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Fri Mar 02, 2018 11:13 am
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soundofmind says...

Raegan Byrd July 8th, 1907

Raegan opened the creaky door of their home, hearing the familiar squeak assault her ears. Even though she was used to it - or rather, should've been used to it by now - she still cringed. At the door, she wiped her shoes on the straw welcome mat, kicked them off to the side, and stepped out onto the cold, concrete floor. With arms full of paper grocery bags, she hobbled over to the kitchen table, and dropped them down, finally freeing herself to hurry back to the front door and lock it.

When she turned around, Cecil I came hopping to her feet to greet her. With a warm smile, she crouched down and picked him up into her arms.

"Nice to see you too, Cecil," she cooed, massaging her fingers into his thick fur. "I got some nice deals at the market, today, you know. Made it there after classes..."

Her voice trailed off as she caught sight of her father, sprawled out on their one, dingy couch, fast asleep. Almost involuntarily, she hushed herself with a quiet "shh," as she set Cecil back on the ground, letting him follow her, hopping behind her heels.

On light feet, she tip-toed over to the couch, grabbing a blanket folded across the top of it, and she carefully threw it out, letting it flutter down on top of him. For a moment, she stood there, watching her father and listening to his quiet, wheezy snores. He'd always had problems with breathing - always most prominent in his sleep.

She sat down on the arm of the couch, at her father's feet, and looked at him... closely.

Over the years, it was as if he gained one wrinkle every day for every hour of work he spent in the sun down at the docks. His leathery, sun-spotted skin served as a stark contrast to her own; youthful, and bright. His eyes, both droopy, were more often seen closed like this than open, and even more rarely were they alert, and looking at her.

But when they were...

A snore of his got cut off by a waking snort, and he shifted, sleepily looking up at Raegan with his vibrant, warm, brown eyes. With a grunt and a stretch, he arched up into a sit.

"Hello sweetie," he grumbled, though his tone was kind. "When did you get home?"

Ragean smiled softly, sliding down into the couch beside him.

"Not long ago. You didn't miss much."

He nodded slowly, leaning back into the couch, "Mmm. What kind of day was it?"

Raegan leaned to the side, putting her head on his shoulder. "Hmm. Just... a day."

Her father hummed with understanding. "One of those," he replied, before falling back into silence. For a moment, Raegan wasn't sure if he'd fallen back asleep, but then he spoke - to which, she grinned bittersweetly.

"Tell me about it," he said quietly.

Raegan, fully knowing that he would fall asleep a minute or two into her story, reached over to the small table in front of the couch and grabbed his hat. With a little "boop" she placed it on his head, where it belonged, shading his eyes.

"Okay, papa."

Raegan Byrd March 20th, 1912

Madness. It was all madness.

Raegan could feel the fear coursing through her veins as she beheld the sight of the gigantic blue amalgamation of many faces. As Lysandre lead the charge in the fight with the monstrosity, Raegan began to search the rubble around her in a panic. She didn't have her sword. She didn't have a shield. She was defenseless, and, though a healer, more a liability if she didn't have something to fight with, because there was certainly no punching that thing to death.

Her eyes caught sight of a trident in the cracked stone hands of the plaza's figurehead. She ran over to the impromptu weapon and picked it up, assessing how it felt in her hands. It was heavier than she would've liked, but she didn't have the luxury of choosing at the moment. As she secured the trident in her grasp, she looked back over to the vibrant stream, catching sight of Anberlin with her head completely submerged in the water, and Brayel pulling her out. With eyes wide, she ran back over to them, setting the trident aside as she came up behind them.

Without a word, she laid a hand on both of their heads, uttering a spell. Within seconds, cyan rings of water appeared around their heads, before mistifying in a spinning circle as they seemed to spin from the top of their head to their shoulders. It was a common spell she used to calm troubled animals and bring pain relief, and gradual, slow healing - though for Anberlin she also added something to help her recover from being submerged under water.

However, before words could be exchanged, a disembodied blobous blue arm from the creature fell only feet from them with a thud. Raegan jumped, letting out a small squeak, and fumbled with her hands as she reached back down for her trident. She could recall hearing voices - voices that were not her own - calling to her in her head. But a her eyes locked on the arm twisting and forming into a humanoid shape, bearing three eyes, it was as if the words went in one ear and out the other. Perhaps they were commands, since Anberlin's tone always carried authority, but that was neither here nor there.

The creature swung its arm at them, hardly moving it's feet from its spot at its arm stretched out like a whip. Raegan met it with her trident, her eyes still wide as when she first saw the giant creature in the square. Stepping in front of Brayel and Anberlin, she approached the monster with another swing of her trident - but it felt awkward. She was used to a blade... not this. Flustered, she ducked the next swing of the creature instead of stabbing at it.

"The eyes!" Finally came through her adrenaline clogged hearing, and when given an opening, she pierced the trident through the giant eye in the center of the creature's body, pleased to find that the three pronged weapon also got another one in the same motion. The eyes burst like squashed berries, and she pulled the trident out with a firm tug. The creature, briefly stunned, provided another opportunity for Raegan to make a jab at the last remaining eye through its back.

As the last eye burst, the creature seemed to almost melt - instantaneously going from solid to a goopy blue liquid pooling on the ground, lifeless and inanimate.

Breathing heavily, Raegan took a look back at where the two had been, but saw that they were gone. Swiveling around to try and find them, she spotted Brayel, with gun in hand, sending shots out at... bombs?

BOOM! An explosion went off by one of the giant creature's many arms, turning it to the same inanimate goop as the smaller beast she'd fought. Three more shots followed, and Raegan - marvelling at his accuracy and the progress it seemed to make in hampering the montrous creature from fighting - stared as three more explosions were set off, covering the field in a cloud of dust that advanced towards them.

Raegan shielded her eyes with one arm, and still held her trident in the other. She tried to look for any more monsters that would rush out to get her or the others, but it took a moment for the dust to settle. Making out Brayel, on the ground with his gun, she rushed towards him - but as she met up with him, she could see two figures just ahead in the field of rubble, standing in what looked like a stalemate, locked weapon and weapon.

It was Anberlin and... Lysandre? Wasn't that the woman who helped them earlier? Why would...

Anberlin called out, in their minds.

"Get back! I've... lost her.... I've lost her."

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Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:41 pm
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TheSilverFox says...

Sunday Drive

Brayel Marcelo
March 20th, 1912

Fear. Brayel never quite understood fear, except around Anberlin. He was familiar with self-preservation; they'd been close friends during his career as a lawyer. Yet, no matter who challenged him to duels on the street or bombed his car, he'd never been truly afraid. He would try his best to live, but, if he died, so be it.

Today, however, he could hear the blood pumping through his veins, his heartrate speeding out of his chest like a train. His fur stood on end; his breaths were shallow and ragged. It was still easy to look calm and confident, since he was used to lying with his expression. The only time he let his fear show was when Reagan pulled him up from the ground, handed him his gun, and winced as Anberlin warned them in their minds.

Turning around, Brayel's eyes widened as he saw the fight between Anberlin and Lysandre. Shrouded by the dust they were kicking up, they were hardly visible. Their silhouettes blured together in an array of multicolored lights, dampened only by the rain that continued to pour down from the red sky. Blood, in red and blue, pooled around the fighters, likely the remnants of the massive creature that had blown up. The rain carried the gore to Brayel's feet, soaking his shoes. He nearly retched again.


Anberlin's word flashed across his mind. Stepping away from the blue ground - a futile task, because it covered everything - Brayel shook his head. No, I will not-

Go. You have an escape route. Take it. Her thoughts sounded strained and weak, causing Brayel's eye to twitch slightly.

Brayel scowled. I am not leaving without-

You will. Whatever happened to Lysandre is my fault. You stand no chance against her.

He peered at the side of his gun. I have-

A way to kill one of three people, including yourself. The window is closing. Go!



Recoiling in pain, Brayel turned away. He tried to wipe away the dust that stung his eyes as he ran towards the other side of the square. Trying to ignore the sounds of explosions beind him, Brayel reached Reagan, who had been grabbing onto Welturna's arm in an attempt to pull her up. Welturna, wearing a suit of armor and laying on her stomach, groaned as Brayel set his gun down, grabbed Welturna's other arm, and pulled her onto her feet. Welturna, despite a few bruises on her face, looked fine enough.

"We have to go," said Brayel, pointing through the storm to the plaza entrance the monster had blocked. "There should be a train station in that direction."

Welturna, face glowing in the blue light of one of Reagan's spells, coughed out some dust. "What about Anberlin?" she said, looking into Brayel's narrowed eyes.

Brayel picked up his gun and ran off, steps thick and harsh. He could hear the light footsteps of Reagan after a few seconds, followed by the clunk of Welturna's armor.

The street beyond the plaza was empty. Half of the buildings had been vaporized by either lightning or explosions, and all of the rest tottered on their foundations. Knocked over lampposts spilled their glass contents onto the road, accompanied by the pieces of cars and shops' windows. None of the creatures shambled about, and the screaming of their victims had either faded into the background or vanished entirely. Soft rains fell on them and their surroundings.

Striding over to a car a few feet away from a sinkhole, Brayel stared into the windows. No sign of any occupants, dead or alive. Testing the lock, he found it working. Tsk. Waving for Welturna and Reagan to approach, he smashed the butt of his gun into the driver's side window. After two attempts, the glass crumbled, allowing him to reach inside and unlock the driver's door. Brayel squeezed himself inside. While Reagan took the seat to his right and Welturna sprawled out over the back seats, Brayel pulled open various compartments in search of a key. Hands shaking, he finally found a spare key squeezed between the windshield and the dashboard.

It was miraculous that the car worked at all. Sputtering to life when Brayel turned the key in the ignition, the vehicle puttered down the street. He couldn't drive too fast, thanks to the myraid of potholes, glass, and everything designed to burst a car's tires. Still, it beat walking. They drove on in silence, navigating the ruined roads of the once beautiful city of Lemuria.

"Thank you," said Welturna eventually, as the car swiftly rounded a corner.

"This isn't over yet," replied Brayel under his breath, hands tightly gripping the steering wheel.

Reagan pulled herself around so that she saw Welturna. "Need any more help?"

Welturna winced. "I may have sprained something in my leg during the fight."

That would explain the slight limp that Brayel just now remembered. He always had a hard time distinguishing the ways humans walked, especially today. The two kept talking as Brayel sank into his own thoughts, namely because he began to hear something.

she's gone.

Brayel blinked. Anberlin?

She's gone. The voice was clearer now, but shaky.



