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Mercenary on the Winds

Faith in the Spirits Arc 1: To Align the Stars

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After a few moments spent easing herself into a state where she could consume the herbs, Laniva managed to stomach some of the herbal remedy. Perhaps she was being led on by her own hopes, but she could have sworn that she might have been feeling slightly better already. As she began to regain her composure, it sunk in slightly more who had offered her the herbs, and instinctively snapped back up, then into a short bow.

"A-ah...! My thanks, m-milady." She was halfway through the last word when she kicked herself mentally for falling back into her old habits. Laniva, you fool, this isn't the castle, you're a mercenary now, what are you doing...

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Her attempts at saving face were almost as cute as she was. With a smirk, Gean moved forward and lifted the blue clad woman in her arms. "If anything I wanted to know if Chris' claim earlier was true, and from the feel of things, he was right." Gean was definitely having fun here, and wanted to enjoy this as much as possible. "Now onwards to your room shall we? We promise only the most comfortable of rides on the Great Ship Aegean." A hearty laugh escaped her lips as she started towards the main ship.

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Nyx squinted at the lock, then spared the skinny lad a glance, then back to the lock. Then a loud THUMP resounded through the captain’s quarters as Nyx rubbed her forehead where she’d dropped it onto the table. Damn, this boat was messing with her.

”Ah, one o’ them fuckers…” Nyx replied quietly, not actually knowing the significance of that sort of locking mechanism. Certainly sounded fancier than anything she had to deal with before… Nonetheless, following his advice, combined with her own skill in picking locks, Nyx managed to pry open the lockbox for real! Go her!

”Hell yeah! M’the best, ain’t I, Syn?” Nyx pumped her arm in satisfaction before, as she is often want to do, practically draping herself over Syndra’s shoulder. “So, how’s ‘bout a lil’ reward fer ya girl Nyxie, eh Syn~?” 

Oh, Nyx, you tease. In all honesty, though, she’d settle for someone to share a drink or two with; much as Gean made for good company, she wasn’t much for the bottle, and Nyx figured she’d be too young to get into it too much anyways without being a little bit of a lightweight. Maybe. Gean did seem like she could hold her own in a lotta things… Hm. Something to think about this evening.

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"Good girl Nyx, hold still I'll make something for you." Syndra then proceeded to trace a line partway up her arm, ending at her wrist, and finally closed her hand into the shape of a fist. She then made a small incantation, and opened her hand and pulled the invisible line off her arm to reveal a rose made out of solid ice. "Of all the little 'magic tricks' I can do this one's still one of my favorites. Here you go." She then handed the artificial flower to Nyx. "Now then let's see what we have in here." The lockbox seemed to hold documents in it mostly, but they were written in some manner of code. "Damn, I don't know what to make of these." A half-truth, since it wasn't even the first Islexian-coded message she'd seen today, since she wrote the letter for her confidants before the fight and- Shit! I'd forgotten I put that in my jacket earlier. She put her hand over where she'd been shot earlier to feel if they letter didn't fall out during the fighting, and while she was relieved to still feel it was there, she was concerned if it was damaged as a result. I'll have to check that out later. This is more important for right now. She then turned towards the man who entered and helped them open the box. "I assume you want to know what's inside for yourself?" What interest do you have in some random group of Islexian pirates?

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It opened pretty effortlessly after his suggestion; the roguish woman had some quick hands, and quickly caught on to what she needed to do. "Surprising that a random group of pirates got a hold of a box like that. But I guess its possible that he jacked it from some unlucky ship that he and his crew got to." Fortunately, it didn't seem like either woman was interested in asking exactly how he knew how to open the box. If they weren't going to, he could just walk past it; as far as they needed to be concerned, he was just some performer, with a sword at his hip. Really blending in well, aren't you? "I would like to know. Figuring out how or why a random group of pirate got so many pure weapons, and so close to Glacies is mildly important. Something I can pass on to people both in Hecatia, and Glacies, when we get back." That should hopefully be enough. 


Aegean didn't miss a beat, entirely unaffected by Marianne's attempt to quell her own embarrassment. She was then quickly, and effortlessly scooped into Aegean's arms. She most certainly wasn't joking about her own strength; carrying an axe around had some benefits it seemed. Marianne fidgeted in Aegean's grasp, her face slowly approaching the color of her eyes, as Aegean revealed a portion of why she offered, "I. Mmm... of course I am." Marianne simply shut her mouth after that, shrinking a bit, and allowing her hair to cover her face a bit. She knew trying any retort or anything at this point would just come out as a mess. She just needed to calm down a little; at least she wasn't anywhere as bad as either of the sisters. Though, in her embarrassment about everything happening, Marianne forgot that she was going to ask Aegean something. Instead, Marianne just remained quiet, kind of wishing that she'd just let Chris take her back. He'd practically seen everything so her being flustered wasn't anywhere near as embarrassing with him. She'd have to figure out how to return the favor at some point, and quietly began thinking of ways as Aegean bridal carried her to her current dwelling. ...Is this how Chris felt with Cinead carrying him? 


Tio blinked, and then chuckled as the seasick girl seemed to perk right up after consuming the herbs, and then went immediately into a bow, complete with "milady". "My... Milady is not something I hear often. Lady is usually as far as it goes. But..." Tio looked the cat over, tilting her head a couple times, "Aha... that's why I recognize your armor. That's from Kansei, is it not? That's really the only place I can think of where you would have picked up on knightly verbage, as a Clouded. I don't particularly mind if you'd like to call me that though... Milady Tio has a decent ring to it~" She quite liked titles and such, as far as she was concerned, they were a testament to how far she'd come from where she started. She was more than allowed to feel a little self important. "But, if you're feeling better... Um... Heck, it probably would help if I began learning your names, aside from just Renais..." Tio sighed, "I doubt that Commander Natalya, nor Davros, where ever he might be, will need our assistance for dealing with these ships. So I suppose we can continue assisting with medical things, and when that's over with... I can go back to sleep. Damned pirates attacking at the crack of dawn. How rude." 

 

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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"The issue I have with that is while I do agree with you on that point, I don't see why a random traveling performer needs that information. Especially one that isn't a Clouded or Monster." Even still it wasn't like Syndra was prepared to do anything with it herself. "I'll tell you what. I'm going to go deliver these to our commander, if you want to go over them you can ask her, I'd just request I be there when you go over them. Not for nothing but we've just met, and I don't know exactly why it is you boarded with us towards Hecatia. Sound fair?"

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Oh, this was… definitely not what Nyx expected. She’d figured Syndra would have just rolled her eyes and gave her a snarky remark, but instead she made this frankly beautiful rose out of ice, and Nyx… really didn’t know how to react. So, naturally, she simply stood there admiring the faux flower while she turned so red steam was probably coming out of her ears.

”Syn, I-“ Nyx cut herself off as the skinny lad started talking, and the mood died out. Right, she forgot the lanky little chastity belt with legs was still here. Nyx had half a mind to toss him out, but he did help her get the box open, so… she refrained. Huh. Look at her, being a considerate adult for a change. But when he mentioned people in Hecatia to relay info to, it set off alarm bells in Nyx’s head - ones she didn’t know could still go off, given how long ago it was that she’d left this sort of thing behind.

”Wha’ kinda lads in Hecatia we talkin’? Y’ain’t wit’ any o’them traffickers n’ lookin’ t’stock up wit’ the girls in the Tigers, are ye?” Nyx leveled the man with a hard gaze, uncharacteristically serious. He’d struck a bit of a paranoid nerve in Nyx, intended or no, and now she wanted info and answers. “No ‘fense, lad, but m’not too keen on trustin’ anyone wit’ people in Hecatia n’I don’ know what they do. Not wit’ th’kinda people I know’re still snakin’ round them parts.”

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Chris looked at the pair with a blank stare, though mostly at Nyx for her oddly specific assertion. He couldn't exactly be sure how she would have come to such a conclusion, but it was a terrible one to have come to. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before reopening his eyes and returning her hard gaze. "...You know, I reeeally take issue that someone believes that even for a moment that I would be consorting with traffickers." His voice had taken on a lethal tone, "I suggest, for your well being, that you return that thought back into whatever warped recess of your mind that it jumped out of, and lock it away." His hand had gripped the hilt of his sword at some point during all of that. 

He paused a moment to let those words air throughout the room. Clearly he wasn't going to get that document without acquiescing something himself. "...To actually answer your question. I meant Lord Altair of the Constellation families, I don't think I need to explain that to someone who seems quite well versed in Hecatia, from the sounds of things. While it's not entirely unusual for Pure weapons to be out on the seas... the amount that's been seen recently is uncannily high. I'm sure he would like to know that the Islexians are becoming more and more brazen." Chris huffed, he was going to be bothered about that comment for a bit. His eyes then turned to Syn, "Lastly, I also take issue with your insinuation that such information wouldn't pertain to me simply because I'm not either a monster or a clouded. For starters, I'm not sure you can say that I'm not either of those things; you don't have a single clue as to who I am. But more importantly, I would think that as a Lufirian, it would be quite important to me." 

Chris turned his back on both women, "If you would prefer that I see the documents under the supervision of your commander, and yourself, I don't see any reason to argue. But I wouldn't be making assertions without having the information to back things up. You don't know how lucky you might be to walk out of places if you're not careful." With that, Chris stepped away. He let his hand grip his hilt. A trafficker, how incredibly disgusting. He'd dealt with his fair share of them, all types, and every single one of them were awful. He'd seen too much with the people who fled over the sands. Probably the easiest way to have gotten him genuinely upset, but it was hitting him now that it would be quite difficult to see the documents at all now. "That went wonderfully. Of all things..." 

 

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Well, at least he wasn’t one of those trafficker types. But before Nyx could voice any sort of relief, he’d mentioned Lord Altair, and even she knew what that implied. Not that she had any time to offer any sort of reply in edgewise, as he’d taken off after some harsh words to Syn as well, and Nyx couldn’t help but scowl as the hand she held the ice rose in dropped to her side.

”Welp. M’gonna hafta stay on th’boat once we hit land, prob’ly, cuz m’pretty sure I just fucked up. Specially if he’s workin’ for the lord… hell, I just hope I ain’t fucked it for th’whole team.” She almost definitely did, but Nyx wasn’t going to worry Syn like that without an out. Nonetheless, she put the ice rose in her hair and turned around, making to leave the room. “Sorry I made ye waste some o’yer magic on me. S’real pretty, n’a lot more than a drunk like me should prob’ly get from a fancy lass like ye.”

And, with that, Nyx left Syndra alone with the documents in the captain’s quarters and began what seemed like an excessively long trek back to her own quarters. That box was open now anyways, and they’d found what they were looking for down there. Nyx had done her job. Now she just had to go get blackout drunk and forget this whole mess.

Boy, Gean was gonna hate her by the end of the night with how much she was going to be drinking.

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It sounded like a reasonable enough question, although even if Nyx was right and he was a trafficker he wasn't going to admit as much. Still, Syndra was far from ready to let this slight against her and one of her friends go.  Watch your back little man.. you're the one working without information here. Syndra let her rage cool just a little, there would be time for that a much later date, if it was truly deemed necessary. She'd been left alone by the dejected Nyxied, which was a shame, since she was really enjoying the company, even if she never got the chance to say it. That's fine, I can make it up to her later, there's plenty of rum around here these bastards are going to leave behind, surely. Since she was alone now though she decided to open her jacket and inspect the note she'd written. "That's a relief at least." While slightly damaged, it was only in the corner of the parchment, so the code was still legible enough. "Well then, time to finish up business for now." Time to find a nice bottle, and then hand these over to the commander, that bigshot performer might get to look at them, if I'm feeling generous, and he's willing to play ball with us.

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A head tilt met the 'hero' as she nearly choked on her food and struggled to both swallow her food and stand up. "It safe to use then? What if run out energy before battle done?" The girl had only been with them a short time, about a month now, but Alriana had still yet to really watch her during a battle. She'd handled herself fine today so there was no doubt she was competent, but the lizard still knew next to nothing about her fighting style or why she dressed up in gold armor only for battles. 

"I see... Take care self, yeah? Gean seem worried about you." Technically she'd done what was asked of her in finding Miria and the girl had said she planned to return to her room. "I go back to room too... Unless, you need something?"

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Luminous Night

Spoiler

It was a fine night for stalking about the ship, making sure someone not affiliated with the captain’s crew was on the night watch. Ingverd couldn’t sleep, anyway. He’d received some news, some troubling news, all to do with the individual he’d encountered earlier in the day. A birdie had told him where that person was sleeping, so with a final look about the waves off into the moonlit night, he stepped back below deck and knocked three times against Chris’ door.

“I hope you’re awake, Chris. There’s something the two of us have to discuss…” Hopefully Maria was elsewhere at the moment. If she didn’t know, there was no need to get her tangled up in this… And if she did, he didn’t need her playing guard for Chris’ secrets.

Chris was looking over his things. He hadn’t brought much from Lufiria as both he and Maria expected to be able to get what they needed without much issue. They often had the gold necessary to float on, and when they didn’t, the pair were clever enough to figure something out. Or Maria used her charms, that tended to work too. Speaking of, she’d left a bit earlier, probably to get some practice in, since she spent all last evening and much of the day resting. He sighed, he would have preferred that she just rested the whole boat ride and came back to it as they landed, but she was not one to be trifled with when she got an idea in her head. She was just like Catherine in that– A knock at the door, and a very familiar voice. A concerning voice. 

