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

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That was... more truth than Bladen had been expecting from Asami. True, only a tiny bit of it was about her (something that did manage to make him stumble slightly as they walked), but it gave him pause all the same. What would it be like, if he were doing all of this to try and win Asami over, seeing her flirting, teasing, playing, and then when he'd gone to try and kiss her, she'd pulled away, said they were just friends and he'd misread it? The thought brought him tumbling down to reality, and then down further, his heart hurting even at the thought. Intentional or not, having his heart played with like that would have destroyed him. Even if Asami wasn't overly serious about him, even if it wasn't a long term thing, she did still have interest in him. What sort of relationship could you have with someone that led you on like that, intentionally or not?

But there was another side to all of it too. Lavinia was hurting. Holding on to this pain from so long ago. That wasn't exactly foreign to him either. His people, while not the longest living creatures in the world, lived longer than many. He only knew of dragons and undead living longer on average for sure, and something he knew for sure was that their memories were long. The Fallen did not forget easily and did not let go of loved ones quickly either. 'Remember Bladen, a heart alone longs for company. And a heart that has lost a love too soon is the loneliest a heart can be.' His mother had told him that, a few years back, when he asked why an older female Fallen joined them at least once a week for dinner. She wasn't closely related to them, but still his parents had treated her as a respected elderly family member. Lavinia...

"I... see. It's a terrible situation, no matter how you slice it. But... I suppose it's good to know you care about more than just yourself," he commented with a smile grin at the end, hoping to lighten the mood a bit. "Still, I wonder if there's a better way to handle it. I honestly was worried she was going to try and take your head off if she stayed much longer. It seems like there has to be a middle ground between letting her carry on as she is and directly poking what is clearly still an open wound. Perhaps when you have a theoretical infinity in front of you, seventy years doesn't seem like that long to have moved on from your grief..." He trailed off, thinking again of the elderly Fallen woman. Was that the future his mother had in store? Her husband was dead, news that she may not even know yet, and her son gone, disappeared with only a note and no more information after that. For all she would know, he could have died in the battle. "I... need to send my mother a letter..."

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It seemed their preemptive words of praise had given Lavinia some pause. Now, she hadn't turned around on her feelings --her face belied her dissatisfaction enough, but that was a thought for another time. It seemed like Jade making off was as much of a distraction for her as it were to Agni, and she thought it was a fine point to leave. Agni wouldn't argue against that. "Very well, let's make out leave. I think we left enough of an impression on the townsfolk for the night." It had been a worthy night of entertainment, in Agni's eyes.

Following outside, Agni saw that Lavinia wasted no time talking to Jade. The two seemed to gel well together... a fact that resident trickster Asami was not shy to point out, from what hole did she come out of this time? Agni had no time to interject, either way, as Asami seemed to touch a sensitive spot with the mere mention of a name. Roman.

It was obvious she crossed a line with Lavinia, and thus Agni spared no pity towards the fox, walking right behind the group with arms crossed behind his back. Not the smartest thing to say, fox. His eyebrow raised as he watched Asami quickly excuse herself after the gaffe, probably off to enjoy sightseeing the arena with her newest prey. Too bad they showed up too late for the group's prior performances. No need to greet the lot.

Lavinia, however, seemed... far more upset, making off on her own. It was clear that the fox had somehow managed to ruin the whole mood with her passing comment. Marina spared no second following after, leaving... Jade and Agni for themselves. "My, what a situation we have in our hands..." It was quite awkward, but understandable. Marina would go out of her way to comfort Lavinia like this, of course.

The zombie seemed to think that this would mean he'd leave her to walk on her own, however. Part of Agni did want to give chase, but as Lavinia and Marina were in sight, and considering the touchy subject they'd be engaging in... "It'd be rude of me to leave a lady to walk back on her own, no?" Agni turned his head to meet Jade. She already seemed defeated, ready to get lost in her thoughts. "I think it's apt to give them some space of their own --as you said, 'that', just happened."

Edited by Xinnidy

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The resonating sound made by the two weapons upon close proximity made Ren choke up, eyes narrowed so as to not let the tears flow.  Not now, not in front of Ayane.  He needed to be strong, for her, for their clan, for the-

And then she lunged at him.

He caught her, knowing that she wasn't attacking him, his own weapon clanging on the ground with her own as his eyes widened all of a sudden at the sound of his only family sobbing against him.  Seeking comfort in him, and vice versa.  His arms held her closely, protectively, and even though he knew just how strong and steady Ayane was, in that moment they were children again.  

Children that needed each other in a time of mourning.

"A-Ayane," he said just above a whisper, not being able to hold back his tears any long as they streamed down his face.  Burying his face against her neck, he placed a hand over her head in a soft comfort.  He repeated her name, just as she did his; it was like a mantra, soft prayers as they delighted in the fact that they were both alive and together once more.

At least, for this moment, there is still hope...still a chance...to make this right. 

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A few minutes in his arms seemed like an eternity, just letting out all of her emotions in tears as he did the same. She wished they could stay like this forever, and that reality wasn't what it was. But alas, duty called, and as time passed Ayane slowly realized it. She eventually slowed down her sobs and pulled back from Ren just a moment, brushing her hair back briefly. "..." She opened her eyes to see Ren. They were still red, but a little more dry now after she used his shirt as a hankie. "...swear to me that nothing here leaves this room, especially the cry." She almost gave a pout. "Or I'll kill you..." That wasn't a threat at all by the way, it was too weak to be considered one. Well, less weak and more embarrassed one might say.

