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Hero, Don't Kill The Demon King! Chapter 1: Lives Not Yet Thrown Away

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'Unless you wish to join me in being a specter of the night...'

A phrase undoubtedly meant as deterrent, but Lavinia's two copper on the matter raised by the lamia's findings struck a slightly different chord for Jade. The zombie paused in her assault on her drumstick, and turned a serious glance at the vampire, whose appearance was already beginning to come into its natural value again, with the daily ebb of color flowing back in as the sun was setting.

How much of a change would it really be? She was already dead, a 'fellow immortal'. So it would really be a sidegrade, wouldn't it? Trading Hunger for Thirst, eschewing the sun entirely, but far less disdain from others. A matter for some serious thought, to be sure. Nothing to rush into, which, fair enough, was probably exactly the intent behind the archer's cautioning.

Jade had been so absorbed in her introspection that she nearly missed Marina's silent offer of thanks. If the Hero hadn't had to leave her chair for whatever reason before returning and sliding it back up to the table, she certainly would have. As it was though, she briefly closed her eyes as she gave an almost imperceptible nod in reply, before opening them again to watch the Hero lift the glass to her lips. It... wasn't quite a gag, the girl remained well composed despite Jade's glass clearly still not quite suiting the girl's palette, even though it was a step up from blood in all likelihood. Unfortunate. But somehow, even the small grimace that crossed her face looked... appealing, with her delicate throat swallowing the wine regardless, begging for sharp teeth to tear it ope--

Jade tore her gaze away, returning it to her drumstick, and her teeth swiftly followed her eye, occupying themselves with a hefty chomp as she tried to divert her thoughts. A swallow from her new chalice of blood followed, and while good for washing down the meal, the zombie couldn't help but think back to the vampire subject from earlier. Was that why she'd been so drawn, her vision narrowing in on the neck, her thoughts taking that turn? Or had it been simply too long since she'd made a kill, raw and visceral? Perhaps she should hunt down a deer later, and maybe by devouring it put this Hunger further behind her for a while longer.

Unbeknownst to Jade, Xalrei was making a very similar offer to another ravenous soul. The parallel might have been humorous, if she'd been aware. But when the zombie again raised her eyes from her plate to look around the table, pointedly avoiding looking in the Hero's direction, there was nothing there to clue her in. All she saw at that end of the table was the succubus general being rather affectionate with the dragonnewt... which, for some reason Jade couldn't place, was rather irritating to see. It wasn't embarrassment that she was feeling, neither first nor secondhand, nor was it disgust. Annoyance maybe? But why? It was itchy and unpleasant whatever it was, so... Time to return to the drumstick.

Crunch.

Oh, she'd already gone that far on this side, huh? Having already finished with most of the meat, Jade had bit deep into the bone. Well, no stopping now. Jaw clenching firmly, putting forth the effort to work the teeth clean through it, the zombie just had to hope it didn't sound as loud to everyone else as it did to her ears. Then she had to set the drumstick down on the plate, and cut at the skin and tendons holding it together on the backside, understanding she needed to head things off before the whole thing might just fall backwards with a crash onto her plate. Her meal had now become silverware food. A bit disappointing but... there was always the bone itself she could continue to gnaw on, if she still wanted to eat with her hands.

When the doors (not quite) slammed open, well that was a new distraction. The woman that walked in certainly caught the eye, and--were her horns more deerlike than antelope--would have amusingly enough been perhaps the oddest sort of segue of the night. Instead she was just odd. While certainly out of place, there was something vaguely familiar about her appearance. Jade frowned, trying to remember. It must have been something she'd seen on an item she'd traded, art on a pottery perhaps?

The merchant made no move to stop the woman, as she purposely strode over to Asami's spot at the table, that wasn't her place, and no weapons had been drawn. Things would work themselves out, or if they didn't, she would involve herself then.

There was a good deal of talking, interesting exposition, and Jade cronched on her bone as she listened along. A foreign princess, apparently, which ordinarily would have been prime business opportunity, but this was a princess without a people. But perhaps more importantly, this was a person who'd gone through a similar fate as herself. When the merchant heard that a witch had turned this Akane--or whatever the fox had said her name was, it had gone by pretty quickly, not exactly a proper introduction--from a human into a monster as well, well, that was when the munching stopped.