Brayel frowned. Are we going to see her again?


When are we going to see her again?


"Brayel, look out!"

Brayel ducked as a tentacle shot through the open window, grabbing on to the edge and serrating itself against the broken glass. The car wheels squealed as the vehicle jerked to the left, towards the blue creature that dragged it closer. Growling, Brayel stamped down on the gas pedal, reaching for the gun between him and Reagan.

"What are you doing!?" Reagan screamed as the car continued to turn, now tilting to Brayel's side. Wiping the blue liquid from his face, Brayel aimed towards the creature, firing three quick shots. Two of the creature's eyes burst, forcing its arm to recoil in pain from the vehicle.

Reagan yanked Brayel away from the broken window as the car slammed down, sending its occupants flying for a second. Welturna cursed as she hit her head against the ceiling, while Brayel's face contorted in anger as he watched the speeding vehicle drive over the foundations of a lightning-struck building. Two loud pop noises emanated from the back, followed by a ssss that left a pit in his stomach.

Only momentum let Brayel turn the vehicle onto the new road. He could see the train station a short distance away. The massive building, scarred by the disaster, had a crumpled glass roof and walls pockmarked with holes. The rails, raised above the road by numerous columns, appeared marginally unharmed, though many of the pillars holding it up had been battered. It stretched to the left and right, both ways presumably leading to freedom. As the car approached, Brayel noticed the bodies of numerous monsters scattered around the stairs leading to the station's entrance. In the weakening rain, he could smell the ever familiar smell of gunpowder. Brayel snarled, reaching for his gun again.

With his spare hand, he wrestled the car into a stop outside the building. Kicking his door open, he walked around to the other side and pointed his gun back to the roads he'd left, kneeling down so that his eyes poked above the car's hood. His ears twitched as they anticipated any sounds. Everything made him flinch.

Reagan opened her door gingerly and walked to the back of the car. As Reagan helped Welturna out, Brayel called out to the both of them, "Check the station, if you would. Do not go inside it."

Each step Welturna took sent a chill up his spine. "I can't see anything," Welturna called at last. She sounded farther off and higher - Brayel guessed she'd walked up the staircase leading to the station. "All the windows are covered in blue. I think I hear...laughter?"

"We'll stay out here," Brayel said. "We need - we need to wait."

"We need to get out of here," Welturna retorted, marching back.

Brayel continued to look over the city. "We need Anberlin and Lysandre."

"Will they be coming?" said Welturna. Her voice had such a skeptical edge that Brayel's temper instantly flared to life.

"Of course they will! I imagine they-" spat Brayel, craning his head around. He would've spoken further, but any other words died in his throat when he spotted the silhouette of a dust-shrouded figure on the rails. The rain poured now.

At the corner of his vision, Brayel could see Reagan raise a trembling finger to the streets. "I think that's one of them."

Immediately, the figure on the rails leaped off and landed gracefully on the road stretching around the station. The figure sped off in a cloud of dust. Brayel's eyes focused on it as it headed on a collision course to the figure Reagan had spotted.

Mouth agape, it took a few seconds for Brayel to respond. "Into the train station!" he shouted, rising to his feet. "We need to protect the rails!"
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.

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Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:42 pm
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Lumi says...

From the Lemurian State Archives
"A Gem's History IV"

Page 138 of 395
A Picturesque Overview of Our Home

Lemuria, the glorious coastal gem of the continent of Mu, has stood and evolved for centuries. Ever have her docks provided precious import from faraway lands, and ever have her judges and jurors meted affirmative justice for our fellowman.

The Gem of Mu was constructed by godly architects who erected a circular wall about the city to ward off tresspassers, and allow for the ease of truthful trade in Leviathan's Landing. Lemuria, our great and towering beauty, was built originally in four quarters in addition to the outlier sectors of the docks and the underground passages in and out of the city by rail, or in the original days, horse-drawn carriage.

These four districts are the Court, the Ruling Quarter, the Maker's Quarter, and Odyssea's Rest.

The Court has ever stood in-place as the capital's workplace for judge, jury, defense, and prosecution. In this western ring of the city, all major crimes across the continent were meted the law, though smaller events were handled in the victimized cities, villages, or regions.

The Ruling Quarter, a district once housing the Queen of Mu, now houses emissaries, as well as the rich and vocal members of society, including members of the Lemurian Senate. The Ruling Quarter is located in the center of Lemuria, and towers above the other quarters with its high-rises and archaic castle.

To the east of The Ruling Quarter stands The Maker's Quarter--the locale one visits for all handmade goods in the city, including foods both artisinal and cheap to allow all citizens to prosper. It was here that, long ago, Ärmoni Works Company was founded before leaving for the distant countryside under citizen rumor of unethical behavior.

Finally, Odyssea's Rest spans the outer circle of Lemuria, providing housing for each citizen capable of paying rent. The southernmost rim of Odyssea's Rest contains the modern railway--the only way in and out of Lemuria.

It's a well-documented observation that those coming into Lemuria far outweigh those leaving; and who can blame them--she has forever been a sparkling diamond, and forever shall she remain.

- Scholar Mihael Grier of The Ruler's Scholasticate, 1899


Anberlin Calloway
20 March 1912

Anberlin staggered to her feet and opened her bloodied eyes to see Lysandre death-charging to her. Immediately, she threw up a shield--shattered--and was sent soaring away from Lysandre, just as Lysandre was sent soaring away from Anberlin. Once the necromancer landed on rubble, Anberlin brought her energy to coalesce in her hands, lobbing purple bombs out for Lysandre. Each one connected, eliciting a harpy-riot scream from the maddened woman.

"YoU LEft mE TO ThE SOUls!"

She appeared behind Anberlin and swiped up with scythe in-hand. Anberlin kicked off the hilt and braced herself as the force sent her through a window into an apartment. Her bloody roll stopped as she connected with the stairwell.

"I nearly died!"

Lysandre formed from a cloud of dusken smoke. "A n d I d i d." Her scythe swept across Anberlin's abdomen, then in an X formation on her ribs. Anberlin wailed in pain and shot to her feet, clenching Lysandre by the hair and bringing a purple energy bomb to her face, melting the fake mask of skin the covered her head.

And she withdrew as it began to grow back. "H-how are you--"

"The eternal blood moon rises!"

Lysandre's arm whipped forward, mostly animated bone, and clutched Anberlin, who created a shell at the final hair of the second. Freed, she ran in and kicked Lysandre's jaw, cracking her skull from her rotor joint and sending the greusome mass toppling down the stairwell. Anberlin took her chance and dove from the high rise window, crumpling to the ground on the glassy street. Cut and contused, she began running breathlessly to the train station, inwardly hoping the others had just stayed the hell there.

"NOT IN THIS LIFETIME!" shrieked Lysandre, who reformed before her, shock-putting Anberlin into the air and through a building with her skeletal arm. She then appeared before Anberlin once more, readying a swipe with her scythe. As she swung down, Anberlin raised her neck, hearing the several minds below shouting NO into the thought space.

And the scythe came down.

And the blade shattered against her neck.

"Wha-what?!" Lysandre backed away in the air, still holding anberlin up in her miasma, and saw the glowing protectorate around Anberlin's throat--concentrated mental force all in a gambit to save herself and the others.

"I think," Anberlin began as waves began rolling in from Leviathan's Landing, "that you are fated to lose whatever gamble you made with the darkness, Lysandre."

"That'sssss where you're misssssstaken, though." Trembling, crying, shaking. "I have sssserved as a sssssacrifice to Her, and now offer you to the flood!" Using her final pool of mana, Lysandre covered Anberlin in the tendrils of necrotic energy she'd formed and tossed her to the crimson waves below.

Anberlin stretched her head above water; she saw Lysandre; she reached out for someone, anyone; and as the powerful tide filled her lungs, and as the buildings around her began to crumble, her eyes darkened; Anberlin was carried away by the hypnotic waves.
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon

I am the property of Rydia, please return me to her ship.

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sheyren says...

Welturna Darmanoa
~Welt'tuhrna Doikrmah'nawoa~

“Down there, I see her!” Raegan called over her shoulder to Brayel and Welturna, who were searching farther down the bank of the blood red ocean. Hastily, Welturna gathered with Brayel by Reagan and followed the direction of Raegan’s finger with her eyes. Floating limp further into the body of discolored water was Anberlin, her face entirely submerged.

Brayel stared in horror. “We need to get her, and fast.” He began to throw off his heavier garments of clothing, but Welturna stopped him. She instead dropped her heavy suit of armor, and gently she placed her cestus on the shattered pavement. She put a hand on both Raegan and Brayel’s shoulder, and looked each of them in the eye.

“I’ll retrieve Anberlin, but the water is rough. Be smart. If I look like I’m having some trouble, don’t put another life on the line and cut your losses. Take care.” She leapt into the water, not looking back for an answer, and began paddling towards the lifeless body. Several feet into the rapids, she came to acknowledge her inability to swim with adequacy, as she had lived most of her life in the desert.

Looking at Anberlin, she was probably already dead, and judging from the difficulty of making it through the rapids so far, Welturna’s sentence would be delivered soon enough. Still, she smiled knowing she had at least spared Brayel or Raegan the same inevitable fate, had they instead plunged into the water.

That being said, Welturna wasn’t going down without a fight. She cut through the blood-red liquid, headed straight for Anberlin, and arrived with surprising ease. She tugged at Anberlin, pulling the seemingly lifeless corpse towards her. There was no time to check for a pulse. Spinning around, body under arm, Welturna began to make her way back to the shore.

It was then she realized which direction the water had been rushing, and was being carried by it when she made her way out here. Now, she would have to go against the flow of water while carrying an admittedly heavy figure. Several minutes passed, and Welturna had made little progress. Exhaustion was gathering in her limbs, and her vision grew blurry. She knew that passing out meant certain demise, but the prospect of rest seemed all too welcoming at this very moment in time.

Then she felt a hand on her face. Not a gentle touch, but a firm collision, and the slap knocked the “surrender” right out of her. Clearing her vision, she saw Brayel wading in front of her. Damn it, of course he followed. He passed her a coil of rope, which she didn’t question the origin of, and pointed at Anberlin’s waist. Getting the hint, she wrapped the rope around the body and tied a tight knot. Following the rope, she saw Raegan at the end, pulling from the shore.

Anberlin’s body began to move, slowly, but the weight and upstream fight was too much for Raegan, or for that matter any other individual. “She can’t pull Anberlin alone!” Brayel called over the roar of the water. “We need to get over there and help her!”