Ayane then went to a chair and took a seat. "Well then...I assume you know who this group is then? A peacekeeping force tasked with restoring order to the land. I was...recruited by a kitsune woman named Asami." She used that term a little bit loosely. "I've given them my word I would help their cause, and in exchange they would help me seek out Ouka who is here in this land and apparently involved with it's dealings somehow."

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"Y-Yes, of course Aya," he replies with a sudden bout of laughter, using a shortened version of her name that only he and a select few were deemed "worthy" enough to call her by.  Wiping away his own tears, he couldn't help to think of how adorable his dear cousin looked at the moment.  He dare not say it out loud, lest he wanted to be skewered like a pig.  Still, as she threatened to kill him, with no real heat in her words, he simply smiled reverently before sobering up as she wen through the information they had gathered before meeting up.

"Yes, I have met one part of the group at the tavern I was resting at.  Hm, I did meet the kitsune but...well, I was preoccupied with something more important at the moment," he added, not helping the tease as he smiled once more.

Although, as soon as the smile appeared it left, feeling a sense of anger entering him as he thought of what had happened at the tavern earlier.  "Ayane, I need to tell you something, and I need you to stay calm.  If anything, you can take out the anger on me later; you know better than anyone I can take it," he warns, before revealing the news.  

"Ouka, the witch, brought back Suzume from the afterlife to torment us."

He took a moment, a small breath leaving him before continuing.  "She...I don't know how they do it, but Suzume was able to find me before I could find you.  We talked, and...I'm glad I was the first one she met with.  I-I don't know what you would've done at the time, not with the cursed power you hold now," he says, frowning softly at the mention of their demonized forms.

"Dear cousin, I need you to process this as carefully and tactfully as you can at the moment.  There is no time to drown in mindless rage.  We need to be stronger than them, for us, for our clan."  At this point he gently reached out, placing his cool hand against Ayane's warm cheek.  "You are not alone, not anymore.  We are in this together, for better or worse."

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Aya. There was a name she hadn't heard in a while. It usually bugs her coming from him, Suzume and Yukari, but this time it was quite welcome. Things always go well when Ren starts a topic with "I need you to stay calm", but Ayane listened doing her best to do so. Luckily for Ren Ayane had already been informed by Asami that there was a strong chance that Ouka would revive the body of one of loved ones and use them against Ayane, and she was right. It appears Ouka was determined to keep a trump card to use against them when the time was right. Ayane did grip her fist a bit, just thinking about it made her blood boil a little. But as Ren took her cheek with his hand she felt some of that rage passed, strange how he always had a way to simmer his cousin down. It was a gift, one Ayane was thankful for.

"...hm...I'm fine, cousin." Her angry expression softened a little and she took a sigh as she put her hand on Ren's. "Asami told me that too, the possibility that Ouka would use Suzume against us. It appears she's right...that fox woman knows a lot, almost too much. I suggest keeping an eye on her, Ren." She kept her eyes on him. "But at the moment I don't believe she's a threat, not like Ouka anyway. As for Suzume...I suppose we'll deal with her when the time comes."

Edited by TheRoon

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'If this group have faith and trust in this woman, then we will do so to an extent," he reaffirms with a nod.  Then his eyes narrowed.  "But, if there is even one hint of her betraying our trust or doing something that threatens your our lives, I will not hesitate to try and bring her down with me," he says with conviction, ensuring that Ayane believed in his words as he pulled his hand away from her cheek.

Taking the hand that had been placed on his own, he squeezed it gently before nodding at his cousin.  "You're right that Ouka tried to use Suzume as a trump card to get to us.  I can tell you right now that it did shake me up quite a bit when I saw her again, after..."  He stopped, shook his head, then gave Ayane a reassuring smile.  "We will deal with that moment, together.  As a family," he says while giving her a pointed look.   "No running off on your own like you've done in the past, you hear me?  We only have each other now, and I don't want to lose you."

A harsh reminder, but something the both of them had to hear in order for it to get ingrained in their heads.  

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She giggled a bit at that. "Hm, always so loyal...I appreciate that Ren." It made her happy that he was here, she can relax around him. "...very well. I've given my word to this group, and now I shall give it to you. Doubly so." She stood up from the chair. "I wish to speak with the leaders at some point to make our connection clear, among other things. And..." She thought for a moment. "I also wish to speak with their hero, Marina...when I do I want you to join me." She turned to the door. "But until then I am quite tired, I'm going to get a room and turn in for the evening. Could you please return the key to...Gabriela I believe?" She put it on the table before she walked to the door. "Thank you again, Ren. I'm glad you're alive..."

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Jade was glad it was dark out, and that Agni was human, with worse night-vision than most inhabitants of Vaia. Being called a lady, and having him act all chivalrous was unexpected, and she was pretty sure she blushed a little, even if the man had no deeper meaning than simply following customs. They were just customs that she hadn't been receiving for a long time now, so...

"Right, we'll just take our time then," the merchant agreed, and they began slowly following in the footsteps of the two that had hurried off ahead. It looked like Marina had stopped moving, but she might start up again, it was hard to tell. If not, and she rejoined, and the party was three again like when Lavinia asked her to see them home, then that would be that. If she followed the vampire again, well, that was also a path, and should still get everyone back to the inn all right.

Edited by Balcerzak

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"R-Really?" Taliyah hadn't ever been shopping with someone else... Saying she'd look cute in it, even... "Th... Thanks," she sniffled, wiping at her face through a smile. "Uhm, I'll, grab a few more things, and try them all on. Thanks, Gabriela." Why she was being this kind was beyond Taliyah, but given the disposition of this group, she was going to try her best to take it at face value.


