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Mercenary on the Winds

Faith in the Spirits Arc 1: To Align the Stars

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Was it that much of a giveaway? No, the woman admitted to being in her own storm situation, that was the only way she could've even guessed. Alvira's eyes narrowed as she spoke, not bothering to answer anything she was saying. She was right, so no matter what Alvira said, unless she could muster some outright denial, this Marianne would know. "Then... Then do you know how, I, I can..." She was barely talking, probably not audible against all the other talking and the waves from the sea. Alvira sighed, the dancer walking off to perform. She'd been too shocked to follow the only avenue she'd gotten so far.

I, I at least... She scurried after Marianne, looking up at her with that resting scowl. "M-My name is Alvira. Alvira Sam'Tara vel Hozt. I... I don't have anything to pay you back with, right now, and we're going separate ways, b-but if we, if we meet again, I'd like to talk. Please." With her courage spent, the dragon ran off again, heading towards the town. There had to be something to do in Elbar that would help her take her mind off things...

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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Peeling Back the Hood

Spoiler

Aegean made her way down the lower deck hallway. Her hand scratching through her dreads in an effort to think on how she approached her next task Ok I know I promised Cin, but Rene is not exactly the easiest nut to crack. She let out a huff right before making it to her destination. Steeling herself, and hoping that the healer was actually inside, she knocked on the door to the room Renais and Miria shared. "It's Gean, mind if I come in?"

 

Gean? What is she doing here? Miria pondered for a moment. Deciding to be the forthright one, she shimmied herself off her bunk and stretched, making her way to the bunk door.

 

Opening the door, Miria welcomed her with a smile, "Hey Gean. What's up?"

 

Renais was settled in her bed with her nose in another good book, it seemed like she was calm now after her outburst earlier. She just wanted to forget the day and move on with her life. 

 

Then came a knock on the door, as Aegean had approached. Miria was quick to answer, which is good because Renais was not in a social mood. So she decided to let her handle whatever Gean wanted and minded her own business.

 

Gean let a smile of relief fall on her face. Miria being there would make things easier, or at least meant she wouldn't have to do this alone. Entering the room put one of her dreads behind her ear. "Thanks Cub, but I'm actually here to speak with your roommate. Unless her book is too good to pass up on." Alright let's see if you play along

 

"Here for… Renais?" Miria turned over to see Renais, very clearly trying to be to herself. Well… as much as Miria respected her friend's privacy, she also wasn't inclined to stop someone else if they needed something from her.

 

"Come on it, no problem." She smiled as she stepped out of Gean's way. "Would you like for me to step out?"

 

Renais has listened in to the two, assuming it was just a casual conversation. But then she heard her name…and the fact she was here to see her. “....” This earned an eye turn toward the larger woman as her roommate stepped aside. “...do you require healing? If not then I’m afraid I’m not much for conversation…” She turned back to her book. “Sorry.”

 

Gean put her hands on her hips, she expected this outcome, but backing away now would solve nothing. “Sorry Rene, but this isn’t I can just let you wave off. And Miria it’s fine you can stay.” Better to have a witness, and Miria’s pureness might help me out in the end. Now, I was told you had a very… enthusiastic response to our newest member; and while nothing states you have to like everyone who joins us, at least give us a reason why. You kinda crushed his spirit, almost as bad as we crushed those pirates.” If Renais gave a reasonable answer, she would respect Cinead’s wishes, and back off. But she still had a feeling things were a bit out of hand in the matter.

 

“....” Oh, that was the reason why she came. Renais did her best to hide her emotions, but a small sigh escaped her lips as she realized what was going on. “...I will admit I let my emotions get the better of me. My intent came out wrong, I’m sorry.” She turned a page. “But honestly it’s probably best that Mr Cin doesn’t have a good opinion of me, I won’t be in this group forever and you all don’t need anything else from me other than my healing. I’m happy to oblige in that regard, but…it’s just business.” She had to be as blunt as possible, no ties to keep her down.

 

Miria took a minute, soaking in information on what was going on. An outburst involving their large, new recruit. She walked over to her bunk and sat back down. Thinking about it was hard. Miria wasn't sure how to approach the situation.

 

Well, she approached, "But… do you really want that? Don't you like him?"

 

And in came Miria, which was something Renais had hoped wouldn’t happen. But given how optimistic she was it only made sense. “....” The question hit her for a moment as Gean may have seen her eyes twitch a little from her page. “Mm...I don’t think that matters.” Was all the defense she could muster for the moment.

 

Gean raised an eyebrow. Miria came to her rescue, and she'd have to repay the girl in the future. Switching to a more relaxed stance, she decided to slightly prod the comment. "Oh, so someone here isn't being true to herself it seems. I had a feeling there might be someone else underneath that cloak, and it seems Miria has gotten chummy with them already." She  got closer to the girl's bed, so that she couldn't hide away behind her book. "No one's forcing you to stay Renais, and I understand keeping things professional, but doesn't it get lonely keeping to yourself all the time?"

 

Aegean catching onto the act earned a small groan from the pinkette, realizing that opening up to Miria had backfired somewhat. Nevertheless, she wouldn’t make it that easy. She started to scoot away from the larger woman as she leaned into the bed and snuggled up on the other end of it. But at this point she had her eyes on Aegean. “...Miria and I had a few things in common, but I don’t think that’s the case with most people here.”

 

Gean’s smirk grew wider, the healer was reaching her end here, and both women knew it. “Well, from where I’m standing that couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, you and Cin both are promising grads from magic schools, you should see all the shapes he can make with his fire, it’s really quite charming.” Her mischievous side came back as she thought of their conversation on the deck. “You two also get easily flustered and it’s quite adorable. Actually both of you would do well with gaining a bit more confidence. Now that I think about it, you both share a decent amount of similarities."

 

“...he was a graduate from a magic school?” Renais didn’t expect that at all, Cin didn’t look like a magic user. Renais assumed he was some sort of brawler. But she didn’t catch how he fought, so she wasn’t sure. ‘Did…did I judge him too quickly?’ Then came Gean prodding her on her confidence, and their similarities. “Similarities or no he wouldn’t give me the time of day after an outburst like that. But tell me, Aegean. It seems like you came here for more than just an apology, why is that? I’m just the group healer.”

 

And there went Renais with another quick dismissal. Miria understood, Renais freaked out regarding Cinaed, and potentially made a mistake. What was the actual ridiculous part was Renais insisting trying to patch up their potential friendship would go wrong.

 

"I mean, Cinaed doesn't seem like the kinda guy to hold a grudge for being scared of him? He seems like just a giant teddy bear."

 

“A giant teddy bear who’s been hurt a few times because folks took one look at and just thought ‘oh no big scary dragon’. It’s a little frustrating to be honest.” Gean gave a huff. “As for your question my reliable pink haired friend, I’m not here for any apology, no the man didn’t even ask for that. I’m here for two reasons. One, to see if you and Cin might be able to start off over on a better foot. The second reason is you, dear. I'm here to dispel this whole 'I'm just the healer' mentality. Now no one's saying you have to stay, but you're still an Iron Tiger as long as you're here. Now I can't speak for everyone but I sure would like to enjoy whatever time we have together; if we're to part, let's part on good terms huh?" She once again looked the smaller girl in the eye, a genuine smile on her face.

 

Renais took on Gean’s words for a minute, realizing that Cin may not be far from her own position after all. The truth was Renais didn’t like her own body, she didn’t like being born as short as she was and as pretty as she was. It gained a lot of attention she didn’t want but was too polite to turn away entirely. Maybe Cin was the same way, maybe he doesn’t want to be this giant of a dragon. “....” 

 

She spent a moment thinking on that while she watched Aegean’s expression. She seemed to mean well. “...you’re right, I am scared of him. But can you blame me? Look at me…” She rolled to the side of the bed and stood up. “I was born with such a limiting body, surrounded by tall people who could snap me in two if I make the wrong move. I can barely defend myself, so I hide myself instead.” She turned her head toward the cloak hanging off her bedside. “Hiding in that feels stuffy sometimes, but what choice do I have?”

 

Gean listened intently. Standing up to give the girl a hug, she spoke with a soft tone. "I understand that a lot of us are intimidating in your eyes, and I may never be able to completely convince you. Just know that you have people here like Miria and I who you can take that moment to breathe with. You don't have to do this alone, no one should." Breaking the embrace she made her way to the door. "Well, I said everything I had to. It's late, and we all could use some sleep. Take care you two. Maybe we can get something to eat together soon, just the three of us." With that final piece, Gean slipped out the door and back to her room.

 

The pinkette felt a little irritated by all this prodding, and Aegean getting in her personal space was something she didn’t appreciate. Renais didn’t expect the bigger girl to pull her in for a hug, and at first she felt scared at the move, and a little angry. Something she couldn’t hide as it was on her face, but only for a moment. The truth was, she actually needed something like this.