“...Yeah, I’m awake. It sounds important. The door is open, Maria left a little while ago.” No reason to play stupid with him. He wouldn’t be here if it was going to be that easy to mess with him. It’d be fine anyway; if he really knew, then the man would also know that he was taking a grand gamble. 

Ingverd wasted no time in opening the door and stepping inside, closing it quietly behind him. “Why are you here?” he started, squinting hard at Chris. “And don’t play dumb with a member of the Didarion family. You’re lucky that I’m on contract currently, else I could’ve received orders to try and drag you back… So I’ll ask one more time: why, are you here?” Things in Lufiria couldn’t possibly have gotten this bad already… But, there was no reason for Chris to be here without something serious happening there. Ingverd folded his arms and rested against the door, huffing quietly. “What a mess…”

“So I was right. You are a Didarion.” Chris replied, almost ignoring Ingverd’s actual question. “If you know who I am, then you also know that you don’t have anywhere near the kind of authority you’d need for that.” Chris stood up from his bed, and met the man’s gaze. “I’m here because I was asked to be. And, no, things haven’t gotten to that point in Lufiria to my understanding. Things are happening, but I’m certainly not at liberty to share that with you. Especially if you already don’t know.”

“So scary… Yes, Chris Safiric, normally I wouldn’t be able to sway you in any way possible… My parents work under the people backing you, I’m just the second son, who even am I to you, really?” Ingverd smiled as he waxed on, gently waving his hand in the air… And then his smile dropped. “Except for the next day or so of travel we’re still in Glacies territory, and my family or not, I am working directly for Queen Iseria. So unless you want me to send along a message and start an international incident, you’ll tell me exactly why you’re here. If she already knows, then that’s just fine! If not, let’s not wag our dicks for who’s got the most authority and just have a nice talk, yes~?”

Chris just stared for a moment, before starting to laugh. “Why didn’t I know that a Didarion was going to have something setup beforehand? Clever. But we both know you’re not going to do that. Glacies is on tenuous footing already… I sincerely doubt you’d throw away any good will you have left just to extract information here.” Mark sighed, and reached behind the bed, pulling out a dark blue sheathe. “Now that we’re on similar footing. A nice talk is what you wanted then, right? I’d like to know what’s going on here. I can assure you, at least for the moment, that my presence here isn’t anything malicious. Princess Shiva wanted information on things that were going on out here.”

“You want to know what’s going on here? You first. We’re not on equal footing at all, Chris… I’m here for a job. You know my family. We do the job, no matter the cost. So… If you tell me exactly what you’re here for, I’ll tell you what the Evokers are doing. That’s a fair trade, and if not,” with the snap of Ingverd’s fingers, a small black bird appeared in his palm, poking its beak around the air. “Off she flies. Clever little bit of magic. I can’t use most of the heavy duty spells, but messenger creatures, they cost little and accomplish a lot. Can’t control them once they’re out of a certain range, but, they listen to implanted orders… What’ll it be, then?” He was all smiles again, but suddenly held up a finger to add: “And, ah, haha, I’d suggest holding your threats. Nothing you do to me, not even death, will be more frightening than Jeremiah Noire.”

Well. It appeared that Ingverd was playing as hard as he possibly could. He was devoted to his job and that was admirable. He’d even mentioned Jeremiah. “Well… I suppose I will hold my threats in that case. Though, maybe you could explain to Jeremiah, himself? I do recall receiving a message from him not too long ago. He should still be in Glacies on business, if I recall. I’m sure he’d love to hear why a Didarion is threatening one of the royal family’s knights, but you did say to hold my threats, so I’ll stop.” Chris leisurely walked over to a desk, Ingverd’s presence seemingly not much of a bother to him. “I’ll play along then. Princess Shiva wanted us to investigate a disturbance. As it stands, we’re not to do anything aside from observe.” Chris shrugged, “There’s been rumblings that there are things going on in Hecatia, and we’ve received… information to be wary of that. Now that I’ve said all of that, your turn.”  

There was a noticeable flinch in Ingverd’s smile; he hadn’t been informed that Jeremiah was so close by. Perhaps it’s best we left so quickly. “Thank you for playing along… The Evokers are being escorted through Islexia and Hecatia to search for an envoy that Glacies sent to Lufiria, who never came back. Our goal is to find them… And the Iron Tigers are hired hands should we face too many numbers.” Ingverd gently pet his bird, rather calmed by her presence. “Your turn again, Chris~”

“...What?” There was no masking the surprise in Chris’s voice, nor on his face. “They… should have arrived by now. Hmm…” Had the Islexians gotten the envoy? That seemed rather unlikely; he’d never personally met Iseria, but he’d heard a great deal about her. She wouldn’t have sent someone who would have gotten caught. “I’ve already told you as much as I can. Like, I said, if you didn’t know prior to this moment, I have no obligation to tell you. It’s a mission that only a very select few have been informed of due to the gravity of it. You, and the Didarions are not on that list, and frankly, I can see why.” 

“I’ll take that as a compliment… And if that’s all, then I’ll save the rest of our mission for myself.” Ingverd gave the bird a pat, letting it dissipate in a gentle puff of black smoke. “A pleasure meeting you, Chris,” he began with a bow, smiling wide, “I hope our ‘friendship’ can continue to be beneficial for as long as we know each other. Best of luck in Hecatia… Maybe we’ll run into each other again. If I don’t see her tomorrow, give Maria my regards, yes?” 

Chris’ last comment did sting a bit. His family’s reputation among those who knew wasn’t exactly pleasant; the Didarions had a tendency to get information at any cost, and use it to complete their jobs to perfection. Spy work just isn’t appreciated the same as it used to be… A hand on the door, he turned to leave. “So long, then. Sleep well… And thank you for treating with little, lowly me~”

As quickly as he came, the Didarion vanished back into the night. He handled himself decently well. He couldn’t be sure if the man picked up on just how close he was to not walking out of that room, but thankfully it never came to that. He didn’t want to test how effective the cleric’s healing was just yet; it would have been rude to hurt himself again after killing one of her employers. But that was something he could worry about in the future, more pressing was the news that the envoy hadn’t made it. Things just kept piling up. “...Is this what Mercuria meant? What a mess. But… this doesn’t change things. We’ve got to figure out if they’re really here or not. I hope the princess has heard about the envoy… leave it to her to come up with the plan that has her go off on her own.”

There was a pit that was starting to form in Chris’s stomach. A Didarion, the Evokers, and a missing envoy on top of all of this… He couldn’t help but feel that something was terribly wrong, but he had neither the answers, nor the ability to figure out what. He could only hope that this group found the missing envoy, and that things hadn’t happened the way he thought they had. 

Ingverd left the room, took a few steps… And then collapsed against the wall, panting hard. “Gods. Gods, I’m alive. Hah…” The killing intent leaking out of that man had almost matched Jeremiah’s, and with the tension having worn off, it was really hitting him. “Not enough to stop me, though. Hah… Haha. Ahh… Second son, Didarion family… If destiny is real, I just have to kill it. This isn’t my life… And I won’t let it go on like this.” He picked himself up off the wall and continued on towards the deck once again.

A Glint of Cold Steel

Spoiler

Chris needed to wait a moment or two. As far as he could tell, Ingverd appeared to practice with his sword towards the evening. Perfectly sound as summer was around the corner, better to practice with a cool breeze. He’d dealt with the pirates on the other ship effectively all by himself, and not even a scratch on him. Since boarding the ship, Chris had to practice all by himself, and admittedly, he didn’t like to. Going through all of the motions, and finding the proper form was all well and good, but an actual fight was quite a ways different than practice. Should be about now… Chris grabbed his sword, and headed towards the deck. If everything lined up as it had, he should be… right there, on the deck. He was already into his practice, so Chris thought it best to watch until addressed, he was relatively hard to miss.

The deck was empty in the evening, save for the ship's hands keeping the boat moving. He wouldn’t have noticed anyone else coming up on him so quietly, but the pressure coming off of Chris was impossible to ignore, glancing back at the man. “Ahh… To what do I owe the pleasure, Sir Safiric? Come to silence me over my questions~?” He joked… But if Chris wanted him dead, it was probably an unavoidable conclusion.

Chris sighed as he walked forward, “As I’m sure you know, if I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t be talking to you. In fact, things would probably be over about now. So please, don’t assume my intentions like that. I already told you that I’m not here for anything particularly nefarious; just a mission that Princess Shiva wants us to look into.” Chris then put a hand on his scabbard, “But… I am here to ask you for a practice bout of sorts. You handled the pirates from earlier remarkably well, a lot better than the people from the… Iron Tigers? I really should remember that name as of now. I’d like to see that sword arm of yours for myself. Always a good reason to cross swords with someone new, might learn something interesting. Is that alright with you?” 

Ingverd tensed up. Not due to any worry that Chris would ‘slip’ and an ‘accident’ would occur, just the thought of actually crossing blades, practice or not, with someone of his caliber; it was leaving the man a bit rigid. “I… Of course. I would be honored. I simply hope I can hold any level of skill against you… Shall we, then?” It took him a few seconds to shake off his apprehension, taking up an unfamiliar stance to most… Given Chris’ reputation, he likely recognized it. 

The stance was unusual, but it was very familiar to Chris. The fact that he was using that stance proved that Ingverd was no joke. “Aha… I guess that makes perfect sense. But for him to have taught you personally… I’m going to have to watch myself then.” Chris quickly drew his sword, a pretty looking teal colored blade and took his own stance, a relaxed looking sideways stance. Not too uncommon amongst swordsmen. “As the person challenged, you have the first move.” Blade in his left hand, it would be interesting to see how he started his assault… or waited for him to make the first move. 

“How gracious.” Ingverd’s body tense for a single moment, before his entire frame dashed forward. Anyone else wouldn’t have been able to follow his motions, but he hesitated for a single second upon getting close and seeing Chris’ gaze still focused on him. Dangerous, aren’t you! Their swords clashed for a moment, but their gaze being locked meant Ing had the advantage. His ruby eyes flashed for a moment– he was gone! Chris wouldn’t have had time to stop the sword now coming for his back…

He moved quickly, just like his teacher. It wasn’t hard to follow his movement, but that appeared to be what Ingverd wanted. Blocking his first strike was simple, but Ingverd was long since gone. Chris saw his eyes shine for a moment. Chris stepped to the side. There was exactly one place that Ingverd would strike–the safest place to target another combatant was from behind, or a blind spot–but… Chris misjudged how quickly Ingverd had moved. Ingverd’s blade hit cloth, and nicked skin. A strike that definitely would have killed anyone slower than he had been just now. “Aha… I didn’t realize that we were going right for the killing blows.” A twirl of the sword, and a smile, “I did say you get the first move. Was that magic you used just now?” 

His blade was knocked away, but he’d felt it connect, shocked he was skilled enough to even make contact, but far from strong enough to genuinely hurt the man. “Even if I went all out and tried to kill you, I wouldn’t manage as much as an open wound; we both know that… My magic is my own secret, isn’t it~?” Whatever Chris was about to release on him, he knew he wasn’t prepared. He just had to do his best to take it, and survive.

“Right, right. Have to keep your own secrets every now and again… Jeremiah would be quite happy to see how you’ve improved. That is who taught you, right? That man has way too many talents… But that’s neither here nor there, you graced me with a taste of your own magic, so I guess…” Suddenly Chris was in front of Ingverd, blade drawn, hardly any time for the elfish man to react, “I should do the same.” Chris swung his blade being sure to stop the sword right before it connected with Ing’s being. “...Mmm, nope. Not fast enough to have seen that coming.” He brought the hilt of his sword up, and tapped Ingverd on the shoulder. “No wonder the pirates weren’t able to so much as touch you. That’s not just Jeremiah’s training… even have the skill to mix in your own magic. But now that we’ve got that out of the way… perhaps we can just leave things to swordplay?” 

Their differences were made clear in but a single moment, Ingverd freezing up completely, not even mentally able to tell himself to block the warped strike. Luckily, Chris had been honest, and wasn’t about to kill him… Ingverd felt his shoulders drop, unable to hold back laughter. “Good, Gods, Jeremiah never trained any of us for someone like you~! No wonder we stick to spying, hah… What a mess, what a mess, what a mess…” He was laughing, but his mind was racing, trying to come up with any solution for magic like that. Your reaction time, instincts, everything would have to be at their peak. “What a monster you are… It’s a wonder there’s even worry about Lufiria floating about with how powerful you are. Hah… Well, for terrifying me beyond my wits, I suppose I can grant you the smallest gift.”

Ingverd leaned against the edge of the boat, motioning for Chris to come closer. “You wanted to know more about my magic, yes?”

Chris cocked an eyebrow at the offer, and walked over alongside the man, “I’ll… take you up on that, Ingverd. But before that, you’re not exactly correct about something. I’m a good swordsman, and my magic lends itself well to how I fight, but I’m not exactly ‘powerful’. Put me up against any of the generals, and I wouldn’t last very long.” Chris thought about that a little more, “Well… Virion, and Obehi for sure, they’d probably just obliterate the entire area, not a lot of good my magic will do against that. But enough of that… I didn’t really understand how your magic worked when I saw it, your eye flashed, and you vanished… though I can’t decide if it was an illusion, or actual teleportation.” 

“Terrifying… You’re all monsters, aren’t you?” He shook his head, sighing. “Anyway… I charmed you. Ancient magic. Your strength and any resistance won’t do anything against it… But it only lasts a second; I’m not very strong myself. Still, with enough speed, it’s enough to get the upper hand on someone… Have you ever heard of Incubi, Chris~?” Time to see how much the knowledge from Altair mixed in with Lufiria’s.

