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

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Gabriela was shocked at Marina's sudden fall, but quickly recovered and spoke in a strict tone.

"Marina, this happens because you do not get enough rest and food. Perhaps you should listen to my song sometime, it helped Taliyah relax, i'm sure it will help with your own relaxation as well." She then looked at Agni. "And you, aren't you Marina's protector? Maybe you should do a better job of making sure she doesn't overwork herself, and eats well! I'd be glad to help, you know." she gave a provoking wink and wondered what they would say. Which one of the two would be angry, if either of them.

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Oh dear, that was a lapse of consciousness if Agni knew one, Marina must have been exhausted indeed. "Marina... I feel this is a sign you should go back to the inn and rest. Have you not been able to sleep well these past few days?" Knowing her, guilt riddled her heart and kept her up, that brought a light frown to Agni's face. "...Know that heavy burdens are best shared, so your shoulders not crumble under the weight." Agni hoped she would understand this as the sign it was --to speak later about what troubled her, if such a thing existed. Of course, that was ultimately her decision.

Agni kept hold of Marina until she recomposed herself, a careful watch of his eyes to her condition... that came first. Only after she seemed fit enough, Agni turned himself to meet Gabriella's eyes. ...What an uncorteous thing to say. The berating words did not ring well in Agni's ears, but he withheld any form of disagreement to show in his face, if only because part of him still felt guilt for leaving Marina to forge onward and out of his sight --even if for a moment. "You are quite charitable, Gabriela, but I assure you: Marina's well-being is my priority. If she wishes to hear your song, that should be fine. She's gone through a lot recently, more than food and sleep can help with, but you and I know how strong she is." He forced a smile, "Just be careful of accusing one of being lax with his protége."

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"Okay. Just talk and sleeping, then... That's fine." She was a bit disappointed that he seemed so out of it, resisting the urge to hug him. He was still so clearly shaken... It would likely do more harm than good. "Let's go then, okay?" She started to head towards the exit with his hand in hers, hoping the morning would be better. No more surprises tonight, at least...


"Aaaaaand... You're good~" Taliyah hopped up and started working on the next person, leaving Eugene free to collect himself and straighten out his coat.

"Thank you, little lizard... As for Nimbus, he was well equipped, and his plan was almost fool proof. The show they put on at the arena is just that... A show. Most of these men are stronger than their bouts in the rounds let on, I do suppose he was quite tired of having to act the fool for pay. Still, good you were all around, to put a stop to that nonsense." With a charitable smile and a pat on Nessraya's shoulder, Eugen made to leave. "Do bring Erephis around before you leave, I had something to give to her. Thank you again, General." With a renewed pep to his step, and a nonchalant wave, Eugene disappeared towards the entrance without another word.

"He seems kinda odd," Taliyah quipped, not really sure what to make of the vampire. His hair being white at night was already weird enough, but... Their group had all sorts, it seemed.


Laselia froze, staring down at Xalrei... Her shoulders dropped and her stare turned empty. "You're right," she suddenly muttered, turning to leave. "I wasn't... You don't need me, right?" Xalrei had gone too far in bringing that up... It was Laselia's only regret, that she hadn't been there in time to help Xalrei when her squadron had been attacked. She hadn't the time to prepare, it had happened so fast... I don't know how that damn Fox managed to get there before me... But, at least Xalrei is... Alright. If Xalrei was confident enough to fling that in her face then there was nothing else that needed to be said, right? She turned to leave, like a few others were. She'd keep an eye on the dragon from a distance... Like always.


Were it possible, Erephis would be steaming. Instead, her mouth was moving, and words weren't happening. She gave the smallest nod at Ayane's confirmation to look into things, and turned to leave-- Her tail didn't, though. Half of Erephis was still frozen, her top half collapsing into the dirt of the arena floor. "Ow, uh... S-Sorry! I'll, uhm, yes, g-goodbye...!" The shock having woken her up, her tail worked overtime to get her out of there.

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She watched the poor snake trip over herself when she left. Yeah, only Ren can make a woman stagger like that, much to Ayane's chagrin. "...Ren." She turned to her cousin with a slight glare. "I seem to recall those constant complaints submitted to the castle over a flirtatious handsome nobleman who just couldn't contain himself. A young man who offers his services to the dutiful female librarians who kept our bookshelves well stocked and clean, how history repeats itself." She folded her arms. "I only hope I don't start receiving messages myself, considering the letterbox is currently in ashes."

Edited by TheRoon

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He tensed when his name was spoken by a rather irate oni cousin.

Suddenly straightening up, as soon as Erephis completely left he simply scoffed and crossed his arms against his chest.  "Is your memory failing you dear cousin, or have you forgotten most of those messages were of praises for the good work I did in helping those lovely ladies," he counters, now taking out his fan as he hid the lower half of his face with it.

"At least I had a social life, all you wanted to do was train train train.  It was rather hard to offer my services when I had a rather rambunctious princess following me asking for a rematch, or did you also forget that I was winner of most of our matches?" he rebukes, arching a brow with an unamused look.

Two can play at that game Ayane.

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An almost immediate scolding from Gabriela caught Marina by surprise. Not necessarily the scolding part, but the fact that it came from Gabriela. She nodded, unfortunately having to watch as she also berated Agni for the same issue. Shaking her head, "Gabriela, d-don't put the blame on Agni like that, he does what he can. It's, my own fault I can't take better care of myself." It truly did make her feel guilty, Agni did what he could for her. There wasn't much he could help with while she struggled with her feelings.

Agni gave his own defense against Gabriela after showing concern to her. Another nod, and a small yawn. He referred to how strong she was, again. "Thank you Agni, it's just... tonight. I didn't sleep at all earlier, I'll, tell you later."