 

Back home Liza used to hug Renais all the time when she had troubles or worries she needed to get through, it was a very powerful comfort zone for her being in someone’s arms. While Aegean was more well toned than Liza she felt that familiar aura and slowly relaxed in Aegean’s arms, burying herself into the woman. Whether it was of her own choice or subconsciously was something even Renais didn’t know yet. But Aegean could probably feel that her state of panic was entirely gone now. “M…mm…” ‘She’s so warm…so…’ 

 

But before Renais could pull herself together her larger ally broke off and left to the door. Renais was a little surprised at that and stumbled forward a bit. She watched Aegean leave and just nodded in silence. “...mhm…” She looked aside with a small blush, embarrassed for herself. A small tear was in the corner of her eye, but before Miria could notice she wiped it away as quick as she could. 

 

Miria smiled a bit at the hug, but as Aegean was walking out, the girl went to a small frown. She was more confident when Aegean was there. In the end, there was a smidge of guilt. She laid into bed, “S-Sorry for that, Renais, I– I shouldn’t have helped prod like that…” She turned over. It was probably incredibly uncomfy for Renais, even if Miria was there to encourage her. “I’ll just uh– l-leave you alone. Don’t worry about it…”

 

“....” She didn’t answer, she was still in shock. But after a quick minute she managed to pull herself back together as she looked toward Miria’s bed. “...help me look for Cin later and we’ll call it even.” She answered and got to bed herself, as she hugged onto her pillow with a sigh. ‘I wonder…if Tio would mind if I asked her for a hug…’ She had missed being embraced like that, she wouldn’t have minded it lasting for a bit longer.

Renais had stepped on the deck of the ship after a rough night's sleep. The cloak had covered her as usual from the head to her hips, which was a good thing because she looked like she lost some sleep for some reason. "Mm..." She took a look around the ship, and scanned for a certain someone. 'I'm expecting her to say no but...mm...I really need her for just one minute...' Aegean's hug pressed a button that Renais hadn't felt in a long time, she wanted to scratch that itch and hug someone. Tio was the closest one to that and she hated feeling so vulnerable. 'Ngh...I hope she doesn't think I'm dirty minded or anything but...' So she walked about and kept an eye out for her 'sister' hoping she'd run into sooner not later.

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Well, shit. She’d been hoping to avoid the dancer and her mate after exiting the boat, especially given that she wasn’t convinced he was liable to kick her ass straight back to the Tigers’ base. But, woe was Nyx, she couldn’t resist a pretty face, so she begrudgingly made her way over to the group that was beginning to form around them—

—Which also featured the other reason for her constant headaches for the remainder of their voyage, the not-so-lovely little scamp of a salamander that called her Grandma. Nyx still wanted to yank her by the tail for that one - she didn’t even give a shit about the whole “worthless human” thing!

”Wha, y’really can’ start yer show wit’out me? M’pretty sure I ain’t gonna be much of a dancer, but I guess I know a few shanties.” Nyx joked, pointedly looking nowhere near either Chris or Alvira. Man, where the hell were Gean or Syn when she needed them? Gods only knew that Nyx was about to make herself a dead lass in a few minutes with this present company.

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"So we made it? I'm honestly surprised we made it in one piece." Syndra figured the trip into port would've been worse off than it was, but the relative quiet did allow her to work on decoding the manifest she and Nyx had found undisturbed. She gathered all her belongings together, which now also included the manifest and a bottle of rum she had "liberated" from the pirate vessel and made her way above deck. "Guess it's time to- oh what's this now?" Syndra had noticed the dancer that helped them during the battle and Nyx were talking about... something, but she couldn't quite hear what it was. If it was that dog that claimed to work for this Lord Altair person I'd probably just ignore them, but I did promise I'd make it up to you Nyx. "Are you going to put on a show for us?" Syndra chuckled a bit. "I need to watch this."

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Marianne had missed Alvira's earlier mumbling as she'd gone to prepare herself for the impromptu performance, but as Alvira wandered back over to her, Marianne didn't miss the name that Alvira had given her. Had Alvira not ran off almost immediately after doing so, she might have noticed the flash of realization run across Marianne's face. Marianne put her hand out, but the timid dragon was already off into Eibar. Her mind was racing, it was already rare for someone to have a name that mirrored old Lufirian schema, but for it to have been so unmistakably close to Sam'Taris was a coincidence that seemed implausible. She'd read the name countless times, but only really heard it once or twice. She looked at Chris hoping that he too heard what Alvira had just said. Chris's face too was one of surprise, which confirmed her thought. That's... supposed to be... impossible, isn't it? Weren't they... There's no way that she's actually a Hozt, right? 

Marianne buried those thoughts for later as Nyx finally came down the ramp, clearly bothered by Chris being so nearby. Chris told her about what the woman had asked him, and well, she knew how upset that had made him, so Nyx seeming so worried was reasonable. She was also followed by a dark blue haired woman, who also happened to match the other woman that Chris had told her about. Cute that they both showed up at the same time. She winked at Nyx, "Well, I could, but you were the one I promised to perform for. Well, the one that stuck around anyway." She did notice Ingverd striding on by them, seemed like something a bit more important than a formal goodbye had come up. It stung a little, but so did goodbyes. "I'm going to put on a little something, make it a little goodbye and good luck gift for you all." With everyone present, and more seemingly on the way, --It appeared even the Evokers were a bit interested in what was going on--it was time for her to show off a little. She took a step back, giving herself some space, one more glance at Chris, and the air around her began to shimmer both with light, and small crystals of ice. 

She began with a quick twirl, turning the crystals into a gentle breeze of snow around her. Marianne decided on a slower dance, both easier to follow for newer onlookers, and better for her own wellbeing. But the idea seemed to fit more for in the context of a sending off. With each measured step, the movements of her fan seemed to guide the snow the around her, and those watching. The breeze meshed well with the evening atmosphere, and Marianne could feel that the crowd was slowly finding their way into it. Dancing was to guide the eyes, and thoughts of people watching. A jump to the left, and a twirl to the right, Marianne felt comfortable enough using a bit more of her magic. Her fan clicked closed, and with a movement of her hand, and a sway of her hips, some of the snow about her seemed to form into a second Marianne. The pair moved together, mirroring each other's movements well enough that only a trained mage's eyes would be able to tell the difference. A clever trick of light magic. Then the pair finally broke off, one continued to dance, while the other moved towards Nyx. She gave the Nyx a smile, and then gently tapped her nose. "You have pretty eyes. Thank you for giving me a reason to perform." She moved back and rejoined her mirage. With that little detour dealt with, it seemed like it was time to finish up. 

The two dancers lined up across from one another, both flicked their fans open, and the icy air began to shine. They dashed towards one another, and jumped in unison. There was a flurry of snow and ice, and a bright flash... and when it all faded, Marianne was no where to be found. 

There was a tap on Chris's shoulder, and he turned to be greeted with a quick kiss. She then did the same nose tap as she had done to Nyx, "Got you." She moved from behind Chris, and bowed to the onlookers, hoping that had done what she'd wanted. 

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The cleric stumbled about on the deck, trying to find her target. But as soon as she stepped near the ramp she saw her with Elisa just standing there. "Ah, Tio!" She ran over to her and nearly tripped over herself, but she recovered and stood before the older woman with a huff. "Mm...I uh...you must be busy but..." She held her cloak close but as she craned her head up to her the hood opened slightly to show her red face and slightly teary eyes. "I...I had a bad dream and well...that is to say if you don't mind..." 'This is a bad idea...she'll say no, but...I really hope she doesn't...'

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"I think we'll have a good enough view from here. If it's as flashy as I think it'll be, anyway," Elisa quickly answered her wife's suggestion, giving her a playful bop on the nose. "And I think you mean we can get a bath. I want one too, you know?~ And we can talk things through while we're having a nice relaxing soak. I know I can't help much when it comes to light magic, but you know I'll listen if you just want to air your thoughts. Oh, and speaking of light magic." The younger Evoker turned her attention to Marianne, who was starting her performance. Even if it was a slower dance, it was a very inventive combination of multiple magic schools and kinetic performance, something very much in Elisa's interest, even if the dominant use of light magic meant she'd never be able to replicate that. And Tio wasn't much for physical activity, so a pair dance to cover for that didn't seem like something she could convince her wife of. I'll have to try compensating with different colors of fire. That could look nice~

Then, a surprising call from behind, as the cleric who'd ran away after the battle wanted to see Tio specifically. Not that she was bothered; Tio had mentioned they'd gotten friendly over the voyage, and so she'd keep herself at bay for now, even if Renais did sound oh so adorable. Maybe she wouldn't mind if they both were to comfort her a little~


Natalya looked over the few others who were still on the ship, mostly the Evokers, shortly turning back. It seemed like they were missing some sort of lightshow, but whatever it was could wait. "I've got a moment to spare, yeah. It's not like we'll be heading anywhere out of town tonight, so we'll just have to find lodging for all of us, settle down and relax for a bit. I'm sure most of us are in need of a bath too... I know I am." Even as convenient as a boat ride was, there were definitely things that were still missing from making it an actually comfortable experience. Maybe those fancy Lufirian armored ships actually had provisions for onboard bathing... Either way, the evening would make for a good opportunity to catch up a little with Aegean. Accelerating as their pace of new hires had become lately, the commander found herself busied by work much more often than before, unable to give as much attention to the cheerful Clouded as she may have wanted.