Asami appeared to have taken the wind of of the foreigner's sails, too. Unexpectedly finding out the person you were about to confront knew a lot more than you expected can do that. But this was almost beyond that. Had Akane even had a plan to begin with, Jade wondered?

"So... if you were planning to deal with it all alone," the zombie languidly mused, seeming almost to be talking to herself, but very clearly addressing the princess. "Then, what was it you were hoping to accomplish barging in here again?" It seemed that various of the others were starting to fall into certain camps--healthy caution, offering support, etc. Jade was still just curious.

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That was... a lot. An enemy that could turn people into an oni, something Bladen still only had one data point to work off of, was the head of a cult, and apparently had landed here in his homeland. It seemed like the method of transformation was some sort of alcohol that could also keep their new acquaintance in check, whatever that meant. None of this sounded like good news to Bladen, and it was made even less good when Asami made it the Hero's problem. Because that meant it was his problem too. He still wasn't even really sure why he was a part of this group, though Asami was making a pretty good case for sticking around, but adding in a cultist that had apparently destroyed an entire kingdom by herself? "Ugh..."

He frowned down at his plate, his appetite gone. It wasn't fair that this was being shoved on their group. ... Shoved on the Hero. Not that she deserved fairness, not after what she'd done, but still. This sounded like a messy history transplanted here and now Asami was just dumping it into the Hero's lap. Which meant it was being shoved in all of their laps. And of course Asami had only hinted at her past with all of this. Being mysterious was her thing after all. He couldn't even get anything interesting out of this new task. It wasn't like learning that Asami didn't want to talk about her past was especially new.... Things had been so simple just a few weeks ago... Maybe the freedom he'd found in leaving his village wasn't worth all this headache...

Warm hands rubbing his back... An arm wrapped around his... Companions found in a dragon, a kitsune, and others... And even the tears of the Hero... No... He couldn't start regretting his choices now. He'd made his mind up when he followed his dad and the other warriors. They hadn't backed down even when their lives were on the line. He couldn't give up just because of some unexpected work being placed in front of him. He had answers he needed to find. There was no way to go but forward.

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You keep saying cryptic stuff like that and you can go back on the wagon. Without the deer. As much as Requiem interested her, and as sure as she was she could handle the demon blade, she wasn't about to bend over to it. She'd picked it up on a whim and could just as easily return it; for now, at least, she was the one in the position of power over the blade. As of now it was just another weapon to the dragon. Admittedly a very interesting and powerful weapon, and perhaps the childish side of her found it 'cool', but that was the extent of her investment into the cursed weapon.

With her attention split between Asami and the needy sword at her side, Xalrei had missed out on the finer details of Ayane plight. What she caught was that this 'Ouka' was here now, ready to stir up even more trouble on Xensat. Dealing with her was being shunted to their group, Marina in particular being singled out by Asami. No shortage of work for the hero it seemed, and with that work would come more chances for the dragon to evaluate the reformed hero. Of course, that was assuming the both of them survived dealing with Ithraxl. Not that she had any intention of dying, or letting death claim Marina for that matter. She was simply aware of the risks involved in their journey, even more so with this new and mysterious threat.

As for Ayane herself, she was here for vengeance, to cut down the witch that had taken everything from her. A solid enough reason for the dragon; vengeance was one of the fires fueling her, perhaps even the hottest of her flames when she allowed it blaze. She seemed determined to take on the task herself, but would she actually follow through with that plan now that Asami had forced the task on Marina? Or would she join them to pool her resources, hoping to be the one to drive her sword through the witch? Xalrei saw more benefit in Ayane joining them, they could use her strength, but she wasn't about to stand in the way of her vengeance.

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"I figured your lot had the woman under wraps," Asami sighed, with a beleaguered shrug. "My apologies."

Points were being flung about the table... Lavinia was lucky to have gotten Jade's blood earlier, else she'd have been annoyed with just one glass. This was all too much to take in at once, so Lavinia was going to have to take it in pieces. "Miss Ayane, then. I do not know your relationship to Asami, though she seems to know quite a fair bit about you. Perhaps spend some time speaking with her? Whether or not you work with us, if this Ouka becomes a continent wide issue, then, Agni is right. The war will be halted, and both kingdoms will have to move to address her. Not even Coteon would be mad enough to continue this crusade with another monster banging down their doors." Though, there was the issue of Ouka being blamed on Vaia, if it went that far. A political issue that she'd have to mention in in her message to Thesephine, but for now... There wasn't much to be done about it.