“Incubi? I’ve heard of them, but they’re incredibly–” Chris stopped himself, and then a look of surprise crossed his face. “...You’re not an elf then?” Even being from Lufiria, and from one of the most diverse cities, if not the most, in all of Lufiria, it was rare for Chris to not have at least met or seen a particular race of being. Incubi, and their counterpart succubi, were much harder than most having gone nearly extinct through the countless purges that have taken place in the twelve hundred years since the 2nd Axios Record. “No wonder I couldn’t figure anything out. That’s… frightening magic. With your kind of speed and refinement on your bladework, there wouldn’t be a lot of people capable of keeping up with that.”

“Not an elf, no… It's a wonderful cover, though. Hmhm. We’ll see if I get to that point… As, I’m sure you’re aware, Didarion family members don’t have the longest life spans. None of us really, make it to realizing our magicks. Even my parents aren’t much better at it than I am… Perhaps one day I will truly get there, and I’d love to know what I’m capable of, but… Facing off against you, it’s quite daunting. Even Jeremiah… The distance is, staggering. Any pointers?”

“Pointers, huh…” Chris thought for a moment. Though, quickly one thing stuck out to him with all of the absurdly skilled or talented people he’d met had. “Other than the obvious, honing your skill, looking for ways that you can use your talents to their fullest. Honestly, I think one of the most important things is having something that you’re striving for, or want to protect. It sounds incredibly cliché, but the simpler way of putting that is having a genuine reason to want to further your abilities.” Chris looked up at the evening sky, Ing had chosen quite the evening for practice. He sighed, and continued, “For example… that trick I pulled on you? It’s very short range teleportation. I can’t use it on other people, with other people, and traveling through things is a matter of life and death, so I don’t do that. But in a short ranged engagement like a swordfight? Movement like that is horrifying, add in the reflexes that having this ability has given me, and it makes me very hard to hit, and very hard to defend against. …I learned how to use things this way to help out my mother at first, and then it became my hometown, and now it's extended to my friends, and Lufiria.”

“So I just need to develop some sort of superpower and use it to protect my family, eh~? Pfft, hehahah… Ahhh… No, you’re right. I… Just, don’t have anything worth protecting, right now. How enviable that you have such goals, Mark.” He smiled a wry smile and sighed, shaking his head. “I… Am here because I was paid to be here. Get the job done, go back to Glacies, wait for my next set of orders. All painfully trite.”

He was whining now, he’d already realized, shaking his head and smiling for real. “I’ll just have to find something, then~ Who knows! Maybe the Iron Tigers will change my life, hahah~” He doubted it. Almost completely, but meeting this man face to face and seeing his strength, it really opened up Ingverd’s world view. This was just supposed to be another mundane escort through to Lufiria… Hopefully he could hold out the hope that it would become something more, with time.

“Oh no, you wouldn’t need to develop anything. You already have something that most would consider a superpower, so your joke is a bit misplaced.” Chris finished speaking and watched as Ingverd ricocheted between self-pity, and then perhaps a forced smile. It was a familiar sort of look, one that Chris knew quite well. Ingverd and Tanvir probably would have gotten along quite well in that regard. “Considering that your employers are the evokers, and the tigers are such an… odd group, I’d be very surprised if they didn’t have some effect on you… in one way or another.” Chris thought to ask Ingverd something, but hesitated a moment. He figured if things went well for the group, it wouldn’t be too hard to find her again. “Well, I think I’m not doing much more than holding you up at this point, Ingverd. Maria is probably wondering where I am, I should head back.”

Chris gave the man a wave, and started on his way back when he stopped. Curiosity slowly got the better of his judgment, “Ingverd… do you know anything about Aegean?” A bit of a risky ask, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, or at least that’s how Chris thought it went. 

“Take care, Mark… Try not to keep her up too late tonight.” Ingverd was about to return to his practice, when Chris asked him one final question. “Aegean…? Why do you… Oh. Hoho. She’s from Lufiria, isn’t she?” He smirked and cocked an eyebrow back at the man. “I have no idea who she is… Other than who she claims to be. All the information on her goes cold about ten years back… What am I missing that you know, my new friend~?”

Chris felt his blood run cold for a moment as he slowly turned around to face Ingverd. His face with unmistakable surprise written on it, “ten… years ago. That’s what you said, right?” Now it all seemed to make perfect sense why he recognized the name, why it felt like he’d been told it several times before. Because he had been told. “...Yeah. There’s a good chance that she’s a Lufirian. As for what I know… that’s… I can’t tell you that. That’s a matter of national security. But I can tell you that if I’m not just remembering things wrong… You might end up seeing Jeremiah after all.” With that Chris turned, and walked off. He was feeling far less calm than he seemed. There was absolutely no way that he just happened onto the same boat with one of the missing links from that night. He could just go on and try to take her in by force but… there were still too many variables. Not to mention, that he felt like Princess Shiva would be furious with him pulling a stunt like that on a Glacian vessel, even if it was her. No, doing anything to capture her was an asinine move for an incredible amount of reasons, Ingverd being at least six of them, and the Evokers being another forty-seven. Shouldn’t do anything until I’ve told those two… they should decide what they want to do, and not anyone else. 

Something was there. Something important. It’s always hardball… “Mark!” Ingverd called out, chasing after him, the man luckily stopping in place, perhaps only for a moment. “Look… I’m, not going to ask you this as a member of the Didarion family. Not for Jeremiah, or for my work… I’m asking you this as Versaris Klir, please. If there’s anything you can tell me, I need, to, know. We’re going our separate ways after this; if this is enough to surprise you, and it comes at us when you’re not around, it’s either we rely on Tio and Elisa, or I have to step up. I need to know what I’m dealing with. Please.”

“...” Why did you stop? You don’t have to tell him anything. Not this. Chris turned and looked over his shoulder, mildly surprised that he’d elected to call him Mark, and to have used his real name. Versaris Klir, he’d have to remember that. “...I’ve heard the name Aegean twice. Both times it was in the context of a childhood friend of the royal Shiva sisters… a childhood friend that disappeared ten years ago, after an assassination attempt on the older sister. Frankly, that’s all I know, and that’s more than I’m supposed to know. Don’t mention that to anyone. Not even Aegean.” Chris unsheathed his sword and swung back in Ingverd’s direction, sending a sharp gust of wind back his way. His voice had taken on a much more serious tone, “That was a warning, and proof of my intent. Say so much as a word to anyone else about this, and I will actually follow through. …Have a good evening, Ingverd.” Without another word, and a near silent sheathing of his sword, Chris was gone.  

There was that killing intent again, Ingverd frozen, though he was smiling a bit this time. It was an instinctual reaction, his fight or flight was firing and he couldn’t pick flight with so much on the line. “... Yeah. Promise.” Which means I try and find out who she is without mentioning this specific information. Easy. Sorry, Mark, but this is my job… Even if I don’t tell Jeremiah, if she’s some secret princess, I need to know who’s coming after us. “Sleep well, friend! Don’t stay up too late…” Off he went… leaving Ingverd relatively alone on the deck again, a few of the ship’s hands looking over nervously. “Back to the sword… For now.”

 

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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The journey was now truly underway, signaled by the burning of the two pirate ships that had accosted the merchant ship. Davros was all too eager to send both to the bottom of the ocean; his ship was largely unharmed, but time had been lost with their meddling. The flames rose, and the ships sank, and with them any other pure weapons that were aboard, and the bodies of those who deigned to engage the Iron Tigers that day. Davros asked the group to take turns on the night and morning watch, to make sure that pirates didn't sneak up on them again. There had been a few close calls, but the voyage since their encounter with Krauser and his crew was smooth. The Iron Tigers were slowly improving their cohesion; their ability to fight had always been present, but outside of combat they tended to struggle. Yet, with the gentle roll of the waves, words and hopes flowed freely when before they had been frozen inside.

On a brisk evening on the 7th day of travel, Davros's vessel made land in the port town of Eibar. It was the largest port on the northern coast of Hecatia, and even larger than that of even the largest part in Glacies. Because of the constant trade through the port, it was one of the most progressive locations in all of Hecatia. While not Glacies, or Lufiria, they still treated monsters and Clouded as if they were living being with their own thoughts and aspirations... but for every person who saw an equal, there were just as many who saw beings to be reviled and extinguished. The atmosphere matched the dated feeling the Hecatian port had. The ships were poorly constructed compared to Davros's ship, and magic played far less of a role in anything that happened here. It felt more like a place stuck in time, but it would be where the Iron Tigers would take their first steps towards something greater than they could have ever known...

But first, there were goodbyes and farewells to perform. 


Marianne's feet hit the dock. She'd felt much better today than the recent days of the voyage; still not enough to fulfill her promise to Ingverd and mercenary who'd asked before she'd gotten woozy. But recovering had always been the hard part for her. Perhaps she could manage little something before they parted ways. Marianne and Chris were both heading to Amaranthe province to perform in the capital, which, unfortunately was the opposite direction that the Tigers were traveling in. She quite liked their little group from what little interaction she had with them. She sighed, she wouldn't have minded continuing to travel with them for a little while longer, but she and Chris both had things to do as well. She looked over at her partner, who'd spent the remaining parts of the voyage a bit annoyed. 

"Chris, normally something like that wouldn't bug you so much. I know how much you detest traffickers, but if what you told me is true, it's not too far of a leap to have made. It's not like we both don't know that there's a huge Hecatian trafficking market." 

Chris's head slowly craned over to her, "Yes, because that completely makes sense to go from me saying that I'm "Informing people about the influx of pure weapons," to ' I'm definitely working along with traffickers, and that I have no business knowing what's on that document', because I'm not a monster or clouded, when neither one of them were either of those things. Riiight. If that's what passes for deductive reasoning then I have to be the world's greatest detective." 

"Well, fine. Just be cordial then. We've still got to say our goodbye to Cinead, and wish him luck... oh, I've also got to give him that gift for helping us. I'd like to say goodbye to some of the others too, so would it kill you to muster a smile?" 

"You say that as if I never smile." Chris huffed, and then let his shoulders fall before giving Marianne a small smile, "Alright, I suppose I've got goodbyes to say too." 

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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Cinaed stretched as he came up onto the deck, the brisk evening air bringing slight goosebumps to his bare chest. It had been a good journey. There had been bumps along the way, but the talk he'd had with Alvira alone made it worth it. Combined with the feeling that he was finally settling into place in the Tigers had left him content for the majority of the trip. He hadn't exactly avoided Ingverd or Gean, but he also hadn't sought them out after they'd left him feeling confused in their own different ways. But he'd enjoyed getting to know Miria a little better and while Renais's rejection had left him hurting, he'd at least begun to understand it a little better.

Now though, as he made his way down the gangplank, he looked around, trying to find Marianne and Chris. He knew they were going to be parting ways at this point, which did leave him disappointed. He'd enjoyed the short time he'd had with the two and had been hoping to get to spend more time with them both. But still, at least he had developed  relationships he wouldn't forget soon. Spying them on the dock, he waved at them both. "Marianne, Chris! Glad to catch you both before you left. I was worried you might slip away without saying goodbye."

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Personally speaking, Nyx would have rather stayed on the boat.

However, a few key contributing factors - mostly a lovely ice mage and a particularly persistent young axe-wielder - coaxed her to exit the vessel, where, of course, the first group she came across included the very reason she wanted to stay on the goddamn boat to begin with. Maybe if she stayed quiet, she’d go unnoticed by the dancer and her compatriot with the high connections?

Actually, maybe going unnoticed was something that Nyx needed to do here in general. She almost certainly had a few old buddies here, and that would be bad news for a pack of upstanding mercenaries and their very expensive clientele. Especially if all those anti-Clouded weapons floating about made their way here, into the hands of the trafficking rings.

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A Stressed Dragon

Spoiler

Finally, the day was ending. Although there was a beautiful sunset over the ocean, sun dying both the sky and the water a brilliant array of reds, golds, and purples, he barely spared the glory of nature a glance. He was on a mission. He needed to find the one friend he had on this ship. Urgently. 

As he scoured the ship, he finally spotted her, thankfully alone and not surrounded by people as she so often seemed to be. His pace quickened to almost a run. Skidding up next to her, he looked at her, pleading in his eyes. "Gean... We need to talk. Please."

Aegean closed her eyes, the combination of the wind, waves, and the setting sun had her heart and mind at ease. She was in her element, and any fatigue from earlier had melted away.

She could've stayed in this picturesque moments, but the quickly approaching footsteps showed that someone needed her attention. Her newest friend, and from what she had seen earlier, newest comrade dashed in front of her. "Woah Cin, what's wrong? Did Tasha say no or something?" She knew he had passed his impromptu test from what she had seen, so she was honestly confused as to why he was so distressed.

"What? No, uh." He had briefly had his train of thought knocked off track but he quickly managed to get it back. "No, Commander Natalya said I was good. No it's. Well, there are two things? Two people. Problems." He sighed, running a hand through his hair trying to figure out what the best place to start was. "Well, ok, uh, it involves Renais and Ingverd. Separate problems, not the same problem. Which do you want to start with?" They were both relatively straight forward really. He had just been planning on talking to Gean about Renais, but then Ing just had to knock him completely off balance.

"First I want you to take a deep breath big guy." Something had clearly happened while she was helping out Maria. She had a good guess what one of those problems were, knowing exactly who the person in question was, the other one not so much. It was clear that whatever happened definitely put the dragon boy off center, so working through at least one of them would be for the best.