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Marianne's little magic show was rather impressive, her dance living up to the hype of her magic. Ingverd felt himself clapping, though, he didn't want to approach them after, still keeping himself away from the two for the moment. Instead, "Miria!" he approaching the gawking girl, who seemed to be at quite a loss looking over Eibar. "I take it this is your first time in a port city? A real one, that is. The one in Glacies was made for trade and nothing else... Eibar should have plenty of food and entertainment while we're staying~ A proper inn, a real bed, a good bath... What a welcome sight. Excited~?"

He'd had his eyes peeled for Alriana, but maybe it'd be best to give the lizard a day off, after what they talked about...

Designation Unknown

Spoiler

There was that… Lizard…? That lizard, again. Out on the deck for the evening, it seemed. Ingverd had been watching her here and there, trying to make any idea out of what she was… To no avail. Curious. Far too curious. Slowly, he approached her, giving her tail a look over, her hair… Was that hair? He actually couldn’t tell. Would have to be closer to inspect, but he didn’t want to spook her. “Alriana!” he called over, trying not to alarm her, donning a winning smile. “Nice night… Mind if I step into it, just a little?”

Alriana blinked and slowly turned her head to whomever had called her name. It wasn’t a terribly familiar voice so it must have been one of the recent, moreso than Alvira, additions to their group. Indeed, turning her head revealed the source that had interrupted her stargazing was Ingverd. He talked… funny, in a way that she didn’t quite understand at times, though not for a lack of trying on her part. “How you mean, ‘step into’?” Was what he got for a response, the lizard staring at him with a slight tilt to her head.

“How do I mean…? I, well…” It had been a while since someone had failed to understand him, scratching the back of his head and scoffing quietly. “I just mean to spend some time with you, Alriana. Ahah… You’re one of the only people here that I don’t know anything about, and I’d love to learn about someone so unique. What do you say?” He’d come up and leaned into the boat next to her at this point, looking her over. It was… Surprisingly provocative to see her in just shorts and a simple shirt, almost blushing. He’d have been more physically interested if he wasn’t so curious about what she even was…

If that’s what you meant, why not just say it? A small, nearly unnoticeable, huff left the lizard, the slightest bit annoyed that she hadn’t understood such a simple meaning. She stared at him, as if studying him, for a minute before slowly nodding her head and looking back up towards the glittering stars. “You can join, me here. Just, don’t interrupt my watching.” Just like the day they’d departed Glacias, Alriana was seated on the railing of the ship and her tail wrapped around it, though she was just as sure of her balance without it.

“Alright… Precarious little resting place you have.” He kept his own lean against the railing, watching her, eyes exploring her a little… That tail was massive, looked to be very powerful, and incredibly prehensile. A dangerous weapon, did she know how best to use it? Could choke out the largest opponent if she could get that around their neck… Mmm… Quite the useful ally, best to keep her in my good graces.

“Alriana… You like watching the stars, then?” He glanced up to where she was looking, the skies clear enough on the boat to see plenty of constellations in the sky. “What if I told you, that these clusters of stars made specific shapes, those shapes have names, and those names have meanings? Would you like me to tell you some?”

“Not any dangerous, don’t even need tail. Tail just there so others not worry.” A small part of her considered unwrapping her tail just to prove that she didn’t need it, but the thought of wrapping it up again after the fact was annoying enough that she just left it be. She nodded at his question. “Mhm. But, not for any reason. Just like watching things.” 

She perked up at the mention of constellations, turning to stare at the elf once again now that her interest had been piqued. “You mean, stars not just pretty to look at? Have meaning?” Though the lizard was fairly bright, there were still a great many things that she didn’t know of, even in their most basic sense. Did clouds have names and meanings as well? What of flowers and other plants? “Tell me, what stars mean.”

“Yeah. Plenty of meanings. It’s pretty impressive how much effort folks will go to assign thoughts to things…” He smirked and turned around, hopping up on the railing, balancing himself on it despite the ship’s swaying. “Let’s see… The constellations are all named after the weapons acquired from the Lufirian Empire. These weapons turned the tide of the war, so they were all immortalized in the stars… That one, there.”

Ingverd pointed to a line of three stars that ended with a triangle of them, bright amongst the rest of the night sky. “Those stars represent Destine, a lance, symbolizing adventure. The spear changed hands several times during the war, finding itself away from those uncommitted to the cause. It finally came to rest in the hands of a fisher’s daughter, who became one of the greatest heroes of the war~ The final resting place of the spear’s adventure. Fate is a funny thing, isn’t it?”

Fate wasn’t Ingverd’s interest, though, so he pointed elsewhere. “That cross, though…” A cross pattern of stars, with a bright, extra star to the north of it. “That represents Escaflowne, the sword, for strength and leadership… Something I’ve been putting myself to my whole life, to try and escape my own fate. What… About you, Alriana? I really don’t know much about you, and given my occupation, that genuinely surprises me. Are you running from some sort of fate?”

“Cons, tell, ation?” A new word, Alriana repeated it to herself to both sound it out and commit it to memory before she gave the elf her whole attention. Her gaze followed his pointing, spotting both constellations once they were shown to her with relative ease. She recognized what he called Destine, having spotted the shape many times, though without the knowledge to know what she’d been looking at. Almost fitting in a way, considering the adventure she was now on.

Fate was a concept that went over her head, or rather more accurately was one she didn’t bother with. She lived as she pleased, whether some cosmic force willed it or not. “I am here, because I am. Was told to live, so I live. I not know how to do best, but I still do it.” If there was one single thing Grelbiria had drilled into the lizard, despite her not having a complete understanding of her mother figure’s words, it was that her life was precious and that she should never give up on it. She would live as long as she could.

“Mmm… Interesting. Who told you to live, Alriana?” She was far too mysterious. “And… What are you, if you don’t mind me asking? I’ve run into a lot of clouded and a lot of monsters, but you’re… Very unique. I’m sure you realize that, even if you don’t understand what it means to be as special as you are. You’re not stupid, though… Despite all the words you skip when you talk~ So… Do you mind answering me? Or are these things meant to be kept secret?”

“Grelbiria.” The answer rolled off her tongue without pause, almost as if she just wanted an excuse to speak the woman’s name aloud. With his next question however she stared at him, near deadpan, until he expounded on it. She’d pondered the question herself, even asked Grelbiria, but the only answer she received was a blanket ‘monster’. “I am a Monster. Probably one not discovered, or extinct.” That was where her own self reflection had led her, though it had no more merit than idle speculation.

“Grel… Biria.” He didn’t recognize the name, eyes not going wide, but they did narrow at Alriana a little bit more. He brought a hand to his chin, thinking really hard, going over name after name of people in Glacies, Altair, Lufiria, but… No one. You become more and more interesting, but… I don’t get any more answers~ “Just a monster, are you? Undiscovered, you say? No no, I doubt that… But I don’t have a better answer right now.” He smirked. “Alriana… What’s your full name, if you don’t mind mentioning it? And this Grelbiria’s?”

“Hyl’Sin. For both.” She answered, staring back at him. True to his word she was not stupid, and she knew full that there was reason behind his questions, though she had no idea what reasons those were. She also knew he’d been sizing her up when he first approached her, though, at least for now, his intentions didn’t appear to be malicious. If she’d felt they were a swift tug from her tail would’ve been all she needed to make the elf stumble from his perch into the water. “...Why you want, know all this?” 

“Hyl’Sin…” That was an old Lufirian name. No last name, though, so maybe this Grelbiria hadn’t told her one. “Hm… Oh, hm? Why do I want to know? I’m interested in you. An unknown monster with a super secret past, names that even I don’t know, and such a… Unique~ Body… I’m surprised the entire group isn’t fawning over you. Maybe they are, and I’m just not paying enough attention… Either way! I love learning new things, and you’re the most exciting new person I’ve ever met. I hope you don’t mind me wanting to hang around you even more… You’re not hard on the eyes, either~”

How Ingverd found her interesting perplexed the lizard. As far as she was concerned, she was, if anything, boring. All she did was watch others, train, and space out while cloud or star watching. “Me not, very interesting.” Was how she began her rebuttal. “Other’s much more interesting than me. Have past they know, stories they tell. Purpose to their being here.” Not that she was entirely without purpose, but compared to in the very least Alvira she might as well have been. It was only by the dragon’s suggestion that she even had a use for the mountain of gold that was to be dumped upon them at task’s end.

