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

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It happened in what felt like an instant; he could hear but little of the words spoken above the din of battle, but what rang out clear through it all were the dragon's roars, both those of rage and of pain. The dragon had hardly appeared before it collapsed and dissolved, hidden once more behind the press of bodies in the corridor. The change in the air was immediately perceptible - and missing was the elation he'd expected from bringing such a hard-fought battle to its conclusion; there was little but anger and grief. He stowed his tome, gripping his staff a bit tighter, hesitating to approach with the tension in the room...

What happened? We won the battle... right?

So absorbed in pondering the situation was he that he hadn't noticed Nisha's approach - not that it was easy in typical conditions aside - and was caught off guard when she suddenly spoke.

"A-ah. Nisha. Right, that's... that's an excellent point. If you're alright yourself, then I should go now. Thanks for... telling me."

He was loathe to admit that his thoughts had been other places than healing the wounded, settling instead to briefly thank her for the information before stepping quickly towards the front. Figuring out what had happened - and handling what came after, given how serious things seemed to be - could wait.

The end of a battle is the most important time to be caring for the wounded... And duty comes first. It has to. At the very least, until Hwein is free again...

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"A-ah... Rescue? You came to-- o-oh no, I-I'm sorry! I-I didn't know I...!" Slowly backing up, she kept an alertness just in case. Turning over to her companion in the cell with her, she motioned to the door,

"I-I can take the lead Lady Taiyou. Just in case."

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"Hrmm..." Agni was restless, hearing a commotion from below. He had just dealt with the remaining mage on that tower, belting his main gauche as he walked down the stairs at a brisk pace.

"What...?" The visage, as he descended, was extremely busy, the loud roar he'd heard atop was unanswered. No gargantuan beast, just a gathering... the injured, and a notable fallen monster, with Taliyah crying at his side. It was hard to ignore the obvious implications.

"Taliyah..." Now he understood why the room felt so tense. Agni approached Taliyah with concern, kneeling by her side. "...Your father, huh...?" He took a good look at the man... the lizardfolk he never saw alive. A strange feeling struck Agni, not knowing if it was regret or... what.

"...I'm sorry." He should've been here. That's how he felt.


Of course. After that loud roar outside, unlocking their door meant some side had definitely crumbled. They lost their chance to escape... "Hmph... Shizuka, be care--" Careful, evidently, was not what Shizuka was with her loud charging. It...

It left Taiyou speechless, for sure.

"No, don't. Just--" On the bright side, their liberator was not intent in doing ill, and even took Shizuka's gaffe in decent stride. "Who... so you defeated Ithraxl?" Another monster, but this one was against the faction that captured them, huh. Monster politics seemed complicated.

"Thank you." Taiyou replied with a quick bow. "Who are you fighting under? If I'm allowed to ask the name."

Shizuka seemed very intent to clear her gaffe, but there was hardly time for this overcompensation. "No need, Shizuka, I'm going."

Edited by Xinnidy

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Seeing Lucille nearly thank her, while of course still referring to her as ''the siren'' but then cutting herself off was annoying, though not unexpected. They weren't exactly on good terms, even though that should really change if they were going to keep working together. With Ithraxl down, Taliyah crying and a few of the members standing near her, some even bloody... the atmosphere of the room quickly turned a crimson red like the blood that was stained there moments earlier. 

''If you'll excuse me... i'm going to wait outside... you know, spread my wings.'' not like her wings were really in any condition to fly right now, but she had to get out of that oppressive fortress quickly... and maybe it was also a little excuse to get away from the awkward situation she and Lucille were in once again.

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There were too many people surrounding her to address, especially not her in state. She didn't even have it in herself to tell them all to go away, about to lash on at the one kneeling next to her, before realizing it was Agni... "A... Ag, ni... I... Uuuuuh, hahhhhhh...!" Taliyah let out another sob as she collapsed against him, burying herself into him now, looking for comfort in the only place she could trust at the moment, biased completely by her emotions.

"We did win, Dyssa," Thesephine began, letting Stholia turn back into its smaller form. She wrapped it around her neck, along with the one Marina had given her, shaking her head. "We just had to hurt someone we know to do it." Thesephine didn't really know this girl, but if Ithraxl really had been her father, she could feel this pain to her core. It meant plenty to her, and having felt such before, she knew she had no words worth Taliyah's ears. She'd just helped put the girl in her situation all those years ago...

"Let's... Let's go, everyone. Agni, bring Taliyah out once she's had her time. If she wants to bury the body, I'll ask Lavinia to assist you." Turning to leave, she let out another sigh. This is the cost, sometimes... But it had to be done. Now we can start saving this country.

Amera caught Nessraya as she started to fall, gasping and picking the general up without a second thought, eyes darting around for-- "Seilan!" It looked like he was already coming over, the cat hauling the general towards him in a hurry. "H-Help her! Please... I'm sure Nessraya would be more than happy to participate in the healing once she's patched up, but, I-Ithraxl hit her pretty badly... Please."

"What? Oh... Er, thanks, I guess." Ariana wasn't sure how to react to the genasi's sudden want to be friendly, other than the awkward response and nod, so silence quickly fell towards the approach. Until Thesephine ordered everyone to go. "Maybe you can provide Marina with such a courtesy once we're out of this fort and away from this bloodshed... Th... Thank you, for the gesture, though. Taiyute." She pushed herself off the wall and took long strides towards the exit, in part due to her own awkwardness, and in part urgency to leave the mess behind.


