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

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What was this disturbance in Taiyute's range? The breeze got unnaturally rough as she turned to react against whatever seemed to be flying into her direction. Her instant move into attacking mode quickly dissipated as it was the dragonewt who flew towards her, asking her a simple question. Something easy, thankfully.

And a chance to get another reaction of someone messing up her name.

"Taiyute." She made a nod, "It is very fine, my name is bizarre, yes." The genasi assured, a pat on the shoulder. "I am walking much because... many things." Her speech suddenly got faster, "No things very bad though. Air genasi like I, we... like travel. Staying places, not moving, it gets... uncomfortable, for lacking of good words. Yes? And fire is not a good for us. Not one bit. No rest either, we mostly refresh with the magic healing. Is best way to recover lost energies." Then, a shake of her head,

"Apologies for the ramblings, and fast talkings... I hope my words had understanding." She clapped her hands together apologetically. "You like the flying and moving around as well it seems, yes?"

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Agni, for his part, prefferred to stay inside the wagon.

A week on the road wasn't much to a trained veteran, but the usual tensions were bothering him some. With a bit of concern in his face, albeit vacant eyes, Agni stared at his dagger, turning it like an artifact to be appraised.

"...Hm?" That apparent trance broke the moment the entrance to the wagon was breached by another member. The Siren. "Hello, Gabriela." Agni greeted, expression mellowing to neutrality. "Are clouds gathering again, or did someone forget something?" He took a shot in the dark, the main reasons he'd think to see her come inside --though the latter was probably rare of the independent lady.

Still, her presence was not a bother.

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"I know that, stupid--" Asami cut herself off by diving into Bladen and giving him a massive hug, squeezing herself against him. "There! Now you can't get away!" A huff, she sighed, continuing to rest against him. "Why are you so upset? Was it because of what happened before with Marina? Well, so what? You're right, anyway. She did something stupid, what's wrong with telling her she did so?" Asami didn't quite understand what the big deal was, if Marina was going to act like an idiot, wasn't it there job to call it out and get her to stop? It wasn't like Bladen was barking at her for every little thing.

"AND on top of being so upset, you've been ignoring me! You're breaking my poor heart here, Bladen... Honestly, after all those strong words about being around me, you're just going to let one moment of an idiot get your feathers so ruffled that you ignore someone so... Striking? Beautiful~? Captivating? Truly, truly cruel..." She wasn't letting go, though, he'd have to pry her off of him if he wanted out of this hug. She was getting her fill of bird.


"Of course... A-And thank you, Ren. A-Ahem..." Erephis was taken aback by the disarmingly pleasant smile of the oni, trying to smile back at Ren before slowly opening an old tome she'd brandished. "Ahh... R-Right. I've found an old spell-- A v-very old spell, about reversing the zombification of those partially undead... It... Uhm, would nnn, not work on someone like Jade, who has completely necrofied, but... Well, er... I-If we can hold your sister, down... We... Might be able to, uhm, r-reverse what Ouka has done to her. I..." She gulped, intimidated by Ayane's resting face, shrinking a bit as her tail sunk. "It... Just, m-might kill... H-Her... For good."


Lavinia couldn't help a small smile at Bridgit's discomfort; she was still the same girl that the knight had left waiting at the castle. Sitting down with her at the fire, across from the other little group, Lavinia gently began to pet her hair, still smiling. "I'm not upset with you, Bridgit, before you become worried. I am simply... Worried. I don't quite understand why you followed after me. That... And..." Lavinia looked around the group, before settling back on the small vampire. "You haven't been making much of an effort to get along with those here, you know? If you're going to stay with us, you'll have to speak with more than myself and Nessraya... I'm glad you've warmed up to Jade, at least."

Hopefully her words would help any of the girl's fears, Lavinia leaning back and resting on her hands. "Now... I'd like you to tell me why you followed after me, without missing a beat. I'll decide on what I should be doing with you, after hearing it." Lavinia was just trying to spook her a bit, now. There was no way to send her home at this point, but maybe Bridgit didn't realize that.


"Uwah! N-Nessraya... Ahh... W-We, we were just..." Taliyah was quite spooked by the sudden appearance of someone so important, not to mention attractive. She was taken aback, her words failing her, but luckily Aithlin was there for the save.

"Worry not, general, we're just planning something nice for the little hero. Taliyah's a real sweetheart, even if she'll never admit it. Maybe you can join us in finding something appropriate for Marina?" The elf had a suave head on her shoulders, when there wasn't a battle raging around her.

"Uhm... Y-Yeah. That was all... I-I'd be, more than pleased, if you came along Nnnn... G-General. No, N-Nessraya... I... We're all allies here, I'm not a sssoldier... Uhm... Sorry. Used to having to re-respect people above me... But! Y-You can, come along if you want! I'll p-pay for, stuff."

"Oh, dear, you've gone and spooked her... Ness is just another girl, like us, Taliyah~ You don't gotta be so scared."

"Aha... I'll... Mmm, try."

 

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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To her relief, Agni was indeed there, who seemed to be playing with his toys. He seemed amenable enough to her prescence, which was great. "Sorry, you're wrong. I simply came for a talk. I haven't really had an in-depth conversation since...that happened last week. I thought now was as good of a time as any to get to know you better. I don't know much about you, and I imagine you don't know me very well either, so if you have any questions, I'm listening." Gabriela sat down near Agni. "I for one, am curious. What is life like where you're from? Despite my age, I don't see humans very often.."

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This Bridgit was a little haughty, with high bearing, but somehow not oppressively so. Which was to say, not the worst noble Jade had ever had the misfortune of having to deal with, either professionally or socially. She didn't end up prying much, though, partly on account of that, either as the vampire had accompanied her back to the wagon while Lavinia had been occupied, or on the few occasions they'd shared more time together in the intervening week since then. They had time enough; no point in rushing things.

Today, Jade had been off by herself, instead of palling around with her dead friends. Shooting squirrels, believe it or not, with her rifle. She had some special cartridges she'd put together, specifically for tasks such as these, which is a very different one than stopping hostile human sized targets, or even large mammals like deer. Unfortunately, using the gun for tasks it wasn't really designed for--though there were other models on the market with different bore sizes that would be more appropriate, she didn't have any of them in inventory--meant the accuracy suffered significantly, which in a way, was a welcome challenge and a test of her skills.

The zombie had just finished taking a shot, and was grumbling as she saw the small rodent scamper away unharmed... for now. As she considered reloading for another go, a familiar voice called out to her. Lowering her gun, barrel angled to the ground, she turned to look behind her. Ah, the hero.

"Good evening. Are things well?" It would be a stretch to say it was out of character for Marina to approach her like this, but it wasn't common either. If there was a problem, best to find out quickly.

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Taking a look around, Marina noticed the squirrel fleeing after Jade seemed to miss? Practice shooting? Hunting? Either way, it seemed like a good past time for Jade. Not everyone can be an expert marksman instantly.

Her attention returned to the zombie, and Marina thought for a bit, "Honestly... yeah. Really," She made a few small nods. For the first time since... When she was in Coteon, she slept soundly with Nessraya's help. The days after without her were okay, at best. "The past week without any fights has made it, smoother, I think." Another nod. "I was just coming to check on you, cause I didn't before. I'm sorry, I wasn't... haven't been well." Her hands clasped together after her apology. "A-And I did want to let you know, even if you already knew... your clothes are cleaned and stacked back in the wagon. I wanted to... I guess, personally return them to you, but we've been sidetracked. Thank you again."

