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

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Marina had an decent time keeping herself awake. Surprisingly, sleep went fine with her, though she felt guilty for how sleep happened. It hadn't been talked about yet by any of the witnesses to her passing out amidst forcing herself awake. Woke up decently fine as well, but she was still thinking about what she had noticed. It was admittedly bizarre seeing Agni with Taliyah. In bed. To Ge Ther. If anything, it did show some progress. If anything, Agni was getting more comfortable with the monsters. Of course, Taliyah was only half-monster, but she still saw sentiment in that.

Prior to everything, she had found the inn's laundromat, and she had set Jade's clothes there to be cleaned. She had to be certain to go back for them. A problem for future Marina. Actually, not much of a problem, Marina missed busy work from home. It reminded her of the short time she had with helping Tenna back in Coteon.

Focusing on the now, she focused on the talk of a supposed spirit. Along with that, suddenly Erephis had legs. A strange occurrence, but... a nice change, if it did mean the convenience of a not-crushed wagon. 

In actual regards to the supposed spirit, Marina's first thought was to not worry about it in regards to Ithraxl being priority one, and this didn't appear at first as important. But she didn't know much better in all honesty. Much like with last night, maybe this would also help with her image as well; show the people the hero's on their side.

There was a nod, "We should investigate, I think," was all Marina had to say in regards at the moment.

--

Suddenly, a small draft made it's way towards the group, Taiyute, who had spent the rest of the night pacing and keeping watch over the town, once being healed by the arena's clerics. It was something admittedly out of the genasi's control; her natural affiliation with the wind and air made her presence like that of an oncoming storm. This place, too enclosed for her if she were to actually end up angry. However, she didn't think that problem would occur.

"Excuse me? Pardons, for my intrusion," She spoke, still in her unfortunate broken commontongue. Her face had a clear sense of shyness to it due to her speak, even if said speak carried like a literal gust of wind across the table they were sitting at. "I, ah... hmm..." She wasn't sure how to get her words out; it was a group of so many people.

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Does that spell just change your size, or does it fix your mass problem too? The question on Jade's lips that she managed not to ask. It wouldn't do to embarrass the poor librarian in front of everyone, especially as she was at least taking steps. ...Both figuratively and literally. She was still a little apprehensive about the long term effects to her wagon, but, well, what options were there really?

As far as the group's plans going forward, Jade had no strong input either way. Sidetrack or no sidetrack was honestly six of one and half a dozen of the other to her at this juncture. So the zombie would be content to let people with actual opinions weigh in on that matter.

When the strange figure that had shown up during Nimbus's attempted heist suddenly appeared though, she took an interest. "Oh, you're the one from last night! The newcomer, who wandered into the fight, right? Sorry for, uh, ignoring you after that first meeting, I had... other things on my mind." Had the wanderer seen, was Taiyute watching when Jade had lapsed, had attacked Bladen?

The merchant shook her head, banishing the thought. "Was there something you need, Taiyute? Am I saying that right?" It had been some time since she'd heard the name, and given how the traveler had been slipping in and out of that other language when the introduction had been made, Jade wasn't all that confident about anything.

Edited by Balcerzak

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For once, Bladen didn't seem to mind Asami being almost draped on him. This likely had something to do with the fact that he was even less awake than she was. What little sleep he had managed to get the previous night had been far from peaceful. Still, he was doing his best to focus, even with the added distraction of the fox. A detour seemed to be in the works, with some sort of spirit to be taken care of, which was slightly worrying to him. After all, if they ended up having to fight, he didn't think his sword would be much use...

And then the blue lady from the previous night showed up. Jade seemed to be handling that though, so instead he just focused on the other surprise. A lamia with legs. "So, how does the potion work then? Can it be undone? If it just makes the weight disappear, he should try and make that into something he can sell," he commented with a small chuckle that was interrupted by a large yawn.

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Ayane was up and at the table with the others, dressed and all. Despite claiming that she was no longer a princess it seems old habits die hard. She was no stranger to attending war meetings, it was almost as if her body had brought her here on impulse. That said she had her reasons for wanting to get involved, and she was sitting right down the table. "..." She eyed Marina slightly as the conversation went on with a concerned look in her eyes, though she tried her best to hide it. In fact before anyone could really notice the stare she brought her attention toward Nessraya's clarification. "...I second the investigation." She spoke aloud after Marina did. Maybe that would surprise some, considering how hellbent Ayane was to find Ouka. But at the same time she needed time to arrange herself and her thoughts, for she knew that if she were to face Ouka her elder sister would guard her.

Edited by TheRoon

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Unlike the others, Ren stood behind Ayane's chair.  Composed and hands hidden in his sleeves, he surveyed the group with a small smile on his lips.  He needed to have his cousins back, even in a room filled with potential allies.

He did, however, feel his cheeks flush at the sight of Gabriela, offering a small wave of his hand before going back to the conversation happening at the moment.  

"Ah...that is a nice look for you Erephis," he offers in compliment, eyes now drifting at the new image for the lamia.  In that moment, his mind drifted to a sudden thought that popped up and before the conversation could continue-

No, not yet.  He needed to restrain himself at the moment.

As he turned to the hero, he gave her a nod.  Her sudden relapse yesterday wasn't lost on him, and while he was under the watchful eye of her caretaker and guard Ren waited by her side until she woke up.  Lest to say, he had much on his mind that Marina needed to hear , but only so much was said before she retired for the evening.

Now, in this meeting, as they discussed the next course of action, he wanted to bring the topic up now since no one has touched on it yet.

"Before we can all vote or decide on what we must do, I would like to point out the dragon in the room: the fact that your little hero has quite a martyr complex," he speaks up, now looking over at Lavinia and Agni both.  "I can tell you right now that this will become quite the problem in the near future, if not the next battle we fight.  You need to make her understand that one mistake can cost her life, or the life of her comrades."  

His voice was calm and collected, but there was certainly an edge to it.  A blade ready to strike.  "The only reason I'm bringing this up is because I have experience with taking care of rather...rambunctious ladies.  Hardheaded even." He looked down to where Ayane was sitting, but before she could protest he continued.  "Please believe me when I say I have nothing but the utmost concern for this group, because whether we succeed or not will eventually decide whether we capture Ouka or not in the long run."

He let out a sigh, taking comfort in the fact that he had his feathery friend resting in his fur collar, his warmth a familiar sensation.

"I agree that we should find out what this spirit is, or wants, or if we have to get rid of it.  What I ask and suggest that we do first, or as we travel, is to educate this hero in not only to care for the safety of others, but also her own..."

"Because if she can't take care of herself, then what business does she have in taking care or saving others?"

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Xalrei sat at the table with everyone else, seated next to Nessraya. She hadn't returned to their room last night... Hopefully the succubus didn't mind. Still, she herself felt both spent and refreshed, the weight on her shoulders no longer weighing so heavily. "We also know that it isn't something super dangerous like a banshee, but that's the only good thing, really... There wasn't a lot of information to work with." Marina, and several others, had already agree to investigate so there was no need for her to chime in on that front. However, it was still... Good. To see Marina make the correct decision.

Somewhat concerning, however, was Taliyah seated right next to the other human in the room. What was the deal with that? Her stare lingered a bit longer than she'd wanted it to, possibly giving her away if either of the pair were to so much as glance at her. Moving on, the Oni from last night was now chewing out Marina for... Something Xalrei had missed, busy with her own issues. Even if it wasn't directed at her, Ren's words still stung, like salt to an open wound. They did, however, give her a glance at a new side of the Hero. Xalrei refrained from commenting on the scolding. Well, aside from halfheartedly grumbling, "I'm the only dragon in the room..." so quietly only Nessraya, or those with enhanced hearing, could hear her.

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A small Blunder:

...

Ren's father always told him that he was good at speaking, but he wasn't tactful enough.  When he had finished his observations, he immediately bit his tongue as he remembered that one of their members wouldn't take to the familiar saying of his country.

"A-Ah, Xalrei was it?" he asked, a bit flustered at having to do this in front of so many people.  "The, uhm, the saying "The Dragon in the Room," it usually pertains to the problem we have to discuss or just the awkward subject we need to face...n-not that you are a problem! Oh dear..."

He should just, keep his mouth shut next time instead of making it worse...

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Agni kept his composure for the meeting, sitting upright at Marina's side, with Taliyah on the opposite. Lavinia's speech quickly diverted into the matter of... something, that required their attention. Agni had almost completely drifted it off his mind when Erephis showed up, looking far more human than she had any right to. Some transmogrification spell, was it? That could certainly be useful for monsters. It was not like any of the non-combat spells Agni knew, but it could be handy for his field of work...

And then, Nessraya continued off from where Lavinia left hanging, comments about a forest south of there, a wayward spirit. "I see..." If Marina wished to see that through, there wasn't much else to add to it. As long as it did not stray too far from their path, Agni would tolerate it. It was a duty of the Vaian general and captain, as well, which made him withhold any resistance.

The matter seemed much settled, even Ayane seconded the investigation...

But Ren, that man had to speak up like that...

"Ren... I understand your concers, but I assure you, the challenges we face are not bigger than Marina. It was the church that grew her to that complex, with its high expectations, but we've been taking the chance to ensure she learns how much her well being matters. It will not be next battle that will compromise her --otherwise, that means I'd be doing a poor job as well." While Agni's face showed no charity for the oni's remarks, he withheld his tongue. "Pressuring her will not do in the long run."

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"Wh-What's in the box? Oh, I'll get to that... O, Once's the current discussion isssss f-ffinished." Erephis caught her tongue talking, blushed, and shrunk a bit further. "And, uhm... I-It's a spell, not a, p-potion. Changes m... Mmmy shape, and my weight, so... Er, uhm... As, f-for sssselling, that... It's a r-rather, advanced spell... I don't, really... Think m-many could, u... Use, it." Hopefully that made enough sense. Erephis wasn't good at talking for extended periods of time. She got tripped over on her tongue far too easily...

