Weather Girls

Weather Girls

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Introduction

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I remember that day so clearly.
The rain hadn't stopped for weeks.
Dad was sick, we were all gathered around him as he took his last, shuddering breath.
His chest rose and fell with one last sigh.
I remember running, my feet pounding against the pavement, the rain soaking my clothing.
I looked up at the sky and noticed the clouds had parted.
I followed it.
A little shrine in disrepair. I stepped through the shrine gate and clapped twice.
And the rain stopped.
And time stood still.
And Dad was dead.


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A cry, a wish, a prayer. That was what we all had in common. Something happened that day, that changed us all. We crossed underneath the shrine gate, entering the lands of the Gods, through the boundary line between Heaven and Earth. They say that in the sky lives dragons, they say that the clouds hold palaces where the might live. We could not recall anything so grand but a sensation of falling, leaving the earthly plain and waking up on the ground, on the other side of the shrine gate. Snow, wind, rain, and sunshine. An element at our fingertips and all we had to do to command them was clap our hands together twice.

Gifts from the Gods, their marking emblazoned on our bodies.
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They called us Weather Girls. When the rain had fallen for too long, or the land was too dry; they would call upon us. When they wanted a snow day, or sought out large gusts of wind to sail boats, they would call us. Our purpose was in our duty, our jobs becoming recognized by those up high.

But all magic comes with a price. When there is a universal imbalance, an opposing force will come to balance it once more. Darkness needs light to thrive and this was no exception.

Nothing in this world comes for free.
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Winter Matsuri || 16 || Female || Snow || Kyokou Suiri

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Elise Von Hresvelg || 6 || Female || Rain || Kaguya Shinomiya

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Mercedes Edmund || 17 || Wind || Erina Nakiri

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Serena Luft || 17 || Sunshine || Toudo Kirin

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Carter Grayson || 16 || Sand || Teru Minamoto

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Oliver Ender || 18 || Magma || Dazai

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Ezra Jackson || 17 || Rock || Inosuke Hashibara

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012 || 26 || Steel || Merlin

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009 AKA Janet || 26 || None || Kazuki Ferrari


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The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 2 authors

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







They were gathered now at the picnic, ready to eat. Ezra seemed very proud to present the food, nearly shoving it all in Winter's face so she could get the full force of the nostalgia. "It reminds me of those days." Elise said with a little nod as Winter began to unkowingly cry. They ate quietly, enjoying the food. Once they were finished and compliments were made to the chef who was happy to bask in the attention, Elise noticed it again. Someone had taken a few pictures again. It was a while ago though, so they were gone now. She rolled her eyes, trying not to worry about it. She was a celebrity after all, something like this happening was only to be expected. "Let's hope Oliver gets a better attitude now!" Carter said with jubilance. "After being beaten by Winter, we won't let him live it down!"

Serenity produced a list on her holo then, showing it to Winter. "Here are the movies me and Elise gathered. Do you want to pick a few you want to watch?" There was a good variety of holofilms and Serenity was most definitely excited for the girl talk aspect. What even was girl talk? Elise had never really had it. She may have to do some research later before tonight using the extranet's search engine. "So let's talk business." Carter's face was uncharacteristically serious. "Winter, what's up with you? What happened?" She was healthy now, she did not use a cane and she did not limp. Even the chronic pain from all of her operations and organ changes seemed to be gone now. It was as if Winter was given a whole new body. "I'm sure we all noticed it, right?"

Ezra frowned as Elise wiped some crumbs off of his face. "I mean, I didn't wanna mention it until Winter was ready." One way or another, they all realized that something was up. "Do you need our help again? Are you being made to do something you don't want to?" Claude asked, concern rising as he realized that this was most likely some sort of experiment. "We can have your back if you need it." Elise sipped some tea, feeling a little sick to her stomach after eating the food. The tea only made it worse though, maybe Ezra was not the best at brewing tea. Hiding the nausea, she gave Winter a piercing gaze before she smiled. "Can you tell us what happened?"

Tonight, if all went well, they would be able to enjoy a nice movie night. It had been far too long since Elise had gotten to enjoy good cinema, and she needed to keep watching in order to continue honing her skills as an aspiring actress. Hiding fear and pretending to be strong was one thing, but truly becoming another character was a whole other affair entirely. "Is it weird?" Serenity asked, twiddling her thumbs. "I started to think of us as one big family." She blushed, for some reason embarrassed at having said that aloud. Elise wanted to share some of her sentiments but her stomach was really killing her and the dizziness was coming back. Did she eat too much? She bit her lip, ignoring it. Her stomach was really too delicate, even this boundary food was too hard for her without the luxury of gourmet.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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#, as written by The_Queen
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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




Winter looked up from her plate, Carter questioning her. They were all staring though, they all wanted to know. She swallowed hard, reaching for her water and takin ga long sip. Elise too, gave her a sharp look. As though to ask her if she was already falling back into old patterns, allowing herself to be used. Winter shook her head. "It isn't anything like that... at least, I don't think so." Winter placed her water down, avoiding their gazes. "He didn't say to keep it under wraps either though..." she trailed off, debating on just how much she should tell them. Should she simply come clean? Winter took in a deep breath, "it might take a while to explain." Winter admitted. Yuuki gave her an encouraging thumb's up.

"When I killed Merlin, I accidentally ingested some of his blood," if she was coming clean, she may as well confess to everything. "Not enough to inherit his power, I don't think, but Zuko has since been stuck with me the same way Yuuki is." She drummed her fingers on her thigh, along one of her scars. She was nervous. "Yesterday before dinner, Ender called me to his office." She did not meet their gazes, worrying that they would see her as weak again. "Dr. Lidia and Julian were there too. They said they'd been working on a clinical trial, something that they wanted to offer to me first, since their experiments were successful. They said it could get rid of my pain, that it could fix my leg." She dug her nails into her arm, "but they didn't give me a choice." She would not leave out the fact that she had been forced to accept it.

"Ender said if I wanted to not drag the team down, I had to go through with it. I didn't want to be a liability anymore, so I let them do it." To be fair, Winter had said no multiple times. She had tried to deny them, but they cornered her. "When I woke up, Yuuki told me that it was likely they used monster blood or poison, he said it glowed, like in the Boundary." That was that, that was all of it. Winter was slightly relieved to have confessed everything, but at the same time, she felt the heaviness of her words. Would they judge her? She wasn't sure. Was it a good thing? Winter didn't know that either. Time would tell, "the match today was officially sactioned by Ender and Dr. Lidia, they wanted to see just how effective it was. I have a feeling there's going to be more tests in the future."

Serenity spoke about the movies she had collected. Winter smiled a small smile, she had never had anything like girl's night before. "I'm fine with any of them, just nothing too scary." She wasn't all that hungry anymore. "What? You don't like horror movies?" Carter asked, incredulous. "No Carter, my entire life is a horror movie. I don't like autobiographies," Ezra burst out laughing. Oliver was beginning to rouse from his sleep, looking confused. "It's okay, we'll make your future better." Claude promised with a smile. Winter nodded, appreciative. "Have you heard from your parents at all?" She asked quietly, but Claude shook his head. "No, all of my attempts to contact them have been intercepted."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







Winter explained everything to them, the procedure, and who was behind it. It was as Elise feared, but now that it was too late to stop it, all they could do was wait and see. "Let us know if anything feels off, or weird. The more we know, the better we can support you as a team." Carter was being uncharacteristically serious, not even stuttering as he spoke. Everyone had grave expressions on their faces, worry, concern, anxiety. Elise clapped once to get everyone's attention with a light smile, drawing their eyes. "Currently, what matters is that a lot of Winter's pains and suffering related to her body has been healed. She was able to overcome Oliver, and her body proved to be sturdy and reliable. Frankly, this is a miracle." Even the ghost organs that were being grown would not create this drastic an improvement.

"But even so, this was an experiment-" Elise's sharp gaze made Carter fall into silence and she nodded, continuing her statement. "By no means are we to simply accept this, but the fact is, at the moment, the test worked. Winter is doing better than ever." Was it risky? Yes, most definitely. But was it worth that risk? "Sometimes to achieve a medical miracle, you have to take risks. At the moment, we can say that that risk is paying off." She was not telling them to not be wary and alert. But right now, things were looking good for Winter. "So here, a toast for you, Winter." Elise tapped her tea cup against Ezra's glass of soda, clinking the beverages together. They spent the rest of the day touring until Oliver made them go to dinner - making Elise's nausea continue to grow worse - until finally, it was night time.