"We, uhm... Ahem. We should all leave. We're exhausted," Lavinia assumed of everyone else but herself, "wounded and need to recuperate; perhaps some of us need sleep. Jade, if Lucille's pegasus will follow after you, perhaps with a bit of coaxing, that would be for the best." There was nothing that could be said to Taliyah, nothing that would solve her pain, no matter what they tried. As she moved to leave, Lavinia caught wind of Thesephine's offer, nodding in their direction. Cautiously approaching Taliyah and Agni, the vampire took a knee behind the man, trying her best to smile. "I will do what I can to assist."


"Two humans, is it? Well... I know who one of them is. Entirely because I know who's in this cell already... Sister." Asami opened the door, now that the soldiers had been pacified, and stared down the fox that sat inside. Unlike Asami's open and revealing kimono, hers was longer, worn properly, and nothing excess was showing. A prim and proper woman... Attire aside, she looked exactly like Asami. Shockingly like her, in fact... They had to be twins.

"A pleasure to speak with you again, Asami. I hope you've been well?" She bowed gently, making her way to exit the cell.

"You know exactly how I've been, Yui..." The pink fox sighed, letting her walk out. "You need a hand? I know you can't see where you're going..."

"I can feel where I'm going just fine. Worry not... Verah, shall we?"

The goat woman in the cell was already up, brushing off her dress. "Of course! I knew this would happen, anyway~ Verah, astrologist extraordinaire, at your services, miss... Asami, was it?" She did a tiny bow, before following after Yui.

"... Charmed."




Though hurt and wounded, the group did their best to leave the fort. Thesephine had gotten a few of the militia to gather her a table to stand on, needing to be able to see and address everyone. Or so the soldiers had thought. Thesephine moved up to it before turning and facing Marina, pointing at her in the crowd of tired soldiers. "This victory today is ours, but this campaign is not mine, King of yours as I may be. I'd love to get up here and give a few inspiring words for the victory we fought hard for today... But they aren't mine to make. Marina!" She motioned for the girl to come forward, stepping aside. "Get over here."

Lavinia had finished assisting Taliyah and Agni when Thesephine made her declaration to Marina, the vampire quickly pushing through the crowd to place a hand on the girl's shoulder. "I know we're all hurting," she quickly muttered to Marina, "but hearing something nice couldn't hurt."

Asami had her own things to deal with, but the floor could be given to the hero for a moment, at least. Yui wasn't running off, so that was fine... For the moment.

Amera had managed to get Nessraya some proper healing, sighing as the general started dealing with the wounds of everyone else, wishing she'd rested just a bit longer... A speech now, was it? From the 'Hero'... Well. Unlike Ithraxl, she'd worked herself hard enough to get here. Prove that her apologies and efforts were more than a ball and chain due to Thesephine... So far, at least.

Taliyah had eventually accepted Lavinia's assistance, and with Agni's help, they'd dragged her father's body out of the fort to be buried before everyone turned in for the night. She hadn't realized there would be a speech... It made her feel sick. They were going to celebrate her father's death... He had been an enemy to the country, but she could never bring herself to hate him. She looked away from it all, slowly sitting down and clasping hands over her ears. She couldn't bear to listen...

And Ariana just stood there. It was nice to see Marina get the recognition she deserved, but was now the time? A rousing speech to raise morale after the campaign's end, did the girl even have it in her? Ariana could only hope so.

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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There wasn't anything of value left in the fort. Not that it surprised her. She really only left to try and deal with the feelings her mind was invading her with. She stood amongst the rest of the soldiers, ready to move on, however...

Things were never that easy.

Marina made a light jump, and froze up a bit as Thesephine called her out again. Not sure how to respond, suddenly Lavinia gave a hand and reassured her some, "You're right but..." she stopped, with a deep breath, "You're right." And with that, she made her way through the crowd, towards the Demon King. With an assured nod, she stood on the table placed out, so she had a view of everyone around her.

Everything slowed to her suddenly. As she gazed into the crowd of people... Whether it was her group, or militia... There was an overwhelming feeling starting to crawl up her.

Not now, not anymore...

Ithraxl's words suck, but don't let that get you...

Marina I swear to god if you crumble right now...

With her clearing her throat, "To start, I'd like to offer a heartfelt thank you. To everyone. It was my mission, but it was our combined efforts that made victory at all possible. For that, you have my gratitude." After covering her mouth to hide an exausted yawn/sigh, "However, Ithraxl was only the start to a longer mission. After we've rested, our next mission will be liberating Hwein from Coteon, and reestablishing trade with them."

Marina closed her eyes. She wasn't sure what else was left she could say, but...

"I don't know if I deserve to be able to say this, but... someone from my world once said, 'to feel sadness is to live, but as long as you're alive, the future is blank'. As long as I'm alive, I will continue working to heal Vaia from the pain caused by me and by Coteon." And suddenly, it got grim by her.

"B-But for now! Cherish your victory, and rest well, you all deserve it. We all fought hard to get here, and with it, have hope. When we next come this way, we'll have Hwein behind me with the supplies we need. I stake my life on it."