“You don’t understand. That’s exactly what makes you so interesting. You can’t tell me your secrets, so we need to explore the world to find them. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Going from country to country, picking up breadcrumbs, finding one piece of information after the other… Whatever truths they bring to light~” Ingverd was used to having secrets held out to him on a silver platter; it was a part of his job to take those secrets and make use of them to gain more or silence others. An old fashioned ‘treasure hunt’, so to speak, it really got him excited.

“Besides, purpose, well, that’s nonsense. Alriana, you have to make your own purpose in life. Decide what’s best for you to do with your years on this plane… You said you were here because you were told to live… What does living mean to you? You don’t have to answer if you don’t have one right now, but I want you to think about it, the more you see and the more you do. Make some friends and ask them, as well. You might be surprised what you hear~” He was sure that most of this was going to go over the lizard’s head, but if she was as smart as she seemed, some of it, the core, would sink in.

“You, make mistake. I’m not, interested in past.” Her own, at least. The only answer that lay in her past was the truth of her race. Years of living with Grelbiria, and the woman’s hesitance to ever answer that question in detail, led her to deduce that the answer was best left an eternal mystery. Alriana was quite content, or so she told herself, to be a generic, undiscovered, Monster. “It feel, you think this kind of game. More excited for hunt than the answer.” It rubbed the lizard the wrong way, a feat unaccomplished by near everyone else. Though, few had taken such an interest in her in the first place. Maybe it was just the sudden attention she didn’t like.

“Make, own purpose?” She stared at him, struggling to answer what should’ve been a simple question. Living means waking up, eating, training, watching? No, that doesn’t feel like a right answer… She could answer how and why she lived, what she did as she lived, but not what it meant to live. A rare huff of frustration exhaled from the lizard, brow furrowed. “Mrrrhh… Can’t answer question, even if you say fine if don’t. What you live for?”

“It’s not a game, but it is still fun. You’re still a person, and I will respect that… I just find information quite interesting. If you’re not interested in your own past, I’ll keep my findings to myself~” The lizard seemed to be getting a bit frustrated, which he was fine with. It was nice to get more emotions out of her, she seemed so… off in her own world. Bringing her back down to him and his questions.

“Why do I live? Well, that’s simple. I’m doing everything I can to defy my own destiny. Taking on this contract was the first step… And hopefully I can find the next step along the way. You’re free to ask what I mean, but… If I tell you, I might have to kill you.” He flashed her a cold smile, before chuckling finally. “Kidding, kidding! Hahaha~ Just… Trying to escape my family’s name. One motion at a time…”

“Mrr… How gather information about me, if not present? Not easy describe.” Ingverd’s seemingly unending desire for information continued to perturb the lizard, but if he kept whatever there was to find to himself she would consider allowing it. Though if the information he found helped her find Grelbiria maybe she should want to know what it was? Something to ponder later, she need not answer now.

Her eyes narrowed as he leveled a threat against her, matching his cold smile with an icy glare. He said it was a joke, but there was a definite weight behind the threat that the lizard did not appreciate in the slightest. Slowly, her tail crept up to his ankle and, with little time for him to react, latched onto him and pulled him from his perch on the railing to the deck of the ship. Huffing, she stood and took his place on the railing, staring down at him. “Big words, for someone that could be in water now. Now tell what mean.”

Ingverd felt the tail touch his leg, not giving it too much mind, surely she wouldn’t actually– “Whoa…!” She would. At least she wasn’t too rough, leaving him comfortable enough to smirk up at her. “So violent~ But it’s… Hmm. No, I’ll save that. You’ll have to come closer then, I don’t want any prying ears to hear what I’m about to tell you. Come on down~ Otherwise, I’m not revealing anything.”

“Mrr…” She expected some level of fear, or at least intimidation, but all she got was him smirking back up at her, attitude unchanged. How was one helf-elf so successful at frustrating her? Regardless, it ruined whatever desire she had to smirk down at him and act smug, instead huff as she dismounted the railing with a small hop, standing over him. “There. Closer.”

“I, well, I actually didn’t expect you to come down here… Sit down, would you?” Ingverd flopped down onto his back, sighing a little. “Mmmm… Let’s see… A man named Jeremiah taught me everything I knew. He’s not quite the most hidden figure in Glacies or Lufiria, despite our profession… Somewhat of an urban legend, that sort of thing. Despite being trained by such a famous individual… I’m the second son of my family, leaving little for me to do but accept orders and follow through on them. Currently, my orders are to keep the Evokers and the Iron Tigers safe, see your passage to Lufiria, and report on whatever happened to the messenger. Same as you all, yes?”

He looked away with a somewhat sad smile. “Then it’s whatever else I’m ordered to do. Ordered to kill. Ordered to find out… It all gets… A little tiring, Aly. Never being able to choose what I want to do with my life. All because of a family name. Do you understand what I’m saying at all?” The concept of fate and destiny, family names and responsibilities, they might’ve been lost on her.

“Mhm.” She knelt down beside him, sitting on her legs as she listened to his story. Her frustration slowly faded away as he continued on; not from a new understanding of Ingverd, but from the familiarity of listening to someone share their past. She furrowed her brow, staring at him. “If follow family important, you of high status?” As far as she was aware, only people who belonged to well-off families were bound to them in the way Ingverd seemed to be. 

She didn’t understand his desire for freedom, having possessed little and never wanting for it. Perhaps because of this, she saw an incredibly easy solution to his problems. “Why not just leave family then? If not like what do, what they tell, leave. Unless can’t?”

Tsk. So close. Ingverd sat up to stare at Aly as she spoke, cocking his head to the side and smiling. “Wouldn’t that be so wonderful? But, I can’t. If I ran away without a good enough reason, they’d chase me down and kill me… And I’m being serious this time. I know a lot of secrets, Alriana… Too many. So I need to find a way to become strong enough to break away from them, without anyone being able to chase me down… I suppose you could say that I’m of a high status, but it’s not quite like nobility. Like… High status granted by working for them, you know? I’m important because of the people I answer to. Does that make sense?”

“Hmm…” So he’d already thought of that and had a plan for it. At least, as much of what he said could be counted as a plan. Though, she still didn’t completely understand why this was a problem for him. “Why not get reason to leave? Easier than running, and fighting, for freedom. Even if important, must be reason you can say.” Not that she had any idea what that reason could be. She had yet to put the pieces together on what his actual job was, and how permanent those positions tended to be.

“I… I can’t, Alriana. Not unless I get too injured to continue work, and even then, they might just kill me instead of letting me live out my days. This line of work is… Something you’re born into, trained to do from the day you can walk, and do until you either become the head or you pass away… And, I’m the second son. I won’t be becoming head of the organization in my lifetime. So… I need to become strong enough to run and survive. No matter how difficult that is…” He sighed, reaching a hand out to gently pat her head. “You’re a good girl, listening and trying to find me some solutions… I wonder… Why I feel so comfortable talking to you. Maybe it’s because you’re too naive to really get it, heh~”

“Mrrr…” Usually her advice didn’t fall so flatly on its face. Her tail swished in annoyance, staring down at Ingverd as he explained how thoroughly trapped he was by circumstance. Then, a thought struck her, one that perhaps only she could have. “Why not remove first son? Then can become head and leave.” The actual implications of doing that had yet to hit the lizard, prone to speaking before thinking about her words.

She relaxed slightly as he pat her head, again more ingrained reaction than the fact it was him doing it, her tail calming down enough to rest on the ground again. “What nai, ve, mean? Been called it before. Not explained.”

"Remove the first-- Hahahahaha!" Ingverd couldn't control his laughter, the outlandish nature of the suggestion sending him cackling back onto the deck, almost rolling over from how loud he was laughing. Might've even woken someone up.

"Ahhh! Ahahah! Ahh, Alyyy… You're so cute, in a very morose way. Wow… Just remove him… I like the way you think~ Ahhh… mmm. Were such a thing doable, I would have. But, he's stronger than I am, and too many eyes are watching us. Someone above us would know… and even were I to succeed, I'd be next on the block~"

He smirked again, then sighed. "Naive means you aren't very… Worldly. You easily believe things or think too simply about answers. It doesn't mean you're stupid, just, innocent. You don't know enough to know what you're saying is farfetched, sometimes. It's very adorable, though."

Her brow raised as Ingverd burst into a laughing fit at her suggestion, not aware why what she said was so funny. Regardless, it didn’t seem like that was a valid suggestion either. Her next thought was to offer to kill him herself, but she knew that Ingverd was far stronger than even she was. “Mrr…” A small growl left her, an outlet for the surplus of perplexion and frustration this conversation was giving her. “You stuck then. Can’t help.”

A huff left her, a small pout on her lips. “Not fault that unworldly. Lived with Grelbiria all life, until become Iron Tiger Mercenary.” Her tail flicked once, another outlet for a rarely experienced emotion.

