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TehUltimateMage

X-DREAMERS [mission 01: ash and sand]

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Lara wanted to do many things. She wanted to punch someone, she wanted to cry, she wanted to run back there and tell him exactly what she wanted him to know. But no, that was not the proper time. Once she was a good distance away, she stopped for just a second, trying to collect her thoughts. That was the most childish she’d ever acted since… God, she couldn’t remember when she last acted so petty, but it had been before she lost Amanda, perhaps even before Henry left her. The truth was, it had been years. She was always much more mature than that. Stupid, stupid, stupid! You should’ve KNOWN what he’d say, Lara Rochelle! Now look what you’ve done! She did her best to hold back a scream. Ah, how much she bottled up. Stan was right. He was right. She was always focused on being cool and collected, keeping her calm in even the worst situations. STUPID. You stupid wench! You’ve gone and **** ed it up.

 

Of course she did. She ruined everything good that ever happened to her, whether it was significant or small. This could have been one of the best things to happen, if Stan so much as loved her back. There were so many good memories, even if he annoyed the hell out of her sometimes. Lara bit her tongue. No, she wasn’t going to cry now. She may have just messed up a good friendship, if anything else. But she messed everything up, didn’t she? She messed up when Amanda died. She messed up, she wasn’t a good enough girlfriend for Henry. She messed up when her mother died. Everything was her bloody fault, and it was happening again.

 

Emotionally, everything was crashing down. She glanced at a rock on the ground. Gritting her teeth, Lara picked it up and chucked it at one of the filthy rats that crawled around. The thing scurried off, clearly frightened. Ah yes, she messed up just now. But throwing the rock was cathartic.

 

She kept moving, glancing at her tracker every now and then. Stan’s dot was on the move, he had no intention of finding her and telling her everything was okay. Oh well, she didn’t need him anyway. Though part of her did hope that they’d at least keep things professional if they couldn’t mend after this. Oh, how silly, of course they could. They’d been through worse… Right?

 

Had they? Lara tried to remember a time that was worse, but she couldn’t remember off the top of her head. Maybe she was too busy being anxious to think of it, perhaps there was worse. She needed to have a clear mind to remember though. Perhaps when she knew things were okay again would she remember. And then she’d laugh at how silly this all was. That’s all it was, right? Just some petty drama. That had to be it. She was just going crazy. That’s all. She glanced at one of the rooftops. Maybe if she took to the skies she’d feel better. She needed to. Lara scaled the side of the nearby house and hopped onto the roof. The air was thick with dust, but it still felt better than feeling grounded down below.

 

Taking deep breaths and trying to think of other things, Lara continued onwards, feeling just a little bit better. She knew what she needed to do. She had to apologize to Stan, as soon as he and she were both calm. After all, it was her who got upset. He was just showing he appreciated her… well, past tense indeed if she ruined their friendship. She hoped not, she hoped that everything would be okay. Perhaps it would be. It was best to remain somewhat optimistic, but be realistic and remember that the worst could actually happen.

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Arch | Clockshop > Grigor's House

 

Cam’s emotional inner turmoil was plainly evident by the expression on her face. Arch watched Cam’s trembling lips as she spoke, barely suppressing the urge to wrap his arms around her and whisper soft words of comfort into her ears. Years of living with Jane had conditioned Arch to leap to his daughter’s side whenever he saw tears brimming in her eyes, but he did not know Cam. He didn’t know what would make her most comfortable so he stayed rooted in place. When Cam feebly reached for his forearm, Arch inched closer so she could have better access to the fabric she was clutching between her fingers. Once Cam finished speaking, Arch offered her a small smile.

 

“Trust me, the deaths of those I cannot sage weighs heavily on my mind.” Arch’s eyes fluttered closed as he took in a shaky breath. “I have spent countless restless nights thinking about every mistake I made that cost lives and the utter unfairness of life, but—“ Arch’s eyes opened. “—worrying about the inevitability of death doesn’t save lives. I exist to serve humanity, not fret over it. I may not be able to save everyone, but so long as this body draws breath I will do whatever it takes to save as many humans as possible.”

 

Satisfied that he had gotten his point across, hopefully reassuring Cam in the process, Arch turned around and motioned towards his back. “I’m afraid I’ll need both hands to carry Badu so you’ll have to climb on my back. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t drop you.” Arch held still, grimacing slightly as Cam’s hand brushed against his damaged wing while she climbed up on his back. Once she was in a secure position, Arch stood up. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Stan finishing up a conversation over the com. Arch recalled Lara asking Stan if they could talk alone before glancing over at the other agents expectantly. Considering how impatient Lara appeared to be what with her hands on her hips and her eyes narrowed in frustration, Arch thought that departing as soon as possible would be best for everyone.

 

Arch walked over to Theo and, with one last glance towards Stan and Lara, leaned in to whisper into his husband’s ear. “Try to get not get lost,” he teased. Grinning, Arch pulled back and walked to Badu. He picked her up with ease, allowing her to rest in his arm while he used one of his hands to hold the cube. Walking outside of the shop, Arch glanced over at the small blinking dot on the cube. It didn’t seem to be too far away. Hopefully, he’d be able to reach his destination in a timely manner. Making sure both Cam and Badu were securely clutched to his body, Arch launched himself in the air and began to fly in the direction of the flicking dot.

 

———

 

The tracker led the party to what appeared to be a vacant alleyway. As Arch landed, carefully putting Cam and Badu down, he noticed that there didn’t appear to be anyone else around. The alleyway itself was matted with sand and filled with an unruly stench, but the same could be said for most of the city Arch had seen so far. Glancing back down at the tracker, Arch stared at the big dot at the center of it. The tracker claimed that the destination was somewhere in front of him, but when Arch looked back up all he saw was the alleyway. It had to be somewhere down there, right?

 

Motioning for his companions to follow, Arch began to head down the alley being careful not to accidentally brush his wings against the grimy walls. He weaved through the corridors of the alleyway, stepping over dark puddles and occasionally checking the cube to make sure he was on the right track. Arch stopped walking as soon as the tracker let out a faint beep, indicating that he had arrived at the destination. When Arch glanced up, he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary save for a plain wooden door. If the tracker claimed that Duke was nearby, he had to be in whatever building that door led to. Arch grabbed the doorknob and tried to open it, but the door refused to budge. Arch frowned; was the door locked? Was someone keeping Duke hostage? Gripping the knob tighter, Arch forcibly pried the door open, nearly banging it against the wall. Calling Sherrkyle to his side should he find trouble, Arch scaled up the stairs of the house.

 

Thankfully, Arch’s wariness was unwarranted. Upon entering the only room in the house (it had to be the only room considering the lack of any door beyond the one he had just entered), Arch’s grim expression melted as soon as he saw the four men crouched together with a familiar cube being held by one of them.

“Greetings gentlemen,” Arch said kindly with a gentle smile. He placed a hand on his chest and bowed to them. “Forgive me and my companions for the intrusion. I can assure you I mean no harm.” Straightening himself, Arch held out the cube in his hand in an attempt to placate any worries the men might have. “My name is Arch. As you can see, I’m from the same organization as Duke. I’ve been sent here to retrieve Duke and his companion. We need to regroup before taking any further actions.”

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#Arch, Theo, Badu, Jowan, Duke#

 

Despite herself, Cam felt an overwhelming joy while they were soaring above the city on the angel's back. The wind was in her ears and she was grinning -- and thankfully, nobody was able to see her smile at the landscape. Even perched on roofs, she had never seen all these skaa houses from this angle! They looked like little square clusters arranged in triangles, and they were punctuated by much bigger and pointier noble properties. The big streets traced straight lines through Luthadel, while the smaller streets seemed to swirl and get lost within the buildings. Usually this kind of thing was reserved for an Ironpuller's more useful counterpart, the Steelpusher. She envied them and their ability to soar hundreds of feet using the metal of a single coin, because all iron burners like her could do was pull themselves up to a spire and then accidentally get impaled by its spikes.