Maybe Jade didn't really want all the rambling, or she'd rather Marina kinda just went off and did her own thing. Marina did want to talk to or spend time someone, at least a little bit. "And I guess, would it be alright if I joined you, in whatever you're doing?"


A Subject of Concern

Spoiler

A couple days had already passed since the occurrence with the wraith. Even with the conversation with Taliyah, Marina was still bitter, still upset. In time, Marina thought she'd calm down a lot more, however it was either a slow grind, or not improving at all. To the point where a lot of time starting being spent by herself, sitting in the wagon, with her lantern, trying to escape with her notepad. No matter what she tried, things just kept getting worse. The nights got longer, sleep was shorter, and she was too scared prideful to ask for help.

During the evening, going into night, Nessraya had called for Marina. Begrudgingly, she had blown out and collapsed her lantern. Putting it away, she slid out the wagon, sighing. She looked around for her advisor, who motioned her to follow her. Following as requested, she saw Lavinia where they were at.

They were going to talk about what happened with her and that weird corpse monster, weren't they? And with Lavinia too? A small, barely audible groan escaped her lips. She approached the both of them, eyes already heavy. She simply gave a nod of acknowledgement.

Marina still looked in rather poor shape... it was a pity to need speak of such things when the Hero was not at her best, but if this stupor were to remain... well, things needed be addressed eventually despite. With any luck, Marina would be receptive to her aid, after this unsavoury discussion was over and done with. 

"Well, Marina. I presume you already know what it is we wish to speak with you about, yes?"

Another nod followed, a sigh, not entirely certain of how it formed. Despite the fact she didn't really want to be here, she knew it was best to just respond, and try to just follow along and listened. She looked up, her gaze reaching Nessraya's eyes.

"Mhm... It's about the other day, the thing with that... creature, right?"

Lavinia had stood with Nessraya, waiting for Marina to arrive. The girl seemed incredibly upset, had their been something else that had happened? Or were Bladen's comments weighing on her that heavily? Either way, Marina was here, and rather than say anything right away, Lavinia gently reached a hand out to pet the girl's hair. Offering a gentle smile, she wasn't going to be upset with Marina today. From what Nessraya had told her, this hadn't been Marina overstepping herself, merely a mistake on the battlefield.

"Yes, that's right." Nessraya began, as Lavinia welcomed the Hero with a few pets on the head. Well, that was one way to set a mood, to be certain.

"I simply wanted to remind you that you don't need to take so much onto yourself, Marina. I know that you are... facing an incredible amount of pressure. I want you to know that I understand that... which is why I wanted to speak with you. The more you attempt to take on to yourself, the more you open yourself up to mistakes, as that pressure builds. I am confident that, in under better conditions, you wouldn't have struggled against that chimera. You've experienced what letting those cracks form can do, now." Nessraya shook her head slightly... Marina's initial response being simply to sigh was... somewhat hurtful, but she couldn't let that effect things.

"I'm not upset with you, and I am certain Lavinia is not either. At the end of the day, it was a mistake with little consequence besides bruised flesh and pride. I just... want you to remember that we are here to ease your burdens. You don't need to shoulder these responsibilities alone, Marina."

The pats from Lavinia was unexpected. If the talking was going to be a lot lighter than expected, maybe Marina wouldn't have felt as sour... or it wouldn't have really changed anything with how she was feeling. Marina was tired, sore, upset... She didn't want to tell them what she told Taliyah, and it wasn't because of them.

Nessraya's talk was correct, pretty much. She wasn't wrong that Marina's feelings got the better of her, and it could've had an effect in her fighting. Her head shake didn't really assist Marina in helping her feel better that this talk had started. If only Marina wasn't acting so sour to people she cared about and didn't deserve it.

A nod again, "I-I know... I don't. I can use your help, but I..." Should she really tell them what's going on? Maybe it wouldn't be like she thought, maybe it'd be like with Taliyah. She wasn't sure, but...

"The things bothering me are just... I don't really know how you could help me with... And I'm afraid of saying, because, I-I don't want to make it seem like I'm trying to shirk blame off of me, or act better than I was..." Marina paused a bit, practically freezing in place. She was still afraid of being judged, she didn't want to seem weak, or like she was trying to not be responsible for what had occurred, whether or not she was involved.

"Marina..." Lavinia couldn't help herself, gently pulling the girl into a light hug. "Listen to me, Marina... I share blame in this too. We put to much on you. You... Were so confident in your acceptance when this all began, that a part of me thought you could continue to handle it. Clearly I was wrong, and that appraisal is my own fault. None of it lies with you... We're your entourage, Marina. Hopefully your friends..." Lavinia let her go, petting her hair again, holding a hand to her shoulder.

"Should we be able to help you with your problems, no matter what they are, please, let us know. Nessraya and I will do what we can to assist, we promise. Neither of us believe you want to shirk these duties off to anyone else... Trust us. Even if you were, that would be far better than throwing yourself against something you couldn't handle..." Lavinia hoped her words weren't too harsh, Marina had seen better days. All of these extra things piling up seemed to be driving her up the wall.

"It is as Lavinia said." Nessraya concurred, nodding her head as the vampire said her piece. 

"You cannot know how we can help you, until you ask, Marina. More than anything we want to see you succeed, to get through this, able to hold your head high. We have seen your conviction first hand, Marina... we have no reason to doubt you. So please... allow us to help you, in whatever capacity we are able."

Marina was pulled into a hug by Lavinia, doing what she could to comfort her. Her returning hug had the clear feeling of shaking from her. And followed by more words from Nessraya, and Marina was left there... either to ask for help... or to take a shoulder to cry on...

Lavinia was the closest of the two, and Marina latched on, hugging tightly as she started to cry.

"I-I tried! I r-really tried...! I didn't want what happened... what we did... all I wanted was to end the conflict between h-h-humans and monsters..." Then she took quick breaths, needing a second, "No matter what I said, or what I did... none of the knights would listen to me. I just kept g-getting pushed, and bullied to fight... fight people who had never held weapons before... and then got told to just sit back and watch if I didn't w-want to fight...!"

The shaking stopped again, "The sounds, the people we killed... the screaming won't leave my mind, and since then, it's only ever gotten worse. I can't sleep, and I have to exhaust myself, or I'll lay there while all the sounds keep me awake... I'm... I'm tired of fighting. I just want to stop fighting... just to go home... but I can't. I can't, cause I have so much left to do... and even if I went home, I... I couldn't live with myself if I just left Xensat worse than I found it... I have to keep pushing, I have to keep fighting, cause maybe then if I did fix something, made positive change, maybe I'd feel better, not feel like... I'm the worst kind of thing on this continent..."

Lavinia hadn't expected the hug... Or the comments that followed. Marina really hadn't done half of what was claimed of her, had she? Then... Coteon's knights, were... "Oh, Marina..." Lavinia let the girl hug it out as she needed, petting her hair, trying her best to console her... But, nightmares. Dreams. That was something she couldn't deal with. However...