Shortly after their brief discussion, she yelped and hopped away as Erephis fell over and started slithering away. What even happened just now; she had stopped paying attention to the other three. And after that, she attempted to wave off Erephis, but she was quick to leave.

Now, there really was nothing between her and the onis, and accidentally catching what seemed like bickering. What would she do from here? She turned to Agni and Gabriela. Building up what she had left for the night she gave them a nod. "One more thing. Then I... I'll go to sleep. I promise." And she turned to approach the onis. She wanted to immediately catch their attention, but didn't want to get in the way of their talk.

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Poor Marina may have a hard time getting attention, as Ayane suddenly got even more irritated. Not at the lack of social life, or the fighting part. That last part was at least right (with the exception of the win to loss ratio). No, it was the smug aura hidden behind a fan like some weak smokescreen. "Hmph...remember our trip to the Yoshitora Temple with Yukari? I recall you being very interested in assisting the high priestess and her shrine maidens with some work, I can't imagine it was because you were interested in their religion." She turned with a huff. "Or perhaps you were hoping deep down one of them would cook you udon for a job well done?"

Edited by TheRoon

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There was a noticeable bristle from the older oni, eyes widening for a slim second before narrowing.  So that's how it was then?

"I-I did so because it would've been rude to decline such hospitable and well behaved ladies," he counters, emphasis on what he thought was something his cousin lacked at the moment.  It didn't help her that his smug aura returned, the flush that had peeked through disappearing as he found an opening.

"Besides, at least they know how to cook.  I still remember that awful attempt at a feast after defeating the spider like onis back in Natagumo Mountain.  I still get shivers down my spine whenever I recall the smell."  Because unlike the soldiers that braved through the taste so as to not disappoint her highness, Ren flat out refused to "poison his body with that awful concoction his cousin had come up with."

They were lucky their healers were some of the best in the country.

Now, before his cousin could get another word in, his sharp eye noticed someone approaching.  "Looks like we have company dear, and I for one would like to introduce myself to the hero of this land.  Now, if you'll excuse me," and with his fan closing shut with a sharp snap!, Ren smiled smugly at Ayane before changing course and making his way towards Marina.

"Well, aren't you................young, miss," he paused, actually surprised at this fact.  He had thought the fatigue of battle might have clouded his vision, but to have her here now it was...

He frowned slightly, any form of satisfaction washing away.

"Ren Itou, at your service little lady," he says with an elegant bow.  "Royal personal guard of Princess Ayane, as well as her cousin.  And this," he says, before softly whistling, extending his arm and his palm up to let Ukoji land with a soft plop of feathers and fluff.  "Is my friend Ukogi.  Would you like to pet him?" he asks, making his demeanor calm and approachable.

He can deal with his cousins fury after these introductions were over.  It seems there's some training to be done...

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The bickering was admittedly amusing to watch. It reminded her of home; something she had watched or read at some point. It eased her senses, as the older man turned her way.

"P-Please, you don't have to bow. I'm Marina Fairchild." She merely gave a small nod, "The H-H-H-Hero," She trembled just thinking about freely announcing the term to someone, even with the reception she had gotten tonight. Maybe, since these monsters weren't from Xensat, it would be easier to acquaint herself with them. She turned briefly to Ayane, whom she had barely gotten the chance to meet yet, bowing to her, "Good evening, Princess."

Then suddenly, an introduction to a tiny bird nestled in his hand. "Ukogi... If I may," And Marina gently cupped the bird into her hands, soft, careful pets followed, "H-Hello Ukogi. You're very pretty..." She spoke as she continued gently petting the bird. "It's nice to meet you, Ren."

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"......"

The face Ayane made was one of anger. Not on the same level as Ouka of course, but it was one Ren should be cautious of. She heard Marina address her and turned to step up...or rather step on Ren's toes with her boot, which closed the distance between the two. She suddenly turned her angry face to one of neutrality when she was about to address Marina. "Good evening. Please don't call me princess however, just Ayane will do." She turned to Ren. "This is my charming cousin Ren, he's quite helpful. But as the saying goes one can have too much of a good thing, so please be wary when you ask him for assistance." She turned back to Marina. "Though I must say it is good to finally meet you. I've wanted to meet the leaders of this army to get a grasp upon the chain of command, but imagine my surprise to see someone so young be bestowed such an illustrious title."

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"Yeah." He didn't resist, following after her, honestly glad to get away from everyone else for a little. The noise of everyone was just a little too much right now. "Sleep will be good. I think our whole group needs it. Well... Except for those who never need it." Like Jade. A slight shake of his head tried to chase that thought out of his head. He needed to move past it. He could get the General to check him out tomorrow, that would be ok.

Focus on something else instead, like the magic. It wasn't unknown for Fallen to use magic. But this was different. This was from fairy tales. And that was good to know more about if that's what it actually was. And as he'd learned by now, Asami pretty much knew everything. Hopefully she would have good information. As they moved away from everyone else, he gave her hand a slight squeeze. "... Thanks. For looking out for me. It's nice to know I have someone... Someone who cares."

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"I'll make sure to let her know to see you." Nessraya replied, moving from person to person and applying her heal staff to each, removing what minor wounds ailed them as she went. Hopefully Taliyah would keep up with unbinding them.

"Well, when you're around long enough, you develop... eccentricities~" The General mused, chuckling at the half-lizard's observation.

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As soon as the words had left her mouth, before Laselia had even a chance to react, Xalrei knew she had made a disastrous mistake. She froze in place in the middle of a preemptive flinch, expecting to be smacked for what she had just mindlessly said. She definitely felt she deserved it. However, the smack never came; instead, in it's place, was something much worse: defeated acceptance. Laselia's words cut deeper than any weapon, any magic, piecing Xalrei right to her core. She really couldn't do anything right, could she? Couldn't follow orders, couldn't protect her friends, couldn't take care of herself, couldn't even be honest with Laselia.

