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X-DREAMERS [mission 03: Shadows of an Island]

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Tien watches Milk Cream stalk away from him, feeling more hurt than he probably should be by the rejection. Fractal slides to the floor to trail after the creature, and she must hum at him or something because he jumps so hard from his sitting position that he does a backflip. The sight makes Tien laugh before he turns his attention back to Yosuke. 

 

“Eh, I can’t blame you for bailing,” the waiter says, examining his nails. For a moment, Tien thinks he must be using it as a deliberate cover for something, but no, he really is just looking at his nails. People do that sometimes without using it to mask something else, amazingly. Yosuke seems surprisingly uninvested in the whole thing, which Tien supposes is fair enough.

 

The other boy looks back up with a grin. “I had fun! Well, as much fun as I could have,” and Tien hadn’t quite been expecting that considering his attitude seconds ago, but Yosuke’s grin makes something go warm and soft inside him. 

 

Despite that, when he leans in, Tien finds himself leaning back automatically. The conspiratorial tone he takes sparks Tien’s interest as someone who’s spent years collecting secrets, but the rest of the situation makes him both uncomfortable and vaguely amused. It feels like a leadup to something cheesy, like the answer will be “a pretty boy” or something, and--and, honestly, Tien doesn’t really know if he can, or wants to, handle any flirting right now. 


But Yosuke is...and it’s been...and Tien can humor him a little bit. “What?”

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< STATUS: Stable ; Concerned >

< LOCATION: : Mauna Kea Beach - Near the Beach >

< AGENTS: Tien >

< OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Milk Cream, Sieghorse

 

Yosuke grinned wildly

 

“Hearts!” On cue, Yosuke stuck his hand into his shirt and pulled out a closed fist. When he opened his hand, a red heart-shaped pendant rested in the middle of his palm. The pendant was attached to the gold silver chain that was discreetly tucked away underneath his shirt. Yosuke chuckled, amused by his own joke as he leaned backwards and away from Telinar. 

 

“No, but I really did steal this,” Yosuke said. He wrapped the chain around his finger and began swinging it in a circle. “My friend, the one who signed me up for this gig, got this cheap from a costume jewelry stall at a farmer’s market. I found out that I wasn’t getting paid and that there was little reason to be here so I might have sorta grabbed this when she wasn’t looking. She’s great but God do I hate her—hey!” 

 

Milk Cream, who had recovered from Fractal frightening him, had wandered over towards the two boys and swiped Yosuke’s leg.

 

“Okay, okay, I get it!” Yosuke said. He hopped back on one leg as Milk Cream took another swipe at his shoe. “Geez, you don’t have to defend her honor all the time I’m just messing around.” Milk Cream glared up at Yosuke almost as though he understand before turning around and pacing off. Yosuke rubbed the back of his head, laughing nervously. “Crazy cat,” he mumbled under his breath. 

 

With Milk Cream out of the picture, Yosuke looked back at Telinar who seemed, to say at the least, anxious. Yosuke hummed to himself, grabbing the pendant in his hand before stuffing it back into his shirt. 

“Hey,” he said, tone soft. He leaned against Xander’s horse, careful not to press against him too hard. “Are you okay?” Yosuke tilted his head. “I probably should have asked that sooner. You seem a bit tense.”

Edited by Doctortear

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Tien wonders if he should be disapproving or something of Yosuke stealing the pendant, but it honestly sounds like his friend deserved it, and then he’s distracted by the animal--it has a name, doesn’t it? What was it…

 

“Milk Cream,” Fractal answers softly. She’d climbed back up to his shoulder at some point.

 

Right. Tien mutters a thanks to her and then grins as Milk Cream once again stalks off in the sand. 

 

“Crazy cat,” Yosuke mumbles.

 

“Oh, is that what it’s called?” Tien says without thinking. “I’d been wondering.” ...Good job, self. Way to pretend you’re from here. Well, it’s not like it’s hard to pick up on with the company he’s been keeping… 

 

Tien shakes his head slightly as Yosuke says something else. “What--? Oh, that.” He finishes processing it a moment later and makes himself give the other boy a smile. “I’m fine. It’s just been a while since I…” he gestures at the party. “And never quite like this.” Never without something to do. Someone to follow. And add that to the prank that went too far…

 

Tien winces as the redhead’s panicked face flashes through his mind again. Why is he focusing on that so much? It’s not like he hasn’t seen worse.

 

Your fault.

 

...Ah. Of course. Self-blame. Tien doesn’t have the time or mental energy to grapple with that right now, so he slips away from that line of thought with practiced ease. “What about you?” He asks Yosuke. “I mean, you told me some of it, but--any reason you haven’t just…” He makes a circular motion with his hand and gestures vaguely towards the beach as he trails off.

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The tile walls were dimly lit by fluorescent lights that hummed softly overhead. The restroom, though communal, was rather small. There were only four stalls, one being for handicapped, and all of them were unoccupied. Xander had walked some distance before finding an empty restroom near the general vicinity of the party. Originally, he hadn’t planned to stay in the restroom for too long. None of his previous bouts of migraines or intensive itching on his arm had lasted more than ten minutes; however the intensity of his current headache had caught him completely off guard. There was a lock on the entrance door, and while Xander thought it was strange for the lock to be there in the first place, he still selfishly locked the entrance to keep anyone from accidentally walking in on him. The last thing he wanted was for anyone, least one of his fellow agents to see him in such a vulnerable state.

 

Xander stood in front of one of the sinks. He leaned forward with his elbows resting on the marble counter. He held his head in his shaking hands. He stared at the mirror in front of him, not truly seeing anything. Someone must have cleaned the restroom recently. The distinct smell of disinfectant bombarded Xander’s nose, making his stomach uneasy. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the headache or not, but the scent had become so unpleasantly sharp that Xander’s fingers instinctively curled into his hair. 

 

The pounding in his head was familiar now; he had experienced it many times since he had returned from the marketplace where he was infected. Back then, he had simply excused himself from whatever he was doing or whoever he was talking to. Then, he hid in his room or a bathroom until he stopped shivering from the pain and he could no longer feel his heartbeat through the base of his skull. Now, however, the pounding quickened and with every palpation the pain throbbing in his head only seemed to escalate. Xander’s teeth ached as though a cavity was forming on the spot, and his arms began itching almost unbearably so. 

 

With effort, Xander pulled a shaking hand away from his temple and turned the knob on the sink. Warm water filled the basin below. Xander eagerly cupped his hands into the water and splashed it onto his face. The water felt intoxicatingly refreshing and cool against his sweaty skin. Xander greedily threw several more handfuls of water into his face before recoiling as some of the water sprayed into his eyes. He quickly shut off the running water. Xander rubbed the excess water from his eyes with the back of his hand, groaning before glaring at the pale reflection staring back at him. 

 

He told Illidan not to worry, because of course he did. Back in Nohr, he had to be an immaculate figure for his people to follow and stalwart brother to his siblings—there was no room for him to allow himself to be coddled. Still, knowing Illidan and considering how long it had been since he left he doubted that the night elf would continue to wait. Xander couldn’t really blame him for that; if their positions were swapped Xander would have at the very least approached other party-goers and asked if they saw Illidan pass by. Xander chuckled mirthlessly. That’s something he was going to have to get used to, wasn’t it? In the back of his mind, he knew that agreeing to start a relationship would likely require him to make compromises, some in regard to intimacy and his unwillingness to open up to others. He couldn’t blame Illidan for caring after everything they said on the beach, and yet...

 

A hot, stinging pain coursed through Xander’s entire body. He buckled down, his hand gripping hard onto the counter as his nails scraped against the marble. Desperate for a conduit for his pain, Xander tried to focus all of his attention on the sound of running water. It was too much. His entire body felt aflame as though his very blood was boiling. Then, nothing. Xander blinked, still gasping from the endeavor. There was no lingering ache, no sign of any aftershocks. Just simply nothing. Hesitantly, Xander pushed himself off of the counter. He took in several deep breaths in an effort to calm his erratic heartbeat. This had never happened before—the pain usually subsided slowly over time. He looked back at his reflection. There was no more pain, not even any lingering soreness. Was it really over?

 

Then, everything exploded.

 

Pain erupting from where it had once faded. Liquid gushed out of Xander’s temples and forearm, and his mouth filled with a thin, coppery taste. Xander slapped a hand over his mouth. He fell back down onto the counter. His head swerved down towards the basin as he began coughing violently into the sink. He dug his unoccupied hand into the side of the marble. The liquid, blood and mucus perhaps, began to fill his mouth. He quickly uncovered his hand and coughed up the contents of his mouth into the sink. A warm, viscous secretion began dripping down his head and forearm. Legs trembling, Xander leaned his weight against the counter for support. He  weakly extended a hand towards faucet handle. As soon as the water began running, he cupped a handful of water and brought it to his lips. He swished the water in his mouth thoroughly before spitting it out into the sink. He repeated the process several times, coughing up the concoction of water and disgusting, oozing liquid until the thick coppery taste was gone. Xander exhaled loudly, gasping for air as he brought his hands to his lips one more time and drank deeply. 

 

The water tasted refreshing once more now that his mouth had been cleansed of the foul tasting mixture of blood and mucus. He sighed, eyes half-lidded as he stared down at the water still rushing into the basin. The pain had begun to reside once more, less quickly than earlier but fast enough to make moving around more bearable. The initial relief Xander felt when the pain began to fade was replaced by dread. There was a dull ache where the pain once was, but that wasn’t what frightened him. He hadn’t dared to look in the mirror, and yet he could already feel that something, no, that he had changed. From where the pain had been worse, he could feel new protrusions on his body. Illidan had warned him that the Fel would transmute his body into something demonic and foreign. Xander had contemplated the weight of his words, but no amount of thinking could compare to reality.

 

With great effort, Xander slowly pushed himself off of the counter. He stared down at the basin for a few seconds longer, gathering the courage to see what he had become. When Xander glanced up it took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to what he was seeing. As soon as his reflection became clear, Xander could only stare in mute shock.

 

From both sides of his head there were smooth, black horns. They weren’t entirely straight, curving up and down ever so slightly. The horn itself was arched down the back of the head with the tip angled upwards. Cautiously, he raised one hand and laid it gently on the base of the protrusion in his head. He quickly jerked it away, startled but the sheer sensation of feeling before slowly returning his hand. Even though he was touching the horn it still did not seem real. He could still feel a phantom of the nothingness that was once there be filled by an alien object. It seemed as though even his body hasn’t fully accepted the horns just yet. At the base of his horns the remnants of blood and a thin, sticky, yellow substance hung from where they had sprouted, matting his hair. Xander shivered when he dared to dip a finger into. Disgusting.

 

From his forearm down was what appeared to be small black scales freckling his skin. They started at the top of his forearm in small disjointed patches, but the further they went down the arm the more the patches merged completely. Xander ran his hand down his arm, a shuddering gasp escaping his lips as felt how smooth they truly were. His hand continued down his arm until it ran into his fingers, each of which had grown sharp, pointed tips. Xander lifted his hand and turned it slowly, flexing his fingers as he did so. 