“That’s alright. If you could solve my issues, I wouldn’t have to worry very hard about them, would I? Hmhm. It’s nice enough that you care. Quite satisfied with that.” Another attempt was made to pat her on the head, slowly picking himself up off the deck. “Then I suppose you’ve got a lot to learn from these travels, don’t you? I’m sure this Grelbiria would want you to experience the world and all that it has to offer, especially if she told you to live. Wouldn’t you say?”

“Mrr… Just try to help. Natalya said mercenaries like us should help others.” That was why she tried her best to offer advice when others mentioned problems around her, even if her unique perspective rarely resulted in the right solution to said problems. She took the pat on the head the same as before, relaxing slightly, and watched him as he stood up. “...You, probably right. But not know where start without her.” As she spoke she slowly lifted herself off the deck, suspending herself in the air eye-level with Ingverd.

"What a cute trick… Hmhm. You don't know where to start? Really? You've already started though." Maybe she didn't get it, or maybe she just hadn't thought about it yet. "We'll be passing through several countries on our way to Lufiria. So many cities, towns, attractions and otherwise… So long as you stay with the Tigers and keep an open mind, put yourself out there and see what all these places have to offer… You'll have done just fine~" He continued to pet her hair, still not sure exactly what that hair was, but it was generally good feeling and soft to the touch. Really want to know what you are… I'm sure I can do a little digging.

“I have?” She stared at him, wondering what he meant until he continued. When he put it like that, it really did sound like she had already begun experiencing the world. “Will do that, then. Will have to try to, not lose self in watching as much… Why pet so much?” Not many in the group dared try to touch her, at least not after they saw the secret in her mouth. He probably hasn’t seen yet. Not sure if I want to show him, it’s nice being touched…

“Well… Because you just, feel so soft, heh. I can’t really put a finger on it; it doesn’t feel like hair, but it’s lovely to touch.” Perhaps getting a bit braver by her lack of bother, he gently brought a hand to her chin, giving it a little pet. “Almost like you’re an animal… But, given your… Physical make up, maybe there’s some animal in you~ I’ll try my best to find out.”

“It’s my hair,” she said almost in protest. It shouldn’t matter what it was actually made of if she still treated and acted like it was hair. She moved away from his hand as he went for her chin, no familiar association there to feel relaxed from his touching this time. “All monsters, animal. Of course I part, too…” A sudden yawn overtook the lizard, opening wide and giving Ingverd a front row seat to the rows of razor sharp teeth in her mouth. “Mhmm… Sleepy…”

“Oh? No chin– Wh-Whoa…” Ingverd hadn’t thought anything but Jeremiah could scare him, but this was definitely making the list. Two… Maybe three, rows of razor sharp teeth, all fill her mouth, all the way back… Several questions ran through his mind, some having to do with how she closed her mouth, others thinking about how sharp they actually were… A final question on how effective an assassin she could be if she could rip someone’s neck out without any issue. Too morbid. She's too innocent. Let’s keep her away from that world.

“Ah, mm… So, no scratching on your chin, Aly? I’m sure you’d enjoy it, just like you like head pats.” He kept his hand on her head, nervously holding his other one near, knowing she didn’t show her teeth to scare him, but if she got an idea about using them…

She rubbed at her eyes as her brain slowly processed what she’d just done, blinking once, then going wide, then returning to normal once Ingverd still dared to have a hand on her head. Her head tilted in confusion, staring directly into his eyes. “You, not scared of teeth? Braver, than most others. Many run screaming, after see.”

“No one touch chin before. You only get away with head pats because Grelbiria used do that.” It perhaps wasn’t the nicest truth, but the lizard had never felt the need to lie even if it was to spare someone’s feelings. “You no get touch new places… Yet. Too suspicious.”

"Yet. Okay… What can I do to help you feel a bit less suspicious around me, Aly? Any more questions you have? Or shall I let you get some rest and think about it?" And get away with it he would, continuing to pet the lizard without a care, enjoying the sensation far too much. "You've been a rather good girl, all things considered."

“...Be less suspicious.” She let that answer hang out there while she thought of other things, the most prominent in her mind being, “And not joke about kill when serious.” It was hard to explain her second point against him, especially with her caring so little about speaking properly, but she was tired so that was what he was getting. “Mhm. Rest. Need sleep, in case more pirates… Goodnight.” With that she dropped to the deck of the ship and began to walk off towards her room, unsure about this half-elf they called Ingverd.

"... Struck a chord, have I?" He didn't let his expression sour, making a mental note to avoid that sort of morbidity in the future with Alriana. "Sleep well, Aly. And sweet dreams." Certainly an interesting first encounter…

 

Edited by SnakeMomMelissa

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The dance was, simply put, beautiful. Nyx found herself entranced by the dancer’s movements, even as Syn and the Evokers showed up to watch everything too - jeez, everyone just wanted in on this, huh?

As the performance continued, Marianne gave Nyx a little boop on the nose, and oh, how she flushed red at that one. How embarrassing, to get so flustered over such a silly gesture! But then Marianne gave Chris a little kiss, and Nyx noticed the ring upon her finger, and thus the lady drunk sighed wistfully - geez, between this and interrupting the moment she’d had with Syn yesterday, this skinny lad was really out to keep her from anything nice, huh?

Maybe this lad was just karma catching up to her and biting her in the ass. But, like, with legs.

”Well, shit. S’prob’ly th’best damn performance I’ve e’er seen.” Nyx said simply after a moment, which was certainly true enough even with her newfound dejection at being such a damn fool. She’d been flirting with a married woman on the boat, and now she just seemed like an idiot. Well, more of one, assuming she knew about the little incident last night.

Boy, Nyx was really regretting not remembering where the best pubs were in this place. Gods only knew she now badly needed a drink… or twenty.

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Miria made a small jump when she was addressed. Ah, it was Ingverd. This was fine... He was trustworthy, if they were to explore the city together. "Ah, well... yeah. It's... so large. Not even Morano was this big. New food..." she paused, her tone showing how excited she was specifically for that. She shook her head, "And yeah, a real bed will beat the bunks," and she followed with a laugh.

"Have you ever been to Eibar?"

Edited by Silver Gallade

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"Once," he replied, nodding. "The place is quite well known for its seafood and trade, and a few other peculiar oddities, and the rest you'd expect from a bustling trade city: inns, bars, pubs, and seedy back allies... There might've been an arena, but it's been a few years." He stroked his chin and shrugged, looking down at Miria. "New food, hmm? Shall we inspect what the fishers have brought in, recently~?" He wouldn't mind getting something proper to eat after that trip, especially Hecatian seafood cuisine. "Mmm, crab sounds good... Off we go, Miria~! Adventure awaits, or something." He chuckled to himself and made off into the town.


Alvira hadn't waited to watch the dance, having scurried off into Eibar all by herself. This was her first time being in Hecatia, the boat she'd taken from Lufiria going straight to Glacies, no land travel or other boats in between... It was an odd sensation, to not know things, to visit a new place with somewhat positive thoughts. Her attention was shooting everywhere, wings shrinking, tail wagging. It was a bit exciting... And then, an odd vendor. "Huh?" The sign read 'fortune teller', what a crock of... ... Mmmn... Something tugged at Alvira, making her slowly approach it, eyes curiously glancing over the older woman and teenager running the stand. "H... Hello. Is this... Can, I get my fortune, told...?" She was approaching them cautiously; from what she'd been told by Tasha, Hecatia was hit or miss with monsters...

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Well that was a certainly beautiful experience, and it was all Syndra could do to stifle some snickers at the state of Nyx as a result. She does look kind of cute in that state, it might be amusing to cause it some more later on. There was plenty of time to do that later however, as she prepared to disembark into the port town, she had noticed Miria and Ingverd having a conversation about food. Hmm... it has been too long since I was here waiting for passage to Glacies. I wonder if those fortune tellers are still around or if they moved on from here? Curiosity driving her about what may have changed in over a year, Syndra walked towards the marketplace.

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"Right, right... sorry. Got a bit excited about the prospect, and forgot there was someone who could make it so much better~" Tio playfully returned. Airing her thoughts about the oddity seemed like a good idea, she always did think better when she was speaking through her thought process. Which brought her back to Marianne who'd begun dancing. Her footwork was definitely impressive, but her magic was surprisingly refined. It was a bit hard to believe that she was just a dancer when she was capable of creating indistinguishable mirages using combinations of different schools of magic; many mages would have killed for magical control to that-- "Hm?" Tio turned to see, Renais standing behind her, a bit smaller than usual. But at least she was out of her room, which, well, Tio guess she kind of had to be now. "No, no, dear, I'm not busy at--" Tio then noticed Renais's eyes, her unsteady voice, and the fact that her cloak appeared to be on even tighter than usual. A more concerned look and tone came over Tio as she pushed herself off the railing, "Renais... A bad dream, is it? It's alright, I have plenty of time to listen." This wasn't anything that Tio had gleaned from their conversation on the ship, she was shy, but she appeared in control of herself for the most part. That seemed to mean that the dream could have only been about one thing. "...Was it in regards to your sister?" 