"Let's start with Rene. I have a hunch as to what it could be, but lay it on me anyways." Gean said as she crossed her arms and leaned against the railing ready to listen.

"I-" No, she was right. Calm. Like a flame. A small flame popped up briefly, swirled around to form a sphere and then winked out of existence. "Renais. She... I think she hates me. And I don't know what I did wrong. I was trying to be nice, and then after the battle..." He shook his head. "She was healing the dragon girl, uh, Alvira? Right? And after she flew away, I asked Commander Natalya if that had served as a good audition. When the Commander said I was good to join she..." He winced, remembering again the sudden harsh words. "She said that she would heal me but that other than that I was to leave her alone. And then ran away. I... I just want to be friends with my companions. You know? And now... Somehow she already hates me and I don't even know why..."

Gean was right on the money. "Ah, you've run into the Renais conundrum." She put her finger on her chin, pondering on how to address this. She reached for his arm trying to comfort him. "So first off you have done nothing wrong. I can assure you of that. The way she has acted is nothing new."

"Ever since joining the Tigers, Renais has always kept us at a distance. Hell, it took forever just for her to approach me outside of having a gaping wound in my chest. On top of that, she's easily the person her to run out of fear just from a look alone, and unfortunately for you my friend, you set off the danger bells for her from looks alone."

Taking her hand off of Cin, Gean toyed with one of her locks. "Finding out about you joining the team right after battle didn't help either, so I'm sure that combination gave forth the response you heard. In hindsight, I probably should have broken the news to her instead of her finding out that way."

So it was this again. Just by being himself, he was scaring off people around him. Muttering a quiet curse, he turned to stare off at the ocean. "This... This damned body. I could have just been a normal person. Neither of my parents are this tall. But no, I had to be the freak who scares people just by existing." He let his head gently smack into his palms, covering his face as he contemplated the rest of her words. "Not your fault she didn't know about me joining. You can't be responsible for everyone. Bad enough you've got to deal with me now, ha."

He was falling into self-pity now and he knew it. But he didn't care to stop it just yet. This wasn't new, that he would scare people away, but he had hoped... Foolish hopes apparently, that just by leaving school he would somehow find a world less scared of him. "Guess all there is to it is to give her what she wants then. Wouldn't want to force her to stay locked in her room for fear I might talk to her. Guess I'll burden you a little more and ask you to pass on that message. That I won't bother her." 

Well the pity was expected, but this degree was unexpected. This had clearly hit a nerve, and no one should have to go through that, especially after the first day on the job. "Hey, hey, hey don't get all pity party on me." She grabbed his face to turn him towards her. "Look here Cinead. There is absolutely nothing wrong about you or your appearance. I'm sure that Renais reaction was in the moment and given some time she'll be more accepting. I've had hunch for a while that her distant self is a bit of a front, so maybe we can coax her out of her shell just a bit. I'll talk to her first then we'll try this again. But no more sad face ok?" 

She held him in that position and stared in his eyes hoping she could reignite the spark she could see in them. They definitely were good to look at. Especially in the light of the sunset.

For the second time today, he felt his face pulled around by a gentle hand. Though there was less tension involved this time, he still felt his face flush. He shouldn't be having this sort of reaction. Not everyone liked each other, people were allowed to not like him. But it still hurt. "I don't... She's not the first one to react like this. I should have recognized it. You don't need to... I don't want to make things tense here. Not after Natalya was so nice to accept me into this group." He sighed, finally meeting her eyes. She seemed to be searching. For what, he wasn't sure. But somehow the intensity of her gaze had him slightly off balance. He sighed. It wasn't like things would be less tense by him avoiding Renais. "I... Fine. You win. Talk to her. But just... If she still says no... Don't push her too hard?"

While not fully there, he seemed to be coming around. "That's fine by me. And hey, remember even if it doesn't work, you still have me bud." Taking a step back, she smiled and went back to leaning on the railing. "Now about this problem with Ingverd..." The issue with Renais was obvious to see, but the elf man being a reason for concern was a bit odd. While it hadn't been long, she didn't know for the man to do anything problematic, well, outside of bothering Ms Too to no end.

"Heh, true. I've got the one friend I need right here, right?" And he was happy to have her. She was sweet and clearly cared about her companions. Even if she was pushier than he would have been. Which, speaking of... "Ugh, Ingverd, I..." Even just thinking about it had the heat in his cheeks flaring up again, and suddenly it seemed like the deck was the most interesting thing in the world. "He. Mmm. After that battle, he showed up, covered in blood. At first I assumed he was fine because no visible wounds but then I realized that was foolish to assume. What if he was hiding something?" The words were coming in a rush now, desperate to come out. "So I tried to take a look, just to make sure I didn't miss something, so we could get a healer if needed and... Ugh. And he thought I was checking him out and then he started flirting. Like... Heavily. Right in front of the commander. I can't... He's one of the people hiring us, so he shouldn't be doing that but also he seems like he probably flirts with most everyone so it... It's fine. Just... Flustered." 

Gean couldn't help but chuckle at Cin's ramble on the charismatic elf. For a large dragon, he definitely had a soft side. Gean wondered if this was how Tasha felt with Vira, but she could ask the woman that later. "Cin I'm gonna save you from a ton future headaches right now. One, professionalism outside of following Tasha's orders is practically zero in this group. I'm pretty sure if she was enjoying the scene herself if she didn't say anything."

"As for Ingverd's flirting, I do agree that he has a way with words, and doesn't seem to favor anyone in particular. It's probably best to not let it bother you." It was then that Gean's mischievous side flared up again, and she couldn't help herself. "Unless, the big problem is you want him to pay some private attention?"

Gean's talk about professionalism... fit. It didn't make him feel better about the scene earlier but it also didn't make him feel worse. At the very least it mean Natalya wasn't going to get mad at him. But still. It didn't feel right. At least his assumption had been correct. He wasn't anything special to Ingverd. Which was good. He still was likely to be awkward around the man but-- "Wait what? N-no, that's not what I'm saying. I'm just... Ugh. I'm not the one people flirt with, ok? All my relationships have been initiated by me. People aren't interested because either they're scared of me or assume I'm an idiot because I'm tall and strong. S-so, it just wasn't expected. And it made me worried because if he expected more, I didn't want to have to deal with all of that. That's all." Then why does a part of you hurt whenever you remind yourself that you're nothing special to him? He ignored the taunting voice as best he could. He hurt because it's nice to be viewed as special. Nothing more.

Hmm, we're gonna have to work on this confidence problem of yours, but that can come later. For now... "So the problem is you're not good with being on the receiving end huh? We can fix that."  She rose and quickly close the distance between the two of them. "We just have to get you used to the feeling. That way when it happens again, you'll won't be so flustered huh?"

This plan could backfire, but she was more focused on seeing his reaction first. If it did backfire, she'd apologize later. "And if it does you any good... I don't think you're scary or an idiot." She put a hand on his shoulder and once again looked him right in the eyes.

The receiving end. Yeah that really was the problem. He just couldn't handle it when Ing... "Wait, hey what?" Suddenly she was all up close, staring into his eyes, touching his shoulder. Saying things to try and ease his fear. His brain locked up, staring down at her for a few long seconds, eyes matched, warmth from her hand spreading out through his body. No. Last time he couldn't escape, not without being rude to both their commander and the person who hired them. But now...

"I- I'm sorry." He gently pushed her hand off his shoulder, turned, and fled. It was just all too much. He couldn't take that for the second time in one day. Which meant he certainly wouldn't be able to take it a third. Which meant sleeping in his cabin was out for at least tonight. Time to see if he could find somewhere to sleep on the deck...

"Cin w-" and just like he retreated like she thought. Realizing that he was in no state to listen to her further she let him go, but before yelling "Let's at least eat together tomorrow! I'll bring some of the girls along too! It'll be a welcome lunch!" She wasn't gonna give up on him, and she wasn't gonna let him give up on himself. 

With it now just being her and the sound of the waves again, she  turned back towards the fading sunset. Pulling out her mother's gem necklace again and watching it gleam off the light, she let the silence take over everything but her own thoughts.

Sorry Cin, but you've been caught by the right Clouded, and I'm not letting go till I see that flame burn bright like I know it can.

Special

 

"Hm, hmhm hmhm, hm, hm, hmhm hmhm, hm~” Ingverd quietly hummed to himself as he walked the deck of their ship, wondering who would be awake at this time of the morning… It didn’t seem like any of the Tigers were early risers, not on the water, at least… But, there was a familiar face, albeit an asleep one. “Hmph~” Finding this impossible to ignore, he crept over to the sleeping dragon, slowly sitting down next to him, a gentle finger poking his nose. “Rise and shine, princess~”

 

Cin had finally fallen asleep after his talk with Miria, even with having to fight the less than comfortable deck. But after a much shorter time than he would have preferred, he felt someone poking at his nose. Eyes still closed, mostly asleep and not really processing who was next to him, he wrinkled his nose and tried to brush the finger away. “Muhhh five more minutes, s’too early to get up still. Hadta get up early for fightin yesterday. Sleep now...” He attempted to pull his blankets over his head, forgetting that his blankets and pillow were still in the room he had avoided, leaving him with only his vest for a pillow and no blankets at all. 

 

“My Gods,” Ingverd scoffed, unable to hide laughter. “Wake up, Cinaed, wake up! Goodness, you’re going to embarrass yourself past the point of recovery if you continue like this.” The elf couldn’t help shaking his head, poking the sleepy dragon in the nose once more. “I’ll do something terrible to you if you don’t wake up~”

 

He was finally awake enough to recognize the voice of the person next to him. And instantly wished he could just disappear off the face of the earth. The elf’s warning had come too late, he’d already gone fully into full embarrassment. He scrambled up to a sitting position, pushing away from Ingverd as he did, trying to give himself at least a moment to recover. “Ah, I, uh, mm. Hel-good morning Ingverd. I uh... You’re up early?”

 

“I’m always up on time. Something you seem to need to work on~” He let the dragon have his space, bringing his knee up to rest against it. He was wearing a similar set of dress clothes, though his shirt was white this time, likely a spare since the black one had been slightly damaged by Miria and then bloodsoaked by those pirates. “Sleep well? The deck can’t be too comfortable, but the fresh air and the stars were likely pleasant… Did I scare you that badly, yesterday?”

 

“Don’t gotta get up early unless there’s a reason to...” He muttered, staring down at the deck. He snuck a glance up at the nicely dressed elf, feeling... inadequate as he sat there in well worn pants and no top. He glanced down at the vest he’d left behind, wondering if it was worth putting back on. Though given how wrinkled it would be... He sighed, leaving it where it was. “Stars are nice, I like the stars. It wasn’t. That bad. I... Mmm. Scared isn’t the right word. Not really. Wasn’t just you even.” He looked away, unable to even think about making eye contact with the man right now. “Just had me off balance. And it was easier to just stay up here, give myself a chance to process everything, I guess. ‘Sides, I’ll probably have to have it rougher than a ship deck at some point in all this. May as well get used to it.” Deflect, distract, whatever he had to do to not have to linger too long on discussion of yesterday…

 

“Well, I’m pleased your night wasn’t all that bad. I just wanted to apologize. I felt like I’d made you uncomfortable, not seeing you in the room last night, so… Should you want it, I’ll keep my little pokes and prods to myself. At the end of things, we may not be working together for too many months, but, I’d like them to be amiable months~” Hopefully it would carry over well, Ing truly didn’t want Cinaed feeling on edge on what was effectively his first day working with the Tigers properly.

 

“It’s not... It’s not like that. I’m just not used to it. People flirting with me. They’ve all got reasons for it, think I’m dumb, think I’m scary, whatever. But usually I’ve got to be the one taking initiative. So you just startled me, that’s all.” He gave a small, one shoulder shrug. “‘Sides, helped to realize I wasn’t anything special to you, you know? You’re a flirt, so it’s everyone. Not being singled out makes it a little easier to sort out, if that makes sense. Less hard to handle. I just... needed time to figure it out. I should be back in the room tonight. No need to worry.” And again, there was that little nagging voice in the back of his head, asking if it would really have been so bad if there had been special intent in the elf’s flirting. If he was special. But it was all pointless. It was better this way. Easier to solve.

 

“... Hold on. Not special?” Ingverd cracked an eye over at the dragon, confused by his wording. “You, seem to have me confused with someone else, Cinaed. I do not flirt with everyone. Maybe you were too flustered to notice, but I quickly turned down Natalya’s teasing. I’m sure I’d batted eyes at more folks than most, but… You’ve got to do a lot more than look good and breathe to get my attention. I thought you were rather adorable, with how you were acting, and especially now with this little wakeup, I know there’s a gentle man hiding underneath all those muscles. I suppose they’re why people think you’re stupid or scary? If you were a true monster beneath your stature, you wouldn’t be working with us right now. The tiger of the Tigers is quite the judge of character, after all… Shall I prove you’re more to me than some conquest? Some small fun while we travel?” He tilted his head, his silver hair gently falling over his shoulder, down currently; he hadn’t tied it up yet.

 

“You said it yourself, if not me then one of the other girls. Fine, maybe you don’t flirt with everyone but...” He again lost track of his train of thought as the man called him adorable, doing his best to poke and prod past the poor Clouded’s muddled defenses. He looked at Ingverd, ruby red eyes staring into his own, silver hair framing his face, and then quickly looked away again. “Y-you need to stop doing that, it’s not fair. Yes, people take a look at me and assume because I’m tall and strong that I’m either an idiot or going to beat them up and take their lunch money. Even here, people are doing it. Renais wants nothing to do with me and according to Gean, it’s because I’m ‘scary’” He shook his head, slumping against one of the nearby crates. “Commander Natalya didn’t think so, sure. And it’s not like people didn’t want to be friends or anything, I don’t think I’m some monster. Just... easily flustered when cute people flirt. Because I’m not used to it.” He very purposely didn’t answer the man’s final two questions. Mostly because he didn’t have an answer for him.