 

The flight was much too short for her taste, but she understood that they did have a certain sense of urgency to what they were doing. The slums here were unfamiliar to her and that put her a little on edge. She followed Arch quite closely, yearning for the protective canopy of his wings but only ended up nearly tripping into them.

 

They ended up at a nondescript door that she might have easily dismissed either because of its hidden location, or its downplayed entrance camouflaged in soot. It didn't matter much, because Arch simply forced it open and entered. 

 

Cam spared a glance at the robed woman with goggles (the doctor?), who just shrugged and followed the angel up the stairs. Cam followed as well, so as to not be left behind. 

 

~~~

 

Rattle rattle.

 

Grigor froze. He looked like a startled prey animal, tilting his head to listen for the noise he heard. He raised a finger at Dynarst to demand silence, and it took a split second for the other man to understand that suddenly, something was very, very wrong. 

 

Whatever was having trouble with the doorknob didn't bother figuring it out, as a slam -- the sound of something hitting the door -- immediately followed, causing both men to jump and the woman tending the soup to nearly drop what she was holding. Dynarst's heart threatened to flee his body, while Grigor cursed to the Lord Ruler's name under his breath and grabbed Jowan's uninjured arm. 

 

"Climb to the roof and run," he hissed to the magical, firemaking man, all while pushing him towards the window and ushering him through it. "If lucky, at least you won't be caught in the slaughter.

 

Once Jowan was mostly outside, Grigor himself was already halfway through the opening. He looked back, to urge the others to come and save themselves before--

 

Dynarst had his mouth open, ready to scream, but the form climbing the stairs was neither the straight-backed and sharp silhouette of an inquisitor, nor the heavy shadow of an armored guard. It was a familiar four-winged shape, and perhaps the only one of its kind in the city. Dynarst hadn't met this friend of the Duke's personally, but, if he and his entourage were friends with Lefevre, then there was no danger to be afraid of.

 

Still, it was hard to override his frantic panic so quickly. He wanted to tell the winged man that Duke was right here, but no words came from his mouth. Instead, he simply pointed in the direction of the agent's sleeping form, with its black uniform wrapped in a white cape. He made eye contact with a skaa who was accompanying them, and she stared back with tight lips, unimpressed.

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Yusei | Monsters Inside and Out

 

She really was still just a child. Fate, unfortunately, exposed her to more than she should have been dealt. He knew that well enough. "And you only use iron," he commented with a faint nod in her direction. Yusei wouldn't share Elise's secret; she was safe from him. "Lady Elise," the man started, making as much use of Nitro Warrior's distraction as he could. "You don't have to thank me," he murmured. He studied the subtle slump in her shoulders, his expression neutral. Yusei wanted to do more for her, yet he didn't know what. And Nitro Warrior was beginning to lose the guards' collective attention.

 

The same guard from before caught his gaze. Glancing once more at Elise, the man slipped away from the girl and strode towards the guard. "You know something?" he inquired softly, to which the guard nodded slightly.

 

"Ya know the Koloss, right?" The guard squeezed one eye shut and scratched his beard, reconsidering his words. "Well, you probably don't, but they're these huge hulking blue monsters shaped like people that rampage outside of the city sometimes. Lord Ruler made 'em and controls them, so people say. These sand monsters... Maybe the Lord Ruler made 'em too (though only he'd know). They're as strong and as unkillable as Koloss, and they're within the city walls. Except where a Koloss would have muscle, they have nothing but dried skin and bone. Sometimes we have to fight 'em. They bleed the sand."

 

Another guard cut in, voice but a whisper, stepping close to Yusei. "People say the sand you speak of is a form of the Lord Ruler's retribution, which seeks out liars and thieves, noble or skaa, and turns them into these mindless creatures. It seeps through cracks and through the water, like mist or ash, to corrupt its targets, so you better watch out."

 

"Pure mistfarts, Jaheim," scoffed a third guard, disrupting the hushed conversation. "Don't listen to him and his superstitions, Sir Yusei. The Lord Ruler can kill someone in sixteen different ways, and that's not counting His bare hands. Why would He need to resort to something we now know is not from this world?"

 

Yusei's blue eyes shifted to each guard as they spoke up, his neutral features shifting faintly as the corner of his lips curved downward. The presence of monsters was worrisome, both outside the city and apparently within. Folding his arms across his chest, he focused his gaze upon the ground, mulling over the implications. A heavy footstep landed nearby, Nitro Warrior grumbling briefly as it flexed its arms; it could kill these "unkillable" beasts, just wait. Yusei shut his eyes, unfolding his arms so he could raise his right hand up and touch Nitro Warrior's wrist. Similar to Stardust Dragon, the creature dissolved into a sprinkling of light and the man returned its card into his deck, the glow of his Mark fading again. "Thank you for the information," he finally said after a few moments more. 

 

It was concerning, the knowledge of a tyrant thriving from the potential slaughter of innocents. It didn't settle well in his chest but there wasn't a way for him to deal with the matter, without first seeing for himself and confirming anything of what the guards shared. Yusei hoped that Stan and the others were making progress in their mission. Before he could think to do much more, he would need to regroup with Typheus; maybe the silver machine had found Fiddlesticks by now. 

 

"Mr. Fudo?" Turning his head, Yusei lowered his gaze to meet Elise's.

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#Yusei#

 

"Mr. Fudo," Elise repeats again. She had approached and wanted his attention again, now that he seemed to have found what he was looking for from the guards. She couldn't really hear what they were whispering about, but Fudo stood, pensive, before dismissing his green golem. Skaa always seemed like they had something to hide, but today, she would forgive them for trying to keep undisclosed from the nobility whatever they were reporting. It was probably nothing but superstition, anyway. 

 

"I just want to know, will you return to us sometime?" she says in a small voice, holding her shieldbearing hand over her heart. "Tonight, preferably. Thanks to you, we can still run the ball, and it would be my pleasure to have you as a guest of honor." The noblewoman feels her face heat up in a blush and grimaces, covering the bottom half of her face with a hand and trying to force the feeling away. Fudo Yusei -- he was like a prince from elsewhere, straight from the storybooks. And she, herself, was befit for a princess, no? 

 

The offer was already out, but now she was having second doubts about bringing him to the Erikeller dance. Father wouldn't approve, and she didn't know how the other houses would react to someone who looked like a ruffian joining their elite and pretentious circles. "Or maybe..." she whispers, halfhearted. "Take me with you?"

 

 And then, she immediately changes the topic. She didn't want to dwell on the outrageous suggestion for too long. "Look out for the Steel Inquisitors... Steel-eyed with shaved heads, they are not hostile to the nobility -- most of the time -- but they do not like outsiders. It's said that in addition to their rapid healing, they have all eight allomantic abilities."

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Yusei | A Feather for Peace

 

"I just want to know, will you return to us sometime?"

 

She was nervous about something. Yusei watched Elise as her face seemed to gain color before she hid behind her shield and fell silent. He continued to watch her, waiting as it appeared she had more to say. Casually, he unfolded his arms and stuffed his hands into his pant pockets. Finally, the rest of her words came as he thought they might, barely drifting on a whisper that he leaned a little closer to be sure he heard accurately.

 

An invitation as a guest... The offer coaxed a smirk to play at the corner of his lips, even as the young woman quickly switched gears. A fraction too loud, a pace too fast. Something left her unbalanced and the duelist wondered about the impression he might be leaving. He decided to use her change in topic, first. "You've explained two of the Allomantic abilities. Will you tell me about the remaining six? I think I may need to be prepared for what to expect," the man commented.

 

She seemed glad that he asked. Her expression had softened. No more political games -- though she did lean in and quiet her voice. "Each allomantic power has its opposite. Iron pulls metals towards you, while steel pushes metals away from you. Brass pushes on emotions to suppress them, while Zinc takes a specific emotion and pulls it to the surface."

 

She counted on her fingers. "Two more pairs, right? Tin increases the user's senses, allowing them to see sharper and hear the smallest sounds and feel the smallest bumps. The inquisitors likely can't take advantage of the enhanced sight since, you know..." she puckered her lips, feeling uncomfortable saying it. "With the nails in their eyes. Tin's opposite is Pewter, which gives the user enhanced strength, stamina, and reflexes; though through what I heard, it seems like inquisitors aren't just simply burning pewter. There has to be another secret to it.

 

"The last two you don't need to worry about. Bronze and Copper are only really of use for Allomancers, and it doesn't seem like it can detect your magic. Bronze is used to figure out if someone is burning any metals, but it's really not useful at all since copper hides allomancers from bronze Seekers. And that's about it!"

 