Her gaze firm, she... was lost on what to say next... or if there was anything else to say next. In her head, she wanted to just retreat before her paranoia grabbed hold, but she had to stand tall. She owed these people that much...

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Oh dear, Bridgit could practically feel the hero's tension and stress, can basically cut through it with one of her nails if need be.  Before it got even a tad awkward the Pureblood sighs softly under her breath before floating towards Marina, standing by her side as she uses one of her hands to flip aside a twin tail.

"You've heard the Hero.  Take this chance to recuperate, join up with fellow comrades and rest.  This is only the beginning, don't let this victory get over your heads for there is still work to be done."  Her words are firm, lack the brightness of Marina's own but hold conviction as she backs up the human.  For once this isn't her taking the opportunity to belittle the hero, but to stand next to her as an equal on the battlefield.  Gently and subtly she takes the other's hand and squeezes it, still facing the others with a steady gaze before letting go as she moves away.

"I for one would love to get clean, and spend some time with my dear sister.  I suggest you all do something similar," she ends her own little chat with a tired wave of her hand before covering her mouth to stifle a yawn.

Making her way towards Lavinia she keeps it together enough until she's near enough to actually bring the older vampire into a hug.  Bridgit buries her face into her chest, no tears falling but the heaviness of what happened that day finally taking a toll on her.

"I'm glad you're safe sister."


Ren simply looks on as the vampire brat actually does something heartfelt for once, feeling his shoulders sag a bit before moving on to look for his cousin and girlfriend.  He'd love nothing more than to drop then and there, injuries be damned, but the ex human needs to make sure the girls are okay themselves.  When he finds Ayane first a small tired smile can be seen twitching on his lips, and before she can say anything or protest he brings his cousin into a bone crushing hug.

"You did great out there Ayane.  Didn't even need my help," he can't help but tease, pulling away only to bring his hand up to ruffle her hair.  Once done with his familial affections Ren lets his smile drop into a small frown, yet eyes stay soft on her.  "How are you feeling?"

Edited by sweet podado

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Through the group if militia shuffled the tiny maid as she tried to find who she was looking for. Barely audible 'excuse me's, and 'pardon mes' were what came through Shizuka as her and her massive pack made way to find who she was really looking for. To her, while the speech sounded nice, wasn't sure who even was making it. Someone they called a 'hero'? If she was a special as she sounded, Taiyou was in good enough hands for Shizuka to blast off on her own. 

Finally, she found them. Two Nanbians, in clearly more... regal clothing than the rest of the group around them. Shizuka set down her pack, but... she stayed silent. It seemed they were sharing a moment. She hadn't wanted to interrupt them... or even, wasn't sure what to do or say.

She was frozen, she didn't expect to get this far. 

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When Marina gave her speech Ayane was a ways in the back with her arms folded, despite the recent unity she felt with certain members she was still resolved to keep her distance from others. Especially considering how close she came to losing it. She simply listened to the speech, well tried to anyway. She meant no disrespect to Marina's inspiring words, but she still thought about Taliyah and her father. '...my father...I never said goodbye to him properly.' She closed her eyes. Ayane's father was a strict man, even if he was a drunkard at times. He wanted to instill Ayane with a sense of responsibility and focus, though it sadly made her a bit too serious and rough around the edges. She still cared for him, but she had her own wishes. Thankfully her cousin Ren helped make some of those wishes come true...

Speaking of Ren...

"!" Ayane was too lost in her mind to notice her cousin hug her, she suddenly tensed up but looked over to find dear Ren as he tussled her hair. "...hmph, of course I didn't." She put her hand on his arm as he held the embrace. "It's a struggle...but I am glad you're alright Ren. Truly." She looked over her shoulder toward him. "I won't lose to this, I won't lose sight of my humanity again. You can count on it, Ren." She took a breath. "...that said, there is something important we must discuss soon."

Sadly with Ayane's focus squarely on her cousin she completely failed to notice the poor maid before her.

Edited by TheRoon

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Lucille barely heard any of the Hero's speech as she continued to nod off in between her words. She was completely tapped; not even enough energy to lift herself off of Villkiss's back. But she dreaded actually closing her eyes to rest. She didn't want to see it again. She didn't want to see the point of Naomi's immolation again. She looked down at her gloved arm, and watched open and close. That could have been me. That was almost me... Lucille shook her head; she needed something else to think about, lest her mind run rampant. She looked over and saw the young girl who had been cradling the body of the rebellion's leader. She sat with her ears covered and back turned; no doubt to avoid hearing any of the cheers of the group's victory. Lucille had to stifle the growing desire to check on her. As a human, formerly of Coteon's forces, and an unknown face, Lucille knew that she wouldn't take her intrusion well. No amount of worry would change that, especially if she held the same sort of beliefs as the felled rebellion leader. Even then, it wasn't hard to know that she wasn't going to want to talk to anyone except those closest to her in the first place. Lucille's eyes got heavier and heavier, before finally sliding closed for a moment.  

She jolted herself awake as she felt herself sliding out of Villkiss's saddle; quickly grabbing the reins to right herself. Hopefully no one was paying attention then... The last thing she wanted was for someone to have to carry her to where ever they were resting for the night. She'd already put too much on everyone. So she sat, and listened as the others around her made conversation, and kept a watchful eye over the despondent girl to the best of her failing ability. 