 

He bit down on his lip, making a small noise when he felt a sharp prick. He brought a finger to his lips and drew it back. The center of Xander’s finger was stained red. Was that...blood? Curiously, he drew himself closer to the mirror and opened his mouth, picking open the side of his lips with the tip of his finger. Although there had been an exceptional amount of blood in his mouth at the moment, the only change there appeared to be was his canines where seemed a bit… sharper than they had been before. Xander closed his mouth, moving his hand back down to the counter. It was all permanent. He was going to be like this for the rest of his life. Xander stared at his reflection for a moment longer. Then, with heavy effort, he sighed and buried his head into his hands. “Dear gods…

 

Outside, Illidan had just managed to find Xander's location, but upon trying the door, he found it locked. Great, Xander might be going through the transformation and I can't even be in there to help him. Now he felt guilty for letting Xander go by himself. He was certain that he didn't want an angry mob of people descending on him for breaking a door off its hinges, so he lightly knocked on it. "You in there, Xander? You were gone so long - I got worried..."

 

Xander’s head shot up upon hearing a familiar voice outside of the door.

Ah, Ill—” The weight of the newly grown horns threw Xander off guard. He staggered backwards, unbalanced by the new weight. He bit his lip as he tried to regain his footing. “Illidan,” Xander said. “I didn’t hear you out there.” Cautiously, Xander took another step towards the mirror before steadying himself on the counter. 

 

How long did it take you to find me?” Xander asked as casually as he could. Xander grasped a clump of damp hair between his fingers. It was still matted with blood and whatever viscous liquid that had burst out with the blood. The thought alone made Xander shiver.  “There’s a few restrooms closer to the party than this one,” Xander continued. “This one’s a little out of the way to get to.” 

 

Logically, it made sense to let Illidan in. He was the expert on the Fel and would be the only person that Xander could turn to for help, and yet, Xander hesitated. He didn’t think he was ready to be completely vulnerable with anyone in X-Dreamers, let alone any of the new recruits. The foundations of their relationship had barely even been laid out. Was he really okay with leaving himself so bare already? Wasn’t that too soon? Xander stared at his reflection in the mirror. It stared back, unblinking. He really didn’t know.

 

Illidan tilted his head a little upon hearing Xander stop short with his name. He began to fear that it had happened, after all. At least the restroom being further away from the party than most made Illidan a little more comfortable asking about the "demon" thing. "...it happened, didn't it?" Please prove me wrong, please - I don't think either of us are ready, he thought. He at least knew Xander wasn't ready.

 

Then again, when was anyone ready to be a demon? "...if it did, it'd, uh... probably be better to just show me instead of yelling back and forth through the door."

 

You avoided the question,” Xander said stiffly. Was Illidan even listening? Xander frowned, annoyance prickling at the back of his mind. He opened his mouth to chastise Illidan, but one more glance at the mirror was enough incentive for him to close his mouth. What was he thinking? He needed to let Illidan inside so he could help. Xander leaned towards the mirror, sighing softly as he let go of the strand of hair between his fingers. Now wasn’t the time to be arguing or fretting over appearances. The Fel was a highly contagious and dangerous magic that Xander had minimal knowledge over. Xander stared at his reflection. He needed to let Illidan inside so he could help.

 

Xander’s eyes drifted back up to his hair. It was still a disgusting mess; the oozing liquid was starting to dry and Xander was just now beginning to notice its stench. Even if he wanted to wash it, which would be ridiculous now since Illidan was outside, he didn’t even have any shampoo to clean it properly. Xander sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that hour. He was acting like a child for Naga’s sake. He couldn’t let his emotions override his decision making. Sighing a second time, louder, Xander quickly washed his hands and dried them with the nearby paper towel dispenser. He trekked over towards the entrance and, after a moment of hesitation, flipped the lock until he heard a soft click. Without a beat, he turned around and returned to the basin he was at before. He forced himself to look at his own reflection and, with a heavy heart, gathered his nerves for what was to come.

 

Illidan had been around locks long enough to know that ever-familiar "click" sound that denoted that it was now unlocked. Physical blindness meant his other physical senses - namely his hearing - were heightened... but he could muse on that another time. Illidan made his way inside and made sure to lock the door again behind him (after finding the lock, of course - physical blindness still sucks).

 

And then he'd turned around. Of all the times to not be proven wrong, it had to be now. Illidan opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to say something, but all that came out were a few incoherent stammers. He didn't quite know how to react and he was pretty sure Xander was a mess.

 

After the initial shock passed, Illidan slowly approached Xander. "...the one time I wanted to be proven wrong and I wasn't. Damn it." He sighed. "Well, at least the gross part is over and done with. How... How long has it been since they came in?"

 

Not long,” Xander replied, keeping his eyes locked on the mirror. “You arrived just a few minutes after it happened. Impressive timing.” Xander huffed what was supposed to be a chuckle, but it came out flat and strained. He stared down at the basin in front of him. There were globs of a shiny substance that was stained a sickly yellow and a red so deep it almost looked black. The water hadn’t managed to drag it down to the drain, leaving the stringy strands stuck on the bottom. Absentmindedly, Xander turned on the faucet and began scooting the masses into the drain.

 

Is there anything else that I should know about now that I’ve gotten to this point?” Xander asked, his tone dull. “Is something else going to happen beyond this point?” Xander’s chest felt so full of conflicting emotions, but he refused to voice them. He needed to stay calm and think. There was no use thinking about anything until he was told all the facts he needed to know.

 

"Just a few minutes?" Illidan never been near someone that soon after they'd transformed. "...hrm. The horns are probably still somewhat soft, then. Give them about... six more minutes or so, and they'll harden - I say this because, contrary to popular belief in most places I know, demon horns don't grow in hard. They still make a mess though." Illidan paused to catch his breath a bit - he still grew nauseated from the smell of blood and sinew caused by fresh-grown horns. Sometimes he considered that he'd never grow used to that smell.

 

Illidan then looked at Xander as he tried to get the blood and sinew to go down the drain of the sink. "Nothing else physical should happen unless the Fel suddenly decides to give you wings. ...let's hope it doesn't - I can only imagine that what you've got is... overwhelming, for lack of a better word." Speaking of which...

 

"What else grew in? I can't see, so... I mean, I know the horns are there. I'm just curious as to whether they're the only things that came in."

 

Overwhelming is one word to describe it,” Xander mumbled under his breath. The goop had been completely washed down the drain, leaving the porcelain stained a faint pink. Xander debated scrubbing the pink out of the sink so no one who entered after they left would question the color, but with his head feeling so full he couldn't bring himself to contemplate it for long. 

 

Do you remember what I said about my arms?” Xander asked. He finally glanced over at Illidan’s direction, withholding a wince when he saw the man’s distraught expression. “There’s… scales or something on my forearm.” Xander dragged his hand across his arm, biting his lip at the sensation of clawed tipped fingers rubbing against his body. Blood blossomed from Xander’s lip, causing him to let out a soft, “ah!”. He raised a finger to his lips and dipped it into the small drop of blood that had formed. “I believe some of my teeth have gotten sharper as well,” Xander said, licking the blood from his lip. He was pretty sure he just bit his lip open.

 

So demon scales had occurred. "Such a rare thing, to have scales grow in. I only know... maybe seven or eight Illidari with scales. And even out of them, only two or three had them grow in straight away..." Illidan heard the sound from Xander, and almost bit his own lip in response to the secondhand sting. "...as for the claws and sharp teeth, those are fairly common. You're far from the first person to have made their own mouth bleed from accidentally biting it." Though usually I hear of newly-transformed Illidari biting their tongues, not their lips, he added in his thoughts.

 

Horns, scales, claws, and teeth... Illidan had expected all except the scales. Yet he knew that, eventually, the two of them would have to leave the restroom and rejoin the party. And he did not look forward to the reactions of all those people and the other agents at seeing that Xander was now a demon.

 

But he swore to himself then and there, no matter what came their way or whether their relationship worked out or not, he would help Xander through this or die trying.

 

Xander hummed in response. Illidan made notes of every addition Xander added to the transformation, but he did not offer anymore sentiments beyond that. Was that it? Xander felt himself swaying on the spot, his head suddenly light. He leaned back against the counter, exhaling aloud. Illidan hadn’t brought up any new or dangerous powers or mishaps that Xander would have to worry about. He was just like this now, wasn’t he?

 

The pain had already subsided to a dull throb, and yet Xander felt himself less in control than before. He could easily convince himself to bury his emotions when looking at the factual side of the event. The Fel had infected him, his headaches were the prelude to the transformation, and now that it had happened there was little, if nothing, that could remove what had already been done. A hard pill to swallow, but Xander had experience with downing big pills. Now that everything was settled, what else was left besides the raw reality? 

 

Xander tapped his fingers anxiously against the counter. The repetitive clicking of nail against marble filled the room.

 

Was that all you came here to say?” Xander asked in a hushed voice.

 

The swaying easily gave Illidan cause for concern. "Are you okay, Xander? You, uh..." Illidan didn't want to sound accusatory. "Never mind." He paused. The physical changes were more or less complete, weren't they? The only things that the Fel could change now were those that weren't immediately apparent. "...I am not going to lie, I am nervous as to how everyone will react to... you know. Especially the others who came with us."

 

Xander’s fingers stilled. Right, they were still on a mission. The other agents would see him like this. Anyone who passed him on the street would see him like this. Xander’s fingers curled against the marble. His family would—

 

When you are working within the multiverse, you have to expect the unexpected,” Xander said, interrupting his thoughts. He tried to steady his voice in hopes of restoring a sense of decorum. He closed his eyes, took in a deep breath, and then opened his eyes once more. “They have to be prepared for everything, this included.” Xander pushed himself off of the counter and spun around, leaning his back against the marble. “We all have to get used to it,” Xander said, albeit softer. He lifted his arm in front of him, turning it around slowly. He wiggling his fingers experimentally, watching how the scales bended along with his hand. “We all have to,” Xander said so quietly it was barely audible.

 

...right. Even Xander himself had to adjust to being a demon. Now Illidan did bite his lip - this wasn't going to be easy for either of them. But Xander was right - they had no choice but to get used to it. "...you're right. Ready or not, we have to get used to it."

 

Here was to hoping this night wouldn't get any worse.

 

Though Illidan hadn’t mentioned any additional side effects except the obvious, Xander suddenly remembered something he had said back in the market when he was first explaining the Fel. He lowered his hand back down.

 

You said the Fel could enhance negative emotions,” Xander said, turning to face Illidan. He saw the half-demon biting his lip, hands fidgeting anxiously. Was there something he wanted to say but didn’t for whatever reason or was he just worried about the current situation? Xander’s eyes narrowed. “Based on what you’ve said so far, I presume the transformation is already complete. If that’s the case, is the Fel going to do anything else besides change my appearance?” Xander took a step forward, eyes locked onto Illidan’s blindfold. “I need to know if there’s more to this.

 

"...yes, I did say that.” Illidan replied. “Under most cases, I've seen the Fel amplify a person's anger, though I have seen a few cases of depression and fear, as well. Not only that, but I've also seen cases of the Fel not only amplifying negative emotions, but also suppressing positive ones. It takes quite a bit of willpower to act as one had been prior to coming in contact with it."

 

Illidan sighed, brushing back a bit of his hair. "...and yes, the physical transformation does seem, for the most part, to be complete. Take a good long look, Xander - as much as I wish it were the opposite, you're never going to be able to reverse this. Trust me - several Illidari have tried." He remembered some initiates going insane trying to reverse their demonic appearances, and it hadn't been pretty.