Chris had watched with Marianne dance with rapt attention. He'd seen it all before, but it was something he'd likely never get tired of. Her smile, her hair flowing in the wind, her clever movements, knowing exactly when and who to tease... but he couldn't shake what he'd just heard on top of everything else. Alvira Sam'tara vel Hozt, a fire dragon from Lufiria, if Marianne's assessment about the girl's magic was correct. As far as he'd been told, the only Hozt left should have been Obehi, and even she'd shed that name. That name had an uncomfortable amount of baggage with it... as did Aegean. If they were both related to that event, the fact that both of them were here, in the same group was a coincidence so implausible that it almost wrapped around to making sense. Perhaps it would do to-- His thoughts were interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. He absentmindedly turned, and found his lips occupied. As quickly as the kiss began, it stopped, and Marianne tapped him on the nose, 'Got you.' For a moment, Chris had completely forgotten what he was thinking about, and just stood there stunned which Marianne did her bows to the onlookers. As clarity returned he sighed, "...Only you would take advantage of something like that, Maria." Chris looked over his shoulder to where Alvira had disappeared. Do you already know, Ingverd? Does Alvira even know what that name means? The likelihood of Jeremiah eventually finding his way across this group continued to rise, and Chris hoped it was him, and not anyone else from intelligence.


"Eh?" The older woman looked up at Alvira, "...Strange, you don't see many of your kind about here." The younger man looked at Alvira and scowled before looking back down at his notebook. 

"Don't mind him. He's not used to monsters or clouded."  With a wave of her hand, a crystal ball appeared on the stand in front of Alvira. "You seem troubled... You don't appear to know the dangers associated with learning your fortune in times of difficulty. But you've come to learn... Young... For you, I will tell your fortune free of charge. You have enough on your mind as it stands. Is that okay with you, dearie?" A quiet snicker left the woman's lips. Occasionally, the man's eyes peered up from his notebook before turning back as he scribbled something each time. 

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Aegean gave a big stretch. While she had no qualms about their time at sea, a nice long bath sounded like exactly what she needed. "I think I'll take that offer, a nice soak sounds heavenly now." She turned towards the direction Tasha had looked, seeing the Evokers and now Renais having a conversation themselves. Noticing the pair of Tio and Renais talk and Renais approaching the woman so freely, made Gean just the slightest bit of envious. While she never was a big attention seeker, it definitely had been some time since she had last spent some with just Tasha. Gean also wouldn't deny that the woman's support and guidance over the last 4 years had a strong impact over her. I deserve to be a little selfish, don't I? At least before I tell her the truth. Turning away from Tasha and getting ready to leave the ship, the Clouded cleared her throat before saying "Shall we head we head to the inn then? Mom?" That last word wasn't as audible as the girl would normally be, but hopefully Tasha wouldn't make too much fun of her.

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Laniva sighed deeply as she finally stepped off the boat, more than glad to have returned to solid ground. She took what felt like the first few steady breaths in far too long as she caught sight of Marianne performing her dance, beginning to watch curiously. While she'd caught parts of performances here and there before, she'd never really had the opportunity to see one in full, and hardly one so elaborate. It made for a rather heartening return to land, and she found herself with a small smile, though she hesitated to clap, suddenly feeling somewhat shy.

She rolled her shoulders under her armor, glancing around. Eibar was a proper city; one you could get lost in for quite some time, if you were unwary. And while the locals might not be very universally fond of the Clouded, she felt rather confident that she wouldn't get into any trouble she couldn't get out of; that was a problem for some of the others to consider, perhaps...

There was, perhaps, just a tinge of frustration at having felt too sick to fight on the boat within her; and perhaps it was that tinge that drove her footsteps into town, looking for an arena that might or might not be present. And if, say, it wasn't, perhaps there might be a fellow or two around with strong, bigoted feelings in need of a decking. It would... keep someone frailer from running into them.

Yes, certainly.

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Marianne was truly a sight to behold. Her dance, combined with her magic was just exquisite. He could feel the goosebumps as he watched the show, chuckling as she surprised first Nyx and then finally Chris at the end. He clapped appreciatively before looking around. Gean was talking with Natalya, he would have to approach her later. He owed her an apology for how he ran away, he knew. He'd acted just like Renais in a way. Running away because he was scared. And if he was going to get upset when people did that to him, he couldn't do that to others. But he wasn't going to interrupt her time with the Commander. There was Renais, talking to the Evokers. Another no go. Ingverd and Miria, Alvira had run off... He sighed. With no money in his pockets, he didn't have much he could do. But at least he could look around the city. Hands stuffed in his pockets, tail drooping and only just not dragging on the ground, he set off, alone, into the city. 

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Alvira shot that little shit a scowl back, almost readying ice, just in case... Luckily, the older woman didn't seem to hold his prejudice, Alvira letting the preparing spell fizzle instead. "I... You're just saying a bunch of vague things, anyone has troubles on their mind." Alvira didn't want to admit to how close she was getting with things, even if that crystal ball trick was impressive.

She stepped closer to the stand, placing a claw against it, glancing between the ball and the woman... And then an extra glance over to see if she could sneak a peek at what the boy was scribbling. "If you're gonna be that generous, then sure. Go ahead and tell me whatever you see... Even if it seems weird or painful." Adding one more thing onto her list of worries couldn't hurt, if this service wasn't a fake.

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"Wait, seafood?!" Miria's eyes practically started glowing with excitement. It had been so long, she remembers it so fondly, the one dinner her parents brought it in. The smell, the taste, Miria was practically in her own world. 

"W-wait, crab?! People eat tha-- o-oh, wait up!" And off Miria was to catch up with Ingverd. 

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Having successfully managed to dodge pretty much everyone else’s attention - aside from catching a brief glance from Syn before she left - Nyx found herself scrambling for an idea. And by an idea, she meant an idea on where the nearest pub was. Hopefully it was one she hadn’t been kicked out of…

After a couple minutes of searching, and about another thirty seconds of tugging on the handle after the door had seemingly gotten stuck, Nyx tucked her head down and slid up to the bar, dropping a couple gold pieces from her personal stash onto the bar.

”Stron’est y’got, lad. N’keep ‘em comin’ fer a bit, too; m’havin’ a rough go o’it today.” That was putting it rather mildly.Between the pirate attack, making an ass of herself in front of someone she found hot, nearly drinking herself off the boat, making a very subtle ass of herself again before she slipped off…

Honestly, Nyx thought to herself, Nattie might have to just go on without their resident archer, given how she was currently hellbent on a bender. Probably would make Hecatian travel a lot easier without the old Envious Empress of the Underground around to invite people getting in their shit.

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She was glad Tio was insightful enough to realize what troubled the pinkette, it really made her feel better about asking her an ear. She simply nodded. "Mhm...last night I spoke with someone who wanted me to talk to Cin, and when I got a little resistant she did something I didn't expect...she hugged me." She took a sigh. "I've steeled myself for this journey, I knew it would be hard to find Liza. I miss her but...I don't think that weight really hit me as hard as it did until last night. I had a dream about being with her and...mm..." She sniffed a little bit, as she opened her cloak enough to reach for her own face to wipe the tears. The hood fell back to show her pretty complexion. "...why...I thought I could get through this but...why now? Why...mm..."

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Taking in the sights and sounds of the marketplace Syndra couldn't exactly find the fortune tellers she saw before. I swore there was a tarot reader here last time, I suppose they must have moved on. A more surprising sight to her,  was that of the red-haired dragoness Alvira standing in front of a stand with a crystal ball on it. Funny, I wouldn't have thought she'd want anything to do with people considering how she snapped at Nyx earlier just for doing her job. Getting involved in her business was risky, Alvira was probably just as likely to snap at her as she was to just ignore her outright, but Syndra felt like she did need to be nearby, just in case one of the less... open-minded citizens wanted to start something. "Well isn't this a surprise, I certainly didn't expect to run into you here."

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Alriana had emerged from her room last of all the mercenaries, nearly having overslept from how late she'd stayed up the night before. There'd been no one to interrupt her star-gazing so she'd gone far longer than even intended to. Yawning as she came onto the deck, she caught Marianna's performance at about the halfway mark. She'd never seen a performance before, captivated by sight before her until it was over. Though she hadn't had much of a good impression with the performance pair, mainly because of the immediate hostility between the dancer and the dragon, this left her feeling at least neutral towards them. Everyone seemed to either be pairing up or had already gone into town before her, leaving the aimless lizard to her own devices. Though, perhaps not as aimless as she was before thanks to a certain half-elf. Have an open mind, and see what these places have to offer... She could only experience this place as she knew how, feet guided by her own curiosity. It was probably better than scaling the nearest house and watching from above all day, at least.