Serenity grinned, having several classical holofilms in her hands as the three girls sat in the room. They were given permission by Oliver to have a holoset moved into their room for the night. "Just don't make too much noise." Oliver grumbled as he installed the holoset for them. "The others need to sleep after all." He frowned awkwardly as he looked at Winter. Was that shame on his face? Then he turned away, leaving the girls to enjoy their night together. "I was thinking. Winter doesn't have much of a background for movies, so we can start by giving her the basics, something that would fit her personality." Serenity flashed a wide smile as she tapped the chosen holofilm against the holoset, confirming the playback.

"Winter's almost like a precious dainty little lady, so I thought fairy tales would be perfect!" It was a remake of an old classic, Cinderella, playing out on the screen for them. "Ah, I saw this. I heard the lead actress did very well, though there were a few scandals concerning the Director and the male lead." Serenity stared at her in confusion and Elise remembered that the average person would not know much about inner whispers of the film-making industry. "This is a fine pick, I am sure Winter will enjoy it." Nothing too frightening or intense, nice, mild, and pleasant, just like Winter herself was.

A girl's night wouldn't be complete without a little bit of spice, however. As Serenity passed the bowl of popcorn around for the girls to share on the mattress they were laying on, she smiled. "So, El, how are you and Ezra doing?" Elise looked at her, unfazed. "His feelings are quite obvious. I... am not against them, but I do need more time to become comfortable." After what happened with Garrel, there was still some damage that needed to heal, some scars that needed to fade. "And what do you think of Carter? You can't tell me you didn't notice his feelings yet, Minnie!" Elise sighed, having had a feeling Serenity would be happy to spill the beans so quickly.

"If we are all pairing up... you and Oliver, Siri?" An almost cruel smile splayed across her face as she hinted at that. Serenity blinked, then shook her head, suddenly looking bashful. "You see, I do have someone I like." Her face became wistful as the movie continued to play, as the fairy godmother blessed Cinderella with glass slippers and a nice dress for the ball. "That person is strong, responsible, and is always willing to make others smile. They're dependable and never break a promise." That did not sound like Oliver, but rather... "You like Mercedes?" A deep blush appeared on Serenity' face then, and the usually cheerful lavender girl became bashful, almost timid. "But I'm sure... she just thinks of me as a little sister, just a best friend."

Elise was thinking of something else. If there was a chance that Mercedes felt the same way, could they use Serenity to save Mercedes and have her agree to swap sides? One Vassal already died, and Elise did not want any others to fall. There was a reason why they were all chosen, each Vassal had a role to play. It would probably be important to keep them alive, even Oliver, just in case they were needed. Merlin was a lost cause, but with hope, they could find a way to convince Mercedes to betray her family's bloodline.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jallet

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#, as written by The_Queen
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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




A miracle, yes, that's what this was. She could walk without pain, her pemanent limp was gone. Winter's existence was not as miserable. Before now, just waking up in the morning and stretching would sometimes make her want to curl up into a ball and cry. Now, she could move freely. She didn't have to worry about being stranded without her cane, she didn't have to look out for sharp corners that she could accidentally bump into. Of course, Winter wasn't so guillable that she thought this would be the end of it. She knew there must have been some sort of reason Ender had insisted on doing this, that they weren't going to keep a keen eye on her now. Would she confront them? Perhaps in the future, but with any luck, the procedure was as safe as she was promised it to be.

She breathed a sigh of relief, Carter wanted to press the issue, but Elise seemed to notice her unease and chalked it up to Winter having an odd lucky streak. Yes, maybe her foul luck was finally changing. After all, most other people's bodies would not be able to handle as much damage and bounce back so easily. They left the conservatory, but not before Ezra doled out celebratory cake. Winter partook in dessert of course, as ti was always the best part of any meal. She smiled to herself as she licked frosting off of her fork, it was the best part of a cake, after all. Next, they finished their tour of the facilities until Oliver insisted that they all go to dinner. He avoided talking to Winter and everytime she looked at him, he would look somewhere else. Was he intimidated by her now? Good.

After dinner, Winter showered and got dressed in her pajamas. She met Serenity and Elise in their room, since her room was much smaller. The mattresses had been pushed together on the floor and the blankets and pillows distributed among the mattress. Winter had brought her blanket as well, the fuzzy one she had bought in the Outlet. "I'm here," she announced with a smile. "I brought snacks too," her pajamas were simple, the ones she had been issued by the Slithers. A white nightgown, which was a bit plain. Hopefully tomorrow Winter would have time to buy some clothing, something that she liked. She plopped down on the mattress, beside Elise.

"Cinderella?" Winter had never seen it, surprise surprise. She didn't get to watch movies very often, even when she had been living with her Grandparents, considering they had lived far from any theaters. Serenity wanted to girl talk. "Ezra told me a while ago he was gonna go after you," Winter said, nibbling on popcorn. Elise wasn't pushing his advances away, which was nice. "He's a lot smarter than you think too." Even if he acted dumb around Elise, Winter knew that Ezra was much smarter than how he acted. Serenity turned to her next, asking about Carter. Winter blinked, "Carter?" She replied dumbly. "Is that why he keeps hanging around me?"

"I haven't exactly had time to think about a relationship," considering she had just been trying to stay alive these last few weeks. "Besides, why would Carter like me? I mean, I'm just... me." She wasn't femanine like Elise. She wasn't beautiful or friendly like Serenity. No, Winter was cold like ice. She was small and sharp. She wasn't pretty, she had no special skills except for music. Why would any boy like her? They were probably just mistaking friendliness for affection. Serenity liked Mercedes? Winter smiled, somehow that didn't come as a surprise. She could already see the cogs turning in Elise's mind, no doubt thinking the same thing Winter was. They could use Serenity to bribe Mercedes to come to their side.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







Serenity and Elise, both more vain than Winter, made sure to have something more than just a plain white nightgown to wear. Serenity had bought a sunny yellow nigthgown that revealed her shoulders, and Elise had a custom-made sleek black one made by her brother, with frills on the hem of the dress by the bottom. Naturally, since everything she wore now was designed by Claude, she was sporting the black wing emblem on her nightgown as well to represent her family. "Welcome to our humble abode!" Serenity greeted Winter cheerfully. She was able to walk, back straight, without any hindrances. While obviously there would be a catch, that was no reason to not celebrate the happy occasion. "Snacks are always good!" Elise would eat a little out of politeness, but she did not want to make her stomach rebel more. Today was particularly bad for her.

"Yeah, Cinderella! That's the name of the main girl, and she reminds me of you, Winter." Serenty sported a friendly smile as she turned the film on, settling back down on the mattress with excited childish glee. Winter had little experience with this kind of media, so there was a good chance it would come as a plesant surprise for her. As the film continued, Serenity obviously turned the topic to romance, targeting Elise and Ezra first. "I had a feeling he would confer with you first." She replied to Winter with a helpless shrug. "He has been respectful so far, so there is no reason to refuse." How did she feel? She was not sure, but she knew it was not love just yet. Still, that did not mean she did not somewhat enjoy being courted. Ezra was very different from the other suitors she has had try to claim her. Garrel was only one noble who wanted her hand in marriage.

Winter seemed a lot more reluctant to realize Carter may like her. Someone like Winter probably never had any positiive reinforcement to help her realize that she too, was pretty, both inside and out. "He said so himself, though he made us promise not to say." Elise narrowed her eyes at Serenity, who, based on her giggle, did not feel guiilty in the slightest. It was clear she wanted to spark romance. Was it for team building, or did she simply want to help everyone find happiness? Elise was not sure, Serenity was sometimes quite the mystery. "Sometimes the prettiest flower does not realize just how fetching she is." Serenity said with a fake wise expression, nodding sagely. "You have big eyes, nice light colored hair, a good subtle figure." Elise decided to lay a few compliments on Winter, but they were compliments that were obviously true. Lying would not be helpful here. "And your personality is enough to inspire anyone to at least respect you, so love is not unimaginable." Had Elise been more experimental with attraction, perhaps she might have even liked Winter.

She was straight as a fiddle, for good or for ill.

Serenity revealed her affections for Mercedes, looking a lot more feminine with that blush that covered her cheeks up to her ears. She was squirming as Elise and Winter looked at her, both clearly evaluating what this meant. This was good news, this meant there was more of a chance to save Mercedes so that she would not have to die. "I support it. This is far past the old years, same gender relationships are very common." Only the most conservative of person would say anything against two girls or two boys having love spark between them. "B-but, please don't think I'm not loyal to the cause! I love her, I do... but I joined you because this was what I thought was right." They must have had an argument the day they parted ways, when Serenity joined Carter to the noble compound while Mercedes remained with the Chrysanthemum.