As Laselia turned to leave, Xalrei took a step towards her and reached out with her claw, mouth opening to say something; however, no words came and she stopped short, quickly retracting her claw, instead gripping her arm and staring at the ground. She'd just mess up again if she tried to fix things.


Dorian sighed from his place in the shadows as he watched Laselia slither off and Xalrei come so close to fixing this herself, only to stop at the final hurdle and give up. Just what was going on in that girl's head that would make her second guess herself? Her self-confidence had been fragile in the past, always feeling the need to prove herself, but she was supposed to have put those days behind her. Her time in the academy had, in the very least, given Xalrei some much needed confidence in her own abilities. Nonetheless, he couldn't let this continue; he'd fail Ralsvelgr if he let his daughter make such a colossal mistake.

He emerged from his vantage point, coming up behind his charge. Unfortunately, he couldn't sweep this problem under the rug for Xalrei; all he could do was give her a push in the right direction. Without warning he gave the dragoness just that: a hefty shove towards Laselia. She turned to glare at him, possibly wondering who had dared shove her, but he just shook his head while his hands shooed her after the naga. "It's not like you to hesitate, Xalrei. Standing there and wallowing won't solve anything."

"...But what if I-"

"None of that now. No more excuses. You made a mistake and, from the looks of it, you're well aware. All that's you have to do is apologize and move from there. No matter how you feel about yourself currently, I absolutely believe you can do that much, if not more. Now go, before I'm forced to take drastic measure. And don't ask, just be assured you won't like what I have in mind."

"...Thanks, Dorian. I'll... Do that." Bolstered by Dorian's guidance and encouragement, Xalrei hurried after Laselia, not turning back to see the smile forming on the werewolf's lips.

Edited by Ursali

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"Marina-- Goodness, she doesn't spare herself one bit, but I can't just force her to stop..." Agni sighed, left behind as she quickly made her way to greet new faces. If these were the people Lavinia spoke of, then they would have plenty of time to get familiar with on the road. Much to Agni's chagrin, Marina still decided it was best to converse with them before the time --even after acknowledging her lack of sleep. "Well... duty calls." Agni tipped his hat to Gabriela and followed Marina at a much slower pace.

He'd reached the group in the midst of Ayane's comment, pacing himself ever so slightly behind Marina. "Let me say that despite Marina's age, she was trained by the best during her time in Coteon. Her title, while illustrious, is well-deserved." A step forward, and Agni rose his arm to chest level. "--Apologies for interjecting, I am Agni Hildebrand, former knight captain, and her caretaker. It has been a long day for all of us, but she still wished to speak with you." In truth, Agni was more concerned with Marina showing a lack of confidence, knowing her guilt. It'd do well to keep a good appearance to these foreigners.

"I've heard the gist from Lady Lavinia, it is an honor to meet both of you."

Edited by Xinnidy

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Ren had to try with all his might to lessen the cry that wanted to escape into a soft whimper.  He definitely heard some bones crunching, forcing his expression to stay friendly even though inwardly he was suffering through excruciating pain.

He will remember this.

"Please don't listen to my lively cousin, she's just a tiny bit envious because I have an easier time making friends," he smoothly delivered, side-eyeing Ayane before letting Ukogi flutter into Marina's hands.  "Ah, this is a first.  Normally he doesn't take easily to strangers," he says, pain forgotten as he chuckles.  "Marina Fairchild eh?  That sure does roll off the tongue," he teases, his bird companion nuzzling his head into Marina's palms.

He did sober up a bit, when Ayane mentioned how young the other was.  "I should agree with my cousin here, but if I recall that had never stopped you cousin.  I remember, fresh out of your basic training, that you wanted to join us in looking for the Heaven and Earth scrolls.  Still, that was a simple scouting mission, not much fighting....but you, Marina...."

Looking at the young hero now, he gives her a melancholic smile.

"You've seen more than enough bloodshed..."

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Ayane's introduction felt similar to before, her asking to not refer to her as Princess. "Of course, I'm sorry, it's natural to me is all," And then her age was brought up, a small, nervous chuckle, "Y-Yeah, it's a position I'm admittedly still getting used to, but I appreciate your concern, Pr-- Ayane." Of course, she hadn't really done a lot yet as leader, but she knew that Lavinia and Nessraya would give her a real chance once she had a greater grasp on things.

Soon Agni approached, grateful of his praise. And them the comment was probably leaning towards her exhaustion. For the moment, she ignored it, "Agni's a bit rough on the edges but he means well. I couldn't have asked for a better caretaker." She smiled at him briefly, before returning once again to Ren, and his comment on Ayane.

"N-No it's fine, I..." She grew a bigger smile as she watched the bird nuzzle into her hands. It was a warming change, someone so welcoming to her, even it was just a bird. A laugh, "Really? I... I'm not all that special, I'm just, a girl." She plainly spoke. Then, it was once again brought up, another person talking about her age and her place as a hero,

You've seen more than enough bloodshed.

"Unfortunately, I still have a lot of work to do ahead of me. But I'll find a way to make it work, fix my mistakes, I'm sure... just gotta... just gotta," Her mind blanked out for a moment, the fatigue hitting her again. She shook her head out of her trance, "Just gotta get myself together first is all."

Now she had gone to talking about herself again, not what she wanted to bring up to Ayane, "O-Oh wait, right. Ayane, I, listened in to your talk with Erephis. I wanted you to know that... if there's any possible way I can help you save your sister, I want to do it."