He took in her explanation, committing it to memory. Noting her discomfort about the state of the inquisitors’ eyes, Yusei wondered about those ‘politics’ involved when individuals who could use all eight metals were discovered. The thoughts didn’t settle well but he refrained from giving any of them away. He hadn’t been an XDRS agent for very long yet he never really fooled himself into believing other worlds would be perfect.

 

"Lady Elise..." he started softly. Reaching for the deck in his duel disc, Yusei spent only a moment to find what he wanted before placing the cards back into the holder. Truthfully, he had been uncertain about his decision until Elise spoke up. Sonic Chick stared out at him from the face of the card.

 

Carefully, conscious of the guards gathered at his back, Yusei lowered himself until he rested upon his right knee. In the same motion, he gently reached for Elise's hand, the fabric of his glove brushing across pale skin, and pressed the monster card against her palm. "I am grateful for the invitation; it's been awhile since I've attended such an event. However, I don't have the right attire - and I don't believe many people would appreciate my presence," he answered, smiling slightly. His voice softened further. "I can't take you with me this time around. Will you take care of Sonic Chick for me until I return? I have a feeling I won't be gone for long."

 

Releasing her hand, he rose back to his feet and nodded his head. "Thank you, for the information and the warning. I'll do what I can to avoid them," he assured. Looking up and away from Elise, he searched for a way out of the young woman's property before the head guardsman cleared his throat and motioned for Yusei to follow him. An escort.

 

“Take care of yourself, Mr. Yusei,” Elise stated before he could take a step towards the other man. He smiled more with his eyes than with his lips. As he turned away from her and began approaching the guard, she spoke again in a much softer voice. “Don’t die, Fudo…”

 

Yusei didn’t think he was meant to hear it.

 

He followed the soldier into the building, hands once again hidden within his pant pockets. Yusei kept his head at a slight angle downward, only catching details from his periphery as they walked. The few people that he spotted watched him as he passed, curious about the outsider who somehow procured a guide through the large home. The guard paid them no mind, metal armor shifting rhythmically with each step as they progressed.

 

“The front entrance. Uh…,” the guard turned to him, words seeming to fail the man after the unusual encounter. “Good luck, I suppose,” he finally finished. With a dip of his head, Yusei strode past him and to the doors, stepping back out into the ashen world with the door clicking shut behind him.

 

Left, then right, the duelist shifted his gaze across the street and up to the skyline. Typheus had flown towards the right. A bridge was just visible in that direction, arching over the canal. He frowned and then put his feet into motion, boots stirring the layers of ash as he traveled.

 

Be cautious….

 

He kept his head down, doing what he could to maintain a low profile despite knowing how out of place he appeared. At least his clothes were battered enough to match that of most of the citizens milling about. Still, he managed to cross the bridge without incident (taking note of the destroyed bridge further down the canal on the left) but now he was faced with the quandary of which path to take. The road forked into three routes, the forward one clearly being a main street of sorts due to its width. 

 

Here, also, he started to notice the slight upward curve of the land towards -

 

He wasn't certain what it was, exactly, beyond an intimidating-looking castle. If Typheus didn't change his route, then the machine would have flown towards the dark structure. Strategically, it made sense. Seek out the highest point in the city if you're aim was to search for someone. 

 

An ill feeling crawled along his shoulders and he shook his head. No, it likely wasn't the best option to choose. There weren't as many citizens on this side of the bridge, though that could have been caused by any number of reasons. Still....

 

Something shot through the sky, generating a noise rather similar to planes back home. Quickly, Yusei spotted it and squinted, trying to make out what it was. Light glinted off its surface, obstructing much of the shape until - Typheus.

 

He started moving again, picking up his pace into a jog, and followed the road a few small blocks before altering his course. Veering left, he hurried down a thinner street before hooking right. The man kept going, gradually slowing his pace and eventually coming to a complete stop. There were no more buildings left to obscure his view.

 

It rose like an ominous presence, looming above the city upon the hill that supported its foundation. The sinister spires he could see only a portion of from Elise's property were now bared like teeth for his witness. He hesitated. He swallowed. He stepped forward, his pace a little less certain than it had been only heartbeats before. Yusei knew Typheus was here, he saw him land among the wicked spires. Maybe Fiddlesticks was here as well, it was the only reason he could sort out for the machine's appearance.

 

Something cold crept up his spine, slowly filling his chest. This place was... terrifying. He could all but feel it. Now he understood why there were no citizens here. Everyone was afraid. He was maybe halfway to the structure, nothing but open land surrounding him as he stood between it and the rest of the city. A lump formed in his throat. Maybe this wasn't a good idea after all...

 

His hands were trembling. Clenching them into fists he took several steps more, the weight in his chest only growing stronger as doubt became much more insistent. Flee.... He stopped again, looking over his shoulder as the thought entered his mind. He could do that. No one knew he was here, right? Perhaps he was in the wrong place, anyways. 

 

A droplet slid down the corner of his eye and he brushed his gloved hand against it. When had he started sweating? Something felt wrong. What wa- 

 

He shot his gaze towards the dark structure, towards its fearsome spires and angry aura. The structure.... A moment of clarity washed through his thoughts as realization struck. But only for that moment. It was almost like a blow, catching him so off guard that he swayed and staggered a couple of steps to the side. He brought a hand up to his face and shut his eyes. He was terrified and that fear, that anxiety, only grew with each step closer to the center. Why?

 

Something it's causing. A symptom of its existence. But what for? Why drive people away in fear?

 

He didn't know. Every nerve prickled with the desire to run away. 

 

He lowered his hand, opened his eyes, and took another step forward.

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Stan -- Commercial District, On the way to Duke's

 

"You've been stressed out, lately..."

 

"I'm not meant to do this. I... I don't want this kind of responsibility. I'm responsible for my own actions, and mine alone. I can't worry about other people. I'm not meant to worry about other people."

 

Stan slammed a fist into a nearby wall, hissing in frustration. The toughness of the brick jolted through his arm and made his knuckles hurt through his glove. It was a tangible reminder that that limb was still alive -- a reminder that he was still alive, despite some days feeling dead inside. The pain helped him focus on the present, with its almost surreal-appearing ruins dusted with ash, so different from the white-bleached city he had known as a child.

 

The hourglass weighed down in his other hand, swinging lightly on its hinges as he held it by the handle. He asked for it back because he didn't trust her with it. Maybe he should have told her that to her face, because she was taking offense to everything he did regardless of his intentions -- if she were to act like this and cause discord on missions, perhaps it would be better for them to keep each other at arm's length. What happened to the person he liked to share jokes with? The headpat was a joke, wasn't it? Was her mock irritation to every one of his comments only her playing along, or was she offended this whole time? Why were they friends if she insisted on hating everything he did?

 

Why was he angry?

 

The hourglass swung, rocking like a pendulum. With no one on this street, its creaking joints sounded ominous in the air. Stan stilled himself. He hadn't moved, but the Anchor seemed to be gaining energy. Weird. He looked around, feeling uneasy, but dismissed it as his mind making things up to avoid having to think about the situation.

 

Until his whole metal arm slammed into the wall involuntarily.


"Lady doesn't know how to treat a guy with respect," came a voice from above. Stan felt a startled jolt in his body and his free hand instinctively reached for his hip, but his fingers grasped nothing but air. Right. Left the glock at home. His eyes darted to the direction it came from, up to a figure jumping down from a rooftop and landing lightly on its feet. The boy seemed no more than sixteen from his lankiness and too-big hands, but his features were sharp and mature, framed by dusty curls falling over his ears. While he was just as dirty as many of the skaa, his clothes seemed to be a step up from what the workers usually wore. He bounced from one foot to the other, as if bored with no outlet to his energy.

 

"Excuse me?" said Stan. It was less of a question and more of an exclamation. 

 

"No wonder you posted a scout. You didn't even notice that we were tailing you for a good while now," the boy continued. He stretched his arms out, making a show out of reassuring Stan that he was unarmed, before crossing his fingers behind his head. "I wasn't sure if she was just pulling at my leg or something with her bare-thigh fashion, but I think I get it now. It's easy to dress up in an angel costume, but it's a lot harder to make the flight look real. Kudos. I'm sold."

 

Stan had a feeling that he was talking about Lara... and he realized that his anger was now redirected towards the stranger who seemed to act like he knew more about Lara than he did. He didn't like the way he talked about her in such a mocking tone. "Not that I was planning to buy you, anyway. Hell knows what kind of way she'd throttle me if I came back to her with you as an apology gift," the older man replied with his wit. Still got it! He smirked. "Yeah, we're looking to get these artefacts back and clean up the sand in your world. It's our job."

 