Lavinia stood from her seat, giving Jade a curious glance. She'd heard that crunch before she'd started talking, but addressing it so openly would be poor form. First, she approached Erephis with an outstretched hand, and the lamia quickly understood what she was looking for. Vial in hand, she moved to Jade, tapping her on the shoulder. "Meet me outside in a moment, yes?" Then, turning towards the table again, she looked over at Ayane first, trying to smile to quiet her worries, then at Marina. Poor girl.

"Miss Ayane, if you do choose to come with us, we shall treat you with hospitality and aid you as we can, so long as you are willing to aid us in return. I'm sure that this problem can be overcome... Before another tragedy befalls us all." They had several powers at work on Xensat. One of them could stop this, hopefully before it became too large an issue. "That said, the night is young, and I have a few frustrations to work out of my mind. I'll be heading to the arena. Marina, I realize you've just had your dinner quite spoiled," a scowl met Asami at that comment, making the fox pout, and shrink some, "so if you'd like to join me and work out some of your own stress, I'd be happy to have you along-- after you give Nessraya your ear, of course. I'll be just outside the inn for a bit, so see to her. Everyone else... Enjoy your evening, best you can. The night is young, and it shouldn't be spoiled by some foul news." With a hopeful bit of wording on the minds of those present, she made for the exit, glancing down at the vial in her hand for a moment. This is... Just another set of problems. It won't fix anything for anyone.

"Well... Mmrrr... Ayane, if you do want to spend some time talking to me... Without extra ears, I suppose we could meet in my room." With a quick side glance at Bladen, she couldn't help the small pang of guilt she felt. "You can come too," she mumbled, picking herself up and heading out of the dining room as well.

"Aw, geez..." Taliyah took another big bite of her chicken and tried not to gather any attention. This had certainly become... Awkward.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Marina listened to the words of the princess... no, she didn't want to be called that anymore. She listened to Ayane's words as she tried to continue eating. What ended up was just her picking at it; she truly did have her night ruined. "What a surprise..." She quietly spoke to herself. Instead, she decided to start carving out what was left, she didn't want to waste a perfectly good chicken...

What caught her attention was a sudden grasp from Nessraya's tail. Speak to her? Sure, of course, but what for, exactly? Of course it was for the news, but she wasn't sure what Nessraya wanted to talk about specifically? Concern? Maybe.

"Sure, yeah... Just one sec," I need this, and Marina took hold of the wine glass again. Screw how it tasted, she downed it as quick as she could. A gross feeling, drinking alcohol, but if it was anything her time on the internet taught her, alcohol could numb the pain a tiny bit. Did it? She didn't know. Maybe... She got up from her chair to follow Nessraya, hearing the invitation to the arena from Lavinia,

"That'd be..." a sigh, "Maybe that'd help a bit yeah. I'll be out as quick as possible." And then she turned to follow Nessraya.

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"I will have to examine the contents of that gourd, then..." Nessraya noted as a reply to at least a part of her inquiry came rather swiftly... a cursed drink, huh? Well, it wasn't like drinking potent concoctions of... varying origin wasn't a known method for converting humans into monsters, the vial of vampire blood that Lavinia had taken from Erephis the most obvious example. Hopefully this sake wasn't as potent as pure vampire blood, however. Regardless, they would need to gather themselves before research could begin, and with Marina following along at this point, Nessraya had her starting point. Leading the hero outside of the inn itself into the night air, the first thing the General did was grab Marina's hand and turn it over, examining her palm.

"Hmm... no bleeding. Looks like no shards of glass... just a fracture then." Nessraya mused aloud, tracing her finger gingerly against Marina's palm, releasing her hand before reaching up to cup the hero's cheek, using her wings to gain enough height to press her forehead against Marina's, a familiar pleasant energy entering her body through their points of contact and spreading across Marina's skin, seeping into her flesh and down to her bones.

"Is this helping at all, Marina?" Nessraya asked, locking eyes with Marina... not that it was difficult, their faces so close together.