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Midnight Meetings

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Cinaed was... not comfortable. In the most generous definition of his situation. He’d originally intended to at least go grab a blanket and pillow from his room, but the thought of going back into the shared room had ended up being too much. So here he was, laying down amongst some crates on deck, vest wrapped up into a meager pillow, staring up at the star speckled sky. There were far too many emotions running through his head to focus on any single one. The rush and sadness of battle, followed by the gut punch of someone running away from him without even knowing anything about him, and then the double sucker punch from Ingverd and then Gean. Rationally he knew that Gean hadn’t been serious, even less so than Ingverd had likely been. And that was a good thing. He wasn’t a part of this group yet, after all. He had to get to know them before anything else might blossom. 

 

Speaking of getting to know them, he sat up, hearing footsteps. Peeking through a gap in the crates, he hoped it wasn’t one of the two people he had fled from earlier... Much like Renais had fled from him, he was now realizing. That thought put an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach, but he would deal with that later. Thankfully, it was neither Gean nor Ingverd but... Miria? He was pretty sure that was her name. The girl who had started to come up and introduce herself to him and Chris when they’d first joined before freezing up slightly. Well, he could understand that. He took a long second before letting her know of his presence, wondering what she was doing up here so late. 

 

Miria slipped out from her bunk and made herself to the deck. She didn't want to make a light and wake up Renais, but she also wanted to read. She hadn't gotten a lot of time for her book since the voyage had begun. Maybe it was finally time to really get into it. It was quite the tome!

 

She walked with her lanturn as she read, occasionally bumping into one thing, or sliding past another. Sometimes there was grace, other times there wasn't. It didn't bother her.

 

Eventually, Miria saw herself to some crates.  She planted herself down with her book, humming something, completely unaware of Cin in her vicinity. 

 

On the one hand, he’d already scared one person in this crew. On the other hand, how often do people miss a 6’8” dragon... Well, worst case I scare someone else. Wouldn’t be the first time. Standing up to his full height, essentially directly behind Miria, he commented from over her shoulder, “Hmm, so what book are you reading then?”

 

“W-Whaa–!?” Miria practically leaped off of the crate screaming after the sudden surprise. “A-Are we under attack, are we–” Then she realized. The dragon man. Cinaed, if she remembered right. 

 

“Uh, ah… mmm, I’m- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scream like that.” What did he ask? What was she reading? She shuffled a bit before getting herself off the ground, wiping herself of any potential dirt. “Well, um–”

 

She held the book out. “It’s something I got in an exchange once. It’s a big book about an old ancient hero named Gran Falcnir.”

 

“Ahaha, I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t resist. You looked so unsuspecting there with me right behind you and you with no idea...” He shook his head, chuckling. “I expected a bit of a scream, so no worries. Honestly, I kind of expected you to pull a Renais and just run away from me completely. Glad you didn’t though.” He helped her up and brushed off a few spots of dirt that she’d missed.

 

“Hmm, don’t think I’ve heard of that hero before. Is it any good? Oh, uh, right. My name is Cinaed. We briefly met previously. I think Gean mentioned your name was Miria, right?” He held out a hand to her. “I’m officially a member of the Iron Tigers now, so I’ve been trying to meet all the crew. Though, I can’t say I intended to meet you like this. I wasn’t just crouching out here waiting for you or anything. Not a creep, I promise!” 

 

“Ahhh, well, I guess that’s fair,” She replied to his comment on scaring her with a laugh. “Well, you’ve seemed nice since you’ve been here, so I expected you to be okay.”

 

At first he asked about Gran, however, he was quick to introduce himself. It was Cinaed! She’d remember that, “It’s nice to meet you Cinaed, and yes, my name is Miria. It’s nice to meet you, welcome to the Iron Tigers.” She smiled. Then, she was quick to go back to her book.

 

“And well… in regards to the book, it’s not really a ‘story’. It’s more like, a collage of things about Gran’s life. How he was a great hero for the ancient Lufirian Empire, and the things he was able to do. But in his last moments, he mysteriously disappeared from history. I skimmed it originally, cause I was excited, but I’ve been reading it for awhile now. It’s super interesting.”

 

“Huh, a Lufirian hero. I wonder if my mom knows about him then. She told me some about her time in Lufiria, but not a lot. Maybe I’ll ask her some day.” He grinned at her, settling comfortably with his back against two stacked crates. “So, do you read a lot of books then? I enjoy the occasional book, but I’m not a huge reader. The size of that book would have probably stopped me from reading it in the first place, ha.” He gave her a look over, wondering more about her. She, like many of the members of this mercenary group, weren’t exactly what he would have expected at first thought. Not that he didn’t think she could handle the weight. After all, she and two of the other women had handled their side quite smoothly during the fight. But still, he couldn’t help but wonder. But for now, he wanted to learn more about her. Maybe eventually he would ask, but keeping things lighter to start seemed like a good move. 

 

“Oh, I love to read!” Miria exclaimed, her eyes practically glowing. “I uh… well, I mostly like hero stories. There’s something, exciting(!) about a person being able to overcome their trials to grow and become better people. I love them so much…! I’ve, well, I hope one day I can make myself a hero in my own right.” She held the book close, almost like in a hug, as she sat on a different crate.

 

“But anyway, yeah… it’s been a busy time, I haven’t been able to give myself time to really focus on this book. It, haha, it really is a lot of stuff. It’s really amazing having a story documenting someone from so long ago.”

 

“Hmm, wanting to be a hero...” He took stock of her again, sitting there peacefully on a crate and managed to stifle his chuckle. So small and innocent, but wanting to be a hero. More power to her, I suppose. A loftier goal than mine for sure. “So is that why you joined the Tigers? To learn better how to fight, to help make a name for yourself so that you could become that hero some day? It seems like a good group for that, given we’re already working with the Evokers and the Queen.” He raised an eyebrow, grin slowly getting wider. “Who knows, maybe someday there will be another girl your age reading a book about Miria the Great, champion of the less fortunate and dreaming of the day she can be like that hero.”

 

Miria took a moment, she thought about how to respond. "Well, sorta? I guess for a lack of a better explanation, I've always wanted to be a hero, and… some stuff happened back home, that jump-started my journey." Despite the way she was explaining her situation, she did her best to maintain a smile.

 

"I was actually.by myself for a while, but then Miss Natalya invited me to join the Tigers. It's, been tough adjusting, but I'm working on it."

 

“Hmm, fair enough. I suspect a lot of people have their various reasons for leaving home. For me, it’s been more about following in my father’s footsteps, partially because I wasn’t really sure what else to do with my life, ha.” He shook his head, tipping it back to look at the stars. “I’d like to say I have all these lofty goals and ideals, but, well, I’m not here to be a hero. I’m here because I’m good at hitting people. Which seems silly when I put it that way, but it’s true. I’ve got my magic and my strength, and I can combine them well enough in fighting.”

He looked back over at Miria with a gentle smile. “For what it’s worth, I think you fit in here well. The fact that you and the two other women held off an entire side by yourself? That was impressive. I wouldn’t mind a training match against you some time, honestly. Though probably not on this boat. I need a little bit of space for my swings, don’t want to accidentally clock a deckhand in the head because I swung too wide.”

 

“Haha, well, it’s okay to not want to be a hero! Being what you think you should be is perfectly fine,” Miria answered with simple optimism. She understood not really knowing what she wanted. At least, before her obsession with heroism. She didn’t want to be a trader the rest of her life, she wanted adventure, and to do good on a greater scale! “Being good at hitting people is fine, as long as it’s for good reason. And I think being a Tiger means it’s a good reason.”

 

She joined Cinaed in looking at the stars, thinking about what he’s said. “Ahh, hah, a spar might be fun, yeah. Though I’m not sure how well my armor will protect me from a punch like yours. You look spooky strong.” Miria followed with a giggle.

 

Cinaed glanced over at Miria and chuckled, reaching out to ruffle her hair. “You’re good at boosting a mood, you know that, right? Hard to be down around you. You’re right, if everyone was out to be a hero, it wouldn’t be a very interesting world. And I hope I’ll like being a Tiger. Been a weird first day as one, to be honest, but it seems like an interesting group.”

 

He shook his head, laughing with her. “Oh, I don’t know about that. Besides, you have a sword. You’ll end up with a bruise here or there and I’ll end up with slashes all over my arms. I’m decently strong, but not as strong as you’re thinking. Trying to punch through armor will still hurt me. Though, strength isn’t all I have on my side.” He held up a fist for her to see, before suddenly fire flared into a gauntlet shape around the clenched hand. “By combining my strength with my magic, I can significantly increase my power. Not that I would use that in a training match of course. No cheating here.”

 

“Well uh, if you say so!” Miria nervously laughed at his comment on her mood-boosting. She’s used to being shy, hiding in a room and reading. A lot like a certain other someone… “And yeah, Miss Natalya is really nice, and I think you’ll fit in fine.” She smiled.

 

Then he showed her his magic, a fiery fist. “Woooow…” She was in awe. Then she remembered, Cinaed probably hasn’t seen her in action. That’s fine. “Well, I’ll show you my cool magic too.” She pulled out the gem from her necklace. Closing her fist and focusing, and within a flash, she was in her armor, sans a helmet. “Maybe it would be a bit cheating for me, I need this to protect my figure,” And she chuckled again.