"Of course I care, goodness. I've been working with her for over a century, I'm like an annoying aunt, hmhmhm~" Asami amused herself while she made for the door, shrugging a little bit. "She'll never kill me over it, and I can take a punch. Lavinia's spent far too much time living in the past... Perhaps another undead is just what she needs to move forward. Someone her speed, if you understand~" Jokes put out, Asami had to ponder a moment. A letter to his mother, hmmm? "Let me see it once you're done. I can't wait to see what you write about me~" As well, she'd have to make sure he didn't put anything need to know in it... Couldn't have people writing down details of this operation and sending them off to people without permission. Surely Bladen would understand.




An hour past midnight...

Rooms had to be resorted, given their new allies. Lavinia had made sure to figure things out, leaving people who got along together; Marina and Agni, Taliyah and Xalrei, the onis, herself with Jade... Of course, the awkward tension in their room's air hadn't left, entirely her own fault. Asami had dredged up memories that Lavinia had buried, to deal with at a later date. Maybe to never deal with at all. She hadn't bothered to speak with Jade as they set their things down, and got ready to sleep. Completely unfair to the zombie, Lavinia had sort of promised her that she could take up Jade's nights, as neither of them required sleep. Thus, when the moon had risen, and the night came upon them... Lavinia sat up in her bed. She had attempted sleep, to no avail. Thoughts kept eating at her, so much as she didn't want to approach the subject, talking was the only way she could possibly get around these feelings.

The blanket slowly slipped off of her, hair falling in front of her eyes. She fixed it quickly, red eyes glancing over at Jade's bed. "You're awake, right?" Lavinia had been reduced to her underwear, not having nightwear to herself when she traveled. Had she been sleeping alone, she would've been naked, but for the sake of her temporary roommate... "I... Would like, to talk. About today. I hope that is alright with you." Despite the darkness of the room, the light from the moon gently hitting it made Lavinia look like she was almost glowing, skin pale enough to show in the darkest space with any amount of light. "I, may have been... Inappropriate, with you. Without paying any attention, which..." A sigh, she slid her legs out to sit at the edge of the bed properly, arms crossed. "Asami is, right. Mostly. I am glad to know you, I... Haven't spoken properly with another undead for too long, and having someone comfortable to be around so easily is a rarity in these times. I, just... I don't quite, know how to say most of this, I was raised to fight, not to... Explore, my emotions."

A frustration fell over her, shown in the scowl on her face, that met the floor with disdain. "What do you think, Jade? Maybe you can help me, figure me out. It seems Asami has, but she'd... Never tell me, something like that. Better that I, 'figure it out for myself', according to her."

Lavinia had shuffled the rooming arrangements, and while Jade hadn't said 'no', the uneasy atmosphere was almost giving her pause to wish she had. The vampire appeared to prefer running from the situation into the embrace of sleep. Very well, fine, that was her choice to make. Jade would just occupy herself with some needlework. The stitching in one of her armpits had started to go, and hems could always use reinforcing. And so the two matched in one way at least, with no proper night things, due to their general lack of any need for them.

Jade had made herself comfortable, legs covered by the comforter, resting up against the headboard of the bed, with a pillow behind her neck and one laying at mattress level near the small of her back: half sitting, half laying as she worked. She continued this way in silence until, the moon having climbed high enough to beam strongly in through the window, she heard a rustling from the other bed, as Lavinia sat up, then finally spoke.

The vampire was rather... roundabout in her approach. Vaguely half-apologizing, without saying what it was she thought had been a problem. Blaming her environment, rather than her choices. But in the end, almost sort of asking for help? Jade felt something inside flutter, like she were rocking over the edge of a precipice. She sighed, trying to regain her center, and set the needlework aside.

Standing slowly, she softly padded across the room till she was standing in front of Lavinia's bed. She lost a couple moments, looking down at the vampire, bathed in moonlight, before she gently asked, "May I?" But Jade didn't wait for the reply before sitting down beside her, leaning to the side softly, her shoulder barely resting against the vampire's.

"Why do you feel like what you've done was wrong?" Jade had overheard Asami's thoughts on the matter, but just because the fox had said something didn't make it true. The zombie took a moment to adjust her hair, making sure the loose braid was laying properly over her shoulder, the one away from Lavinia, and she turned her neck so she was facing more toward the other woman. Jade wasn't quite sure how the reply was going to come, but she was trying to prepare herself to interrupt if the vampire were to be too hard on herself.

Lavinia wasn't quite expecting Jade to come over to her, it almost made her uncomfortable, feeling rather vulnerable with the topic presented. She didn't tell her to stop, or shift away, but it was weighing on the feeling still rolling around in her gut, enough to cause her to look away. "Because... Asami, was right. I never notice in the moment. Or, I just, never consider it something I shouldn't be doing... But if you'd... Approached me with thoughts further than flirting, I probably would've acted, confused, or... Just, spurned an advance. When it's my own fault those thoughts might've come up in the first place..." A hand met her face, resting against it with a sigh.

"Someone as wonderful as you doesn't deserve to be strung around because of issues that I can't, finally put to rest."

Jade hummed a sort of soft, huh-uh, you're wrong sound, then spoke up with, "You weren't malicious about it were you? And Asami lanced this well before it had any chance to fester, didn't she? So why are you still feeling..." she went hunting for the right word that had just escaped her, "Why are you still beating yourself up for it?" She hoped it was at least somewhat reassuring, it was almost uncomfortable how vulnerable the vampire seemed.