 

"Oh, Renais? That's not your fault. She's probably just intimidated by your height, the short little thing she is, but also, she's been pulling the same excuse with almost everyone in the Iron Tigers. Girl is on a mission to do… something, and then hop along with her life." Ingverd knew a little more than that, but Cinaed didn't need any other information. "So don't worry about her, handsome. Everyone else seems very pleased to have you around. I know I am~"

 

“Mmm. I just.” He let out a hefty sigh, shaking his head, cheeks rapidly warming as the man continued to compliment him. “I just don’t like it when people run away from me for things out of my control. If she doesn’t want to be friends, fine. I only wish. I could have been shorter. You know. I’m over a foot taller than my mom. Almost a foot taller than my dad. I guess my mom’s family was taller, from what she said, which is why I’m this... this...” freak who scares everyone off. He completed the sentence in his head, knowing that if he said it out loud, it would immediately get refuted, the man’s sugary sweet words trying to salve the wounds revealed by saying them out loud. And he wasn’t looking for that. As sweet as the honey that dripped out of Ingverd’s mouth was, he wasn’t ready to let it work its way through all of him. His shields, battered and weakened as they were from a combination of lack of sleep and candied compliments, were still up, if only barely.

 

“So… I just need to stick around, is what I’m hearing. The longer I stay, and work my way around that fear you’ll make everyone run away, the more you’ll see it’s not your problem… It’s hers. Am I wrong, Cinaed?” Without the dragon noticing, either through some combination of being too focused on his own thoughts, or something Ingverd had done, he was now sitting right next to Cinaed, resting against him. “Whether you just need a friend you can trust, or more, I’m willing to fill either slot… You’re rather interesting, after all. So many dragons recently with such curious lives, even if you told me to stop flirting with you, I’d still chase you just to know how you’ve lived~”

 

“It’s not like she’s the only one that’s acted like this. Sure some people like me, want to be my friend, but so many people just judge me right away.” He shook his head, not even really registering that Ingverd was gently leaning against him. “I’m really not that interesting, you know. My life has been straightforward, I don’t mind sharing about that if you really want to know.” He skirted around the question of friend or more than but he couldn’t help feeling a warmth in his chest at the continued pursuit. Even if it would be unprofessional to become involved with their employer, he couldn’t deny that the man was beautiful, or that the attention was nice, if flustering. “I do appreciate you trying to help, Ingverd. But there’s nothing that can change who I am, what I look like. Gods, sometimes I just wish that I was norma--”

 

Ingverd’s hand had suddenly turned the dragon’s face towards him, staring at him seriously. “You are fine just the way you are.” There was no hint of compliment or flirt in his voice, his stare almost a scowl, slowly letting Cinaed go. “You are normal. There’s nothing wrong with how you look or who you are. Let people be scared, then. Anyone that isn’t willing to get close to someone so gentle and caring isn’t worth your time… Cin, there’s something you have to learn, that even I took a while to figure out. You will never please everyone. Even if you were shorter, skinnier, less scaled, more ‘normal’, there would still be people that hated you. Ran from you. Didn’t want to spend any time with you. Don’t give them your energy. If you can fix it, then do so, but if you try and they continue to demand more of you, it’s time to change your focus to the people that do care… Please, don’t make my mistakes; don’t destroy yourself trying to please people that will never care.”

 

It wasn’t until his train of thought was fully interrupted by Ingverd grabbing his chin in a much rougher manner than the previous time that Cinaed realized just how close the elf had gotten to him. “I...” He gulped, the emotion in Ingverd’s voice undeniably there, though hard to identify exactly. It was almost anger but not quite. Still, the words hit uncomfortably close to home. Towards the end, he weakly protested, “I don’t mind people not wanting to spend time with me. That’s their right. It’s only when they’re scared that... Ugh. It just... would have been easier. To be smaller, to not be Clouded, and even though I don’t want to change, not really, it’s just hard, sometimes.” He looked away from the man, unable to meet his gaze anymore, shame at having expressed all of this out loud finally catching up to him. He rested his forehead on his knees, trying to hide as best he could, though he didn’t move away from the gentle warmth at his side, appreciating the slight comfort it provided.

 

“I know it’s hard sometimes. I’m clouded too, you know? Only half human. Didn’t notice the ears? Too focused on my face~?” He smirked, trying to return to his jovial mood, hoping Cinaed was recovering just a little bit. “It’ll always be harder for us, but that just means the people that do like us will always be keepers. Anyone willing to spend the effort to get over that fear or bias is worth trusting, and I’d rather have a few trustworthy friends instead of many that just wanted me for my looks or otherwise…”

 

Cinaed flexed a fist, staring at the bright red and gold scales covering the back of his hand before looking up at Ingverd. “N-no, I noticed. You’re an elf, right? Or... Half-elf, I guess? Uhm.” He shook his head, not disagreeing with the man’s words, just seeming to disagree with himself almost. “I know. I do, really. I just, was an idiot, I guess. Convinced myself that joining with a merc group would be different, that people would be ok with me and not.” He sighed, head thumping against the crate and chuckling slightly at himself. “Not the whole world, obviously. I wasn’t that naive. Just that if I joined a group, my companions would be ok with me. They didn’t even need to like me, that’s the crazy thing. I don’t need to be friends with everyone. But when Renais ran... It was just the same all over again. But at least some of the people here like me. E-even if they show it in... interesting ways.” He suddenly remembered Gean’s attempts to help him last night and suddenly felt his cheeks burning.

 

It seemed like his mood had gone up, Ingverd smiling and letting him talk. He didn’t confirm or deny the elf question, only cocked an eyebrow slightly. So dragons can’t tell. Interesting~ “Renais will come around. She needs to break her own shell, with all of the group, but she’ll come around.” It was then that Cinaed’s face started getting much redder, Ingverd’s smile widening. “I could watch you blush all day long.”

 

“I hope you’re right. Aegean said something similar. That she was going to talk to Renais to try and help. Hopefully. Hopefully the two of you are correct. I don’t want to be a cause of disruption in our group.” He’d been hoping that his blush was still hidden by his darker skin, but Ingverd quickly destroyed that hope, causing the dragon Clouded to blush even harder. “I. You. Mmm. You’re very good at derailing conversations. Aren’t you? It’s not even like it shows that well on my skin...” Why could this man always find a way to just knock his feet out from under him? It truly wasn’t fair.

 

“I’m good at doing a lot of things, Cinaed. A lot of things… Maybe one day you’ll get to know a few of them~ For now, keep that positivity up, yes? You’re a welcome addition to the group… And it’s nice to have another guy around. Imagine me being the only one in this sea of women, goodness…”

 

Cinaed stared at the silver haired man for a long second, before looking away and muttering under his breath, “I think I’ve already seen too many of them...” He finally moved away from the gentle touch of the other man’s body, moving over to grab his vest and shrug it on before standing up. “I can’t imagine you wouldn’t enjoy it. Being with all these women. I’m sure you would have enjoyed showing them all the things you’re good at.” But despite his words, there wasn’t the negativity that had been present the last time he’d been talking about Ingverd flirting with the women. “Still, I am glad to be a part of this group. Commander Natalya was very generous to bring me in. I look forward to seeing where we go from here.” Looking down at Ingverd, he hesitated for a second and then offered a hand. “I think it’s time I go get breakfast. Would... would you be interested in joining me?” It wasn’t an acceptance of the man’s many barely veiled intentions, but it was a step forward from how he had run away previously.

 

“I can think of a few I wouldn’t mind getting close to… But you’ve got the wrong idea of me if you think it’s more than two or three~” Ingverd hopped up, gently taking Cinaed’s hand. “Breakfast sounds wonderful~ Do tell me a bit about your life while we eat, yes?”

 

“Well, perhaps I have the wrong idea then. Two or three though, hmm. Wonder which ones?” He was only somewhat curious. On the other hand, he didn’t want to know anything more. The confusing mess of feelings that the man had inflicted on him yesterday were no clearer today, and his gut hurt at the idea of hearing Ingverd talk about the women he was interested in. But he still wasn’t convinced of all of this flirting. It wasn’t a smart idea, he knew that much. And yet, as he started to walk off to find food, he kept his hand wrapped in Ingverd’s for as long as the other man was ok leaving his there. “As for my life, where should I start?”

Edited by scorri

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The clack of claws on wood sounded out as Alvira bounded down the plank onto the docks, running up next to Cinaed, Marianne and Chris. She gave the big dragon a glance, not frowning anymore than her resting face did normally. They'd managed to... Become 'friends', of a sort.

Fire and Ice

Spoiler

Cinaed balanced a fairly full lunch tray on one hand as he hesitated for a long second outside Alvira’s door. It was the second day after the battle against the pirates, and she still wasn’t coming out of her room. Everyone he’d asked about her had warned her that she could be abrasive, but he couldn’t help but worry. It was two full days and he hadn’t seen her at all, even for food. Presumably her roommate was bringing her food, but still. And given her injuries, the chances that she was still nursing some damage from the battle was too high for him to ignore. With his spare hand, he quickly checked to make sure his vulns were secure on his belt, just in case, and then quickly, before he could lose his nerve, knocked loudly on the door. “Hello? Alvira? My name is Cinaed, I’ve brought you some food?”

Loud knocking. Her ice spell shook for a moment, before reforming into a solid cube. “Hhh.” It was that new guy… Cinaed. The fire dragon. The fire, dragon… She bit back her ire; if he was a dragon, even a clouded dragon, there was a high chance he’d come from Lufiria. Anyone that knew the pain of living there, she wouldn’t judge, so long as they weren’t horrible to her. Slowly, perhaps intentionally extra slowly, she slunk towards the door, creaking it open just enough to look through and see him, no further. “What do you want? Not the food. Alriana was bringing me food. What do you want?”

“Oh! She was bringing you food. That’s good. I wasn’t sure. And, well, I could have asked her too but...” He sighed, knowing that his more subtle intentions were not going to be able to be snuck in as he had intended. Offering her the tray of food, he gave a small gesture towards her with his free hand. “I wanted to check on you? I mean, I know we don’t know each other well... at all. But given how quickly you left after the battle, how quickly you left being healed... I was worried you might still be injured. Pure weapons are nasty business, as I’m sure you are well aware, but I didn’t want to risk you not realizing how much an injury like that could hurt long term if not fully healed. My mother... She never had to fight in the war, her father sent her to Glacies before she could, but she heard stories of what Pure Weapons could do. That self-destruction, if it’s not fully healed...” He shook his head. “I’m sure you know what you’re doing, you’ve been in this mercenary group far longer than I have, but my dad was a mercenary once too and he beat it into me that you never leave a wound unaccounted for. I honestly should have come to check on you sooner. And for that I apologize.”

“I didn’t ask you to check on me.” She narrowed her eyes… took the food, and left the door open enough for the food to come in, taking it back inside. Her wound was fine, fine enough, no longer bleeding, and the pain radiating from it was weak enough to ignore. She crept back to the door, wider now, getting a good look at him… Tall. Dark. Red. Typical. “Is there anything else, then, Cinaed? I’m busy wallowing in my own misery, so if there’s nothing else, my wounds will close just fine on their own.”

He frowned, her words confirming his worries. “‘Will close’ means they aren’t closed yet. I’m not going to go grab our healer,” not that he could even if he wanted to, given she would likely run away from him as soon as he got close, “But please, at least take this vulnerary? It should help speed up the process and combat any possible infection. I know I’m probably acting like a mama hen right now, but, well, my father lost an arm because of infection. He had a bad injury, a deep cut in his upper arm when no healers were about. So he wrapped it all up and thought he would be fine to make it until they got back from their mission. By the time a healer could look at it...” He shook his head. He knew he was probably pushing her further than he should, he didn’t even know her for goodness sake, but he couldn’t just ignore it either. He unhooked one of the bottles from his waist and held it out. “Please?”

Alvira’s eyes narrowed into a scowl. She looked Cinaed straight in the eyes, almost growling. “Why do you care so much? Just because I got hurt? Just because you managed to sneak your way into our little group? I don’t like you. Do you even know why I don’t like you?” Alvira spawned a chunk of ice right in front of him. She didn’t even flinch or look strained, it looked as natural as tome casting, but there wasn’t a book in sight. “I used to be able to use fire. Life took that away from me. I’ve done no wrong, I’ve committed no crime, I’ve never harmed a person that hasn’t tried to harm me first, but the weather decided to take away everything that was keeping me afloat, and what can I do now?” 

The cube dropped, shattering against the deck floor, cold, real, clearly not magic, but real, generated ice. “I can throw ice cubes at people now. Hurray. I can’t start campfires. I can’t cook food. I can’t keep myself and– Mrrhh… I can’t keep myself warm at night. All because of something completely out of my control, and then you! You stroll up into our lives! And you’re throwing fire around willy nilly, some half dragon, like it’s as easy as breathing. I don’t. Like you. Your charity just makes me feel worse…”

Cinaed flinched at her words. Sneaking into their group, doesn’t like me, again, nothing I’ve done and someone hates me already. And then there was the ice, he knew it. But it seemed like this wasn’t some amazing feat of magical strength that he had originally assumed it was. No, this was something else. Some sort of accident that had stripped her of her natural warmth and left her cold. Both metaphorically and literally it seemed. But at the same time, it wasn’t fair to him either. “So you hate me because I can use fire. Sure, why not. Wouldn’t be the first time someone had hated me in this group for something I have literally no control over. And I’m sorry that you have to go through all of this, I really am. And you know what? You don’t need to like me. But I’m still going to try and make sure that you’re ok. Because whether you think I belong here or not, Commander Natalya said I was a member. And that. That means that I’m here to be a companion to all of the group. So sure. Hate me because I can use fire and you can’t. Hate that I just casually joined this group of yours where I don’t belong. I won’t say I don’t care, because obviously it hurts to be hated for something I have literally no control over, but it won’t stop me from making sure that you don’t die from infection.” 