"I'm going to let Nessraya speak with you, alright? All I will say, Marina, is please... None of this was your fault. You still participated. You've still acted... But it wasn't your fault. Please, understand that..." Slowly letting her go, Lavinia turned to leave, nodding at Nessraya. "Try to think over her offer carefully, Marina." A soft smile was left with the girl as the knight wandered away from the two. Nessraya had a tent setup, likely more than enough privacy for what was about to be discussed.

"A figurehead, forced to take on the sins of those who commit atrocities in her name. A tragic fate..." Nessraya mused with a scowl on her face, letting Lavinia speak her thoughts on the matter.

"As Lavinia said once again... I am grateful for your wisdom, you know. I am not quite so adept at putting things succinctly. Those men had no intention of listening to what you had to say. To them, you were not a person with her own thoughts and feelings, but a symbol to spur them towards an end they had already determined for themselves." Nessraya added, tagging in for Lavinia as the vampire as she moved to exit, placing Marina's head on her shoulder, and gently wrapping her tail around the Hero's waist.

"You already understand your predicament... you are too empathetic a soul for your own good, Marina... for what comfort it might give you, I want you to know that while the actions you took are indeed yours to own, what you do now, given proper agency, is what truly reflects your heart. The foul deeds you partook in are a part of you, but only a small part of the whole... and that whole is pure and good. That you feel remorse for actions you took before you were given a proper choice, already makes you far better than the worst kinds of things on Xensat, Marina." The General concluded, giving Marina a supportive squeeze.

"It may seem crass to mention this now, but Lavinia is right... you are in quite the state, and have been since we've departed. The fatigue is evident on your face, in your step... and as I'm sure you are aware, I am capable of helping you. Laying with a succubus imparts only... the sweetest of dreams. A succulent nectar of silk and honey, fit to wash away that which might ail your sleep. You've felt my magic before, a small taste of it. I will not force you to imbibe, of course... but I am capable of absolving the weight that keeps you from proper rest. All you need do is allow me." Nessraya cooed, gently tracing her fingertip across Marina's neck and under her chin, a warm, soothing sensation following her touch, leaving the skin beneath gently flush and refreshed.

"You do not need to face this alone, Marina. Please... allow me to ease your burdens and give you a well-deserved rest."

Marina did feel a tiny bit of weight lift from the words Lavinia gave her. Was it really not my fault? Was it? Marina didn't really know, but she didn't want to just say she wasn't.

Soon, Nessraya came in, wrapping her tail around Marina's waist again. A comment on her empathy, which was definitely true, but it was something Marina didn't want to lose... it helped her affirm the next thing the succubus told her. She's pure. She's good. How much Marina wanted to trust her word, but she couldn't say that, or act it without feeling like she needed something to affirm it...

Then it followed, a request once again. A request to take Nessraya's offer, to give Marina a night where she could be free from all her fears, all her pain. The warm feeling as Nessraya's finger move on her neck was so soothing, almost like it was becoming foreign to feel some form of ease. It was hard to just say yes, she remembered the talk with Agni before. His support meant everything... But, she had to crack. She'd tell him when she had the chance, he deserved that much.

And for the right now, "Nessraya, I..." She took a deep breath, "I would like that." Finally, a tiny smile formed one her face.

 

Edited by Silver Gallade

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"That's easy for you to say," he muttered, knowing better than to try and fight her hug. He would only end up in a more compromising position somehow, so better to just hold still. But here she was, acting like what he had done was the right thing, acting like he should be fine with it. "You weren't there. You were busy getting attacked by some monster. I wanted to do what the Hero wasn't. But Tai stopped me and... I let her. But I wanted to. And I said one stupid thing, not even at the Hero, just out loud, and everyone jumps on me, telling me to shut up, literally smacking me upside the head... Instantly just assuming that I was mad at the Hero, not at myself. But fine. And then the Hero. Acting like just because she's doing good now, like it makes her a good person. Saying I have no responsibilities, as if I don't hold the weight of those of my clan who have died on my shoulders."

He clenched a fist and his jaw, closing his eyes for a few long seconds, bringing the emotions that were welling back up under control once again. Not now. He couldn't deal with them now. "She got lucky. If that thing had hurt the zombie, would everyone still gotten mad at me? Probably. But it's not like she was doing some big grand thing. Just trying to make herself feel better. Like she wasn't a part of an army that slaughtered innocents. Like letting one wraith have a dying wish starts to make up for everything. Basically everyone else has forgiven her. They act like she's so wonderful and has all this weight to carry and should be treated like a fragile glass vase because of it. I joined this group because I wanted answers from her. And it seemed like she regretted things then. But I just... Maybe I should have just gone home that night instead of trying to act like I would ever be able to forgive her for all that she's done."

There. He'd said it. Maybe now she would understand. "And I wasn't avoiding you. Not specifically at least. I just... It was clear after that exchange that people didn't want me around. Or at least the Hero didn't. So I gave her what she wanted. No more judging eyes for her to stress about. Since she seems to have enough of it, according to everyone else. I'm sorry if it hurt you, that wasn't my intention."

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A spell to reverse her undead body? Ayane was no expert on magic to be sure, perhaps that was one of the reasons why Ouka had her way with the country. Yet if there were a way to save her sister then magic of similar power must certainly be required. All that would be needed on her part was some restraint, should be simple if Ayane found a way to overpower her skill with a blade. But then came one small issue with this plan that the princess certainly did not overlook. "...it may kill her?" She still kept her neutral expression, even in the face of that sudden drop in optimistic news. "...hm..." Ren might notice her hand clench a bit tighter, while she looked away from Erephis with a sigh. "I suppose not all solutions can be flawless, least of all an attempt to drag someone from death's door."

Edited by TheRoon

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"My my, if you keep presenting yourself so sheepishly, my instincts might kick in, Ta~li~yah~" Nessraya mused, licking her lips for a brief moment. Marina had been improving ever since their intervention, but she was clearly still struggling. Some additional positive influence could do nothing but help ease along her recovery after all.

"You really are cute as a button you know. But it is as Aithlin says, there is no need for you to be afraid. Mmm... well if we are to figure out something, then it would be best to air any ideas you might have already, yes?"

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Taiyute. Xalrei repeated to herself, making a mental note of her proper name and it's pronunciation. As the genasi flew through her words, Xalrei let out a quiet sigh of relief, glad that Taiyute wasn't mad about her flubbing her name. She sure could talk fast, though. If she hand't been ready to pay attention, the dragonewt probably would've gotten lost somewhere along the way. Thankfully, if only to not come off as terribly rude, that hadn't happened.

"I think I got the gist of it. You're kinda like the wind, yeah? Always moving around and stuff." That wasn't to say Taiyute was whimsical or fickle... Hopefully it wouldn't be taken as such. "And yeah, I do. A lot, actually. It's really... Liberating, just being up in the sky. You don't have to think about things, either. Just go with the wind, or fight it if you really feel like it. Not everyone can fly, so it's also good for being left alone. And..." Xalrei cut herself off, realizing she'd been rambling right back at the genasi.

"Look, now I'm doing it." A tiny chuckle escaped her lips, mouth curving into the smallest smile. "Is there something you like so much you can just talk about it nonstop?"

