maria holds a hand up, gesturing that Lee wait until she finishes her private conversation. She thinks for a moment, brows furrowing as she decides on how she feels about the new information. Her face turns to one of worry as she replies to her Artifact.

I should be relieved, but instead I feel it's a cause of concern.

It's suspicious. It relieves her that Basilio understands. Her brown eyes flick towards Peter for a moment before returning to Lee, the silence heavy as they await her response.

Finally, she opens her mouth to speak, her voice remaining hushed and almost afraid. And truthfully, she is. "Basilio estimates her to be around Rank C." Acknowledging the Poltergeist's presence only puts her one step closer to the dreaded outcome. "I don't think she's it, but she's connected in some way."

Abruptly, she straightens and squares her shoulders. It's best she does not dwell on the result, but instead ensure she does her job as well as she can. "I will tell Cyril and Wulf, though I'm afraid it might cause a few questions should they both disappear at the same time." Then she remembers their disguise, and a small smile forms on her lips despite the gravity of the situation. "Or maybe just a few raised eyebrows. Regardless one or both of them will join you."

"Lead the way, Sir Lee." As they exit the booth, they both make certain that the hall is empty before departing, walking as fast as their silent steps could carry them. They exit the carriage, and Maria crosses over to the next with considerably more confidence than before. She makes a silent gesture with her hand, indicating where Lee's target is.

A small, dark hand tightly grips the doorknob. Her slight form is hidden from view, at the risk of her current precarious position. Basilio, would it be safe to come in?

Inside, Basilio tilts his head just slightly left, taking into account the noise and the people. Not the best, but it should do. You'll gain more attention by being gone any longer. He would offer another distraction, but short of repeating the same, none came to mind. Maria understands this and she moves quickly, taking care to open the door only as large as she needed to minimize the noise. Thankfully, the train's precious cargo enables a slower pace; she re-enters the carriage, none the wiser.

Maria enters the toilets, washing her hands briefly before entering the civilian's gazes once again. Some look up at her arrival, but they quickly return to their own business. Most humans are self-absorbed creatures, and for now she thanks that fact. When she passes Wulf and Cyril, she leans in against their seat for a couple of seconds, as if steadying herself against the sway of the train. In that brief moment her hands move in a practiced gesture they'd agreed on before they'd even boarded.

With her task done, she returns to her seat. Basilio does not look at her even once. She fakes a smile at the gentleman she'd been conversing with a few minutes before, who looks at her with concern. He says as much, and Maria grips the fabric of her skirt. For now, her task is done and she congratulates herself briefly before entertaining the man's questions, as she likely would for the next half hour until she is needed again.

"Thank you, but I'm feeling much better now. What were we discussing before my stomach made an untimely upheaval?" The man is happy to take the bait. She makes herself comfortable, hopeful that her partners will accomplish their given tasks.


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Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Jedly
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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. The Australians were originally Brits."

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. Wulf's acute hearing picked up footsteps out of tune with the clashing of wheels and rails. (WIP)

Setting

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Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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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.

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Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Maria Calag Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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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."

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

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!xmashelp

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

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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.”

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