Welturna felt the force of the water pushing against her chest, and knew just how impossible that was. “There’s now way in hell we would be able to make it through the water!” A pause. Sure, she couldn’t go through the water, but maybe instead she could go over it…

“Raegan! My cestus!” Welturned cried, and Raegan hurriedly reached for the weapon while not letting go of the rope. She closed her eyes, crossed her fingers, and threw the cestus, hoping it would make its way to Welturna. With a sigh of relief, Welturna caught the tool out of the air, and channeling from her pool of aether, she felt her body changing shape, molding into something new.

And then she was an owl, hovering above the hellish waters. Soaring through the air, Welturna made it back to Raegan and turned back into her human form, letting the cestus fall to the ground. Together, they pulled Anberlin back to the shore, and then retossed the rope to instead retrieve Brayel. Once on the shore, the regathered trio rolled Anberlin onto her back. She had no pulse, and unable to heal her, they came to the conclusion water had gathered in her lung cavities.

Raegan immediately began pushing at her rib cage, trying to force the water out. Time seemed to slow, and seconds became minutes. Finally, just as Raegan seemed ready to give up, Anberlin gagged, coughing up a massive pool of crimson water. She pulled her upper body up, looking silently at Brayel, Raegan, and Welturna, before falling back to the ground, peacefully unconscious. A cloud of relief hovered in the air above the three.

The cloud of relief dissipated when the three turned around to the sound of footsteps. They fell silent, and Lysandre’s sloppily repaired scythe fell towards Brayel. He barely rolled out of the way, while Raegan leapt backwards and Welturna made a dash for her armor. Lysandre’s mangled body seemed only interested in finishing what it started. Standing over Anberlin, she slashed downward, interrupting by an impact on the head from Welturna’s armor, which had in fact been thrown by Raegan before Welturna could put it on.

Brayel launched himself at Lysandre, swinging with his umbrella, but being easily deflected and knocked backwards. Now the only one still in range, Welturna lurched forward, attempting to grab her cestus off the ground. She was thwarted by Lysandre kicking it aside, and then forcing her to the ground with a well aimed jab to the groin. The blade of the scythe once again was aimed at Anberlin, and it seemed that all of this had been for nothing, as Anberlin was surely to die.

And then Lysandre’s head was blown clean off, the blast from a point blank gun gauntlet having been more than enough to do the deed. Lysandre fell to the ground, and behind her appeared Miyavi, smiling. “Cavalry’s here.”

“Oh, thank the Lord, you came at the right time!” Raegan said in relief, and Miyavi only smiled more.

A young boy came suddenly running in, breathing heavily. “I hate to ruin the moment, but we’ve got a hundred or so Fleyos closing in on the train station, so we have to get moving.”

“Fleyos..?” Welturna asked?

Miyavi grinned more. “Don’t worry about the semantics. Basically, they could be a problem, so we should pack up and get on our w-” She looked past Welturna, and Welturna, following her gaze, saw at least sixty zombie-like monsters limping towards them.

“Okay, kids, this has been a blast, but I think it’s time we get the hell out of here,” Brayel said, lifting Anberlin over his shoulder and leading the others towards the train station. Welturna made sure to grab her armor and cestus before following.

When they arrived, a hundred zombies (or Fleyos, as Miyavi apparently called them) were slowly approaching the entrance to the station. Another few minutes, and their distance would be a problem. Hastily, the four climbed onto the train, Miyavi powering the engines and shouting excitedly as the train charged forward, through hoards of Fleyos on the tracks.

Welturna hoped the train was headed as far from Lemuria as was possible.

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TinkerTwaggy says...


Miyavi - Turbulence

Having climbed on the last wagon’s rooftop, Miyavi stared at the distant, dying city of Lemuria, smiling at its horrifying demise with a hint of nostalgia.
For a moment, Miyavi wondered if it was wrong to enjoy danger. She was born with it, trained for it, and relished every dive within its boiling waters. It brought her closer to the meaning of her existence. And well, closer to Miss Purprille, too.

I’m not supposed to matter at this point, Mimi.

I can’t help if you do, you know that. I never could, and I think I never will.

Yes, well, maybe you should focus on the safety of your little friend instead of dozing off.

Screw you, I’ll enjoy my rare pauses if I want to! Miyavi giggled to herself and gazed at the figure next to her. Vey stared at her with a mixture of curiosity and awe – something that, she guessed, would stay in his eyes for quite some time.

“Comfy?” Miyavi asked, soon to be answered with a nod. “Good! So, what was your question?”

“I… I didn’t ask a question.”

A tender smile grew on Miyavi’s face as she gently poked her little friend’s nose. That, too, was nostalgic. “No, silly, but that doesn’t mean you’re not curious about something.”

“How can you tell?”

“Well, there was a time when I was a little pup, too. Sorry, I know you’re not that little, but I mean that when I was your age, my… caretaker, could tell everything I wanted without me saying a word. She told me that my everything else gave it away. The way I walked, the way I looked, the way I breathed, or even just the way I reacted to things. She taught me how to do that myself, so, now, I can see these things, too!”

“Is she the same one who taught you how to use your legs like that?”

“You mean the wall-jumping? Yes, she is! You could even say that she’s the one who gave me these legs. She… She gave me everything.” a sigh. “It’s why I want to do good in the name of the Ärmoni Works Company, you know? They don’t have much presence in this part of the world, so it became a big, big mission for me, and I really don’t want to screw it up. So, I’ll save people, and fight things, and build things, and destroy things, until everyone’s satisfied! Well… I don’t think everyone would ever be satisfied completely, but gotta grin and bear it, you know?” Miyavi frowned. “Does that answer your question, by the way?”

“I… I’m not sure.” Vey said, uneasy. “I just… I just wanted to know how you can… Why you giggle. You’ve been doing that a few times, and it’s… weird, to me?”

“Oh. Why’s that?”

“Because people are dying, and the cities are dying, and there’s scary monsters everywhere. Everybody’s sad or angry or both. And you look very happy. I don’t know why.”

Miyavi giggled once more. “It’s funny you mention, Vey. I was wondering that myself, earlier. I was wondering if it was okay to like danger. It’s not that I like when people are dying. It’s not a good thing, especially if they didn’t finish what they wanted to do. I just… I wasn’t taught to care. All I’m supposed to do is to be useful wherever I can be, to whoever needs me. And right here, right now, I’m useful to people. I’m doing what I want to do. For my sake, and for Miss Purprille’s sake.”

“Your caretaker?”

“Yes, my caretaker. I’m making her proud, and I’m making myself proud. How can I not smile? Why shouldn’t I smile?”

Vey fell silent for several seconds.“I don’t know how to answer that.”

“That’s fine, Vey.” Miyavi put her arm around the teenager’s shoulder and surrounded his waist with her tail, bringing him closer to her. “I don’t know how to answer that either.”

A familiar heat appeared on Miyavi’s back. She closed her eyes, aware that the beloved remnants of Miss Purprille were at work, as if hugging her softly. Miyavi thanked her without a word, rocked by the stabilized movements of the train.
After a few minutes of gentle paradise, the world decided to remind Miyavi of her situation in the form of a sudden series of earthquakes that, strangely, grew louder than the train’s noisy advance through the tracks. Miyavi’s eyes remained closed, but her peaceful smile disappeared. It didn’t take long to figure out that that noise wasn’t normal.

Back to work, Mimi. Plasma whispered in Miyavi’s mind.

I know, I know. It’s not an earthquake. Too regular. Miyavi opened her eyes and gazed at Vey – who had closed his too, hands surrounding Vizum, his Aether-powered toy soldier. She gently pushed a finger against his cheek. “Something is chasing us, Vey.” she whispered in his ear. “Get back inside, okay? I’ll analyze the situation from here.”

Vey opened his worried eyes and turned them towards Miyavi. “Wh-What? You’re sure that–”

“Yes, Vey.” Miyavi interrupted. “It’s my job to be sure of these things. Now get back inside, will you? Keep yourself and Vizum safe unless you’re needed. And if you are, send Vizum outside, and keep yourself out of reach. You’re my secret weapon, got it? Take your time to focus.”

“Yes, Mimi.”

Miyavi pressed her lips against Vey's cheek then rose on her feet, letting the obedient boy climb down the ladder that led inside the wagon. She squinted her eyes, and it didn’t take long for her to notice what exactly was following the train. Her ears began to vibrate with excitement as she let out a gasp.

“...Well, butter my backside and call me a biscuit – it’s a bull!” Miyavi exclaimed.
Though still far from the train’s moving position, a giant shape could be seen running on all fours behind it. It was a hulking mass of flesh, bones and muscles, some of which leaked out of the shape and fell, abandoned on the railway. The giant thing roughly matched the shape of a gigantic bull, with bone-like horns sticking out of its head. Said head being only composed of a parody of a human face, with exaggeratedly big round eyes, a triangular nose and pulpy lips. Several human-sized hands and feet appeared somewhere below the eyes, visibly trying to come out and grab something known only to them.

I’m surprised you didn’t already name this one.

I did. “The Bull” works just fine. Miyavi noticed strings of flesh shooting out of the bull’s back. Was it losing its mass, or...

How very creative of you, Mimi.

The bigger they are, the simpler they get – that’s my rule!

And your little friend has a short and simple nickname because…?

He’s a cutie, and he’s a person! Rules are different for those. “Also, that thing is trying to, uh, shoot its flesh at us.” Miyavi continued out loud. “I’m pretty sure that’s bad.” Indeed, several strings of flesh and blood mixed together came out of the Bull like all manners of ropes, and some of them fell dangerously closer and closer to the train’s last wagon.

They stick to the ground. It seems to be made of a different sort of flesh than what we’ve seen before, and it can likely slow down the train’s advance.

Alright, so, we need to go faster. With that in mind, Miyavi turned back and jumped down the ladder that led inside the wagon. She rushed forward once inside, exiting it until she reached her group, several wagons away. They had decided to stay behind to protect the refugees, who had been placed on the first wagons of the small train – among them were staff members of the station, who operated the train for everyone.

“People?” Miyavi began, only to notice the rest of the group already preparing their weapons.

“Yeah, we noticed.” Brayel interrupted.

“That’ll make things faster.” Miyavi continued, adopting her affectionately called “Job Time” serious expression and tone. “So, that Bull is running fast. It has muscly, powerful legs, and will probably keep running for a while – judging by its movements, it can catch up to the train in ten good minutes, unless we speed up, or slow it down. It’s also shooting puddles of flesh at us, and every time it loses flesh, it runs a bit faster. Though the previous giant flesh monster used that trick to summon Fleyos, this one–”

“You mean to say that… This creature is trying to send its minions inside the train?” Welturna exclaimed, understandably worried.