"Then, if we're all..." Lavinia began to speak up, a bit quietly, before one of their new friends cut in. Cut in rather harshly, as well... Lavinia found herself gawking at him, a small scowl forming. ''Right. Well." That was something that needed addressing... "Since we all seem confident in heading towards this issue on our way, then, we'll focus on that first... As for Marina... Ren." Lavinia had let her scowl cool, but her look was stern. Agni had spoken up as well, with points she could only agree with. "While you are right... I do not believe you are the person Marina needs to hear all of this from... Even I have only known her for just under a week. Agni is correct in his words, and if she needs that talk from anyone, it will be him... He has known her far longer than any of us, after all, and has even gone so far as to give up his position in Coteon to follow her, to make sure she remains safe. Habits do not change overnight, and the weight on Marina's shoulders is likely clouding her judgement a fair bit. She will learn that her life is not meant to be thrown away. We will make sure of that."

Lavinia couldn't comment on Ayane's behaviour in their home country, but really, Ren had seen Marina fight only once... Perhaps in last night's battle she shared similarities to his lord, but there were a few things quite off about the situation. A lack of sleep, the surprise of an ambush within the town, having to deal with faces you'd seen in a better setting just that day... Marina had collapsed, yes, but there were too many mitigating factors to blame it on her simply not caring for herself. He was right, luckily, given how Marina had acted previously with Erephis... Still. He did not know enough to judge on his own.

Lavinia sighed, keeping those comments to herself. Ren was lucky he'd struck the mark, and even if circumstances were extenuating, there was no point arguing the small bits with him to correct his observation. Lavinia could trust Agni to make sure Marina learned, hopefully sooner than later.

"Then... Erephis? I believe we've come to a conclusion on what we are doing next. What has Eugene given you, other than a spell to make you compact?"

"Oh! Erm. Right. I-It's... Well..." She slipped a key out from... Somewhere, did her dress have pockets? Unlocking the box, inside sat a rather expensive looking necklace, with a red gemstone dangling at its middle. "A, n-necklace. He, er, w-well... It's... Taliyah, c-can you come here, for a moment?" The best way to explain would be with a demonstration.

"Hwa!? M-Me? Uh... S-Sure, auntie..." Taliyah slipped out of her chair and stepped over, looking a bit meek with all the eyes on her.

"Auntie?" Lavinia gawked.

"Yes, sh-she's my, niece. Ithraxl is, unf-fortunately my bother, thus..."

"Wait, you're Ithraxl's daughter!?" Lavinia was out of her chair, gauntlets slamming the table. Why was this not brought up before?

"Eek! Y-Yes! I'm sorry! I... I-I told Agni! I'm, it, just... There was never... A g-good time, to..."

"Rrrr... We'll discuss that later... And you will be telling me everything you know." Lavinia sat back down, very bothered with how this morning was proceeding.

"D-Don't be too hard on her, La, Lavinia... Taliyah h-has always b, been shy. Now..." Erephis placed the necklace around the girl... Immediately, her monster features disappeared, making her look no different than a regular human.

"Wh-What!?" Clearly freaked out, inspecting herself, Taliyah glanced behind her-- no tail, either. "Whaaaaaaaa?"

"I-It's, just an illusion, but... Eu-Eugene, said that, well, once I spoke with him... S-Since, we're, h, heading to Hwein, eventually... This, mmmm-might help with, trouble. Eheh." Erephis took it off her bewildered niece and let her calm down, though she looked just a bit sad to be scaly again. "Thank you, f-for the help, hun."

"R... Right... Okay." Taliyah quickly retreated to her seat next to Agni, leaning against, almost behind him a bit, to stay out of Lavinia's sight.

The vampire sighed. "That will definitely be useful, then. Thank you, Erephis... Goodness, what a morning..."

Neck and Neck

Things were finally settled, for the moment. A long night loomed ahead of both Jade and Lavinia, but at the least, they would have each other to speak with to pass the time. Lavinia decided, if they were going to discuss and pursue this... This, idea of romance, even if it didn't end up working out, that properly carrying herself would be better. Before, just her underwear had been fine, in her mind. Now, she wore a tunic over her undergarments, sitting up in bed with her hair to the side. Jade was going to assist with the back of her neck, just to make sure there were no unfortunate mishaps. Nessraya was likely tired from all of the healing, fixing and casting she'd done during the day and for the arena staff, so Lavinia hadn't asked her to check this issue. Besides, it would be something for the two of them to talk over, Jade had asked to hear about the past.

"So... You should be able to see, if you check... There's a bit of tearing in the skin, that needs stitching." Sure enough, a small red line was beginning to crack along her skin. She was doing her best not to hang her head, though it would be difficult for Jade to handle this without the angle, and that hair out of the way. "I'm sure you can handle any stitching just fine... What... D-Did you wish to discuss first, Jade? While you work, I'm sure I can keep you entertained. Er, well... H-Hopefully, it's... Not exactly pleasant history."

Lavinia's response, at the arena, as Jade had been trying to slip away. That had certainly been something. Despite her best efforts to keep hating herself, for at least a little longer, the zombie had laughed. Begun to move forward. Agreed to the 'date'. And so here they were, and the vampire was again so... obviously nervous and forcing herself. On that note, she wasn't sure where the fleeting thought came from, one that would obviously just make things worse, but there was no time or place for teasing. So, the zombie dismissed the cute idea of sitting down behind her, scooting up close, wrapping her legs around Lavinia and leaning in to nibble the woman's ear before getting to work.

Instead, kneeling gave a good angle, let her see what she needed to and had her hands at the right height to do what they needed. Jade did indulge herself in a bit of a light, comforting squeeze on Lavinia's shoulder before leaning closer, tracking where the thin red line began and ended. If she'd been breathing, surely the puffs of air would have tickled over her skin, raising tiny hairs on end, but fortunately or unfortunately, breathing was not a necessity, and so she passed on that until the invitation came to speak, at which point she drew in a lungful of air, paused to consider her words, then started with the diagnosis.

"Yeah, I'm seeing what you're describing. You should have told me sooner, if you'd been concerned about how they'd handled things at the arena," a bit of a sigh added some weight on her judgement, but not too much. Heavens knew Jade wasn't always a saint about self care either. "I thought, since they were professionals..."

"We'll start here," Jade began on the side of neck opposite how Lavinia had pushed her hair to resting, quick precise movements when pushing the needle in and through, then slower, more leisurely ones as she came to line it up for the next location. "...And you'll start, with whatever you think I'd like to hear. I'm sure it'll be interesting. Both the content, and how you end up choosing it. Surprise me a little, if you want." She giggled, then waited till her hands had steadied again before beginning the next stitch.

Lavinia knew that a touch was coming, so she did her best not to flinch when a hand touched her shoulder-- squeezed, her shoulder, and Jade began to stitch up her neck. I'm truly too out of touch for this... "W-Well..." Leaving it up to her with where to start, was she? "Then... How, about the King? The last one, I'm, sure tales of Thesephine have managed to make the rounds. Or have they? Well... If you want to hear about her, just mention. Oh, and, for the arena staff being professionals? I doubt they deal with decapitations regularly. I didn't notice until all the fighting broke out... Can't feel any pain, remember? Now, where was I musing..."

Where to begin with her former liege... "Until Coteon sent their first hero after us... It was the most peace Vaia had seen, for centuries. Now I'm not that old, so I can't speak for more than the past century, but... While I was working under his rule, as a squire, growing into a proper knight, there was little need for people like me. There were bandits still, of course, small disputes to settle, but no... No wars, no coups, no issues for armies to mobilize for." A simpler time... A time she missed, and hoped would come again.

"As for Tharasonis himself... He was... Intimidating. Clearly he cared, but he didn't tolerate defiance without good reason. It did help that he could turn inappropriate dissenters into stone to quiet them for a while, but... Strict, but fair. Makes him sound like a school teacher, goodness..." Finally in the mood, Lavinia let herself chuckle, relaxing a bit more.

"He had a terrible argument with Nessraya's father once, but not over anything serious, just, his daughters wouldn't keep their hands off of Thesephine, making all of these, silly comments about 'when she's older', and fawning over how cute she was... He tried to stone them away from her, but, even his magic wasn't perfect, especially against succubi... Suryd got so upset with him, heheh~ 'It's only natural, they'll live long enough to see your daughter grown up! We've been friends for so long, surely an eventual merging of the families wouldn't be a terrible idea!' He did not take that well, hmhmhahaha~" A wry smile slipped in after her laugh, along with a gentle sigh.

"I do miss him. He was a wonderful father, a great mentor... Though, he... He probably would've just, killed Marina, had he survived the first attempt. His wife, she... This is all very depressing, isn't it? Are, y-you sure you want me to continue talking about this...?" Lavinia didn't turn to look, Jade was still stitching, but was this weighing on her to hear? It wasn't weighing that heavily on Lavinia, it was nice to reminisce about the Adozosi family, but... It was definitely heavy material, between their deaths, and how it all reflected on this situation with Marina.

It was almost soothing, listening to the vampire talk about the past. Lavinia had seemed to settle into a more natural mood as she continued as well, less nervous, more at ease. Granted, for now, the subjects Jade was most curious about had been glossed over for other, less uncomfortable ones. Though even these--recounting about the previous royal family--apparently grew depressing enough as time went on, and the royal guard hinted for a subject change.

The zombie wanted to ask about how things had been when Lavinia was just starting out: how she'd been introduced to Tharasonis and his wife in the first place--presumably through this Roman figure who she was also undying to hear more details on--and where precisely she'd come from before that (Jade doubted Lavinia'd been a Vaian native, so... Coteon?) But exercising some restraint, as she methodically made stitch after stitch, she instead simply shifted things forward instead of backward, bringing the talk up to the current generation.

"Haha, I don't know that I'd downplay a father protecting his daughter's innocence as 'nothing serious', but I suppose when you compare it to things like treason... Speaking of, I assume the friction between the Tryxyss family is all in the past, if Thesephine trusts Nessraya enough to lead the expedition to put down this insurrection, no?" Jade had a light smile on her face as she wove her words, but a thought struck her, and her hands stopped moving as she paused. "I suppose when that's all done and dealt with, we'll return for an audience then? That might be... a little embarrassing. I'm not actually a citizen... Nothing shady or illegal, of course; I pay my taxes, I file proper paperwork. It's just... I never renounced my former homeland, never swore an oath of allegiance to Vaia, none of that. You don't suppose she minds?"