The film ended, and the princess and prince lived happily ever after. "Did you like it?" Elise asked, eating a little more of the snacks Winter brought, hoping she would not get sick. "These are called fairytales. There are a few more, I think we have time for one more before we sleep." Serenity held some up for Winter to choose from. "This one's Mulan, this one's the Beauty and the Beast, another one is Moana, and this last one is the Frozen trilogy!" Elise sighed, shaking her head. "Not the last one, that would take us all night to finish." They still needed to sleep at some time after all.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jallet

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#, as written by The_Queen
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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




"I'm glad Ezra is respecting your boundaries," he was of the wild variety. Still, Elise could use someone like Ezra. Someone to teach her how to have fun, someone who could teach her that the rules were meant to be bent sometimes and even broken. Winter hugged a pillow against her chest, "When this whole thing is over, I'm sure he'll ask you out for real." Cinderella, the maid servant, had just received a pair of glass slippers. "That's impractical," Winter rolled her eyes. How could anyone dance if their slippers were made of glass? Winter wondered. Then again, her spirit armor shoes were made out of ice. Winter narrowed her eyes, wondering if that was why they had chosen this movie. She glanced between the two of them, Serenity giggling as though she had been found out. Winter sighed, laying down on her stomach, the pillow under her chest.

Carter? Liking her? Winter shook her head. He had been one of the ones to vote to cut her up, how could he ever like her? Besides, he had also beaten her up that one time outside of the Opal, before WInter had found a reason to get stronger. Elise and Serenity were laying the compliments on thick, but Winter couldn't exactly see through the same rose-colored glasses. Her eyes were a unique color, but as a child, she was frequently taunted for it. She was skinny, yes, but she had the same shape as a twelve year old boy. How could anyone find that attractive? "I'm not good with people," Winter admitted, picking at invisible lint on her nightgown. "I never had a lot of friends and even when I did, I was an easy target. They hung out with me because they thought they could get something from me."

She drummed her fingers against the mattress. "That's why I chose music. It wasn't hard to figure out, it came easily to me. I prefered instruments to people and when I played, well, people actually liked me." It had taken a while for Winter to realize that they hadn't liked her, they had envied her. Music came so easily to her, playing an isntrument was like breathing. Her old friends were jealous. They too, had been in the music program and looking back, Winter had let them walk all over her. To someone like Elise, love may have not been unimaginable, but to someone like Winter, it was far fetched. A fairytale. After all, in the real world, there were no happy endings. Winter knew enough about them to know.

Serenity liked Mercedes, although Winter could have taken a guess at that one with both eyes closed. "We know you're loyal Siri, now we just have to work on converting Mercedes." Winter sat upright once more, the movie suddenly ending. That was it? Just a wedding? No revenge against the people that had hurt Cinderella her entire life? No bringing down an entire government? "I guess Mulan," Winter chose, wondering why she had been afraid of these people before. Serenity and Mercedes had terrified Winter the first time she had met them. Granted, they had kidnapped her the second time so perhaps she simply had the foresight to know that they were dangerous.

Elise too, had intimidated her. Even locked up in her room, she had reminded Winter of a caged elf with her high cheek bones and piercing gaze. Winter did not compare to either of them.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







Ezra was very cunning behind his grin. Even Elise knew that, and she was definitely a calculating type. A wild child like Ezra was taking his pursuit of her very slowly for what you would expect from someone like him. Ezra probably figured that if he simply took what he wanted, Elise would push him away. Thus, he had to take this carefully and gradually or else he would fail in his attempt. Elise truly did think that her words were genuine as she complimented Winter, but it seemed that one round of complimets would not be enough to convince her that she was not as ugly as she thought herself to be. Serenity was the one who chose Cinderella and it became clear why she did once Winter criticized the glass slipper. This lavender girl must really think herself to be quite clever, huh?

"Well now you found real friends who will protect you. You won't be an easy target anymore!" Serenity said, acting bold as she reassured Winter. "Because you are even easier than she is." Elise rolled her eyes, still watching the film as it came to a close. "The weakest vassal, I suggest you put more time into training." Serenity giggled, for some reason not finding offense to that. "Yeah, that's true. Winter's probably the strongest of us. Hibi said she never saw someone use ice as proficiently as Winter." Hibi must have complimented her during the duel then. They put in the next film that Winter picked, Mulan, and it begna playing on the holoset. "Shall we turn the volume down a little so we do not wake anyone up?" It was getting later, so Elise made sure to make it a little quieter so they would have less noise coming out.

"I ... hope we can." Serenity seemed less certain however. "Mercy has always... been very loyal to her family. She took the duty very seriously." Serenity closed her eyes as she remembered her friend's words. "The Edmund family was for many generations the sword and shield of the President. It won't be easy." Elise looked over at her, somewhat curious. "What of your family? Your father and sisters?" Did they find them yet, did anyone find any trace of them? "None." Serenity's face crumpled a little. It was clear she was trying not to think of that, trying not to let it get to her. "No one knows where they could be. The house is in ruins, and there's no sign anywhere." Was it possible that they escaped? "What if they evacuated with the others to the north side?" Elise asked, raising an eyebrow.

But Serenity shook her head. "No... my littlest sister, her name is Gabby... she's disabled. Her legs don't work, and around the time of the Apocalypse her wheelchair was broken, so we needed to buy a replacement..." Tears were brimming in her eyes as she spoke so Elise decided to change the topic. Mulan was about a girl who became a soldier. No doubt her efforts for her country reminded Serenity of Mercedes in a lot of ways. "She is a little like us." Elise said softly. "We are girls, but we are fighting with the weight of the world on our shoulders." Siri suddenly giggled, snapped out of her sad reverie. "Geez! El, why do you always talk so... flowery like that?"

She grimaced, wincing at the description. "I was taught to..." By her mother, but she would not mention that part. "But Claude talk normally, like the rest of us!" Serenity blinked, a question coming up. "Wait, so why were you even at the City Center? Wouldn't a rich girl like you be at Rosalind's Academy? And you, Winter, I'm surprised the Chrysanthemum let you mingle with the common folk." Elise frowned, recalling her father's words. "Father wanted Claude and I to learn more about commoners and to become more grounded as nobles. Obviously, a public school was out of the question, so we were sent to the City Center, which was a mixture of wealthy and common." Father wanted them to be able to appreciate people for more than their blood, but Claude was the one who really understood that. It took Elise quite a lot longer to understand what father wanted her to learn.

It was getting late and Elise felt the drowsiness coming to her eyes. Would she be able to make it through the film?

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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




Winter hunkered down in preparation for another film. The girl talk had shifted to war talk, then to family. Serenity had siblings, Winter knew that, but she had never known that her little sister's name was Gabby. She had never known that Serenity's family could not afford the money for a wheelchair. The conversation shifted once more, Serenity didn't want the girl party to become gloomy. Why was Winter at City Center? The question surprised her. "I chose it," she admitted. "I wasn't supposed to be allowed to go to school, but I convinced everyone it would be good for me. I knew about their music program, I wanted to compete on the off chance I was erased so that the entire Chrysanthemum would know what would happen if it did end up coming to that." Winter's reason for picking City Center were pure spite.

She had finally gotten to move out of that dreaded room and into an apartment, closer to the school. She had finally gotten to have a life outside of that building, if only for it to be severly limited. She had never tried to run away, because Winter knew that running was useless. They would find her; they always did. She was slow and easy to describe, a child with a cane, surely anyone would remember such an odd sight. Elise's reason for choosing City Center made sense. Her family wanted her to know more about the caste system most were not affected by. The Chrysanthemum prided itself on its provisions for the homeless. Even if you made no money, you could live in a small apartment and be given three meals a day. Of course, whose to say the food wasn't poisoned as the Chrysanthemum's homeless population was little to none.

Winter was feeling sleepy, the movie was nearly over. She was hardly paying attention anyhow, but Winter liked the message behind it. She fell asleep sometime before the credits began to roll, hugging the same pillow against her chest and wrapped in the fuzzy blanket she had bought from the Outlet. When morning came, Winter found herself sandwiched between Elise and Serenity, the three of them squished on the mattress on the floor. Someone was knocking on the door. She sat up slowly, reaching for her cane instinctively, then remembering. "Hey guys, someone's here." Winter said groggily, rubbing at her eyes and looking through the peephole. "Time to get up!" A voice yelled, attempting to rouse them from sleep. It was Oliver, no doubt taking the intiative. "We're up!" Winter replied, scaring him. He turned tail almost immediately.