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She answered the zombie. "I had come because I assumed Asami would know where Ouka is. But now it appears I've gotten involved in military affairs in this land." She rubbed her head a bit, overwhelmed at the unwelcome attention. After a moment she simply nodded at Gabriela, acknowledging her greeting. "Pleasure...hm." She looked over at Lavina. "Me joining you isn't the best of ideas. I am an oni now, a monster known for causing chaos. I may have the judgement of a human about me for now, but eventually I...I may..." She narrowed her eyes, it wasn't a situation she wanted to think on truth be told. "I'd rather simply find Ouka and behead her as soon as possible...still." She turned to Asami. "It appears you still have more to say, so lead on." She wasn't keen on staying and being involved in a war here, things might get complex. But it appears that simply running out and beheading that damned witch isn't as simple as she had hoped it would be.

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Marina was caught off guard by the sudden touching. Of course, her blood would be concerning if Lavinia was around and caught notice of it... and if she was hurt it would pose a problem, maybe the feeling of being a tool was getting to her. Then there was the sudden familiar feeling...

Suddenly, her body did begin to relax. The feeling of Nessraya's touch was warm, pleasant. It didn't really effect how she was feeling, but she was grateful of the sentiment, "Mhm," lightly came from her lips as she closed her eyes. Trying to stop herself from crying. She thought that at least, Nessraya could be a person she'd be comfortable to cry around, to pool her emotions.

"Nessraya..." Marina started, slowly, in a low, somber tone, "I'm not... just a tool for you, right...?" She pondered, fighting back getting teary-eyed, "I stopped fighting so I could change that, so I didn't feel like the Church's weapon anymore. Am I just... Thesephine's now?" She grasped the hand Nessraya placed on her face, her own hand trembling as she shook, a combination of fear and anger at this whole situation. A feeling she was tired of feeling. Only three days on the path of reformation, and she felt like she had regressed more into an unstable, paranoid mess than a capable, world-protecting hero.

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"Oh Marina... you aren't just a tool. You're a person, unfortunately one struggling to find her path in an unfamiliar world." Nessraya replied, allowing Marina to grasp her hand, not making any motion to move her away.

"Regrettably... all of the paths before you are fraught with strife...  if you would allow me to impart some advice I wish that I had known much earlier... before I ever took a position of command, then I could frame things for you... however, hearing it... might not be what you want, right now. If you would rather speak of that at a later time, I do understand of course." The General continued... unfortunately for Marina, being a leader meant that people placed their hopes upon you... and those hopes were a heavier burden than any weapon or armour.

"For now... we may remain like this so long as you wish, or if there is anything else you think I can do to assuage your worries, do not hesitate to ask, Marina. And you needn't be afraid to cry... do not feel you need maintain a facade, hmm?"

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A sniffle escaped, as she still tried holding back crying in front of Nessraya, She said it was okay. It's okay, let it out. You know you want it... Soon, small weeps began to escape, "I-I can't. I need to be... the Hero. I have to be strong, I can't just... I can't just..."

Soon enough, her feelings broke free, silently crying in front of her adviser. Maybe... this was her best way to cope with her issues. Maybe not the best idea, but just letting her feelings break out in such a way, felt relieving on it's own. Even then, she felt a sense of affirmation from Nessraya telling her she wasn't a tool. Marina could trust Nessraya, she knew she could. Someone who in a way, was in a very similar situation to her.

A couple of minutes pass by, and soon her crying stopped. She rose her head up again, meeting Nessraya with a small smile, "T-Thank you Nessraya, I... I needed that. I'm sorry, I don't mean to lean on you, or Lavinia, or someone else so much just to... keep myself together." Then it occurred to her, remembering her advice. It might not be what I want, but... I'm sure I can handle it. I'd rather have it now than later.

Soon, Marina removed her head from Nessraya's, trying to keep up that old spirit she built back up. It felt like the General was in her court. It helped her feel stronger. "What was your advice? I'd... rather have it, think on it now, than to not have it later when I may need it."

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Things were escalating quickly. Ayane seemed rather hesitant to join them. Perhaps she needed some... convincing? Or perhaps some reassurance? "Hey, Ayanie, you shouldn't be worried about not fitting in. I thought the very same thing when I first joined this group, as a mercenary, but i've grown to really enjoy being here and working with everyone. I have my own objective too you know? I need to find out what happened to my kin. But... you can't do it alone. Please consider joining us, of your own free will, and i'm sure we'll find Ouka." 