"I don't know about you, but I much prefer someone being nice to me by accident, flirting without meaning it, than meeting people unable to stop themselves from shying away in terror, than getting to see that look of disgust on their face before they manage to hide it. It was an odd chance of pace, to be sure, and I guess the fox was partly right, I was a little confused at times, but things would've gotten figured out soon enough."

The fact that Lavinia was still complimenting her in the face of everything left Jade a little bashful, so the zombie wasn't quite sure how to go any further than that. Part of her wanted to grab the vampire's hand and give it a reassuring squeeze, but it had just gone out of reach as she brought it to her face, so Jade settled for simply squeezing her own hand, currently resting on her lap. It wouldn't do anything to make Lavinia feel better, but somehow the zombie found her own mood improving.

"I honestly don't know if there's any way I can help with your issues," she found herself able to continue. "But I have no reason to push you away. For, whatever that's worth." A bit of a sad smile crept across her face.

Why... Why was, she beating herself up over it? Jade seemed perfectly fine. Maybe a bit too fine, was disgust truly the normal reaction to her? Maybe it was because they were both undead, Lavinia couldn't understand it. Jade was beautiful, skin, hair, eyes and all. The scars added plenty, the stitching, the dull look in her eyes... It told more of a story than any pristine human ever would. Lavinia found that tale much more intriguing. Even vampires, in all their stoic nature and looks, held countless scars that would never truly heal.

"I..." Why was she beating herself up... Why, am I...? I... Well, it, must be that. "Because, I... I want, to get over my past. It's been, over sixty years... Since..." A shuddered breath slipped out, Lavinia straightening herself out and sitting up somewhat. "Since Roman died. Since, he was killed... I... I can't keep living, acting as if that hasn't changed. But... Now I'm working with the hero. The hero of Coteon. The next in line, after the one who killed..." A shiver met her and she was all of a sudden holding herself, holding back tears.

"How can I move past his death, when just being with Marina reminds me of what took him from me? She is not the same. She is nowhere near, the same as the real, true and terrifying monster that Coteon sent after us, but she is still... The same sword she holds took his life, I can't..." She couldn't hold them back anymore, shaking against the bed, head hanging lower.

"I want to be able to find, and have that comfort I used to hold so close, but, what... What if that damned, 'holy' sword, takes it away from me again? What if Marina decides this is the wrong path? What if she turns on all of us? Nice and caring as she is, I... What a fake I am, pretending everything is alright, while harboring all of this..."

Lavinia's choking confession, leaning into shudders, almost sobs, was quite the big deal. Stopped Time Syndrome. Jade didn't remember if she'd actually heard someone call it that, read it described as such somewhere, or if it were just a name she'd given some observed similarities herself. It didn't seem to be an uncommon thing for an undead to feel trapped by their condition, to be unable to change. Their bodies remain the same, they've been removed from the cycle, and yet they continue to be. Usually the fixed point was their own death, but here it seemed what was anchoring Lavinia was this Roman's death. And of course there was more to this than that, the vampire's burden was deeper still than normal, what with the business of the Hero and the accursed Holy Sword weighing on her.

Jade stood slowly, then stepped and quickly spun to face the vampire hunched over the side of the bed, reaching down then pulling her up, into a hug. It was not unlike how she'd embraced Marina at the arena, when the girl had been so concerned about the vampire having lost her head: an irony that was not lost on her. The merchant found it hard to believe someone capable of the level of empathy she'd seen displayed would choose the wrong path, would do something that would lead Lavinia or her loved one's to ruin. But she couldn't fault the knight for worrying over it either. Their bodies offset slightly, the zombie leaned her head over the vampire's shoulder, pulling her closer, bringing the other's head over hers. She was a little surprised to find that hearing the knight's plight had actually got her tearing up, and a few of the drops fell from Jade's cheek to Lavinia's shoulder, gleaming on her skin as they reflected the moonlight.

"Admitting there's a problem, having the desire to want to change..." Jade offered softly. "That's the first step. You can't go on a journey without leaving your home. You've opened the door and stepped outside. Maybe you can't go farther than that now, and maybe at some point you'll run back home, scared and seeking the comfort of familiar surroundings. But as long as you have a will to keep moving forward, someday there'll be more chances."

She paused there then, unsure how to really address the issue of Marina, or the feelings of being a fake. Surely there was something she could say or do on those issues too? But the only thought that came to Jade's mind right now was a silly one, unrelated, and especially pointless since Lavinia wouldn't even feel the cold that came from being wet. But she bent her neck down and gently kissed away the tears she'd let drop on the vampire's shoulder anyway.

Even if Jade didn't have advice for all of Lavinia's issues, sometimes it was simply important to take a step forward and see where that took you. That really was the essence of her advice, after all. She was just putting it into practice.

It was an odd twist of feelings. Her mind was fighting on two fronts, one saying to embrace the comfort Jade was offering and try to keep moving forward, the other tugging at her to shove the zombie away, that this would be a horrible insult to Roman's memory, that there was nothing wrong with staying alone, being afraid and being there... No, that's... That's wrong. There's nothing okay with that. Her hands were timid, it was definitely unlike her, but Lavinia slowly returned the hug. It was a small show of affection, of pushing that space of her away, but it was a start. Jade was right, it, was a start...

The kiss to her shoulder is what finally brought about a flinch, and a small recoil from things, slowly pulling back to sit on the bed again. "I... That's..." That sort of affection, was something she didn't know if she was ready for. Reflecting on her own flirting with Jade, Lavinia had, been physical, showered her in words, but... A kiss, was... Even on the shoulder, the cheek... "I must, look, rather unsightly right now." Fingers moved to clear the tears from her eyes, sighing quietly. "I don't, uhm..."

