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  1. "Y... Yes, Agnn-ni..." Tenna watched as Ariana hobbled towards the table that the demon king... Was she truly a child? How had she lifted an entire table with such ease, above her head... Monsters were terrifying. No human that size, that height, could lift a whole desk... I... I need, to prove that I'm not full of hot air. I, I, I can do this... The, onis don't look very monstrous. They'll be, nice... Wh-What did Ariana say, before? That, they used to be human...? I... I can handle that. I can... Tenna slowly, very slowly, approached Ren and Gabriela, casting a nervous glance at the siren. What, is an angel doing here...? She had no mind to really ask, more confused than alerted, now. "Uhm... E-Ex, cuse me..." She slowly raised her hand, a comforting magic radiating from them, Ren's wounds beginning to close. Healing magic made Tenna feel safe; it reminded her of practicing in her room back at the castle. She slowly shut her eyes as she worked, she could feel him getting better through her magic's contact. "I, er... I knnn, know, th-that you, all must hate m-me... But I don't w, want to see anyone, uh... H-Hurt. I hope you don't, mind..." Slowly, she finished fixing Ren's sibling inflicted damage, eyes opening again, the faintest smile on her face. "Much... Better." "I'll speak with you, on, as much as you need to, Ayane... Once my body starts... To feel things properly, again." Hopefully the oni wouldn't hold it against her that her leylines were still riddling her with numbness and stiffness, making moving and feeling quite difficult. Ariana quieted herself and deferred attention to both Marina and the Demon King.. It seemed that Tenna was tending to what she'd promised... Thesephine rolled her eyes at the comment from the other oni, but they had more pressing things to attend to... Everyone seemed to be listening, Seilan, Ayane, and Marina even chiming in and complying with the situation. "You're damn right you won't kill her... Not ever, if Nessraya managed to do to her what needed to be done. I'll let her explain that when I'm done here.. As, for, here." Thesepine finished laying out the map and then swiped a dagger from a pocket attached to her belt. It struck Mixoco, a few weeks travel away from Tepel's walled in city. "You're both right. Thank you... And I'm glad you've been taught well in the ways of war, Marina. It does us wonders." There was no sarcasm nor venom in her praise, though she couldn't bring herself to offer the girl a proper smile. "Mixoco is a fortress, no city. An old one, built closer to the border of Vaia, simply to watch for anything from other countries... Our ties with Hwein have always been strong, but prevention is the best medicine, as they say. Ahem... Ithraxl has taken the first and turned it into his own personal base of operations. That is where we will find him and the rest of the soldiers he has left under his command..." Thesephine cleared her throat, flaring her wings a moment. "The fort will contain what's left of his soldiers, but they will be his most elite. His men have always sported heavy armor, as well as magic. Prepare for a tough battle, and for them to have the ranged advantage... But the fort is easily assailable from the direction we're heading to it from. The rear has several entrances that we can beat down if we must... Though, the inside is full of tight hallways that they will do their best to abuse. We can siege the place, or try to break in and storm it... Whatever we feel it best on site, but prepare for both." She then leaned up, leaving the dagger in Mixoco's name. "You'll all have a few hours to rest and be tended to by the ever generous Princess Tenebria Oweyn of Coteon." Thesephine gestured a claw towards the girl standing near the onis. She shrunk and her eyes went wide, suddenly enveloped with fear over being the center of monster attention. "She has offered to heal our wounds and tend to whoever needs it, so feel free to approach her and ask for it... Lavinia as well, and from what I understand, Sir Landsridge knows how way around a staff." Surely the one on his person wasn't just for show. "After those two hours have been rested, and your wounds dealt with, back your bags and get ready to leave. We'll be requisitioning a few wagons from Tepel to carry all of our forces and gear, and riding straight for Mixoco. Sir Landsridge is correct that Ithraxl will be spending the next month gathering a new force to come after Tepel again, and the city will not survive another coordinated attack... It almost fell today. It would have, were it not for all of your courageous efforts. So steel yourselves for another two weeks of travel... And let us put an end to this, once and for all!" Thesephine's tail cracked against the ground to emphasize her point, hands on her hips, glancing between the faces present. "Any questions? Raise them now. Once the operations begins, there's no turning back..."
  2. "I can't just leave you alone like this! Better for you to bite someone that can't feel it than hurt and traumatize someone else, right?" Aithlin groaned as Jade began to drag her outside the city, but it made sense, at least... "Look, Jade... Go and do what you need to. Okay? I'm going to go to the inn, first, but I'll be waiting outside... I'll bring a towel and some warm water." Hopefully the implications didn't miss the zombie, as Aithlin pulled her arm away. "The undead gotta stick together... Don't want to worry anyone if you come back covered in deer. Is that fine...?"
  3. "... I'm truly. Truly, sorry... For what I did to you. I won't ask your forgiveness... But know that I regret it, with all that I am. Nessraya has undone the hold the church had over me... But I still remember everything. If you wish to get back at me, by all means... I won't stop you." Ariana met the oni's stare with sad eyes, but didn't look away. "I will! I need you alive to answer questions! Don't you dare go and give your life over to someone else, not before you tell us everything you know!" Thesephine wasn't about this honor nonsense, forgiveness, or whatever. "Keep this until the meeting is over, the both of you! Swear to Hess, I'm going to blow a blood vessel... She's not hostile, everyone! Not anymore... If she tries anything, I have my eye on her. Be cautious, but don't be afraid." Thesephine sighed and pulled a map out of her pocket, going about smoothing it onto the table while people gathered.