Was that too much? She hoped Ayane would be a bit more comfortable with this group and not feel like she was coerced into joining them for the sake of revenge.

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"No one can be strong all of the time, Marina. Better to allow yourself a moment of repose when you are able, than to neglect to do so and regret." Nessraya noted, allowing Marina to cry her little heart out until she was done, gently petting the hero's hair until she pulled away of her own accord. Mirroring Marina's smile, Nessraya reached out and gave the girl's head a light ruffle.

"Nonsense. We are here to support you... it wasn't the advice I had intended to give, but here is an extra for free... you are only one person, Marina. A General is nothing without the soldiers standing at her sides and back, a King is nothing without their subjects. Relying on your allies is not a show of weakness... we are here to be your strength." Nessraya chastised for a moment, waggling her finger back and forth before setting her hand back down at her side, her expression growing more serious.

"As for my advice proper. You are not a tool, Marina... but many will see you as one. When you take a position of power, of authority... you shoulder the hopes and dreams of many... and one person's shoulders are never broad enough to carry that weight. You will fail to do as people want of you, expect of you... you will let people down, and they will feel their hope and trust in you was displaced. And trust me, they will make you well aware of that fact, Marina. That is... the reality of a King, of a General, of a Hero... people will look to you for perfection... and no one is perfect." Nessraya sombrely explained, floating around to Marina's side as she spoke, wisps of magic gathering in and about her hand, slowly forming into the shape of a small bird that almost appeared to be made of glass.

"My advice to you is... you must prepare yourself for that reality. The path you walk is one of strife, hardship, and sacrifice... one cannot change things, fix things in any real way, without walking such a path... yet you are still young, inexperienced. You need to steel your mind, your spirit, your body... for the fact that people will expect things you cannot give them, and scorn the best reality you can offer them, expecting you to weave them a storybook world instead. You cannot allow that to discourage you... to dissuade you, Marina. Know that what you give them is not what they want, but what they need... and although their thanks will be hushed... know in your heart that you did all you could to improve their world. That is the burden of a leader. I know Thesephine's methods are abrasive... even I did not expect her to take such lengths... but she too carries that burden. She is not so different from yourself, Marina." Nessraya concluded, the crystalline bird fully forming in her palm, it's head twitching from side to side as it spread it's wings, before flying off into the night at a flick of the General's finger.

"Know that we are here to support you, all the way, and that you are never truly alone."

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Lavinia pulled her hood up and headed outside, still taking moments to glance at the vial in her hand. She really just wanted to smash the thing, but... No, really, why am I not just ruining this, right now? I suppose, in a critical situation, I could save someone's life, but... Would a life like mine really be any better? Doubtful, and not something that should be forced on anyone. Still, she gripped it tight, but not tight enough to shatter it, unable to bring herself to deny the 'maybe' attached to something like this.

Leaning herself against the inn's outer wall, she glanced over at Marina and Nessraya. She'd picked up a bit of their conversation, but Nessraya knew what she was doing, Marina didn't need an extra hand coddling her at the moment. She mouthed a 'thank you' towards the general, wondering if she could notice, hoping she would, and find if she didn't. Hopefully her point about leaders and heroes fell on Marina's ears well. It was an important one... What Marina did with her station was the most important, of course. And so long as she didn't break down and crumble before she could get there, Lavinia felt she would do fine.


"Of course, of course..." Asami had eaten her fill of food, at least. Heading towards the exit of the diner, she glanced back at Bladen. "You will be coming, yes?"

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Their dinner was rapidly dispersing, not long after it had started. Bladen wasn't overly hungry, thanks to the lunch he'd had with Asami, but still. But... The invite Asami had made, however reluctantly, hung out in the air between the two of them. A choice. Take her up on the offer, learn more about her, about her past, about the strange land across the ocean where this threat had originated. Or refuse, let her have her privacy and take the time to finish his dinner, maybe talk to some others in the group. It seemed so easy at first. She had made it clear at points that she didn't want to talk about her past. Whatever was motivating her now didn't make all of that talk null, did it?

And then... She asked again. With less hesitation this time. Maybe he was being dumb, maybe she would regret this tomorrow, maybe there were things to be discussed that he would regret learning. But as she looked back at him, he found himself pushing away from the table and following her, almost without realizing that he'd made his decision. So long as you're sure you want me, I'll go wherever you ask...