"Unless you're hiding land on us, and aren't accounting for it, you should be fine. Nothing wrong with people from Hwein passing through, even merchants. Why would she be bothered? If anything, it would be nice for her to see that people from other countries care about what's going on in Vaia." An odd thing for Jade to be worried about, but if she could help the zombie's worries, all the better.

"I wouldn't exactly call it friction, just... Tharasonis was far, far too overprotective of Thesephine, perhaps for good, perhaps for bad. Helvena was less of a total monitor, even if she did chide Suryd for his daughters... Basically, yes, any ire was in the past. Thesephine and Nessraya get along wonderfully, even if the general can't help her hands sometimes. I would get on her case for being so... Casual, with royalty, but Thesephine has assured me that it's fine. I trust her to be able to handle her own general."

Perhaps it would be something that would need another discussion when they returned, especially with Nessraya wrapping her tail around Xalrei's waist. Going after Ralsvelgr's daughter, and the current head of the Adezosi family... How greedy could one succubus get? That was something for later, though... "Now... I... I could, continue to discuss, the royal family, and how much I've enjoyed my spot in their family... But... I presume you've other, things you wish to hear about? Yes? Like..." An uncomfortable pause fell over Lavinia, but she managed to swallow her worries and move past it.

"About, Roman? About, my past, and all... All that. Right?"

...unreported land holdings. That was... a little uncanny. It was a good thing Jade had stopped stitching for a few moments, or the shock of that comment, scary close to the mark, might have shaken her hand. Not that Lavinia would have been pained by a bad prick of the needle, but, still...

"...it's, technically not mine," the zombie replied quietly, when a proper end had come to the vampire's accounting of Nessraya's and her family's relations with the king. "It... might have reverted to the crown, when Morwen died? That's not an area of the law I'm familiar with. So... maybe you've got me on trespassing?" The best play seemed to be to just own it up to the royal guard. If she knew enough to be throwing darts that close to bullseye, there was no use trying to hide things from her.

Maybe she shouldn't have said anything at all though? Lavinia had just been getting ready to open up to her about the deep matters of her past. It had felt wrong to just let an implicit lie go like that, but what if it distracted her, ruined the moment?

"But you can take me to task for that later, I suppose, because you're right. You're coming to what I'm most interested in. I want to listen to you tell about your first few decades, about Roman, about what happened... after." Jade placed the needle between her teeth, so both hands were free. Then she leaned forward from where she was kneeling, pressing up against Lavinia's back as she brought both arms around the vampire's front, clasping her hands one over the other atop Lavinia's navel; giving a reassuring squeeze of a hug to the conflicted woman. "If you're ready to go there, I'm ready to hear it."

Lavinia had been about to laugh off Jade's worries about the house, when the hug disrupted... Everything. Lavinia had become so used to being physical, of her own accord. All of the touching she'd done before, with Jade's face, in the bath, picking her up in the arena... Having Jade initiate, start this, made her freeze up. She wasn't sure why, really... It was comforting. Jade was hugging her so gently, she was sure it was warm, even if they were both dead. Even if she couldn't actually feel it... She was sure. That reassurance was enough for her to take in a breath and let out a sigh, and gather herself.

"Right... Don't worry about something like that, Jade. This Morwen is the one who changed you, yes? If you remained where she'd lived after her passing, you were merely... Well, harsh as it is to say, property living on her property... By, all technical rights. Vaia doesn't legally allow slavery, but the undead, especially turned and raised, are an odd point of contention. I... Suppose that's a discussion for after. Keep it in mind, if you're interested. Just, to put it simply, you're not in the wrong, and no one has any claim to you. Try not to worry."

With that out of the way, even if Lavinia had taken a detour, it was time to... Discuss Roman. A sour feeling washed over her as she wondered where to start, but, this... This was a part of growing past this, as well. Telling someone. Telling anyone... Managing to overcome what hurt.

"Roman... No, me, first. I... Was born in Hwein, actually. A century and a half ago... My birth name was Caera. Lavinia Caera... I've... Just kept Roman's last name since. A-Anyway, uhm..." She was already starting to unravel. Focus on yourself. Don't think about him until you have to... "My, parents, Seth and Elena... Well, they were rather average, I suppose. Took care of me, took care of the household, got into small arguments, laughed and smiled together... A model couple, with their own problems, as everyone has. They were farmers, a valued commodity in Hwein, as I'm sure you know. Since the country focuses so much on trade, anyone that can produce from within is valued above others."

She'd wondered, when young, why her father had always placed so much value on his wheat. It made sense now, but looking back, she'd been such an oblivious child. "I... Wasn't very interested in taking care of a plot of land simply to grow crop. I was something of an adventurer, actually... Getting myself into trouble with the guild, taking on quests, dealing with bandits and monsters-- Real, monsters. Skeletons and rabid animals, and the like." It was a simpler time. A time that made her smile to look back on. "That was... The first eighteen years of my life. After that, I..."

She felt a tear begin to form in her eye, laughing out something of a sob. "I met Roman, right after I'd turned eighteen. He was... Enchanting. All the men in my little town were burly, muscular, tough; what you'd expect. He was... Beautiful. Charming. Lithe, aloof, but... Alluring. Completely different... Perhaps, an outsider looking in, would've been worried. This complete charmer, sweeping the farm girl off her feet, but..." A sniffle followed, hand coming up to wipe at her eyes. "We, were taken with each other. It was like magic, really... I'd never thought about romance until we met, and even then... It felt so foreign. Like a dream... When, I turned nineteen, I... I asked him, to turn me."

She had to pause there, hands against her face, trying to dry her tears. This was difficult to think about... Harder still to talk about. She'd noticed her body shaking, after her pause in speaking. How long had she been sobbing and twitching? She hadn't noticed, so focused on just trying to get it out... "Sorry... I... Just, need a moment..."

For Jade to have overlooked the sudden freeze in Lavinia that her touch had evoked would have been next to impossible. The vampire's body had been going through all the small motions of preparing to reply, and then just stopped. It was a brief pause, and soon enough words came, and they were fine words, good ones. But the reaction itself was significant. Especially when the zombie thought back to just a little earlier; it had been maybe twelve hours since their time in the tub? The roles had been reversed, but everything else had been nearly the same. The vampire had been the one embracing her from behind, bringing her hand down her stomach... biting her neck... And maybe if it hadn't been for the obvious discomfort just shown--maybe, maybe Jade would have gone for the same? Made a mocking play nibble at Lavinia's neck, carefully minding the wound. Then again, maybe not, as perhaps without any reason to reflect on the parallels the idea wouldn't have come to mind.

No, scratch that. Definitely not. Not after the recent disaster with Bladen. There was no way she would have been able to come even close to the kind of carefree spontaneity required to pull something like that off. Depressing thoughts now piled up one after the other, as on top of remembering her earlier slip, Lavinia's attempt to reassure her she wasn't on the hook for tax fraud floated the specter of her probable official status as 'property'. Just another possession, like Burnt Umber or Deep Vermilion... though that at least was a somewhat more cheery thought. At least she would be in good company with those two.

After that small side digression wrapped up, enough time had passed that parting the embrace and returning to stitching wouldn't seem reactionary to Lavinia's awkward response to the hug. There would be no need for the vampire to feel guilty over prompting her to cut it short or anything, and so Jade did, and returned to work, making more good progress on caring for the neck wound from the arena as the conversation made its way into the past. Hearing the vampire had been from Hwein originally--a humble farmer even!--brought a smile to the merchant's lips. A bit of a happy hum followed too, as she imagined a young, rambunctious Lavinia in rough coveralls, chewing at a stalk of prairie grass as she worked the fields under the sweltering heat of the sun. Some obvious differences from her own upbringing, of course, but compared to the more regal atmosphere the royal guard had always given off it was a pleasant surprise to find their beginnings at least had not been all that dissimilar.

By the time Lavinia had got around to describing Roman, Jade had completed the required treatment. Stitches finished, swept up in listening, her fingers continued to rest atop the sutures as the vampire sung the praises of her lost love. It was for the best the zombie had finished when she had, as her patient's body began to shake, little at first, but growing in strength as the emotions took deeper hold. Lavinia asked for a moment, and it was a request easily granted.

"Well, here's one issue taken care of," Jade mentioned, filling the silence and giving a final pat so it was clear that everything was in order. "You're hardly one that needs to be lectured on scars, but I'll say it anyway. Soon, there'll be nothing to it but telling the story with a smile." Then pushing herself up off her knees, she moved around to take a seat at the edge of the bed beside Lavinia. Perhaps she'd be a more comforting presence there, where she'd actually be able to be seen from peripheral vision? As she was relocating, Jade found herself hoping that her words would end up holding true not just for the gash in Lavinia's neck, but also for the emotional scar that was clearly still deeply hurting.

Turning to her side to look, Jade couldn't help but wonder if there was something more she could do. "I suppose... it would only be fair if I shared a story of the first time a boy took an interest in me then too... you think?" It was tentatively offered, as she was a little unsure if it would have been better to just let the vampire have her moment alone--if quietly gathering her thoughts and composing herself would be better medicine for Lavinia than anything else? On the other hand, the zombie felt like she should be doing something though...

In direct contrast to her earlier moment of physical pause, when Jade finished and took seat beside Lavinia, the vampire leaned towards her and collapsed into a hug, hiding herself against the other woman, using her body as a pillar to try and collect yourself. Her sobs were quiet, and though she didn't say anything in response to Jade's request to speak, she did nod. Whether or not Jade would understand the nod, she couldn't bring herself to talk right now. Thinking about Roman had been hard enough... Talking about him, describing him, had brought back all the wonderful memories.