“No, it doesn’t look like it. This time the flesh strings are sticky when they fall.” Miyavi took a graver tone. “I think it’s trying to slow down the train. From there, it’ll either squash the train with us in it, or add us to its flesh bank. Considering the behavior of the Fleyos I’ve fought so far, it’s most likely the latter.”

“Okay, so, how do we stop this thing?” Brayel intervened.

Miyavi put a hand on her shoulder bag. “With a few modifications, I can use rounds from my Fireburst Pod to blow it up. If not enough to bring it down, I can destroy its legs. I can’t do that if it catches up to the train before, though, so I’ll need people to help the driver with the engine, and others to make sure that the passengers are safe. I don’t know the limit of the flesh strings’ reach, nor do I know if and when that Bull’s behavior will change.”

“Then I’ll go talk to the driver right away.” Brayel immediately said, already leaving the wagon to reach for the first one.

“I can stay here and keep the passengers safe.” Reagan proposed, then gazed at the slumbering Anberlin that remained on one of the wagon’s large seats. “One of us has to take care of Anberlin’s body, anyway.”

“Right.” Miyavi looked at Welturna. “Like I said, I don’t know the full reach of the flesh strings, and it’ll take some time to modify my Fireburst Pod. I’ll need someone to protect me while I do that.”

“You can count on me.” Welturna assured as she quickly put her armor on, her cesti being already equipped to her hands.

“Thank you. This way, please.” Miyavi exited the wagon and went back to the last one, where she had left the ladder leading towards the roof. She quickly climbed back up, and as Welturna followed, Miyavi pulled out her Fireburst Pod equipment from her backpack and began her work.

Turn around a bit more. Make sure that your peripheral vision is available in case of an attack.

Don’t I have awesome hearing for that?

You’ve been taught that the more senses you have to prevent unforeseen event, the more likely you are to survive.

Fi-i-i-i-ine. “Always doubt your perfection to make sure you don’t solely rely on it.”


Miyavi allowed herself a smirk as she slightly switched positions. It was as if nothing had changed.

“By the Lord…!” Welturna exclaimed as she saw the creature’s full body. “You’re… You’re going to attack this?”

“Yes, I am.” Miyavi pulled out the golden spheres that served as the exploding shells of the Fireburst Pod and opened them, taking three protected bullets inside.

It would be faster to change the Fireburst Pod to Cannon mode. Aiming would be straight. Target is big enough for that.

But with modified bullets, I’d have more precision and power…

Choose quickly.

...Valdinger. I’ll use the Valdinger shot to finish it off. I didn’t use any of my Aether-powered stuff so far, so, I should have enough stamina. Miyavi rose and went to Welturna’s side, fumbling through her bag. “Take that, by the way.” she said, handing over a weapon from her bag. It was a three-bladed glove with a metallic, pliable handle for the hand. “It’s an upgrade of my first customized gauntlet. I usually carry it with me in case I run out of bullets. Should work just fine with your cestus.”

Welturna equipped the weapon, gazing at the blades with a critical eye. “It’s well-designed. Thank you. I’ll use that to cut through any incoming projectile of that… Bull.”

“That’s the plan, yeah. Do your best to cover me, and I’ll do my best to finish my preparations as fast as possible.” she knelt in front of her Fireburst Pod once more. “Starting now.”

As if the Bull had heard them, its eyes suddenly locked themselves on the two women. It had likely just spotted them, but Welturna didn’t take any chances – she immediately moved in front of Miyavi, and seconds later, several strings of flesh launched themselves in her direction. With an elegant lateral movement, Welturna used her newly bladed Cestus to slash through the strings. Then, she briefly swung her arm downward to let the blood and flesh fall from her blades and bent her knees, putting herself in battle stance once more. She repeated the movement every time some of the strings got close enough to her position, sometimes being forced to dodge them before cutting them – in which case, she’d quickly look at Miyavi, making sure that none of the strings hit her. Meanwhile, Miyavi rapidly continued the construction of her Fireburst Pod. Though she was used to building it and knew that she’d be done soon, she had to be extra careful on top of the train, as any piece lost would most likely fall on the rails, considering the increased speed at which the train traveled.

Start changing its angle already. You’ll gain some time during the aiming process.

Miyavi did as suggested while completing the final adjustments needed for the Pod to properly function. She allowed herself a quick glance at Welturna, noticing that less cutting noises had been heard the past seconds. No… Not less. They had completely stopped.

“Miyavi?” Welturna called, claw ready to strike again. “The Bull… It stopped sending its strings here. It’s blinking a lot.”

Gather some data. The Pod is already heating up, anyway.

Miyavi turned completely to face the Bull once more. It was noticeably smaller than the first time she looked at it, but it still ran vigorously, as expected. Its mouth had opened wide enough that she could see bony teeth inside of it, and it indeed blinked at least once per second, with a loud suction noise for each blink. Suddenly, an army of flesh strings sent itself from all sides of the Bull’s body towards the lower side of the train. Instead of trying to hit the last wagon, the Bull let its strings pull the one in which most of the passengers were located.

“...It knows.” Miyavi whispered to herself, frowning. “How does it know…?”

“It doesn’t matter!” Welturna exclaimed. “I need to go back there and cut the strings! Raegan can’t–”

“Stay here for now.” Miyavi interrupted as she brought her Fireburst Pod closer.

“There’s backup.”

“What do you mean?”

To Welturna’s surprise, a sudden blue and gold blur came out of one of the wagon’s window and proceeded to cut through the flesh strings wherever it passed. More came, but the little figure kept on striking at amazing speed.

“I mean, that.” Miyavi replied, not bothering to look where Welturna looked, as the noises were a good enough confirmation. “My lil’ Vey is trying not to be useless, is all. And now, it’s time for me to play my part.” she pressed the Engage button on the Fireburst Pod then held its back as if it were a small cannon. “Cover your ears, and get behind me!” Miyavi ordered.

Too close to aim for the legs with precision.

It’s okay, I’ll use the second wave for that.

As Welturna did as she was asked, the familiar noise of flying fireworks came out of the Fireburst Pod: its bomb had fired, aimed straight at the Bull. They soon detonated, hitting the Bull in the face. Fire and smoke appeared, and the damage began to spread. Though the Bull had suffered from direct hits and indeed slowed down, it was still running, as if its partly incinerated face was none of its concern. The next detonation created a powerful gust of wind that blew towards Welturna and Miyavi, projecting a repulsive smell of smoke and burnt flesh.

Miss Purprille plunged her knife inside Miyavi’s right arm, once again hypnotized by the sound of her scream, the view of her exhausted face, the smell of her sweating skin.

Miyavi’s eyes widened as her heart began to beat faster, and her hands trembled with nostalgic delight. She smiled, aware that her memories once again attempted to send her back to her happier moments. But this time, she was ready.


I’m fine. Here, I’ll prove it! Miyavi pressed the button again – the Bull had lost enough distance that she could aim for the legs without risk.

But it was at this moment that the Bull let out a menacing bellow, as if it had only just been affected by the previous explosions. Thicker strings of flesh appeared from its mouth and reached for the wagon it had attacked before, destroying the windows. Several screams passed by, which caused Welturna to let out a gasp of horror.

It doesn’t matter. More of them will get sucked in if you do nothing.

I know. Miyavi moved her Fireburst Pod and let it fire a second wave of exploding shots. The Bull immediately fell on the ground, with three of its four robust legs blown off from the shots’ impacts. And as Miyavi gazed at the Bull to confirm its current status, her heart missed a beat.

During her twenty-four years of life, Miyavi had, like anybody, experienced hesitations. Hesitations so powerful that any of her actions, thoughts or phrases would stop, waiting for her brain to process a happening that invaded her senses. Sometimes, an unexpected gust of wind tickled her ear, announcing that one of Miss Purprille’s traps had just triggered, and she didn’t know how to react to it. Other times, the smell right before an explosion detonated, which gave her a fraction of time to react and hide. In yet other times, it was the sound of Miss Purprille’s tears falling on the carpet. A rare sound, which Miyavi never properly figured out to react to. It always brought about a conflict between how she wanted to react, and how she was supposed to react. Her life versus herself. Her training versus her instinct. It was a harmony that she tried to reach, but didn’t always master.

At that very moment, Miyavi’s gaze met with the passing eyes of Vey. A flesh string had caught him alongside several others, and for a moment, her eyes connected with his. She noticed that he was holding the dagger he used to manipulate his toy warrior, Vizum, And that it was pointed at his heart – as if he was trying to pierce it. She noticed his lips moving, as if he was trying to say something, and not scream. She imagined the potential behind all these details. She imagined how much he could grow with more time and more experience. She imagined how much control of himself she could give him on top of what he had, somehow, already gained. She imagined every other possible toy warrior he could create, and it appeared in her mind like a glorious assembly line.

Then, the Bull closed his mouth, and the connection was replaced with hesitation.

It was like Miyavi’s body and brain were incapable of anything. She was paralyzed, locked within the friction of her life and experience telling her to remain in place, and her identity and instinct telling her to save what she wanted to save. She would’ve fallen over had Welturna not been there to grab her in time and push her back towards herself. The Fireburst Pod fell from her hands and hit the rooftop somewhere next to her.

“Miyavi?” Welturna called with increased concerned, as she witnessed Miyavi’s entire body convulse under the weight of an argument within herself that went on with the speed of a mere thought. She blinked and, suddenly, she was alive again. Miyavi briefly stared at Welturna. To the latter’s surprise, one of Miyavi’s eyes was cyan like Miss Purprille’s, while the other was yellow, befitting the lemur facial features that belonged to her and her alone. With impossible speed, Miyavi disassembled her Fireburst Pod and placed it back in her bag.


Miyavi lifted Welturna’s body with apparent ease and delicately placed her behind her as she crouched, readying the muscles of her legs for the next action.

“Grant me one moment of egoism.” Miyavi declared. She turned her head back to the Bull, calculating the distance, speed and necessary power she needed for it as she channeled her Aether, letting it appear like an almost transparent red smoke around her body. Purple-colored strings added themselves to the mix, floating behind her head like ghostly hair. The next second, Miyavi was gone, having propelled herself towards the Bull. She landed right in front of it and, with another push, she jumped high above it as a shining light covered her body, traveling through it to concentrate on her right arm.