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Deciding to let things go with Ren for the moment she lifted her heel off his foot and took a bow toward Agni. "The pleasure is mine, Mr Hildebrand. I look forward to seeing you in action in battle." She turned to Marina when Ren spoke aloud about seeing more bloodshed. Something she was no stranger to herself, living on the battlefield herself for the most part. "...you are very determined. I respect that." Truth be told, Ayane sees a bit of herself in Marina. So fresh and eager to take on her duties. But it was just that freshness that pushed Ayane's thoughts a little. "You have your duties and I have mine. It's my fault Ouka and my sister are here in the first place, we fell into her trap and failed to safeguard the threat from the rest of the world. As such, I bear a responsibility to see Ouka defeated by my own hands." She folded her arms. "And so, while I appreciate your offer to help, remember your own duties as I will my own. That being said, I will still offer my blade to your cause as an apology for this crisis."

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Ayane's words did have a sense of assurance to them. She knew they'd be allies as this conflict progressed, but what she got in reply to her statement... Not that she wasn't grateful the former princess was willing to accept her mistake and fix it, but...

"I'm sorry," She started, "But you're all here now, in Xensat. And..." She built up her strength, "It's my duty to help it! If Ouka is as strong as she is, then you can't beat her on your own! So I have to..." Everything got woozy, Marina becoming lightheaded all of a sudden, "...I have to, do what I..." Oh no, Soon enough Marina's body finally gave out from her exhaustion, every inch of her started slowly giving out, like a machine running out of fuel, she collapsed to her knees first, and soon a forward fall face-first onto the ground...

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"!" Well considering how focused Ayane was on Marina she rushed in first and caught her. The two girls were not too far apart in body size, but Ayane's trained and toned body managed to stabilize the fallen hero. "H.hey...Marina?" She called out, suddenly her serious and assertive demeanor turned into an uncertain and worried one. "Oh dear..." She tried to keep calm and turned to Agni. "Does she...do this often? Please say she does, I feel like I may have overstepped something now..."

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"Rough around the edges..." That's not something you should say of me in front of strangers, Marina... Agni sighed, a bit upset at how much Marina was being stubborn. She'd run out of energy before he could get a say in...

He didn't mean it literally, but it happened right in the midst of his thoughts. Marina fainted once again, and Ayane rushed to catch her fall before Agni did, hand outstretched. "Goodness..." Being a caretaker of someone who insistent on not being cared for was like pulling teeth. "I'm sorry, Ayane. This... is a first, but she knew she shouldn't stay up this long. She barely got sleep between the evening and when the city's late night troubles started." Unfortunately, Marina wouldn't be able to keep her martyr airs around Ayane after that.

Not that was a bad thing, in Agni's opinion.

"This was her fault, trying to act like she was fine after all that. She also took part in the arena matches before the evening, so she's well exhausted. It was not of your fault, Lady Ayane." With that, Agni walked forward, to take Marina from her grasp. "I'll take her to her room, Marina is well overdue."

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"That could've been detrimental, her fainting in the middle of the battle," Ren spoke up, Ukogi fluttering towards his furred collar and nestling in it after Marina fell.  "It does no good her overexerting herself.  Maybe some advice and training is in order?" he offers, giving Agni a nod.

"I don't think we properly introduced ourselves, what with the commotion and all that.  Ren Itou, Ayane's cousin and guard," he greets, polite enough to not give off any bad vibes.  It was... nostalgic, in a way, seeing Marina and Agni.  The only two humans in this entourage of demons and the like.

The thought of losing his humanity and becoming someone he didn't want to be settled deeper; if anything, it worsened the sadness and spite he felt, maybe even envy...

Shaking away those thoughts, he paid attention once more to the conversation.  "Not only does the hero need to restrain her perseverance, she needs to learn how to listen to others and take advice without thinking she's being a burden." Hopefully he'll have a chance to talk to her once she wakes.

"Hm, will it be alright if I stay close?  With proper supervision of course."

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She let Agni take Marina off, and took another slight head bow toward him as he left. She took a look at her hand. It appeared she was extremely active in her responsibilities if she had the time to do all that. Agni was right, the title wasn't just for show. Her stubborn nature reminded her of herself a little, it was like staring into a mirror in some ways. However... '...she has such soft shoulders for one who wishes to place the world upon them.' This is a route that may lead to her self destruction if she didn't have the proper help. Ayane truly hoped Marina knew how to accept help, but at the same time it seemed like it's a pot calling the kettle black situation. Maybe this'll give the oni princess second thoughts on how she handles help as well. Maybe...

Edited by TheRoon

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With their business at the arena cleaned up, and several members of the party requiring sleep, the group returned to the inn. Nothing further bothered them that night, luckily for the weary Marina, and others too tired to keep their eyes open much longer.




"Right, then... Let us discuss our next plan of action." Lavinia sat at the head of the table they'd eaten dinner at the previous evening. Everyone had been gathered, either tired or otherwise rested, and plans were afoot. "We do have to continue on towards our next large stop in Tepel, yes... Though, I have heard of something that may require our attention, that seems to be on the way there. I believe Nessraya and Xalrei can inform us of that in larger detail." Something about a witch, of sorts, Lavinia hadn't gotten the whole story from their lovely general before sleep and privacy hit them all. It would be good to go over all the details here, and get opinions from all of the group involved.

Taliyah yawned, sitting next to Agni this time, trying to keep her eyes open. Her night had been... Rather restless, for certain reasons, even if it had been comfortable. I hope he didn't mind...

Asami was nearly leaning on poor Bladen, yawning even wider and louder than Taliyah. It wasn't clear whether she was even awake, or still half asleep, her eyes were shut and she was definitely not paying much attention.

It was then that Erephis walked... Walked? Lavinia flinched, gawking at the woman. "Wh-- E-Erephis?"