He shoved the bottle at her nearest hand again, his voice almost matching the growl in hers at this point. “So take the damned vuln and use it and if your wound doesn’t get better by tomorrow, get one of the healers we have in this group and let them look at it. Don’t want the group’s healer looking at it for whatever reason, given how quickly you ran from her? Fine! Get one of the Evokers to look at it, surely they’ll be able to fix it. But don’t kill yourself just because you’d rather be miserable in your room than ask for help. What good will that do anyone?”

“H-Hey!” Alvira fumbled with the medicine as it was forced on her, growling louder, pushing the door open. He was much taller than her, but that didn’t stop her from flapping her wings and trying to look as menacing as possible. The words that followed didn’t quite match. “I never said I hated you, you idiot!” Another huff, she let her wings rest, tail wagging in annoyance. “I, I just, look, I don’t… I don’t, like, getting close to people. I know it’s not your fault, that this happened to me, but I’m… I’m just, jealous. I miss it. I miss it a lot. And every time I focus, really, really hard…!”

She held her claw out and shut her eyes, strained, almost groaning– she was actually starting to sweat, and for a split second, the smallest flame formed in her hand, before shifting swiftly back into ice, another cube forming. “Fuck…” She gasped, taking a breath, the concentration finally wearing off. “I know… I know, it’s still there. I just… I don’t… Want, you to get close to me. While I’m like this. Because I will get jealous, of you. I’ll lash out. You don’t deserve that. I don’t, hate you… I just… want, you to hate me.” The cube dissipated into nothing this time, instead of shattering against the floor of the deck, Alvira sitting in place and hugging her knees, wings folding around her.

“I’m sorry… I need to tell Nyx I’m sorry, too…”

The conversation had turned in a way Cinaed had never expected. As he watched her try desperately to form a single flickering flame that quickly turned back into ice, he felt his heart break for her. He slowly sat down next to her, gently placing a hand on her wing, fully expecting it to get knocked off immediately. But he had to try. “You’re allowed to be jealous of me. I don’t mind. I’ve been jealous of plenty of my friends. Want to know a secret? I may be able to use fire, but that’s all I can do. Everyone else I knew at school could do multiple types of magic, some even moving into dark or light magic even. And I’ve got fire. Great for fighting, survival, but not much else. And I watched all my other friends find their place in life, with all their variety in magic, and I got rejected from mercenary group after mercenary group. I stumbled into the Iron Tigers completely by accident, it’s true, but they’re also the only ones who even gave me a chance.” 

He sighed, cutting himself off, realizing he was edging closer and closer to whining. “My point is, I’m a big guy, in multiple meanings of the word. I can handle some jealousy, some lashing out. But I can’t handle someone I’ve become a companion to dying. Even if I barely know them. So I would rather be your friend and deal with arguments along the way if it means I can be close enough to help keep tragedy from happening, ok? And hey, your fire is still there. If you can feel it, burning in your belly, then you’ll find a way to bring it back. I know you will. You’re a fire dragon. Our flames don’t burn out that easy, right? And when you find it again, I’ll be there to celebrate with you.” He wasn’t exactly sure who Nyx was, though his guess was the woman that Alvira had exploded at during the battle, but if he’d somehow convinced Alvira she needed to apologize to her too, well, all the better then. 

She flinched at the touch, an inch away; she couldn’t move much sitting on the floor. She was still hiding her face and most of her body behind her wings, shivering while she sat. “Okay… I don’t know if I’ll ever, find it again. It’s been years. No one at the school knew. I can’t use any other magic. I just want to survive this, and go home. At least with all that money I can live comfortably for a few decades…”

He moved his hand back, not wanting to make her uncomfortable. But he wasn’t going to leave her like this either. “You will find it. Years go by, things change. The school people aren’t all knowing, trust me. Somewhere along the way, we’ll find someone who will be able to help.” He rested his back against the nearby wall and sighed, staring up at the ceiling. “The fire is clearly still there. You just made a flame there, right? So it will come back, some day. I can try and help, if you want. Magic theory is really interesting to me, though I’m not nearly as versed in it as some people.” He almost made a comment about how even if she didn’t get her fire back, things would still be ok, but the words froze in his mouth. They wouldn’t help right now. Focus on positive things, bring her mood up. 

He looked at her there, shivering, and shook his head. This wouldn’t do. He stood up, slipping past her and snagged a blanket off a nearby bed. He didn’t know if it was hers or her roommates, but it probably didn’t matter right now. He gently draped it around her shoulders before returning to his position a few feet away from her, giving her the distance she seemed to want. “You clearly have people who care about you in this group. Alriana, you said? Has been bringing you food, I can’t imagine Natalya doesn’t care about you. I’m sure they and others would do anything they can to try and help you get your flame back. And that they like you just as you are now too. And heck, here I am, showing up at your door just in case you were still injured. So whatever your goal is in life, you have people here who will help you do what needs to be done to achieve those goals.”

She didn’t want to keep talking about herself. Thinking about whether or not things would improve was just making her more and more upset, shrinking harder behind her wings. “Why… A-Are you, here?” She meant it differently this time. “Away from your family. Out on this boat. Heading, to Islexia… Why, what, made you leave home? … Where are you from, anyway…?” She’d assumed Lufiria, but he mentioned his mother avoiding the war, so… Maybe he’d been born elsewhere.

“Well, I hadn’t exactly intended to go to Islexia per say. I wanted to head to Hecatia originally. Find mercenary work there. There’s merc work on Glacies sure, but not nearly as much as there needs to be to support the number of groups that have been popping up lately. That and, uh, couldn’t get hired in the groups I tried to join.” He hesitated and then admitted, “Well, I could probably have been hired by my dad’s old group, still some of the guys from when he was in that are running the thing now. But that felt like cheating. Like I only got in because of my dad, not because of my merit.” He kept a gentle gaze on the dragon, hiding behind her wings and now the blanket he’d brought over. She was clearly hurting. Maybe talking more about himself would help draw out more about her some day. He didn’t expect it today. But build that connection and maybe he could eventually tease out more. 

“As for where I’m from, I’m half Lufirian, half Glacien. My mom was sent away from Lufiria by her dad right about when the war started. She came to Glacies with the idea that she would study in one of the schools there and then return home once the war was over. Only...” He hesitated. There was pain here, but it wasn’t his pain. Not really. But even now, with his mother miles away, he still unconsciously glanced around, just to make sure he wasn’t going to bring those memories back up in her mind. “Well, when the war was over, there was nothing to return to. A few others of her clan had been sent away too, but all her closest relatives, even her fiance, were all killed in the war. Essentially all of a clan of fire dragons... lost.” He sighed, feeling that faint pang of missing family, even if it was a family he’d never known. “So she stayed in Glacies. Finished her education and ended up marrying one of the security guards at the school. My dad, the former merc. After he lost his arm, that was about the best he could do from what he’s said. He taught me to fight, my mom taught me magic. Eventually went to school for magic, but as much as I enjoy theory, I was never meant to be a full time magic user. I’m too good at punching things, I suppose.” He gave a shrug that he knew she wouldn’t see, somewhat trailing off. Hopefully she would open up just a tiny bit now...

So he wasn’t from Lufiria… But his family had all been lost during the crisis. Even if he hadn’t suffered in the unique way living in Lufiria brought, she still understood and even empathized with the rest. “I… Don’t know, where my parents are. If they’re even still alive. I, they… Left me and my, siblings, when I was thirteen. I’d been trying to take care of them in Lufiria… But… Then I lost my fire, and… Mmhhh…” Alvira’s words deflated with her, having poked her head out to talk, now sinking it back behind her wings. “I’m s-sorry for your family…”

So there was some of the pain. Abandoned, losing a way she could help take care of her family... It was starting to make sense. “And I’m sorry for your family. I can’t imagine the pain you and your siblings must have felt to be abandoned. Is that why you became a mercenary? To earn money to help protect them, to care for them?” She’d mentioned earlier that the money from this would let her go home, so it was a logical assumption to make, but he wanted to see if there was something he was missing.

“I-I… I tried to go to the school with what savings I had left, but I… I couldn’t… Pass their practical exams. So I got, flunked. I can’t control the ice well enough. Not enough finesse of control over the power behind it. So I… I was… Haha…” Alvira’s laugh wasn’t a happy one. “I was killing animals in the woods, to skin and sell at the local markets… If mo– T-Tasha, hadn’t found me, and offered me work, I… I don’t, know. I just want to make this money and go back to Lufiria…”

“Hmmph, I always thought their standards were narrow. All the control in the world means nothing if you’ve got no power to back it up. I know people who could only conjure these tiny little bolts of lightning, but because they had exact control over them, they were viewed as extremely skilled magic users. You have to find a balance, you know? If you’ve got a ton of power, which from what I’ve seen, you’ve got a good bit in you, it feels like that should balance some of the control requirements. It’s not like you’re out here losing control of your magic or anything.” He shook his head. There had to be a middle ground, right? “So Commander Natalya found you then.” She’d been about to say something else, mo... mo... Hmm, it wasn’t important. She meant Natalya whatever it was going to be. “Well, making money is as good a reason to be a merc as any other, from what I can see. And going home, getting to see your family again, that’s obviously important. It’s a good goal, even if I suspect you’ll be leaving behind people who will miss you. At the end of the day, you have to do what will make you happy.”

“... And…” She had one more question for Cinaed before she tried to shoo him away. This was already too much for her right now, even if she’d managed to avoid blowing up on someone else. “How… H-How… Do you, ever get used, to killing people? I didn’t throw up earlier because of the weapon that hit me…”

“From what my dad said? Yes and no. It gets easier when you remind yourself of why you’re fighting. Of what the options are. If you didn’t kill that pirate, what would he have done? Killed the rest of us, or captured us to sell as slaves. Kept on going and raided Glacies, Lufiria...” He shook his head, staring at his fists. “My dad always said, ‘Hope it never becomes easy.’ If killing someone is easy, you’ve become the twisted one. Taking someone’s life, it’s a heavy thing. But easier, yes. It gets easier. But there should always be a weight on your soul when you choose to take a life, a reminder of the weight of a human life. Or, uh, that’s what my dad always said.” He hoped he didn’t sound overly preachy with all of this. But he did believe it. He never wanted to be able to just kill someone without feeling something about it.

“I see…” It would get easier, but it was never to reach a point where it felt like nothing. You’re no better than them if you stop caring… If, you stop feeling. Then you’ll be the monster they say you are. She sighed, slowly pulling the blanket off, unfurling her wings, and resting it on her front instead. “Th… Th, Thank you, Cinaed. Uhm… I’d… I’d like to go back to being alone. If that’s alright… B-But I don’t… I don’t, dislike you anymore. I don’t know if I like you, but, I… Thank you, for talking to me.”

He stood up, giving her a small smile. “Of course. We’re companions now. You don’t have to like me, I wouldn’t want to force that. I’m glad you don’t dislike me though. And for what it’s worth, I do like you. I appreciate you not just kicking me out after I intruded.” He stretched briefly and then headed for the door, turning around at the last second to give her a small wave. “I hope you start to feel better soon. Don’t linger too long in that misery by yourself, alright? And make sure you eat some of that lunch, it looked like it had some good selections in there.” Shutting the door, he stuffed his hands in his pockets, turned back around and headed down the hallway, a smile dancing on his lips. That had gone better than he had hoped. Hopefully, he could continue to wriggle his way into the dragon girl’s life, helping her to open up, at least a little more.

She was glad to not be bothered by his presence anymore, at the least. "Uhm. Uh. M-Miss, dancer, lady..." Now that was thinking about it, Alvira wasn't sure that she'd caught the woman's name. Still. "Uhm, I... S, Sorry. About being rude. Before... Th, That's all. I hope your have safe travels, and the like." Taking a deep breath, she flipped the hood of her cloak up and started to slink off. Her talks with Tasha had tempered her enough to know that some of the folks around here needed apologies... Nyx was next.

Slay The Dragon

Spoiler

It’d been long enough that Natalya spent just thinking about how their battle at sea had progressed. Especially how she had to scold Alvira… and how the dragon hadn’t come out of her room since. The more she did think on it, the more she felt she’d gone too far, saying something she really shouldn’t have, just because of her personal ideology getting in the way. They couldn’t have Alvira just retreat from everyone all the time at the earliest possible opportunity, and not just that, but she looked more pained than she’d even once been in the time she’d been with the Tigers… That wasn’t something Natalya was going to stand. She had to be there for the dragon when she needed it, or she’d just keep locking herself up, if the past weeks were any indication.

And so, on the last day of their trip to Eibar, Natalya had asked Alriana to stay on deck upon seeing her, taking the chance to approach Alvira while she was alone in her room. A cautious knock on the door came, and then the tiger’s voice. “Alvira? You’re in there, right?”