I agreed to this... I should be able to manage this, right? Right...? She was starting to calm down, a bit, but not enough to talk, yet. Focus... What happened next? Memories of Roman... Of leaving Hwein, and joining Vaia's army. It would be easy to speak about that. Plenty had happened that didn't involve him... Plenty had happened that did. "I'm sorry," snuck out, this was such an unsightly moment...

It was always difficult, seeing a grown adult cry. Particularly more so the more solid and reliable seeming they usually were. And what was worse still, was knowing that she had caused it. Jade had let a little selfishness get the better of her, and look where it had led. The sinking feeling that she could never measure up to Roman didn't make matters any better either.

But when Lavinia crumbled, falling against her shoulder and burying her face into it, when she wrapped her arms around and clung desperately to her for support, the zombie did what zombies do best: refused to go down without a fight. Turning toward the vampire to make things a little more comfortable, a little easier on her, she gently rubbed her back, helping the other woman try to begin to settle down some. When, managing a nod through some sniffles, the vampire expressed an interest in the offered story, Jade tried to figure out how best to begin it, almost missing the muffled apology in the process.

Rather than acknowledge it directly, the merchant just nodded slightly with a weak smile and began to speak. "His name was Marcus, and he was a farm boy, probably very similar to the farm boys you used to know. When we were visiting his village my parents would buy from his parents: wheat, oats, hay, and other grains. No meats, though, they didn't raise any cattle, pigs, or chickens," a slight pause here, before Jade continued with related thoughts. "...Not that those were usually what we tended to trade in anyway. Perishables always needing extra precautions like they do. After it happened, I got to wondering if that small fact were cause, effect, or just something entirely unrelated... but I'm probably not making any sense to you right now, am I, I've drifted rather far ahead already."

A small laugh at her own foolishness, then Jade continued. "Right, so, my family were traveling merchants, and so not bound to any one place, so it follows that I didn't have the same sort of childhood friends or constant companions or whatever you might call it that most children do. In some ways I'm sure that certainly hurt my prospects, as you can well imagine, but maybe the bit of mystique about the girl who only comes around every so often ended up balancing it out? I don't know. I have a hunch my parents probably did their part behind the scenes to dissuade advances as well, they did have a preferred candidate, as I would later find out, after this thing with Marcus fell through, and while Robert wasn't exactly a bad man... he wasn't anything one would get excited over. But here I am again, wandering off course. I'm really bad at this, aren't I?" Another smile and a slight sigh.

"Anyway, what I've been trying to lay out as background was that, while there'd been some occasional flirting here and there, with a small number of boys from various towns, nothing of any remote level of seriousness ever developed until I was sixteen. We'll pulled into a village a few days north of Rilurorine, one of our frequent stops and the last one we'd had planned for that year. It was autumn and we weren't looking to travel that winter. So, there we were, in Marcus's village, and he finally had mustered up the courage, or maybe been dared by a friend, but I was asked to accompany him to the harvest festival, and I said yes."

"From the beginning, everything was going really well. Maybe it just seemed that way, because it was my first real date? But looking back for flaws it was hard to pick any out. Delicious food from the vendor stalls, managing a win against a rigged carnival game, enjoyable time at the square dance, first kiss... When it was getting to be about time for the fireworks display, he invited me to what he called his 'favorite spot', a nice private bit of hill a fair distance away from bulk of the proceedings. Now, even then I was no idiot, I had a decent idea of what he might be after: run his hand up the inside of my thigh, or slip it down the top of my blouse, or maybe a little more than that. But I was truly having a wonderful time, and maybe I would have let him? I couldn't be seen as giving up too easily though, so I asked him buy me another treat from one of the vendors, a candied apple, covered in caramel. Heh, sometimes I wonder how things might have gone differently if I hadn't."

"We arrived at his special space of hill, and honestly, it really was a good location: quiet, remote, and clear view of the sky. I'd been munching away at the apple as we'd walked over to it, and had made it around to the far side by this point; no complaints about taste or anything really. It was sweet, almost divine. The problem came--as the fireworks began slowly lighting up, one-by-one--with just an ordinary bite like any other. There was no expectation it should have been any different. But for whatever reason, whether the caramel was too sticky, or the apple too hard, or who knows, but as I pulled back from that bite I felt a sharp tug and a flash of pain."

"I'd lost tooth. It hadn't been especially loose, not that I recall, and of course this was well after all my baby ones had been long gone. It was just dumb luck, a bad hand dealt by fate. There I was, bleeding from the mouth, trying not to get any on my dress. I turned to say something, probably apologize, or to ask for help, a handkerchief maybe, I can't remember now exactly, the moment was kind of a blur, and a particularly bright firework lit up the sky. I expect he must have just been weak to the sight of blood in general, but I probably also did look something awful at the time. Poor boy turned white as a sheet and passed out."

Jade turned her gaze to her own lap here, and trailed off softly. "He never really talked to me again. Pride and shame, I suspect..."

Jade's tale was... Very amusing, from the start. Unable to stay on one track of what she was trying to say, framing everything in such a mundane way... It was comfortable to listen to. Comfortable enough to stop Lavinia from shaking, slowly. By the time she'd started talking about the festival, Lavinia was still, only the smallest sniffles escaping her now. Marcus... Seemed like a fine individual. From all she was hearing, Jade could've been leading a wonderful life, right now... To think a candied apple would ruin all of that.

The twist at the end was enough to make Lavinia snort, a laugh mixing into her noises, enough for her to raise her head just a bit. "I... I suppose, you've been scaring people with a bloody mouth, for quite some time now, hmm?" Perhaps a bit too on the nose of a joke, considering what had happened, but Lavinia didn't stop there, giving Jade a bit of a squeeze in their slightly side hug. "I would've laughed, though. Not to say... Marcus is at fault, it was surely a shock, but... Everything leading to such a moment, the perfect bite, the perfect lighting, you, with your mouth open..." Another snort and a chortle left her, letting up on the hug a bit to sit up properly.

"Worried as I would've been about your tooth... It's just too funny. What a terrible series of events... Hm, hmhmhm... Heheh..." Her spirits had been raised to a good enough level, even if it was at the cost of some of Jade's dignity. "Thank you... Jade. I'm sorry that your, first little romance didn't end up working out for you. Though, you're here now... So perhaps, I'm thankful." A final sniffle of the nose, hands and wrists clearing her eyes. "I feel so silly for crying so hard. I could not be in a better place to be sharing these feelings... I should be able to be stronger. Thank you, again, for putting up with me."

To be perfectly honest, Jade had expected her tale might be met with some laughter. Saying she'd planned on it would be taking things too far, but she'd prepared for the possibility mentally. Her reaction, then, was more playing along than anything.

"Hey, who said you could laugh," she protested, lightly elbowing Lavinia in the side as she echoed the woman's laughter with a few snorts of her own. "Though, that is certainly a more welcome sound coming from your lips than before." The corners of Jade's lips turned up in mirth, and angling to better face Lavinia she added with a twinkle in her eye. "What's more, I have to say I never imagined getting teased about having a bloody mouth from a vampire, of all things."

That comment sparked a thought, and after accepting Lavinia's apologies for making merry at her expense with a smile and a simple, "Crying, joking, teasing. It's all fine," Jade then continued on a little more somber, changing the subject of the conversation slightly. "I am reminded, though. Agni had expressed worry at the arena that you'd need to feed after all that fighting, and while I'd brushed that aside at the time, saying you'd had a meal just a little earlier... with how your wound wasn't healing quite right, I have to wonder. Do you? Need another bite?"

A bite... Lavinia wouldn't have minded, she was far from needing yet, but... Having something like that offered, what self respecting vampire would say no? As for Jade's surprise over being teased for her blood mouth, "really? I'm rather polite when I suck someone's blood. No mess at all... Perhaps a trickle, here or there, I have had my moments..." A faint red hit her face, remembering a rather embarrassing moment when she'd been new to this. She hadn't realized you had to begin to drink right away, and a mess had slipped down poor Roman's shoulder... Thinking about that brought a smirk to her face, even if it was sad. It was getting easier to think about him... Perhaps, this was a good idea, after all? Maybe with more time... I can remember the good things for what they were worth, instead of focusing on all the bad...

"If, you're offering, then, why would I say no? I did think your blood was rather delicious, after all. Thick as it was." Would Jade take offense to that being pointed out again? It certainly wasn't a bad thing, just made it more of a sauce than a drink... "Then..." They were already close, it was easy enough to slip her arm behind Jade's back and slide her just a bit closer. "I shall accept your offer." Collected, though perhaps not calm, Lavinia leaned her head up to Jade's neck and nestled there for a moment. "You do still smell wonderful, Jade." Incense and smoke, but not overwhelming. How very comfortable.

Teeth sunk into her skin, Lavinia unafraid to drink deep of the willing woman. That same rich, pleasant taste from before... Like gravy, still amusing to the vampire. I... Could get used to this taste. It was a stark flavor, far from Roman's... It was all Jade's own. Lavinia didn't want to compare her to the past. If this was to work... Jade was the future.[/spoiler]

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Marina gazed around the room, as discussions started, a sudden... green? Blue? Greenish blue? Blue woman coming to the table and talking with Jade. Soon she saw Ayane staring at her, their eyes locking for only a second before Ayane looked away, Marina shocked at the sudden agreement to helping investigate the spirit. It was nice, knowing the first person to speak up on this matter didn't outright disagree with Marina's decision.

-

"Ignore? No, miss..." As the genasi spoke, she made motions with her hands, as if trying to make physical emotions related to what she was trying to say, "T'was fighting, no need to... worry. Many thanks for, {saving my life}..." a pause, "s-saving me." She got out, "I'm, grateful."

Then her name was brought up. And why she approached the group in the first place. "I am Taiyute, y-yes miss..." Had she brought up her name? If so, she had forgotten, but she wasn't one to just forget someone's name was she? "I... come to you because, you... saved Aensbrook. I... am grateful... I would... {be willing to fight}..." Another pause, "want to... assist in the fighting..."