The teen shrugged. "Well, if she's taken, she's taken. I don't got a thing for older women, anyway. And by the way--" he continued before Stan could deny that he and she were a couple. This time, his voice lost its pep and turned dark. "Where are you taking Cam?"

 

The man was startled at the sudden mention of the name. Cam? Cam! That girl. They took her to keep her safe. She didn't mention she had friends or family. There was also the possibility that less savory types were looking for her, and that revealing too much might cause trouble for her down the line -- but Stan thought he heard a hint of worry in his voice. "She's under our protection," Stan replied, carefully choosing his words and keeping his description neutral. "Trust me, she's a lot safer with us than within the sands."

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Lara had not been too far, sort of slowly pacing Stan. She had wanted to go back down and apologize, but she figured Stan was probably too upset, too frustrated with her own bull **** that it was best to just meet him at Duke. But then she heard an all-too familiar voice and she froze. It was…. That kid she judo flipped off the roof- Lamar? Lamar sounded right. He was coming after Stan this time- had he overheard their fight? He had to have, because oh did Lamar have some lovely words to say. It's easy to dress up in an angel costume, but it's a lot harder to make the flight look real. What the bloody hell was that supposed to mean? Was she going to have to go down there and kick that child into his place? That tone he had when talking about her, she was ready to jump down and throw him down the alleyway. Then she could kiss Stan and life would be all hunky dory! Give me a break, Lara thought, If life were that easy my mum would be alive too. But for now, she thought she had heard enough.

 

Lara slinked to the edge of the roof, resisting the urge to take a rock and drop it on Lamar’s head. She was about to slip her leg over the edge and hang when she heard Lamar mention Cam. Oh no, I dislike her too… But she wasn’t nearly as bad. No, not even close. She was just snippy, not slimy like this boy. That was it. Lara started to hang off the edge, digging her foot into a crevice and beginning to climb back down. When she was safely on the ground, she leaned against the wall and gave Stan a glance. He was mad at her, sure, but he had been…. defensive. He knew she would’ve been upset had he brought her Lamar, but the Lord above knew she had plenty of bones to pick anyway. Why not pick one with the child?

 

He’s right, boy, I almost died in those sands.” Lara glowered at Lamar, her voice almost a growl. “Whatever business you have with her, I’d suggest you leave and take it back with you.” She wasn’t nearly upset with Stan anymore. She had had a reason to be, but it wasn’t that deep. However, she had more than one reason to hate Lamar. So here she was, threatening someone. Man, she wasn’t going to have her own children, Lord knew how bad she would be with them.

 

But she was young, it was nowhere near her time to worry about that. Who knew? Maybe she’d one day be amazing with kids, but while she was young she wouldn’t be. That was what she knew first hand.

 

Briefly she thought of Evonna, who was all worried about finding her way in the castle. Was she that horrible with children, she would help Evonna find her room? She thought that girl seemed really nice, very quiet and very, very trustworthy. Maybe not the way she had trusted Stan, but…. perhaps could one day be close. Perhaps a part of her friend group. Evonna was an exception, Lara decided, maybe someone who can help her actually get along with kids. She was actually choosing to be protective over Cam, whom she assumed was also young. Perhaps one day she’d get there, just not yet.

 

And by the way, not smart to start mocking me when I’m not too far away. That’s a surefire way to get your ass kicked.

 

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[ forced wanderlust : theo -- ; ] 

 

Well.

 

He lost Arch.

 

His husband.

 

His husband, that he had just lost hours ago. 

 

He lost him again.

 

Theo resists the overwhelming urge to split the sun into fragments and instead skids to a stop, blue eyes scanning the horizon. Where was he? He had been following Arch's form only seconds ago -- wings out against the sky, Badoodoo and the girl clinging to his nicely sculpted arms.

 

And now.

 

He was gone.

 

Theo scoffs, angrily kicking rubble from one of the roofs downwards as he scowls. Where did he go now? He is uncertain of the location, because he does not own of those cubes -- it belongs to his husband, whom he lost -- oh god he lost his husband -- 

 

Theo stares up. He does not want to be lost again, forsaken in a land that has moved on beyond his time. He is not ready -- to be abandoned once more.

 

Theo closes his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. No -- that will not happen. This organization -- and more importantly, Arch -- will not leave him behind, not when they have pledged membership to him so suddenly and gone about their mission. He has more faith in humans than that -- if Arch is to trust them so resolutely, then he will do as well. Mind made up, Theo decides to head back to the area they originally split from, as surely -- without a doubt -- someone will return once they realise he is not with them.

 

And if not, he will shoot lightning into the skies until they return to claim him. 

 

Theo gathers himself, jumping from his current position to another roof with a much smoother surface for faster running. He shall return as soon as possible -- in order to ensure he does not miss anyone who may be confused as well. Even if it is the doctor or the peasant girl, he will accept any allies in finding Arch once more. As he runs, Theo skids to a halt when he realises he hears voice and misses the way chunks of the roof fall as he abruptly stops, jerking his heels into the material. 

 

Theo summons his spears once he realises the voice is unfamiliar -- the enemy? -- but as the three people come within view the knight relaxes. Ah. He recognises these people -- two of the three, anyways. There is the man that commanded Arch, and his ... friend.

 

Whatever their relationship, Theo is not concerned. He only wishes to find Arch. This thought in mind, Theo stabs his spears into the roof beneath his feet and waits -- it seems they are talking, and if the newcomer is dangerous he cannot reveal himself too soon.

 

Only it seems the boy does not have any bad intentions. His posture is relaxed, friendly almost, but with a certain edge in his step that reminds Theo of the street thieves that always posed a pesky threat to his lady, way back when. 

 

He does not like those who act friendly only for gain. He has spent too much time protecting Jane from the stares of men with only greed and power in their mind. Then, the woman steps foward and speaks, her posture obviously guarded, and Theo makes up his mind. This small boy -- whoever he is -- is an enemy.

 

He is fully prepared to strike him down, here and now, so that Stan may tell him where Arch is. Small sacrifices. 

 

Theo stands, preparing to jump down and establish himself in the scene, but just as he pulls Legios from the roof he hears a crack, and then --

 

Oh, no.

 

The floor beneath his feet abruptly gives way and Theo just barely manages to avoid collapsing into the inner room by jumping upwards as the roof leaves his feet, but now -- he is freefalling. Directly down. 

 

Theo has just enough peace of mind to withdraw Legios and the spears disappear in a spark of red lightning, running up and down along his forearms, before he comes crashing down on top of Stan. 

 

--

 

[ oh god finally : duke -- ; ]

 

He wakes suddenly -- open, gasping breaths, and it is only the faint shouting of something in the back of his mind and the sudden energy that fills his limbs that causes him to sit up, stunned. 

 

Duke blinks, realising he has awoken in the middle of chaos -- there are people moving about, scuffling, and a certain sense of dread hanging in the air that is -- unusual. For a second his heart jumps into his throat and he fears the worst -- where is he? Has the steel-eyed creature returned from beyond the grave?

 

His hands scramble for a sword at his side that is not there; despite himself, Duke winces -- his fingers are still numb with the lingering feeling of a long rest and the reminder of his sword scattering across the rocks does not do wonders for his confused mental state. More importantly, his sword had been a relic of the past -- of a home he still misses and longs for sometimes.

 

His collection of souvenirs is growing smaller, and Duke fears -- he does not completely want to answer if or if not he will still remember the people that mattered without physical impressions of their touch. 

 

Restrain yourself! Vylcan's voice is sharp in his head and it snaps Duke to attention; he turns his head, prepared to see the familiar trace of Vylcan's white form against his shoulder, but is met only with nothingness. Ah, that's right -- for reasons unknown, Vylcan could not take shape in any universe along the multiverse apart from their own. Perhaps the Empress' touch wandered too far from her children, so far away in this new world. 

 

And then he wonders if Takao's arrows would cut through the sky as sharply as they do in a place where the sun does not shine, and it is the memory of the friends he left behind in order to serve a higher purpose that finally draws him to the present.

 

It is chaos. There is scuffling, an unfamiliar room, Dynarst's white face, and Duke is immediately on his feet -- he is unsteady but sharp, confused but prepared, and just as he prepared to protect those that matter right now he stops and blinks.

 

"Oh -- hi Arch," he says, stunned. Where was the trouble? Duke takes a quick look around the room but he can find no other newcomer, only the angel in his majestic form -- his wings displayed across the room in their full glory, his chest held high and his eyes bright.

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#Fiddlesticks, Typheus... Yusei#

 