The sound of a book cluttering against wood left the room, muffled by the shut door. Sudden scrapes of what could only be claws trying to pick it up or panicking against the floor at someone knocking. Alriana had been gone all day, Alvira thinking nothing of it, the lizard probably just too antsy to stay in their room anymore. She seemed like a creature that needed action and movement all the time, so when Natalya came knocking instead, it had sent her into flight or fight, taking a moment to try and calm down.

A minute had passed, so she assumed. The book had been retrieved, the dragon still breathing heavy, but not stuck in her mental freeze any longer. Cautiously, she’d approached the door, claw tense on the knob, but she turned it and opened it, enough to see the tiger of the Tigers. 

“... Y… Yes. I’m. I’m in, here. D-Did you need something, c, commander…?”

She might have taken her time to do so, but the door eventually did crack open. For a moment, Natalya had thought she might have to lead in with what she was going to say anyway, but that wasn’t necessary now. “I just want to talk for a while, if that’s alright with you. There’s… something I need to say.” Much as Alvira was being more hesitant, it was unusual for the commander to not seem certain about herself either, looking a bit to the side, arms crossed.

“... Yeah. Me, me too. Uhm. I’m sorry.” She still wasn’t looking at Natalya, but there was a different air to her. “I’ll tell Nyx I’m sorry when we hit port. I, just… Mmm… C-Come in.” It wouldn’t do to try and spit this all out quickly and shut the door again. The dragon crept back into the room and, minding her tail, sat back into the chair she’d been reading in a moment ago, finally glancing up and meeting Natalya’s eyes.

I’m sorry? That was what Natalya was supposed to say, and certainly not what she’d expected Alvira to say first, considering how heated they’d both been during that battle… but it was promising for how this conversation was going to go. Both of them had had time to think about what they’d done, it seemed. “Thank you, Alvira… But you’re not the only one who has to say that.” Closing the door behind her once she’d gotten in, the tiger sat across from Alvira on… either her or Aly’s bed, she didn’t know how they’d arranged things. “I’m sorry too. I went too far, and we’re supposed to be supporting each other, not… that. Whether it’s for Clouded and Monsters working together, or for just the Iron Tigers.”

“Yo, You, I… Mhhh…” Alvira growled, words were difficult. “I was out of line. I deserved something, I… I just… Unless I’m too naive, young, or missed it, we… In, Lufiria, we don’t create weapons with the expressed purpose of tearing humans apart at their magical cores. So… So getting compared to the Islexians, these pirates, these slavers that wanted to cut me up and peel off my claws one by one, and… And break me down at the most, base level, I… That was, not. Not, fair. Too far…” That was Alvira’s only complaint and the reason she’d run off and hid. “Sorry. I shouldn’t be complaining. This is my fault…”

Now that was what the tiger had been expecting, but that Alvira was still being apologetic instead of standing her ground on the matter was even more surprising. She’d been so full of the fire she was missing that time, Natalya had thought that to be an unassailable point for her, but it was definitely better this way. “You’re right, I don’t know of there being human-killer weaponry either. I’m… maybe a bit scared. That the hate the Islexians, and even Mura, and Karavel, have toward us, will eventually drive someone to make them. And then both sides can leisurely tear apart the Clouded if they so wanted.”

But that wasn’t the point she wanted to make with this conversation. “I don’t know what you’ve been through, either. What you’ve had to deal with all that time before I found you in the forest. But I do know one thing.” Without another word, Natalya got up and stepped over to the dragon, falling over her in as much of a gentle embrace as she could manage. “It’s not your fault, Alvira.”

Oh. Alvira hadn’t thought about it like that, swallowing hard. Clouded held both in their bodies, so if ever those weapons were made, they’d be on the lookout for that much more in their lives. She felt rather stupid, having considered the Clouded just monsters like her, on ‘her side’, when it came to things, but… I’m so stupid…

In the time she’d been thinking, Natalya had gotten up, Alvira cluing back into reality just in time to get hugged, her wings flaring and her tail tensing up straight. “Hwhh, wh-what!? What, I don’t… H-Huh?” She didn’t quite get why Tasha was saying that, blushing and squirming a little, claws finally settling on the tiger’s back in a return of the hug. “I… I don’t, understand… But… Thank you.”

Natalya just held the hug for a moment, feeling they’d need it before she could elaborate on what she meant by that. She could always discipline her girls as much as she had to, but there wasn’t going to be any meaningful growth from it if she didn’t try to understand who they were as people too. And, of course, their age gap sometimes meant she treated them as if they weren’t adults… especially with Alvira, with her insistence on calling her ‘mom’. She’d have to try harder to not think that way.

A bit later, she eased in further, not really even holding Alvira that much. “You are who’s in charge of your own words and actions… but as people, there’s always something that’s made us think the way we do. I may not think it’s okay to answer hate by hating back, but, I can’t blame any of us for doing it either. Not with how much of the world has it out for us, not to say anything of what you might have personally experienced. And if you look at it that way… It’s not your fault.”

It took her a moment of thinking, but she was starting to get it. Lufiria had been… bad, but coming to Glacies might’ve been worse. All the talk she’d been told of acceptance of monsters had been just talk, in her experience, a cold dose of reality hitting her the longer she stayed. “I… I see. I’m… Mm…” She didn’t know what to say. It felt like too much avoidance to just agree, but maybe Tasha meant, it wasn’t her fault for acting the way she had, even if it was still her fault for lashing out in a painful way. “Mmm…” The more she thought, the more she started to get it, sniffling a little and pulling Tasha into a tighter hug. “Okay… I think… I think I get it. I’m sorry. I’ll do better. Make sure there isn’t a next time…”

Seemingly getting through to the dragon was enough to bring a smile back to Natalya’s face, answering the added tightness by holding her more in return. Not too much, what with her having that much more strength than Alvira, but enough that it was nice and tight. “That’s a good girl~” It wasn’t intended as a tease, moreso just actual praise for deciding what she had, but who knows how the dragon would interpret it.

“H-Hweh?” G-Good girl? Alvira flushed red, peeking up at Natalya, her tail starting to wag. “I, uhm. Tha-Thank you. Thank you, N… Nnnnmmm… M-Mommy– Mom!” Her eyes shot away, tail wagging harder, taking a deep breath and realizing there was no escape from the current situation. 

That certainly had even more of an effect than the tiger had thought it would, especially looking over Alvira’s shoulder at her rapidly wagging tail. She really, really liked that, huh? “Hehe~ I don’t mind either, if you’d be worrying about that. Just don’t let that other one slip, or people might get the wrong idea about our relationship~” With the dragon held in her arms, she figured she might as well put in juuuuust a bit of an actual tease in there. That, and they’d managed to get through what she’d come here to say in the first place, so a lightening of the mood was in order.

AaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA– Alvira’s mind was racing as fast as her tail was swishing against the floor, regretting existing and wishing she could disappear, cast invisibility, be anywhere else. “R-Right, wrong, wrong idea, aaa, ahaha… Ahh, mm, y… yeah… I’m, I’ll, k, keep quiet about, mommy– sorry. Mommy? S, Sorry, mom. Mom…” IwannadieIwannadieIwannadie–

It was probably a good idea to stop there, or Alvira would actually melt into a puddle from how flustered she was getting. Good to know she was the easily teased type, if that ever became relevant for any reason… Mostly so she could tell others to cut it out. Things that you liked this much would have to be earned, if you asked Natalya. She’d slowly ease the hug, letting her hands pat the dragon’s back a bit, though she wondered whether just proximity was enough to keep her from calming down now.

Alvira was silent, vocally, her tail almost slamming into the wooden floor. She was struggling to keep her wings in check and as well, shrinking back into her chair, unable to so much as glance at Tasha. “Mm. Mm. Uhm. Mmm… Th… Thank, you. Tasha… Mm… I, I’ll… When we hit, port, I’ll t-tell Nyx I’m, sorry for calling her worthless…” Focusing on the task at hand was helping her calm down more than anything, but that hand on her back alongside EVERYTHING was still keeping her heart flying.

“Mhm. And thank you for listening,” Natalya said back, finally letting go of Alvira and giving her respite from that assault on her senses, her own tail swaying a little as she stood up. “If you’re feeling up to it, you should show yourself on deck before we land in Hecatia. They might not say it, and you might not think so, but I’m pretty sure the others are worried about you too.” Now, unless Alvira wanted something else still, it was time to go tell Aly she could come back, if she wanted to, the tiger slowly heading to the door.

“I, uhm. I’ll. Yeah, I’ll go out, and see, everyone… Sorry, mommy…” Alvira coughed, trying to cover up her words, finally giving Tasha a glance, a very blush ridden glance. “I’m, uh, yeah. I’ll… Finish reading and go up to the deck…”


Ingverd stepped off the boat slowly, keeping his space from Marianne and Mark for the moment. He'd broken the man's promise rather quickly, immediately asking Aegean critical information. Information that had revealed far, far too much...

True Identity

Spoiler

Ingverd didn’t take long to place himself right outside of Aegean’s door, early in the morning, waiting for her to wake up. They had to talk. A lot. So long as he kept certain things to himself, about secret princesses from the time of princess Shiva’s youth, Mark would have no real reason to get angry with him. As for you… What exactly are you hiding, Aegean, and what harm is it going to bring upon us? And so he waited, arms crossed, leaning on the wall opposite the door to her room. “Any minute now…”

Aegean let out a huge yawn, stretching as she rose from her bed. The voyage from Glacies was moving along, with only one particular problem, but she managed to avoid that for now. I know Chris is suspicious of me, but I don’t know enough about him. Dad was good at covering our tracks, and I haven’t told anyone yet. Might be time to tell Tasha, but how do I break it to her that she has a wanted fugitive with her? Agghh. She knew thinking about this so early in the morning would throw her off for the rest of the day, she shook her head in an attempt to break free. I’ll get some food, probably with one of the girls. Then I’ll meet with Tasha, help her out, and then break it to her. I think she’ll understand. Maybe. Having gotten dressed, she slipped on her necklace and made her way to the door.

The door began to open and Ingverd put on his best million gold smile. “Good morning, Aegean! And what a lovely morning it is. You and I have something that needs to be discussed, I do hope you have the time to spare… I was hoping that you wouldn’t mind telling me all about your time in Lufiria? Ten years ago? That’s a good place to start.” He wasn’t going to beat around the bush or let her get away before bringing the situation to the front. Shocking her with all he knew had the chance of opening those lips, too… The sooner you talk, the sooner we all feel better about this.

If Gean’s mouth were any wider, you could fit a iron sword in there.There was also the fact that she went pale in the face, and that her mind blanked completely at how quickly the elf caught her off guard and exposed her biggest secret. “Ah. Uh. Um.” She stood straight up, pursed her lips and rubbed her temples. “Ok could I at least get a meal before you rush me down?” She was completely disarmed and panicking in every sense of the word.

The smile was gone. “No. You’re going to tell me, or I’m getting Natalya involved, right now. I don’t like loose ends, Aegean. This job needs to go smoothly; you, me, and the rest of the Iron Tigers are escorting two of the most important people in the world. Whatever baggage you’ve got trailing after you, you’re going to tell me, that I might manage to prepare for its impact. Don’t you dare jeopardize this for everyone else.”

Well if her fear wasn’t already sky high, it was sure to reach the heavens now. She had no way of getting out of this, and it was clear her answers could very well determine her fate, and the fate of the entire party. Opening her door and bowing much like a butler would, she gestured the man in. “In that case sir I insist you come inside, make yourself comfortable so we may discuss things properly, mayhaps bring back that winning smile of yours?” For all I know this may be the last conversation I ever have.

At her request, he complied, ever so slightly, smiling once again. “Of course~” Ingverd stepped into her room, hand on the hilt of his sword, resting himself on the far wall. “Go on, then~ Speak at your leisure. Without hiding anything… I’ve been told enough to know if you’re lying to me, Aegean~” Which was a lie in itself, but, she didn’t know that.

Well Gean, look on the bright side, Ingverd clearly knows something, and whatever he does know, it’ll at least answer one of your questions. Just give it to him bit by bit, and just hope his sword hand doesn’t get impatient. Sitting down on her bed, she took a deep breath before beginning her tale. “As you may know I am not from Glacies. I’m actually Lufirian borne, and lived there till the age of nine.” She gripped her bed sheets, this was the first time she had spoken to anyone but her dad about her past, and it was not easy at all to bring these memories she had kept buried back to the surface. Rolling up her sleeve to show her scales, she continued  “My father was a fisherman, and my mother a Seafolk, and while things weren’t grand, we were happy.” She paused fear hitting her again, before noticing his sword, and remembered what was at stake if she didn’t finish. “Unfortunately, life isn’t so nice and caring to people, especially Lufirians. One day, dad was framed. Framed for a crime he didn’t commit. And to make matters worse, we had no proof to prove his innocence. So we fled, left the country, everyone we knew, even my mother, to come to Glacies. There no one knew who we were, and no one would question a simple fisherman and his Clouded daughter.” She took another deep breath. “The reason why I asked to take his job wasn't because of the money, and while the mission our Evokers are taking on is a grand cause that was a secondary priority to me. I am here… to find answers. To learn what really happened ten years ago, and hopefully clear my family's name.” She turned to the man and gave her best smile, even if her eyes couldn’t hide her sadness. “Well, there you go. Stripped me of the truth, free to banish me or whatever you had in mind, eh Ing?”