"I should go to my room to get ready, I'll see you guys at breakfast.... thanks for... last night." She blushed as she collected her things, going to her room that was right nextdoor. Zuko and Yuuki were waiting for her. "So? How was it?" Yuuki wanted to know. "Your first sleepover!" He was beaming. "Did you punch anyone?" Zuko asked eagerly. "No! I didn't punch anyone!" Her face turned red as she closed the door behind her. "What's this? When did this box get here?" Winter asked, noticing a large package in the middle of the floor. It was wrapped in butcher paper and tied with twine. "I don't know, we only just got here." Yuuki admitted as Winter knelt down to inspect it. "It's from Claude," she sighed with relief, half expecting it to be a bomb left by Oliver.

She unwrapped the package carefully, finding dresses inside. "Typical," she shook her head, but she was smiling. Still, Winter was glad to have something other than drab sweatpants and tanktops to wear.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







"How many cases are there now?" Sir Ender asked, banging his fist on the table. Lidia, the chief medical officer, flinched as he did so, looking at him with anxiety in her eyes. "Sir, there have been forty more cases reported last night. That brings us to a total of eighty three." They were trying to keep it a secret, but the truth was that it seemed as if there was going to be an outbreak. Something major was happening, and it was not good. The infection rate had nearly doubled in just one night. "What are the symptoms again?" Julian listed off the symptoms. "Diarrhea, cramps and pains in the stomach, dehydration, and nausea. So far we have had a single death caused by a depletion of electrolites from the vomiting and diarrhea."

The symptoms were looking bad, and the infection was only spreading. "We should begin quarantining the infected off to try and limit the infection." Lidia said, in deep thought. "But what could be the source? We need to find what is going wrong." They did not know what caused this illness or why it was going through their numbers so quickly but if they were not careful, many would die. "Divide your medical team into two. Have them do rotations in the quarantine ward with all the safety gear we have." Sir Ender ordered, a pained expression on his face. Like this, they would not be able to wage war. The sooner they could contain this, the better it would be for them and the future of this city. There was a bang on a door, a nurse bursting in, panic in her eyes. "Sir! Two Vassals are confirmed infected!" Sir Ender growled. If Vassals were becoming infected, then this truly was an emergency.

"Which two? Can you tell me their names?" The nurse nodded, trying not to squeal. "Serenity Luft and Elise von Hresvelg!" This was becoming worse and worse. Serenity was one thing, but Elise's intellect would be very difficult to replace. Try as Oliver might, he was not able to keep up with the Hresvelg girl's mind. "What about Winter? I heard they were having a sleepover last night." The nurse shook her head. "Winter Matsuri is not infected. Perhaps she was immune because of the treatment she was given." There was a virus going about and they did not know why. "We should check the water supply and make sure there has been no tampering." This was likely a water-borne infection, but they had an advanced filter designed to keep the incoming water clean. Someone must have been working for the enemy.

Still, something did not seem right. "These symptoms and the transmission of infection matches patterns of Giardiasis." Julian said, reviewing his notes. "But Giardia is typically considered a low-lethality virus. This strain is proving to be resistant to the drugs we're using, so it might be a modified version for an increased mortality rate." It was acting faster too, as normally symptoms don't show up until a few days after being transmitted the virus to begin with. "For now, all military ventures are suspended." Sir Ender declared. "We are to put all resources to solving this problem."

.....

"How are you feeling?" Serenity looked sick but she was still fretting over Elise, who had it worse than her. "All we... can do is wait." Her stomach was killing her, as if there was a fist clenching and unclenching inside of her. Still, she had to remain dignified at least, even in the quarantine ward. There was a decent amount here, and that was definitely enough to cause worry. "Hopefully the Slithers have the resources to be able to beat this disease." It smelled awful, even in their new room together in the ward, they could smell vomit and fecal matter from the other rooms. It was bad for her and her sensitive nose. "We are not as far gone as the others... the worst symptoms have not begun showing yet." So far Elise was mostly having nausea and cramps and dizziness, but she dreaded the day it got worse.

Still, for something like this to happen. "Why did this happen all of a sudden?" Serenity asked, afraid, her eyes wet with fear. "Sabotage. The Chrysanthemum did this." They got someone from the inside to shut off the filter as they infected the river with this strain of virus, that was the only conclusion. Winter still had Ezra and Carter, hopefully those two would stick together with her. The black eagle was pale and shaking, but she had to try and stay strong. Ame floated above her, fretting, looking helpless.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jallet

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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




There was a knock on her door, "Winter?" She looked up from her bed, hesitant to answer. "Who is it?" Winter was being confined for her own safety and health. She was on immuno suppresents thanks to her transplant and even though she hadn't caught the virus, Dr. Lidia was quaranting Winter in her room. She had told her to not answer the door for anyone, unless it was food or herself. "It's me, it's Claude." Winter hesitated, putting on a mask before she opened the door. "I won't come in, I don't have the virus, promise." She nodded, "We need to talk though, somewhere more private." Winter looked around, "I'm not supposed to leave my room." She hesitated, Claude thinking to himself. "We're being monitored everywhere," there were several cameras in the hallway alone.

"Use this," he handed her a small, black box. "A walkie talkie?" Claude nodded, "I'll see you later." He left, Winter watching him go before closing the door. She took the mask off, taking in a deep breath. "Claude? What is it you wanna talk about? Over." There was only static for a moment, then, "It's about the Slither's. About what they've been keeping everyone in the dark about." Winter's expression changed, "What have they been doing?" She was hesitant to ask. "Over," Winter added, for good measure. "It's a body mill," body mill? "What does that mean?" She could feel her heart thumping in her chest. "They've been collecting bodies, hundreds of them. They're harvesting organs, collecting their blood. I don't know what for, but I don't think it's for anything good." Winter thought about the ghost organs inside of her. No, those were artificial... right?

"Any theories?" Claude was a smart boy, "None, but I have a feeling the toxic water may not have been entirely the Chrysanthemum's fault." Winter's hands ablled into fists. "I can try and ask them-" Claude cut her off quickly. "No, don't ask about it. I'm not even sure what I really saw myself." Maybe he was mistaken then? "Are you sure those were humans that you saw?" Winter asked, coming to a sudden realization. "No," Claude admitted. "They could have been monsters then, humanoid ones." She swallowed hard, was the cure for her chronic pain truly tested on rats? Winter felt sick to her stomach. "Yeah, I guess. Listen, don't tell anyone else-" the walkie suddenly cut to static.

"Claude?" Winter asked, chills rising on her arms. She rose from her bed, "Claude?" Winter tried to open the door, but it was locked. The handle had been locked from the outside. "Hey!" She banged on the door, "Let me out!" She placed a finger against the lock, trying to insert ice into it the lock, but the handle broke instead. "No, no, no, no." Winter tried to reattach it. "Kill them," Zuko egged, "They trapped you in here. They deserve to die," Yuuki appeared right behind her. "No, we shouldn't kill them. This could be an accident, for all we know." It was like having a devil and angel sitting on her shoulders. WInter scrubbed a hand along her face, frustrated. "The others could be in danger. I have to find a way out."

What if they gave the same thing to Elise and Serenity? Infused them with monster blood? What if it hurt them?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







There was a large commotion the next morning. "What is happening?" Elise asked, struggling to get up from bed. Serenity frowned, looking pale and unwell herself. The nurses were doing their rounds, passing out medications to suppress the symptoms long enough for the virus to die out. There was no real cure, according to Doctor Julian who had come in last night. All they could do was endure for 48 hours for the virus to die in their bodies. There was no reason to distrust his words. Doctor Julian was a loyal man after all, and he owed a great debt to the Hresvelg family. "I'm not sure." Serenity admitted, trying to get up from bed. "But it's really noisy. I'll tell them to shut up!" There were papers, real papers, strewn about all over the floors. Elise did not know, but these papers were also scattered throughout the non-quarantine wards of the Underground City as well.

It was old-style newspapers, of course, with a single headline. "Sir Ender experimenting on human corpses and monster blood! Experiment residue infected the water supply! More under the cut!" Serenity stuck her tongue out, looking spirited despite their condition. "Let me see." Elise held her arm out to retrieve the paper. A name stuck out to her, one she recognized. "Gordon Grant...?" So he was still working on news media even in the apocalypse was he? "There are pictures of Sir Ender and Doctor Lidia disposing of the bodies, but there is something missing." She frowned, narrowing her eyes. "They would know not to bring the corpses to the river, and even if they did, our treatment plants should be enough to decontaminate." Something most definitely did not make sense here. There were reports of damage and sabotage at the treatment plants too, but who took the bodies from Lidia's research labs to the river?