  4. "No... You did great, Ayane. That... It means a lot to me, what you're saying. I'll do my best, t-to face my father, and see if I can talk him out of this... I don't know if it'll work, but I have to try. He's still... My father. No matter what... I don't want to see him die." Taliyah sniffled back her tears and nodded. "Mmm... A-And I'm really glad that, you're feeling better, Ayane. You're... A really, nice person. Thank you..." Taliyah glanced at Bridgit and smiled while wiping the last of her tears away. "I'm r-really glad to have made friends here... Even if I'm only half-lizardfolk. Nice to be around people that don't care..." "I... Y-Yes. I trust Marinn-na too... Thank you, Agnn, ni... I'll, go and help you with, whoever n-nn, needs healed." Tenna held herself as Agni stepped away from her, slowly following him out of the room... The demon king was right there, though... Having an odd moment, with someone else. She reached out and gently tugged on Agni's sleeve, trying to get him to move. "It's... N-Nnn, no-not, out busin, ness... Let's go, Agn-ni. I can... Handle healing them, even if they scare me. Just make sure they don't, touch me..." "Mmm... Marina, just... Know that even if they used you to make her, she isn't... How do I say this..." Lavinia paused to think, running a gauntlet into her hair. "You... Don't owe it to her to care. That may sound rude of me... Perhaps dismissive, but even if brainwashed, she tried to kill you. Came here with the princess in tow for her own ingrained orders... It's... Be nice, and care, if you wish. I will not stop you. But... Mm..." Lavinia couldn't put it to words, but being kind, being so nice and caring to this... Creation meant for Marina's demise, it felt off. Whatever Nessraya did could have been undone at any moment. It could be a plot. Marina was simply too trusting... That everything was working properly. "I'll be here to make sure you don't get yourself hurt doing whatever you wish, at least, Marina. I promise... Let's go outside now, yes? You did very well staying in the same room as Thesephine without panicking... And I'm sure that some fresh air will aid that weight you've removed." Gently taking her hand, Lavinia did her best to smile, heading towards the outdoors. Erephis flinched, but didn't recoil as badly as before, simply nodding. "Ahh... Y-Yes... If, I think of anything interesssting to tell you about thiss, world... I'll try my best to shhhhare it, okay?" It wasn't much, but it was the best Erephis could offer, right now. This darkness... It was worrying, but the higher powers would protect their world. No matter what. So she was hungry... Aithlin figured as much. Jade was still a zombie, even if she still had her intelligence... The elf wasn't afraid, though. If she hadn't been thinking about it, perhaps getting bitten would've made her scream... But, conscious of things, Aithlin knew that she couldn't feel pain. Getting pulled close was alarming, but it seemed that Jade was still aware enough to not dive into a frenzy... Still, she couldn't ignore this. Undead were granted immortality, at a cost. Lavinia couldn't be in the sun, and needed to drink blood. Aithlin would die if her armor was shattered. Jade... Would go crazy, if she didn't feed her instincts every now and then. Taking a moment to push her back just enough, Aithlin presented her forearm, staring at the woman. "Bite it. Take a chunk out. Eat... You have to. This is part of what it means to be what you are... Maybe you didn't get enough at breakfast, maybe the blood set you off, but if you wait this out, it'll just be worse next time. I might be new to this whole undead thing... But I've done my research. Made sure I knew, when I was diving into old crypts, looking for treasure. Take a bite, and wake up, Jade." I can hold her back if I need to, anyway... I'm strong enough, now. "Mmm... If tonight goes as well as I'm hoping, Bladen... Then I'll tell you once we're done with Ithraxl. How does that sound?" It wouldn't do to put that weight on his shoulders while they were still dealing with the lizard. "I'm sure you understand... I can't share secrets simply because of lip service... Not this kind of lip service, at least~ Mmm... Getting excited now... I know exactly what I'm going to do with you." She left whatever T was about alone, cuddling into him... Though it seemed their discussions were about to be cut short. "Gather around, everyone!" Thesephine approached the training area, heading to a nearby table stationed to the side of it all, before lifting it with ease and carrying it towards the center of the small field. "We need to discuss what we're doing with Ithraxl... As well as check up on how all of you are doing." "You'll, need to... Do something e-else, as well..." A voice called out into the field... Ariana, in Seilan's grasp, slowly walking towards Thesephine. "Hello... Demon King." "You... You're already up?" "Y-Yeah... And I'll, tell you whatever you need to know... As well, as... A, Ayane!" The girl did her best to call over towards the oni, Seilan helping her over to the table enough for her to collapse against it, slowly picking herself up onto her feed. Thesephine was on guard, claw on Stholia, just in case. "I... I need, t-to talk to you... I have something, important, t-to say, first..." Memories
  5. "... Alone?" Thesephine hadn't expected to be spoken to by the dragon-- why had she been present, anyway? Sollowy made clear what she had been about to, anyway. "If it's important, she can hear it too. She's going to be Queen, after all... So she'll hear it eventually. No better time than now." Foot down on the subject, Thessy shook her head. One thing after the other to piss her off today... "I, what...?" Xalrei had been expecting resistance, Thesephine was clearly agitated, but not in the form of that bombshell being dropped on her head. Wasn't that fairy from a few weeks ago, anyway...? How... A sigh escaped her lips, shaking her head. "I, I guess that's fine then. But, we still need a private room. It's, not something that just anyone can hear." "What's stopping you from just saying it here? No one's around; Thesephine's plenty busy as it is." Though perhaps a bit mean-spirited of her, Sollowy didn't really care about what the dragon had to say. She wasn't one of Thessy's retainers, or anyone high-ranking at the fort from what she could tell. Thesephine shouldn't have to be jumped by the peasantry just because the chance was there. "Out with i!" Thesephine clarified her words with her tail cracking against the stone floor of the fort. "I've no time to be dragged off to a room to speak with someone I don't know about something I don't know, so out with it and stop wasting my damn time, dragon!" Xalrei hadn't expected the outburst, flinching as the sound of Thesephine's tail whipping against the stone rang throughout the hall. Laselia, please don't be mad about where I'm saying this... But would what she was about to say actually be heard? She was both worried and frustrated that this was going down like this, she had pictured it going much better... "F, Fine! I'm your sister! Our mother sent me to live with Ralsvelgr when the hero attacked... That's where I've been." "Her, sister...?" Sollowy almost couldn't believe what she was hearing, especially who she was hearing it from. This nobody was suddenly claiming to be a heir for the throne? Right after she'd just gotten together with Thessy? It felt suspicious, the nobles would definitely be petty enough to try something like this...