 

Then Illidan remembered that power Xander had - what was it called, again? The Dragon Vein? - from the bazaar. "...it's possible that the Fel can be used to enhance any - and all - powers that you may possess yourself. That tattoo you have now... and the ones I, myself, possess... there's a reason why I had Nora do the actual needlework. Our tattoos use a special ink that allows us to channel the Fel without risking killing ourselves." He paused. "But I digress. That... Dragon Vein, I think it's called? It may be changed by the Fel, as well." He hoped to Elune it wasn't.

 

You think I don’t know that?” Xander snapped. He sharply turned away from Illidan to glare at the horned creature staring back at him from the mirror. “Do you really think I just up and forgot that I’m stuck like this after you told me for the fifth time? I asked for help, not a continuous reminder that I’m—” Xander scowled at his reflection, growling incoherently under his breath. He spun around, quickly advancing towards Illidan before angrily prodding a finger into his chest. “This wouldn’t even be happening if you—

 

No. This was wrong.

 

Xander drew in heavy, ragged breaths.
If you…” What was he even doing? Xander pressed his lips firmly shut. His entire body deflated, muscles relaxing and shoulders dropping. His pointed finger curled back as Xander pressed his palm flatly against Illidan’s chest. 

 

No, I’m sorry,” Xander said, his tone grown soft and passive. “This isn’t your fault.” Xander shook his head. “It was an accident and I don’t blame you for it, not really. I’m just not in…” He hesitated, but, after a few tense seconds continued. “...I’m not in the best mindset right now.” Xander cringed as the words left his mouth. That sounded like an excuse, and a terrible one at that. Xander carded his fingers through his hair, chuckling low under his breath. “If anything, I just proved everything you said about the Fel amplifying negative emotions.” 

 

Even after the outburst Illidan hadn’t moved away. Xander wouldn’t have blamed him if he did; Xander wouldn’t have tolerated anyone raising their voice at him as he had just did to Illidan. Underneath his palm, Xander could feel Illidan’s heartbeat. It was strange, Xander thought, eyes drooping until half-lidded. Even under the strange scales he could still feel the warmth of Illidan’s skin and rhythmic beating of his heart. It was comforting, somewhat. To have something, no, someone living and breathing right in front of him. Xander did not usually appreciate company when he was at a low point, but the sheer thereness of someone was soothing.

 

Sweet Elune! Illidan had seen some terrifying post-transformation reactions before, but Xander's reaction scared him a little. "No... No, you're right about the reminder. I'm sorry - I think I drilled it in a little too much." That being said, Xander admitting he wasn't exactly in his right mind also hit home - it was a normal reaction to the Fel as a whole, much more actually becoming a demon from it. The guilt still ate at Illidan - even if it was an accident, it had still ultimately been his fault.

 

There were no more words to be said. Illidan merely put one of his own hands over Xander's. Even with scales instead of skin, his touch was still comforting.

 

Although his voice was devoid of fear, Xander could see the fright on his face when Xander began shouting at him. Xander immediately felt immense guilt at his words and embarrassment that he dared to lay his hands on Illidan when he was clearly distressed. He muttered another apology and moved to step back when he felt himself jolted forward. Xander sharply took in a breath. He hadn’t expected Illidan to clasp their hands together so suddenly, and yet Xander was glad for the gesture. He stared down at their hands, at how small his own was compared to Illidan’s. Swallowing thickly against a lump in his throat, Xander gingerly intertwined their fingers inch by inch.

 

No, I…” Xander sighed, lowering his free hand from his head. “The reminders were concerning, but I should have been more honest about how I felt about it. Even then, I don’t have a right to take it out on you, nor should I blame it on my mental state.” Illidan had clearly explained that the Fel influenced negative emotions and suppressed positive ones, but even then Xander couldn’t help but feel he needed to be more responsible for his actions. For the briefest of seconds, Xander saw Illidan’s face morph into a startled expression before it melted into the softer more apologetic one that it was now. Xander tightened his grip on Illidan’s hand. Even if he was scared and hurting, that didn’t mean he could transfer that to someone else just because they had the misfortune of being nearby, especially not someone who was doing their best to help him.

 

Xander stayed silent, basking in the comfort of company. Then, he perked up, memories of Illidan’s previous question resurfacing.

 

You asked about the Dragon Vein, didn’t you?” Xander asked, tilting his head upwards so he could properly look at Illidan. “I’m not exactly sure how the Fel would affect it either. In my world, Dragon Veins are tied to bloodlines. The power itself is embedded in my family’s bloodline. If both magics are connected to blood directly, then maybe they’ll affect one another, or, perhaps, they won’t at all. I’m uncertain.

 

"...I suppose, then, that how - or if - the Fel affects the Dragon Vein is something we won't know until it actually happens." Illidan hated that feeling when confronting the unknown, but he was ultimately right. "Let's hope it doesn't affect it at all - at this point, something remaining the same may be more comforting..." Or, at least, I hope it is, he added in his thoughts.

 

He was also a little surprised - despite Xander's hands now being scales instead of skin, it didn't feel rough. Then again, the scales were likely still soft, as well.

 

I used it when we were fighting that dragon in the marketplace,” Xander said. His eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he combed through his memories. The Dragon Vein didn’t seem particularly stronger than normal; however, back then he had been too preoccupied by the fight to evaluate any potential influx of power.  “I don’t believe the Fel affected it back then, but I can’t be certain that’ll be true now,” Xander admitted. 

The room had grown quiet save for the soft buzzing of the lights overhead. The initial overwhelming fear and disgust Xander felt had mellowed out. He still needed time to process everything and sort through his feelings, but now? Now, he felt better. Normally he was the one holding and comforting others when they were going through a difficult time. To be the one who was held so warmly and watched over with a tender expression was unfamiliar but unimaginably precious. Xander could not help but sigh in content as a gentle warmth settled at the bottom of his stomach. 

I believe a ‘thank you’ is long overdue,” Xander said. He lifted his chin so he could see Illidan’s face. “I appreciate you coming in to check up on me. I thought it would be easier to deal with everything alone but, this…” Xander gesture between them. “Was helpful.” Xander muttered a soft “ha” as he caressed the hand holding onto his own. “Although this is a pretty heavy-handed start to a relationship. We don’t know each other that well, and we’re already dealing with a stressful situation

Illidan had to admit, he hadn't exactly been paying much attention in that fight - all he'd had back then was that instinct to fight (at least, until that embarrassing confession). The only sound he heard for a while was that strange buzzing noise.

"...heavy-handed, huh? While I agree that the subject of the Fel is a very rough topic to deal with, I must admit that it only scratches the surface of my past. I'm... not exactly comfortable with revealing it all yet. But..." Illidan sighed. "...perhaps, one day, I will be."

Of course.” Xander smiled softly. “I’ve no reason to pry into your personal history nor should I. All relationships take time and effort from both parties. I had my reservations about how quickly we seemed to be taking this, but…” Xander gave Illidan’s hand a firm squeeze. It felt warm and solid over his own. “This is good. I’m satisfied with the direction we’re taking everything right now. We can learn each other slowly and go from there.” 

Truthfully, Xander hadn’t considered the prospect of entering into a relationship while on X-Dreamer’s payroll, but if he had been asked about it a month ago he’d probably say it was off the table. With several potential successors for the throne already lined up, Xander saw little need to dally with potential suitors. It was strange, really, to have been so content with being alone only a few days prior and to now be in a position where he wanted someone by his side. No, that wasn’t the correct phrasing. He didn’t just want anyone he wanted Illidan. Even looking at him now, Xander could clearly see how fond Illidan’s expression had grown as he looked down at Xander. Illidan had been caring and kind to Xander in a way that left the king warm and internally flustered. By no means would Xander label feelings he had for Illidan as love but rather something distantly akin to it, something that made him want to try something he had previously dismissed completely. 

Unfortunately, having a head drenched in bodily fluids didn’t allow for prolonged mushy thoughts. Xander scrunched his nose as it finally caught up with his brain.

I should really clean up,” Xander said, idly pulling at a bang matted with dried blood. “I doubt Lara would appreciate me heading back to the party looking and smelling like this.” Reluctantly, Xander pulled his hand away from Illidan and walked towards the mirror. Upon looking himself over, Xander groaned as he lifted his arm and pulled sadly at his ruined sleeve. The transformation hadn’t torn his shirt too badly, but there was several blood stains where the scales had grown in. 

I take it you don’t have any scissors with you?” Xander asked as he examined his other sleeve. “I could, ugh, wash my hair with the hand soap just to get this mess out, but I think my undershirt won’t be so lucky.

Illidan glanced over Xander, the smell of the blood and sinew lingering. Xander had a point; whether everyone's reactions to him being a demon were bad or not, a bad reaction to Xander looking and smelling awful was all but certain. "...no, sorry. I don't have any scissors with me. My only blades are the Warglaives and I'm certain they're much too big to deal with personal hygiene."

 

I’d prefer not to tear off the entire sleeve if I can help it,” Xander said. He frowned, glaring down at his red stained sleeves. Hand soap wasn’t going to be as useful as laundry detergent, but hand soap wasn’t a great shampoo either and Xander had already decided that he needed to wash his hair no matter what. Lifting his hands to his chest, Xander slowly unbuttoned his chest from the top town. He shrugged off his shirt and placed it on the clean counter. He grabbed the string keeping his blouse together and untied it. In one swift motion, he pulled his shirt from over his head. He placed it with the blouse up and began to tidily fold it so it wouldn’t get wrinkled. He did the same with his vest and placed both tops far enough away from the sink so they wouldn’t get splashed by excess water. He carefully pulled his crown off of his head and set it gently down on the counter. It was a miracle the crown still fit with the newly grown horns in the way. Turning the sink’s knob, Xander watched as the water began to spill into the basin. He ran his fingers through the water, checking to make sure it was warm before dunking his head under the faucet.

 

Talk to me,” Xander said as he began wetting his hair. “Did you see anything suspicious while you were looking for me? Anything noteworthy we might want to check out when we return to the party?

 

...now that Xander mentioned it...

 

"I thought I caught something out of the corner of my Spectral Sight. It looked like the aura belonging to that gray dragon from the bazaar, but... it went by too fast and I may have just been imagining things anyway." Illidan sighed. "I wouldn't worry too much about it. No sense in jumping to conclusions."

 

Xander’s heart skipped a beat.

 

Is that so?” His hands stilled underneath his messy locks and the bubbling white soap he had lathed into his hair. “Even if you believe it was your imagination it wouldn’t hurt to go investigate. If there’s even the slightest chance there’s danger then we need to do everything in our power to ensure it is disposed of.” Xander’s hands resumed their task of rubbing soap and warm water into his scalp. He could practically feel the oozing liquids wash out of his hair. By the time he pulled his head from out under the faucet the water had turned a disgusting concoction of red and yellow. Xander quickly began running more warm water as he went to retrieve his shirts. 

 

So,” he began as he turned on the faucet to a neighboring sink. “It would be a shame to waste what precious time we have left together.” A pause.  “Alone, that is.” Xander cleared his throat. He dipped the bloodied sleeves of his blouse under the wet water and then pulled back so he could let them soak. He didn’t really need to make small talk. In all honesty, he preferred to enjoy a companionable silence than to awkwardly find a subject to talk about. He was feeling better than he had when the transformation first begun, but he hadn’t completely shook off the dread embedded deep into this stomach. He needed to occupy both his hands and mind. Not to mention, he was genuinely curious about Illidan. Being together meant learning each other. It wouldn’t hurt to ask a few questions.