Whoever it was, would that person be the Chrysanthemum agent responsible for the damage? "That's pretty scary. You think weird things sometimes, El." Serenity laughed, trying to look casual. "It is simply logical." Elise winced as her stomach continued to twist and turn inside of her. How were the others doing? Hopefully Winter was being cared for. "There are snakes hidden in the foundations, there is someone we cannot trust." And with Elise here she would not be able to help coordinate to protect Winter. Clearly, this was all a plot. Someone was trying to get to Winter. She was, after all, the most valuable of the Vassals, so it was quite clear she was the one in need of protection. Hopefully Ezra knew the current priorities. As long as Elise was in the quarantined zone, she was safe. Winter was the one they needed to guard. Ezra was smart, he would not let a trick like this fool him, right?

Serenity fell back to sleep, in more pain than she was letting on, when there was a knock at the door. Before Elise could respond, someome burst in, wearing white robes to show that they were one of the infected. "Gordon Grant... it truly has been a while." Grant looked sickly, but also proud as he nodded. "Grant here, at your service! I did the expose on Sir Ender... so now I'm hiding here. The higher ups will kill me if they found me, can you protect me?" His red hair looked matted and unwashed, and his glasses were cracked. Still, it truly was a marvel that he was still alive after all this time. "Go under my bed, I will move the blankets to cover the gap on the floor." Did Claude know he was alive and kicking? Elise hoped so, those two had been friends, after all.

Sure enough, black robed Slithers checked the rooms one by one, searching for Gordon Grant, wanting to take him in for questioning and for slander. He might know more about what happened, would it be wise to ask? "Who is the real culprit?" She asked aloud after the footsteps of the Slithers faded away in the distance. "You want to know?" Grant crawled out from the bed, looking weary. He was not infected, he had snuck into the Quarantine ward somehow last night, evidently trying to flee the authorities. "It's a bit of a mystery, but you know me, milady. Information is a currency, and I don't want to give for free."

He smiled, looking at her. "Elise von Hresvelg. Idolized actress who earned the hearts of millions with her impeccable acting skill as the Girl in White in the hit horror film, What happened in Innsmouth." He was already in reporter mode, that familiar glean in his eye was back at it. "You belonged to everyone, to all of your fans, but then you vanished. You went into seclusion and abandoned your fans." Wait, what was going on? "That does not sound like a-" He got closer, his smile widening. "And then your show up again, alive, after we mourned for you. Not just that, but we discovered you were defiled. We could accept the engagement with Garrel Lawson, he was a noble and one of your class."

The gleam in his eye was no longer familiar.

"But Ezra? A wild dangerous man? Our precious and beloved Elise must have been tricked or seduced! So as one of your greatest fans, I have to save you!" Was that a knife in his hands? It would be so easy to raise her arm and fight back. But yet, in her chest, something was stopping her. Was it fear? Was it trauma? "I will be your savior! I will keep our beloved black eagle pure!" What was he saying? "The Doctor said he'd be able to save you from Ezra if I helped him, he's waiting for me outside the Underground to take you to him but this is the best way to maintain your purity. I'm your number one fan, Elise!" With a cry he lunged, knife plunging into her throat.

.....

Oliver Ender was not in a good mood. He wanted to confront his father about what was in the news papers that was vandalizing the Underground City on all sides. Experimentation on corpses with monster blood? Was that what was done to Winter? His face flushed from the humiliation but he shook his head. No, that was not important right now. He first needed to check with an authority to see - was the story in the newspaper true? Was it possible for experiments like that to create a virus like this? "Doctor, if you don't answer my questions, I'll have to torture you again." He growled, stepping into the dungeons only to find a dead guard and an open door.

The Doctor had escaped. "Wait..." He reached for the camera, viewing the footage back. "So that reporter did this." Oliver grit his teeth, shaking his head. The Doctor always had a fascination with Winter. "Would she accept my help?" Would she even need it? Kazan grinned, looking at him. "You don't have to make excuses. You love her, so you better rush to her side before Carter steals her heart from you." Oliver groaned, shaking his head. "She would never love me. Not after how I treated her." It seemed being beaten by Winter forced him to grow a new sort of respect. "But I will keep her safe, especially with the Doctor loose."

........

"People really are so manipulative." The Doctor was already halfway back to the Chrysanthemum now. "That silly reporter will take care of a big threat for me, and with luck, the others will die from the infection." He was full of wounds and injuries, but still, he was confident he would make it back. "Merlin, you really did die too soon. You were supposed to be the one I was most afraid of." Merlin was both uncontrollable and unpredictable. He was the only one that would be impossible to truly manipulate. "But you played around with the Nobles too long and that got you killed." Typical, really. Winter even now, was still happily throwing out his trash, without even knowing. "If she kills Sir Ender, then my job really will be a lot easier."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jallet

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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




"Winter?" There was no answer, "Winter!" The door burst open from the outside, Winter laying face-down on the ground, what looked to be mist coming from the air vent. "Hang on!" She was grabbed from hre room, the oxygen tank taken as well. "Is she breathing?" Carter asked as Ezra turned her over, her face pale. He placed his head against her chest, listening. "Yes, she's still breathing." They both sighed with relief. "It looks like there might be a snake in the grass," Ezra said as he handed Winter to Carter. "Where are you going?" Carter asked, panicking. "I'm going to check on Elise and Serenity! I have a bad feeling-" he suddenly started to run. Carter had no idea what to do, but he knew that when he had lost contact with Claude this morning, it was best that he come to check on Winter.

"What are you doing!?" Oliver asked, hands balling into fists. "What did you do to her!" He grabbed Carter by the front of his shirt, shaking him. "Nothing! Calm down man! We found her like this!" He shoved Oliver off of him, gritting his teeth. "You have a lot of explaining to do," there were leaflets scattered everywhere in the dorms, the newspaper Gordon Grant had written. "Let's move out of the hallway," Oliver decided, acting as leader even now. "Where are we gonna go?" Carter lifted Winter carefully, Oliver taking the oxygen for him. From the way Winter was tangled in it, it was clear she had tried to put it on before passing out. "If they hurt her-" Oliver held up a hand. "We can talk about that later, right now, it's clear someone is after the Vassals. It'd be best if we could all regroup." With Serenity and Elise sick, it would be difficult for them to accomplish such a feat.

"We'll go to my room for now," in the boy's dorm. "We don't know what sort of poison they used in the vents so it would be best if we-" Carter shook his head. "No! We can't do that! She'll freak out!" Oliver tapped him with a fist on the head. "Do you really think now is the time to think of modesty? We need to get whatever poison it is off of her!" Carter swallowed hard, leave it to Oliver to be the voice of reason. "Fine," he mumbled. They placed Winter down on a towel, both of them blushing from head to toe, unmoving. "You do it," Carter said suddenly, looking up. "No, you, she trusts you more." Oliver retorted, neither of them able to bring themselves to do the deed. "Fine, we'll both do it then!" Oliver decided.

Even as small as she was, undressing someone who was essentially dead weight was a struggle. "We'll just cut it off!" Oliver decided, grabbing a pair of scissors. He cut off the tank top and sweatpants Winer was waering, Carter assisting in pulling the clothing off. They bundled it in a trash bag and tossed it in the incinerator for good measure. "What do we do now?" Carter asked, nervous. "What if she comes to?" Oliver shook his head, "I don't think she will, we need to wash it off." Oliver only had a shower in his room, he brought out a bucket of water and a towel. "We'll do it this way," they were both red as they sponged Winter's skin, removing the film of aersolized sedatives on her body. They dressed her in one of Oliver's Slither robes for the time being.

"Put her on the bed for now, you stay here, I'll go out and look for Ezra." Carter nodded, lifting Winter up and placing her on the mattress. Oliver's room was bigger, naturally, because he was the leader's son. Winter began to come to a few minutes later, looking around, panicked. She nearly hit Carter in the back of the head with a fistfull of ice. "Sorry," she murmured, realizing it was him. "I thought you were someone else." Carter nodded, relieved that she was alright. "It's okay, I'm just glad you woke up. We weren't really sure what to do." Winter looked around, where was she? What was she wearing? "How did you know to come to my room?" She asked, sitting up slowly. "Ezra had a bad feeling, he should be with Elise and Serenity by now."

"Where's Oliver?"