(edited) "..." Thesephine's rage was only held in check for a moment, before she ripped Stholia off of her neck! A moment's magic formed the spear proper, blade tip aimed right at Xalrei's face! "You dare? You dare, right now, while all of that nonsense is swimming in my head... You DARE to spout such nonsense at me!? My SISTER!? My sister is dead! And you're not the only pretender that's dared try to--" Stholia suddenly swung around, Thesephine feeling the presence on her other shoulder. Luckily, she stopped herself, before it could cut down-- "A-Asami!? You know not to sneak up on me! What do you want? I'm busy dealing with a nuisance..." "Ahah~ Well, I simply had to stop you before you killed the only family you have left." Asami smiled, no attempt to poke fun at Thesephine. The medusa's eyes twitched, but she didn't bark at the kitsune, or claim otherwise. Asami was a trickster, but she would play pranks, not tear at someone's heart. "... Y-You're, bluffing." "I'm not..." Did her silence mean she'd listened? For a brief moment Xalrei thought this would actually go that easily. The dragon didn't know what she was expecting when Thesephine ripped the necklace off her neck, but it wasn't a spear in her face! Instinctively she'd stepped back, claw going for Requiem to at least defend herself. "I'm not lying! I really am your sister! Why would I lie about this!?" She started shouting back, stepping forward, towering over Thesephine-- Asami's intervention got Thesephine's attention off of Xalrei before things could escalate further, the dragon taking a deep breath and letting herself calm down now that her life wasn't in immediate danger. "See? I'm not lying... Asami was the one who told me who a really was." That had certainly escalated quickly, Sollowy nowhere near fast enough to even try to stop Thessy, not the fairy was sure she even would have. If this dragon had really been a fake, she mustn't be if one of Thessy's retainers was vouching for her, then she would have deserved what she got for bringing up something so painful for the tiny ruler. As things were, however, Sollowy figured she ought to at least help her girlfriend calm down. Gently placing her hand on Thesephine's spear arm, she applied pressure, trying to get the much stronger girl to lower her weapon. "I... Th-Then, you're... Tundyssa. That's... I, I you're... I'm not, alone...?" Thesephine slowly lowered her spear. Too many things were floating in her mind right now. The chimera, the enemy princess, this dragon claiming to be her sister-- but Asami was claiming she was, and she wouldn't lie about this, not this, not just for kicks, which meant-- "S-Sister!" Stholia turned back into a necklace in time for Thesephine to nearly bowl Xalrei over with a hug, claws tightening around the girl's back. "You were dead! They told me you were dead! I was... I was completely, alone...!" Thesephine bit back tears as the hug got tighter and tighter, she didn't want to let go in fear that her suddenly found sister would disappear all over again. "And my job here is done... See you all later~" Asami turned a corner and was... Gone. Tricksy fox... "Th, That's my real name..." Xalrei still wasn't used to having her 'real' name spoken aloud, awkwardness coming back now that Thesephine was calmed down. She wasn't ready for her sister's tacklehug, or the ensuing deathgrip, either. "Hrrk! E, Ease up, the hug, please...!" Came Xalrei's strained request; not even Laselia had ever hugged her this hard... Sighing, Xalrei slowly wrapped her arms around Thesephine to return her hug even though she hadn't let up at all, holding her sister tight. "They didn't even tell me I had a sister... Father, I guess he's actually Grandfather, raised me as if I was his daughter. I... I'm so happy to meet you, sister. I've been thinking about you, ever since I learned about you..." A rare smile graced Xalrei's face as she stared down at her sister. "I'm really happy for you, Thessy..." Sollowy said with a gentle smile as she watched the sisters embrace. Part of her wanted to hug Thesephine as well, but this was their moment. She would have more than her fair share of time later... "Damn you uncle Rals! I'll kick your ass the next time I see you!" Thessy cursed through tears as she eased up as much as she was comfortable, stopping herself from squeezing Xalrei's spine to death. "Damn you... Hhhhgh... I'm... I w-wasn't, ready for something like... Like this... Nhh, y-you're, coming with us." Thessy finally let the hug go, grabbing Xalrei's claw with her own, dragging her back towards Sollowy. "I have too many questions for you! And you're not getting away from me until we can sit down and answer them properly." Xalrei could only suppress her laughter as Thessy cursed out her father, finally free from worry about her spine getting snapped by her overeager sister. She let her tug her back over to the fairy, tail lightly swishing, simply happy to finally be with her family. "I have a lot I want to ask you too. It's not like I'm going to disappear..." Not anymore... Having left the meeting room with far more information than she'd bargained for, Lavinia was trying to properly absorb it all. A lot of it was medical talk, but the revelation about Tharasonis had left her a bit startled. He'd been such a wonderful leader, had he really been looking into that behind closed doors? Perhaps even having Erephis partake...? It was a lot to think about, but there was something more important ahead of her. Having left Thesephine to her own devices, the king seeming rather upset at the moment, Lavinia left ahead of them. Marina was there, further down the hall, clutching her face and side, resting against the wall... "Marina?" She approached her carefully, hand gently on her shoulder-- before she noticed the blood. "Oh, Hess, when did you get this hurt?" She quickly retrieved her staff and began to work on the wound, sighing quietly. "Uh... I realize this may all be, a lot to take in, Marina. But none of this is your fault... alright? Just, understand that."