The inquisitor observed the metal creature as it coiled its legs and bounced its way up the structure. More clumsy than any allomancer, of course, and taking much longer. Looking up, the farther the bot ascended, the less bright she shone in his vision. He considered following it up, but instead used the time to patrol the area a little. He doubted that she would find what she was looking for, which was likely for the best because big groups of unknowns meant big trouble. The inquisitor was uncertain if Kar, his direct superior, would even approve of him speaking to an otherworldly creature instead of immediately destroying it and throwing it into the canal. 

 

The spot of blue above was joined by a second one, streaking through the sky at speeds never seen before, and moments later, both shapes floated downwards back to ground level. The second bot was very similar to the first: tall legs, hollow, with movable eye parts, but they did differ on several major details such as ear shape.

 

"I see... Your friend. Is also a metal creature." He didn't know if he should have expected any different. "You must leave this area now," he cautioned them both. "Now that you are reunited. Not safe." He didn't mention that he was the one who made the area unsafe.

 

Kredik Shaw's soothing didn't affect monsters like them. Since becoming an inquisitor, nothing had frightened him -- but this did, a little. At least he was fairly certain that the brown one's objective wasn't the Lord Ruler himself... but what of the white one?

 

He saw another shape, in the distance. Many teeny specks of trace metals, moving through space.

 

"If you will excuse me," said the inquisitor, "I have a duty which I must attend to."

 

With a burst of pewter-powered speed, the inquisitor ran forth and away from the bots. The man's silhouette in his vision had hair like a thorny plant and a billowing coat with bright metal buttons, boots with metal detailing, and... some sort of dull blade at his forearm.

 

With any luck, he'd run and realize how terrible a place the palace was. And if he didn't... the inquisitor licked his lips. He felt his side for the presence of his axe.

 

If he didn't run, that would be just as fine.

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Stan -- Commercial District

 

"Ah, there she is," Lamar said to Stan, having noticed Lara first. The man was a good decade older than him, but he talked to him with the causal air of someone his own age. Stan turned to look at her as she climbed down and landed lightly on the ground. The Lara he knew -- stern, witty, and in control -- was back. He nodded to her, glad that she had returned.

 

"Suggestions, from you? My business is my business," Lamar retorted. He snorted, catching a chuckle before it escaped him. "Can't make decisions if you know nothing about the situation. But I'm glad she's safe, even if she has terrible company like you." He grinned. She said it was a bad idea to insult her when she was not too far away, but not when insulting her to her face.

 

Stan was about to question his relationship with Cam, but before he had the chance, two hundred pounds of man and armor came crashing down on him and pinned him to the cobblestones. Lamar winced visibly, sucking in a sharp breath in sympathy as he regained his footing against a wall, having stumbled backwards a little at Theo's appearance.  He lifted his eyebrows in surprise. "Oh, it's your other friend. I thought you were following the angel?"

 

Stan grunted. The hourglass rolled out of his grasp, though thankfully it was undamaged. He flexed his fingers, but some of the digits on his robotic arm didn't respond, crushed under Theo's weight. He had just repaired them, for stars' sake! His anger was exhausted already, so instead of yelling he simply sighed in defeat and slumped into the ground. "Hello, Theo."

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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Oh, it was over for this child. Nobody ever insulted Lara Croft to her face. “Oh, au contraire, I suppose she’d be in terrible company with you, with that temerity you have.” Lara purred back, the venom dripping in her voice as she did so. She didn’t care what sort of freaky powers he had, he was going down. This child was outnumbered, though she winced a bit when Stan was pinned down by the sudden weight of Theo, she even heard a bit of a crunch. “Stan? Please tell me you’re okay.” She glared at Lamar and prepared to pounce. “Because if you are, I might need help giving this child a beat down. Theo, you’re welcome to join me.

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Jowan [ don't scare us like that ]
 

Oh, oh no. Jowan hadn’t meant to put Grigor in danger, but the cube was no longer making the faint hissing noise it had made while the call was active. That meant that he wasn’t in contact with Stan anymore, right? If only he knew how to call him back, he would have been able to tell him to make sure that the four-winged guy (Arch, right?) to be careful. Not that he knew how much that would help anyway. Was it even possible for a winged man to be subtle? Might as well just add not thinking about the danger he was putting the rebellion in to his list of failures. 

 

He froze at the rattling of the door. His mind ran through a list of things that he had to hide (notes, books, wounds, knives, bandages) and he tugged down at the ends of his sleeves -- but why was the door rattling? The Circle didn’t have any locks outside of the Templar living areas. There shouldn't be any more warning than the sound of heavy footsteps. 

 

He didn’t resist as Grigor dragged him towards the window. Better to not struggle. Less punishment that way. 

 

It wasn’t until they reached the window and Grigor started shoving him out of it that he remembered and started to struggle, to little avail. Grigor was stronger and Jowan was too distracted to find proper leverage. “But Duke--” Duke was still unconscious and wouldn’t be able to defend himself at all. Jowan at least still had his mana, and even if he couldn’t fight very well in his current state he had to do something to protect Duke from whatever horror was coming up the stairs. “No, we have to--” 

 

Grigor suddenly stopped pushing him, and Jowan fell backwards unopposed. His back hit the ground with a thud and he scrambled to right himself to see what had entered the room. 

 

Oh.

 

He let himself slump back against the wall and tried to slow his breathing, suddenly feeling very tired in despite the adrenaline still running through his veins. Inhale, exhale. Arch was just standing there politely, as though he hadn’t just barged in and scared them half to death. “Try knocking next time, won’t you,“ he tried to snap, but he was too tired for his words to have much bite. He placed a hand to his chest and focused on the too-rapid beating. 

 

"Oh -- hi Arch,"

 

Duke! Jowan turned his head to look, and his eyebrows raised in surprise to see that Duke was already standing. “You should still be resting,” he said weakly. For someone who had just been dead to the world, Duke looked far too awake. Shouldn’t he still be lying down?
 

Edited by Zor

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b66ab1c5efcb9f5adfe252bf9169f6c7.png [ theo ; -- add. stan ; for. l & l ]

-- status.

legios ; dormant ]

grey ; knight of loyalty

--

 

Surprisingly, his landing is not nearly as disruptive as he would have assumed. Stan makes for a surprisingly good cushion, Theo thinks to himself as his fingers come up and adjust the fur collar pinned around his neck, brushing the soft black fur against his jawline as he fixes his clothes back to their previous arrangement.

 

"Hello," he replies to Stan, who sounds awfully content for their current predicament, and Theo decides -- if Stan isn't going to make a big fuss out of this, neither will he. "It seems like I've found you just in time. Do you know where my husband --"

 

Theo pauses, abruptly catching sight of the boy who had been talking to Stan and Lara before he had introduced himself to them via abrupt delivery, his eyes widening.

 

The angel?

 

"You know my husband?" Theo says, and he moves, quick -- he leaps off of Stan's body with nimble grace, his armour creaking a bit as he does so, and immediately grabs the shoulders of the boy. "I was following him," he confirms. "Where is he? Do you know? Let's go -- immediately, I don't have all day --"

 

He pauses then, looking to Lara with an indignant expression on his aristocratic features. "I'm not going to beat a child," he says, sounding positively appalled, and gives Lamar a shake as if to emphasize his point. 

Edited by Weiss

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#Theo, Lara, Stan#

 

The new man lunges for him and grabs him by the shoulders, much faster than what his armored form would have suggested. The teen felt a flutter of panic from getting surprised, but then relaxes once he realizes that Theo is not, in fact, here to punch his beautiful face. Lamar's attention at the time, he admitted, had been focused on the woman's aggressive stance and how she looked like she was ready to strangle him on the spot. It was a careless lapse -- but wasn't half the fun about the challenge of getting out of tough situations?

 

"Husband...?" Lamar answers, his brain feeling just as rattled as the rest of him from Theo's roughhousing. It was... reassuring? that he confirmed that he did not, in fact, beat children. "I followed him for a bit but I too lost sight of him." He pauses, but before anyone could get the wrong idea (and before Theo could change his mind about beating children) he quickly adds, "He had Cam, so I wanted to follow..."

 

"Right, right, we can go find Arch, Duke, and Jowan if we just follow the tracker. Also, I'm fine." Stan slowly peels himself off the ground and rubs his bruises gained from the fall. He dusts his clothes, shaking off the dirt that Theo accidentally sprinkled onto him. "You," he points to Lamar with a finger of his good hand. "You can come, but only because I have a feeling you'd end up following us secretly anyway."

 

"We ready to go? As a group this time?"