"Just outside, this is his room." She bolted upright, "Is this his too?" She asked, tugging on the Slither robe. "Yeah, we didn't really have anything else," it slid down her shoulder. Carter's cheeks turning pink again. "It's fine, it just smells like him." She wrinkled her nose, the door opening as Oliver returned. "No Ezra yet and no signs of Claude either."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







As the knife glinted against the light Elise shivered, a question running through her head. Was this what it meant to be loved by a man? This controlling, posessive, stifling feeling, constricting her thoughts? Were they all like this then? The knife work was sloppy, in his crazed state Gordon Grant missed her throat and instead stabbed her in the stomach. Still, the blade pierced her flesh, most likely doing a great deal of damage as the edge tore through. Blood leaked from the wound, but then there was a scream. Not Elise's, but someone else. Ame? "Ahh!" There was a flash of light then, brightening up the room momentarily. "Get out, you creep! Get off of her!" Serenity shrieked, grabbing at Grant, trying to pull him off of Elise. "No!" He cried. "I have to save her from Ezra! Elise deserves better than someone like him!"

"Better than Ezra?" Serenity glowered, puffing out her cheeks. "No one's nicer to her than Ezra! It makes me jealous, I want to spoil her too!" With a sword of light she cut through Grant's wrists, his hands flying right off his arms. Grant fell down then, writhing in pain as she knocked him out, breathing heavily. "I killed someone?" Serenity whispered, shaking her head. "No, that's not important right now! El, hang on, I'll pull that knife out!" Elise grabbed her by the hand as she reached for it, shaking her head. "No... blood loss..." She managed to gasp, looking sick as she shivered, her ruby eyes looking almost desperate as she panted. Her breathing was becoming more labored and Serenity too began to panic. "B-but what do I do? I have to do something!" Serenity did her best, but she was not good in an emergency like this.

But Ezra was.

The door flung open, Ezra kicking it down, following the noise. "Doctor Lydia, they're here!" He yelled, wearing only a mask as protection. No doubt that was as much as he was able to compromise in his rush to get to the quarantine ward. Lydia followed him in, her jaw clenching when she saw Elise's state. Her vision was becoming blurry, but she could sitll make out basic shapes and colors in her confusion. "Will you... own me? Ezra, does want control me?" Ezra stared at her, confused. "What? Stop talking, save your energy. Lydia, we can't keep them here, it's dangerous." Lydia finished applying a sedative to calm Serenity down, then looked at Elise and her state. "How long until the virus dies?" Lydia furrowed her brow, thinking. "Serenity and Elise were infected twenty hours ago, so we still have twenty eight hours left before it's safe to move them."

Ezra punched the wall, making a crack, pulling chunks of the wall out to use as weapons. "Right now, what I care about is these two girls being taken care of, and that is not gonna happen here. You're going to move them, whether you like it or not." Lydia nodded, knowing that Ezra was not one to make idle threats. "I'll call Kronya and have her send emergency containment suits for transportation. We'll arrange for a special section of the Ender house to house these two so they will be under our careful surveillance for the rest of the incubation period." Lydia glared hard at Ezra's eyes then. "Is that enough to appease you?"

Still, even after the moving was done and Serenity and Elise were moved out of the Quarantine Ward and into Oliver's home, Ezra could not feel satisfied. What was the brat princess trying to ask him? What was the sadness in her eyes? He would have to find out what that dead reporter was saying before he tried to assassinate her. "I got them." He said, walking into Oliver's room. "They're already being moved in. How's Winter?" He asked before seeing Winter up and well. "Did you get cleaned before coming?" Carter asked him nervously and Ezra nodded. Of course he did, they sprayed him down like a dog in antibiotics and antibacterials.

"Should we talk about his now or wait for Elise and Serenity?" Oliver asked then, addressing the team. "The elephant in the room. The Doctor escaped, and what should we do now?" Elise's brain would be useful, but could they afford to wait for her to wake up to make a plan of action?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jallet

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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




Ezra returned, Elise now safe. Even reporters like Gordon Grant were not immune to the Doc's meddling. He was out there again, that thought filled Winter with unease. She sat on the edge of Oliver's bed, still feeling slightly dizzy. "We should go after him," Winter said quietly. "There's four of us and one of him." She was ready to get rid of him, she wanted revenge for him having made her life hell. "No, especially not you." Oliver crossed his arms. "Why not?" Winter asked, hands balling into fists. "Because you're biased, you'd kill him on sight and as much as I hate to say it, we need him alive." Why? Why did the Doc have to live? What use was he to them? "We all need to get stronger. As we are, we won't be able to beat the Chrysanthemum."

It was true, they all needed to get stronger. "Then we have to train, we can't just sit idly by while-" Oliver was shaking his head again. "If you have a problem, just say it!" She snapped, tired of his attitude. "We can't just go out and train, in case you haven't noticed, there's a virus raveging the base right now. It can infect any of us and you're too vulnerable." He was right, but Winter would never admit it. "We need to set up a round the clock watch. Obviously the Doc is going to go after Winter and it seems he wants Elise now too." Ezra was oddly quiet throughout this entire thing. It was almost suspicious. "What's on your mind?" Winter asked him, knowing there was probably something he wanted to say. "It was something Elise said... about wanting to own her."

"What? What does that even mean? And has anyone found Claude?" Winter crossed her arms. "I have no idea, she was semi-delirious, but I think she meant because of Garrel and Gordon." Winter touched his shoulder. "You're not like those two," she reminded him. "You actually respect people's boundaries, even if you do go overboard sometimes." He nodded, but it was clear that he was still upset. "I should go look for Claude-" Oliver stopped him. "No, Carter can go look for Claude. You should go stand watch by Elise and Serenity's door. We don't know who we can trust right now." Carter sat up straight, hearing his name being said. "I'll start looking." They would all feel more at ease once Claude had been found.

"What should I do?" Winter asked, feeling restless. "Nothing for now, you'll stay here. No one will come looking for you in my room." Oliver said confidently, although Winter had her doubts. "I need some of my things," she muttered, not comfortable with this arrangement. "What things? You don't own anything," he reminded her. Winter crossed her arms, "I own two things thank you very much and I would like them back." They were probably covered in that mist, but Winter just wanted the comfort of having her fuzzy blanket. "I'll see what I can do," Oliver sighed, seeming tired. "I'll take the floor for now, you can have the bed." She shifted once more, "Um, I need... underwear and stuff too." She blushed, Oliver's face turning red. "I'll see what I can do about that too." He disappeared, closing the door behind him.

Why did it have to be Oliver, of all people? She wondered, hugging her knees to her chest. "It could be worse," Yuuki reminded her. "Yeah, but it could be better." Winter replied, burrying her face in her knees. "Elise is injured, Claude is missing, I have no underwear. Not to mention the universe keeps trying to kill us!" She reminded him. "You should just join the Chrysanthemum, they'll never see it coming." Zuko tried to entice her, both Winter and Yuuki staring at her blankly. "A double agent!" Zuko rubbed her hands together eagerly, "The Chrysanthemum would never expect it. Their beaten down little puppy, suddenly stabbing them in the back." Yuuki pushed Zuko away from Winter. "As great of an idea as that is, Winter would not be the candidate for it." It was a terrible idea, she could see it written all over Yuuki's face. Losing a Vassal would be akin to cutting off a limb.

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Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







Carter grimaced as he returned to the base after a day's worth of searching. "This is all I was able to get." He said, looking bitterly in his hands. A broken walkie talkie, the same model that Winter had used. "It was outside his room." Ezra clenched his fist, clearly looking as if he wanted to hit something. "Claude's one of us, he's the brat's brother! We can't let anything happen to him!" Chikyu had a worried expression on her face as well, almost as if she cared about Claude's well being to some minor extent. Did she really care? It was impossible to tell, really. Serenity had woken up in tears when she recalled how useless she was, and Serenity recounting what that reporter had said to Elise only made Ezra more agitated. He couldn't lose his cool though, Elise was more delicate than she acted. Winter said he wasn't like the other guys, but wasn't his nickname the wild child?

Sir Ender and his primary aide and the public speaker for the Slithers, Kronya, came back as well, surprised to see all the Vassals gathered in the Ender's home. Orange-haired Kronya smiled as she explained what happened. "They were in danger, Sir, so they were moved here. This way we can secure them and make sure they stay safe." Sir Ender nodded, accepting her explanation. "Has Doctor Lidia been here to keep a watch on our infected Vassals?" Lidia was busy out taking care of the Quarantine Ward with most of the other members of the medical team, but Ezra was on standby with a direct line to Lidia's holo to report if anything changed. "She's being updated and is advising the Vassals on treatment according to the information and current status of the patients." Right now both were stable, Lidia made sure to perform surgery and a blood transfusion for Elise before returning to the trenches.