-

Marina listened in a bit to the conversation between this Taiyute woman and Jade, at least until a sudden outburst from Ren about her actions last night. The fact she had passed out from exhaustion hadn't been forgotten yet, but she didn't feel it needed to be brought up amongst everyone. Marina simply shrunked into her jacket, ashamed of herself for making yet another move that did not end well for her.

Of course Agni was quick to defend her, and she was grateful, but it was Lavinia's comment that stuck with Marina. She will learn that her life is not meant to be thrown away.

Why?! This is all my fault! I don't deserve all these luxuries! I'm the monster! I'm the-- Marina was ready to just start yelling, but nothing wanted to break free. Too much in her mind, too many people to watch her fly off the handle. She wasn't ready for that. She didn't want to do that. She didn't give any retort to his comment, or anyone else's.

Then a sudden revelation. Taliyah's father is Ithraxl? Would that mean she'd be forced to pull her punches? Marina truly didn't want to do anything to upset Taliyah, but would fighting Ithraxl be an unfortunate exception...?

-

Taiyute was shocked from all the sudden back and forthing, from the hero, to this halfblood, to some Ithraxl, and suddenly said halfblood was a fullblood. She turned back, and attempted whispering to Jade, "I... am confused. On all... What is an Ithraxl?"


The Princess and The Hero II

 

Another day, another long day of training, of studying, soaking in whatever she could in the hours of time she had during the day. And now, she was free again. Free for the next few hours. Soon, it'd be time to sleep again, and the routine begins anew. Honestly, Marina felt wear unlike anything she had felt before. She was decently exercised, sure, but this was different. She felt tougher, stronger, the strongest physically that she had ever felt. Maybe mentally, and spiritually as well, but she wasn't entirely sure.

I haven't checked on Princess Tenna in awhile, She had thought as she walked along the halls of the castle, it'd be best to see how she had handled. But had she overstretched her boundaries initially? Even Marina was freaked out by her own sudden spring to action that she pulled before. Maybe...

"Maybe..."

Marina decided it'd be best to try and see anyway. Maybe Tenna would be happy to see her. Or if not, it was worth the try previously, and worth the try now.

Soon enough, she reached the door, and propped her ear up to the room of the shut-in princess, trying to hear if she was busy or not. Then, a few soft knocks,

"Prin--" Nonono she didn't like that! "Uh, T-Tenna? Are you busy?" She had asked in a moderate tone, not entirely certain how she should be addressing the princess in a public-esque spot like the castle halls.

Marina's knock was met with the sudden collapsing of several piles of books, the clamor meeting the floor, and several squeaks trying to clean it all up. "I-I'm, fine, just... Augh..." Wh-Why is Marina here? I, I need to hide what I was, wr-writing... "Uhm, y, you, you can come, in... Marina..." Tenna had begun picking up the books she'd dropped in her surprised flinch, several stacks, once again... Though the room was much less of a mess than Marina's last visit.

That wasn't a good sound, all the crashing. Probably her books again. If anything, Marina could help her with cleaning her room again. Turning the nob, she stepped in, carrying a light smile,

"I-I hope I'm not interrupting anything," She started, walking in carefully, examining the room. Seeing the room not as much a wreck as before was relieving, a glad sigh, "I wanted to come see you, make sure you were doing okay since last time." And her smile widened a bit more.

"Y-You, wanted to... Come see me, huh?" Tenna couldn't help herself blushing. Marina coming to see her of her own volition, again, was... It was too much for the princess. Luckily, her hair was down, so she managed to hide her face behind most of it. "Well... Th-Thhhank you, M... Marina..." She slowly started to pick up the books she'd knocked over, not wanting Marina to think she was as messy as she was before. "Sorry... Uhm... I-I was r, reading, just... Wasn't, ex-expecting, company..." Finally, she shuffled what she'd been writing under the table she was sitting against, leaning against it. She'd been sitting on the floor, the table wasn't very tall... It would be enough to hide her embarrassing notebook.

Marina quickly came to the aid of stacking Tenna's books. It was a lot for just Tenna, so it seemed the necessary thing to do. One of said books felt particularly heavy, and Marina felt the strain of her muscles. A small groan escaped from her as she picked up the book and stacked it at the top, watching Tenna stuff something under her table. From the split moment she saw it, it looked like notebook.

"Oh, you write into a notebook too?" Marina asked, with a curious look.

Tenna froze up. Play it, cool... Sh-She didn't, see what was in it, you can just... Nod, and smile. "Y-Yeah... Diary, of, sorts... Didn't want y-you to see it, it, it's embarrassing..." Trying to help Marina with the rest of the books, she gave extra care to keeping her hair in front of her face. Marina... Looked tired. She'd probably just finished training. All sorts of weird and perverted thoughts quickly entered Tenna's mind, the rational side of her screaming for them to be quiet.

"Uhm... I-If, you're tired, you... Sh, Should, go... Go rest." There. That was normal.

"Ahh, okay," Marina understood, nodding, "I have one too, it's a few things, ummm..." She reached into her pouch, taking out a notepad, "I use it to write about my experiences. Or just ideas that pop up into my head." She made a small laugh.

Then she brought up if she was tired, Marina shook her head, "I'm not tired, exactly, I'm just a bit sore. Training takes a lot out of you," and she followed with a smile. "Besides, I thought it would be okay if I hung out with you before dinner. I thought I'd get fine rest as long as... you weren't about to get a practice sword out," she tried joking, not sure how Tenna would react.

"P-Practice sword? I, I'm all skin and bones... There's no way I could d-do something like that." Sore... Did she need something for that, then? "C, Can I help? M-Marina... With... How, sore you, are...?" There had to be something she could do, right? The hero... The human of another world, this wonderful girl, was... Was taking time out of her precious day to come and see her. For no other reason than that she wanted to be here. Surely, she could do something...

Marina gave a giggle about Tenna's comment. She was right, she was very skinny. Then her face focused on Tenna as she brought up helping her. Her smile turned warmer, grateful she knew someone so caring. "I uh..." She thought, "Honestly, I'd love if we could just, sit and talk." She suggested, rolling her shoulders a bit,

"Um, actually... do you by chance know how to... rub shoulders?"

 

Oh my Goddess did she just ask me to touch her what am I gonna do how am I going to deal with that she's so hot how do I even touch her without thinking anything perverted I'm a sinner I'll never be able to become the Saint with these sorts of thoughts I--

"Like... A-A mmm... Massage?" Tenna visibly gulped, nodding her head gently. "I... I c-can."

She could? That was relieving, she could ask for someone for something like that,

"Yeah! I, was never huge on... getting massages by strangers." Even Marina started shuffling her feet, "Would... you be able to do that for me?" She asked with wide-eyed innocence.

Oh great Goddess Ilrios keep me safe. Keep me sane. Keep my thoughts pure. I'm just helping a friend! Nothing more! Tenna, stay strong!

"Y-Yeah... Just... C-Come sit, over here."

Pure thoughts, pure thoughts, pure thoughts...

 

"Okay, you got it," Marina nodded, sitting in the spot where Tenna directed her. Rolling her shoulders again,

"Oh! Did you ever figure out anything you liked to read about? So I can tell you about stuff from my world?" She smiled, "I've got a few ideas in mind just in case, but I'd like to please you with good storytelling."

"But I'd like to please you--"

AHH!! FOCUS!

"You... C-Can, talk about, whatever, you... W-Want..." Trying her best, her Goddess be damned best, to stay composed... Tenna began gently working her hands into Marina's shoulders, to help her achieve some sort of relief.

"Okay, um..." A sigh of relief came out of Marina as she felt her shoulders being massaged. "U-um, okay..." She thought for a bit. A squeak came out, Tenna probably got a spot that was ticklish, but it gave her time for her metaphorical light bulb to pop.

"I got it. So, there's a series of stories from my world called Star Wars..."

Goddess please give me strength because I do not have any...

The squeak had almost been too much, Tenna pausing for a hard moment. "S-Star, wars? Why would... The, celestial bodies, f-fight?" What had Marina meant by that? It was enough of a curiosity to keep her in check, continuing to tend to the tired girl's body.

"Right so... In my world, celestial bodies are called planets. And Star Wars is about a world full of those planets, in a big collection of them called a Galaxy," Marina felt so in control, it was probably starting to be the best talking she's ever done,

"Star Wars has books, movies, comics, games spanning countless millenniums in-world..." How much did Tenna understand. "U-Uh right, uh... so movies are like, moving pictures with sound. And comics are like, smaller paper books with pictures and written in sound-effects like blam! and whammo!."

How fast was she going, should she calm down, "Oh, um... right. Am I going too fast? I can slow down if you want, let you process. I know our worlds are super different."

"Uh... Huh?" Tenna nodded, but she really didn't understand much of what Marina was talking about. It was keeping her mind sober, at least. She couldn't focus much on Marina's body with her mouth shooting off all these strange terms, impossible idea, and vast things of... Apparently, her own world. It was fascinating, but incredibly confusing. "I, I see... I don't really, g-get it, but I... I, I see..." Marina sounded like she was really interested in whatever she was talking about, at least.

"O-Okay, well... I'll try to simplify what I can," Marina wanted to think out her words as best she could, "So one of my favorite parts is a... series referred to as 'Knights of the Old Republic'. A part of it is about a woman called 'Meetra', and her story is about her causing a massive catastrophe. But then, after everything, she bounced back and ended up saving the galaxy." She smiled,

"Despite everything, even her teacher's lessons to abandon her values and morals, she was strong enough to keep on and change the world for the better," She spoke as her head started raising up. "I know it's just a story, but it's something that I love."

"I... I see..." Marina really seemed to enjoy her story, and it was definitely inspiring, to a point. "That... S-Sounds, really n, nice, Mmm... Marina." Tenna, though, was having a lot of trouble. It was hard to listen to Marina, while touching her, and not get any... Adverse, thoughts. She's so... Tough, and... And cute, and just... I, I love her. I can't. I shouldn't. It'll never, happen... But, I love her...

Slowly, Tenna's massage morphed into a hug, arms coming around Marina's front, resting herself against the little hero's back. "Th... Thank, you... For, uhm... C-Coming, to talk to me, and hanging, out. It's... It's, really nice. To have s-someone, care..."