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He lucked out. Theo’s response made Lara chuckle a little bit. He didn’t want to beat up a child, yet he shook the child violently as he did so. But she frowned when Stan said that he could go with them. After all, she had disliked this boy from the very start, and at this point she wanted nothing more than to strangle him. But she had to hold back. She needed to be professional, especially after her little spat with Stan. Proving herself would probably be a good idea. Yet her frown did not change. Lara assumed the boy was smirking, but as she didn’t want to look at him, she didn’t know. For all she knew he was scared pantsless. Theo was a very intimidating person especially when Arch was not with him, she inferred. As he was knew, she could only gather from what she saw.

 

Lara sighed in defeat. “Yes, sir.” She chuckled at her own sarcasm. It was fun poking at him, but they needed to go. Lara corrected her still-aggressive stance, opting for a more casual one. “Anyways, yes. We should go as a group, Lord knows we have more Lamars running about. Off we go.” She took a step forward, a hesitant one, more than ready to get a move on so she could find the others and get the hell out of here.

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b66ab1c5efcb9f5adfe252bf9169f6c7.png [ theo ; -- add. stan ; for. l & l ]

-- status.

legios ; dormant ]

grey ; knight of loyalty

--

 

Cam? Theo blinks for a split second before registering that the boy was probably referring to the girl Arch had been kind to, and had decided to take with them on their journey. Squinting at the boy before him, the knight briefly pauses. 


"Are you friends?" he asks, and there is perhaps a soft inkling of sympathy in his voice -- only because he knows what it feels like to spend eternity searching for someone you have lost. 

 

"Then you shouldn't have lost her," Theo says, almost as if scolding the young boy, and he releases one of the boy's shoulders -- still keeping his grip on him, because he knows street urchins and their tendency to flee from any authority -- and gives the other a light dusting like he has seen Arch do to worried humans.

 

Only perhaps he is a bit rough in his actions, but the boy is almost a man. He can handle it, Theo thinks, as he gives the other a rough shove in the chest. Exactly as Arch would do. His husband would be so proud. As Stan slowly makes his way up, Theo nods -- he knew the other was okay, but it still nice to receive reassurance. 

 

"It might take you 800 years to find her," he says to Lamar, imposing some of his life knowledge, "and when you do find her, she's being babysat by some demon wearing skimpy clothing, and in your haste to rescue her from the demon you accidentally shoot an angel out of the sky -- as you do -- and you try to catch him but whoops he falls too fast, and you really should have just dumped him on the demon cat man but instead you ended up taking him with you and then you have Angel God calling you a kidnapper, and the demon blood in your spears really doesn't help your case, but the question might be actually why the angel didn't kill you in the first place, but I suppose it's a good thing he didn't because you're legally married to him now --"

 

Theo shakes himself. He is normally not this talkative. "My point being," he says, facing Lamar. "You should rescue her quickly, or else said angel is going to adopt her. And then you'll never see her again because he's trying to protect her pure human soul."  He hums. "If you happen to have any demonic blood, he might try to kill you -- but you call tell me, I accept all blood types. And I'll try to talk him out of adopting her."

 

"Let's go," he agrees, letting go of Lamar -- but still keeping an eye on him -- and turns towards Stan and Lara, who had taken the first step. "Lead the way," he says, acknowledging them both. 

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Yusei | ATK 2300

 

I should leave. There's something wrong about this place.

 

He took a step forward....

 

It only lasted a moment but he heard the slap of rushing footsteps, the scrape of boots against the ground. Yusei whirled towards the sound, head snapping up to catch just a glimpse of a figure leaping. Dodging, he dove forward, hitting the ground with his shoulder to roll back to his feet. The figure sailed by, an ax slamming into the ground where Yusei should have been.

 

The figure rose from its crouch, ax hanging at their side. Yusei stared at their back, blue eyes narrowing and shoulders tense. He rolled them, feeling that tension fade away. Robes draped from the shoulders, dark spikes protruding from the back of their bald head. The duelist’s hands curled into fists and then loosened a heartbeat later.

 

He should run. He knew that. No, what did that matter? He didn’t stand a chance, couldn’t stand a chance. Just a single human being wi - Wait.

 

Yusei’s gaze snapped back up from the ground - when had it dropped? - and was met by the figure’s twisted features. The ax was swinging forward with deadly intent. When had they started moving? Ducking beneath it, Yusei turned his body into the Inquisitor’s torso, pushing the being sideways and sweeping out with his foot to knock the man - man? - to the ground.

 

His balance was off. Yusei’s jacket was snatched, crinkled within a tight fist as he stumbled. Pulled in a direction he didn’t want to go, Yusei wasn’t surprised by the Inquisitor’s strength all too much; the musculature not hidden by fabric had not bothered to lie. The man fell with his attacker, impact with the ground doing nothing to break the stranger’s hold that left them nearly tangled.

 

His blade… Yusei frowned at the ax, a simple weapon without much to distinguish it. He tried to squirm free of the Inquisitor, managing to untangle his arms and maybe a leg. For a moment, his muscles started to ease as the stranger’s weight almost melted away. I have to get -

 

Get out! Get away!

 

A shot of fear churned in his stomach, his chest tightening as his heart began to race. Movement in the corner of his gaze made Yusei turn his head. The stranger, with his eyes pierced through by metal spires, grinned sinisterly.

 

He enjoys killing, he thought with horror. Sweat streamed down his forehead, trailing along the side of his face. He shouldn’t have come this way. Why had he come here? Foolish. Thoughtless.

 

The Inquisitor was getting up faster than him, pressing down against Yusei’s side and taking advantage of the man’s disoriented state. He was going to die, wasn’t he? The ax came down and Yusei twisted his body as best he could, feeling the blade catch on his jacket. Fabric ripped from the motion, the obsidian edge somehow finding his chest and scoring across a lower rib.

 

I don’t want this. I’m tired of this. Did he just blackout? It was only a heartbeat, a flicker of… nothing.

 

Hissing from the pain and reaching up, he grabbed at the enemy’s belt that kept the folds of cloth together, hitching his left leg up to knee the being in the side of his thigh. Wrapping his leg up into the Inquisitor’s, he forced the monster back to the ground, bringing his elbow around to jab into his back. If I can just -

 

What? He’s armed and I’m not. The air trembled as it left his lungs, his chest rising and falling almost sporadically as he struggled. His duel disc was in the way but he couldn’t get it off fast enough. Yusei managed to land an awkward uppercut into the Inquisitor’s jawbone.

 

It didn’t really help his situation. Perhaps it only made it worse. The man was heavier than anticipated and stronger than initially expected. Yusei felt the tension start to ease again in his back, his eyes drifting away from the Inquisitor and towards the looming structure. I don’t think I can beat him. I - I’m -

 

Something’s wrong. I’m not thinking straight….

 

That flicker of clarity came back, lasting only a moment longer than the first time. It was enough, for now. Under the weight of his attacker, Yusei didn’t have much leverage to use. That ax was making another pass. Grunting, he caught the Inquisitor’s arm with both hands, straining as the blade loomed right above his face.

 

The Inquisitor shifted, requiring a different position for more force. Perfect.

 

The moment Yusei’s body was free, he jerked sideways, letting the ax slam behind him. He kept moving, fighting against the desire to rest now, rolling as the ax surged through hurriedly vacated space. Yusei leapt to his feet and attempted to block yet another slash. The force was more than he could hold off, the blow only muted by his arm. The blade struck the large gem on his shoulder, cracking the amber and knocking him sideways.

 

His shoulder vibrated from the impact, the ache gradually dissipating into a throb. He scurried away as he reached for his deck and the Inquisitor pursued. The ax found its target down Yusei’s back, causing him to stagger. Agony burned in his flesh, his Mark glowed bright, and he swiped the card into place on his disc just as the ax dug into his hip.

 

Pain raced up and down his side as his duel disc lit up. The Inquisitor was still too close, still attacking too quickly. A boot slammed into his stomach and Yusei lost the air in his lungs with a sudden rush. Almost doubled over, he tried to deflect the ax again as a translucent blue circle expanded into existence behind the being.

 

The blade crashed down on his right arm, tearing his sleeve and gouging his bicep. From the edge of his vision, Yusei watched a shape emerge from the summon circle, dark blue metal catching the light. He tried retreating but the Inquisitor managed to get a hold of his shirt, almost his throat, and lift him off the ground with horrifying ease.

 

The Inquisitor was grinning again, bloodthirsty etched into his tattooed features as Yusei hung his head. No. That wasn’t right. Lifting his head, he fixed the steel-eyed stranger with a level glare. I’m terrified… Before the ax finished its arc to his neck, dark steel fingers curled around the blade and handle, halting the attack entirely. Yusei looked past the Inquisitor, his gaze rising up to meet Junk Warrior’s red optics. But I’m never alone.

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Arch | Grigor's House

 