The bullet Miyavi had taken from the Fireburst Pod burst free from her gauntlet, coated with the red and purple Aether that surrounded Miyavi’s own body. It hit slightly away from the middle of the Bull’s body and detonated, promptly incinerating every part of the Bull’s body that existed within the shot’s radius. The detonation had sent Miyavi fly further up, but she finally landed on the Bull’s head, then jumped down from it only to stare at the newly opened body. She approached it, ignoring the pool of blood that began to form at her feet, and the organs, bones and muscle that spread across the entire area. She pulled away several deformed bodies – that certainly belonged to the passengers of the train before they were eaten and half-absorbed – until, at last, she pulled the one she was looking for. It fell on the ground next to her, parts of its brown shell having been cracked open, only to reveal an acidic substance that had begun to eat away the soft flesh inside.
The face, however, hadn’t been touched yet, and Miyavi could easily recognize her little Vey. He opened his eyes, and they immediately widened, as he seemed to recognize Miyavi. She put a soft hand on his cheek, and he tried to smile, but it turned into a grimace instead. Though one of his arms was gone, the second still held his signature dagger. Judging from the blood dripping from it, he had tried to stab the Bull from the inside.

“You’re amazing, Vey.” Miyavi whispered. “You’re absolutely amazing.”
If there was something that the boy wished to say, it only came out as a painful, painful groan. With a sigh of resignation, Miyavi delicately took the dagger from his hand and placed her gun gauntlet in its place. She smiled and pulled the trigger, finally ending the poor teenager’s suffering. As she put away the dagger in her shoulder bag and walked away, she wondered if he had even heard the deadly detonation as he drew his final breath. Either way, she made sure to recall in her mind the images that had come to her when she met Vey’s gaze once more.


Miyavi stopped walking. “...Vey… Vey…! Vey!” she turned back, gazing at the body of the child she had put next to the agonizing Bull, as if either of them could inform her of what she had lost.

Mimi. Finish the mission.

Gritting her teeth, Miyavi began to run and run, until she had reached a good enough distance from the Bull. Then, she turned back, and pointed her right arm towards it as her Aether gathered around it once more. “Valdinger.” she whispered. Then, another of her Fireburst Pod’s bullet hit the remains of the Bull before detonating, incinerating what was left of its body, and every other body it had absorbed in a failed attempt to reconstruct its form. Miyavi turned back for good and, as she was about to leave, she saw the abandoned toy that Vey had used to help her in her mission before getting caught.

“...Vizum.” Miyavi whispered as she grabbed it from its spot, staring at it in her hand. “Vizum, the Jumper.”

It was when the first tears fell on the lifeless toy that Miyavi realized she had never really cried before. She had never felt any sort of frustration, sorrow and sadness to the extent at which she currently felt it. Not for anything, not for anyone. Not for Miss Purprille’s death, and not for her own suffering.

Then why would you cry for an insignificant client like the many others you’ll lose along the way? Because he was a child?

“Because I forgot his name.” Miyavi said through her tears. “He’s dead, and that’s fine – he did his job, he did put himself to safety and only provided helped with a remote-controlled item, but was taken in anyway. Tried to save him, too late. That’s fine. It happens. But I forgot his name, I forgot his identity, I forgot all of this because I put a stupid nickname on top of it, and now I remember only that.” Miyavi fell on her knees, flattened by the weight of her guilt. “Not at any moment did you give me any less than my name. It’s all I have, it’s all I own. I stripped him of that, and now he’s dead, so I can’t even ask him, and I remember his stupid toy’s name but not his.”

You still have the toy, right?

Miyavi sniffed loudly. “That’s a stupid question.”

And the dagger?

“Did you not see me?”

And do you not see? To use a toy like that with his Aether and with such precision, he’d need to at least have access to red Aether. Especially Machinery. Which means that you can now use his item instead, since both of those are part of your specialty.

“I’ve never used anything like that. It’s not part of my training at all.”

Don’t tell me you can’t learn.

“Of course I can! With time, and experience and trial and error!”

And how do you expect to gather any of those if you stay here and cry?

“I can move and cry!”

Then stop wasting time and do that.

Fine!” Miyavi shouted with a trembling voice. She put Vizum in her bag and began walking again, letting her tears fall on the hard ground below. She walked and walked, trying to remember the lost name, sobbing every time she failed. After a long time, she noticed a familiar shape in the distance. It was an abandoned wagon of the train she had jumped from. Putting aside her sorrow, Miyavi frowned and readied her weapons. Had some minions of the Bull managed to attack the train from the inside?


A lone figure, standing atop the wagon’s roof, waved its hand towards her. As she came closer to it, Miyavi arrived just in time to watch Welturna jump down from her spot and run in her direction, visibly exhausted. “Are you okay? I saw the explosion. What happened?”

It took Miyavi a few seconds to properly process the current happening. “...Did you… Wait for me?”

“Why yes. Don’t worry, I told the others that if you defeated the Bull, I could help you catch up with the train in no time. The final station is just a few kilometers away, and I can always scout ahead in my owl form, if needed. We don’t have much to fear, now that you’ve dealt with our main problem.”

“Well yeah, but then, couldn’t you just… reach the place with then, and then turn into an owl to secure my position?”

Welturna frowned. “I could’ve, but in case more enemies appeared, you’d need this wagon to recharge your bullets or need me as a cover to prepare more of your deadly explosions, would you not?”

Miyavi giggled. “That must be a culture shock. Where I come from, you’re supposed to wait for me and mind your own business. But thank you.” Miyavi’s light smile suddenly disappeared. She grabbed Welturna’s cheeks and stayed there, carving her traits into her memory.


“Welturna.” Miyavi articulated slowly. “ Welturna. Okay. Welturna. You’re amazing, Welturna.”

Welturna blinked, visibly confused. “O-Oh. Well… Thank you.”

Miyavi smiled again, then freed Welturna’s face. “Sorry. I’m a bit shaken. I love names. I don’t want to forget yours.”

“That’s alright. I did notice your passion for those. In any case, I’m glad that you’re okay. Let me go to the others and warn them about that, okay? I’ll come back to you right after.”

“Got it!”

Then, Welturna frowned, staring into Miyavi’s eyes. “Did you… Always have odd eyes?” she couldn’t help but ask. “One cyan and one yellow?”

Miyavi froze in place, then laughed. “No, I didn’t. It must have happened when my Aether activated. It’s a long story I may or may not explain later.”

Welturna smiled, then took Miyavi’s hand and placed in her palm the clawed gauntlet she had been given. “Then take your time.” she simply said. With a last wave, Welturna turned into an owl again and flew off in the distance.

You stopped crying.

“You know, you can just ask me if I’m okay.”

You’re fine again, so, I’ll just pretend I’m a monstrous bossy witch, and you’ll pretend you’re secretly scared of me. You know, just like old times.

“I love you.”


Giggling softly, Miyavi put her weapon back insider her bag and began her long walk once again. Deep down, maybe she was, in fact, perfectly aware that she could ask her ghostly caretaker to look deeper within her memory than she ever could in order to find the name she had lost. But to her, it was better this way. She had committed a personal offense, a personal atrocity that she would have to repair. That took time, experience, and trial and error. All things that she wanted to own, all things that brought her, as always, closer to danger, and closer to the meaning of her existence.

Closer to home.
"Is there a limit to how much living I can live with my life? How will I know if I've gone too far?
And why did I spend my life savings on sunglasses for a whale?
I shall find the answers... to these questions."

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sheyren says...

Chapter II: Golden Heart, Bleeding Eye

The Drades refugee camp was large, twice as long as wide, with a dusty pathway running down the center of it and spanning the whole distance. Hundreds of tents had been set up, but as of right now it seemed to Welturna that maybe a dozen or so were in use. As a result, the head of the camp offered them an entire tent for themselves, themselves being the survivors who had left Lemuria on the train.

Welturna had expected the survivors all being in one tent would be a tight fit, but surprisingly, there was enough room for each of the injured to lay flat and not be at risk of a bump from a careless neighbor. Oddly, the camp head had stated the tents fit twenty-five each, but Welturna had sworn thirty-two were on the train. Looking around at the tired faces of the surviving Lemurians, she tried to place if there were any individuals she remembered on board that she couldn't see here. To her dismay, none came to mind.

She was still certain that people were missing, and if they hadn't fallen victim to the amalgamate that had attacked the train, they might need assistance immediately. Standing up, she made her way out the entrance of the tent to the open clearing just outside. In the center of said clearing, Miyavi was doing some...thing, and Welturna paused to watch.

Miyavi had placed her large shoulder bag, her gun gauntlets and her cloak against a tree while she stood, completely immobile. In her hand could be seen a peculiar long dagger, its black handle decorated with golden features shaped like a bird's foot. She lifted her arm as a red aura tainted with purple appeared all around her. Having successfully summoned her Aether, she held the blade in front of her, and slowly, the bi-colored Aether moved from her to the weapon. Then, Miyavi opened her eyes, and jerked her arm upward. A mechanical doll, placed on the ground in front of her, suddenly lit up and raised upward. Miyavi frowned her eyebrows, and performed a series of movements with her hand, as if it were a magician's wand. The robotic warrior ran, jumped or walked, depending on Miyavi's will. Then, as the channeled Aether changed its flow, a tiny version of the same dagger, placed behind the toy's back, also lit up - taking the color of Miyavi's own Aether. The doll flew away, which caused Miyavi to utter a gasp. She dropped her dagger and crouched, as the muscles in her legs doubled in size. She performed an impressive jump and caught the flying toy in mid-air then dropped back down, landing easily on the ground as she stared at her doll.

"Oh, shut up." Miyavi whispered to herself. "I know I'm not done yet." she jerked her head towards Welturna, oferring her a bright, unmoving smile.

"Oh, uh, hey. Sorry to bother you during your... thing-"

"Training." Miyavi corrected.

"-but I was curious if you happened to know how many people were on the train from Lemuria?" She looked over her shoulder at the tent. "I thought there were more than there are, and if someone needs help, I want to know sooner rather than later."

Miyavi closed her eyes. "Around... seventy-six passengers were with us, and nineteen... No... Fourteen were eaten by the Bull." she opened her eyes again. "The rest are safe here, or dead there."

"Oh, okay. I guess I expected that, but didn't want to be the one to say it..." Welturna trailed off. "I should... I should go back in there. You probably want to continue your, um, training anyway." She turned and began to make her way back to the tent.

"My daily exercice for the day is complete, actually." Miyavi specified. "This..." she gazed at her toy. "...Was new."