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When the vampire passed her on the way out she gave Jade an invitation to follow. They'd discussed some evening plans previously, so she was half-expecting it, just, not when things had gotten this interesting. Still, she nodded and answered, "Shouldn't be too long on my end."

And the words were truer than she'd expected even, with Asami inviting Akane--no it was Ayane, now that she'd heard it a few more times, better make sure to remember it right--to a more private discussion. The oni seemed eager to accept that, at least, if not the greater idea of joining the group. The princess's answer to Jade's own question was reasonable one too, simply seeking out information so she could hunt her prey alone. That would explain things, even if it were on the hot-headed side of the spectrum.

"If it's just information, I could try checking with other merchants I know. Maybe someone's seen something, heard something while travelling the country. My turn-around won't be instant, though," Jade quickly tempered any expectations, "So if you don't get any leads on your own, maybe it couldn't hurt tagging along with us until I get the chance to meet up with some acquaintances and ask some questions. Look me up later and get me the details on her appearance, any aliases, etc. if you're still interested after your talk with Asami."

Then, that minor business wrapped up, and with how the interruption had disrupted the mood at the table--rendering the social obligations of dinner well and truly finished--the merchant had nothing else to do but meet up with Lavinia. As she stepped out into the cool evening air of early spring, the zombie found the vampire was leaning up against the outer wall of the inn, on the other side of the door, a stone's throw away from where the Hero was having a bit of a one-on-one with the succubus general. A bit curious what they were discussing, but not rude enough to go over and be a bother, Jade simply made her way to Lavinia's side for now. They'd have to wait a bit, given the Hero'd been invited along as well, but that was fine. There was no rush, at least not for two of them. And if the mortal took considerably long, well Jade would be more than willing to let her have her go at the arena first, so she could go and sleep straight away, if needed.

The archer had her hood pulled up, as expected. Even though the color had begun to return to the vampire, the sun hadn't fully dipped below the horizon so keeping safe was a no-brainer. What was surprising was seeing that she was clutching the vial of blood tightly in her hand. "You're bringing that along," Jade asked, a bit incredulously. "I would have thought you'd leave it in your room, but... well, this way you know nobody's getting into mischief with it. ...Like that lizard girl and her no-good tail."

Edited by Balcerzak

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"Or a certain merchant?" Lavinia smiled, but it wasn't quite a jest. More like a jab, if anything... "I... Am not, living in your shoes. I face my own issues, different from your own, and as I've known you for a day or so at best, I cannot claim them to be better or worse than my own... But... Mmmm..." Lavinia sighed, glancing at the vial once more, before pocketing it in a side satchel. "I cannot help but think about our talks, and... I did take notice of your, little moment in the dinner hall. With Marina." Hopefully details didn't need to be added for that. "If you ever need to bite someone, consider me, in return for sharing your blood." That was all she felt was needed to be said, on that topic.

"As for the unfortunate vial, as I was saying... I do not want anyone to drink it, but should your... Type of undeadhood become too much to bear, then... I would be disappointed, but you are the person I would be the least worried about taking it. I had considered you when the contents of the vial were made known, but... This is just me falling into the biases placed about you, you know? Hah... Ugh. I should just crush it. Really..." Yet once again, she didn't. "Sorry... I'm, truly so sorry. I'm making so many assumptions, just... Ignore what I said, please. You know yourself better than I can pretend, I shouldn't... Pry, just because we're both undead. That wasn't right of me. Not right at all."

With a heavy sigh, Lavinia shook her head, giving glance to the shadows. Just a bit longer and this hood could come undone. "Maybe I'm the one who needs to work off some stress, not Marina. I'm glad Nessraya is telling her what she needs to hear." A poor attempt at changing topic, but it was all the knight had. "What I would give for this journey to be over tomorrow, and Marina to be living as a normal girl, yet... Only a fool would think it that simple. There will be many troubled sleeps and bloody days ahead of her. Too many for someone her age..."

Maybe not too terrible a topic change. "I suppose you wouldn't mind taking the rounds at the arena as well? You're quite the sharpshooter with that revolver of yours."