Edited by Ursali

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The smile slowly became smaller, a ghost of it remaining as he hears the end of what will happen when they revert Ouka's curse.  He also feels his cousin squeeze his hand, and by default he squeezes back to reassure her that she's not alone.  "You say this might kill her...but if it doesn't...there is still hope?" he says, trying to be a bit optimistic while the cogs in his head start turning.  "Or well, it wouldn't be uncommon to just find a way to keep her alive..."

Ah, how should he put this...

"What I'm trying to say here, is...if the end result is futile, we might as well ask Jade for help if you catch my meaning," he offers, a bit embarrassed at offering such a suggestion.  Still, he looks at Erephis once more and nods appreciatively.  "Thank you for the information Erephis.  Honestly if you have more to tell us, now or later, please let us know."


Lavinia reassuring her that she isn't in trouble relieves the young Pureblood of some stress, but as she's led towards the campfire Bridgit felt a sudden wave of childishness as she observes the other small group with the general and then at Lavinia.  In truth, the reason she wasn't trying to get along with the others is because of purely selfish reasons.  She wants to stay at her dear sister's side, but...with how things have been going, that's not something she can afford here.

It wasn't like back at the castle, when they were both together and she was having fun and Lavinia doted on her and-

No, this was much different.  "Jade is quite the character, and suits you just as much," she begins with a tease, warming up to the conversation as she lets the other pet her hair.  Just like before, at the castle... "I followed because I worry.  I miss you.  There's so much happening while I'm at the castle, and I just...there's nothing to do there for me when you're gone..."

Childish reasons from a child.

"Besides, I think it's good for me to...broaden my views and seek answers myself," she adds, all while biting back a comment she knows would've upset Lavinia.

And I think brother would've done the same and followed right after you.

"I promise to...be civil, with the hero," she bites out, then calms down.  "I promise to try and get along with the rest.  Just...don't leave me behind again..."

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"Oh, Bladen... You don't have to forgive her." Asami corrected herself a bit whilst still leaning onto him, letting the hug go just a bit. "I know I won't. Just blindly accepting whatever that foul church spits out... No, not the church, the filth at the head of things. Ilrios used a be a respectable organization, and now..." Asami let out a hefty sigh, as if she was remembering better times. "Either way, you don't need to forgive her, Bladen. Even if she helps things, even if she fixes her mistakes, those aren't simply little things. She took lives... Fixing things won't bring them back, even if it's right for her to do so. So... If it's not in your heart to do, don't forgive her for what she's done. Others might blame you, but I won't. She doesn't quite understand the severity of the issues she's brought about..." More things eluded to but not explained, Asami closed her eyes and rested closer to Bladen.

"You didn't hurt me, I just got lonely. We seemed to be hitting it off rather well... Even if you're still so very, very bashful." A giggle finally made its way out of her, content where she was resting. "You have your own issues, Marina has hers... You don't owe her anything, so you don't need to act like you were at fault, hun. I'm on your side, if no one else is... Though I'm sure a certain little dragon shares similar feelings." Xalrei being the second princess of Vaia, and hating Marina as she did... What was going to come of that? Asami was interested, that much as true...

"Perhaps... I can stay with you tonight, and help take your thoughts away to a better place~?" Words spoken, Asami was back on her game, giving Bladen a wink and pressing up against him rather... Softly.


"Well... E-Ermm..." Maybe Ren wasn't quite, understanding things. She had to spell this out better... At least Ayane was taking the news well. "The... Th-The necrofication that, uhm... Suzume is under. It's, v-very unique. It... I, can only assume that sh-she is desperately trying to... Hold onto her humanity. That is the only r-reason it hasn't finished... Turning her completely under Ouka's control. So... Well, l-let's just say there are, two outcomes. Uhm... Either, Ouka manages to work her magic completely... A-And there will be no, coming back at all... Or... We, t-try this spell, and she... Has a chance of surviving."

Erephis couldn't help swallowing hard, she felt very out of place saying these things to foreign royalty... "Asking Jade... I don't... Think it would, do anything. Er, to explain... R-Ren... Jade's zombification is, a type of magic, yes. If she were t-to bite someone, that had poor resistance to magic, and they did not disinfect the wound... Th-They too would, eventually zombify. But... Her, innate magic isn't... It, doesn't hold a candle to what Ouka is, doing. I'd never seen anything l-like it. This sort of thing is... Just, myth, in all of my books. Even this spell... I-It's very old. I'd have to give it some more research to... T-To really see."


"In-- Instincts!?" Taliyah almost jumped out of her seat next to the fire, flinching back a little bit, unsure of what at all Nessraya was talking about... Given she was a succubus, she could fathom a guess, and it was a terrifying one. Why had she licked her lips, too!? "P... P-Please, don't eat me...!"

"Pft-- Hah! Hahaha!" Aithlin couldn't help herself, Taliyah's reaction far, far too innocent and pure. "Taliyah, you're killing m... Well I guess you can't do that anymore, but you know what I mean. So innocent... She's not going to eat you. Not like that. Ahem, as for Marina... Figured we could shop around and get her a gift or something. Something... Not related to all this fighting. I know I only got here a week ago, but the girl's been cracking something fierce. A pleasant reminder of normality might help bring her down a bit."

Not like how she was thinking? H-How would Nessraya eat her, then? "Uhm... Y-Yeah. That... Maybe I can get myself something too..." Taliyah had muttered that, but apparently not quietly enough.

"Something for yourself? Why not?"

"Awa, ahh... I... I just... No one ever celebrates my birthday, b-but I finally have gold so I--"

"Wait, it's your birthday? Why didn't you say so! This is great~ Me and Nessraya can get something for you, and you can help out Marina."

"I... Th-That's..." Her birthday had been several days ago, but the gesture was so sweet. "No one r-really... Ever... Celebra..." Taliyah trailed off as she slowly hid her face, tearing up a bit. "Th-Thank you..."


Bridgit's reasons were about what Lavinia expected. She'd been lonely, so she flew off. Lavinia was more than thankful a maid had at least gone with her, but... "Oh, Bridgit..." Lavinia ruffled her hair just a little bit. "Well, we're too far out to safely send you back now. Just... Take care of yourself. I understand you were lonely, but..." It was far too dangerous for her to be here, especially with what was coming up. If Marina were not in the position she currently was in, Lavinia would be asking her not to fight as well. Taliyah too. Far too many young soldiers sat in their camp.

"I won't leave you behind. Come here." Lavinia extended an arm around Bridgit and pulled her in for a side hug, resting her hand on the girl's hair again. "I'm right here. Thank you for what you said. I do hope you can get along with everyone here... There are a few that are your age range, as well." Not literally, but with how slow Bridgit was maturing... Purebloods definitely had strange early lifespans. "Try to make what fun of this that you can." The fighting would be soon, so that fun would likely disappear...

 

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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"A talk, huh." Agni acknowledge Gabriela, putting his knife away. "It's been a slow week, anyways." He was rather ambivalent, though mindful to sound polite. With the siren sitting down near him, Agni turned his head to meet her. "Curious, huh? I can't say many here want to know much about me, so that's a change of pace." He chuckled.

"...Life was fine. I hadn't much to complain once my dad took me home. The house was spacious, we had servants... father tried to be amicable with me, but he's an awkward man, a bit much of an introvert." Agni shrugged, a bit of a faint smile as he recalled events. "He wanted me in the military --that's where our family made its name, after all. I wasn't strongly against it, though I doubted I'd fit in that well."