Oliver glowered at his father, clearly with the intention of picking a fight. "Let's discuss this in my office, son." Sr Ender said, taking Oliver by the shoulder but Oliver brushed it off, his eyes hostile. Onec they were in the privacy of his office, Sir Ender sat in the chair by his desk, gesturing Oliver to take a seat. He refused, naturally. "Father, is it true that you and Lidia are responsible for this virus outbreak? For contaminating the water?" Sir Ender smiled, shaking his head. "Of course not, son. While we did experiments, we always made sure to safely dispose of the bodies safely." He raised an eyebrow, as if begging his son to explain. "Why would we want to poison our own people when the goal is to create a community strong enough to fight against the Chrysanthemum?"

"But the article says-" Sir Ender smiled patiently and shook his head. "My son, clearly this is someone slandering us, trying to ruin the community we have created. Did you forget? We fight for justice and for the people. The Chrysanthemum is evil and vile, they must be defeated so that their tyrrany ends. Don't let a random article get in the way of our just cause." For a moment Oliver's eyes glazed over and then he nodded. "That's right." He said in agreement. "The important thing is that we defeat the Chrysanthemum. We're the freedom fighters, working for justice's sake." Their cause and ideal was righteous, and he would not believe the lies of someone willing to set the Doctor free. After all, the article was clearly written with the Doctor's intentions in mind.

At last, the fourty eight ours of containment was over and as soon as Doctor Lidia gave them permission, Ezra opened the door, this time without wearing the protective hazmat suits they were supposed to wear. "Elise, Serenity, you two are free! Welcome back to modern civilization!" He bore a grin, trying to play it cool. Winter assured him he wasn't as bad as the others, right? He wouldn't try to hurt the black eagle like everyone else? "We were getting tired of this stuffy little ward." Serenity admitted with a chuckle. All they had was a drab room and a bathroom connected to it that Serenity had to help Elise use every time since she cold barely walk anymore. The stabbing and the illnesss set her back on physical wellness, she would be confined to the wheelchair again.

Still, her ruby eyes were clear and focused as she gazed at Ezra. "Serenity was bouncing in excitement as the clock winded down." Elise said with an unreadable smile that pinched at Ezra's heartstrings. With an elegant move of her arm she gestured at the wheelchair. "I am not as mobile. Do you mind helping, Ezra?" Did that mean she still trusted him? With the hearts in Serenity's eyes, Ezra had a feeling she was the one who told Elise to do this though. Well, he wouldn't say no to the matchmaker's whims. "Of course! I'll tale you to the others, we're about to start a planning meeting, Oliver had a very interesting topic."

After giving the girl time to change, Ezra helped transfer Elise to the wheelchair. "Is my brother here?" While Serenity was willing to help dress and make-up Elise, she would always be most comfortable under her brother's brush and design. "We couldn't find him, but we're still looking. Sir Ender says he has his best agents searching for him." Not even the cameras were able to capture the moment he vanished. Where did he go and what happened to him? Ezra hoped that his future brother in law would be safe. "So what's the meeting about?" Serenity asked, distracting Ezra from Elise's troubled frown. "Well, that's..." As they entered Oliver's meeting room (just his room really), Ezra was happy to answer. "The meeting to debate if we should rebel against Sir Ender or not!"

Oliver seemed relieved that the two patients were able to make it. "Thank you for coming." He said, fire smoldering in his eyes. "As we just heard Ezra say, I invited all the Vassals here so that we could discuss the pros and cons of my proposal." Whatever he talked with his father did not convince him. "Father has no care for the life and safety of the citizens other than as a means of production and war." Oliver growled. "If I lead the Slithers, I would be able to set us on the right path." His expression softened then, looking down. "But my father is better at commanding the soldiers. Will we be able to win without his help?"

Elise looked weak in her chair but she still spoke up before anyone else. "My opinion depends entirely on one question. Are we able to capture the Doctor and force him to serve our bidding?"

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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




Winter hugged her knees to her chest. Oliver had gone to locate her some clothing, leaving a bottle of water and an apple in case she got hungry. "Zoku, can you teach me to bend metal?" Winter asked, contemplating to herself. "Are you kidding? You didn't consume enough of Merlin's blood. You can't even touch metal!" She laughed, Yuuki looking worriedly between them. "Winter, what are you thinking?" He asked as Winter opened and closed her fist. "If I can control two elements, we can gain the upper hand." That wouldn't be fair to the others though. She lay down on Oliver's bed, then abruptly upright when she realized it smelled like his cologne. Gross. "I have monster blood in me too now," since it had pretty much been confirmed by Claude. "Yes and we don't know what that will do to you," Yuuki reminded her gently. "But what if I can figure out a way to activate it? What if it can help me bend metal?"

Zoku laughed at her again, "Little girl, you are asking for punishment." Winter glowered, "tragedy clings to you like a fish in water and yet you want to try for more?" She walked around Winter, well, floated really. "You truly must hate yourself to want to hurt so deeply." She sank back on the bed, feeling defeated. "Then what am I supposed to do?" Winter asked softly. "My entire life, I've been told that I was too weak, that I would never amount to anything. I can finally control the gift Yuuki gave me, I'm finally not weak anymore, but I'm still not strong enough to protect those around me. They keep getting hurt and I... I can't do anything about it!" She slammed her fist down, ice covering the bed. "Well, maybe we still need to work on emotional outbursts," Yuuki scratched his cheek.

The door poked open, Oliver had returned. "I found these," he held up a bundle of clothing. [color=#BDA0CB]"Thanks,"
she took the bundle from him, heading to the bathroom to change. Her cheeks turned pink as she realized what he had selected. Lacy underwear, why? How much time had he spent picking them out? Had he found these? Did someone give them to him? He had also brought her a dress, not just sweatpants like she had expected and had been wearing. "Why so fancy?" Winter asked as she emerged, Oliver's cheeks turning pink. "I thought you should dress more respectably." He answered quickly, the door opening once more. Carter had returned, there was no Claude to be found.

They ate dinner in Oliver's room, Ezra remaining guard outside of Elise and Serenity's room. Oliver went to bring him food while Winter and Carter sat at the desk, Carter in the chair, Winter sitting on top of it. "This whole situation is just... disheartening. The people we think will protect us keep betraying us," he open and closed his hand. He understood how Winter felt. "We just have to keep getting stronger," Winter replied. Carter laughed, "Easy to say when you've been kicking monster ass. You've basically been grinding levels while the rest of us were playing on easy-mode." Winter blinked, "I don't understand," she said as she bit into a piece of bread. "Video game analogy, sorry." Carter slept in Oliver's room as well, the two boys taking the floor while Winter slept in the bed.

The next morning, Serenity and Elise were released from quarantine. Oliver had called a meeting while Winter was still getting ready in the bathroom. Food was delivered to the room, Ezra bringing Elise and Serenity soon after. So it was Sir Ender they were going after now? Elise only had one question, if they could force the Doc to do their bidding. "No," Winter spoke quietly. "We already saw what that was like before." Carter nodding in agreement, "He's a slimy snake. I think we should kill him, if anyone." Winter remained quiet, she didn't want to kill anyone else. Two was enough for her.

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Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







As the virus threatens the population of the Underground City, and the Doctor runs free towards the Chrysanthemum's walls, what will be the course of action the Vassals choose to undertake? Would they rebel against Sir Ender or owuld they remain his loyal pawns for the time being? Elise posed her question, and Winter disagreed. "You misunderstand me." Elise said, a calm smile on her face. "The Chrysanthemum wants the Doctor to be able to wage war against us, since we have the majority of the Vassals." She would explain her line of thought in relatively simple terms to help further her case. "But if we can catch the Doctor and hold him, we will have an advantage." Carter raised his hand, upset. "We used him before, and he cut up Winter! Just now, he tried to get you assassinated! We can't let a snake like that near us again!"

Elise raised an eyebrow. "If we can capture him, it would have to be done in secret. Sir Ender would not be allowed to know." The Doctor was certainly a vile snake, but there are ways to defang those poisonous beasts so that they are no longer threats. "We can cut out his tongue and remove his arms. What threat would he pose then?" Carter still looked as if he wanted to oppose her, he more than anyone wanted to make sure they did not further associate with the Doctor, knowing his crimes and his evil. Oliver sat quietly, listening to all opinions before he would make his decision. "If we'll do all that, why not just kill him? A dead man can't hurt anyone anymore!" Elise blinked, looking carefully at Carter. "But why put a valuable resource to waste when we can use it instead?"