 

“Well, as far as I see it, just because I’m dumb enough to fight without armor, doesn’t make it cheating for you to use armor.” He gave a quick answer while still looking somewhat in awe at her magical armor. “So, hmm, I assume it works through that gem then... Channel magic through it, it converts that magic into your armor...” He stood up and walked over, inspecting her armor. He gently knocked on it, feeling solid armor underneath his knuckles. “Feels like real steel too. I wonder how that works.” He tilted his head, trying to sense more from it but, whatever element of magic it was, it wasn’t an element he was attuned to. Which really only meant it wasn’t fire or ice. “Wonder what kind of magic... Hmmm. Well, this is an interesting one. What all do you know about this magic of yours?”

 

Miria laughed a bit, “Well, if you think it’s not cheating, sure,” and gave a smile. “It helps me a lot and has kept me alive.”

 

Giving her arm a rub, looking down at her armor, she had to think. “I… honestly, don’t know a lot about it. It’s just… I got it in a trade. I figured out how it worked, and now I assume… it doesn’t really work all the way. I’m hoping I can either fix it, or figure out how to make it work how it’s supposed to.” She shrugged. “It’s a little costly too. It’s incredibly exhausting if I use it for too long.”

 

“Huh. Interesting. Well, turn it off then, if it costs a lot of energy. I wonder if that means it’s just powering itself using all of your magic... Would that mean that strengthening your magic abilities would help you power the armor more easily?” He tapped his chin, staring at the armor. “I wonder if the Evokers would have any ideas. Have you had any magical training? I’m guessing no, just from the way you’ve been talking, but I could be wrong. Maybe having someone train you on magic a little more would help you be able to use this without it exhausting you. Or at least be able to last longer.”

 

“Oh yeah, probably a good idea,” And with some focus, there was another flash and Miria was back in her regular clothes. A sigh of relief, like she had been holding a bunch of weight. And Cinaed continued with his questions. “Hmm, I… actually don’t know. I don’t know the first thing about tapping into my magic…”

 

There was the suggestion of the Ovo– Evokers. Those, strangely powerful magic ladies. Something so incredibly foreign to Miria. Maybe… “I might go ask. And maybe see what I can do about my magic. All I knew is that… it was faint, but it was there.” She shrugged, “Not sure from there.”

 

“Hmm... so you’re doing this by instinct, but you can feel the magic. Ok, here, humor me for a second.” He sat down facing her, holding out his hand. “I’m going to try to walk you through the very basics of controlling your magic. Hold out a hand like this, then close your eyes. In your mind, picture something that feels the most natural for how you would want magic to show. For me, it’s a flame. For others, it’s a flower, or a lightning bolt, or a snowflake. I can’t tell you which is best for you, but starting with a flame can’t hurt if nothing else calls to you. Once you have that image floating just above your hand locked in your mind, reach down into your core, just how you would when you summon your armor, and pull that faint feeling you have and send it into the image. Feed that power into the image and make it manifest.” To prove his point, he quickly created a small flickering flame in his hand, before banishing it with a flick of his wrist. “Your turn.”

 

"My turn? Well, okay, I'll try." Miria took a deep breath, moving herself closer to the edge of the boat. "I uh, gotta move closer to the edge. In case, well… the one way I've made magic work." She cleared her throat, and started slowly doing martial arts movements. This was her best way to focus. Some exercise.

 

Focus, focus… Don't explode… don't explode!

 

She held out her hand, with the attempt of making just some small sparks or something simple. But accidentally, it happened. An explosion occurred behind her. Thankfully it didn't do any actual damage, but it was… quite loud. Then, Cinaed would probably notice the trembling coming from Miria's legs.

 

"Um, ahh… Don't worry about that, I… I can do that someti-imes… ahh," and suddenly, Miria collapsed, practically crumpling like paper. She tried forcing herself back up against the railings on the boat.

 

"I-I'm okay, don't worry. My magic stuff is just… a little draining."

 

“What the????” Cin had been expecting maybe a small shower of spark, some static shock, something. Not... What had that explosion been? It looked like some high level fire magic, but how did that even work when she could barely sense her magic? But right now, that didn’t matter. What mattered was the fact that, whatever that magic had been, it had left her collapsed on the deck, even if she was trying to stand up against the railing.

 

“Here now, none of that. You’ll just hurt yourself if you keep pushing.” He was by her side in a second, squatting down and scooping her up off the deck. Cradling her in his arms, he leaned to the side and grabbed her book and lantern as well, not wanting to leave behind any of her belongings. “Now then, that’s more than enough for you tonight. I’m going to take you back to your cabin and you’re going to go to sleep, ok? You said it yourself, your magic drains you. And the only way to fix that is to sleep and to eat. So come on. Bed time for you.” And at some point, we’re going to go talk to the Evokers to see if they can figure out what in the world is going on with your magic...

 

“W-Waaaahh!” Suddenly, she was lifted and cradled into the arms of this large dragon man. It was… surprisingly comfy. Like… she was a child again. Like her mother grabbing her and taking her to bed, Ahhh, Miria you can’t do that you gotta assert yourself! Get tough! “You…! You… Your arms are comfy, and warm. L-Like a-aaaah, a teddy beaar…” Dammit Miria! And almost within a couple minutes, the girl was already out.

 

The only sounds remaining in the night were the waters below and the soft snores of the sleeping Miria.

 

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The tender looked up at Nyx, and then down at the gold pieces that she'd placed on the counter. He was lightly tanned man dressed in not much more than vest with a tattered brown undershirt, and some unremarkable pants. He gave Nyx a once over before sighing, "At least you seem old enough to asking for such a thing." The man grabbed a glass, and quickly emptied the rest of an already empty bottle into it, placing it in front of the archer. "I can't promise that the drinks will last very long... Sundown Crows have been through the place." The man scoffed, and rolled his eyes at the mention of the name. "I swear, they help out the Altair Knights once, and now they strut about as if they're the knights themselves. Ah, but hear me complaining to someone to seems to wish to wash the evening away." He chuckled to himself as he returned to cleaning glasses. 


Tio listened to every one of Renais's words as they came trickling out of her. They were not the only thing that began to flow as she carried on. All this because of a hug? "You know? That makes a lot of sense to me, Renais. You have to bury all of these feelings that you have deep inside, and just when you think that you've got them all completely under control... that's when you get hit the hardest. The impression I got from you when we spoke wasn't someone who could just bottle all of her emotions and thoughts up until she managed to find her sister. It was someone who needed others to be there for her, as much as she wants to be there for others." There was a bit of a bitter smile on Tio's lips for a faint moment, before Tio walked up to the smaller woman, and gently drew her into a hug. "You can get through this, but you won't be getting through it alone. Fortunately, you're not alone, dear. The Tigers are beside you, and both Elisa and I are here for as long as we are able. People care as much about you, as you do about your sister." 


The older woman waved her hand over the crystal ball before the pair. "Then come, come, gaze into the ball with me." Her dusty and cracked hands slowly glowed in magical energy, resonating with the shimmering ball. Her eyes fell upon the newcomer who appeared to be addressing the young dragon girl. The man who had been scribbling away on in the notebook, rose from his seat, shutting the notebook and walked away from the group that was beginning to form. But not without a quick look over his shoulder at Alvira and Syndra, before scribbling another thing down and disappearing. 

Images began to take shape in the crystal ball. "Ahaha... They come. Gaze deeply now child..." Two dragon children appeared in the crystal ball, both appeared to be looking on frightened at something... no, someone, as the image morphed to show a dark haired man, with green eyes approaching the two. A sword with a white handle was brandished in their direction. "It appears to me... that someone is searching for those close to you. Their reasons are not clear, but if they're looking for them, it's most reasonable to believe that they might be looking for you." The woman stifled a laugh at the girl's expense, she had asked to see whatever she could have seen. But then... the woman's face changed into one of bewilderment. The image in the crystal ball morphed once more. An obscured figure holding a jet-black spear in their hands, and there was something behind them. It too was obscured, but there was little mistaking its size, dwarfing the figure before it. "What... is that?" The image faded long before she could properly make heads or tails of the image she'd just seen. "I... I am sorry. I could not... discern what that was, what it meant. Too many... uncertainties... That spear you held then... There was an unusual magical energy. It was... stronger than any I've known, but it was unclear as to what it was..." 

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Renais was trying her best to hold herself back, trying not to let the tears overpower her. But at this point it was impossible to hide how she felt, and once Tio pulled her into an embrace she knew it deep down. "Mm...aaaah!" So instead of fighting and hiding her emotions like she usually does she let it all out and buried herself into the older woman's body as she returned the hug. The robe got in the way a little, so the healer decided to unbuckle the fabric and let it fall to the floor. Her tears continued to drop like a waterfall as she let it all out.

Edited by TheRoon

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