"If I was right, I wouldn't be here though." His smirk widened, "There's more roles to fit than just brawns, and plenty of decent people... well, when we're not beating the drums of war, I suppose." Agni cast his gaze downward, to the wagon floor, a bit self-conscious at the words he'd been weaving.

"What about you, Gabriela? What did you do before you got here?"

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"Humans? And what do they want?" The angry beastgirl at the command desk growled at the information being presented to her. Could they seriously trust any humans right now? Even if they claimed to be from Hwein, their insignia didn't match any of Hwein's current recorded groups. They would've been more heavily armored if they were from Coteon... And probably wouldn't have made it this far, plus, they did have a few monsters in their group. Still...

"Fine. I'll go to meet them." She slammed a fist against the desk and got up, heading for the exit.

"But ma'am--!"

"But nothing! ... We're in pretty dire straits right now, and unless Nessraya's group arrives soon, we need all the help we can get." The girl in command left the room, heading for the entrance of the fort.

Her anger and annoyance had been brought on by Tepel's currently sorry state. After continued attacks by Ithraxl's men, the fort was suffering serious damage, and spies had notified her that a full assault was coming to finish them off. If they got through, it would be a straight walk to Attisio. The main force of the castle was in tatters, and even the general and the fighters she was traveling with couldn't hold them off alone. A combined effort had a chance... Even if it was tight. Thus, this human led group, even if they couldn't be trusted because of that damn hero's rampage, they had no choice. Any forces were good forces... Assuming they were even here to help defend the place.

She made it to the gates, several armed militia members holding their ground against the apparent Hwein mercenaries. "Move aside, move aside! ... Alright, you. Fancy boy leading this... Group of mercenaries. Your men wait here, you come with me." He could get her name once they were inside. If he knew what was best for him, he'd be an obedient little boy, and wouldn't cause any problems.

Admittedly, he had some misgivings about this.

For one, calling him the troop’s leader couldn’t have been further from the truth. The leader had, in fact, less-than-gently ‘delegated’ the task of negotiating with the Vaian border post’s commander to him, probably hoping to avoid any consequences should negotiations break down. Secondly, the forces at the gates were certainly less than inspiring. Coteon’s troops walked freely in the streets of Desaix clad in armor to the last man, while before him lay a fort half in ruins sparsely guarded by nervous monsters with little more than a spear or sword each. He had a sneaking suspicion that aid from Vaia might have been hoping for too much, given the sorry state of the border fortress. Perhaps Vaian forces elsewhere were better off.

“Nothing to be done about that now, though…” Though evidently less than pleased to see him, the authoritative beastgirl at the gates seemed to be more in line with what he’d expected of Vaia’s troops, at least, and so he stepped forward to introduce himself.

“Ah, you must be in command here. I’m Captain Landsridge, of the Hwein Irregulars. I’ll have my men-“

His voice caught in his throat for the briefest moment, almost in defiant annoyance at the lie. The captain really couldn’t have done this himself?

“-remain outside. Please, lead the way.” Moving to follow the beastgirl back through the gates, his mind shifted to the negotiations to come. If he couldn’t get aid, he could at least get answers.

"Mmm... I am. Name's Amera... 'Captain Landsridge'..." What a peculiar name, even for a human. Still, if he was captain, then they could get this dealt with rather quickly. Amera lead him into the fort proper, back to her command room, where the only other soldiers were waiting.

"Commander--"

"Out. I'm here for a private conversation." The discomfort that fell over the other two was visible, but they didn't argue. It seemed like they knew what was going to come next, so they departed without a word and shut the door behind poor Captain Landsridge.

"Right, let's cut to the chase--" Amera was off the floor in seconds, pouncing on the hopefully unsuspecting captain, taking him to the floor. With a claw against his throat and a scowl in her eyes, she was growling rather fiercely. "Who are you, and why are you and a group of unrecorded Hwein 'Mercenaries' outside of my fort!? I've already got enough to deal with, having Ithraxl's men pound down the gates... I've lost good people, human! Before this insurrection, and after it started, no thanks to your filthy race and that damned hero! Now speak! Give me a good reason not to crush this throat!" She had her claw on him, but he had room to breathe. Hopefully words would come quickly.

Negotiations were progressing smoothly. At least, he had thought as much, though being held at clawpoint had dispelled that illusion quickly enough.

He didn’t struggle in her grasp; he knew attempting to free himself would likely be fruitless, as weak as he was, and it would only serve to anger her further.

“A- Amera, I’m sorry about the people you’ve lost, but we really are from Hwein! There are Coteon troops violently occupying our capital and we came to ask for aid! I know it’s suspicious that you’ve never seen our like before, but we- we’re not really ‘mercenaries’, we fight for Hwein, not for coin…”

His voice trailed off with the flimsy explanation, true as it might have been. There was a pause as Seilan carefully considered his next words. He didn’t know how much time passed, but he could feel his heartbeat racing as he tried to bring his fear back within his own grasp.

“…I swear to you that we have no hostile intent. We've got nothing to do with that Hero. Surely you have some interest in seeing Coteon driven out, right?”

Seilan went silent once more, wincing at the realization that his excuses were not exactly verifiable from a Vaian border fortress; Desaix was practically half the continent away. Closing his eyes – he didn’t feel as if he could bear to see her claw pinning his throat if she reacted poorly – he spoke one last time, hesitantly. “You’ve been fighting here, you said as much… and I can tell from outside the walls. Your defenses are in tatters. If we came here to… to attack you…”

- he could picture the claw at his throat in his mind’s eye, now -

“we’d have just, ah... assaulted the walls from the start… probably.”

With somewhat of a pout and a heavy sigh, Amera let go of his throat, folding her arms and frowning down at him. "You don't need to make the place sound that weak..." He was right, though. Any halfway equipped group would've started by assaulting the already damaged walls. It was annoying, but he was probably telling the truth. 

"Okay... fine. You're not here to attack us... I'm sorry for almost killing you." That was the best apology she could likely muster. Sat on him still, she mulled over the rest of his words. "I'm afraid any help for Hwein will need to wait until the current problem in Vaia is dealt with. We've got an insurrection on our hands, and I'm waiting for backup to put it down." Backup that was taking its sweet time to travel to Tepel...

"Buuuuut... if you and your lot, captain, help out... maybe some soldiers could be requisitioned~?" Probably a hard sell after the sudden assault, but she hoped he would consider it. "Just kill a few guys for me and I'll make it worth your while, handsome. Just, uh... forget about the whole... almost murder thing." A bashful blush fell on her facen looking away from him. "I've been really on edge, sorry..."

Slowly blinking his eyes back open, the shock of the near-death experience just beginning to wear off, he began to process his surroundings once more. He became keenly aware of the fact that though the claw had left his throat, she was certainly still pinning him to the ground. Despite that, though, she seemed content enough with his answer to hold a decent conversation; well, as decent as could be had with one party sitting on the other.

“Forget about... er, yes. That would be good, for… for both of our sakes. Yes.” By now, he’d just about managed to bring himself to look at his captor again. “Well, if you’ll help us out in return, I think we could stand to help deal with your insurrection.”