The Lamia... Former, Lamia? Had entered the dining room in a red dress with... With legs. "Oh... Er, s-sorry for startling you. I, well... I had been hoping E-Eugune would, h, have been in town, because... The l, lllast time I spoke with him, he, w, wa, w-was searching for a spell, for me. A, sort of, transmog-grification, spell. So that I would... W-Well, take, up less space. I hope that's, not a problem..."

"N... No, not... Not a problem, at all... Just, surprising. Well, er, feel free to join our discussion, yes. About the issue on the way to Tepel."

"Oh! Yes, right. Nessraya and Xalrei asked me about th-that. I'll let them, handle it... N, Not g-great at speaking..." Erephis shrunk a bit and slipped over to a free seat, taking her place at the table. She was holding onto a certain box, one the group had managed to recover from the thieves the night before.

Sleepover?

The battle had finished... Everyone had returned to their rooms, at least... Almost everyone. Two feet crept along the hall, approaching Marina's room... Not for Marina, though. Gentle hands nimbly picked the lock to the room, slowly opened the door... Those almost silent feet headed over to Agni's bed, before finally, a claw stretched out to his face--

and poked his cheek.

"A-Agni?" It was Taliyah. She was still awake, for an unknown reason, and she'd come to bother the human, for a more specific reason. "Uhm. A-Are you, awake? Too tired...? Oh-- please don't, scream. I don't w-want to wake, Marina..."

Finally, a good night's sleep. After his workout at the arena, and the following ruckus, Agni found his respite well deserved, sure to fall asleep quickly. Agni excused himself from being watchful for that night, hoping that his usual light sleep would not come to rob him of the rest he needed.

Unfortunately, it did, mind screaming his body awake at the tough of... something quite solid and pointy to his cheek.

"Who--" Agni quickly flinched, retreating to the opposite side of his bed to Taliyah, his eyes making what they could of the dark. That voice wasn't too unfamiliar, which disarmed Agni after a moment, but not before his heartbeat went a mile a minute. "Goodness..." He dragged the word, a breathy voice escaping him as he lowered his head. "Just what was what all about? What are you doing here this late into the night?" Out of respect for Marina's sleep, he answered in an equally quiet whisper.

"S... S-Sorry... Uhm..." She shrunk a bit, not wholly surprised by his reaction, but still not that good at taking it. "I... Uhm, c-couldn't, sleep... Xalrei got chewed out by someone we met earlier, and I... I didn't, really wanna bother her. Not, that I wanted to bother you! I j-just, uhm... C-Can, we talk for a little bit? Outside so... We don't, wake Marina...?" Hopefully he'd be alright with that.

"..." What an odd request, from an odd companion. Agni wasn't quite sure going along with it was the best idea, considering that particular lizard's kleptomaniac nature... but maybe it would be for the best to get her out of the room, in that case. "Uh, certainly." She couldn't be thinking of something vile --there was no way she could pull a fast one on Agni, with his specialist's training.

As such, he roused himself from bed rather promptly --making care that the bed did not creak, of course. He kept pace with Taliyah, making sure she'd stay close by while still inside the room, and waiting to hear what she had to talk about expectantly.

"O-Oh!" A small smile, she sprung up and scurried outside, waiting for him to catch up and follow after her. She kept her voice quiet as they walked through the inn's halls. "Well, I... I'm, h-half human, right? But... I don't really, know anything about human culture, or... That, world." Taking care to avoid creaking the stairs too much, she led him down towards the door, stepping out into the cooler night air.

"Ahh~ Breezy." Perhaps breezy due to her choice of clothing, but she didn't seem bothered. "Uhm, s-so, well, you were like, a captain, right? I asked Lavinia, and that's what she said... Wh-What's it like in Coteon? What are the people like? What's... Y'know, the day to day?"

Taliyah seemed... excited, even. Like she looked forward to this. How curious. Along the way outside, Agni heard more of her case to pester him. From what he gathered, she seemed curious about human culture... which was unexpected. Perhaps it shouldn't have been, but it was. Since Taliyah was a half-breed, it made sense she'd be curious, wouldn't it?

Speaking of it would be no harm, Agni asserted.

"I was a knight captain, yes... for the most part, I was in charge of training recruits." Agni thought it a good time to look up at the sky... starless nights were common in the capital, so it had been a long time since he could enjoy such scenery. "Though I had actually trained as an infiltrator and spy. I was supposed to work for intelligence, ready to serve the crown... though, in actuality, my pledge was to the church. It's true that... they do have some ruling power above the King." That was putting it generously. Agni paused, turning to look at his curious companion. "Since I had joined the military on my father's behalf, they figured I'd serve best in that branch... anyways, I feel I'm digressing a bit from your question." Perhaps not, but it wouldn't be prudent to talk at length about his specialization.

"The capital itself is lively and massive. That's where most nobles actually reside, even if their land is a bit further out. It is an ascending city, built on the slope of a hill. From the higher ranks, where the noblesse and the royal family reside, you can see all of the city. It's quite the sight." A pause to breathe, Agni welcomed any questions Taliyah had.

Taliyah's eyes watched Agni talk with a special sort of wonder, like she was imagining everything he was talking about. From the small smile appearing on her face, it was clearing interesting to her, as she took a few steps to sit on the nearby bench and curl her legs up to hug. Resting her content face on top of her knees, she hummed a moment, trying to figure out what to ask.

"Training recruits... It sounds fun. Kinda... No annoying kids to deal with?" Maybe Agni had some troubled soldiers in his ranks. Ithraxl had plenty... "And a spy, huh... Mmm, y-you are kinda speed, so I can see it. I'm good at, getting around people, and into tight places, but... I'm kinda stupid, so I'd be useless as a spy. Go to report back what someone said, and I'd probably get half of it wrong, heheh." She seemed to take disparaging herself in stride, like there was nothing wrong with it.