 

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Bladen's... surprise at hearing Asami say the word 'sister' had only been eclipsed by the appearance of an almost identical copy of Asami from the other jail cell. He hadn't expected to run into one of her... sisters so soon, especially not with everything Asami had said could happen with all of them together... But any words he might have wanted to say had needed to be put to the side for a bit. They had to get the prisoners to the rest of the group, followed quickly by a migration to outside the fortress, a move Bladen could hardly disagree with. It was easier to breathe, somehow, out here than back in the walls of that fortress. The pain and loss that had filled up its halls had followed them out here, indeed would continue to follow them so long as Taliyah chose to stay with them, but it wasn't quite as stifling out under the night sky. His glance darted back over to the poor lizard girl, as the Hero was invited to give a speech about their victory. The pain on her face cut deep, an echo of a pain he knew. Even if the one who had struck the killing blow on his father wasn't here, the one who had been placed at the head of the army responsible was. Giving a speech about how wonderful it was that they all worked together.

Unable to listen anymore, he stalked off to the edge of the crowd where Asami and her sister were standing. He'd not been avoiding them. Not really. He'd just been giving them some space, since surely they would have things to talk about. Ok, maybe he had been avoiding them somewhat. It still bothered him. That she was being so seemingly casual about the fact that one of the other eight were here, no concern at all for the future that had been seen, the possibilities that could come from her sisters all gathering together. But she was smarter than him, so surely she knew what she was doing. He didn't need to question it, and yet here he was, questioning it. "A-asami." Great start, stuttering on the very first syllable. "Asami." Better. "Can we, talk? I have questions about, well, a lot of things. Well, one thing mostly, I guess. But there are parts within that one thing?" Good work there buddy. You sounded totally natural, not at all flustered or bothered or anything. This should go juuuuust great.

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Agni embraced Taliyah as she went to his arms, knowing full well there was only so much words could help with. "Taliyah..." He hadn't the guts to say anything to her. Just staying there...

"... Lavinia." He spoke quietly, gaze shifting towards the vampire. "Thank you." One more hand to help bury her father would make her feel better, surely...


Agni had a need to hear Marina's speech with critical intent, hoping to aid her if she came to lose her words, but also hesitated leaving Taliyah's side --who definitely was still in the least stable of moods--.

He walked towards Taliyah, offering a hug to the lizardwoman. His ears were still fixed on,the speech first and foremost... and it was quite satisfactory, except for the interruption by Lavinia's sister. What a troubling choice of words, making us concerned about future operations after a fatiguing one. I guess you can chalk that to bluebood-isms.

---

Taiyou, on the other hand has her focus quickly on the pair of regal onis in the camp. "Shizuka... who are they?" She had a fair idea already, but it was never bad to double-check.

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"Oi!" Thesephine nearly jumped up on the table and ripped Bridgit off of it, but the folk around seemed to take it well enough, even if some of them shook their heads and sighed at her. The medusa growled, scowling knives into the stupid little vampire, before biting back her anger and working off of the Hero's words, not the rest of the drivel. "You heard Marina! Rejoice and rest; you've all earned it! Break out the supplies, break out the food and drink." Plans solidified, the demon king made her way over to Sollowy, collapsing lazily against the fairy, making sure not to put too much weight on her.

"I'm tired, Sollowy... Too much, today. Just, too much." She needed a rest herself, after having been made to chase off the church's forces and everything she had to deal with after coming back.

Lavinia was less permitting, pushing the small vampire to an arm's length, and giving her a stern look. "Bridgit. You are not the star of the show today, nor were your words particularly helpful... Think before you speak in the future. Everyone is tired, exhausted, and needs rest... They deserve to get a little big headed, for tonight, at least. Don't take that away from them." Hopefully she would think on that and not repeat this performance in the future, Lavinia sighing and pulling her into a tight hug.

"That said, I am glad you're alright... I knew everyone would take care of you, but it was still difficult to leave you all and split the groups as we did... I'm beyond glad that you and Marina are both alright... Physically." Stroking a tired gauntlet gently through Bridgit's hair, Lavinia gave her a concerned glance. "Shall we talk? Here or elsewhere? Or are you... Truly all fine?" She would've been pleased to hear that nothing was weighing on Bridgit's mind, but the girl was still young, in mind, and naive to the ways of war and bloodshed. It would have been monumental for nothing to be eating at her, now.

Taliyah sniffled, feeling Agni's arms come around her again, glancing back at him. "I'll... I'll be okay, Agni. We can, bury my dad later. Thank you for helping me, take him out of there... Uhm... Can, can we talk, away from the group? I... I have some things I need to, get off my mind... Is that okay?" Marina's speech seemed to be over, Taliyah standing herself up and sniffling a bit. "Sorry, if I've been clinging to you a lot... I just... I can't bring myself to talk to Marina, right now." A weak smile, but a wry one. I don't know if I can call myself her friend with these feelings weighing over me...