- do they really issue shorts this short as part of soldiers’ uniforms in Vaia? Who decided –

No, wait. Where had that come from? No, no, focus. Focus. Hwein, Hwein. Focus on Hwein.

“What do you need us to do, exactly? Do you want us to help you defend here, or will we be fighting elsewhere?” Hopefully this wouldn’t lead to them getting drawn into some protracted campaign here in Vaia; every day spent fighting here was another day spent not on the march back to liberate Desaix. It seemed there was no other choice, though, as Hwein’s forces were insufficient on their own – it had been one of the main reasons the city had so quickly been ceded to Coteon.

…And there was, of course, the issue that Seilan was volunteering his unit to fight when he didn’t have so much as a shred of the authority to do so. Well, he supposed it couldn’t be helped. The captain’s orders, were, after all, to “secure aid for Hwein by whatever means necessary” … though he had an inkling he’d be less than pleased about the way negotiations had turned out.

He made a mental note to omit a fair deal of the details of the negotiations, too.

"Yes, defending. Here. This fort. You came to a country in peril to ask for help. Real bad timing, 'Captain'." She had her suspicions that he wasn't exactly the captain. He was scrawny and weak, for one. He didn't seem very authoritative, for two... He was asking too many questions, for three. Any Hwein Mercenary Captain worth their salt would know the current situation in Vaia, and would think asking for help at such a dilapidated fort was out of the question... Right?

"Ithraxl Holst, son of Begruz Holst, has decided that the current general of Vaia, Nessraya Tryxyss, is not fit to stand and lead the country's forces for two reasons. One: she failed to stop the hero until it was 'too late', and our forces were laid waste in attempts to stop her and the church's forces. Two: she has human blood in her heritage, making her line unworthy of its noble title from her on." Amera laid out the situation's necessary information, before leaning over poor Seilan.

"This is all complete bullshit, if you ask me! He's just a pissed off lordling that wants his way because he can't see the forest for the trees. So! We're the last line of defense, Landsridge. If he breaks through here, he has a straight shot to the severely undefended castle Attisio, and even the Demon King, in all her power, will not be enough to stop them. One person isn't changing a civil war, you understand?" She sat back up and sighed, slowly getting off of him and heading back to wards the desk. He tail swished in annoyance, even if she had finally managed to calm down to a reasonable level.

"So you and your lot help us hold here, we turn the tide on Ithraxl, we win this nonsense civil war, and then what's left of us forms up to head to Hwein and see what's going on there... That's the best I can offer you right now, and it might be superceded by both the general and the King. If you're willing to take that... Wonderful. If not, go spend two or three weeks carting up to the castle and get yourselves killed. Even if you're traveling with some monsters, you're mostly humans... I've given you a nicer reception than most would. You're still breathing and even talking~" Sitting herself on the command desk and folding her legs to match her arms, Amera smiled a rather fake smile.

"What'll it be? You can report to your captain when you've given me your answer." Hopefully he wouldn't catch that and she could see if her suspicions were accurate.

He picked himself up off the ground, taking the brief moment to chide himself internally for letting his mouth run in his panic. Evidently, she’d caught on to the awkward, pointless lie… but she hadn’t called him on it. Might as well keep up the façade, then, flimsy as it was. Keeping a neutral expression and attempting to put a measured amount of presence into his tone, he stood and spoke.

“I see. Hwein’s not had much information on happenings in Vaia since Coteon’s occupation, as we haven’t had any trade from Vaia for some time now.”

Seilan was buying time, racking his brains now for what little he’d managed to glean of officership back at the military academy before being reassigned. If it seemed like he knew what he was doing, maybe he could get away with this after all.

“I suspect I’m not likely to get any better offer than that, so I’ll take it. I’ll have my troops repair what they can of your fortifications with what’s available, and we’ll take up any defensive positions that your garrison isn’t filling here.”

…that might have been stepping on her authority as commander, but it would have to do. It was time to make an exit; he’d gotten a tenuous promise of help, and it was clear that was as good as it was going to be.

“That aside, I’d advise you to send those civilians you have guarding the gates home. If they get pulled into a battle, those lives will be lost, and you’ve already had more than your fair share of difficulties here. Our troop will be more than enough to hold until your reinforcements arrive.” The sight of the shaking gate guards had suddenly flashed into his mind, and he couldn’t help but let the words slip and hope she didn’t make him regret it… again.

That worry suddenly seemed far less of a concern, though, finding the doorknob refusing to turn in his hand.

Oohh, he was either really playing the part, or she'd read him entirely wrong. "That's very kind of you, Landsridge." She smirked openly as he realized the door was locked, slowly picking herself up off of the command table and walking up on him, sneaking towards his ear. "Just a safety measure. If you'd been a nasty little spy," she whispered, leaning back, "we couldn't have had you running off." Her urges satisfied, Amera moved back to the table, but not before reaching past him and quickly unlocking the door with a key.

"You can go and tell your squad the good news," good for them mostly, but, "my guardsmen will escort you and keep an eye on you to make sure things go well, 'captain'... As for the civilians, they volunteered to be here. Perhaps you can tell, with your fancy looking upbringing, but I used to be a commoner. Spent the last few decades working myself up to where I am... So I'm not gonna look down on the bravery of our people. Yeah, they still have a lot to be taught... But I learned. They can too. I won't spit on that." Whether or not he accepted the answer wasn't part of her concerns, she knew what she was doing. The militia that were still unable to steel themselves would handle replenishing weapons when defending the fort, and those with enough grit would fight alongside the rest of them. No one was going home unless they wanted to.

"One more thing, Landsridge... What's your first name? Or does a lowly monster such as myself not deserve the courtesy from such an upstanding human~?" Even if he was from Hwein, he was still a human. Venting those hero related frustrations on him was perking her day right up.

Her little digs were starting to get to him more than he’d like to have admitted; for starters, it’s not like he was from some vaunted noble family, and he didn’t come off as that posh, right…? Maybe all that posturing as captain had sent the wrong message.

“Ah, I suppose I’ve… been a bit rude, haven’t I?” It didn’t really feel that way, but maybe if it made these coming weeks a bit less… hostile, he’d say what he could. “My name’s Seilan. Call me what you like, though; we’ll be fighting under Vaia’s banner for now, after all.”

He stepped out through the now-unlocked door, and was about to let out a sigh of relief until he noticed her two guards awaiting him just outside. One figure was near-unidentifiable under the heavy armor; he almost mistook for the other for a human, realizing his error when he briefly caught sight of a tail out of the corner of his eye.

“It looks as if we’ll be reinforcing you here for the time being.” He began to walk alongside them back towards the fort’s gates in the direction they’d indicated. “Do you think you could tell me what the insurrectionist forces are like? Enemy composition, manpower…”

There was a lot to do, now… or more accurately, there was a lot that he’d just dragged his entire still-unwitting unit into, all because of the captain’s absolutely stunning ‘plan’.

…what was Amera going to do when she learns she was right?