Marina was happy talking about something she loved. She wasn't entirely sure how much Tenna was enjoying her story, but she seemed to like it. Then all of a sudden, Tenna stopped massaging her, "What is it, Ten--" And she was wrapped into a hug.

Soon enough, Marina replied with a hug of her own. She didn't get to give or get a lot of these, it was almost a blessing to her. With what she could, she reached to latch onto Tenna's arms, returning the hug. She closed her eyes as she accepted the embrace. "Of course, Tenna. That's what friends are for." Marina smiled, "I'm glad I met you,"

Friends... "Y-Yes." Tenna slowly let go of the hug, and returned to massaging Marina's shoulders. "I'm, g-glad, we're... Friends..." We, could never be more than friends. Of course... Thank you, Marina. I... I'm being a fool. That was very sobering. Thankfully, Marina was in front of her. She wouldn't see the sad look on Tenna's face. "Y-You should, keep talking about what you, were. It was interesting, t-to hear. Even if, I, I-I don't, g, get it."

 

Tenna retracted from her, and returned to massaging her shoulders. It was nice while it lasted. It was nice, having a friend she could confide in. Maybe at some point, she'd also be comfortable with telling Tenna about how she really did desire to go home. This wasn't the world for her, and while it was nostalgic talking about something she loved from her world, it was saddening at the same time. She didn't want to disappoint Tenna, though, so she kept her head down, and continued,

"Okay so um... I gotta think on that one, I don't know how much of Meetra Surik I could really talk about in too much detail... hmm... I suppose there's more of Knights to talk about, hmm... I need a moment to get my thoughts straight."

"Go ahead, Marina... T-Take all the t-t, time you nn, need..." Even if they were just going to remain friends... Tenna could enjoy what she had, while it lasted. Until she... Has to go off, on her crusade. I wish her luck. Please, survive, Marina... Come back. Even if you end up marrying my brother, I... I want you to be here. My only friend... Please...

Edited by Silver Gallade

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Gabriela was pleasantly surprised when that handsome guard Ren waved at her. "I suppose he really DOES like me, then.." But, after past experiences, committing to someone so fast would not do. For now, perhaps he can serve as a piece of eye-candy...or something more. Gabriela gave a wave back and smiled sweetly, hoping he would see it.

But her smile quickly turned upside down as Erephis practically told her to be patient about the box. Gabriela pouted. "But I want to know...." were the words that the siren managed to mumble out of her lips, not knowing if anyone even heard it. 

Lavinia scaring Taliyah was not something Gabriela appreciated, however. "Lavinia, dear, that grumpy look is not complimenting your natural beauty at all. Try to take things one at a time, and remember, it's morning not only for you, but for everyone." After that piece, she just went back to pouting and staring blankly at the wall.

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There went Ren, open as ever. He tends to think more with his feet than his head, as in he loved walking straight into a problem over thinking around it. The front door tactic if you will. Sadly that front door happened to be guarded by Agni and Lavinia, neither of which appreciated Ren's remarks about Marina. So brash, even if they did seem similar even Ayane had no idea what Marina's been through to this point. The hardheaded comment did make Ayane want to have Ren suffer for his mistakes, but it seems being in the presence of so much authority seemed to have a positive effect on Ayane. The leadership and camaraderie she had buried within her seemed to slowly reemerge, demanding she step up for her cousin. So she stood from her chair and looked toward Lavinia and Agni. "Ren meant no disrespect. He's the type that cares deeply for his comrades, to the point where his honesty cuts just as deep as his blade. You have my apologies." She bowed her head. "But rest assured you all have our full support going forward."

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"Right..." Jade wasn't entirely sure what to make of the newcomer, and making decisions about who actually got to join the group was not in her wheelhouse regardless. Better just do some introductions, and pass that buck along to where it belonged.

"Well, my name is Jade; that should do you rather than constantly having to call me 'miss'. As for Ixrathl, he is, uh... I guess traitor would the right word? He's leading a sedition movement, and this group here has been tasked with bringing that to an end. Our leaders are Lavinia and Nessraya," the zombie gestured at each as she said their name. She honestly wasn't sure who had greater authority, so just lumping the two of them together was a quick fix. "Marina there," another gesture, "...is an important uh, well... Her presence is vital to help with the nation's healing process." The Hero had been outed as such the night before, and while Taiyute had been present for that... given her lack of command of the common tongue, perhaps she hadn't quite grasped the full implications. There was a lot at play, and trying not to divert too much from the business currently at hand while still giving enough information to go off of was tricky business. Not to mention, she was essentially calling Marina out as just a figurehead, that was a bit awkward. Jade's expression reflected the discomfort that came with that. "I can catch you up on who everyone else is later, if you're given the go ahead to join up."

The news from Erephis that the group intended to head to Hwein eventually piqued Jade's interest, naturally. She hadn't remembered that ever coming up before. The merchant would have to ask after that at some point. Not now of course, there were already too many people pulling the conversation in two many directions, and it was more of a footnote than the main event, what with this business about taking care of a spirit first anyway.

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When Gabriela returned his wave with a wave of her own and her cute smile, his chest fluttered briefly before disappearing as soon as he garnered other attention.

He took the comments and reactions from the hero's close companions in stride, neither flinching nor reacting back in a negative manner.  All he did was wait, face calmed with a small smile on his lips.  That the other two would stand up for Marina had Ren feeling...nostalgic.  Just as what they had done for her, he would've done the same for Ayane, and she-

Well, there was no point in explaining, his cousin doing the thing he had expected her to do.  Closing his eyes, he took a moment for the words to sink in (and also took a moment to reminisce in some old memories), before opening them to face Lavinia and Agni.

"Thank you cousin, I appreciate the help and explanation.  All I do and say, even if it may be crass and unprecedented, is because I care deeply." He places a hand over his chest, where his heart should be.  "We may not know each other for long, but I take my job very seriously.  I want us to succeed, and I worry just as equally as everyone.  I know it's...brash, but I can't help it.  I wear my heart on my sleeve, because I care."

Maybe a little too much-

"I do sincerely apologize if I have offended you both, that was not my intention."

A bow, this time instead of just his head he bent his body as well for a more respectable response.

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Bladen hadn't really had much more to say after the discussion of the spell ended, but all of that was quickly pushed to the back of his mind by the explosion from Lavinia. Followed by the necklace causing Taliyah to look like a human and Bladen was well and truly startled. "So she's his daughter and now can pretend to be a human... Nice. How would that interact with her tail though? I mean, since she looks human, but her tail sometimes, yknow, takes stuff." Like how she'd taken Requiem from Jade's wagon back when they'd first met. "Will it just look like something is moving through thin air?"

Bladen had followed along Asami quietly, still lost in thought and worry, only snapping out of it somewhat when they reached their room. Entering in just a step behind the fox, he slowly, mechanically, made his way to his bed. Unbuckling his sword belt, he rested the sword gently against the side of the bed, before pulling out his pack. Sitting down, he picked up his blade again, settling it across his lap.

"I... You can start talking." That was probably not the politest way of saying that. He couldn't think of any way better though. "I'm listening. I am. I just..." He gestured at his blade, blood spattered and dirty. "I need to clean this. My f- I was taught to clean it first thing after a battle. You can't let the thing keeping you alive go uncared for. But I'm listening." This was honestly good for him. It was something he could do without thinking too hard, but it was still something. Something to keep his hands busy, something to hopefully keep him from worrying more. Routine. Something he didn't have much of anymore, something he hadn't realized how much he would miss until it was gone. Snatched away, possibly never to return. Certainly never to return in the same way... Focus. Cleaning the blade and listening. Those are the only two things you're allowed to do right now.

"... Alright..." Asami couldn't help but pout at the status of Bladen. He was still so shaken, speaking hurriedly, being curt, it was... Difficult, to watch. Could she really do anything to help him? Wouldn't telling him this just work him up further? But, she'd promised...

"So... This, creation magic, of yours... It's very old. As far as I know, it's only something that Fallen can do. And it..." This was where the details got a bit fuzzy, but... "Uses your own, inner magic, to create objects. Like those swords of yours... What follows has varied, from what I have seen. Yours exploded after impacting... Rather powerfully, at that." That was the process, at least.

"Where it comes from, it... It, simply appears to be a magic that has been born from your people. Though it has... Died off, in recent generations. Perhaps deemed too dangerous, perhaps simply not used... I haven't met many Fallen that have been able to use it. I suppose that makes you special~" Asami managed a giggle, but ended up sighing. "I do worry... About what it means, that you can use it. So long as it didn't make you feel anything, lightheaded, or pain... I... Suppose, it's fine."

The sword cleaning had gone quickly. He hadn't really used it all that much now that he thought about it. He'd mostly used the sword of the former Demon King, something that he somewhat regretted now. Setting it to the side as he processed everything she said, he sighed. "So it's something unique to us... That tracks with the stories I've heard."

He looked up at her as she sighed, and did his best to smile. It wouldn't do to keep being stuck in his head. He had to try to force his way into a better headspace. Or at least pretend he was there. "I will say though, I'm surprised to hear you've met many Fallen at all, much less ones that could use this magic. We're a pretty reclusive group. Have you visited our home or just found the few that wander? Though I suppose nothing about you should surprise me at this point, you're certainly unique in all that you've experienced."

He looked down at his hands, flexing them briefly, before shaking his head. "No pain, I can say that. I don't think I was lightheaded, though I wasn't in the, uh, best headspace to remember that for sure. I don't think I could do it on command though. What happened just... It felt more like the magic was using me than I was using the magic? Maybe that's why it's dangerous... If it's something that can just burst out of you..." He frowned, worried about the possibility that it could happen again in less useful situations. "I don't suppose you know of a way to learn how to control it, do you? Since you seem to have seen it before..."

"Controlling it..." Everything else he'd reported was fine, at least. Not that she cared much for his comments about who she'd met~ "First, I am rather... Traveled, I'm sure you've figured out. I've met a lot of people over the centuries... Some just happened to be Fallen. I, can't exactly say who, it has been quite some time, but... They did have control over this magic, to an extent. Hmm..." Asami wracked her mind for quite some time, trying to remember the specifics...