"Mmm... I wonder, if... I'll get to see that sort of thing, one day. No way, probably, I'm just some half-breed, but... It, would be nice. Mm..." A gentle shift, her tail slipped off the bench, and onto the town's pavement with a light tap. "My mom wasn't, anyone special. Just, a village girl from Hwein, so I don't think I'd, have any real, privilege or anything. An', most humans hate me anyway. So, I'm really glad that you and Marina are so nice! Really, it's... Kinda shocking, b-but I'm not bothered. If anything, it's just... So nice. Maybe... M-Maybe I will, get to see that sight, someday. Maybe..."

"..." Delving into Taliyah's comments was like delving on her mind. Agni wasn't expecting such attention to his comments by the lizard, honestly, but something was clearly showing in her eyes. For starters, there was some wistfulness to them, some clear desire to have experienced something more in life --or perhaps to experience something more in the future. It was pleasant to see a monster so interested in Coteon.

...Then again, Taliyah wasn't a monster, it was getting quite obvious.

Her own story was one of sadness, and her desire to belong was all too easy to understand.

"I had my share of recruits in over their heads --noble's sons tend to have a big sense of pride even as knights. I've done a small share of breaking those in. Once in service, a knight is a knight. That is the greatest responsibility somebody from Coteon could ask for." That, too, was something Agni took pride in. "You cannot put your head before the kingdom. That is the greatest mistake."

"I cannot speak for all of Coteon, for there are others who do think you aee tainted... would none in Hwein embrace you, though? That land had a history of acceptance, even if Coteon forces their hand." It felt bad, to think she'd remain so excluded, hardly her fault. That thought settled into Agni's mind.

"W-Well... Uhm. They... N-Not, really. No..." Taliyah shrunk behind her knees a bit, still looking at Agni, but clearly trying to disappear in some way. "Humans in, Hwein, uhm. They accept, monsters. Monsters there... Accept, humans. But... I'm... W-Well, you saw the dwarf earlier, right? I'm stuck in the middle. No one, really likes, half-breeds..." She tried to smile, it didn't last very long.

"B-But training nobles has to be, something. R, Right?" Trying to focus on that was difficult, but it provided a question to her mind. "What... About you? Are you a noble? Or, just someone that worked their way up into being a captain?" It was a lot easier to talk about Agni.

No one really liked half-breeds? That... perhaps it was natural reaction to some.. it didn't sit well with Agni, however. There was clearly something humane in her, and, by the powers that be, it was no fault of her own! "It seems weird that they'd accept both, but not you..." It had to be spoken.

"Well... I am a noble, yes. I didn't actually know I was for a long time, however." Agni figured that would  be a part of his story to grab her interest, holding no hesitance in speaking of it. "I was raised in an abbey, near the border with Belas, where a mountain range marks the divide, right before the lowlands that are Belas. From up the highest peak, it is said you could see the sea. I never did take the chance, myself."

"But that's a bit far back, hm? Yes, I am a noble, my father called be when he finally felt in need of an heir, it was a shocking revelation." Again, the concern of digressing too far. "I was born out of wedlocke, so his first reaction was to hide me before my existence was made known." Though admiteddly, Agni wished he remained in his digressions of earlier days, if maybe a little.

"A-All the way over at Belas...?" That was so far... Taliyah couldn't imagine, all she'd ever been in was Vaia. This trip north was honestly the furthest she'd ever gone, even if the reasons for it had started as something nefarious. "O-Oh, you're, like that. I guess that would be a problem for, uhm, nobility, heh. But, well... I don't really care about something like that, i-if that counts for anything. I think you're pretty great! Uhm." She hadn't meant to be that happy in her correcting, blushing a bit and hiding further.

"J-Just, that you're, kinda... Cool, and stuff. I, heard about you doing well at the arena, from Lavinia too. Guess you're not just a, noble or a captain for show, huh? You're... Real strong and stuff. That's cool. Really cool." Hopefully he didn't mind her saying so, but she'd been knocked out of the running during the forth round... Agni defeating the entire lineup? Super cool.

"All the way over at Belas, yes. Though I have to say this is the farthest from home I've ever traveled. Never been outside Coteon for long periods of time." It was nice that Taliyah found him so impressive, but Agni wasn't quite sure how to feel himself, she was disarmingly earnest to learn about him, and clearly took to him better than most monsters.

Better than plenty of humans, even.

"My nature was an issue for my father until the point he realized he'd be without an heir altogether, then he quickly changed his tune...still, I do enjoy the turn my life took since." Of course Taliyah wouldn't be bothered by it, her condition was much worse, in the eyes of society. If Agni had to take a guess, her previous group treated her much the same. "Ah, you've heard of my arena bout?" It was surprising that Lavinia had the time to tell that one, but Agni supposed it was a momeny to make his name proud, it'd make sense others would talk about it. That brought a smile to his face. "It takes experience and nerves... along with my quick reflexes. An instant of hesitation in battle is enough to change you from a hardened veteran to looking the fool. Some foes were way tougher than me, physically, but they let their weaknesses open to my eyes."

Taliyah's mouth was wide open as Agni spoke, listening to his words with wonder. "Woooooowww... You sound so cool." He did, in fact, sound like a veteran to her, and given his victory in the arena, she was willing to believe every word. Given all his accomplishments... "Mmm... Well, uh... Wh-Why are you, h-here, then?" She regretted asking immediately, gulping hard, and shrinking behind her knees until just her eyes were poking out.

"I, well... Working with us... Just f-feels like tossing all of those accomplishments away. What, will your dad think? The men you've raised up? I, just... We-Well, I... I don't, see why you would give all of that up, just... F-For one person." This was definitely the wrong question... But it was bothering her, so she needed to know.