  6. "Ah, Jade!" Aithlin was surprised to see the zombie dip away from the group so quickl-- No, she wasn't. A double take between Jade running off and Ren told her enough. Oh... It's like that. "Uh. Gabriela, why don't you take Ren to find one of the healers. He's hurtin', and if he wasn't gonna go himself, certainly you can coax him into it, right? I'll check on Jade. Tackle 'em both at once! Sound good?" She didn't wait for an answer, taking off after the woman in a sprint, doing her best to keep up with Jade. She ran pretty quickly for a zombie... It didn't take too long to find her in the halls, somewhat slouched over, still walking. "Jade? Jade, hold up... I, uh, I think I know what's going on. It's fine if you gotta..." Aithlin could only hope that Gabriela had listened to her suggestion. She didn't want either her or Ren to see Jade biting one of their allies, and mistake it for something more than it was. "You gonna be alright, hun...?" A gently hand touched her shoulder, hoping that wasn't too much. "Marinnn, n-na, I'm, I'm really n-not strong at all, please, y-you can't just say it and expect me to-- M-Marinn, na?" Tenna hadn't expected her lifeline to walk away on her to go and deal with her clone, chimera, whatever Ariana was... It was disheartening, definitely, seeing Marina give so much care to what was effectively just a tool, over the princess. "Th-That..." A small frown formed on her face. Why couldn't you have just died when they ripped all that out of you-- "Er, wh-what? Agn-ni...? I, uhm..." Tenna sank in the chair she'd been placed in, thinking about it for a moment. "I... A-Agnnni, I... Truthfully... I had been hoping that I'd m-meet up with the two of you. I... I don't, want to go back to C-Coteon. I... I'm still terrified of monsters, but... If... If this is r-really what the church, is all about, I... I don't want to go back. I don't want to be a p-part of all of that, annn, n-nymore. I don't kn-know what I can do, h, here, but... If I can help with, the group and y-you and Marin-nn, na, then... Then that's eno-en, nough, for me. I hope... That's, okay..." "That's not good enough for me, Princess." Thesephine had remained quiet to listen in on what the girl was talking about, claws on her hips now. "Do you have any idea what the church has done to my people? What your soldiers have done? Your family? Despicable. Disgusting. You even make your own tools just to break them against us simply because... Ugh! I don't know! And the fact that I don't know is exactly why I refuse to forgive you and the name you hold-- Damn you, Tenebria Oweyn!" Balled fist pointed in the princess' direction now, Tenebria was panicking, clinging to Agni for support now, hiding herself against him. "That isn't good enough... So you're going to work yourself to the bone playing healer for us, if you truly feel so bad. Agni, take her to the training grounds, and get her to start fixing people up. If her heart truly bleeds, surely that much is fine." "I-It's fine!" Tenna's muffled voice responded, letting go of the poor lieutenant and standing up proper. "It's, f-fine... I... I can do, that, m-much." "Good... Then get to it... as for your question, Sollowy." Thesephine sighed, folding her arms. "It was on an old book that my father had written or had written for his own research... He had looked into making chimeras previously. Fusions of different kinds of DNA to make stronger soldiers-- But!" She cut herself off and grit her teeth. "He never planned on making them humanoid... Giving them personalities and orders that could contradict them to the point of illogical denial. He just wanted to make mindless creatures. Sure, it was playing at life... It was terrible. I read about it and had the book locked up; I have no plans to follow in his footsteps... But this... This, next step that Coteon had gone over beyond even his research..." Thesephine couldn't hold it in anymore, spitting onto the floor next to her. "Revolting..." Amera hadn't been sure what to say this whole time, eyes darting between the party present. "So... Wh-What, exactly is a chimera...? Fusions of, DNA, what, is that even...?" Thesephine sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "It's... The parts that make us up beyond magic. The genetics of what goes into a person. Why you have brown hair; why I'm so short; why Marina's skin is pale. And a chimera is, a magical, and scientific creation of different aspects of creatures. The strength of a beastkin, the magic of an elf, the resistance of a vampire. Combining them together into a form that would hold them all... And giving it life. It's playing at being the Goddess, and I will spit on anyone that thinks to create artificial life and use it so cruelly. Just... Terrible." "I... I-I see. That's... That sounds pretty bad." Amera didn't quite get the details, but from the sounds of things, it was something the previous demon king had been looking into, when he shouldn't have. "Why was he--" "Desperation," Thesephine bit out. "The previous war with Coteon didn't go well, either. We were losing soldiers left and right... He didn't have a choice, but to try and look into something that could replace all that loss of life. I am glad that he didn't get far enough as to stain his hands with such a sin." A sigh, Thesephine was rather done with this conversation. "You, human from Hwein. Seilan, yes? We should reconvene, indeed. You can stay with the girl, make sure she's alright... Marina, as much as I appreciate your humanity making itself known, we must go. We need to formulate a plan of assault with the rest of the group... One that will be relayed back to you, Seilan, I'll make sure of it. Go and have your bath first at least, though, Nessraya... I need a drink." Everything said and done, the medusa snatched Sollowy's hand and began dragging her out of the room, angry and tired. "Woof... That was... A lot... I guess I can't blame him for looking into that kinda stuff, but..." Another look at what had happened to Ariana left Amera agreeing with Thesephine. This wasn't something worth exploring. "Want me to join you, Nessraya? I'm sure you could use someone to wash your back." Ariana could only let out the faintest whimper as Marina moved her, doing her best to drink the water offered. Her mind was spinning in twenty different circles, none of them showing any signs of slowing. She wouldn't be talking for several more minutes, at best, and some of the spinning thought circles promised nothing good once they'd stopped themselves. Despite the wolf's promise not to jump on Nisha, an arm slid around the girl and pulled her closer, trying to find some more comfort in an already comfy situation. "Yes... Amera no have time for train, yesterday. Very annoying... I, understand tho! Need, prepare for battle. Tough battle... Got hit with magic, today. Not comfy, magic bad... Mmmn... Swords, physical. Make sense. Oh! Oh, me, me too! I fight to prove, strong. Yes, yes good. If not strong, why fight? Better staying out of fight. So I train, yes... Lots of training." "Oh, good boy~ Finally giving in, yes? Mmm... We'll see how well that holds tonight, won't we?" Asami giggled into his ear but stopped teasing him-- physically --simply giving him a hug and holding him close. "If you decide that I'm worth enough of that physical attention... Then..." Her smile faded, a rather wry one replacing it. "Maybe I will tell you. Just a little bit... Of all those confusing things you want to know about. Stupid Circe..." A pout, she sighed, leaning back against the ground. "What a mess! Could've simply kept you ignorant, yet she went and said more than even her vision had showed... Alas... I didn't want to get anyone roped into this, but I suppose when those onis showed up, there was no way we were getting around dealing with T--" Asami bit her tongue, squeaking, and sat up a bit. "That was almost a very, very bad slip up... Never mind what you just heard, for your own good, and I'll talk about plenty, but that... That stays silent. No ifs, ands, buts, or great sex." "Y-Yes! I'm sssure that's why... Mm, they'd never let anything desstroy this world, they, c-created the sssstars and all, after all. You sh-shhould, be ss, safe, Asstraea." Erephis smiled as best as she could, tongue poking out a bit, which caused her to blush and suck back her smile. "Ahh... S-Shh, ssss, saaaa... T-Tongue! Work with me! Ahh... S-Sorry." "So, you're... Still struggling with all your anger?" Taliyah couldn't understand, even if she held sympathy for the oni. She didn't hold any anger for her father... It was all sadness. She didn't want to see him hurt, or hurt anyone else, anymore. Even when he'd lashed out at her, he'd done so with such a pained look on his face. "I wonder... I wonder how, we, can both go about reconciling with what we have to do. Agni told me to try talking to him... But I-I don't think he's going to listen to me. Not when I..." Her claw came up to her face, gently pressing against it. "Not, when I remind him s-so much of mom... It'll just... Make him even more angry. I... Will have to kill my father, with the rest of you, won't I, Ayane...?" She looked up at the oni, hoping there was a different answer in there. A soft look glanced at Bridgit too, before the lizard sniffled. "I might, cry... But I won't look away. Not, not anymore... I promise. He's done, too much..."