 

 “I don’t believe I know much about your interests and hobbies.” Xander leaned his back against the counter, folding his arms loosely across his chest. “Who knows? Maybe we share an interest we hadn’t thought of before.” If there was one thing Xander knew about bonding, is that hobbies were a great way to establish a bond. 

 

His... hobbies? Illidan hadn't really thought much of them, to be truly honest. "I... haven't done so recently, but I do like trying to practice my handwriting now and again. I have to use demon blood as ink, but that's beside the point. I think my handwriting is still abysmal, though... a consequence of not being able to physically see, no doubt."

 

He rolled his shoulders. "I also enjoy sparring now and again. I know not every mission is going to have a fight, so it's important that my fighting skills remain sharp, and with the plethora of people from all sorts of worlds coming about... well, that will certainly keep me on my hooves, huh?"

 

Your handwriting?” Xander cocked his head to the side curiously. “I’ll admit, I don’t fully understand how your Spectral Vision works,” Xander said, twisting the knob to turn off the faucet. He recalled that Illidan mentioned that despite his blindness he could still see the world around him through his Spectral Vision. Still, he was surprised to hear that Illidan could actually write if he used the right kind of “ink”. “You being able to write sounds… incredible. The fact alone that you can write is amazing in on itself. Having precise, legible writing was a requirement for the nobility in Nohr. I wouldn’t mind helping you improve your handwriting, but I won’t subject you to the years of rigorous training I had to go through.” When the water stopped, Xander moved to the soap dispenser and squeezed some of it into his hand.

 

Sparring is something I enjoy as well,” Xander said as he began rubbing the soap into the blood stains. “I used to go out and train every night, but ever since the war ended I’ve been more liberal with my training. Still, I’ve haven’t had a good sparring session since I joined X-Dreamers. Barely anyone else has a sword, axe, lance, or something of a similar make, and the ones who do usually aren’t up for frequent sparring.” 

 

Xander paused, his brain rewinding back to Illidan’s hoof comment. Wait, what? Xander glanced down at this companion’s legs and sure enough he saw two rather large hooves. Logically, Xander knew that Illidan had hooves; they were hard to ignore, and yet he never really looked at them in close detail. He had fur on his legs didn’t he? Xander’s eyes traveled up Illidan’s legs and to his hips. Where exactly did the fur stop and the skin begin? How would that even look? Was the fur just cut cleanly into a circle below the skin or was it dappled more naturally with an uneven cross over? In a moment of clarity, Xander realized that it probably wasn’t appropriate to be staring at Illidan’s legs and hips for a prolonged period of time, for the second time no less, even if they were together. Clearing his throat, Xander turned back to his pants and began scrubbing a bit more hurriedly. At least he was comfortable enough now to be embarrassed by such an observation. Xander shook his head. Ridiculous.

 

Illidan smiled when Xander offered to help with his handwriting. "I appreciate the offer, Xander..." He always found it funny when someone realized that he could write (albeit very poorly). The reactions were always priceless, even back on Azeroth, and he was sure some of the other reactions back in the XDRS base would be just as amusing if not more so.

 

"Every night?? Damn, I don't think I even saw the Lightforged train that often... Still, while I do enjoy keeping my skills sharp, if there's one thing the Lightforged drilled in, it's that training too often does more harm than good..." He shook his head. "Goddess, I'm rambling again. I'm sure there will be plenty of other people on the base who are willing to have a good spar or two. It's just a matter of catching them at the right time." Temeraire came to mind, because good grief, that cat had enough weapons and fighting styles to last several lifetimes.

 

Then he noticed Xander's line of sight, and stifled a laugh. "You were staring, Your Majesty. Like what you see?"

 

Xander sputtered, his hands jerking in reaction. Water splattered onto Xander’s bare chest. He cursed under his breath before grabbing a paper towel and wiping himself down thoroughly. He couldn’t believe Illidan would be so… forward. Illidan had admitted on several occasions he wasn’t the most sociable person and, from Xander had observed, he didn’t seem particularly keen on flattery. Flirtation was part of the nature of their relationship now, but for Illidan to have done it so smoothly and with such a self-satisfied smirk on his face…! Xander felt himself flush, his cheeks a rosy red.

 

Yes, my training regiment wasn’t healthy,” Xander said, clearing his throat. He turned the faucet back on and dipped his sleeves into the water, rubbing the soap out of them. “The war ended six years ago, but I’ve actually only stopped training daily in the past year or so. These Lightforged you speak of are correct; training helped keep myself in shape and my skills sharp, but it did eventually wear my body down.” With the soap effectively washed out, Xander turned off the faucet. He firmly grasped one of the sleeves between his hands and wringed it over the sink. 

 

By the way,” Xander added, peering over his shoulder. His initial frustration had melted away to something more bold. “I wouldn’t have been staring if I wasn’t interested.” 

 

This time, Illidan sputtered, nearly losing his balance (since hooves were a lot harder to stand on than feet). He hadn't expected Xander to flirt back. His face became a strange shade of green as he smiled a little nervously; one could only assume that he was blushing.

 

Still, to think that even kings didn't escape the ravages of war... He had to expect it sooner or later (he did see King Anduin Wrynn get involved with the war against the Legion, after all), but to hear of it happening in other worlds...

 

He put the unpleasant thoughts out of his mind. Now was the time to focus on the present, not the past.

 

Upon seeing Illidan’s expression, Xander chuckled softly under his breath

 

That’s a good look for you,” he said before turning back to the task at hand. With the water wrung out of the shirts, Xander grabbed several paper towels and began patting them dry. By the time he threw the towels away and pinched the fabric of one of the sleeves between his fingers to test how dry it was, the cloth was still somewhat damp, but not overly so. More importantly, the blood stains were no longer present. Xander lifted the sleeve up this nose sniffed it. There was the faint scent of citrus, but beyond that the sleeve was absent of all scent.

 

Satisfied, Xander neatly folded the tops back onto the counter before pulling out a comb from his pocket. Even if they were on a mission, Xander wanted to have some sort of brush on hand in case his hair became unpresentable. 

 

We should be heading back soon,” Xander said as he brushed back his hair. “From what I gathered, it doesn’t appear as though any disturbances have come up, but knowing our luck something is bound to happen.” Xander looked himself over in the mirror, brushing down a few more unruly strands before pocketing his comb. He quickly redressed, throwing his tops back on before picking up the crown he left by the side of the sink and carefully placing it back on top of his head. He took a few moments to readjust himself, pressing down wrinkles on his shirt and fluffing his hair before turning around and walked towards Illidan.

 

Hey.” Xander stopped in front of his companion, his voice softening. He rested his hand on top of Illidan’s shoulder. “I know I’m repeating myself,, but I really do appreciate you coming here, more so than I would have originally thought.” Xander gave Illidan’s shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Thank you for coming.

 

"...yeah. Things seem to happen to us for reasons out of our control, so something is bound to happen. But hey, we'll take it as it comes, right?" Illidan smiled. He was sure that if something did happen, they'd make it through. After all, if what he'd seen in the bazaar was any indication, Xander was no pushover. And neither was he.

 

He felt happy having been able to spend time with Xander. To be able to act somewhat normal, without fear of a Legion attack or the pressure of having to slay demons. "...I'm glad to hear that, Xander."

 

Xander grinned in return. He gave Illidan’s shoulder a final squeeze before releasing him. With one final glance over his shoulder, Xander exited the building and heading back towards the party with Illidan hot on his heels.

 

...yes, I feel like this 'relationship' will work, after all.

 

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[Oh no, she’s here fellas]

 

Still mourning the loss of his perfectly fine egg to the merciless pit of Dennis’ stomach, Kuu is momentarily distracted by his thoughts. In the time it had taken him to get over the egg’s disappearance, his boyfriend had already walked towards Rufus -- now targeted and in the direct line of fire for a scolding -- and the shinigami is just about to join the two when a sudden pulse of energy through the room makes him freeze.

 

Looking around, Kuu analyses the situation. No one in the room had reacted, but the air itself shifted with a slightly-familiar aura -- as if a hollow had appeared, and yet not quite the same. As a shinigami, it was his mission to protect and serve the humans, and nothing stood between his oath to serve and what was clearly a disruption in the natural order. But ....

 

He glances back, hesitating. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Rufus or Dennis -- both were perfectly capable of handling themselves at any given time -- but just that this was a dangerous line of duty, and he feels better knowing others are at his side.

 

But they have no time to waste, and he would rather confront the source of evil than have it spring a surprise on them. He can almost hear his captain’s voice in his head, telling him he has learnt nothing -- still, after all this time, he doesn’t regret heading off to face Aizen alone. If he were to go back, he would do it again -- stronger, more ready than last time. 

 

He steadies the grip of his Zanpakuto, and flash steps into the hallways of the mansion, away from the party. The not-hollow’s scent is easy enough to track the closer he gets to it, and he teleports again, this time through the walls until he is outside. 

 

Perfect. He is closer to the sky here, and it is easier to use his abilities as compared to fighting indoors. Here, the not-hollow’s energy is almost overwhelming, and Kuu knows for certain that he is close. Ducking behind the venue’s grand decorum, Kuu surveys the area before him. 

 

There is nothing -- at least, not at first, but then his eyes narrow down between the carefully trimmed bushes at the very end of his property, and he sees a flash of platinum-blonde hair.

 

There! It seems she is trying to approach the venue without a trace, but he won’t allow that to happen. Raising a hand, palm-out, he holds the edge of his wrist to maintain a steady balance. 

 

"Ye lord! Mask of blood and flesh, all creation, flutter of wings, ye who bears the name of Man! Inferno and pandemonium, the sea barrier surges, march on to the south -- Shakkahou!”

 

As he speaks the familiar words of the incantation, a small ball of focused energy begins to gather in his open palm; Kuu focuses on his magical ability, manipulating the Kido to his will. He doesn’t want a large cannon, not right now -- just a small warning shot of concentrated energy.

 

He fires the Kido spell in a straight line, piercing red hot energy heading in the direction of the woman hiding in the foliage. Without giving her time to recover from the sudden attack, Kuu steps from his hiding area and draws out his Zanpakuto, the blade gleaming in the sun.

 

“Reveal yourself!” he commands. 

 

Amanda has no idea why he’s speaking like some sort of medieval-era knight, but she doesn’t care. If he ruins her plan of being subtle, then there will be hell to pay. 

 

Who is this weird man, anyway? The way he’s dressed indicates some sort of Japanese battle wear, probably from a previous century. Strange, indeed. Could he be travelling the multiverse as she is? …This gets more peculiar as she thinks about it. But she’ll play this little game. 

 

“Reveal myself?” She looks at him, eyes wide and hands up in surrender. “What are you talking about? I have nothing to hide here!” What a lie, she thinks to herself, but can he pick up on the lie? Does this man have some sort of power? With that ball of energy he threw at me, he has to have something.

 

Kuu narrows his eyes at the woman, who holds up her hands with a look of terror on her features, responding to his question with a question of her own. What did she mean? 

 

Was this … deception? He has heard about it before, seen Rufus do it plenty of times by tricking Ronan and Lass into various scenarios until Elesis told them to knock it off, but he has never considered he would have to face it alone. Battles he can do -- word games, not so much. He has never been the most eloquent of people.