A smile met Bladen as he got up, but there was a hint of sadness in it. She made no motion to stop him, not did she look disappointed; if anything, even if he couldn't tell, she was glad. The twinge remained, despite that. "Then let's make for my room, and get to whatever needs to be discussed~ I'm sure there's plenty on both of your minds." Plenty on hers as well, but nothing she could rightly share right in the middle of the dining hall.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Her little moment... with Marina? Jade froze a bit, then as realization set in, the zombie brought her arm across her chest, grasping her other arm just above the elbow, and she squeezed down hard. Finally, she cast her eyes to the side, away from Lavinia, and to the ground. "That obvious, huh," she nearly whispered, though it was very much audible to the vampire. How embarrassing. Not just urges for occurring, but even more so that it had been found out she was having them.

Then there was the matter of the vampire's back and forth hypothetical. "I haven't given it nearly the thought such a decision would need," the merchant prefaced with, "But if you're of the mind to destroy it..." Jade shrugged, still looking away, then trailed off. It's not like that vial was the only source of vampire blood, if somewhat later on she were to change her mind...

Of a sudden, their conversation just now played itself back in her mind to a few moments earlier, to when Lavinia had offered her her flesh if the cravings got too bad. Would she have done that if... And back inside, the lamia had said pure vampire blood, hadn't she? So was Lavinia's diluted... or something? But as the archer was already uncomfortably apologizing for presumed assumptions, the current mood was fragile at best. Better to just ignore that.

With each of them sighing, and refusing to meet the other's gaze, it was beginning to look like they might need wait for the Hero to finish her business and come over to break the silence, when Lavinia finally spoke up and changed the subject. The arena, their destination. Not a bad choice. Relaxing the deathgrip she'd put her own arm under, Jade finally turned and addressed her again, a slight smile, very faint.

"Ordinarily I would have said 'no'. I certainly didn't bother with the arena when I passed through just recently. But..." Her lips curled up a little further. "Tonight does seem a good night for venting some negative energies, doesn't it?"

Edited by Balcerzak

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Something was on Jade's mind as well, it seemed... Something she didn't want to address, but that was fine, Lavinia had already done wonders at making this moment awkward. "Yes... I, could say as much. Hmhm... I'll be watching you first, then. Perhaps Marina as well... I need the sun to go down entirely if I'm going to stand a chance. I'm sure it will be nice, at least, to see the both of you in proper action. Hopefully it will only be this once, I'd much rather you not be struck by combat should we find ourselves in the thick of battle... What kind of knight am I, if I can't keep our own merchant safe?"

Though the subject had changed, perhaps enough to remain comfortable, the unease in Jade's body was hard to ignore. Very, very hard, so as Lavinia took a step past the zombie to call for Marina, she paused and slowly placed a hand on her shoulder, looking for her eyes. "I trust you. I'm sorry, if I didn't make that clear... But I trust you." A stronger smile, Lavinia moved past, looking towards their little hero.

"Marina! Kiss her, and let us be off, yes?" My apologies, my dear, but with Nessraya... I simply can't help but tease.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Marina listened intently to Nessraya as she spoke. Admittedly, some of this was a lot of things she had learned before, if only different circumstances. She knew what her place was, for the most part. The church... Carlon, wouldn't have told her how people wouldn't agree with her feelings. Maybe that was what they wanted; they didn't want her to feel like monsters were people, didn't want her to feel guilty. Behind the small girl they wanted a shining start to glimmer brighter than the rest... Maybe, she could still be that. She still had that power to reshape the world how she wanted, it was a means of being strong enough to do so.

Maybe then too, she didn't have to carry the burden of this mission on her own. These people chose to fight with her, and she knew she could rely on them. Along with Nessraya's advice was an intensely concentrated look and small nods in understanding. Her concentration being broken as she watch the bird that formed in the General's fingers flying into the night. Her face was in awe.

Her attention soon returned to Nessraya, about to ask a question. She was about to begin, before hearing a callout from Lavinia. "W-Wah...!?" K-Kiss her?! No way...! She regathered her bearings as she checked herself. Right, always kept weapons in hand... her pouch, oh! She quickly threw her hood on, forgetting completely about her disguise. She looked up, thankfully a cover where they were standing. Convenient... She gave Nessraya a smile,

"Thanks a lot. Really I'm grateful. I'll be sure to think on what you told me," Marina wasn't about to kiss Nessraya, but she pulled the succubus into a hug. "I don't care what anyone thinks, you're a great leader and I... I hope to not disappoint you." Letting her go, and giving a wave, before running over to Lavinia and Jade.