  7. "I think it's up for me to decide what is and isn't a waste of my time. Now, stop being such a brooding teenager and come here." She didn't wait, pulling him back from his hunch into a hug, resting her head on his shoulder. "Let me guess... You feel lost. You're wondering why you survived when so many others didn't... You don't know what you're supposed to do in life, or how to get your magic to function at your command. 'Why should she care when I'm just the runt of whatever's left of my people? Shouldn't she go and find someone that has a better handle on their life?' Is my hammer hitting your nail? Perhaps a bit too hard?" She didn't bother waiting, again, pulling him into her hug tighter. "Well, the fact of the matter is, I don't quite care if you're the runt or their star prodigy. You're Bladen, your magic is interesting, your future is promising, and what matters most is I like looking at you~ Call it shallow, but looks definitely matter in a relationship. Plus, I suppose... You're not half bad at holding a decent conversation when you aren't wondering why someone like me is pining for you~" Another giggle, Asami cocked an eyebrow, leaning in to kiss his neck. "So let me decide, already... And stop being such a coward~ Is it really that difficult? A month is plenty long, I'd say... And I don't care if you're a virgin. More fun for me~" "D-Darnesssss, with a red, eye... I'm... I'm ss, s-sorry, but I don't... I've never heard of sssomething like that, but... Well. Maybe thisss, will help easse your worriess." Erephis did her best to smile, racking her brain for it was written. "They s-say... Legendss, at least, written down over centuries... That the world is protected by Ilrios and Hess. Sss-so, even if this is ssome, darkness from beyond the ss-skies, or, whatever it really isss... It won't be able to harm you, or us, s-so long as the world is still under their guidance... And... Assss much as it isn't right of me to s-say... As long as that, holy ssssword of Marina's isss, working, then, Ilrios is doing f-fine. I can only assume the sssame of our, goddesssss. Does... That help, any?"
  8. "If you said yes, we could go and find a nice room for just us... So what if I'm distracting? It's not like it's something you don't want, anyway-- Ah, hey!" Too slow, or perhaps simply not expecting him to get physical, Asami couldn't stop Bladen turning her head, the bump from Ayane's slap rather visible on her otherwise perfect complexion. "Mrrrh..." Now it was her turn to blush, partly from embarrassment, partly from being handled... She was used to doing the handling. "Look, I just had a disagreement with the oni, and she can't control her anger. That's all... I didn't want to tell you because I didn't want you to do anything stupid like... Try and get her to apologize, or have a ridiculous argument with her. So what? That's fine, isn't it?" "Distracting isn't the right word, anyway... I'm just offering you something else that we both want. That doesn't mean I'm distracting, it means I'm simply choosing not to answer yet... Yes, about the vision or my past. How can I commit all that to someone that won't even get in bed with me, despite so clearly wanting to. Honestly, Bladen, you blush at the slightest suggestion; when I hug you; when you woke up that fun, fun morning... You can't even sleep with me, let alone have sex~" A confident giggle, she gently took his hand off her chin, sighing, leaning back some. "How can I tell you all about myself if you won't commit~? Really, a bit unfair of you to ask... And don't try to leverage your own history as a fair trade. I know everything about your fun little fallen village. It's my job to know things~" Erephis had kept to herself once the fighting ended. At some point, Thesephine had arrived, and ordered her glasses back on... It was a welcome relief, and it gave her time to continue working on her idea, going over the staff to make sure she completely understood its functions. She didn't expect to be approached by anyone, really, let alone their starchild. "Ah, wh-what? Darknessss...?" Erephis hadn't heard of anything like that in all she'd done researching their people, or at least, legends of their people... "Uhm... What, did, did it sss-say anything? How do you, uhm... Know that it, iss, coming for you...?" Troubling if true, but darkness was too vague. She needed more... It didn't fit any of the bills in her research.
  9. "In what you're going to do-- Un, hand me! Hey! Ahghn! Mmn!" Ariana's complaints and protests were quickly silenced by Nessraya's myriad magic, the girl barely able to squirm against the floor. "Mm! MMM!" No matter how hard she tried to bite or tug on her arms, the tentacles weren't moving... And then it hit. It was pain indescribable, like a part of her being was being removed. A scream bundled in her throat and croaked out in parts, as her feet and hands curled and squirmed, the only parts of her body she could still move. "Oh, by Hess... What... Wh-What is she doing to..." Lavinia had to turn away. No one deserved that much pain. "She's removing the orders the church put in her... We don't have the luxury of time. It won't last long, but... It's going to hurt. A lot..." Thesephine didn't stop watching, even if it hurt. She'd ordered this... This was the most she owed the enemy soldier. "Is... Is she even going to be able to tell us anything after this is done?" Amera was worried they were going to break her, but... A moment later, the magic stopped surging. Ariana went limp in the magic's hold, tears streaming down her face. "Good... Lord. Is she even alive...?" "She's alive... We'll give her a few hours to... Try and come back from all of that. We weren't going to get answers otherwise, and we couldn't afford to do this on the road to Ithraxl's; we could be attacked at any moment and we need Nessraya at the ready, not tending to this for days." Still, Thesephine felt somewhat bad, glancing at Marina. "N-Nno, no... M, Marinnn, nn, na, they... You're, you're real. I was there the, the day that they summonn, ned you..." Tenna shook her head, thinking back, trying her best to ignore the pained whines emanating from Ariana's cell. "What, I m-meannnt was... Parts of, you. Like... H-Hair or, blood or s, sweat... I... When they innn-ntroduced Ari, to me, they... Told me they'd been c-collecting whatever they could of you... B, But it took all of that to make her, they couldnn't, possibly..." Or at least, the princess hoped that they didn't have enough of Marina to make more. One travesty against nature was enough... Too much more than enough. "Mmr!?" Suki perked up at the petting for a confused second before curling her back a bit and getting even more comfortable against the grass, tail wagging under her. "Yes, yes~ No jump, I good girl... You come lay down. How, was day? Before fight... I not see you before, attack! Tell me, tell me~ We wait for more, order anyway..." Despite her broken words, Suki tried her best to strike up conversation, content and happy with how everything had gone today. Ignorance was bliss... "Uhm... Can I ask, wh-what did you gain?" Taliyah didn't waste a moment waiting for a reply, she started applying salve to Ayane's wounds as best and gently as she could. "I don't, really... Maybe I'm too young. I don't see what fighting family could achieve you... Even now, I... I know that I have to, but I don't... Want to fight my dad. Maybe... Maybe if y-you tell me, I can... I can understand why we have to fight." Her tail sunk against the ground, head drooping, shoulders sinking... She hadn't really spoken to anyone else about this but Agni, so it wasn't easy the bring up, even if she felt Ayane might understand.