 

“I can sense it,” he says stubbornly. “Tell me right now, or I’ll kill you.” 

 

Damn. So it isn’t stupid. Amanda furrows her brows and drops her hands to her sides, shaking her head. What a shame, this could’ve been something as simple as a lost young woman who needs to get somewhere. Her plans to get in here in a subtle fashion were, in fact, ruined.

 

She chuckles. “I see, so that’s how it is? Shame.” Amanda gives a mocking pout and crosses her arms across her chest. “I’m only trying to find my friend Lara, have you seen her?” With that, she chuckles at her use of the word “friend”. “Friend”? Bah. 

 

She grins. “Well, fine, if you insist. But just so you know,” she says as she places her hand to her choker, “I, myself, am not the one you should be worrying about.” Amanda casually unhooks the mask off of her choker and takes one more look at it. “Let’s see what this baby can do.” Quickly moving her hands closer to each other, the mask begins to float between them and glow a bright magenta color as the beast that once separated her from Lara begins to take shape around her. 

 

Showtime. 

 

“If you’re friends,” Kuu says blankly, “shouldn’t you know where she is?” He has never heard of a Lara, and isn’t too sure who she is, but it seems slightly reckless of the woman to lose a person that is important to her. 

 

Before he can get a response, however, it seems his words are wasted as the woman chuckles to herself, pulling out a mysterious mask that levitates in the space before her. 

 

That -- ! As soon as he catches sight of the mask, Kuu’s eyes widen. That item -- it is absolutely the energy he had been feeling earlier. So she wasn’t -- a hollow? But how could she possess an item that would give off such a strong aura?

 

Before he can wonder too much about this new mystery, the swirling energy around the mask envelopes the woman whole and stirs the ground before his feet. Kuu takes a couple steps back, hopping to avoid being in the line of potential fire, as an unnatural shape emerges from the mist and Kuu finds himself staring at a strange monster that roars into the skies.

 

It is like a hollow, but not -- there is still the same energy of dead despair, but none of the usual hollowification marks. 

 

But a monster is a monster, and Kuu has trained centuries for this. He raises his Zanpakuto to the skies, feeling the familiar energy course through his limbs.

 

“Reach to the heavens,” he says, as distant thunder rumbles in the skies above, a threat to the monster -- even as it appears unfazed. “Raijin no Kaori!” 

 

The transformation is instantaneous -- white light overtakes his blade, and from the light emerges a long yari, the ribbon on the end of the weapon dancing in response to the fast winds. 

 

“Let’s go!” Kuu challenges, brandishing his weapon at the monster before him. “Bring it!”

 

Amanda can’t speak in this form, but she can certainly maneuver. She immediately yanks upwards into the air, floating around the unfamiliar man to strike from behind. Her movements are quick, she assumes that she will be able to get him first. 

 

The not-hollow is fast as she moves, and ruthless; Kuu swings himself around as she suddenly disappears from his sight, spiralling upwards, and he slides back just in time to avoid the creature’s sharp claws from making mincemeat of his organs. He slides his yari into place against her form and concentrates, feeling his Zanpakuto’s spirit echo within him.

 

“Thunder,” he calls, his words accented with the darkening clouds in the skies above -- he hopes someone will take notice of the changing weather, and that no one is currently out on the waters for what he has planned. 

 

He brings lightning down in the direction of the not-hollow, his blade tipped with yellow energy as he jumps, bringing the spinning weapon down to strike at the creature.

 

Amanda just barely dodges the hit. The beast screeches as it’s hit with the electric energy. Continuing to screech, it flies back in the air and floats for a second, diving back down. She’s not going to lose to this man, not after all she has planned. No. This is not going to end how he wants it. 

 

It’ll end on HER terms. She dives back down and sends out a ball of dark energy towards the ground. Hopefully it’ll hit the sand in the event she misses. But hopefully she hits. It misses and hits the sand, not even close to the man. If she were still in her human form, she would definitely have cursed a few times.

 

Still, she persists. Amanda sends another ball of energy that direction, aiming closer to the man than the sand. 

 

For good measure, she also dives down to attack again.

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Illidan Stormrage, Lord of the Illidari
<Status: Stable>
<Location: Mauna Kea Beach, Hawaii>
<People: Xander | Temeraire>

 

 

dd3hjow-314592c7-1003-4fb0-be90-c9ed8776

 

Temeraire Rhowa, Warrior of Light
<Status: Stable>
<Location: Mauna Kea Beach, Hawaii>
<Current Class: Ninja>
<People: Illidan | Xander>

 

~~

 

"...what the hell happened here...?"

 

Illidan was absolutely stunned - he had not expected to come back to... whatever this was. The first thing that caught his attention, though, was Temeraire pacing back and forth in what he recognized was sheer anger.

 

"Knock it off, Temeraire, you're going to wear holes in your shoes. What happened here?"

 

Temeraire crossed her arms and made that strange cat-like huffing noise, only this time it sounded angry instead of amused. "...I don't wanna talk about it."

 

Oh, how the tables had turned. "You sound like you need to talk about it."

 

"...fine, but I'm making it short. In a nutshell, I pranked a guy, yelled at him, and pissed off Lara."

 

"You made Lara mad? I just-- oh my goddess, Temeraire." Yep, this definitely wasn't Illidan's night. "She told us not to cause a scene, and you went and did that anyway!"

 

"The guy had it coming! He was trying to steal!"

 

"So you thought it would be a good idea to prank him?! Look, Temeraire, I love a good prank as much as any mischief-loving demon out there, but they're only fun if everyone is having a good time... and from the sounds of things, Lara and whoever got pranked were not."

 

"But--"

 

"No 'buts', Temeraire - what you did was childish and stupid, and yelling at the man only made things worse. You should have just gotten Lara, or Xander, or hell, even me, and we would have handled it in a way that wouldn't have pissed off anybody." He sighed, pausing and listening to the sounds around him for a few minutes. "Look, I don't know how things work in this 'Ul'dah' place you keep mentioning, but this isn't Ul'dah. Whatever worked for you there won't work here."

 

Temeraire averted her gaze. Now that she thought about it, she had overreacted. Illidan was right; this wasn't Ul'dah. She needed to stop acting like it was. She looked down, clearly embarrassed with herself. "...guess we're even now, huh?"

 

"...you could say that."

 

Temeraire looked at Xander. "...what happened to him?"

 

Illidan opened his mouth to speak before his ear twitched a little. "...I'll explain later. Do you hear that?"

 

Temeraire paused, and her ears, too, twitched upon picking up the noise. "Yeah... It sounds like thunder..." Not a cloud in the sky, though, so... Her eyes widened."...oh, that can't be good. Wanna blow this joint and check it out?"

 

"You read my mind, Rhowa."

 

Off they went, towards the sound...

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[U and L - Mauna Kea - Beach]

 

Damn it. Utakata definitelty had a bad feeling about that lightning he saw when he turned to his right. The chakra nearby is going wild, as if there were another jinchuuriki nearby going into tailed beast mode. But there couldn't be, right? Not to his knowledge. Still, something is totally wrong, and he needs to figure out what it is before that boat gets any closer. He looks back down at the pipe and back in the direction of the lightning. 

 

....Yeah.

 

Utakata dips the pipe back in the soapy water and sends a flurry of bubbles in the direction of the lightning. If he can help halt the threat, maybe it'd be a good idea to do so. He glances at Lara, who's fixated on the boat. "Lara, prepare yourself. We could be under attack at any second.

 

"Since when were you the senior agent?"

 

"Since you decided to start staring at the random boat instead of looking and listening. Do you hear that?"

 

Lara takes a second to listen. There seems to be some sort of scuffle nearby. Whatever it is, it's with some sort of unnatural being. Lara's eyes widen as she listens, whatever it is it's pretty close, probably coming from the foliage near the edge of the beach. She gets a tighter grip on the revolver. This does not, in any way, seem like it's going to end well. 

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Clockblocker

Allies: Kuu, Rufus, Utakata, Temeraire, Illidan, Lara, etc.

Location:  Mauna Kea Beach - Food Table -> Fighty Spot

 

Dennis let out a sigh of relief. As absurd as Rufus’ sudden transformation to a polite human (or demonic, whatever) being was, it was convenient for his purposes. Those purposes, of course, being keeping a fight from breaking out and getting them in a position to help the multiverse. He didn’t trust XDREs in the least, but it was their best bet. He could work with shady organizations if he had to; he’d had practice. Working alone would never be enough to make enough of a difference. 

 

He occupied himself with trying to scrape away more of the not-acidic slime from his face and hair. Ugh, his hair had to be a weird plastered mess now. It couldn’t be moved by anything but his own body, so if he touched it it would stay that way until he could find a mirror and fix it. At least the slime couldn’t penetrate too far into it. 

 

He was interrupted from his thoughts by the sound of distant thunder. Reflexively, he looked up and saw the sky darkening from the direction of the sound. 

 

Kuu. 

 

“Come on,” he said, taking hold of Rufus’ arm. “Kuu’s probably trying to kill some fish.” Despite his casual words he was worried, so he ran towards the source of the thunder, letting go of Rufus to pull on his mask as he did so. He wasn’t the only one; the cat-eared girl that had dumped ink on Rufus and a giant Case-53 looking man had also started heading towards the foliage. Slime Jerk sent a stream of bubbles towards the sound, and Clockblocker took note to avoid them. 

 

Kuu was fighting something that certainly wasn’t a fish. He’d tagged a far faster before, but the not-fish was still quick enough that he wasn’t sure that he could get close enough to touch it without getting shredded by the claws it was armed with in the process. Of course, that would still be a win, but he’d rather avoid injury if possible. More importantly, the not-fish had sent a dark ball of energy towards Kuu. There was nothing he could do about that; he’d have to trust Kuu to take care of himself. 
 

Edited by Kiran

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Stan --  Mauna Kea Beachfront

[ on the water ] - [ the obligatory sappy speech ] -[ dinner and a show ] 

 

Stan motions to the man driving the boat to stop once they are within swimming distance of the beach. He runs a hand through his hair to smooth out the strands and compose himself, even though not many people would be able to see him in the darkness. Taking in the sea air through a sharp, refreshing breath, he raised his megaphone to his mouth.

 

Showtime.

 

"Good evenin' everyone! And apologies to Lara for being late to the party. I got ahead of myself and prepared a little surprise on the way here for the most wonderful woman i've had the pleasure to know for half a year. As some of you might already know, Lara has been doing work for the Extra Dimensional Restoration Squad, an organization that dedicates itself to resolving dangerous otherworldly anomalies caused by problems in the multiverse. It is important work! And so we, her friends from the organization here to celebrate not only another year older for Lara, but also another year of great experiences, achievements, and friendships. Lara and I have met for the first time on this very world, investigating Excalibur, and ever since then I couldn't have imagined my life without her laugh, the mornings she has with her tea in our dining hall, making jokes in the atrium, or performing research in the library. I -- we -- admire her beautiful strength and her endless well of determination.

 

So, my esteemed Lara Croft, this one's for you!"

 

He tells driver of the boat to slowly drive left, parallel to the beach, while he himself lights a couple fuses and throws them overboard. The sound of whistles fills the air, and with a series of successive pops, letters form in the sky one at a time:

 

 

 🟊 HPPY BDAY LARA 🟊

 

And finally, the boat doubles around. Placing a hand on his heart and humming to himself, Stan launches the last set of fireworks into the air shortly after the first set faded.