Welturna stopped and--her curiosity taking over--opened her mouth. "What, exactly, is that? A child's toy?"

"His name is Vizum, the jumper." Miyavi stated, as if reciting. "He made himself, and it's not just a toy. He can fight against actual people. I can remotely control him by channeling my Aether directly into him - that's what the daggers are for. The wings on his back are part of his jet-propulsion system, which is useful for him to fly around and protect me, or back you up. He can also use a variety of Aether-powered blades to cut down real people, and some of them are long-distance boomerangs, which I can also control remotely."

"That's a neat gadget. I've not seen a red aether device as complicated as that since the war." She took a closer look at the mechanism. The black handle of a dagger bearing golden spires emerged from its back, and serrated horns were angled out of the head like a V. "Where did you get your hands on this thing?"

"From..." Miyavi hesitated. "...Vey. He was eaten, like some of the others. I remember everything, except his real name. I'm searching for it, now. I'll find it eventually. For now, I'll study his work and try to absorb it." She let out a giggle. "Miss Purprille never let me have my own doll, so, this'll be a learning experience!"

"It's certainly an interesting first doll," Welturna said with a laugh, before her expression grew serious. "You... You saw him die, didn't you?"

Miyavi titled her head on the side, visibly curious. "I did, yes."

"Are you okay?" Welturna paused. "They put me in charge of tending to the survivors, and you're one of the survivors," she explained.

Miyavi seemed frozen, her gaze locked on Welturna. Then, her feathery ears began to tremble as another smile grew on her lips. "This... is also new." she commented. "Please, can you define 'okay'? I am now aware that we must have a very different way of seeing that word."

The comment took Welturna aback. "'Okay", as in, 'are you doing well? Do you need to talk?' That's what I mean by 'okay'."

"Where I come from, not being okay is not performing well. And because I've performed well so far, I am very much okay. I could talk to you, but I supposed you wouldn't be interested in hearing me ramble on about the greatness of the Ärmoni Works Company, and the services they provide through my existence. So..." she took a calm step forward. "...What... do you want me to talk about, Welturna?"

"You're a strange character. Miyavi, I don't care about your company, or your performance, or whatever. This isn't where you came from, it's where we are. I want you to talk about you. How are you feeling, having watched that boy you cared about die?"

"Strange..." Miyavi repeated in a whisper. "What an interesting word." she fell silent, visibly lost in thought. "Please, don't go away. Don't get fed up with this conversation. I like it. Do you... Remember what I told you, before I jumped out of the train to blow up the Bull?"

"I'm afraid not. I was focused on the fight."

Miyavi's tail whipped the air - of excitment or frustration, Welturna could not tell. "I asked you to grant me one moment of egoism." she said. "The reason I said that, was because I don't usually have those. I'm not allowed to do anything beyond my status, so, I've been toying with my rules to have fun anyway." Miyavi giggled. "'A dangerous deed', Miss Purprille would say, but it was always worth it. What I'm trying to tell you is that there is no... 'me'. Or there is, but... Well, I suppose it is strange. I am okay, yes. But that's because there's no other thing I can be, unless I'm inefficient. I care about people the same way - for what they can do, for what they have the potential to do. That's me toying with my rules - as I am not supposed to care. And I'm fine with death, of course. I'm a Chimera."

Welturna let out a heavy sigh. "I was a soldier, not all that long ago. As long as I held my weapon and stood by my allies on the battlefield, I was a tool for victory. If I died, it was a necessary sacrifice so my people could live free. For years, I didn't make decisions for myself--I took orders. My worth was decided by my own efficiency. How many men I had killed, how much blood stained my hands. So when we lost the war, and I was no longer needed, they discharged me. Suddenly, I was, well, me again. I didn't have orders to follow, or enemies to slaughter. Sometimes, I could be inefficient." She looked Miyavi in the eyes. "It's hard to be discharged, isn't it? People don't seem to realize that you change more after the war than you ever did on the battlefield."

Never looking away from Welturna, Miyavi slightly stepped on the side, delicately placed her toy and dagger next to her things and rose up once more, putting on her long purple coat as she approached Welturna. She was slow and careful, looking at her like a creature she'd never seen. How close could that be from the truth?

"It's not that hard for me." Miyavi assured. "Because of war." Miyavi looked away, and suddenly, it was as if she was a different person. "War... War is fantastic. It is a reason for players to play, and pieces to act. A reason for players and pieces to evolve and alternate roles, endlessly, until everyone involved destroy more than they can create. Only then will they stop. If the conflict, if any conflict is used the right way, you may just be able to create more than you destroy. When that happens, it can result in fascinating tools to be created. You're not a tool, Welturna. You were never a tool. You're a human, a person, that was shaped like a tool. But your experience is something I'll never, ever be able to actually share. Because unlike you, I am a tool shaped like a human. I don't care about serving, I don't care about victory. If my Company dies and I am left alone, I will mourn, but it won't matter. I'll be a tool to myself. And I am Miss Purprille's eternal tool, as she is my eternal mistress."

"To the men and women and children you helped get this far, I'm sure you're far more than a tool. You underestimate us humans' ability to look past the surface. You may be a chimera, but you're just as human as every other survivor."

"That's good to know!" Miyavi exclaimed happily. "It means I'm doing a good job. But no, Welturna. I'm not underestimating any of you - I wasn't designed for that kind of behavior, nor did I strive to develop it. What I am talking about isn't a surface. It's what I'm trying to tell you. You were a tool, on the surface. The same way, I am a human, on the surface. It isn't a belief - it is a fact. I was, after all, made, and not born. If it doesn't matter to you, to any of you, then I'm doing my job well." she shrugged. "That much is fine by me."

"Then I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Back to my original question. You said you were okay, and that you were fine with death. But I know what's it like to watch someone die. I've seen it many times. A good friend of mine died when that thing attacked Lemuria, in fact. I know the toll death can take on people, or chimeras. I won't ask you to talk now, because I honestly don't think you can yet. But eventually, I am certain you will want to talk. And so, my ears are open."

Miyavi's tail froze. "But I want to talk." she assured. "I am talking right now. I am bothered by his death, because I forgot his name. Names are very important - they are harbingers of identity, of personality. That I forgot his is inexcusable, and I hate myself for that. That's all there is to it." she fell silent. "Have you... met a Chimera from the ÄWC before? Do you know how I was made?"

"I have not, I do not."

Miyavi's smile grew larger. "Would you like to know? It might help you understand a few things about me."

"Do enlighten me."

"My caretaker, Miss Purprille, was tasked with creating a new batch of perfect Chimeras to expand the services of the Ärmoni Works Company - military, or other. She found a method to give birth to them directly instead of using her usual spare parts. She created fifty chimeras, but none of them were mentally or physically fit to perform their necessary duties. So, she terminated all of them until she designed me. I am the product of fifty different Chimera parts, and it took twenty-four years for Miss Purprille to complete my education, alone in her laboratory. Once she did, she blew herself up and let me inherent all of her talents, so that her work would be carried over to to me. Her death was necessary to activate a special Aether-powered ability so that I would properly inherit her will. I skipped the details, as I'm not sure if I'll need to dive in them, during this conversation."

Welturna stared at Miyavi. "She... blew herself up? After she killed 50 of what were essentially her children?"

"She also developped several carnal fetishes which she enjoyed performing on them, and me, before they died." a nostalgic smile appeared on her face. "We loved her back for each of those moments. Not that she wanted any of those fetishes, but the isolation and nature of the experiments she was forced to conduct turned her... Unstable. I am telling this to you, Welturna, because you deserve a moment of curiosity with me, after you allowed me to have my moment with the Bull. But as you can see, my world is much different from yours." Miyavi giggled yet again. "I think that's why I'm fascinated by yours."

"You're certainly a strange character. Fascinating, but strange." Welturna sighed. "I should have gone into psychiatry."

"Hopefully, that would've caused you less pain and strife than war apparently did," Miyavi replied. "But you still have time! If we survive all this, you can always consider that career path once again."

"And I'll have plenty of patients," she said as she trailed off, listening to the sounds around her. From a neighboring tent, she heard sobbing, the sobbing of a young boy. From another tent, there was a scream of pain, followed by loud by inaudible muttering. "This situation has already taken its toll on these people, obviously."

"Oh, but that's wonderful! It means that you can start your psychatry training early. You can go ahead and do that, Welturna." Miyavi smiled again. "I am okay."

"Thank you. I'm glad to hear. Again, if you ever need to talk, I'm here. Good day, Miyavi." She turned around, returning to her post comforting the survivors. There was another scream. Welturna closed her eyes and took a deep breath, knowing how difficult the job ahead of her would be. She prayed to some deity that this situation ended sooner rather than later, but something told her that prayer would not be heard.

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AstralHunter says...

"I thought you were trying to sleep."

Despite his eyes being closed, Sephtis scowled. "I am."

"If you were, I wouldn't have said anything."

Opening his eyes, Sephtis rolled onto his back and sat upright to glare at Meirion. The ashen servant stood with his scythe in front of him, its chine pointing towards the tent's entrance and his hands resting on its heel. He regarded his former pupil with an indifferent expression.

"You never needed a reason to patronise me before," Sephtis responded irritably.

"I never shared a psychic link with you before. Your mind is restless and you keep dwelling on what happened in Lemuria. If you truly were trying to sleep, you would know to clear your mind."

Sephtis sniffed in disdain and laid back down. Staring at the brown tent ceiling, he said, "I don't need your advice on how to sleep."

Meirion scoffed, and through his peripheral vision, Sephtis noted him gaze back at the tent's entrance. "Indeed. The advice you seek pertains to whatever happened in the city. As you may recall, I was not present for that, so will you condescend to inform me?" Accursed deluge.

Sephtis' momentary amusement at the man's mental complaint was swiftly overwhelmed by recollections of the events that had transpired during the past hours. Clear his mind? As if anything could drive the images away.

"Do you know what you would have told anyone in your position?"

Sephtis sighed. "Yes."

"Then you know what to do. You had hidden on the train and you are hiding in an empty tent now, so there is no risk of eavesdropping."

"You weren't present on the train either."

"I am aware, but I still possess my deductive reasoning. Cease your stalling."

Pouring rain and cracked streets filled his mind's eye. Even though he was no longer on a Lemurian rooftop, he could still sense the baleful presence emanating from the creature below him. A presence that was not limited by the confines of its grotesque body. Sephtis recoiled from it, but Meirion's remaining consciousness urged him on. Reluctantly, he obliged and closed his eyes for focus.