  10. "Her... Ley, what's?" Lavinia used magic, but her knowledge on the subject wasn't quite that advanced. Nessraya's explanation made a bit of sense, though what they'd done to Ariana was still a bit confusing. "So... She can't ago against the church's word?" "That's... Exactly it, Lavinia." Thesephine bit her lip and scowled down at the beast Nessraya was holding down, claws tightening into shaking balls. "Ridiculous. Assaulted by a creation, a mockery of life... This girl is a chimera, and Coteon has crimes to answer for. What a mess... Nessraya, free her of the order. I don't care if it hurts. Even if she was following their wants, she still came close to killing some of you." Thesephine was simply using Ariana as a vent for her frustrations, bringing a claw up and gently chewing on a nail, trying to think things through. This girl looked alarmingly close to Marina, but Marina had surrendered of her own accord. Who was this Ariana, then? "Orders, wants... Wh-What are you talking about!? Release me, you, demon whore, or kill me! I'll not listen to these conspiracies any longer!" "On with it, Nessraya! Ugh... Okay, so they... Fabricate a clone of Marina to attack us and this time make sure she can't have a moment of altruism and turn against them. Sure! Coteon can just create near perfect chimeras without any issue, now... I find it insufferably hard to believe that they can simply create life so easily. Her only 'defects' are the extra assets. Strong, fit, self healing, listening to orders without issue... This isn't good." Lavinia's mouth was agape, staring at Thesephine, then back to the girl. "So they, can just... Make as many of 'her' as they want?" "You're kidding, right?" Amera chimed in, not the most impressed with everything that had been said so far. "That sword of hers might not be their fabled holy weapon, but it'll still cut right through any of us with ease. I couldn't even pick up the thing, even with my gauntlets... Had to fling a rope around it and drag it back to the fort. Thing needs destroyed... So, is there anything stopping them from just, sending an army of this at us?" "Nnnn, n-no, they cann, n't." Tenebria finally spoke, a weird smile on her face, probably forced between all of the panic. "I, uhm... M-Marina, I'm nnn, nn, nnnn... N-Not, strong. I was just d-dragged along innn, th, this... I, I... Agni... I don't... I was t-told that sh, she was just... A strong warrior! All of, th, this... This isn't... I, I was taught, so much, different..." "What do you mean they can't send more, stutters? Out with it, while you're still useful!" Amera wasn't holding back anything on Coteon's apparent princess, barely hiding a low growl. "HiiiiI! I, I! They... They'd, nnn, n-nneed more of M, Marina... To make, another... I, I... That's all I know. I didn't th-think this m, magic would be so far along... It, it's n, n-not, meant for this! It's... It was supposed t, to be for, the injured... R-Restoring limbs, f, fixing serious, innn, jury, n, nnot... Creating life." Tenna hid herself against Marina as she finished talking, shaking in the girl's arms. "This magic? Mrrr... I don't think princess knows more. She's told us the truth, or she's a fantastic actress... I'll let Marina judge. Maybe we can get some more out of the chimera herself. After you then, Nessraya." Thesephine folded her arms against her chest and dragged her tail across the floor, rather annoyed, but glad to have been given some kind of answer. "I'm just fine, as you can plainly see, Bladen~" Asami was once again sitting on the side without her bruised cheek, her left facing him. "As for you... You should probably find one of the healers hanging around the fort. There's a few generous cuts between those bruises... So worried about keeping me out of the battle when you can barely take care of yourself. Silly bird~" With a giggle, Asami's ears perked up towards the wraith suggesting the same thing, making her smile wider. "See~? Even that stranger is concerned, I bet she doesn't even know what hit you... Unless... Oh, my. Were you expecting little ol' me to nurse you back to proper health, Bladen~? Why, I wouldn't mind, slowly stripping you, and applying whatever you need to all of those... Wounds. Eheh~" "O... O-Oh... I..." Aithlin was as pale as a ghost... No, she was always that pale, she simply looked dumbfounded in addition to the white of her skin. "Th-That's... Wow, uhm... Sorry I overslept. Maybe those drinks at the inn snuck up on me too hard... No one got too seriously hurt, right?" She glanced around at the rest of the group, not spotting anyone missing... No, several were. "Is the rest of the group elsewhere? Ah, heck, I'm real sorry about this..." Ren seemed to have her covered. "Oi, Ren! You really shouldn't have... Damn, and here I thought I'd just gotten the beauty sleep I was needing." Aithlin made a motion to elbow him, but hesitated and flinched back, realizing he was still injured. "Geez, look at you, too... Need to find the lot of you a proper healer. Did they all go to treat some other section of the fort? Are they all even alive...?" "I... I will, then." Fetching a pouch of salve from her waist, Taliyah held it out for Ayane to take, not wanting the oni to sit there in her injuries. "P-Please... I, uhm... Can apply some if it's, t-too painful or hard to reach." Being so focused on Ayane, Taliyah didn't notice Bridgit approach, a small squeak erupting from her at the sudden voice of the pureblood. "Ah, uhm... I'm alright, Bridgit. You, seem fine too... That's good. I was just... Uhm... just worried about, Ayane. I..." She didn't know what to say, really... The fight between her and Ren had been so personal. Then they'd walked off, only for the rest to convene in the area, and both to be covered in wounds. She didn't seem upset anymore, but... "I... I-It's okay now, right? M-Miss Ayane?" Suddenly, the sun was gone! "Aroo!? Whaa... Oh... Blue lady. Yes, join fine. Sit sit. Grass comfy~" Suki, confused for a single moment, laid back down without a care in the world, eyes closed, relaxing in the warmth of the coming spring once more. "Battle hard... Not see you fight... Or know name! I, Suki! You?" Cracking an eye open to look up at her, she spun it around the area, catching Nisha, all by herself again. "Niiishaaaaaa, come talk, blue lady! Say hi, make friends~"