 

 ❤ ILY ❤ 

 

He turns to the man behind him, who looked like he had never been praised in his entire life. "Nice driving, Ryland. Couldn't have been a sappy chap without you."

 

That should have bought enough time, right? Those text fireworks were an absolute masterful find when shopping for flashbangs and other explosives. 

 

 

~~~

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~~ several hours earlier ~~

 

Woah. He didn't think saying "take me to your leader" would have actually worked. He also half expected them to blindfold him and throw him into a van such as to conceal the location of their destination, but to his pleasant surprise, they seemed to have brought him to the exact hotel that everyone was staying at. Whoever their boss was, they chose their location rather deliberately, as if they were keeping an eye on the XDRS the moment they had arrived. Probably was keeping better tabs on the gang than he was. Who knew what Xander and his horse were up to at this hour.

 

Stan attempted some small-talk with the two men during the elevator ride up to the penthouse meeting room. Neither of them seemed rather talkative. It was almost a relief when the elevator alerted them that they've arrived. Stan follows quietly between the two, arms crossed, as they go through a set of double doors. At the end of the room sits a platinum-haired bombshell of a woman, dressed in all black. Perfectly sharp brows and a striking lipstick. If only she didn't look permanently pissed off at something. Forehead wrinkles were unbecoming. 

 

Amanda knits her eyebrows together in surprise when James and Ryland walk in with a tall, stocky green eyed man. She leans into her chair and looks him up and down, rather appalled that her lackeys would bring in some random man. One of her eyebrows raises.

 

“So… Who exactly am I looking at here? James? Ryland?”

 

So those were their names, Stan thinks, and commits them to memory. Truly triumphant. Now they would have no choice but to engage with his smalltalk. Though, which one was James, and which one was Ryland? Either way, Stan takes a gamble and evades the boss' question entirely, shifting his weight to one side. In the tensest situations, remain relaxed.  "Are you planning to draw out Lara Croft?"

 

"He says he's Stanley Gulliver, ma'am," clarifies one of the men. Ryland. "He's close to Lara."

 

"Rrrrreeeeeealll close," Stan repeats, annoyingly rolling his R's and extending his E's the same way he did when he told J and R the first time.

 

Amanda leans forward in her seat, propping her chin up with her left hand. Oh, she definitely understood what he meant by that, and she attempts to avoid flaring up. Instead, she closes her eyes for a second, thinking. So this is the Stan that I heard about… They’re pursuing a relationship? That figures… Lara really does have a certain taste in men, doesn’t she… To which she opens her eyes. 

 

“Real close? ...Now that’s news to me. Ah, so it appears you went off, didn’t you… I’d heard of a group of about… nine plus a horse in the nearby shopping center. So tell me…. Why haven’t I heard of you being in their group? Did you go rogue on your own girlfriend?” Amanda chuckles. “Interesting.”

 

She glares at both James and Ryland. “And you morons, that’s the very reason why I told you to not say anything about the mission in public, dammit!” 

 

Neither of the men flinched, used to Amanda’s little snaps. 

 

Amanda rolls her eyes and looks back to Stan. “So, you got me. We are planning to draw out Lara. What’re you going to do?” 

 

"Not every day you see a horse in full armor wandering around," Stan muses. How much did she know about the XDRS? If the letter was a plant, then that could mean bad news for the organization itself. 

 

He shrugs and shakes his head. "I guess I could've shot you dead the minute I walked in, but unfortunately for me, your friends were competent enough to take my guns and make sure I can't fire any finger lasers." They didn't seem too surprised by his self-built mechanical bits while they frisked him. Maybe finger lasers would be a good idea, now that he thought about it. "Not that it matters, for such underhanded tactics are clearly beneath me."

 

He winks, then takes a seat. "I'm just here to have some fun."

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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< STATUS: Stable; Content >

< LOCATION: Mauna Kea Beach >

< AGENTS: Illidan, Temeraire >

< OTHER PARTICIPANTS: N/A >

 

His disfigurement received far less comments than Xander initially thought it would. He figured that a set of horns and claws would warrant more than just a few passing glances, but, then again, compared to to the likes of some of the other agents Xander didn’t really stand out. Illidan, unchanged as he might be, made several party-goes pause in their tracks as he and Xander walked by. Xander couldn’t really blame them. Who wouldn’t want to look at Illidan? Xander himself had to forcibly peel his gaze off of Illidan on several occasions. 

 

When they returned to the party, Illidan made his way to Temeraire to strike up a conversation. Xander had heard bits of pieces of their conversation which, amusingly enough, consisted of Illidan chastising Temeraire like a stern parent, but for the most part he stared out towards the horizon. The sun had beached itself on the skyline, leaving only the smallest slivers of light to illuminate the sky. In the distance, there was a loud booming sound almost like thunder. Xander turned his head towards the direction of the sound, raising an inquisitive brow. The sky was now mostly devoid of clouds, and it didn’t appear as though it was raining anywhere nearby. In the distance, he could see a redhead and a blond rushing off towards the distance. Xander could barely make out their faces, but he could barely here one of them shout, “Kuu, how dare you get into a fight without me! You’re not even getting paid!” 

 

Xander rested his hand on Siegfried’s pommel. Was there trouble afoot? Illidan had said he saw some suspicious activity when searching for Xander. Xander sighed, rubbing his temple with one hand. He should have known that something would go wrong. With a glance to the side, Xander turned towards where Illidan and Temeraire were.

 

“Did you two—” Neither Illidan nor Temeraire were behind him anymore. Xander blinked in surprise. He looked back towards where the noise had emanated from to see his friends running off towards the same direction to two men had headed towards. Well. They certainly didn’t wait around for him, did they? 

 

Before Xander could follow his companions, a booming familiar voice spoke up near the water. What? Xander stared longingly at agents disappearing out of eyesight before hesitantly looking over at the shore. On a boat not too far away from the beach was Stan dressed in attire fitting of the party. Stan was giving a fluttery speech expression his affection for Lara as fireworks burst into colorful and poorly written words into the sky. Xander frowned, his grip on the pommel tightening. He had recalled Stan being on the roster of agents attending the mission, but he been absent until recently. His appearance was a distraction from whatever had made the thundering noise earlier, but Xander had to admit, the light show was endearing. Xander fondly recalled Corrin doing something similarly spectacular when she proposed to Felicia. It had been incredibly romantic. Xander could not help but take a moment to appreciate the effort Stan went through for Lara. Xander didn’t recall him and Lara becoming official, but he Xander had seen the way they looked at each other when they thought no one was looking and the small touches they shared between one another. In fact, they—

 

Xander’s heart skipped a beat. The fireworks, as pretty as they were, were loud and obnoxious. They were sudden and vaguely reminded Xander of the sound of stone golems cracking the ground as they emerged from their holes. He knew for certain he wasn’t the only one who would be reminded of that sound. Letting go of his sword, Xander began running in the direction of where he had left Yosuke and Sieghorse.

 

 

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< STATUS: Stable ; Curious >

< LOCATION: : Mauna Kea Beach - Near the Beach >

< AGENTS: Tien >

< OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Milk Cream, Sieghorse

 

“You’ve never seen a cat before?” Yosuke asked with a smirk. “I couldn’t imagine living without knowing the pure bliss that is having a cat curl up into your side and purr.” Yosuke smiled to himself. “Oh, not Milk Cream, of course,” he said, waving at the cat by his feet. Milk Cream glared up at him as though seemingly having understood what he said. “You wouldn’t believe how picky he is! He won’t let me cuddle when I want to and if I want to go hang out with someone else at night to cuddle he complain and complain until I go back to bed.” 

 

Yosuke crossed his arms, listening intently as Telinar anxiously gestured around them. He wanted to know why Yosuke was still around? That gave the waiter pause. He cocked his head to the side, clicking his tongue. 

“I thought I made myself clear earlier when I said I work here.” Yosuke tapped a finger thoughtfully to his chin. “Unless… you’re asking why I’m sticking around when I’m clearly not getting paid. God knows that ‘exposure’ doesn’t pay the bills.” Yosuke tapped his finger more pronounce, giving the impression he was deep in thought. He continued for several seconds more than his finger stilled. He straightened his head and gave Telinar a self-satisfied smirk, raising his finger to his lips. “Let’s say I have an invested interest in this party.” He lowered his finger and winked at Telinar mischievous. 

 

Behind him, explosions began to go off. Yosuke jumped, startled, and turned around to see what was going on. Was that fireworks? Yosuke stuffed a hand into his pocket and watched with interest as the sky light up. Was Lara’s significant other in charge of this? Yosuke chuckled under his breath.

 

“Well, isn’t this just adorable—”

 

Sand was suddenly tossed into the air. Yosuke leaped away from the horse behind him as it reared up on his hind legs. Instinctively, he pushed Telinar away from the horse as it landed on its hooves and stomped madly into the sand. Did the fireworks startle it? Could they get away without getting hurt? The horse shook his mane wildly, its nostrils flaring. Just as Yosuke was beginning to back away, a man rushed in front of him. 

 

“Woah, there! Easy boy!” It took Yosuke a moment to recognize the name what with the strange growths on his head, but the man that was holding the horse’s reins and hushing it softly was none other than Xander. 

“I’m sorry about this,” Xander said as the horse began to calm down under his reassuring touch. “He’s had bad experiences with loud noises.” 

 

“Nothing to worry about!” Yosuke said with a forced smile. Realizing he was in Telinar’s personal space, Yosuke took a few steps to the right. 

 

“I’ll take him someplace quiet,” Xander said, tugging gently on the horse’s reins. Almost like magic, the horse has calmed down considerably. “Forgive the disturbance and thank you for watching over him.” Xander gave Yosuke and Telinar a respectful nod before gently tugging the horse towards a less crowded part of the beach. Once Xander was out of earshot, Yosuke blew a raspberry.

 

“Well! That was something, huh?” Yosuke nudged Telinar’s shoulder gentle. “Things got pretty wild there, huh? Really makes me wonder who’s setting off those fireworks huh? Someone working to the “Extra Dimensional Restoration Squad” whatever that is. Pretty weird if you ask me.” 

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[U and L - Mauna Kea - Beach]


Utakata can’t read the letters in the air, but he can get an idea of what it was just by hearing Stan’s little speech. He glances at Lara, who covers her face with embarrassment. At that he laughs, it’s amusing to him to see her so flustered. But still, the weird feeling in his gut exponentially grows. Why would he make such a spectacle of himself? Sure, it’s his brand. Yes, he’s very over the top. But something about it…

 

Remember. Art of deception.

 

Right, Saiken. I know.

 

He crosses his arms and stands like a bouncer as Stan gets closer and closer to the shore. He really doesn’t like any of this, even in his inebriated state.

 

Lara thinks the gesture is very grand, but very sweet. She ignores the chit-chat from guests, the aww’s and the “wait she’s taken” comments, and the curses coming from a very persistent suitor. Instead, as Stan gets closer, Lara approaches the waterline. “Love, what the devil are you doing,” she asks as Utakata looks on. Maybe he's bitter at the idea of never being in a relationship, but he has no idea why it bothers him so goddamn much. But an even more pressing thought...

 

He really wonders what those two idiots see in each other.

 

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Forum_Signature--Fractal_Persona_Branch.

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“Let’s say I have an invested interest in this party.”

 

Is he doing this on purpose? Yosuke is doing everything Tien has been taught that points to a bigger plan or someone behind the scenes. It’s so suspicious it’s comical, and very possibly fake. But he can’t dismiss it out of hand--he’s been trained too well for that. Is it a joke? Is he trying to cover up the real motives of whoever by being way too obvious about it, so I’ll assume it’s a joke? Is he just really bad at hiding things?

 

...Is he trying to make me smile? 

 

There’s so many possibilities, and Tien doesn’t have time to think any of them through before a sharp bang echoes across the beach. He flinches hard, jumping back a couple steps and pressing his hands over his ears as the booms continue. Heart beating wildly, his gaze darts around for the source.

 

There’s...something exploding in the air. Though Tien doesn’t lower his hands, the light and color mesmerizes him, even as the sounds make him flinch every time one goes off. He starts to Memorize it--

 

Yosuke shoves him suddenly, and Tien can’t help a yelp of surprise. Wha--

 

Oh, Sieghorse. Poor thing isn’t reacting any better to the colorful explosions than he did. Is, he corrects with a wince as yet another bang resounds through the air. The horse shakes his head wildly, and looks like he might rear again when someone rushes in front of him.

 

“Woah, there! Easy boy!” Xander says, reaching out to calm his horse. What happened to him? Or is suddenly sprouting horns something normal for his world? For all Tien knows, it could be. “I’m sorry about this. He’s had bad experiences with loud noises.” 

 

Tien, wincing through another explosion, can very much sympathize.

 

Yosuke’s faint warmth leaves Tien’s side as he says something reassuring to Xander. Tien kind of wishes he would come back. Fractal starts up a hum on the back of his neck, something steady that he can feel as much as hear, and it helps ground him through the intermittent, barely-predictable bangs.

 

He turns his gaze back to the sky, slowly lowering his hands--still flinching at each boom despite Fractal’s help--and starts Memorizing again. The interplay of light sparkles against the night sky, and Tien’s struck by a sudden appreciation of the beauty within it.

 

“Well! That was something, huh?” Yosuke says next to him, lightly nudging his shoulder. “Things got pretty wild there, huh? Really makes me wonder who’s setting off those fireworks. Someone working for the “Extra Dimensional Restoration Squad,” whatever that is. Pretty weird if you ask me.”

 

“Mm? Oh, that’s me,” Tien says without thinking. “I’m here with them.”

 

“It was Stan,” Fractal informs Tien.

 

“Pretty sure that was Lara’s boyfriend,” he repeats to Yosuke, gaze still trained on the--fireworks, are they? Tem had been talking about them earlier. Yes, this would have been a nice distraction. He winces at another bang. A very nice distraction.

 