Thoughts, gather your thoughts... "I've... N-Not, considered that sort of relationship, since... Since Roman..." Jade didn't need to keep hearing his name. "Since, he passed away. He... Is the one, who turned me. I was nineteen, we were, supposed to spend eternity together, until we were satisfied. I only got, several decades... Really ended up shattering, my perception of what I was supposed to get. What I was, supposed to be." She was droning on now, but it was helping her frame all of this. Helping her calm down.

"I suppose, having Thesephine really helped me... Stay alive. It's selfish. Horrifyingly so... But, sad as the loss of her parents was, she... She gave me new purpose, a reason to stay around, you know?" Lavinia paused a heavy moment, realizing that all of this information, may not have been the best to tell someone she'd met only a few days ago. Had it just been weighing on her so much? Between the war, Marina, all her memories being forced to the surface... Had the dam broken? It seemed so, it felt so. Jade was being so understanding, so she couldn't stop herself. Not to mention how grounded she was, now.

"What... Wh-What I'm getting at," she said, ending with a quick gulp, sniffling and wiping her eyes again, "is..." A faint red touched her cheeks again, a small cough. All this crying had left her clogged up, what a mess, truly. "I don't know, if I can b-be a proper partner, to anyone anymore. But... I led you on, and you didn't deserve that. If... If, you... If you want, more, then... I--"

A crash outside turned her head, followed by shouts and cries. Something was happening. "Oh no." Duty urged her, Lavinia got up and made for her clothes and armor, getting them on with frightening speed. She was already adjusting her chestplate when she turned back to Jade. "You should ready your revolver. A commotion like that in the middle of the night can mean nothing good." You can't run away from your own words, though, Lavinia...

"A-And, we... Can... Can, continue to talk about this after. I won't, r-run away. Not... Not, this time. I promise." Chest armor affixed, it was onto gauntlets...

Ahh, she'd gone too far, Lavinia was pulling away. Hopefully she hadn't undone any of the good she might have gotten started by doing that.

Jade raised a hand behind her head and turned to face the window, partly feeling a little bashful, and partly because the vampire was now frantically trying to clean up her tears and feeling bad about her appearance. She thought about interrupting, about clarifying, but she was worried if she did so, if she cut through the stammering Lavinia was bravely trying to work past, she might sabotage that progress.

A romantic relationship. That, hadn't really where Jade had been going with the kiss. She'd basically given up on that notion when she'd died, and though the idea had had a slight revival this afternoon after the bath, the zombie had thought she'd consigned it once again to the dustbin of history. She'd just meant the gesture as an intimate kindness, a calming, reassuring touch. Or had she? Without acknowledging it consciously as a motive, had she been trying to push Lavinia, during this, a time when she should have been supporting her instead?

A light blush crept across her skin, contemplating how to respond. Lavinia wasn't anything like the partners she'd ever imagined for herself before but... she couldn't deny she did feel a level of attraction. And more than that, a kinship of spirit. The timing though...

...and speaking of timing, the clamor suddenly arising outside couldn't possibly have chosen any other moment could it have? No, of course not. Jade heaved a hefty sigh, and moved across the room back to her bed, putting her things on, and collecting her gun.

"Yes, you'll have to tell me more about them later, if you'd like. Both. I know almost nothing of Roman, and... even the Queen, the King, just bits and pieces." It wasn't the answer that needed to be given, but starting there helped Jade work up to it. "And... I think it could be nice. We needn't rush anything, but... slowly testing the waters... sounds, rather pleasant, don't you think?" There was a shy smile on her face before she turned her attention to loading her weapon; she always stored the ammunition separately.

"If... That's really something you want to hear about, Jade. I'll try... Slowly might be nice." Maybe. Talking about Roman was difficult, but at least if it was to Jade, to someone that didn't mind her crying, looking disheveled, looking upset, then, maybe it would be fine.

For the moment, those thoughts needed to be shelved. She had to focus on whatever was happening outside, and then on this quest they were on. Though... A part of her was happy it was someone like Jade. Someone that, at least for now, seemed to not want to take advantage of her. If a kiss on the shoulder was as far as she would push in such a vulnerable moment, perhaps Lavinia could do this without worrying she was shirking her duties towards the kingdom, Thesephine, and Marina.

Armor set, staff in her belt, bow over her shoulder, Lavinia rushed out of the room and started banging on all their allies' rooms, hoping to rouse them from their sleep. "Wake up! Everyone! Equip yourselves and meet me in front of the inn! There's quite the commotion going on outside, and if we're able to help, we must!"

Asami was the first to peek her very tired eyes out into the hallway, pink hair a bit of a mess, and Kimono, while still somehow covering everything, only doing so barely. "What's going on...? Commotion... Mrrrghh..." Fixing her clothes up enough, she yawned and turned back into the room. "Bladen, wake up... Mmnnh... There's a fight.

Unlike Asami, Taliyah was already out the door with her stuff on. Tired, sure, but she wasn't unused to a late night surprise, so she'd grown accustomed to preparing for them. Catching up to Lavinia, she followed the vampire down the inn's second floor steps and out, glancing up at her. "S-So, uhm, miss Laviniaaaahhh..." A yawn couldn't help but escape her, as they both hurried out of the inn. "Wh-What's, going on--"

Her question was answered quickly, as several ruffians came into view, carrying sacks and heading towards the arena. Some others could be seen coming out of the village houses, and the shouting from before had been from one of the tennants trying to stop them. One poor blonde elf... "H-Hey! What... S-Stop!"