In the mindscape, he knelt down and snuck closer to the edge of the roof. The presence originated from the faceted gem at the abomination's centre - an impossibly large garnet or ruby. Sephtis was certain it could sense him in return, yet the creature that bore the eldritch crystal gave no indication of it. A star shaped from flesh, it was stationary but for the gaping mouths that opened and closed on its five arms. Its intent was unclear, but it had appeared as suddenly as the rain; its purpose could therefore only be malicious.

"Can you see it?" Sephtis breathed.

"Vaguely. I cannot read your mind, but I do see blurred images. Proceed. I shall ask if I require clarification."

In the memory, Sephtis cautiously jumped down, prepared for battle the moment he landed. The morbid star made no movement. He rose and stared at it warily: it blocked the entire width of the street, and though it could reasonably be assumed as slow, he would take no risk of being within lunging distance. He needed to know its power before deciding whether to attack it, so he slowly reached down to his belt, where his sword hung. He grasped its hilt and channelled his aether. The greatest mistake of his life.

Any wielder of aether experienced passive effects determined by their class, but if they so desired, they could amplify these by channelling their aether. A mesmer shared empathic links with all nearby minds and could strengthen them; a necromancer felt the presence of the dead and could liberate them; and a dark knight could sense another entity's potential and identify its nature. As soon as he did so on the amalgam, its gem flashed and red lightning struck in a circle around them. The bolts behind the creature spelled a name for only an instant, and accompanying it was the vilest touch of aether Sephtis would ever feel. That instant was long enough to ensure it would haunt him for as long as he lived.

He screamed and dropped to the ground, throwing his arms in front of him to break his fall. He lay numb and sobbing on the stone, five cries of gurgling laughter ringing in his ears. He couldn't tell how long he had laid there - it could have been minutes to hours - but he pushed himself onto his knees, pulled his scythe closer, and stumbled to the creature in a daze. The blinding name still scorched onto his unseeing eyes and the foul laughter still echoing off the walls, he shouted in despair and struck the gem as if with a pickaxe. Though he felt his weapon bounce off harmlessly, the crystal exploded and blasted him backwards.

In spite of the shockwave, his vision cleared, the laughter was gone, and the rain fell gently from the sky. He blinked and searched his body for injuries, yet found that he he was unharmed. He looked over at the smoking remains of the amalgam - it seemed to melt and seep into the stone while the crystal shards evaporated. He watched until nothing of it remained, after which the rain adopted its former intensity. The moment of peace gone, Sephtis sensed the malice return to the air. He ran.

The train station at Lemuria's southern and only exit was abandoned, save for a single train being boarded by a few passengers. In their panic, they didn't see him cross the tracks and enter an empty carriage, where he sunk down against a wall and ceased moving until well after the train had finally reached its new destination. Although he had entered a catatonic state, Septhis had stared out the window opposite him, seeing nothing but passing buildings and then empty sky... except once, when tendrils of flesh and snatched bodies had flew by.

Ash tickling his face made Sephtis awake from his stupor and brush the flakes off. "What?" he asked angrily, rising and glaring at Meirion, who stepped back, before disposing of any others that clung to his robes.

"I refrained from disturbing you, even after you screamed, but then you went unresponsive."

"Reliving traumatic experiences can have that effect," he snapped back. "Did you learn what you wanted?"

"Your mental imagery was a mess. I could only deduce what had happened from your emotional state as the process progressed. What interests me most is whatever you saw when-"

"Is everything all right over here?" a female voice asked, its owner stepping inside the dimness of the tent. "I heard someone scream."

"Ah, lovely," Meirion said, looking at the woman before turning back to Sephtis. "We have a visitor."

"I can see that," Sephtis replied acerbically. "There is no problem, miss."

She looked between the two male figures for a couple of seconds. "Why are you alone?"


"Were you on the train?" she asked suspiciously.

"I was."

She crossed her arms. "You could have helped with the Bull."

"He was too busy cowering in terror," Meirion responded. Sephtis knew it was his former mentor's way of attempting to be humorous, but he was in no mood for it.

"You may leave us," he said, bowing down and opening Meirion's urn.

"Very well," the ashen servant said before bursting into a cloud of ash and being sucked into the vessel.

Sephtis replaced the lid and regarded the woman. "My apologies. As he said rather ineloquently, I was regrettably indisposed."

"Mmm." She was clearly unimpressed. "Are you injured?"


She lowered her arms. "Then your time for self-pity is over."

"I beg your pardon?" Sephtis said indignantly.

"You heard me. There's work to be done."

"Dear lady, I am a necromancer. What exactly is it that you think I do?"

She put a hand on her hip and shook her head at him. "You're almost invariably a disgrace, aren't you? I knew a necromancer back home. Brand, his name was. A common fellow, average by any standard. He wasn't much of a fighter, but he took his job seriously: instead of playing puppet with the dead all the time, he appeased departed souls and laid bodies to rest, consoling the living who must continue their lives in their loved ones' absence. We weren't friends, but he was considerate and thoughtful. If it hadn't been for him, it would be easy to assume all necromancers are concerned only about themselves and their lust for power. Now, I don't know you, but so far, my impression is that you're a selfish coward. Are you?"

"Most certainly not!" Sephtis exclaimed, affronted by the woman's directness.

"Good. You can come with me and prove it. There are many here who have lost those dear to them or are afraid of dying themselves, so the least you can do is try to give them some peace of mind. Grab your stuff and let's go."

He gawked at her for a second before huffing and shaking his head in disbelief. Nevertheless, he would not have his honour questioned by a stranger, so he rolled up his sleeping bag and stowed his belongings away. By the time he was done, the woman had left, but he found her waiting outside.

"It's evening," he observed, squinting after the transition from dark to light.

"Yes, it is. Everybody here has had a long day."

He followed her down the path to another tent. In contrast with his, that one was fully occupied and lit by lanterns and a fire at its centre. Most of the refugees were either lying or sitting, usually in silence. Only those at the fire were talking. One of them, a man who had been the only one standing, noted their arrival and walked over.

"You're the one who's been talking to people, right?" he asked, addressing the woman.

"I've been trying to comfort them," she confirmed.

"I get that you mean well, but I've received several complaints. Just leave the people alone for a while. They don't seem to be appreciating your good will, and I have enough things to deal with already. Wait a few hours and rather go around asking them if they want something like water instead." He nodded at her and Sephtis individually. "Good day to you."

After they watched the man leave, Sephtis remarked dryly, "I'm sure the people here would love having a wolf with a scythe asking them if they want to talk about their feelings."

"Oh, shut up," she retorted before stalking off to the fire.

Sephtis shrugged and followed. He had nothing better to do at that point, so he might as well join her and learn what he could about the day's events. Besides the woman, there were four others - two of them were in their sleeping bags, while the remaining two sat on opposite sides of the fire. One was a woman, and the other, a chimera that largely resembled a lemur. The irritated lady dropped down between them, but since there was more space on either side of her than between any of the other four, he sat down to her left, next to the other woman.

"I didn't say you could join us," she snapped, but moving towards the chimera to make more room for him anyway. He didn't take it personally, as he understood that she was simply upset.

"Mind the scythe," Sephtis cautioned the woman to his left, laying down his weapon to his right, but with the chine pointing towards her.

"Why do you have a sword if you're a necromancer?" she asked.

"Necromancy is only a relatively recent pursuit of mine," he replied, opening his bag and producing a pewter kettle. "Could you fetch us some water, please?" He asked the other woman. "And cups or the like, if you wish to drink along."

Though she glared at him, she rose and left without a word. He realised too late that the request could potentially be seen as rubbing salt into the wound. He'd need to smooth her ruffled feathers at some point later on.

"Wow, she looked angry," the chimera said. "Are you two okay?"

Sephtis considered the creature. He'd been unsure of her gender since joining the group, and having never met a chimera before, was uncertain of how to react. Yet her voice was unmistakably female, and she appeared to be sentient. "I honestly think she's more peeved at being told off for trying to be helpful," he said, retrieving a pouch of tea leaves from his bag and placing it beside the kettle, "though we didn't meet under the best of circumstances in any case."

"She said she was tired when she spoke to me, so I suppose that played a part too. Sorry, if it did. How did you two meet, though? I don't think that would have caused a problem!" Her tail whipped through the air and she grinned. "She's... open-minded."

Loquaciousness was not an expected trait for a chimera, but since she met none of the imagined expectations he'd had for one anyway, he resolved that it would make no difference. Nevertheless, it made her the most likely source of information. "We met in another tent, where my desire for privacy conflicted with her work ethic. I presume she's tired after battling her way out of the city?"

"Ah, I understand. I wanted to be alone, too. At least I got a good chat out of her, err, work ethic, as you say. I don't think the battling tired her that much, though. It could be the whole... saving people thing. Not all clients are grateful, and not all clients make sense. Battling, she's used to." The chimera glanced pointedly at his scythe. "And you too, apparently, though in your own, special way. Sorry if that sounds intrusive; I just don't see scythes often, so don't mind if I stare at it for a bit."

"No worries. Necromancers are generally disliked and prefer their own company, so they tend to make themselves scarce."

"They and not we?' the woman to his left asked.

He smiled politely. "Well noted, but, as I said, it's a relatively recent pursuit. I do not yet fully identify as a necromancer." He thoughtfully looked between the woman and the chimera. "How did the two of you experience the day's tribulations? Assuming you're all companions, that is."

"We are!" The chimera looked at the other woman and shrugged. "Well, to some degree. We don't know each other very well yet, or at least, I don't know..." She frowned and looked at the ground. "...Huh. I don't know anyone very well, come to think of it. I don't think dead people count, either." She looked back up at Sephtis. "But anyway, your question! I can't speak for Raegan here, but for me, it was a fun day! I got to do my job as planned, some people died and quite a few didn't, and the one thing that could've killed us on our way out of Lemuria has been blown to bits by me. Well, us. I don't think I could've finished the job well if we hadn't properly coordinated who does what in the train." She pointed at him with her tail. "You were inside, right? Could be a stupid question, but I was outside the whole time, so I'm not sure."

He listened attentively, processing the barrage. "I was, yes. My apologies for asking, but did you say your 'job'?"

The woman from earlier returned, a metal can of water in one hand and a basket of small, wooden cups in the other. She placed both on the ground without a word and sat down again. Sephtis noticed that he and the chimera were the only ones sitting cross-legged, while the two women sat propped on their one arm with both legs pointing in the opposite direction.