The reception to Arch’s speech was… less than warm. Blinking in confusion, Arch’s radiant grin began to slip as he took in the various distraught looks on the humans in the room. Tilting his head to the side ever so slightly, Arch stared at the humans thoughtfully before realization dawned upon him, causing him to cover his mouth turning pale with horror. Like any decent angel would, Arch tried to maintain a modicum of his composure by mollifying his alarmed expression. He’d be lying if he didn’t find the horrific expressions on the humans disquieting, but that was all the more reason for him to find the best way to soothe them. Arch, so caught up in trying to regain his composure, nearly forgot he hadn't replied until he heard the soft-spoken request to knock next time he entered a room from the shaggy man hanging near the window.

 

“Dear Lua, I frightened you didn’t I?” Arch asked in a quiet voice. “I beg your forgiveness.” Arch lowered his hand from his mouth, clutching it tightly against his chest as he bowed his head as low as he would to a higher ranking angel. “I was under the impression that Duke and his companion were being held here against their will so I took appropriate action. Had I known there was no danger, I would have never been so aggressive with my approach.”

With his apology concluded, Arch raised his hands and clasped his hands together once more. “That said,” Arch said in an upbeat tone. “What I said earlier was no lie. I have been sent here to collect Duke and his friend as per Stan’s request.” Arch gave the humans an apologetic smile in hopes of conveying how genuinely bad he felt for scaring them.

 

In the corner of his eye, Arch caught a glimpse of a blond man staggering to his feet, squinting in Arch’s direction before offering him a simple greeting.

“Hello, Duke,” Arch said with a soft smile. He strolled towards his fellow agent just as Jowan snapped at Duke for standing up. Jowan’s reaction caused Arch to halt a few inches away from Duke, wary that the man might fall over at any given second. “Are you hurt?” Arch asked, his smile morphing into a frown as his eyebrows furrowed in concern. His eyes raked down Duke’s body in search of any obvious injuries. When he did not find anything that warranted further investigation, Arch's eyes snapped back up to Duke's.  “If you need to rest, I have no qualms with carrying you," Arch offered.

Edited by Doctortear

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#Arch, Theo, Badu, Jowan, Duke#

 

The Duke had stumbled to his feet. Even if the threat was a false alarm, Dynarst was amazed that he was already prepared to jump to their defense. Grigor had tumbled back into the room along with Jowan, hissing under his breath at the intrusion and staring at the angel with his characteristic piercing gaze, the corners of his mouth pulled into a frown. Of course, if the scruffy man could generate fire from nothing, it wasn't too much of a surprise to Grigor to see a tall man, blonder than any noble, with two pairs of white bird wings growing from his back. If only he'd given them some sort of warning instead of kicking down the door like that... But at least, he seemed apologetic. 

 

"R-right," Grigor stammers, running a hand through his dark hair to try and calm himself down. "You get that this is a safe-house, yes?" he said to Arch, not that the angel would care. "Surprise visitors that barge in are bad, most of the time. Good that you're not trying to kill us right here 'n now."

 

The woman in the brown hood and the birdlike mask had shuffled over and Grigor stepped aside. She had no interest in him, instead heading towards Jowan -- she tilted her head to one side, trying to properly examine the mangled wrist of his. "Tsk tsk. You went and tore your sutures. What are we going to do with you?" Ignoring Duke right now, since he was up and healthy (seemingly), the plague doctor had begun to unravel a segment of gauze as a temporary fix for Jowan's wound. They were returning soon, supposedly, and having it fixed back at the base would be a lot easier than trying to pick out the stitches right here and now. 

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4a08fabd6d4dc119b18b64e5f6170d25.png [ duke ; -- add. d. g. b. c.; for. a & j ]

-- status.

vylcan ; secondary ]

by your sword -- shield me from judgement!

--

 

Duke takes a second to process the situation, his mind seemingly slow compared to the sudden influx of voices that fill the room. He registers that Jowan has spoken, his words short and fast, his voice -- angry?

 

No -- it is a type of anger, but not fueled by rage. Panic, more like, the realisation that things were -- going wrong. It is unsettling, only because he has spent far too long as part of the revolution that he  instantly snaps to attention when a second's hesitation can mean certain loss. But he sees no enemies here -- only unlikely allies in a suspect world, and so Duke shakes himself out of his stupor and rubs the back of his neck. Had he slept on it wrong? Not that he would exactly expect to judge pillow quality while completing a mission, but it is ... distracting.

 

He sees Arch take a step towards him, speaking all the while, and -- Stan had sent him to retrieve them? Duke internally curses; that must mean that the mission had been accomplished much quicker than he had anticipated. But he had things to do here -- promises to live up to, and he is unsure if Arch will take kindly to being asked 'Hey, can you hold on a second? I just have to go challenge the king, tell Stan I'll be back in a fortnight, take Dynarst while you're at it, godspeed'. 

 

But Arch stops short out of reaching distance, looking concerned. 

 

"Really, I'm fine," he says, realising the entire room is a breath away from panic once more, but greatly assured by Arch's declarations of peace. He spares a glance for Jowan as he speaks, knowing that -- while there are other pressing issues at hand, he does not want the other man to worry. 

 

"I only needed to rest," he says, this time to Arch, and laughs to lighten the situation at hand. "It happens sometimes. You get used to it after the seventh time, as long as someone's watching your back."

 

The words are a lot of heavier than he originally meant them to be, because -- he had someone watching his back, once. It is depressing, entirely unwelcome, and so Duke laughs a second time and forces himself to move on from the topic. "You don't have to carry me, but I'm not adverse to the idea, either. Let me meet my dear Stan once more as I descend from heaven."

 

Hoping Arch knows what a joke is, Duke takes a second to think. "You said Stan was coming? I don't know if it's wise to meet here, especially if you're trying to keep the place hidden." He turns a concerned eyebrow in the direction of Grigor and Dynarst, asking their opinion -- after all, it was their homeland. Above anything, they knew best when it came to how to keep out of trouble.

 

Duke hopes. Trouble has a way of finding him, and he's not entirely faultless, either. He thinks to himself for a second, wondering if there are any other places they could arrange a meetup, before he realises that Arch has brought ... company.

 

"Who's your friend?" he asks, sighting the girl once Badu rushes away from them, suddenly caught up in her own endeavors. From the corner of his eye Duke sees her heading in Jowan's general direction and sends up a prayer for the other man, simply because -- he will admit to being slightly unnerved by the plague doctor, and unsure if her actions are for the good of the people or her own self-interest. 

 

He takes a cursory glance of the girl -- young, her face smooth, and eyes wide in surprise. Duke offers her a smile, hoping not to frighten her -- really, the people of this town scared too easily -- before a thought occurs and his eyes snap back up to the angel.

 

"Arch," he says, something dawning on his face. "Did you randomly lift her off the streets?" Without waiting for an answer, Duke spins on his heel, hand on his chin as he thinks to himself. "Brilliant," he declares, eyes brimming with pride. If Arch could lift random people off the streets -- perhaps there was a way to help the people of this world, after all. Eagerly waiting for the angel's response, Duke stares holes at them both. 

 

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#Arch, Theo, Badu, Jowan, Duke; Stan#

 

Dynarst gestures with his hands, then mumbles, "Duke is right... There's someone else coming, right? We should..." He scans the floor around everyone's feet, looking for the cube object that Jowan had held. It was there by the window, dropped in the chaos of Arch's arrival. He wings his fingers. He would like to have something to do other than stand under judgmental gazes -- even though, most people were too preoccupied with other things to look at him.

 

Jowan and the Duke did teach him one thing in the short time they've known each other. Swallowing his anxiety and trying very hard to calm his breathing, Dynarst takes a few steps towards the cube, surprisingly unopposed, and then crosses the rest of the distance with quick strides. He snatches the cube as if had just stolen it, but holds it lightly in his hands as if he feared he would crush it. It was hefty for its size and felt smooth like a material he had never felt before. Like polished stone, but not cold.

 

Pivoting it slowly around in his hands, he now understands Jowan's confusion at the time. The device didn't have any clues on its purpose, or what to do with it, and if he hadn't heard the voice come through it earlier he would have never thought that it was an object for speaking to. It was so entirely alien, more so than the four winged man in the room right now. The skaa slaps it on the top, gently, but only manages to make it show some red and yellow glowing dots that he could not hope to make meaning out of. He is ready to give up.

 

But perhaps he has touched it the right way at some point or another, because the cube suddenly crackles to life, its communication line open. Dynarst is at a loss on what to say to the man that they had talked to earlier. He didn't think that he would have gotten this far in his task. "Hel...lo? Um..." What was it that he needed to tell this man, again? He glances around the room, confirming everyone's presence. The single room is feeling very crowded. "The wing guy is here... The Duke is awake..." What else? "We should meet not here."

 

"Where?" comes the reply. Short, authoritative. Dynarst didn't think he'd get this far, either, and looks to the rest of the room for direction. "Um..."

 