Asami yawned as Marina spoke. What a boring little speech, and Lavina's sister butted in, as she tended to. Asami rolled her eyes, Yui patting her shoulder, the more mature of the pair knowing that things were difficult at the moment. "Do not patronize me, sister," Asami yawned out, taking a deep breath. "It's just so typical, that's all... Nothing more, nothing less."

"I understand how you feel... But, some of these words are needed for the people here, to heal and move on. You know that."

"I do... Unfortunately." Asami sighed this time, letting her yawns go, before perking up at Bladen's approach. "Hey there, handsome~ Questions? About ol' tall, dark and boring here, I assume."

"Asami!" Yui snapped, gently thwapping a hand against the pink clothed fox's arm. "Goodness, we reunite and you've nothing but bickering for me... I've always been kind to you."

"Mrrrhh... You have. Fine! Yui is wonderful, my annoyed emotions aside. What would you like to ask, darling~?"


"M-Marinnn-na!" Tenna was stuck at the edge of the crowd of monsters, trying to get in to see her friend, but... The panic from all of them being together was preventing her from pushing through to check on all of them. She'd tried to steel herself a few times to do so, but each attempt fell flat... Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Xalrei, the dragon she'd forced friendship on, looking rather annoyed... Maybe she needs some help...? I wanted to check on Marina first, but it would be better to, wait until all of these people clear out...

"Uhm... X-Xalrei?" Cautiously, the princess approached the dragon, hand held out ever so slightly. "Are you, w-wounded? I can, try and clean up some of your w-wounds if you'd, like... I knnn, n, know you'd, probably rather wait for ann, noo, ther monnster to do so, but... I-I'm here! I'm, trying to help. Please... If it's okay."


Ariana had no issues pushing through the crowd, first holding up a hand to shake, realizing the height difference with Marina up on the table, then tried to change it into a fist bump, a wave, before she settled on a very awkward peace sign alongside her blank face. She couldn't hide the blushing, though. "M-Marina. Uhm. Good, good work, today. You did well... Er, and, good words. Too. Uh... Yeah. Do you, want to eat something and, try to relax a bit...?" There were probably others that Marina wanted to spend time with, but, Ariana didn't want to be alone with the battle over and the fort cleared out, while at the same time, couldn't bring herself to bother Ayane while she was with her brother. She feared his judgement, less so after talking with Jade, but still more than enough...


Verah was happy to finally be free of that cursed jail cell, idly walking around the group while the hero had spoken, looking around folk, before noticing the only slightly armored pegasi in the vicinity... With a collapsed rider atop it? "Oh, no... Is... she okay?" She wasn't asking anyone in particular, wondering if she should approach her at all... Surely, someone would notice, right...?


Ahhh... There they were. There they were~! Her destiny. My destiny! Standing right in front of me! I could just, reach out, and... No. No, not yet. Not while they're all bunched up; an oni, like me, just presenting myself and offering surrender? I'd be locked up and killed, or worse, just killed on the spot~! I need a better place... A better, much better place, to make my case... Mmmm... So I'll follow you~ A whisper of a chuckle on the wind, the invisible oni was far too amused with herself. I'll follow you until I can show myself and get you all to accept me... And then we'll be together. Together for the rest of our lives, my destined lover~ Hmhmhm... So, very, very, cute... Ahh... I can't wait to eat you up.

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Marina wasn't sure how to feel about Bridgit's sudden intrustion. Even with the squeeze to her hand, she... she thought Bridgit was trying to help, right? After she was shooed off and the group dispersed, seeming mostly okay with what happened, oh how all Marina wanted to do was just go vent off all the stre--

Then another approaching individual. It was Ariana. With her attempts at greeting, or congratulating(?) Marina followed Ariana's peace sign with one of her own, with a soft laugh.

"Thanks Ariana, you did great too. Haha..." an offer to get some food, and go be lazy for a bit. With her. With my sister. With a metaphorical shake, Marina pushed the thought out, at least while she was with Ariana. If she didn't want to treat their connection that way, Marina would respect it.

"O-Of course, I'd love to. I, um... One second," She started to make her way slowly off the table, but then decided to low hop right off. Either it was uneven flooring or she was that tired, but the last thing she needed was for the table to tip over and end with her face in the dirt.

Hitting the ground, she was down to a knee, with a sigh, then a yawn. Getting herself back up, she gave Ariana a smile,

"I think... I think I finally deserve some rest, huh?" And she gave a nervous laugh hoping her companion would laugh along. 


Taiyute had a smile as she listened to the Hero give her speech. She would've clapped but it didn't seem the time. It was clear if only for the lizardgirl who was still hurting.

Turning she noticed the wraith who had joined them. It seemed they had a nice conversation before, why not again?

"Nisha, are you well? You had done great, I believe," she greeted with a smile. 


"I-I... um..." Shizuka was struggling to get words out. She was so nervous, she didn't know what to do or say. She turned to Taiyou, "It's... Princess Ayane, and Lord Ren... I... I know it is."  the poor girl began to tear up.

"Ah, mmm..." Shizuka stepped closer. "P-Princess? Lord R-Ren?"

Edited by Silver Gallade

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Bridgit blinks at the sudden rejection, a troubled look passing through her face before schooling herself as to not let it show again.  Still, it stings to know that Lavinia thought what she did just now was to garner attention for herself. Letting the older vampire continue the Pureblood simply listens on, any form of comfort making her feel the opposite of what it's supposed to do.  If anything it made the nauseating pit in her stomach settle and grow until she herself has to move away from Lavinia.