The chimera's smile reappeared and her face brightened. "Yes, my job!" she exclaimed. "I'm a manufactured chimera of the Ärmoni Works Company - the latest of its kind. Though my testing phase is technically over, I'm still required to help those in need whenever I can, though official contracts take priority; battle my way through the clients I serve; or scout undiscovered or barely explored areas. Sometimes, I even get to build weapons or tools and distribute them!" She giggled. "I guess I'm a bit of a walking, talking ad for my company, but I also do it because I'm glad to fulfil my duty." Raising her index finger, she added, "That's the one thing that wasn't manufactured alongside my body."

While the chimera had given her lengthy and enthusiastic answer, Sephtis had filled the kettle with water. He frowned at the fire, realising he had nothing on which to hang it and no bricks on which to put it. Mentally shrugging, he supposed putting it beside but not directly in the fire would have to suffice. "Necessity has made me grow accustomed to drinking my tea plain over the last six months, so I'm afraid I have no sugar or milk to offer."

"I'll pass," the woman the chimera had identified as Raegan responded.

Sephtis looked at the woman to his right, but she returned his gaze with an indifferent, yet slightly hostile, shrug. "I drink my coffee black and sugarless, so it can't be any different."

"I don't mind!" the chimera replied when Sephtis looked at her questioningly next.

He collected three of the five cups from the basket and placed them next to the tea leaf pouch. "I've heard of your company's name somewhere, but I can't place it," he said, continuing the conversation. "Weren't they involved in a scandal that had them expelled from Lemuria? I apologise if I'm confusing them with somebody else. I simply haven't encountered them in either Lemuria or Redwind, so you could possibly hail from a different nation."

The chimera looked taken aback by the question. "Oh! No, that was Triple-A. Err, Amity Ark Access, I mean. We've... Well, it's weird that I say 'we', since I'm technically not included, but we've been warring against them for monopoly over the chimera business for so long that people, err, forgot who was who. The whole 'A' thing didn't help - it's actually why we got a new name, from just Ärmoni to Ärmoni Works Company. Triple-A was unethical to begin with, so when they tried to extend their influence to Lemuria, it didn't work out and they collapsed. I'm the first chimera from the ÄWC sent here, but I'll whole-heartedly admit that nothing about my creation process was ethical. It wouldn't have happened if the world wasn't in such a big crisis, though, but it's still no excuse."

Sephtis nodded, masking his considerable concern. "Ah, I see. Thank you for clarifying. How do they monitor you? You speak as if they're aware of everything you do. Given the unpredicted nature of the Lemuria's fate, I doubt they could have accounted for that." Though he didn't address the two women, he could tell they were listening with equal interest. It was likely the first they heard of the chimera's origins, or, at least, the most detailed version thereof.

"Oh, they can't really..." She smiled in what appeared to be a mischievous fashion and averted her gaze to stare into space. "Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. No, they can't monitor me directly. I'm not a unique chimera just 'cause I'm the latest of my kind; I'm unique because I'm the first chimera to combine the function of... hmm... foot soldier and researcher, if you will. I inherited Miss Purprille's abilities, so I can make weapons just as well as I can use them." Her gaze found his again. "They can't treat their researchers like they treat their chimeras, so my situation is new. The kind of new that scares. They sent me here because they probably expect me to die. If I was a normal chimera, they'd have implanted an aether-powered tracker inside of me to know where I am, what I'm saying and what I'm doing. Can't do that with a researcher, though! And they do want to keep their image intact, after what happened to their rivals."

"Hmm." Sephtis had learned much from her, but not about anything that was relevant to him. He'd need to divert his focus to her comrades if that didn't change soon. "Pardon me, but why would they expect you to die here? Lemuria's recent earthquakes were concerning, but as I've said, nobody knew of what they were foreshadowing. Then again, your company seems quite influential, so it's entirely possible they could possess knowledge hidden from the public's eye, their so-called 'unethical' experimentation and any information related to it aside. Take your Miss Purprille, for example. If you had somehow inherited her abilities, as you say, she must have been an individual of particular importance."

"She was, yes!" the chimera confirmed joyfully. "Among the top researchers in chimera creation. She found a way to birth them directly, which led to failures, which led to me." She cocked her head sideways. "Though I haven't reached a high enough status to know exactly what's going on, Miss Purprille told me that the order she was given for my creation was in answer to something the higher-ups knew about Lemuria's earthquakes. Oh, and since I don't think you were there, it wasn't just earthquakes. We also fought Fle- We fought some monsters made entirely of flesh and bones, and they were spawned by a gigantic creature that messed up the entire place." She glanced at the two women individually. In a more serious tone, she added, "And I'm aware that's a big euphemism compared to what it actually looked and felt like. The point is the ÄWC must have been aware that the abomination I'm talking about was related to the earthquakes, and sending me here is a great way to collect data, and to get rid of me in case things are worse than whatever they expected."

Sephtis nodded, finally satisfied. Learning from one's employer was vital, and one could learn a great deal simply through observation and asking the right questions. "Thank you. I should like to meet this creator of yours someday, if circumstances allow it." Making it seem like an afterthought, he asked, "Do you perhaps have a name?"

She laughed merrily. "You make it sound like I'm supposed to have a number! Your phrasing is generally marvellous, but you really don't need to plan your sentences so... hmm... meticulously." She shrugged. "I don't have much to hide. I'm Miyavi, by the way! Miyavi Valdios Purprille. As for my creator, her physical body blew up a long time ago, so you won't be able to meet her anytime soon." Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "But you can always talk to her, as long as I'm alive. If you ever actually want to speak to her, you can come find me in private. I'll need your name to make that happen, though. Better for familiarity."

It took a moment to process what had just been casually mentioned. So, this "Miss Purprille" had somehow fused with her chimera after her body's destruction...? Miyavi's intentions seemed pure enough, but he'd need to be on his guard henceforth, for the same could not likely be said of her creator. He'd need to verify everything she told him as well, as she could easily provide misinformation under a veneer of innocence and naivety. For the time being, it was best to move on without raising suspicion.

"Naturally. My name is Sephtis. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miyavi." He regarded the woman on his right. She seemed wearier than before, as if her irritation had given way to fatigue. "What about you, miss? Our meeting was unfortunate, so we might as well rectify that with a proper introduction."

"Welturna," she answered tiredly. "Sorry for snapping at you earlier."

"Apology accepted. I hear you're quite the fighter."

"She's survived a war and now an apocalyptic event!" Miyavi chimed. "She guarded me while I prepared my Fireburst Pods for fighting against the Bu- Against the monster that chased out of the city."

"Impressive," Sephtis admitted. "What is your weapon, if you don't mind my enquiry?"

"White cestus."

"Only one? A daring strategy. You must be quite skilled indeed." He turned to the other woman. "What about you, Raegan? How did you come to join these two?"

"There was an..." She hesitated before continuing, "An incident. At the centre of the city, by a courtyard fountain. I was looking for Cecil, but so many people were injured... I had to help. I couldn't let them die."

"Oh, dear." Sephtis' features turned grim. "I am terribly sorry to hear that. Was he a relative or a lover?"

Her eyes burned with anger. "He is family! He's not dead! I will find him again!"

Several murmured complaints by sounded from the refugees surrounding them. "Of course, my dear, of course!" He said reassuringly. "One must never give up hope! Fate led you to your companions, and you yourself must not be underestimated. Let us pray destiny will reunite you."

Steam started escaping from the kettle. Though the water would take a while to reach boiling point, Sephtis deemed it sufficiently heated for making tea - he needed something else to which to shift his attention anyway. He dropped some leaves from the pouch into each cup, afterwards producing a thermos flask from his bag and repeating the action. He then produced a cloth and used it to lift the kettle, filling each cup and his flask. He handed two to Welturna, indicating one and saying, "For Miyavi," while looking in said individual's direction.

"Thanks!" the chimera said, accepting her cup.

"That's disgusting," Welturna remarked after taking a sip.

Sephtis smiled slightly. "Yes, tea is an infusion of dried leaves, whereas coffee is a solution of roasted beans. There is quite the difference between the two after all, as you have now realised." When she gave him a tired glare, he added, "Redwind produces both, however, so I'm sure we can acquire some on the way north."

"We?" she asked. "You not only suppose you'll travel with us, but that we're heading that way at all?"

Sephtis couldn't restrain a partial grin. "Why, yes, of course." He handed the third cup to Raegan. "Please put this next to Anberlin."

He could feel the collective shock emanating from his newfound companions. Miyavi was naturally the first to respond with, "Oooooh, you know Anberlin? How did you recognise her if she's in her sleeping bag?"

He pointed at the cup Raegan was holding and then pointed at Anberlin's sleeping figure. The woman caught his meaning and sprang back to life, quickly doing as asked. "I was a dark knight before becoming a necromancer," Sephtis answered, looking back towards Miyavi, but also making eye contact with Welturna. "Members of the class can tell much about an individual simply from their aetheric signature, and having worked for Calloway Law for several years before the firm's liquidation, I have come to grow very familiar with Anberlin's. The same goes for Brayel, though I didn't need to be a dark knight to deduce he'd be at Anberlin's side." He considered adding more, but decided against it.

"Why did you make a cup of tea for her if she's asleep?" Raegan asked.

"She has erratic sleeping patterns owing to chronic insomnia. If she wakes, she'll appreciate it, as my tea is one of the few things she's claimed successfully soothes her nerves." He considered the sleeping bag next to her and sniffed disdainfully. "Brayel has no taste, so he could never tolerate its robustness, even with inglorious amounts of sugar added. He could never tolerate me either, as he finds me pompous and condescending. An unfortunate viewpoint, and one I'd be more inclined to attempt altering if he wasn't so coarse and brooding."

"You sound very... deliberate," Welturna observed.

He looked at her and smiled slightly. "Oh, that's because he's awake and can hear perfectly well what I'm saying. It's easy to annoy him, and although I acknowledge the pettiness of the activity, it is rather amusing seeing him scowl."

"Prick," the 'sleeping' fox responded, eliciting a hearty round of chuckling from Miyavi.

As if on cue, Anberlin stirred and rolled over. She slowly sat up, turning to face the fire but stopping once she saw, or smelled, the tea beside her. Her head snapped up and her eyes locked onto her former enforcer's face. She assessed his appearance for a couple of seconds before whispering, in a strained voice, "...Sephtis?"

For the first time that evening, Sephtis genuinely smiled. "Greetings, my dear. Have you missed me?"
But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
- Paul the Apostle

Spring has returned! Winter is over, and BrumalHunter is no more!

Patience is the strength of the weak, impatience is the weakness of the strong.
— Immanuel Kant, Philosopher