  11. "You've simply interested me, Bladen... Even if you play hard to get sometimes. Keep it up and we'll both be happy~" Asami picked herself up, doing her best to hoist up the Fallen, as well. "Now that you've recovered from your spectacular landing... Let's head back in with the group, yes~?" An arm around his, Asami happily hugged up against him, doing her best to hide the other side of her face. Thesephine sighed and hugged Sollowy, letting her go after a moment. "Yes, I... I don't want her to stop being my friend, either... I just hope that she doesn't hold it against me. Or you... I'll try and, talk to her properly. I promise." Doing her best to smile, Thesephine headed towards the fort again, ready to meet with the people in charge... And see Marina again. She had something important for the hero... Half an hour later... Dragging Ariana into the fort and removing her armor had given the group insight onto two things. One, despite Seilan's inability to heal the girl, her wounds had already began to start closing, much faster than his combat treatment would have given her. It was definitely not as fast as one might expect from a the types present; Lavinia and Bridgit healed their wounds much, much quicker than anyone else. It was still too quick for a human... Why it was, they had quickly discovered. The second find was that Ariana was not entirely human. Not quite a monster, either... Removal of her armor provided view to an odd lump in the bodysuit she wore underneath, wrapped around her waist. Fearing a complication, damage or otherwise, it was swiftly opened up... Revealing a tail. Long, thin, covered in a small layer of fur. Complete removal of her mask also revealed a set of ears aside from those on the side of her head, hidden below her hair, seemingly having been pressed down with the mask and other headgear. Lavinia, Asami, Amera, and Thesephine had all gathered in the prison of the fort. Ariana had her wrists bound, set upon the bed in the cell. Perhaps deeming her too terrified to do anything, or docile enough to not even try given the chance, Tenebria hadn't been placed inside of a cell. Her wrists had still been bound to avoid her casting a spell proper, but aside from that, the girl had been left in Marina and Agni's care, a few feet away from the rest of the group. Amera glanced over at her and sighed, unable to properly believe that they had Coteon's princess on their hands... Nor that she was such a shaken mess. "Alright, let's... Get this started. You gonna talk in there, miss Church enforcer?" Amera leaned up against the bars of the cell, peeking in at Ariana. The woman had woken up at some point, realized her situation, and clammed up tight. "Guess not... You had plenty to say before, though, didn'cha? Guess getting abandoned by your own knights after being laid out really ruined you, huh~?" Amera scoffed and took a step back, glancing over at Nessraya. "Think you can make her talk?" "I, I'm not sure that's a good idea, Amera," Lavi chimed in, also glancing at Nessraya. "What, exactly are you proposing she do?" Thesephine stepped forward, placing a hand on Lavinia's arm to calm her down. "Nessraya is a magical specialist. If our assailant here is as constructed as we feel she is, perhaps the general can figure something out by touching on her leylines." "Her, ley, what...?" Lavinia had been trained to fight, not the intricacies of magic. "I'll let Nessraya explain... Even if I understand the process, she knows much more than I do--" "I, am human!" Ariana suddenly interrupted, tail swaying... It really killed her argument, but she pressed on, despite it. "I, I just... This is simply a curse placed upon me, just like those oni in your group! The Church promised to cure me once I had finished my mission... You were lucky! Nothing more!" "Riiiight, a curse..." Amera rolled her eyes. "Alright, Nessy, have at 'er. Figure out what's going wrong with that brain of hers." Amera moved to unlock the cell and opened the door-- "!!" Ariana shot off her seat at that moment, trying to escape from-- "OoghF!" A swift kick from Asami knocked the wind out of the girl, sending her rolling back into her cell, coughing. "D-Damn, you...!" The fox threw up a piece sign, sticking her tongue out. "Nice catch, fox. Like I was saying, Nessraya? As for you, princess..." Amera turned her eyes on the red haired girl, who merely shrunk and squeaked. "Talk to Marina, if you won't talk to us. Tell her why you're here... Anything. If you aren't going to fight us, we aren't going to do anything to you." Tenna couldn't respond, simply looking to Marina and Agni for help, advice, anything. She was even worse than before with Xalrei, eyes darting around, voice not coming out properly at all... Most of all, her eyes kept making their way to Lavinia, fear laced in them, an absolute terror towards the vampire. "Aaaahhhhh~" Suki flopped onto the grass of the interior training area, sprawling out against it and yawning. "Good fight! Good rest... Nice place, sun warm, air fresh. Favorite in Tepel~" The wolf had no qualms about laying there while the rest of the group waited for the interrogation to proceed. Not a care in her mind... Taliyah, meanwhile, had finished tending to her wounds, and spotted Ayane... Looking rather beat up? Had something happened after...? She shivered, closing her eyes for a moment... before taking a deep breath, swallowing, and slowly approaching her. "A... A-Ayane... Can... C, Can I talk, to you? You, uhm... You look, kind of... W-Wounded. Did you get, hit during the fight? Was, i-it... bad?" She hadn't noticed any wounds, but she'd also been terrified out of her mind. Maybe something had happened and she hadn't noticed. "I, I can patch you up. If you'd, like..." Asami, meanwhile, content with sending a clone off to the meeting, leaned lazily against Bladen and yawned like the wolf had. "So tiring, these long, drawn out fights... Wish Ithraxl would simply hand over his neck and let us chop it clean, save us the ordeal~ He wouldn't, of course, ever do that, but... What a bother. Ah, well... Are you holding up alright, Bladen? I did notice a few wounds... Aside from your bruised ego from the crash." Aithlin, who hadn't been present for the fight, wandered into the training area, armor left back in her room. Had she missed something important? Everyone looked totally drained... Wait, had Ithraxl's men attacked them!? She'd slept through the whole thing! "How'd I manage that...? Er, J-Jade!" The zombie, she'd know! She was a real sucker for punishment, so she had to have been on the frontlines, right? "Did, something happen? I've been conked out all morning, didn't think nothin' special was gonna happen today... Don't... Don't tell me they actually assaulted, the fort, did they...?" Aithlin felt like a right fool, a blushing forming on her pale skin, hand scratching at her hair. "Really hope not..."