"If... I am remembering correctly, it had to do with emotions. Having a good grasp of your anger, your sadness, your happiness... All of those things, I suppose. Or, like you said... Not having a good grasp, and it will use you. You were... Exasperated, panicked, anxious, all of those flowing out of control. That is likely why it manifested... Though I doubt you'd be able to will it back, so easily." Another sigh, Asami slowly flopped onto the bed, laying down, staring at the ceiling. "It is certainly dangerous... Do you still think it's worth chasing? I won't blame you, if you do. It's a part of your heritage, it's powerful... It's surely something worth mastering."

 

Did he want to chase it? An obvious question, one that seemed like it should be easy to answer. And yet Bladen found himself hesitating. He'd always known who he was, what he was, what he had to look forward to in his life. But this was something else. On the surface, it seemed like it would make sense to pursue it. After all, getting better control of his emotions would only help, it couldn't hurt. But with how hesitant Asami was being, it seemed like there was something he was missing.

"I... It's less about me using it. I don't know if I want that. But I... I don't like the idea of it being able to use me. Who knows when it could show up again? Just because this time it was useful doesn't mean next time it will be. What if I get angry at someone in the group? O-or what if it shows up because of other emotions?" A blush appeared, giving away what sort of emotions he was thinking of here. A quick cough to try and disguise the embarrassment and he pushed on. "I just. It seems like it couldn't hurt to try and learn more. Unless there's something I'm missing."

"Other... Emotions~?" Asami rolled onto her stomach at that comment, her yukata, as always, revealing just enough, but never everything. "I suppose I could handle something like that... Unless you're worried about someone else, and you're about to break my poor, poor heart~" Another giggle, she was appreciating her pace. "That... Is the issue, though. If you can't control yourself, you can't control the magic... It will appear to protect you, even when you don't need it. That could happen in any, unfortunate situation... Of couuuurse, if you ignore it, it may simply manifest again, when you don't need it, anyway... Seems it would be better to get a hold over it, than let it run wild, no~?"

"Hhhh, you know what I mean..." It was his turn to flop down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. It was definitely so he could think, certainly not to avoid getting more flustered by her pose. "I guess it just seemed like you were... warning me. Trying to get me not to work on it. Like it was more dangerous than risking it running wild." He grabbed the comforter with one hand, bunching it up tightly for a brief second before releasing it with a sigh. "But I do think it would be better to at least try and work on it. Even if I fail... it seems worth doing."

"Well... The risk is that you don't get a handle on it, but you become more powerful... Suddenly, you've got deadly magic set on an anger trigger, with nothing you can do about it. That would be the biggest risk... If you think that's worth it, then, by all means. Pursue. Otherwise... I would go home right now." She glanced at him, hoping he would take her seriously. "I am having quite a lot of fun with you, Bladen. It's nice, to have someone willing to push their boundaries, just to mess with someone like me... But, that's all it is, right now. Fun... Whether it becomes something more depends on you, and time spent, but that means staying here. If you do, you'll fight more. Get stronger. So will your magic... So if you... Are too afraid, to pursue what's hiding inside you... You should fly on home tonight."

You should fly on home tonight. He froze, staring up at the ceiling, before slowly sitting up and looking at her. Really looking at her, trying to read her expression and failing completly. As always, he couldn't tell what she was thinking. Going home, maybe that was the right move. Maybe she thought so too. It was just fun... No. She said it could become more. But his mother was surely missing him, and it wasn't like he had some pressing reason to be here anymore. The Hero wasn't the monster he'd thought she was, she was more just a clueless girl who had gotten wrapped up in something so much bigger than she had known.

... So much bigger... So maybe there was a reason. She wasn't the reason his father was dead. Not really. But someone was. There was more going on here than he knew. Staying with this group had the chance to get him answers, even if they weren't from the Hero. And to get those answers, to deal with the consequences of those answers, he knew he needed to get stronger. Maybe mastering this magic was what he needed to do, how he could help put his father's memory to rest.

And besides... He couldn't give up on Asami just like that. He knew that she was probably going to get bored of him sooner rather than later, move on to her next target, find someone better... But he couldn't let his giving up be the reason for that. He couldn't put it into words, not really, but he knew that he was going to stay by her side as long as she let him. It didn't make sense. Emotions didn't happen that quickly, certainly not for Fallen. Not when it came to romance. But she had him hooked, and he couldn't fight it anymore.

"I... I can't. I have too much to do still. Too much keeping me here. I can't run away from this. This is where I belong. And this is my inheritance. I won't let it control me. I'm not going to be scared of something that is my birthright."

Asami glanced at him... Smiled, and sat up, leaning closer. "Ooohhh, you really sounded manly there, Bladen... 'This is my inheritance. I'm not going to be scared of something that is my birthright', mhmhmhm~ I'm swooning all over again." She was giggling, but it was really nice to see Bladen taking that much time to think and answer properly. More than properly.

"Then, stay! I'm glad to have you. If you need me help with your magic, and there's something I can do, I'll do my best~" She had a sizeable amount of control over magic, if something regarding that needed her aid then she could give it freely. Though, considering what she knew about this creation magic, it would mostly be on Bladen's shoulders. What she could do to help there, was...

"Now... Since you've got all that sorted," she began, holding her arms out, "come here, and let's get some rest, hmmm~?"

"Heh, I don't know about manly. I'm just. Tired of this all I guess. Tired of feeling scared, tired of running... I guess that's kind of why I'm here. I was running away from facing the truth of what happened..." His musings were mostly to himself at that point, but were quickly interrupted by her invitation.

Turning pink again, he shook his head. "Look, I... We were in separate beds before. No need to change that now." He knew she was doing one of two things. One, trying to tease him again, get him all worked up and then poof, she'd turn into a log or something. Or two, trying to comfort him. He knew he wanted to avoid one for obvious reasons, but two... It didn't feel right. The timing... She was only offering as sympathy. And that didn't feel like the right foot to start off on with all of this. Though it wasn't really starting off... Ugh, you're going to give yourself a headache... Or she is, one of the two.

"Boo," she huffed, letting her arms fall, not afraid to abuse her good looks to pout. "Here I was hoping we could get just a bit closer... Alright, then." She sighed, flopped, and rolled over. Her tail was more than enough to keep her warm, with the moderate weather they had going on, so she collected that in a hug instead. "I hope you sleep well, then... Alone. Mrrrh..." She was clearly disappointed... But, other than her small jab, fighting it wouldn't help anyone.

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"At ease, Sir Ren, no offence taken." Agni held his poker face. Best to let that matter fly, he figured. "It certainly is a noble sentiment to worry for someone you've just met, but I beg you to wait a while longer, and see her in action, at a better time." Perhaps the oni were easy to protect, but at the moment there was no denying it seemed they were easy to judge instead. Agni would withhold his judgment, and perhaps watch closely. At least, Ayane pleased him with her intent, getting a nod out of Agni.

And then... another derailment, Taliyah's roots, and some illusion magic that would help them in the long run? Agni paid close attention to how it shifted Taliyah's appearance. It was quite curious... "I admit I was surprised when I learned of Taliyah's heritage. Overnight, mind you. I understand her relationship with her father was not the best, especially with how far out he let her go." Agni took the opportunity to vouch for her --in for a penny, in for a pound, he figured--. "Perhaps with Taliyah on our side, we could make Ithraxl step down... If he is willing to atone for his rebellion, of course." He quickly interjected himself, upright on his seat, best not to get ahead of the game without knowing that man's character. "Still, that is just an option, if the chance provides itself."

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"It... may be possible. However, I'm doubtful that Ithraxl will back down given the circumstances, even if Taliyah were to attempt to convince him. I would love to be able to take him alive, however... Taliyah. You do understand what we have to do if your father refuses to stand down, yes?" Nessraya chimed in, Lavinia already giving more than enough of an outward reaction to Taliyah's heritage... adding any more surprise to the matter wouldn't help things, especially given what she was now asking the half-lizard to acknowledge. Even if she was his daughter, Ithraxl was bull-headed at the best of times, and being a half-breed... the ex-Captain had no kind words for them.

"My apologies for putting additional pressure on you, but it's important that you are fully aware of what lies ahead, for us. I would hate for the gravity of your situation to not come up until it was too late."

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All Ren's continued explanation did was earn him a tiny glare from the dragoness. As he himself thought, it would've been better if he had remained silent. However, his faux pas was the least of her worries, the bundle of news being dropped on everyone's heads, save Agni's, about their local lizardgirl was far more concerning. Why did Taliyah confide in him, of all people? Why did she have to let this out last night, of all nights? Xalrei was doing her best not to stare at the pair, now that Taliyah was behind him, staring instead at the table and at anyone that wasn't them; unfortunately, Agni was probably sharp enough catch on to how much this was bothering her, if he was paying attention.

As for how she felt regarding everything aside from her misgivings about confiding in Agni... She was only more determined to take Ithraxl down; though, for Taliyah's sake, she would avoid killing him, if possible. However, how he could just, toss aside his daughter so callously was beyond her. With how she was raised, she was just unable to comprehend it. She struggled for a moment, searching for something to say, to add to the conversation. However, in the end, Xalrei kept her mouth shut on the matter; anything she would've said would've just inserted her foor right into her mouth, or wasn't suited for the current conversation. Instead she just nodded her head to at least show she was paying attention. 

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"Morning for everyone indeed. Feh..." The siren seemed awake enough, more than willing to make eyes at their new companion. "You're free to care all you wish, but choose your venues with more tact." Hopefully that would be the last word on the discussion, Ren and Ayane seemed apologetic, though Ren seemed to be trying to weasel some of his reasoning into it... No, you're just upset. Too many things all at once. It's fine. It's fine... Lavinia sighed heavily, as other trains of thought transpired at the table. Nessraya's important question, for one.