“Then…You’re…” Ingverd’s eyes went wide, his mind racing for information. That was the only explanation. That was why Mark had mentioned Aegean being close to the second princess when she was younger. “Gods.” He muttered his surprise, sighing, pinching the bridge of his nose. “No, no I’m not, trying to banish or get rid of you. I just wanted to know what was going to be coming after us– after you, and I have a pretty damn good idea now… Ugh… We… Or just you, should really. Really. Tell Natalya about this… If she’s caught unaware, people have a good chance of getting killed. I don’t want that. I’m sure you don’t want that either. Fuck. Fuck!” 

He wasn’t mad at her, far from it. He was angry that he hadn’t realized what Mark had been implying, with his mention of ten years ago. “This question doesn’t leave this room, or Chris kills us both. Were you friends with the Lufirian princesses when you were a child?” His voice was quiet, and even uttering the words made him tense up, like a sword would come rocketing through the window and end him. “Just say yes or no. I don’t need you to say more.”

Aegean’s eyes shot wide open at his question, and even more so at his warning. This not only answered her questions about Chris, but it worried her about the rest of the ship ride. She started shaking greatly, but managed to eke out a nod to his answer. They know, I’m on a ship with people who directly know who I am and might want my head.

“... Okay. Then I know, who you are, who your family, likely was, and why anyone would be looking for you. Gods…” He sighed, sinking against the wall some. “Well. Well… The good news, Aegean, is that you’ve earned yourself a new ally. I can’t tell you more about myself, but I can tell you this: my family works for Lufiria, and I work for Iseria… I’ll do what I can to prepare for what’s going to come, and keep you safe. Alright?”

Aegean blinked. She had expected the man to be ready to call her a liability, or be ready to keep her at a distance. She didn’t even think she’d find someone to call an ally for these matters. “I, uh, I don’t know what to say.” It was that moment that she realized the tears on her face. She let out a chuckle “You really know how to get a girl’s emotions whirling huh?" This morning had been more exhausting for her than any battle could be. “I’ll get to telling Tasha as soon as possible. And Ingverd? Thank you. That means a lot to me.”

“I… Mm. I’m sorry. I was too harsh.” He didn’t like to see a beautiful woman cry, not like this. “I’m just, glad to know, and glad you know where I stand. I won’t keep you longer. Remember: that last bit doesn’t leave the room. If Chris asks you anything before we’re off the boat, I was in here speaking with you about the fight because of your injuries, checking to see if they healed properly. Need to keep the group in shape, right?” He put a finger to his lips, mimicking a shush, giving her a wider smile.

“Talk to her once we’ve parted ways with that man… For the best. I’ll see you later, Gean. You’re not alone, and I’m sure Natalya will remind you of that.” He pushed himself off of the wall, let go of his sword, and left the room as quickly as he’d stormed in. 

Gean continued to chuckle, replying back to Ing with a finger to her own lips. Heeding the elf’s words, she watched him leave before flopping back on the bed. She was exhausted again, and if it wasn’t for her stomach growling, she’d go right back to sleep. “Well Gean, you’re not out of it yet.” She lingered in that position for a while longer. The one secret she still needed to keep was the only thing left on her mind I wonder if you still remember me at all, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. Eh, Luci?

So, in the chance Mark asked him anything, he didn't want to be the one to initiate conversation, knowing he'd be on the back foot if the man interrupted him in the middle of any jovial attempts at conversation. No, aloof and off to the side fit this morning. It was doubling as his attempts to keep watch, knowing that while their being here was far from illegal, it was definitely looked down upon by several people. He did managed to give Cinaed a wave as he walked past... surprised to see Alvira rushing over all the same. "Little firework got over her issues, did she...?"

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Aegean waited at the top of the ramp off the ship. While it could be nice to catch up with Cin and apologize for over stepping the other day, there were more pressing matters. She needed to find Tasha, and avoid Chris and Maria if she could help it. Hopefully she hadn't left the ship yet. Turning back, she found the Tiger still on broad. "Hey Boss, need help with anything?" The duo are still close, don't want to raise suspicion. Sticking with the leader sounded like a good way to do this, and would allow Gean to find a moment for the two to speak alone.

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No sooner had she thought about him, Cinead manifested himself on the dock. He wouldn't have been too hard to find, but if he came to them all the better. But that hadn't been the surprising part, of all people, it was the dragon girl who approached them and offered an apology. Marianne just stood there for a moment, a little stunned after how the young woman had acted both to her and her own troupe. The girl quickly began to retreat, and Marianne found her words and a smile, "Wait, hold on. Haha, this boat ride has been nothing but surprises with you. I... was fairly rude back, so, it would be even more rude to not accept your apology." Marianne was a little more impressed than she let on. Apologies were not something she believed was in the girl's lexicon. 

She turned her focus to Cinead, the tall, chiseled dragon. "As for you, first, congrats on finding your troupe, and no, we wouldn't leave without saying goodbye. We owe you for even being here, and I promised that I would make it up to you. I can even make it a bit of a congratulations gift too." Marianne reached into the bag slung over her shoulder and pulled out two shimmering bands.

Chris looked at her, "Maria... I thought you said that you were giving him one."

"I am." She turned and looked at Alvira with a smile, "There are two people here after all." She handed a band to each of them. "These are something we picked up back in Lufiria before we made our way to Glacies. They were supposed to be for friends back home, but well, I'm sure we can find something else. I'm sure they'll help here more as well. Hehe, I figured this would be better than a kiss goodbye." 


Chris sighed as Marianne handed off two rather valuable gifts. Both to Cinead, and the other dragon that almost caused problems. Getting them again wouldn't be much of an issue, but still. Though his focus was less on her, and more on Ingverd who had waved his way past them. Not even saying so much of a word to Marianne, which was telling consider how friendly he was with her earlier. Telling him so much was a choice to say the least, but if Aegean was one and the same... If they weren't supposed to be elsewhere, taking Aegean to see Princess Shiva would have been at the top of his list. Everything lined up too well. He could only hope that they were the first to find her, and not anyone else. But protecting her wasn't something they could do right now, nor could he tell her for certain. 

Though, Ingverd wasn't the only one who seemed to be keeping distance. The woman who'd asked if he'd been working alongside traffickers was hanging quite far back. His annoyance at her was still there, but more tempered than it was then. Marianne was right; the woman had to have had a reason to jump to that conclusion with the slimmest amount of evidence. Now she also had a reason to be worried about him too? Was it what he said in regards to Lord Altair? What an unbelievably mercurial person. 

"Maria, you seem well enough to me... don't you have a dance to perform for a couple people? I think we have enough time for that." Chris said tilting his head in Nyx's direction.

Well, if Maria was content, he wasn't going to make things more awkward than they needed to be. Work, and an annoyance were something he could easily set aside for her. She'd do the same for him. 

Cinead got a Lufirian's Band!

Alvira got a Mage's Band!

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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Natalya could at least sleep easy tonight, knowing that things had been patched up between her and Alvira. But the matter of actually proceeding within Hecatia was going to most likely get on her nerves, and Islexia was even worse, plus she'd only just decided what to do with the one Pure axe they recovered during the battle. Throwing it into the sea was still a tempting option, but she'd also rather have it than not if a Clouded or Monster ever tried to kill any of the Tigers, symbolism be damned. Protecting the people important to her was a moral higher than never touching those damn things.

Good thing Aegean was the first of them to meet her when she did finish seeing off the crew, then. She'd understand why she would be carrying something like that. "Nope, not really, was just seeing the crew off. I do have to say something, though. See this thing?" She pointed at the smaller axe on her back, "Probably doesn't come as a surprise that I don't like carrying this on me, but I'd rather have it just in case we ever have to fight other Clouded, not that I'd like that either. Nyx found this in their stuff and I figured it'd either be safer in my hands and used to keep one of us from dying, or in the drink."

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"Hweh!?" Alvira squeaked as she was stopped and then presented a gift. An odd band that radiated a weird magic, one that she didn't quite understand. Woven white and silver, an intricate gem placed within a sculpted flower, shimmering both from the stone itself the silver fiber woven between. It was beautiful. Too beautiful... She looked up from the intricate ornament and double took between it and Marianne, confused, taking another glance to Cinaed. "Wh-Why are you giving one to me? I... I was just, rude and, even if I'm apologizing, I-I haven't done... Anything to... I, I didn't even catch your name the entire trip." She huffed, receiving a gift like this wouldn't sit well without having some questions answered...

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Miria stood up straight as best as she could, and gave a smile. "I'll be okay, thank you. I'm just gonna let Gean know before I go take a nap. Thank you, Alriana, I appreciate the concern," she responded as she started moving, slowly, but she seemed fine.


With a stretch, Miria saw herself off the boat. Solid ground, it made her happy. Boat rides are claustrophobic and boring. Well, she got her reading in while she was there. As well, she took in the new world around her. She hadn't seen Hecatia before, it was eye-opening. Nothing like Morano, nothing like Glacies.

"Wow..." She simply spoke as she gazed and gawked.

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Gean took a good look at the axe, the same kind that threaten to lob her head off before had it not been for Cin's warning. "I think I'll leave that burden to you. Just looking at it makes me uneasy." But good Tasha had no big plans, which meant aside from getting the team situated, she was free. "Well in that case, mind if I take a bit of your time this evening? There's something on my mind I need to talk to you about." She thought about having Ingverd join, but they could convene about that later. There was no telling who else could be near, now that there were people who knew who she was. Staying apart might for now was the best action. It had also been some time since Gean had gotten to spend time alone with the person who may as well been a second mother to her. It would probably do her some good to have a talk the Tigress.

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"Marianne, are you sure?" He asked that and yet he gently took the shining beautiful band, looking at it with a glow in his eyes. Without a hesitation, he slid it over his wrist and up his arm, letting it settle just below his elbow, slightly above where his scales ended. The brilliant orange gem, coupled with the silver and orange on the main band, were a shining contrast to the ruby red of his scales, and the star and sun designs were delicate and beautiful. It was a stark contrast to his general appearance, light and delicate compared to his large frame and less than fancy look, but he loved it anyways. "Who knew helping out strangers would be so lucrative? If I'd known, I would have just stuck to that instead of being a mercenary." His joking tone quickly turned serious as he clasped Marianne's hand in his. "I will treasure this as a symbol of our friendship. And if either you or Chris ever need help, and it is within my power to do so, you have my word I will be by your side."

He let go of her hand and smiled at both her and Chris. "I will say, I wouldn't say no to seeing you perform before you leave, if Chris is correct." He glanced over at Alvira, smiling gently at her as well. The gift had clearly flustered her, but hopefully she would accept it. It would suit her well, he suspected, and the act of kindness might help to soften that shell she had built around herself.

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The two reactions were polar opposites, it wasn't unlike how she expected the actual recipients would have reacted if they have been given to them. Marianne was all smiles, having expected the questions, "Well, why I'm giving one to Cinead is pretty obvious. He helped us get here, and it's something as a congratulations gift. But for you..." Maria pointed at Alvira with her free hand, "It's... a couple reasons actually. You're a fire dragon, I can tell, but you haven't use any fire at all, even when we were fighting the pirates. It's not impossible that a fire dragon could learn ice magic, but for one to use exclusively ice magic... You were in a mana storm, weren't you? That seems to me to be the only thing that makes sense, because..." She paused and then sighed, "Your skill and how you use your magic don't match. ...That hits a little close to home for me, all of my issues with my magic are because I was also in a mana storm. But even aside from that, I'm rooting for you guys and I think you guys can use these a little more than our friends." That had gotten a little more serious than Marianne would have liked, "And well, it matches your scales perfectly." That should breathe some levity back into the moment. 

Marianne looked over her shoulder to where Chris's head was tilting, and saw the woman from before kind of sulking. "Haha... Yeah. I think I can manage something small. I'm feeling a lot better now, rest and sweets, always works." She added with a chuckle. A promise was a promise, and now that Cinead was also interested, she'd make it work. Then again, Chris having faith in her was all she needed to convince her, everyone else was icing on the cake at that point. She turned, and waved at Nyx, "Heeey! Come down here! I still have to perform at least once, and you're the one who asked! Come on, don't be shy!" She walked over to the edge of the dock, she wasn't going to need too much space. "Chris, in the event that something happens. You'll be there to catch me if I fall, right?"

"That's what I always promise, right? Show them what you got." 

A smile, and a flick of her blue fan to hide the forming blush on her face. She waited for Nyx to come down and join the group.


Tio was on the railing watching everything unfold. The rest of the voyage was about as enjoyable as all ship voyages were, that is to say, not very. Despite being from Glacies, Tio never liked ships; it always felt like they were one bad mistake away from being buried at sea. But it was over, and she'd spent most of it with Elisa. As well as formulating exactly what she was feeling from Chris. Or trying, as it was still entirely unlike anything she'd ever felt. The man hadn't exhibited any affinity for light, but that was the only thing she could tell for sure, was that it was related to light in some manner. There was also the issue of what she had heard from the shiphands, that Islexian ships were turning up with an abundance of pure weapons. If they were in the waters bordering Glacies... 

Tio sighed, "We've only just started, and there are already so many questions that I don't have the answers too." She looked and saw Aegean and Tasha both talking about something, and noticed the pure weapon on the tiger's back. A bit odd that she would keep it, but a weapon was a weapon, and who knows what they'd come across on their way. Marianne called up to Nyx who appeared to be holding her distance for some reason, it looked like she was going to perform a little something after all. "Elisa, perhaps we should also go watch, maybe we'll learn a thing or two." She looked up at the evening sky, "And we should probably find a place to stay. Eibar at least is much better in regards to Clouded and Monsters than everywhere else... maybe we can get an inn, and can get a bath... It's getting a bit late for us to start making our way." 

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