"Resource?" Carter asked, his voice raising. "So cutting up Winter was valuable?" He really was not listening to what she was saying, was he? "The Chrysanthemum puts value on his abilities and knowledge. If we have him in our custody, we are denying the Chrysanthemum from using him. If we leave him alive, they may try to rescue him and we can use that to our advantage as a trap." If things went according to plan, the Chrysanthemum would take the bait in an attempt to take back the Doctor. Would the President make such an order to take their pet snake back? "But if it is impossible to capture the Doctor, it would be wiser to keep Sir Ender alive." His experience at leading the Slithers was invaluable, and while Oliver had good intentions, he did not have the same leadership skills Sir Ender did.

Oliver stood up then, looking tired. "I'll have to think more before making my decision." He said, sighing heavily. "But you both make good points." No doubt he was going to try and see the likeliness of catching the Doctor before he wound up behind the Chrysanthemum's electric fence wall. "Winter... both Peona and Cocoa are in the Quarantine Ward." She pointed weakly to her wheelchair, an almost embarrassed smile on her face. "Would I be able to rely on you to help me learn everything again?" Nearly three days of being unable to move set back her progress, but maybe Winter would help her regain some of it back. "Wait, why don't you ask me?" Ezra puffed up his chest with indignation. "I can definitely help! Just look at these muscles!" This light hearted teasing felt different. It felt... more desperate. Was there something Ezra was trying to prove? The black eagle could hardly remember their last conversation.

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Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Jallet

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❝I put my arms around myself and I'm unbreakable.❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#BDA0CB β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #F7B3DA】
|| Dear Winter || AJR ||




Elise wanted Winter to reteach her things after having been in bed for three days, but Winter had a better idea. "Why don't you ask Dr. Lidia?" She inquired, "she restored my body, maybe she can fix yours too?" Unless it wouldn't work because Elise's was a mental disconnect rather than physical weakness? Speaking of which, why hadn't they yet offered Elise the same treatment they had given Winter? They still planned to keep the Doc alive, to try and use him, but there was no point in keeping him alive if they cut out his tongue and cut off his arms. It would be better to just kill him, Winter thought. Then again, they probably did not have as much hatred towards that man as Winter did. The Doc did not have a hand in the other's lives the way he did with Winter's.

"It would be smart to keep Sir Ender alive, since he's the one holding the Slither's together right now." Full offense to Oliver, Winter did not htink that boy was cut out for leading anyone. He had no idea what it was actually like to live on a battlefield. He had experience only in the affairs that his Father made him privvy to. Oliver might have been a Vassal and a strong one, but he was ill-prepared to take over the empire his Father had been creating for who knows how long. "There's another problem," Winter pointed out. "The Slither's have been building a military force and a shield made out of bodies. The Chrysanthemum is an actual military organization. They know how to organize soldiers, how to weaponize the land." She took a deep breath in. "We're just kids, kids with power, but none of us are even legal adults."

Well, one of them had been, but Winter had killed him. "We're sloppy, we have no sense of teamwork, some of us still freeze up in front of the monsters. Quite frankly, we're a mess and if we're going to get better, we needed to start tranining yesterday." Mercedes came from a military background, but they did not have her support or alliegence. She was fighting with her father, fighting for the Chrysanthemum despite everything that had happened. Winter shook her head. "It's clear the Doc still has interest in us, I'm sure he's got more than Gordon Grant under his thumb. We'll need to be careful and move in a buddy system." Winter glanced at Oliver, as though indicating that he should take over so that she would not over step her boundaries. He jumped to attention. "Winter is right, we don't know who else the Doctor may have influenced. Anyone could be an enemy right now."

"It's clear that my morals no longer align with those of my Father. If we can overthrow him, I would be glad, but I'm not ready yet to inherit what he's built. If I can learn more first... then maybe." He cleared his throat, "I'm gonna assign buddies. You should always know where your buddy is and try not to get seperated from them. Ezra and Elise, you two will be Buddy Team 1. Serenity and Carter you two will be Buddy Team 2." He looked at Winter, the blood seeming to drain from his face. "Winter and I will be Buddy Team 3." Almost immediately Carter started to protest, "No way, you already tried hurting Winter once. I should be her Buddy," he growled, clearly upset. "Yeah!" Serenity chimed.

"Are you alright with this?" Winter asked Elise, knowing how she felt about men.

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Character Portrait: Winter Matsuri Character Portrait: Elise von Hresvelg

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❝Inside the mirror do you see someone else in that body?❞

【ɗιαƖσgΟ…Ρ” cσƖσя:#0C94CC β™™ тнσυgΠ½Ρ‚ cσƖσя #CC0C2E】

|| Azalea|| Nano.ripe ||







Winter had a different idea, suggesting that Elise undergo the same operation that she went through. Elise was a little more reluctant to go through that, however. The aftermath of the research that went into Winter's operation had a heavy cost. The Doctor was able to find the bodies and contaminate their water supply with it, causing a horrible infection outbreak throughout the Underground City. Would they be able to prevent that happening again if more corpses needed to be used for Elise's operation? "There was a steep cost for your operation." Elise stated her worries clearly. "It would be harmful for the survival of this city if a second wave were to happen." Furthermore, Elise had less to gain than Winter did. Elise only needed to relearn everything but Winter's body had become mangled and painful, forcing her to become dependent on medication just to survive. Lidia had not brought it up yet because she was currently too busy trying to treat all the sick for the duration of the outbreak.

With military operations on standby, that means this is our best opportunity to try to train and get stronger. Winter was right, they needed to get more experience. "What if we did raids on monsters in the nearby area?" Ezra asked, raising his arm. "We wno't need our soldiers to join in, since we operate as our own unit. We can train and grow stronger that way." Their scout reports were giving them video feeds of the Chrysanthemum's soldiers burning entire streets in order to clear up the number of monsters in their way. They would light the streets aflame and use Mercedes's wind to turn the monsters into cinders. In the north side of the city where the Chrysanthemum was, the monster numbers were gettiing smaller and smaller by the day. "Local criminals and gangsters are not able to match up to a proper military." Elise agreed with Winter, adding her two cents. "As the Vassals, we must raise ouer power levels in order to compensate." They would be the key to a Slither victory over the Chrysanthemum.

What practical skills could they offer to try to go against the Chrysanthemum? Beyond of course, their abilities as Vassals. Carter had been a normal apathetic high school boy that did not care about anything in particular. Oliver was trained in some degree for terrorist tactics, but that was not the same as the background Mercedes would have. Elise had a grasp on basic strategy, but she did not know how to command the soldiers. Winter could inspire everyone with her overwhelming ice abilities, but would inspiration be enough to turn the thugs into a military fighting force? "You never know who else might have been tricked by him." Serenity's face scrunched up as she contemplated the thought. "That's scary!"

Winter came up with a buddy system where people would pair off into twos, since it was impractical to expect them to be able to work as six people the entire time while they were here. Oliver and Carter were now fightng over who would get to be with Winter while Ezra was happily claiming his spot at Elise's side. "Oliver and Winter are among our strongest, while, and no offense intended, Carter and Mercedes are not on the same level." Thus, pairing Carter and Serenity together would make them the most vulnerable group to any Doctor-loyalists still hidden in the Underground City. "To enable a somewhat equal combat ability, Oliver should be with either Carter or Serenity, and Winter should be with the other one." Normally Oliver would be able to think of that too, why did he so badly want to be with Winter? Was there some sort of ulterior motive?

"Of course she's fine with it!" Ezra exclaimed almost defensively, shaking his head. "You are, right?" He asked a second time, a little more hesitant than before. Was it just the black eagle's imagination, or was Ezra acting more reserved ever since the assassination attempt? "Ezra has never treated me wrong yet..." Her voice trailed off. Admittedly, it was frightening because she knew his affections towards her, and she knew how men's love twisted them and turned them into controlling posessive creatures. But she also knew it was wrong to judge Ezra based on the actions of other people. "We could spend some time at the training room set up for us Vassals." Oliver seemed to want to get them started on training right away.

"If each pair of buddies could work on improving their teamwork, it will make us a lot safer as a whole." Oliver, as their chosen leader - somewhat begrudgingly - made the suggestion. "Should we go and start the practice?" Serenity was looking lively, and Elise was feeling better too now that she was no longer infected, even if her limbs were weaker than ever before.

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