She just wants to help, to show she's not harboring the same resentment and anger towards the hero from when they first met...but even that she manages to mess up.  So much for showing the effort she's putting to understand and change her stance.  Why would it matter if others only thought of Bridgit as anything but a spoiled brat.

"We can leave the conversation for later Lavinia.  You're right in that everyone is in need of rest...me included.  I'll be making my leave now," and before the older vampire could even stop her she makes a swift getaway, floating out of reach and towards the opposite direction.  With everyone else occupied Bridgit simply decides to use this time to be alone and actually rest...and hope to Hess that these feelings were fleeting.  


"Nothing I couldn't handle," he says as he offers Ayane one of his charming smiles, obviously still teasing her before the mood could be brought down.  At her genuine concern his smile softens before giving her a one shoulder shrug.  "I know you won't dear cousin.  Believe me when I say my faith in you is unwavering, and I don't think that'll change any time soon," he adds, then blinks at the sudden request from his cousin.  He nods, knowing this to be a serious topic at hand, but before he could even reply back his eyes catch sight of someone...familiar.

He's proven right when the little maid calls out their respective titles, eyes widening before a grin appears on his lips.

"By the gods, Shizuka?  Is that really you?" he asks incredulously, the pleasant surprise still running through him at knowing familiar faces from their home country are making themselves known.  "How on earth did you even get here?!"

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The fog in his mind felt to be thickening by the moment; he dimly registered Marina's speech as she spoke of their victory, barely catching the mention of Hwein, beginning to fully tune out as the girl hopped up on the table.

He was... tired.

Idly rotating his staff in his hand, he looked around to see how the others were managing. Certainly, having to perform as much healing as he had would wear out a person - not that he regretted it, of course. It had fallen to him to handle things in that moment, and if circumstances called for it he'd do it as often as needed. More importantly, the general would be all right; Amera's unexpectedly earnest plea had seen to that. 

It was the mood in the air had unexpectedly fatigued him. Surely had he some foresight, he might've anticipated that a civil war might have led to some more personal conflicts of interest, but as much as the others seemed to have known - if not come to terms with - the nature of Ithraxl's personage had entirely blindsided him. It was difficult to figure out how he felt about their victory; in Hwein, things had been straightforward, clear... 

He caught himself sighing a bit too heavily, looking around to see if anyone had noticed. Luckily it seemed not; though, sure enough, the rest had sought the company of those they were familiar with, with a few exceptions... Lucille, still mounted and gripping her pegasus' reins for one.

It would be for the best for our new recruit not to feel excluded... and I'd rather not be idle.

"It looks like things are calming down now... for what that's worth, given the state of things. Are you holding up okay?"

Edited by mcd900

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Gabriela quickly found a quiet place to perch on, but after a while, the rest of the army slowly started to flock outside, including Ren. She hadn't really spoken with him since before the battle, and honestly, his wellbeing was the at the top of the siren's mind. She flew (more like floated) down from her perch and approached Ren, only to find not only Ayane, but someone else as well. She was unfamiliar, but she seemed to know Ren and Ayane, and vice versa, from the look of Ren's face and the sound of his voice. Would this be an awkward time to interrupt? Perhaps. 

So instead of interrupting, Gabriela just stood near and waited for the new girl to be done with her business and talk to Ren after. What they were talking about was none of her business anyway..

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Her sister's words still occupied the majority of Xalrei's attention, stewing over her actions that had preceded her finishing blow against Ithraxl. Was there no outcome that didn't see Taliyah devastated by tearing her father away from her? It was too late to think about it now, once everything was already said and done. As she'd told Bladen in her rare bout of maturity, all everyone involved could do was learn to live with it. Nevertheless, it opened her eyes to a responsibility she'd never considered, never learned. Securing the good of many no matter the cost, even to those she held dear. Could she continue to make those decisions?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

As Thesephine dragged everyone out of the fort Xalrei had left her sister's side to do her best to conceal her no-longer-that-secret identity. Most in the group probably knew if they'd payed the slightest attention to her shouting match, but if the commoners remained in the dark would much really change? Maybe some peoples' opinions would, but, well, there was no helping that now. Now on the outskirts of the gathering, she awaited her sister's speech for a job well done... or whatever it was that needed to be said at the end of a weeks long campaign. Thesephine started talking, Xalrei perked up--

"But they aren't mine to make. Marina!" Instantly a scowl was on her face, none to pleased by the sudden twist. Marina was ultimately the reason why this had even been a problem in the first place! If anyone aught to be making a speech it should've been Nessraya, or at least someone who'd actually fought Ithraxl in combat. Marina might be their leader in name, but she'd still yet to earn her title in this princess' eyes.

She tuned out the speech as best she could, letting it go in one ear and out the other without letting herself think about the words being said. She didn't have to keep it up for long before a distraction, Xalrei unsure of how welcome it was, in the form of Coteon's own princess approaching her. She was too exhausted to work herself up for a random piece of vitriol to throw at Tenebria, at least right now. "...I was already healed back in the fort. Not like you'd have been able to heal me that well, even human magic and I don't mix."