~~~

 

#Duke, Arch#

 

Cam lifts her chin and looks Duke once over, holding his gaze with conviction. Those are the eyes of a person willing to stand up for those she cares about, unlike the worn down, slumped shoulders and beaten faces of the other skaa in the room. Even though she herself is convinced that she has nothing more to live for, she still stands steady. The time for crying has passed. She recognizes the house here for what it is; while much more modest than her own dwelling space, she knows that this room, in its own little way, is fighting against the suffering of the world. 

 

She doesn't know what to think about this Duke yet. This was the man that everyone kept talking about, but it was a little... underwelming? He didn't seem like he took anything seriously.

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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TArch | Grigor's House

 

“No, I did not know this was a safe house,” Arch said, turning his head to properly address the scrawny human who had spoken up, a hint of a frown creased into his brows. “If I was absolutely certain that this was a safe place, then I would have never barged in as I did. Knowing that Duke was stowed away in a safe house before heading out to find him would have been useful. Then again, Stan might not have known that Duke and Jowan were completely safe so telling Arch that wouldn’t have been the best plan.

 

Mulling over his thoughts, Arch turned back to Duke as he mentioned his nonchalance for being carried. Arch raised an inquisitive eyebrow as he stared down at Duke.

“Not being aversed to being picked up does not mean you are comfortable with it,” Arch pointed out with a wave of his hand. “Do not fret, I shall not pick you up unless it is something you need or desire.” Duke, seemingly quick to continue filling up the silence of the room with his voice, peered around Arch to inquire about Cam. Before Arch could open his mouth to answer, Duke made the startling conclusion that Arch had happily kidnapped her off the street. “That’s—” Arch found himself sputtering, wings panickedly fluttering ever so slightly at the mere notion of snagging Cam off the streets. “I would never do something as repulsive as kidnap an innocent human off the streets!” Arch said. “She came with me willingly, not against her will!” Heart pounding in his chest, Arch inhaled a sharp breath before forcing himself to settle. Taking a human by force was an awfully distressing thought especially considering how elated Duke seemed to be about it, but Arch knew better than to let his emotions get the better of him. Arch mentally counted to three, briefly shutting his eyes before opening them as he exhaled.

 

In the corner of the room, Arch caught sight of one of the humans who managed to get his hands on a communicator. Even with the distance between him and the human, Arch could hear the faint sound of Stan’s voice. Seeing the confusion spread across the man’s face, Arch perked up the realization that he could help the human.

“Oh! We could always use the trackers to find each other,” Arch said. He pulled out his own communicator and motioned towards it. “Instead of going to a particular location, we could both just follow the signal on the trackers until we bump into each other. Finding one another shouldn’t be a problem at all.” Satisfied that he had assisted a human, Arch gave both Duke and Jowan expectant looks, hoping that they would weigh in their own opinions on the matter.

Edited by Doctortear

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