"Taliyah, hush!" Lavinia pulled her back into the inn, glancing at the reception. Geoffrey had come out to see what was going on, giving them both a quizzical look. "You've got bandits, Geoffrey. Where they're from remains to be seen, but we'll deal with them."

"Bandits... G-Goodness, well... I'll make sure the place is locked up tight. Oh my, oh my... Don't tell me this is why all those people booked extra rooms..."

Lavinia could only offer Goeffrey a worried look, as she glanced down at Taliyah. "Don't attract their attention until we're all ready." Heading back outside and letting the lizard go, it seemed her cry hadn't been heard over the commotion, and they were free to ready weapons. Hopefully everyone wouldn't mind such a rude awakening.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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A... crashing sound, it was noticeable enough to rouse Agni from his sleep, moreso with the knocks that followed. Lavinia was quite concerned about it... with reason, were she correct. If bandits had chosen this night to attack the town, it'd be best for them to rise up to the challenge and fend them off --not only for the sake of their supplies and horses, but for the town's gratitude as well. "On my way." He tried to raise his voice, to be heard through the door, and give them some time to prepare.

After a quick moment, Agni had dressed himself back in the crimson uniform, adjusting his sleeves. That was one day he looked forward to sleep peacefully, but if fate wouldn't have it... well, Agni had dealt with worse. "Marina..." Agni quickly turned to the Hero's bed, giving a light shake to her shoulder. "It's time to get ready, something serious is going on." It felt bad cutting her sleep abruptly short after this had been the one time they'd slept in actual beds since.... a long while. "Prepare your sword, and stay by my side... can you stand up fine, Marina?" If she were too sleepy still, Agni would have to give a helping hand to move things forward.

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The arena had been stressful. It was one thing to watch Asami in the first rounds. It was almost like a dance, beautiful, all silk and steel, wheeling about, her opponents powerless to stop her. And then came the sixth round. An opponent she couldn't out speed. An opponent, in fact, who easily out stripped her speed. Her dance suddenly seemed useless, the silk and steel unable to keep up... In fact, there had been a moment there where it looked like it was all over. His hands had grabbed onto his upper arms so tightly, he honestly wondered if there would be bruising. But at the last second, she'd cleverly managed to escape, dodging the follow up attack, and finishing the man off. A sigh of relief had escaped as she declined to take on any further opponents.

The walk back to the inn had been light, cheery, with him hiding the fear he had felt in the arena, and her playfully flirting. Flirting that suddenly felt all the more real when they got back to the inn and found out they were now sharing a room due to the addition of their new party members. She'd teased him mercilessly when he'd chosen to sleep in the extra bed rather than join her, but no matter how red his cheeks got, it just felt too fast to do anything else. He'd just managed to kiss her, after all. His courage existed, but not that much.

He'd tried to start the letter home to his mom. He'd even gotten one draft done. But it felt so... empty. He didn't want her to worry, but he still needed to tell her things that would make her worry. His father's death, his joining up with the Hero... Well he certainly couldn't tell her that part. Not after his father had died fighting Marina. The draft ended up as bare bones. He told her of how he snuck out. Of how his father and his companions were killed. And that he'd joined up with a group trying to do some good in the country, help set some things right. Nothing about the hero, not even anything about how his group was sent out by the Demon King. There was nothing untrue in the letter. But still it felt like a lie. Eventually he had given up, tossing the letter onto the nightstand between his and Asami's bed, and curled up to sleep, dark thoughts in his head.

It hadn't been a restful sleep, the thoughts he'd had before tainting his dreams, and it was almost a relief to have them cut short. Almost. Stumbling out of bed, pulling his shirt on, then pants over his underwear, he struggled with his sword belt for a few seconds before finally getting it settled. Boots were next, another annoyance, but finally it was settled. He stumbled over to Asami, rubbing his eyes. "R-right. I'll uh... I'll head out there then." A yawn escaped his lips, before he lightly smacked his cheeks, once, twice, good. "You just... stay here, ok? You already fought a lot in the arena, I don't want you getting hurt out there..."

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Marina laid in bed as her thoughts constantly teeter-tottered between things she didn't want to think on; so much that it became impossible to sleep.

She hates me... But she said she trusts me... But if not for us, she'd still have Roman... But she said she had forgiven me... But she could kill me in an instant if the Demon King said so... And the thoughts refused to stop lining up one after another, she could barely stomach laying in a regular bed, mixed between her mind racing so fast she couldn't sit still, and feeling like she didn't deserve this luxury to begin with. She thought she had finally been over part of the guilt, but it had only begun, and now it's even worse than before.

And Agni was in the bed next to her. Someone she could talk to, couldn't she? At this point, it was a coin flip. It could be him trying to truly calm her down and help her, or he'd think she'd be overreacting. In all honesty, Marina probably has been overreacting about Lavinia. The problem was Marina's inability to let herself so quickly off the hook. Not when so much has happened...

It was then, that Marina heard a crash from outside. Soon after, Lavinia knocking and calling out to mobilize. Normally, Marina would be ready to get up and go but something caused her to retreat back into the covers. Was it just from hearing Lavinia speak? She slowly scrunched up until feeling Agni shake her. She rose up slowly, a tinge of red in her eyes, as she shook her head at Agni, "N-No Agni, I'm fine..." And she started getting out of her bed. She had stayed pretty much in her shirt in pants, making the mistake of not getting some kind of nightgown, and being too shy to practically strip in front of someone else.