"Uh... how much of that did you catch?"

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Dinner was officially over. Everyone was more or less finished with their meals and heading out to enjoy(?) their respective nights. Who was even still at the table besides herself? Gabriela and Taliyah; the sword too, if it counted. No one else. While she had promised Requiem a deer, checking up on Taliyah was a higher priority for the dragon. Her friend had been far from her cheery self during dinner, except maybe when she was scarfing down her food; Xalrei needed to know she was okay. She rose from her seat, walking around to the lizardgirl.

"You doing alright Taliyah? Did your nap help?" It bothered her more than she cared to admit how much that sounded like a certain Naga instead of a concerned Xalrei. "If you want we could go check out the town some more, maybe check out some shops since we got sidetracked last time." The other option was dragging her along into the forest to find a deer, but given Taliyah didn't seem too fond of the cursed weapon, that was probably off the table for now. "Oh, you're welcome to come too, Gabriela; might as well pick up from where we left off earlier, yeah?" 

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Gabriela was surprised, but happy with the sudden invitation to come along with them. She and Xalrei may not have gotten off at the right foot, but Gabriela warmed up to her a lot, and it seemed to be mutual. Taliyah still looked rather tired, even while she was being sung to during her nap. "Oh, yes, i'd love to join you!" Gabriela responded happily. "Are you alright, Taliyah? Are you up for some time in the town with us?" Gabriela just hoped they wouldn't visit that same tailor from earlier again. That would most likely lead into an argument again.. or something worse. There are probably other tailors in town anyway if they need some clothes. This was shaping up to be a great night!

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Hmm, Asami still had matters to handle with this foreigner, though Lavinia shared Agni's sentiments about dropping that burden on Marina. Comforting. Still, with the group quickly dispersing at those news, Agni resumed his dinner, most unbothered by the lack of company. Still... Lavinia left suggesting Marina to follow her to the arena. Agni caught wind of that, hastening the pace of his meal. It was nothing to lament proper degustation --though it was good food.

That was that. Everybody seemed ready to leave the table, so Agni wasn't too late. He stood up and made his way outside, hardly a parting nod to the others --though he nodded towards the innkeeper, hardly one to ignore basic courtesy after a good meal and service. A few steps outside, and he already met the group of interest converged in some conversation. Lavinia, Marina, Jade... and Nessraya was joining as well? Perhaps.

"Well then, I've overhead something or other about paying the arena a visit." Agni spared little time getting to the point, "I trust you won't mind me inviting myself. Certainly could use the break after those news."

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"Enough." She spoke in a slightly irritated tone toward Gabriela and turned her gaze to her. "....ah." But she stopped herself and turned back to Asami and Bladen with a small shake of the head. "Sorry..." She followed the fox and her friend off to her room, curious about answers. 'I can't stay. If this blood goes out of control I...' She balled her hand into a fist as she walked. 'I'll never forgive her for this.' 

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Nessraya couldn't help but giggle a bit as Lavinia chimed in, asking Marina to hurry along... she seemed to be in brighter spirits by this point at the very least, the hero quickly embracing the General for a few moments in lieu of accommodating the actual content of Lavinia's ribbing. Trailing after Marina as she ran over to the undead duo, Nessraya stopped just behind Marina... and Agni had joined them. He might cause a stink, but mischief needed to be made in correction of Marina's mistake. Reaching around to Marina's face, Nessraya quickly turned the hero, pressing her lips against Marina's. No nibbling, no tongue, just a quick kiss, over seconds later, almost as soon as it had began.

"Another piece of advice, Marina. A leader should do as their followers ask of them, when reasonable. Helps with morale~" The General teased as her lips parted from Marina's, a playful wink following.

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Marina was caught by a sudden grasp from Nessraya, "W-wha..." And suddenly, Nessraya kissed her, full-on, right on the lips. When Nessraya parted, all that could be seen was Marina as red as a tomato. Utterly bewildered and confused...

"W-W-W-W-Whaaaaaaaa..." Marina's mind was rolling too fast for her to keep up. She couldn't make up words, embarrassed and not sure what exactly she was feeling. Her gaze, though initially seeming as if was directed at Nessraya, she had gone off to space again as her mind simply whisked away.

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