A sigh of relief had left the fairy when Thesephine had emerged from that dreaded hallway none the worse for wear, taking pace behind her as she led everyone out of the fort. She wanted to just hug her and not let go, but she knew there was still work do be done. A closing statement or speech, something to boost the morale of their troops after the nightmare the battle had nearly turned into. She took her place off to the side as Thesephine climbed up the table, knowing it was important to let her have her moment as King. Instead, she passed it over to the human known as the 'Hero'. Well, she hadn't gotten along with the girl a few weeks ago during their brief meeting, but maybe she'd grown some over that time?

She made an alright speech in that Sollowy had none to compare it to, at least touching on, probably, the most important parts of a campaign ending speech. An interloper jumped on the Hero's and Thesephine's 'stage', offering a much more subdued version of her words. Thesephine looked ready kill, or at least maim, her but the moment passed and she ended everything on as good of a note as was reasonable given the circumstances.

"Mhhm..." Sollowy 'caught' Thesephine with a hug, wrapping her arms around her as the Medusa leaned against her. She was exhausted as well from her own magic expenditures, but she could buck up for Thessy. "I'm just glad you're okay, Thessy. Between you charging into the knights and screaming murder the whole time and whatever happened with Ithraxl, I was really worried about you today. You gotta be more careful in the future..."

Edited by Ursali

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Lucille's eyes slid open as she heard someone talking next to her. No one else had been near her so she assumed that the new-- wait, she remembered the voice. She turned to see Seilan looking at her, and looking rather exhausted himself. "Oh... Seilan." A yawn escaped her lips before she could continue. She shook her head to stave off sleep for a little while longer, "Sorry, I'm... exhausted. More so than usual after a fight. But... I suppose I made it through." Lucille sat up and stretched; she wanted to talk, but she equally wanted to keep the conversation off of her. "You seem ready to pass out yourself... Must of had a lot of healing to do after whatever happened in there. But... I'm glad to see that you're... about as alright as one could be after all of that." 

A lot of questions began to form in Lucille's head: "Did you know about the link between the young lizard... dragon... something girl, and the leader of the rebellion? What even happened inside that the entire castle was shaking? Is everyone else alright? Where are you from?" Lucille blinked as she thought about the last one. But it would be better to let the conversation take its natural course. 

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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Lavinia had had the right idea, and luckily it seemed Jade's good first impression with Villkiss still carried some weight. Lucille hadn't put up much fight either, dozing in and out as it were, and aside from a few soft words of explanation the zombie hadn't tried to press her with questions or conversation, taking them outside the fort, and setting up "camp" as it were near a few trees. It didn't quite feel right to leave the girl completely unattended, what should happen if she fell and needed help or something, so Jade sat down at the base of one of the trees just on the other side from where the pegasus was standing. Given her speed she wouldn't be close enough to actually stop a fall, but she could react after the fact at least and there was something to be said for allowing some personal space as well.

Before long, the rest of the troops had gathered, the Demon King saying a few words, then passing the torch to the Hero for a few more. For the most part, the speech was generally comforting, but Jade would be lying to herself if she didn't acknowledge some discomfort and apprehension about the notion of a return to Hwein. Her situation there was... complicated. The zombie found herself idly toying with the end of the rope laying in her lap, though the more than enough slack she'd left on the line meant there was no effect on the steed it was connected to. She absently watched many of the others split off into small groups, but remained unaware of Lucille's near slip from her saddle. Honestly, it wasn't until Seilan approached and began speaking to the former church soldier that Jade pulled herself back out of introspection and began to listen.

She had some unresolved questions about that boy. There had never seemed to be a right time to ask, especially when weighed against the then-upcoming fight against Ithraxl and how there would really be no importance one way or the other what the facts actually were. But, with the insurrection now firmly in the past, and the path their future seemed to be leading...

Mmmm, she should just listen for now, interrupting so soon would be rude. But perhaps after the two had wrapped up their pleasantries she would step out and stop him before he left.

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"Ah, well, good to meet you, Yui. And, sort of about her? I guess?" Bladen hesitated before finally just spitting it out. "I thought that getting you and your sisters in the same area was, bad? And how did you know that there were people in the cells? Was it because you knew she was here? If so, how?" He had a sneaking suspicion on the how, but he wanted it confirmed. There could be other ways after all. Yui seemed nice at least, though he had to wonder why Asami was annoyed. Was it with her or for some other reason? There was just too much going on here. He could feel a headache starting already and explanations hadn't even started.

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"Just hearing you say that makes things much better..." She smiled and leaned back into her cousin with a sigh. "Well...you see I-" Before she could begin the important revelation, someone had approached the duo. Someone Ayane never expected to see again, at least in this life. Her eyes turned to a certain maid, and her eyes widened on sight. "...Shizuka..." She stepped from Ren's grasp to the girl. "The slaughter at the castle...both the Kisaragi and Kusanagi clan at that...Izuna was thrown into complete chaos..." She tried to keep her composure. "How in the world did you survive?"