Fractal’s grounding hum turns uncertain. “Something feels...strange. An odd presence. Distant, but pressing.”

 

“Well, should we do something about it?” Tien asks, dropping his voice so his words are more hummed than even whispered.

 

“I do not know. Maybe.”

 

“Let me know if it turns urgent,” he tells her, and then falls silent next to Yosuke.

 

...Hm. He hopes the other boy will take this well.

Edited by Pachimew

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~~ several hours earlier ~~

 

He winks, then takes a seat. "I'm just here to have some fun."

 

Amanda leans back in her chair and gets another look at this man. Interesting. He’s willing to go these lengths for… fun? …He better turn out to be a competent man, he already seems like an imbecile. ...Well, scratch that. He seems competent, but…. Hm….

 

“Well, they know you’d probably be dead before you had the chance to turn the safety off, but it’s good to take precaution.” She folds her hands over her lap. “And I doubt you’re above dirty tricks, not if you’re here.” Her left eyebrow raises. “You’re only here for fun? Hm.”

 

"Bold of you to assume I run around with the safety on," Stan retorts. "The fact that you're even entertaining my presence already tells me that you're interested in spicing things up a little."

 

“Well you seem to know a thing or two about the party. The people you were coming with, and a few other little tidbits. And something tells me you’re just chaotic enough to do it.” Amanda once again leans forward, elbows on the desk, resting her chin on her folded hands. “And the idea of Lara being betrayed by someone she calls ‘love’, or ‘darling’, or whatever nickname she has for you… couldn’t be more satisfying, really.”

 

Stan nods. "Daddy," he clarifies. "She calls me daddy."

 

That was the one lie he was sure was going to bite him in the ass sooner or later, but it was too good to resist. Everything else was calculated, but this? This was for the sheer hilarity.

 

"But information ain't free, darlin'." He brings the topic back. "I assume you're not going through all this trouble just to assassinate her, so I'm sure someone as calculating as you would have an elaborate plan ready to deploy."

 

Amanda clears her throat at Stan’s initial clarification. “...Ah, I never knew her to be the type… I guess things can change in a couple of years.” She glances at the window awkwardly. Um… Lara… As much as I despise you, why? 

 

She snaps back into focus. “Well, of course I have a plan in mind, one that you’re gleefully throwing a wrench in.” To this, Stan has a rather smug grin on his face. She wonders whyLara finds him kissable, Amanda finds he has a rather punchable face. “So of course I’ll have to adapt it accordingly.” Her eyes narrow. “And in the event you go rogue, I’ll need a plan B, maybe even a plan C. I don’t know how much Lara would’ve told you, but I’ve always been a Type A about these things.” Yeah… of course I have. Amanda grabs a folder from inside the desk, placing it on the table and slipping it forward. “Normally I wouldn’t show it to someone like you, but I think if your being here already makes these plans null and void, I guess it’s okay to show you.” 

 

Stan shrinks back, placing one hand over his eyes and waving the other in front of him blindly. "Woah woah woah! You can't just go and whip out your massive goods like that and show them willy-nilly to strangers!" Still, he peeks through a gap between his fingers, rather deliberately, and slowly leans forward to peel open the folder. Stan recognized it as a sheer product of obsession, once he had it open all the way, with images, locations, and lists, as if it were documentation compiled by a conspiracy theorist. "Looks pretty comprehensive. It'd be bad if someone from the XDRS got their hands on this, huh," he comments, taking note of the various labeled tabs. Summary, Lara and Connections, Mauna Kea Beach, the Shadow World.... 

 

The Shadow World? Last he remembered, 1990s Earth didn't have a shadow world. Nobody was playing card games here. 

 

Amanda rolls her eyes when Stan pretends to look away as if she had just walked out of the shower. She then sighs. “Of course it would. Which is why I made sure to keep this folder with me, no matter what. A fair amount of those folders are things I already knew. Lara, that whole section? I filled that out from what I remember. I had to dig for some of her connections, for example…” She flips to one of the pages in the connections tab. “Toru Nishimura. Investigative reporter from Japan. From what I was told, Lara saved him on a mission of sorts, he’s a strong connection for her. If there’s one thing I can praise Lara for, it was the friends she’d been able to make. She has a few others- a history grad student, a tech guy… Looks like a couple of other people as well.” 

 

Stan nods rhythmically. Lara had never told him any of this. "Which you invited to the party?"

 

“A few of them. Obviously they’re Lara’s good friends. Better to have people there who she trusts there. Of course knowing her, even then she’d bring a few people from XDRS with her. So I had to dig a little- going to the black market seems to be a source of some good info. Unfortunately for me, it’s not enough. Which is where you come in. You’d know more about the others than I do.” Once again Amanda leans in her chair- she had never been the type to sit still for long. “And, perhaps, enough about Lara now that I can get into her head a little.” 

 

"She doesn't really tell me much about her own life," Stan admits. A truth. 

 

“Hm. Is that right. I suppose she doesn’t really do that, too many things that already mess with her head. Thinks it’s better not to burden anyone with her problems or something like that.” Amanda sighs and drums her fingers against her knee. “Well, I suppose you’re not completely useless.” She flips to another page. “Care to take a look at this?” 

 

In the next part of the section were typed up notes and photos about the XDRS, and it was clear that Amanda was directing his attention to an entry about Stan himself. He should have made a brief comment about the photo being less handsome than the real thing, but for a split second he froze until he could confirm that the sheet did not include any incriminating information. Still, the older man blinked once, saving the snapshot of the folio to his memory. 

 

"This is rather sudden. It's like the time I tried to Google myself," he says as he recovers himself. "Explosives specialist. That's me. I also repair weapons and do a bit of mechanical engineering. Refused to get drafted into the Mars Protectorate when I was sixteen even though they said I was a prodigy at fixing things. Had a bunch of girlfriends--"

 

Amanda furrows her eyebrows at Stan’s reaction. She avoids the temptation to lean back and kick her feet up onto the desk. She takes a second to remember that this is the multiverse, of course someone could live on friggin’ Mars if they so chose. Google? The hell is--- no, she’s not going to ask that question, not even to herself. “And I’m sure they were all lovely,” Amanda interrupts as Stan starts talking about himself. “All except the one.” 

 

"Oh, no, most of them weren't," Stan adds, hiding his anger at the indirect insult. "You know what they say: don't stick your nose in crazy. I just have the bad habit of getting involved with the crazy ones."

 

“I suppose there truth in that,” she says with a little venom. Then she sighs. Amanda crosses her arms over her bosom and leans further into the chair. It is, in fact, a rather comfy chair, all things considered. “You do seem useful. Maybe even more than useful. So I guess there are a few things I’ll need to tweak in the plan to make room for you. Namely, in the explosives we’d be using. If you’re the expert, tell me. What would you recommend.” She flips to the plans part of the folder and points at a few things. “One of the rough plans involved land mines. But I figured it’d be beat to go with something more mild. Unfortunately, I got my degree in anthropology, not demolitions.” 

 

"Land mines?!" Gee, lady wasn't kidding when she said she knew nothing about explosives. Well, he figured, to someone who didn't know explosives, that would be the first thing that came to mind whenever someone considered bombs in the ground. Visibly taken aback, he shakes his head vigorously from side to side. "Landmines are triggered by the vibrations of people stepping around them and have significantly dangerous payloads designed to maim and kill their targets. It's hard to predict how or when they'll go off. You wouldn't want to destroy your darling miss Croft before you got to her, yeah?"

 

"Sooo," Stan takes this moment while speaking to skim the plan, "To cause mass panic and confusion, it would be easier and cheaper to put in something that's just loud and flashy." Like myself, of course. "Hide something like flashbangs and smoke machines at the party then hook that series to an external detonator, and when the guests inevitably get a little drunk, make them think they're suddenly caught in World War Three." He smiled with close lips, squinting his eyes. It was a figure of speech to supplement that futureman vibe, of course. World War Three never happened. They jumped directly to Solar Wars. Which actually, was an expression that would have worked just as well--

 

"That is, unless you were intending to wreck this beach in particular and murder all of Lara's earth friends. That's a whole different plan were you'd have to lure her out first, and in that case, assuming that the XDRS agents survive -- which they probably will, knowing most of them -- you'll have some mad lads on your tail."

 

“Interesting… So I guess that leaves a few ends that I need to tie up- namely the other agents- but for now I should clarify. I suppose somewhere in time I did want Lara dead, but the current idea is to lure her out. I want her to suffer.” Amanda taps her nails against the desk again. “Hm…. Flash bangs and smoke machines? External detonator… That’s something I’ll leave you to.” Amanda takes out the iPhone that she stole from some unsuspecting teenager when she travelled to 2016 Earth. Opening out her notes app, she types a few things down, her nails making loud clacks against the screen. “But I’ll need you to tell me exactly what you’re doing so I can incorporate it into the plan effectively. You seem like a loose cannon, and I want none of that bull **** happening.”

 

"I don't know, people usually write down 'then Stan does a thing' in the script," he retorts with a shrug. Reaching over the desk, he grabbed a blue pen and began to scribble on the already marked map. "But since looks like I'm obliged, I'll set out a proposal. After dusk, when the party is far underway, I approach from this direction over the water. Payloads should be planted here, here, here, here and here, in addition to the fireworks on the boat itself which I will release to draw people to the waterfront while your people take position, then detonate when ready. The noise would scatter people towards the exit with the exception of the XDRS agents who will attempt to investigate the threat, which would make it easier to isolate your target."

 

"I gotta ask though, what's this secret weapon that keeps getting mentioned in the doc?"

 

Amanda taps the little mask on her choker. “I’m afraid that’s something that you’d have to see for yourself.” 

 

Stan squints, skeptical. "But you have a whole section on the shadow world at the end, which definitely seems relevant if it's included..."

 

“Well, yes. The two are very much related. It’s not like I can show you at the moment, else the whole plan get screwed up.” 

 

"Just a peek, pretty please?" Eyes bright, begging.

 

“Stan, it’s dangerous if I show you now, the whole hotel could get destroyed.” 

 

"Are the documents self-destructive or--"

 

“Wait- ah. Notes.” Annoyed at her own brain fart, Amanda rolls her eyes and grabs another folder, slipping it in front of Stan. “Feel free to look those over."

 

"I see..." He scans the new document and blinks to take another snapshot. The notes revealed what she meant by it being dangerous to show him directly. A wraith-like monster... Was it native to this world or was it collected from the multiverse? On the one hand, Lara's version of Earth, however mundane, had ghosts and spirits and magical items sometimes, and on the other, Amanda's handheld device didn't match the aesthetics of the 90s at all. 

 

Amanda looks over her notes and the drawings Stan made on the map. Then she looks everything over again with a critical eye. She grabs her pen and copies these notes onto another map. “Right. So I’ll be coming from this direction,” she says as she draws a messy circle somewhere inland, near the outskirts of the beach. “So if anything goes wrong…” She crosses out a couple of things from where she would make an entrance. “Don’t detonate any of these. Instead, focus on around the party. I do agree that we should get the other guests out of the way, they’re only useful for keeping Lara busy anyway.”

 

Then Amanda sits back and looks at the map she doodled on. “....And depending on where Lara is, we’ll have to consider the chance of her escaping. So I’ll have people inside already keeping her as far from the exit as possible. Or at the very least block it if she’s near it.” Amanda writes a few notes on the map itself. “And about the other agents…. what would I be able to expect?”

 

"I can hold her in position and keep her distracted. They're all newbies, with the exception of myself, Lara, and Xander, one of our leaders. I don't know much info about the new recruits, partly because nobody has been concerned with doing the paperwork or updating the databases." An in a way he was thankful for that. If nobody knows what's going on, then it's hard for information to fall into the wrong hands, because surprise! The information never existed in the first place.  "I think most of us assumed that it would simply be a fun party, so our more experienced agents were assigned to missions with higher stakes. But, from speaking with these people before departure, I'll tell you that they aren't real pushovers, either. Temeraire, the cat girl, has cat powers, that the kimono man, Utakata, can make bubbles as well as summon a tiny sluglike pet, Illidan's superpower is being a tall buff demon man, and I'm not sure what Tien does but he seems like a soldier of sorts."

 

Amanda takes a second to consider the lack of information she has. “Cat power…. Bubbles…” She says with venom. “Like hell these people aren’t pushovers….” She sighs, “But this will be sufficient. I’ll make a note of that.” No paperwork…. What kind of multiverse organization omits paperwork? Or a database? She rubs her temple. “...seriously, what kind of ‘non-pushover’ makes bubbles….”

 

"Dunno. Sounds pretty lethal if you manage to trap a fart inside one."

 

“Mature.” Amanda sighs and frustratedly clicks her pen. “Well it looks like I don’t have much else to work with. So I’ll have to play it by ear… Damn.” She closes her folders and takes a minute to mull it all over. “Interesting…. Quite the motley crew.” She rests her face in her hands. “God, Lara really has gotten desperate if that’s what she chooses to work with…” She sighs. “Then again, it’s Lara. When is she not desperate.”

 

Stan lets out a small huff, which he twists into a short laugh. "I just want to see one more thing before we rendez-vous at 9 tonight--"

 

Taking the first folder, he opened it to the last tab. The notes here seemed to be a bit more sparse, but once again, he was uncertain if this was an multiversal intervention, or simply something native to this world. He simply glanced at them but took a last picture for him to look at more closely later. It appeared that Amanda was still experimenting with this facet, but it could spell trouble soon.

 

"And also," Stan added with a grin, "I assume you wouldn't mind me using your credit card to make a few purchases to get the venue ready?"

 

“Yeah fine…. but I need to be able to pay it off this month so don’t go nuts.”

 

 