"Why...?" Agni hadn't thought of it that was, but it was a valid question to ask. "I'm a rather quick learner, as you can see. If I were to stay at Coteon, I'd have leaped through the ranks, perhaps, but..." His expression turned pensive, Agni took hold of his cheek, pensive.

"Coteon isn't quite well. That is..." That could get a bit complicated. Agni cleared his throat. "The church has its dissenters, the noblesse resent the crown's lack of presence, and amidst that, several rumours arise. Even within the church, there are those who dislike the way the archbishop interprets their teachings. And then there are those who fear meddling with politics has corrupted it already." He took a moment of pause to look at Taliyah again, "There's a sickness somewhere in Coteon... and I couldn't ignore it any longer when I learned how staged our fear of monsters is."

"To put it simply, I believe there is more to my mission --to Marina's mission--, than simply felling the Demon King. I do not take it for chance that we are involved in your affairs now." Perhaps it looked like grasping at straws for a stranger. To Agni, it was fate. "If there is a rot at the core of Coteon... I simply have no reason to return and contribute to it, right now."

"I... I see. Heh. Mmm... I'm, glad. It's nice, to meet humans. I always thought that, my mom was the only nice one. That, my dad w-was right, when he said... You were all, the real monsters. B-But! You and, Marina. You're both so nice... Despite, the circumstances that brought you here. It makes me happy... And, a little sad. I... I wish, w-we didn't have, to kill my dad..." A heavy sniffle, Taliyah tried her best not to cry. All of that regarding Coteon's poisoned core... She couldn't quite wrap her head around all of that. It just meant someone bad had to be removed, right? Someone bad...

"H-He's, hurting. A lot... He never treated me well, but... It's not, b-because he doesn't care... He..." She shook, but managed to hold the waterworks in. "He just seems my mom, every time he looks at me. And it kills him, inside... He, can't forgive, the people that killed her... The... The humans, that killed, her... S-Sorry, Agni I-I shouldn't be talking about this, uhm. You should, just... Tell me more about the vistas of Coteon. I want to see them one day. It'd be nice, to have a mental list..."

Glad to have humans as friends... that sort of sentiment was another motivating spark, Agni nodded promptly to the tune of Taliyah's joy, happy of his own. It only took a moment however, for her mood to turn to sadness, and, consequently, for Agni to raise his concern. "Your father...?" The words that followed had Agni in shock, as he tried to make sense of her sobbing. "Taliyah, could you explain... I'm sorry, but who is your father? I don't recall ever knowing" Though, he had an idea now. "It is not my place to say, but maybe if he listens to reason... after all, his own daughter is here."

The tune desperately needed a lighter instrument, so when Taliyah asked about the vistas once more, Agni was quick to comply. "...Belas itself has a nice climate, it rains often in the mountain range, as well. I certainly would like giving you a tour, it'd do well to relive my memories again."

"A... Tour would be, nice..." She wanted to focus on that... But... Did, they not know? Erephis hadn't told them...? "He's... Ithraxl. The man, causing the coup, the, insurrection... He's... My dad." A small quiver of the lip, she had to keep holding them back, she didn't want to cry over this...!

"And... A-And he's, threatening the peace of, the country. Over a stupid, reason... Apparently, Nessraya's mother is, a half-elf. So, because Marina managed to cut through, th-the country, so easily... She, isn't fit to be general. The human in her veins, means sh-she's a liability, for the country's future. So... He, d-doesn't want to serve, any country like this. Because of something like, that? Then... If, N-Nessraya's, lineage is awful... What... What, a-about me...?" She couldn't help it anymore, that brave facade crumbling into tears.

"I don't wanna kill my dad... But he hates me... Agni... I-I'm, so scared...!"

"..." That was a lot to process, but it was a sobering revelation to Agni. So that was how much Taliyah was involved. Her father's motives, however, seemed clouded in something. Something beyond whay Agni could infer with their information, despite the moment of vacantly staring at the floor that followed --he simply had no leads. "I see." He snapped his fingers, "We'll have to convince your father to stop, or expose his own short sightedness. I fear he won't listen to humans, but perhaps other monsters could... perhaps even you. He's clearly lost sight of how this pains you." The moment of reflection was over. Agni relaxed himself again, turning to Taliyah with confidence beaming in his face.

"Rest assured that you won't deal with him alone. If your father's truly lost his mind... I won't let him harm you." Bold words, considering he didn't know Ithraxl was capable of, but Agni didn't get to become a captain by selling himself short compared to his peers.

"Hic... Mmnh... R-Really...?" She wanted to believe him... She did, but he hadn't listened to her before. He'd never listened to her, not since her mother died. Maybe... Maybe Nessraya herself, could try and reason with him? "S-Sorry..." They had plenty of people here. Plenty of people that could help. They were a lot smarter than she was... They would know better. "I kept, th-thinking about all this. An' I couldn't, sleep... I'm, s-sorry Agni... I didn't, mean t-to ruin your night..."

"My night is just fine, Taliyah." Agni smiled, "I'm glad I could help you talk about something this heavy. It's no wonder you struggled to sleep." Thankfully that wouldn't remain the case. Taking the opportunity, Agni wrapped an arm around Taliyah's shoulder, pulling her into a hug as she picked herself from her emotional storm.

It just... felt like she needed it.

"You won't be shunned here. Alright? You can rest easy..."

A hefty flinch followed Agni's small moment of comfort, but she quickly mellowed out and leaned against him, nodding. "O-Okay... I'm glad, you're being n-nice to me, Agni. I've... I've never had, human friends before... I hope I can g-get along with you and Marina. I really do..." It was definitely greedy over her, but her tail had already moved. It slide behind Agni on the bench, and she followed it, letting her knees down and hiding herself against his side, taking in a full hug. "Thank you..."