"I..." There was a look of determination on the lizard girl's face, though it was weak. "I, know that. He... He's, being, an idiot. I... I don't want to kill him. But..." A small tremble in her lip, her eyes began to water enough to notice, yet she continued on. "If he has, t-to die, then... He... He has, to... To die. I won't... I w-won't, try and stop any of you. I'm... He doesn't, s-see me as his daughter, anyway..."

"Oh, T-Tali..." Erephis reached over to pat her shoulder a bit, the girl flinching, but not moving away from the attention. Her aunt had always been kind to her. If only I'd been able to be in your life more... You poor dear. "Assss, for her tail, the locket w-works just like mmm, my ssssspell. Except, it, hasss no duration, sso... As long asss she's w-wearing, it, ssshe should be, f-fine. No isssues with her tail." Erephis was slowly turning redder as she spoke. Her stutter had begun to annoy her, so she was trying to speak a bit faster in her explanations, but that just made her trip over her tongue more and more. "Ss--Sorry, f-for my, speaking, patterns. Uhm... F-Forked, tongue is difficult, s-sometimes."

"You should use that for stuff, Eryyyy~" the very tired fox chimed in, yawning and slumping more against Bladen, almost falling into his lap. "I'm sure the boys would looooooooove it. Or the girls... I'm not gonna judge~"

"Oh, for Hel's sake, Asami, wake up. Bladen, shake her, or something." Another annoyance to Lavinia's pile. "Jade, since you seem to be attending to our new guest, I'm going to leave her to you... Everyone else... Since we seem to agree that dealing with this forest spirit is in our best interests, then we'll leave as soon as you've all eaten, and begin to make our way south. I'll speak with Geoffrey and see if he can provide directions, after we leave the main road. Surely someone in town has reported where this nonsense is going on." That all said, Lavinia excused herself from the table, a scowl on her face. Hood up, she swiftly left the room, boots clanking against the inn's wooden floor rather heavily.

"Mrrrr... Geez... Someone's a ray, of sunshine, this morning." Asami yawned again, and finally started to wake up, hugging Bladen's arm. "Morning, handsome~"

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Ren had apologized for his comment. While she wasn't a fan of hearing it, as she knew she wasn't in a position to complain, she was grateful he was understanding. And even with the doubts eating at her, she was grateful for Agni and Lavinia standing up for her. Though she wished she'd stop locking up in these situations... And she didn't have any words for Taliyah, and it was hurting her. Poor Taliyah having her world change so much, and her father was now her enemy. It reminded Marina of her potential encounters with...

And soon after, it seemed that it was time to get ready to leave. That meant she had a small mission left before leaving. She turned as she watched Lavinia speed off. Again. Would she try chasing after her again? Well, she had to go that way anyway. Maybe things would go better than last time... and if things ended up reflecting last night... No no... Not again.

She got up from her seat, and started following Lavinia into the hallway, much easier to catch up in her lighter wear. "Would you like some company? If not... I have my own things to do, it's fine," Marina's voice in regards to the request was not as strong as she liked. It wasn't like last night, this time expecting to be told off again.


"Jade. Jade... Jade, like, the rock!" Taiyute answered with confidence. As she listened, she soaked in everything she could. They were planning to fight someone. A sedition? Like, a rebellion? Taiyute could infer to a degree. Then took in that Nessraya and Lavinia, the succubus and vampire respectively, were the groups leaders.

Then, there was the girl. The girl who stormed off after Lavinia. The Hero. "Yes, I know... little. A Hero, special human." She nodded, "She feels nothing like I expected. {She is no beast}..." And a pause. She soaked the information of everyone else, trying to learn what she could. There was a bit of pause as she looked at Jade, a bow, "Many thanks, Jade... Again, thank you for being my savior." And she approached the succubus. Patiently waiting, not intending to butt into another individual's conversation.

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"... Marina..." Lavinia sighed. It wasn't last night... It wasn't about Roman. "Sure. I suppose I wouldn't mind." Lavinia tried to smile, just a bit, heading out with their little hero in tow. Lavinia had simply wanted some air, and a break from all the information. "Now... Marina. Ren may have been out of place... But he is right. You do not value yourself enough, you know?" Hopefully she did. "And, before you claim that you do not deserve it, let me retort with something rather important... You do." Marina had eaten away at herself before with Bladen... Given her demeanor during their morning meeting, was it still on her mind? "Even the people in this village can see that you have changed. Maybe not all of them... But enough to make your cause worthwhile. Enough for you to be able to make a difference. The number will only increase as we move forward, I truly hope you understand this... You hurt this country, but you're already making a change to help it for the better."

Perhaps not what Marina wished to hear, but necessary, Lavinia felt. The changes she was making by leading this group were already visible. "As for last night, I... My, apologies, for being so cold. I... Simply, dot not wish to speak about that subject with anyone but Jade right now. I hope you can understand, Marina... One day, I will be able to tell you. Just... Not, yet. If that is a problem... I am sorry, again." Hopefully that would be enough for her curiosity, or worries. "Finally, this morning... I was simply getting overwhelmed by all the information. I am alright. I promise... Thank you for coming after me, today." A proper smile, the vampire bowed ever so slightly for Marina. "It's nice to know you care."

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Marina's face had a particular look of focus as Lavinia spoke to her. It was... oddly nostalgic. Despite how she had felt last night, Lavinia still very much was like a mother figure, and she appreciated her concern. Of course, she was right; Marina knew she pushes herself too hard, drags herself down more than she would like to admit... "It's not that I don't value myself." She took a deep breath, closing her eyes briefly. "I know how the town reacted, I know I feel I did good, but it's not enough... not to me. I want to be better, I'm sick of this aching feeling every time something inconveniences me... But my mind won't let me just, set it aside, and be proud. And piled with all that..." A sigh, "I'm not, the only person I have to answer for," Lavinia could infer on what she meant, but she planned to build up on it in a moment.

Then there was the point of Roman. Of course Lavinia didn't want to bring that up. Not that Marina blamed her, "Last night was why I put the sword away..." She shook her head, "I know you don't want to talk about it, but I just want to say my piece, and for as long as you want... I'll drop it after." Marina followed with a deep breath, "I may have to carry his mistakes, but I want to prove that I'm not him. I'm not just 'the person who wields the holy sword'. And I don't want to be tempted to use it again... Like before, with Erephis, I know you'd be looking at me differently if I killed her... If I was just that much closer," She squeezed her fingers together, "If I had just a bit more willpower, that night could've turned out so much differently... And I don't want that." Soon enough, the girl started shaking, "Every fight we had, one of my first thoughts would be my temptation to whip out the stupid sword, and what does that make me? Even though I know what it does, how I see myself and what it does to me..."

She had to pause, "I-I... I'm sorry, I just... I just didn't want you running off alone again. I didn't mean to, or want to... throw all that at you."

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"Mmnnh..." Lavinia felt herself groan a bit with that sigh. Marina was... Troubled, clearly, but... How best to say this? "To alleviate a concern... Erephis wouldn't have died, getting attacked by the holy sword, so worry not. It would have hurt, severely, yes, but you are not quite strong enough to kill someone like her outright... I do hope you are not disappointed by that." A hefty smirk, Lavinia gently reached a gauntlet out and rustled Marina's hair slightly. "As for the sword itself... You must carry it, Marina. I know that the burden is severe, but you have already proven that you are not like the man before you. As well... Jade cannot simply look after something so important. At the least, should a thief assail you and attempt to steal it from you, you can defend yourself. Jade must concentrate on driving her cart, her steeds, her gun... If someone snuck their way into her wagon whilst she was fighting, and took the sword... What then?" Hopefully Marina understood. "There are people who would see to acquiring it for worse reasons than simply defeating a country... Remember that, Marina."

Lavinia sighed again... How grave. "That said, you should not fight that worry of yours. There are things in this world that you shouldn't be afraid to use the sword on... People, as well. I can think of a certain leader of Khach that I wouldn't mind you running through..." Lavinia grit her teeth a moment, grumbling. "Anyway... That was a long way of saying: I understand how you feel. You simply must understand your importance... And the importance of carrying something so terrifying, but succeeding without needing it. It will send a powerful message... Not only to the people of Vaia, but to those in Hwein, Khach... Maybe, even Coteon. What I wouldn't give for them to wise up and see the error of their ways..."

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"Apologies for digging, Taliyah. I wouldn't want you to be... unprepared for what may come, is all. You're a strong girl."  Nessraya replied, glad that Erephis had taken to comforting the lizard... she certainly could use it after all this. That seemed to be all that remained aside from preparations, until their wispy guest came up to the General. stopping and waiting.

"Can I assist you with something?"

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"Mm.. Mhm," Marina had been listening, responding to the woman's words. Maybe she was right, Erephis may not have died, but what if she failed that 'test'? It only continued bringing more questions and more things that just kept piling up on Marina's mind. But she had to, she pushed back those feelings. Lavinia was doing what she could to ease her spirits. Why? Why couldn't Marina just accept it? Accept that she has that chance to feel happy, proud...

And she thought about how that wasn't it. She's tried. This wasn't the first time Marina tried to put on a smile. Something would knock her back down again, but maybe... a refusal to stay down on the ground and keep coming back up.

And of course, the Holy Sword... And Lavinia was correct in her words. Marina should keep it on her as much as she didn't want it. She nodded, and she wanted to put her foot down, "I understand, I'll... take back the Holy Sword. It won't leave my side, I promise." She nodded, practically falling into Lavinia with a hug. "I'm tired of this stupid feeling, Lavinia... I'm sorry."

There was the other thing, this 'leader of Khach,' and she unwrapped from the hug, "U-Um, who is that, leader?" She remembered their discussion at the castle, "I think you said... Asphodel Ana, the last time we talked about Khach."


"Y-yes... Apologies for... the interrupting of your talk." She shook her head, Focus Taiyute! She mustered what she could, "I spoked with Jade, and... I am informed you are one of the leaders. And you have much fighting continuing. If I may... {I would assist in your efforts}..."

A pause, she shook her head, it seemed as if she had blushed in nervousness. "Help. I'd like to... help you fight."

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