Many questions went through Ayane's mind. Well trained warriors died that day, order had completely collapsed in the region. She knew without a doubt no ordinary person from Nanbu could reach the other side of the sea easily, even Ayane had trouble. But here she was, in the flesh. Her loyal maid...she couldn't have been fake could she? An imposter made by Ouka? That couldn't be overlooked, even if it was the smallest possibility. And it may explain how she "survived" the ordeal and made it so far. So she took a step back and narrowed her eyes. "...I need you to prove to me you truly are Shizuka." She said sternly. "With everything I've seen Ouka do, I have to be sure."

Edited by TheRoon

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"Oh, Taiyute. I'm doing okay... that kind of chaotic melee is pretty much ideal for me. No one can keep track of me with all that going on, so I wasn't really in any danger and had time to line my shots up. You seemed to do alright yourself, yeah?" Nisha replied, her attention slipping from the hero's speech as she was approached. Not that any of it really applied to her anyway... she wasn't a Vaian native, she wasn't part of the military. The greater intricacies of the campaign weren't exactly lost on her, but it was difficult to consider herself involved in any meaningful way past the fighting part.

________

There. That should have been the last of the triage... after Seilan had tended to her own wounds, it had been straight into bringing the rest of the army back up to snuff. As the General, that was her role to play in all of this. With the King present, and lead of the operation technically belonging to Marina, her own input to the troops wasn't especially necessary. It was a bit of a shame that she hadn't caught much more than snippets of Marina's address during her work, but she had seen the girl grow in such a short period of time, surely she had performed admirably in that regard.

Leaning back against a sturdy tree outside of the fort, Nessraya sighed gently. Her physical wounds had been healed, but she had expelled a great deal of magic containing Ithraxl's corrupted form, and had leapt directly into her position as primary medic. There hadn't been much to do about it, their proficient healers had already been stretched thin, but... sliding down the trunk of her leaning tree, Nessraya felt light scratches across her back from the bark... right, her robe had been left scorched and in tatters, surely there were many holes across her back, leaving the skin exposed. It didn't take much magic to fix, but it was dipping even further into a reserve she was running low on as-is.

"Mmm, I'll just need to make sure to have a good meal... later on. They'll all be far too tired for such a thing..." Nessraya mumbled to herself, watching the aftermath of the battle unfold. Even among their group, there must have been so many differing feelings on the matter... from the grieving Taliyah to those who had varying levels of personal stake in the matter. Surely some would still resent Marina, resent Nessraya herself for her part in the matter. Would Ithraxl's men fade away quietly, or continue to stir unrest? The battle was over, but was the war? Only time would tell what would happen to the remnants of that faction now...

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Shizuka was on her way to smile and cry. It really was her! And Ren as well! Words couldn't describe how excited she was...

Then immediately, 

I need you to prove to me you truly are Shizuka.

How was she supposed to do that? All she had were the clothes on her back, and the pack of things she needed to survive with. None of her personal things, or her...

"I... I-I..." Shizuka's face started to turn red. Her tear-filled smile turned... into a frown. An angry frown.

Without thinking, she marched straight to Ayane, without a single response,

Slap! 

"I... I came all the way here on my own! Took a boat, fought the elements," and then she started counting her fingers, "taught myself how to fight, track, hunt, skin, build a campfire, pitch a tent, had to survive being stuck in a cell and feeding on bread for days, because I wanted to find you!"

As she vented, she started to recognize what she had done. From the red on the princess's face to the beet-red color of her palm. But she continued,

"Princess Yukari gave me life when I lost it... Her, and you and your family... made my life worth living. I came because I wanted to help you. Maybe find Princess Yukari too." She sheepishly backed up.

"...And... I-I wouldn't have made it without Miss Taiyou being there." She turned to her for a brief moment before turning back around to Ayane.

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Well, Ayane's personal goal of never getting struck today was broken, by a teary eyed maid of all people. At this point, her bloodied lip had stopped, only a very dry and very faint blood trail was left going down her chin. Now her more recent wound was a red mark across her cheek. The slap was so unexpected it made the princess stagger back slightly, and her face turned from Shizuka. Her eyes were hidden by her hair bangs.

"......"

When Shizuka went over what she had to do to make it to Vaia, it stirred something in Ayane. When the deed had been done Ayane was alone, with nothing but her armor, clothes, treasured blade and a weight of sins and a curse upon her back. She was suddenly without a single soul to help her in her time of need. So she learned a lot during her journey to leave Nanbu to cross the sea. At times Ayane felt like a savage, but it broke her into the reality of the world quite hard. Shizuka's experiences weren't very far off from her own, though she didn't have the burden of losing herself to madness every now and then.

The oni turned her face back toward Shizuka as soon as she finished her rant, and only met her angry sad eyes with dull ones. No anger, no rage, just an emotionless stare. "...." The next move she made was too quick for Ren or Taiyou to stop. She rushed toward Shizuka and grabbed her by the shoulder, and in a moment...the maid would find herself embraced by the princess, her head buried into her shoulder as she took a huff. "...the experience you had wasn't far from mine...the abyss of loneliness in the wilds..." She paused. "That she devil can't fake that kind of experience onto a puppet..." Ayane did nothing else but continued to embrace her servant's return, it only filled her heart with relief that one more sin was removed from her back. Shizuka was alive, she could live life going forward now.

Though the maid was incredibly lucky the oni had spent her rage on the battle before hand, a single slap would have been enough to set her off normally!

Edited by TheRoon

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