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Oh my. How very, conscientious of her. Jade crossed the rifle behind her back, holding it with both hands, and leaned forward at the waist slightly, just enough that she had to tilt her face up to look at the hero from slightly below her line of sight. Marina appeared shy, rambley, and seemed as though she wanted to break gaze and turn away, but after a couple of nods to gather her courage, she managed to finish speaking her thoughts. And they were about what one might have expected from a genocidal standard bearer who'd accepted that blame and taken the assignment she'd been given from the king of the people who'd been slaughtered in her wake. Jade had arrived at the conclusion that the reason Marina was so focused on paying her debts, no matter how small, was to keep from adding to her mountain of guilt. There was something about the sincerity of it all that was a little uncomfortable. A bit itchy, almost.

How was Jade handling her own guilt?

A brief flash of light in her eyes, as the unpleasant thought crossed her mind, but the zombie banished it quick enough. She wasn't even aware it had happened, and maybe it had gone unnoticed. Shifting to the actual contents of the conversation, rather than the underlying baggage surrounding it, the merchant nodded, smiled, then rocked back onto her heels and stood up straight again.

"I had seen, actually. Folded in a neat pile in the back, freshly laundered. Your diligence did not go unnoticed, worry not. I actually made sure to move them up front, where I store my personal valuables, so somebody didn't end up rolling onto them and spoiling your efforts," Jade couldn't help her voice lowering a bit at the thought of the giant snake's tail crushing the fabric, wrinkling it, or maybe even knocking it out of the wagon entirely. They were rude thoughts for her to have. By all rights, Erephis was a fine individual, a valuable intellectual even, probably someone she might call friend if she went and worked at it. And the demerits of her form were clearly no fault of her own, just like Jade couldn't be blamed for her own... condition. Yet... sometimes a little private grumping couldn't be helped. At least the librarian was better than the thief, right? Bright side, bright side.

Transferring the full weight of the rifle to her left hand, surprisingly effortlessly considering its heft, she let go with the right, bringing it forward to offer for a handshake. "There are many who would have taken advantage of that kindness, and I was a little surprised you didn't. For at least a little longer, at any rate," Jade smiled at this, a full one, eyes and everything, before adding a little joke at the end. "The contract is complete." And then she laughed, hopefully making everything clear.

"As far as joining me..." The zombie cocked her head to the side, looking a little thoughtful. "Have you ever fired a gun before, even?" Then, hurriedly following up her question so that Marina didn't mistake it for a rejection, she added. "Oh, it's not a problem if you haven't, I'm not saying no, just... would need to know where to maybe start, if that's what you're interested in."

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"Yes! Exactly you have understanding!" Taiyute exclaimed, happy that the dragon understood how she was. Then she started to get enraptured in listening to Xalrei speak; it was quite nice, soothing almost. The first impression she had of the dragonewt had not been the best due to most of the time she saw her she was either quiet, or angry. This development only continued to leave the genasi in awe.

Then, she laughed, apologizing for also talking fast. Taiyute clapped in response, "Nono, it was a nice listen, yes," She had reassured, "I am not well at the talking, but speaking about your favorites to someone is quite great, yes." A nod,

"If I say... Xarlei, yes?" She wasn't actually sure if she had heard the name properly, or it was faulty memory, but she would probably be corrected in a moment, "Your smile, it's nice." Another thing, she doesn't entirely recall if she's seen very often. Not that she blamed her, or really anyone in the group if they couldn't do so at a time like this.


Marina nodded as she listened to Jade, she noticed that the clothes had been moved at some point during their trip. Something about the way she spoke, it had almost trapped Marina's attention, she enjoyed listening, watching her adjust herself. Marina's smile warmed, going from the shy, small smile to a bigger grin as she took Jade's hand and shook it. Then, maybe Jade would appreciate some kind of follow up, wondering if she'd appreciate Marina trying to crack a joke of her own, "Pleasure doing business with you," and a small laugh followed with her.

Then back to the conversation of joining her, a question about if she had fired a gun before. A continuation of the question showing Jade's consideration for Marina's skillset. A small nod,

"Um, back home actually... I used to go to a firing range with my dad a lot. It'd be a rough day, or a rough week, on Saturday my dad would take me out, we'd put in a couple hundred dollars... er, the money from my world, for a bunch of rounds, and we'd just shoot at targets for a couple of hours." A good few memories, starting to sour from how much she was missing home right now. She shook it away, that wasn't the right now.

"Even then too, in my world we had... very different guns, than what we have here. So I would need some help coming back to it."

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Jade was pleased when Marina played along with her joke, but the pleasure was quickly eclipsed by surprise. Not only did the hero have experience with guns, a relative rarity, but she mentioned the guns where she was from were not like the ones they had here. Eyes wide, the zombie grew quiet, lips pursed as she tried to figure out what to ask first.  "Hand guns? Long guns? What do you mean by 'different'?" Holding out the rifle where Marina could get a good look at it, barrel pointed safely away from either of them of course, she continued, "Could you show me where any major changes would have been, or is it too hard to remember?"

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Gently, Marina took hold of the weapon and examined it. "So, we did have things like these for a long time, but they're out of date by... I'd say, almost a century at this point. Maybe more... I'm not entirely certain." Eyeing where the bullets went into, "We have things called clips, or magazines. It would be essentially a long, metal pack of bullets that you would stick into the bottom, or the side, and they would feed through the gun when you fired. You don't need to do anything like loading a single shot, or pulling pack a hammer, they would just, fire continuously, and the casings would feed out the side," She took a hand off the weapon, a bit weighty in her hand, motioning around the weapon as she spoke.

"We still use revolvers from time to time, but they're a lot more of a novelty. Something something 'it's not about shootin', it's about reloadin'," she quoted in a weird tone. "But yeah, we have rifles, handguns, a lot of stuff." She shook her head, "There's not a lot super different, it's just... several decades apart, I guess." Then, she handed the rifle back.

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It was certainly nice to hear that Agni opened up to her and told her about his own life. It doesn't seem like many others aside from Marina really cared about him and his story, which makes sense given the general distaste for humans among the group. ''Yeah well, unlike most of the other soldiers in this group, I have no disdain for humans in particular. I have barely had any contact with humans before I met you and the hero. I'm more curious, is all. Or perhaps it is because I am also a little... under fire, shall we say.'' Gabriela gives a slight chuckle. ''So, since you had... servants, does that make you a noble? I wonder how it feels to have people that will do whatever you with a snap of your finger.''

''Hmm, well, I come from a village called Siren Village. It was located near a cliffside, near the sea. It was a bit off the map so we never got much visits from other monsters. I was the child of Chikelu and Shakuntala. My mother was a powerful Siren, and since females tend to have greater power than male sirens, she was quite strong. Her powers were passed on to me as well, and I quickly found out I had great magical power, both my light magic and my voice, which can be used to control people who hear it, or make them sleep. It is a dangerous power, and I was taught by our village elder how to use it well. I was revered as a prodigy, but that didn't make me very popular with the other kids... I was the youngest of them, and especially the girls disliked me greatly. I remember when one girl snatched my boyfriend away from me, and how he coldly told me that he wasn't in love with me anymore.. my 25 year-old self cried her eyes out. Anyway, one day, the entire siren population had to leave, for some reason. My mother told me they would be 'back soon', and I wasn't allowed to comewith them, as the only member of our village. I never discovered what they were going to do, but... they never came back. I stayed in my village for about 6 months, and then I knew that I was abandoned. I was... betrayed... angry. In a fit of rage, I used my magic to destroy the village and transform it into the ruins that still stand today. I then went away, and quickly found out that living out there in the wild, all alone, was not easy.''