"...You're welcome." She was practically shrinking into the hug. Agni figured a lot was going on her mind, and let her get close to him. Agni let Taliyah lean onto him, a hand following to the back of her head, a light caress, as if trying at comfort. "You already get along with us well, if you ask me."

It was interesting to hold Taliyah this close... her scales were not as uncomfortable as Agni thought. They weren't rough, being oddly pleasant to the touch, like the texture of a newly crafted chestplate of scale mail. The tail did not press uncomfortably against him, either, though it had notable strength to it.

All of that contrasted to her softer, human parts less than Agni would expect before.

"You've been sticking around with us for this journey so far. I think Marina sees you as a friend as well." Knowing her, most definitely.

"Y-You, you think?" Agni was comfortable. Most men this close wanted something from her, but Agni was... Almost like a brother of sorts right now, just gently patting her hair, letting her hug him. It was a privilege that she hadn't thought she'd ever encounter, yet here she was. A few breaths helped her calm down, shifting enough to speak properly. "These last few days, h-have been a real whirlwind for my mind... I went from, hated and tossed aside, to being accepted into such a weird group, and, e-even having friends. I'm not really sure... What to make of it, yet, but..."

Something of a smile managed to swim its way to the surface, eyes glancing up at him. "I'm, just glad. So, thank you-- wha, hey!" Her tail had snuck its way around him and into his pocket, fishing out one of his knives. She let go of him and pulled it back, taking it out of her tail's grasp. "Stupid thing... H-Here. Sorry. It... Just, grabs onto stuff, if I'm not paying attention. Makes me a really good thief, but... Not, great for being around my allies. S-Sorry, really..."

"Well, you can make what you will of things, at your own pace. Just remember that we're risking our lives. You had no reason to stick around, but you did, so that's deserving of trust on its own." Agni continued to pat Taliyah's head some, taking her words with some interest. She'd just... never been that close to people, according to her mannerisms, to her life.

...It was engrossing enough that he'd completely missed when one of his knives got taken by the tail. Thankfully, it meant nothing, with Taliyah taking and giving it back to Agni in a moment's tick, but it could have been much scarier otherwise, or if it were somebody else. "Goodness... so that just has a mind all of its own?" Agni chuckled, "You should give it a stern talking to one of these days, if it can listen." Hopefully an attempt at levity would defuse the situation. "Well, it was clear you didn't mean it this time. Don't worry."

"Mmm... It doesn't, listen. Ever... Whenever I get focused on something else, it just... Snakes around and grabs whatever it can." With a small sigh, Taliyah nodded, and wiped at her eyes again. "Thank you for the talk, Agni... I, uhm... We should probably, get back to sleep, but... I..." She gulped. He had been so warm and comforting. "C-Can I sleep with you, tonight...?" Oh, did it take a moment, but when she realized... Her skin matched her scales. "I-I didn't mean, uhm! I just, f-for comfort, not... As a-adults, I... S, Sorry..."

"Ah..." That was an easily misconstrued question, for sure, so it was good that Agni took his time to respond. His confused expression softened as Taliyah explained herself, though the question still felt awkwardly intimate. "Er, 'for comfort' can still mean a bit more than I imagine is your intent, but I understood it clearly. Troubled on your sleep, hm?" He tried a chuckle, an attempt to laugh it off, though it was quite embarrassing for himself as well. "I can't refuse such an innocent request --if you don't mind having to explain to Marina in the morning, however." Still, Agni tried to lighten the mood with a slight smile.

"I'm, more worried about explaining to Xalrei... She... Really, d-doesn't seem to like you. Haha... Hasn't said anything, behind your back, but... Really... Glares at you. I don't get why. You're really nice..." Taliyah fidgeted for a moment before taking his hand, slowly leading it back to the inn's door. "W-We should go get some rest, then... Probably won't be a lot, but... Well, better than none. Again, I'm... Sorry, for waking you up..."

"Explaining to Xalrei, huh..." A silent chuckle escaped Agni, he seemed amused at the thought. "Yes, I could see why. I remember berating her for her recklessness, she isn't the most fond of humans --or maybe it's just me." As long as his friendship wouldn't cause a distancing between the two reptilian girls, Agni wasn't going to think much of it.

Though Agni was not expecting Taliyah to take his hand, he seemed unphased, courteous as usual. "Very well, let's get what sleep we can." Agni's slight smile remained as he followed Taliyah.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Gabriela felt surprisingly fresh and awake at breakfast. Perhaps it was because she went to bed right after the battle, or maybe it was due to the moon pouring energy into her wings. Either way, it was time for breakfast, and a lot of others of the group weren't lucky enough to get a good night's rest. Gabriela was rather curious about their next move, as while she has been enjoying the townlife, a change of scenery is never a bad thing, especially as they had just fought in this town the night before.

It was time to discuss their next course of action. Taliyah the poor thing seemed rather tired. A song would for sure do the trick for that one. Asami on the other hand appeared to just be sleeping entirely. Erephis also appeared to be joining in. A curious one, that is. Gabriela was quite curious about her, but she didn't know how to approach her. She seemed shy enough, but was that really all there is to her? She didn't let it bother her, but what she did let bother her was that box Erephis was holding. What could be inside? Gold.... treasure? Who knows what it could be? "Hey, your name is Erephis, right? Tell me.... what's in the box?"

Edited by Michelaar

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"Right... it appears that there has been a disturbance in the forest to the South of town. Both Erephis and I came to the conclusion that it is most likely some sort of wayward spirit, based on the description given." Nessraya clarified as both Lavinia and Erephis herself indicated that she be the one to explain their little predicament. Not that it bothered her... they still didn't know much, but it would be difficult to find out more without a proper investigation.

"Given that it is along the way, and we're here to return stability to the region anyway... it seems prudent we investigate."

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