  12. "Yes... Later. I'll be fine, Bridgit. Promise." It was a bit of a cruel thought, but romance aside, Lavinia felt like the only 'fine' person here, sometimes... If the worst she had to deal with was making sure that Jade wasn't disappointed in her, truly her worries were quite normal. "Wow, so concerned about fighting little old me~ I can barely handle myself against these clods, what makes you think I can take someone like you, hmmm? As for the princess, she can wait... Probably couldn't hurt a fly, anyway~" Asami leaned back enough to give him a playful eyebrow raise and smile, before taking her opportunity in being this close to lean in proper and kiss him. Perhaps harder than he was expecting... Was that tongue--
  13. "I..." Lavinia bit back a sigh and gently knelt down to hug Bridgit properly, petting a gauntlet against her hair. "That's fine, Bridgit... The fight is over now, you're alright. Just remember that you can talk to me about anything... I know I'm taking care of Marina, but you're still family, no matter what. Remember that..." She didn't want to push Bridgit to speak further if the girl was uncomfortable, so this would have to do. She'd been so charismatic until just now, perhaps something finally hit a breaking point, or something had gone wrong during the battle... She didn't seem injured, at least. Anything would've closed up by now with the weapons finished swinging. "I'm here for you as much as you need me to be." "A-Alright, Ren..." Taliyah watched him walk off with worry, before looking at Amera again. "Uhm! I, I can help, carry her!" Quickly jumping over, Taliyah did her best to lift their wounded prisoner up just a bit, Amera sighing, chuckling, and picking up the rest of her. "Alright, alright... Don't push yourself too hard, though, Tali... You look like you took a few nasty hits. I might be a bit tired, but they didn't land anything on me... Just don't collapse." Amera started with Ari towards the fort, slowly, so Tali could keep up. "I... I just want, to help. That's all..." With determination on her face, Taliyah made sure not to drop her half of carrying Ari." "... As... You, should." Thessy muttered the rest as Nessraya walked off... Slowly turning and slumping into Sollowy. "I don't know how to be patient with her... I figured this would happen, but I'm mad that it is. I don't... I... I just, w-wanted, what my parents had. How could she expect me to think I could have that with her? I couldn't... Every week it was someone new with her, I, I just... Sollowy... Am I in the wrong, for being so blunt? I'm so lost..." The slump turned into a hug, burying her face against the gathlain's shoulder. She wasn't going to cry, but she needed to be away from everything, for a few seconds. Asami yawned and gently touched her cheek, pouting at the small swelling that was already occurring. "Well, you reap what you sew, but it was her fault for being so prideful... Oh, well. They can interrogate Ariana and find out all the painful things they--" Her path, monologue, and thoughts were all interrupted by the sudden body of... "Bladen...?" She blinked, staring him down for a few moments, before a chuckle slipped out, turning into full blown laughter. "You c-crashed~!? Ahahahahaha~!" Despite her mockery, she knelt down to pull him up a bit into a hug, still laughing, trying to stifle herself. "You're so funny...! Ahhahah... Ahhn, I needed that~ Heehee...!" "No heel! Like warm, you warm even if wraith... Mrrrr..." Suki whined and tried to keep a tighter grip on the squirming girl, not batting an eye as Taiyute approached them. "Yes! Suki, all good! Nisha good too, even if stubborn... Battle tough, but, experience good. Need to fight, learn to fight better... Yes." Suki nodded sagely, like some important life lesson had been learned-- "Wahh! N-Nisha! Bad!" The wraith had finally squirmed out of her arms and onto solid ground, Suki pouncing onto her back and holding her in a hug, at the least. "We walk, like this! Please... Comfy."
  14. Tenna could only cling harder to Xalrei as the dragon teased her death, sniffling and whimpering, completely at her mercy. Only when the ground came closer did she finally calm down somewhat-- "Marina!?" With all the power in her body, and all the adrenaline she had left, she slammed her hands against Xalrei's chest to push herself out of her arms, frantically rushing to the girl's side-- only to collapse at her feet, clinging onto her leg. "Marinnn, naaa...! Marina! You're okay! Y-You're, okay...!" The sobbing renewed, Tenna's somewhat iron grip clung onto the girl's leg for dear life, not daring to let go.
  15. "I, I-I... They didn't... You, you're, all... Just..." Tenna had no ground to counter them on, not like this, not while either of them could end her life. The talk of Marina seeming okay made her perk up, it was at least something positive for her ears, finally. "It's not annn, act," she managed to squeak out, frantically clinging onto Xalrei as the dragon suddenly took off! "Wh-Why!? Are, we, fl-flying!?" The horror in her eyes as the ground suddenly disappeared from beneath them, becoming so far, far away... Thesephine scowled. Nessraya was so focused on that, she hadn't even mentioned who was in charge. Was she not a general in service to Vaia? She was going to let this much get in the way of her work? "It is just how things happened... And it was enough time. Not that I would expect someone like you to understand how love works... So clouded that you can't even tell me who's in charge. Are you not the general of my armies? Get it together, Nessraya." Thesephine folded her arms and sighed, not wanting to get this worked up, but finding it difficult to not. "Just... Bring whoever's in charge over here. We have a lot to discuss... Especially, how quickly we can gather our men and strike before Ithraxl can regroup. We can't waste any time..."
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