She looked at Agni, seeing if he was still listening, then continued her story. ''I then discovered the use of money. If I could get enough money, I could survive all by myself. However, there wasn't an easy way for a young siren like myself to earn much money. My only choice was to use my powers and looks for behavior that.. wasn't entirely legal or morally correct. You know what it means. Stealing wasn't out of the question, either. I have done that for quite a while... for about 40 years, I think? That is when I heard rumors of a hero, send by the country of Coteon, that was defeated in battle and brought to the castle. I thought the hero must be rich, I mean, they were a hero, surely they must be paid well. Imagine my surprise when it was a young girl, with no financial worth whatsoever! Not only that, to make matters worse, Lavinia knew of me, and identified me as a crook. Thank goodness for Asami, who was willing to hire my services. Hear I thought my golden goose had appeared! And well, here we are now.'' Gabriela sighed. ''I really didn't mean to ramble on like that. My apologies.''

Edited by Michelaar

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"Oh? But eating you is the best part, Taliyah~" Nessraya teased, considering giving the girl's tail a playful nibble, though she quickly jumped and the conversation moved onwards. A gift was a simple enough solution to try and help Marina feel better, and it seemed Taliyah herself had been having a lonely birthday... which unfortunately didn't seem uncommon.

"Spending some time at the market in Tepel sounds like a lovely idea. We can get something for Marina, and for you, Taliyah~ Mmm... it will be a little bit before we reach the gates, so maybe I can show you what Aithlin means a bit later... for a more timely gift, no? I do think you'll thoroughly enjoy it~" Nessraya added, reaching over and gingerly stroking her finger across Taliyah's tail as the half-lizard hid her face, gently placing a kiss on the sneaky appendage.

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Bladen sighed. While it was all well and good that Asami was ok with him not forgiving the Hero and even though him calling her out was a good thing, it didn't change what everyone else thought. He knew the General and Lavinia probably weren't happy with how all of that had been handled, and would likely have a lecture for him at some point. And he'd been making progress with actually starting to know some people. Or he thought he had. Xal aside, though it was nice to hear someone besides Asami shared similar thoughts, he still felt isolated. Just because he didn't need to forgive the Hero didn't mean that others wouldn't isolate him because he hadn't.

But he couldn't say all that to her. Not when she was trying to make him feel better. Feel better in multiple ways it seemed. He blushed, and tried to pull away slightly. "This... Isn't a solution. It's just a temporary distraction, it doesn't actually fix anything." He hadn't said no, but he also couldn't meet her eyes anymore. This wasn't something he could just jump into like so many others in the group seemed to be doing. He liked her, he knew that. He'd kissed her even. But still...

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Jade forgot to breathe. This wouldn't be a problem, however, vocal chords want air passing by them to make sound, so the first exclamation was awkwardly wordless. "!?" Luckily, there existed a simple solution. Stupid lungs, what am I paying you for, do your job.

"These... are, century's old technology where you come from?" While the firearms the zombie was using weren't exactly cutting edge, that would be a little too extravagant on her budget, it's not like they weren't solidly within the modern mainstream. This wasn't your grandfather's musket, it actually had rifling for bullet stability and everything. Almost shyly, Jade received her weapon back, wondering if it was really okay for her to 'teach' Marina how to use it now.

"Well, I guess, since this is practically an antique to you then, here are the steps for proper handling..." The merchant went through the motions of loading, securing, and ejecting, covering all the bases for ordinary operation. Not entirely sure if it was needed, she also discussed sighting for accuracy and precision. "...and if you really need every extra, you'd fire from prone, for better stability, but that can be impractical more often than not, so this is the standing posture I use."

Then, lining up on a newly sighted squirrel, Jade demonstrated the final piece of the puzzle, and pulled the trigger. This time, the little rodent didn't manage an escape; the shot was true, and it fell to the ground from off of the tree branch it had been perched on. Nodding, pleased with herself, the zombie lowered the weapon and prepared to pass it over if the Hero also wanted to have a hands on opportunity, rather than just listening and watching. "Fancy a go yourself?"

Edited by Balcerzak

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In truth, Ayane had hoped there was an easy solution to Suzume's situation. Deep down inside that is, buried past all the honor and duty business she had been raised to uphold above all else. Yet from Erephis' explanation it seemed that was a hope she couldn't afford to hold onto. So with a small sigh to herself she rose her head. "...I understand." Ayane spoke, looking back at Erephis with a determined look, the same one she gave Taliyah. The grim acceptance sort of look. "Then do what you must, but if the situation is as resolute as you say it is then I will do what I must." She bowed her head. "I thank you for giving this endeavor your attention, Erephis."

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Ren agrees with a nod.  "I do apologize for the misunderstanding, but thank you for clearing it up Erephis," he says while looking over at Ayane.  The oni knew that in some way he was trying to find the easiest solution for their problem, but having a person with a better head above their shoulders telling them this helps through the pain of the truth.

Now he and Ayane have to discuss on how they were gonna go about this...


"Y-You saw me in battle!" she quickly responds to the other's doubt, not helping the small pout on her lips.  "I can take care of myself sister, but your words have merit.  I promise to take care of myself throughout this journey." Hopefully her words and actions are enough to keep Lavinia's mind at ease.  On her next request she hums, simply cuddling into her as she's brought closer by the other.  "I...can try.  I'm sure there'll be things I can find enjoyable with the others," the Pureblood offers with a small smile before it upturns slightly into a smirk.  "Althought, I thought this was supposed to be a very serious expedition dear sister.  Surely there is no time for fun and idle chit chat?" It was almost hard to hold back her giggles.

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As Jade spoke and instructed Marina, she was mesmerized in the words. Even if some of the things Jade was teaching her were things she already knew, Marina's gaze and ears never left the attention she was giving. And within time, the zombie offered Marina the weapon again, after a clear, straight shot onto her target. Marina nodded, taking the gun. "I'll give it a shot, sure. Hehe... shot," A small giggle.

Taking a knee, she did the procedures she thought necessary, making sure it was safe to fire and was loaded. Even if it really wasn't something she fired before, most of the normal things she would do worked just fine.

Then, a gaze out in the wild, looking for a squirrel like Jade had been using for a target. This wasn't a paper target or a clay pigeon. Animals were a lot less predictable to pin down. She caught one in her sight. It was already moving, but Marina had enough confidence. Still fixed on it's movements, she took an educated guess on where it was heading, and saw a branch it could hop onto.

Shutting one eye, she locked sights in that spot, and the squirrel moved as predicted...

BANG!

Unfortunately, the shot didn't hit it's mark and the animal got away, fleeing into the woods. A sigh, "Missed," Following procedures again, she ejected the shot and readied it to give back to Jade. The casing flew, bouncing off of her shirt, and Marina was quickly gladdened by the fact she had this turtleneck. She handed the rifle back to Jade,

"When I was younger my dad taught me to always wear something with a collar. Then I could pop it up so the casings wouldn't fall in my shirt. That didn't always keep me safe though, cause I'm lefthanded. The casings would pop out the right side and land in my pocket instead." And Marina followed with another small laugh.

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