Fitting into her boots and soon getting her coat on, she wrapped her weapon belt around her, also holding a new sword she went to get on her way back to the inn; thankfully a less threatening time with the blacksmith than prior. It was definitely a tiring feeling, having an extra sword along with Myrithali and her other sword all locked onto her belt at once. Soon, she'd have to just let one go for a bit.

She turned to Agni, a small nod as her face carried a heavy look to it, "I'm ready when you are, Agni."

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So cute.

It was nice to hear her laugh, usually a rare occurrence after she grew up into her teens.  Such a serious young lady, Ren often cherished the times Ayane would relax and just let loose.

"A meeting with the leaders would be ideal, as well as with the hero.  If you want me there then I'll be sure to appear and offer insight when needed," he replies, nodding with a smile upon his lips.  It would help to settle some uncertainties the foreigners had, plus discuss the problems they would face in the near or far future.

Once his cousin expressed fatigue and wanted to rest, Ren promptly took the key and stood up after her.  "I'll make sure to take this back to Gabriela, yes," he offers, oblivious to the light tint of color on his cheeks as he excused himself as well and went on to find the Siren in question.

~o~

 

After returning the key to Gabriela, Ren returned back to the room that Lavinia had set up for Ayane and himself.  Instead of sleeping like his cousin though, he was left with his thoughts as he sat next to the window in one of the chairs found in the room.  Ukogi rested in a makeshift nest he had conjured up with small cloths (courtesy of Geoffrey) and fur from his jack, his breathing making him bob gently up and down.

The oni smiled, before looking out from the window.  So much has happened since he left Nanbu, and while he is grateful to have found Ayane quickly and safely...

Casualties still happened.

Once more, he sent prayers to the group that had helped him get to this town.  To put people in danger was never his intention, and not something he was ready to tell the others or even Ayane yet.  Maybe eventually, when everything is resolved.

After all, he was the older of the two.  He should be able to shoulder this better than most.

Conceal, don't feel.

Sighing, he closed his eyes for a moment.  As he organized his muddled thoughts, eventually Ren too fell into a light slumber.  It didn't last long unfortunately, quickly springing up into the bed as he heard Lavina's calls for them to get ready for confrontation.  Quickly taking his weapons and making sure not to wake his feathery friend, he went over to where Ayane was resting and gently shook her shoulder.

"Ayane, dear cousin, we must be off," he said, urgency lacing his calm tone.   "Lavinia is calling for everyone, we must not dawdle," and with that he went over to the door, waiting for Ayane to wake and get ready as well.

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Ayane hadn't had a good night's sleep in a good while after she left Izuna, the downfall of her family left her with some vicious nightmares. Didn't help that she was alone throughout most of it and forced to drink sake once a day to keep the blood back a bit. But reuniting with Ren did help her actually sleep for once. Just the feeling that she wasn't alone was enough to let the oni girl drift off into a well needed rest. It didn't quite stop the nightmares however.

This time Ayane was in a field of reeds, alone and unarmed. She was just in a white kimono, and human! She had no oni horns. Quite odd. She looked out to see another person ahead of her, another girl. Ayane recognized her back, and had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. This was a nightmare, she knew it. But she hadn't seen this one before, it was mostly memories of the night she took her own countrymen's lives that haunt her. Was this an omen? She took a quick sigh and stepped toward the girl, and as she did, the golden field of reeds slowly changed to a redder picture. Flames started to rise a little, but it didn't seem to stop or even phase Ayane. She continued toward the person, and reached out hesitantly. "...Suzume." She took the girl's shoulder, she knew it was her. However before Suzume could answer...

"We must be off."

"!" And Ayane was awakened by her cousin, though perhaps this was a blessing in disguise. "...hm." She sensed some malice in the air, very faint mind you but it was there. With that in mind she quickly got out of bed and hid behind a curtain, she disrobed from her nightclothes and donned her armor. After a moment she had stepped out and looked at Ren. "Keep your wits about you." She walked toward the door. "And if you find an iron sword unused please let me know, I must preserve Orochinagi." Ayane was quite mad. That was the first time in a long while she had finally gotten some sleep.

Someone will pay for this.

Edited by TheRoon

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"Nnn... lovely, just lovely. Trouble seems to... ahhhhhhmn~ Follow us wherever we go." Nessraya mused as she was awoken by the ongoing commotion, taking a moment to come to grips with the situation. Taliyah had already gone out after Lavinia, and a few others were stirring as well. Cutting off the gentle flow of magic she had been supplying Xalrei for comfort as they laid beside one another... having been sharing a room with Taliyah, that was as much as they had really had room to do... Nessraya gave the snoozing dragon a few shakes with her tail as she grabbed pants and a shirt to throw on over top of her undergarments.

"Time to wake up, my sleepy dragon. We seem to have unpleasant company... I'm sure Lavinia and Taliyah will fill us in on the finer details." The General noted, ceasing her stirring of Xalrei once she showed signs of being coherent, and floating towards the door.

"Meet us outside once you've prepared yourself." Nessraya reminded, before making her own way to the lobby.

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After the shopping trip with Taliyah, Gabriela had received her key from Ren, and she decided it was time for bed. After all that happened today, she was really tired out, and a good night's rest may just be the thing she needed. Two shopping trips, one gone wrong, the other very fun, a one way trip to the arena, and a fancy dinner, then heading to a bar to meet a handsome gentleman, which turned out to be a relative of another mysterious figure. So much had happened, and so little time was given to process the information. But that was part of being an army, and you would just have to get used to it.

After laying in bed, Gabriela received a rude awakening with a knock on the door, telling her to equip herself because something was happening, and we HAVE to help. Couldn't someone else do that? What makes it our problem?! Unfortunately, Gaby had little choice but to force herself out of bed and get dressed. "Fiiiiiiiiiine....." trying to get up was not a good idea, as a misstep caused Gabriela to tumble out of bed and face-first onto the ground. "Ow..." with a huge bedhead, Gabriela put on her dress and grabbed the shine tome she had been entrusted with, and headed out. Whoever thought it was a good idea to cause trouble at an inn in the middle of the night deserves a beating, and Gabriela would give it to them with pleasure. Anything to get back to bed.

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At first, Xalrei had been reluctant to share a bed with Nessraya, especially with Taliyah in the room; she was worried how far Nessraya would go. To her relief, she didn't go anywhere, simply supplying her with magic and giving her the comfort of a peaceful sleep. One that was hard to wake up from. At the crash outside she had barely stirred and once Lavinia went around banging on doors she had tried to pull her pillow over her ears. Once Nessraya got up and began to shake her awake she finally relinquished her hold on sleep, forced to accept that she would not get to sleep entirely though the night. 

"Mrrrrr..." Rising with a half-baked growl she began to get herself presentable, throwing on her clothes and then, once she was finished with that, her armor. As she fastened Requiem to her belt and made her way to the lobby, she tried to speak with the sword, wondering if it needed to be roused as well. 

'You hear that? Looks like you're getting more than just deer.'

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Having all but given up on that deer for the evening, Requiem was 'excited' by the prospect of another battle. Not too excited, but its usual crimson glow was just a bit brighter. Still, there was so much that could go wrong, here. Requiem could only hope they weren't heading back to that incomprehensible arena.

'Do not hold back. Strike them all down. If you fall, another will take up this power for themselves. It will be too late for regrets then ... strike,' the cursed blade opted for some words of encouragement as Xalrei prepared for battle.

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"Stay here? Oh, I'm not that frail, Bladen~ Mmm... But, I suppose someone has to watch the inn." Asami didn't spot Erephis in their conga line of ready warriors, so the snake must've still been sleeping... "Alright, alright... Tell you what, hun, I'll go wake up Erephis, and we'll give hell to any fool who thinks they can ransack the inn. How's that sound?" Without warning, Asami tugged on his shirt and pulled him down into a kiss, greedily nipping at his lips. Anymore than that and he might've thought to stay in with her~ Red on her face, a smirk on her lips, as their small moment broke, she chuckled. "Go get 'em~"


Everyone seemed to be waking up and getting ready... It was time, then. Geoffrey poked his head out once more, letting out a gasp, before glancing towards Lavinia. "Th-Those aren't bandits, miss Vasilia! Those, I... Those are men from the arena!"

"What!?" She didn't recognize any of them from the fight lineup, but she'd take his word for it, he would know them much more than she would. "Well... We'll get to the bottom of this, Geoffrey. Whatever the case, it's clear they aren't here for anything good."

"Bless you all... What luck, to have such strong adventurers in town! Thank you!" He slipped back into the inn and fetched his own sword, should the worst come to it.

"Alright... Let's find out exactly what's going on, here."

Player Phase/Turn 1!

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Extra Goal: Defeat all the thieves to receive a reward! Reward based on how many thieves are defeated!

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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"Men from the arena? Perhaps this has been something they've been planning a while going, then... well, either way we must out a stop to this tomfoolery... when the country is already in such a state, really now?" Nessraya cursed with an exasperated sigh... bad only became even worse when people gave into chaos and greed. Spotting a nearby thief who seemed to be trying to slither off with a fancy looking piece of jewelry, she had found a good enough target to begin with.

"To cause such a ruckus in this tranquil little town. That was your first mistake, and it will be your last." 

Nessraya to 11,7, set Sword thief 1 on Fire!

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Nessraya turns thief into kindling!
Roll: 38,70
27damage!

"Whah!" The poor elf that had been struggling to get her items back turned towards the source of the sudden fireball, and then did a double take between Nessraya and the corpse in front of her. "Uhm... Th-Thank you! Name's Jezebel, just, t-try to get rid of the rest of them!"

Nessraya catches the necklace as it flies, tossed from the surprise thief before they were set ablaze~

+33 exp!

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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After she'd finished readying up, and while Lavinia was rousing the others, Jade had gone to the stables and hitched up her 'mares to her wagon. If something truly unfortunate happened and they needed to make a premature exit from town, the merchant wanted to be as ready as possible. When it became apparent that the night raid seemed to be involving champions from the arena, that threw a real curveball into her understanding of the situation.

What purpose? Why now? Jade had half a mind to go straight to the leader, still holding position outside the place where they'd fought earlier in the evening, but the general was leading a push to break through to the larger knots of conflict to the east. Realizing that even if she asked, it was unlikely she'd get an answer, and that stemming the harm was more important that satisfying curiosity, the zombie followed suit, driving over eastward, and firing a swift shot and one of the elves making up the muscle on the south side.

Jade 9,6 , Revolver on Merc 2

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Let sleeping dragons lie. A warning to be headed, not ignored. Whatever reason the arena goons had for interrupting Xalrei's sleep didn't matter to the dragon. She was tired, ornery, and more than willing to strike all of them down herself, if she had too. Requiem gripped firmly in hand, the cursed blade forming into a lance in her hands, she charged at the sword wielding elf closest to her. She wasn't the first with that idea, Jade already riding ahead and hitting him with a well placed shot, but that wasn't going to stop her. Besides, he was far too close to Nessraya, poised to strike if he wasn't put down.

Xalrei to 10,6, Requiem Merc 2

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