~~~

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Stan --  Mauna Kea Beachfront

[hello love] - [goodbye love] 

 

Score! Stan grins widely. It worked! Despite Lara's words, he could tell that she thoroughly enjoyed the effort he put into the display. Woo the woman you love and chase off the suitors, all in one fell swoop. "I'm just being me, baby!" he yells back. He orders Ryland to drive the boat into the beach so he could meet Lara, who was standing beside blue kimono man, who was now red kimono man. Once it lands onto shore, Stan jumps off the prow and lands in a crouch onto dry sand, grimacing at how he was getting it all into his nice shoes. At least they weren't wet, but why were fancy parties on the beach even a good idea in the first place? He wasn't overdressed or anything.  

 

And now was where things got a little tricky. Despite his reassurances that he wasn't going to try anything funny, he is entirely aware that his escort still had his eyes on him, and would already be getting off the boat himself. Amanda really didn't trust him, huh?

 

Not that the suspicion was baseless.

 

He rises from his crouch, making sure the drawstring bag slung over his shoulder was closed properly, before he runs towards Lara and grabs her into a big hug. Holding her tight so she couldn't pull away easily, he whispers an apology into her ear, careful not to look too suspicious to his accomplice, though perhaps plenty suspicious to the man who Lara was standing on the beach with. "Sorry I'm late. Amanda is alive. She's trying to make your life a living hell with black magic. I--"

 

Thunder claps again and a pair of forms barrel through the trees framing the beach. Stan lets Lara go and immediately shoves his bag into her hands. Out of the two fighting forms, one was an unrecognized but clearly multiversal man with a katana -- was it a katana? -- and the other was a shape that looked exactly the same as the sketch in Amanda's notes. 

 

Seems like the plan, already, had fallen apart, and without even needing his interference! Stan watches the fighting and waits a couple beats, shutting out the noise of the rising panic of the people around him -- then flipped the switch in his pocket.

"Killer queen has already touched this party." It was a line that one of his old friends used to say.

 

Sand suddenly explodes upwards with a bang in multiple places around the beach, including the spot where the monster and Kuu were. Smoke fills the area. The boat behind Stan pops and explodes as well after a short delay, and he reaches into his pockets to put a pair of sunglasses over his eyes just as blinding bright flashes punctuated all the noise. Nice.

 

Edited by TehUltimateMage

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[U and L - Mauna Kea - Beach]

 

Everything happens too fast. The second Stan held her close and said Amanda was alive, Lara wants to throw up. Had he been— what had he been doing? 

 

Stan-?” There comes one of the guests from the party, with a katana out, running to the beach. She raises both eyebrows, jaw dropping when she sees what follows him.

 

Oh God

 

Memories come back to her as the beast that killed her comrades over a year and a half ago comes crashing in. The chase, the bodies, the water filling the cave, Amanda’s terrified face as the rocks come caving in…. She does her best to keep the contents of her stomach down. 

 

Her heart rate accelerates. Stan throws a drawstring bag into her arms and she clutches it, quickly opening it to see what’s in it. Inside is a rather gorgeous looking Glock, ammo included, some stun grenades, and something wrapped in cloth. Looking at the cloth, she takes out what looks like one of her Heckler and Koch pistols… only polished, beautiful, and they appear to have been tinkered. She sees on one of them an engraved outline on the barrel- a couple of stars. It’s as if he tried to write something else on there but had no time. She doesn’t mind, all she can focus on is how nice her pistols are now. 

 

Oh, those are sexy.

 

...Stan had made such a giant show of everything. Coming late, the whole spectacle with the fireworks… The fact that the man on the boat was watching him with such intensity--- Ah! He didn’t have any more time to explain himself, but she starts catching on. From what she can tell, he teamed up with Amanda’s lackeys…. but it appears he’s been working as a double agent.

 

And judging by the looks Stan was being given, he isn’t trusted. Lara sighs. She has no idea if she should kiss him later or give him an earful.

 

Both?

 

Both.

 

Lara grabs the glock first, slinging the bag onto her shoulders. Loading the glock, she looks to see Stan putting his hand in his pocket and saying “Killer queen has already touched this party." Some sort of code, that’s all she knows. But knowing Stan…. Lara grabs from her purse the pair of sunglasses she always carries around, slipping them on. 

 

In multiple areas, there are explosions that throw sand around the beach. Once they’re finished, she pushes them up onto her head and shakes herself off. There’s sand in her heels, but she doesn’t care. She kicks them off and notices the waves of guys running onto the beach. Guests run to flee, and the monster seems to be making a beeline for her. She tosses her purse, with the revolver and the extra ammo, towards Stan. 

 

Keep that!” She quickly says as she aims Stan’s Glock towards the monster, firing several shots as soon as the man is out of the way. 

 

...Showtime.” 

 

Utakata is still extremely suspicious of Stan. The fact that he just came and crashed the party like that, all of his actions to this point. His eyes had remained narrow throughout their entire exchange. Somehow, although Lara seemed to have picked up on something he hadn’t, he can’t really trust her judgment here either. For all he knows, if Stan is a spy, what would stop Lara from abandoning XDRS to be with him?

 

He doesn’t know if Lara is that naive. He doesn’t even know how good of a fighter he is. But from what he’s seen of this organization, they need all the manpower they can get. All of the uncertainty…. It makes him all sorts of uncomfortable. 

 

Still, Stan hasn’t blatantly tried to kill him or anyone else. He doesn't know if they’ll be working for or against each other, but if it’s the former… Then fine. He’ll work with Stan, even if it means going against his better judgment. Stan seems just competent enough that he could easily come up with a distraction for them all to leave, worst comes to worst. 

 

But if it’s the latter, he’ll tear Stan apart. 

 

Still… Utakata can’t turn away from a good fight. 

 

SAIKEN!

 

What?

 

I need you.

 

Bah. Alright.

 

He doesn’t want to go too far into his forms, God forbid he loses control and messes everything up again. But he does allow a wave of chakra to emanate from his body. First tailed beast mode should be enough for now. His eyes narrow. 

 

Let’s do this, Saiken.

 

Will do.

 

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[A - Mauna Kea Beach]

 

Who knew XDRS had a knack for throwing five wrenches in the plan at once?

 

Actually, she's not sure if the man who attacked her was even affiliated with them. She'd seen in her own travels people traveling the multiverse as rogues, just as she had. Either way, she doesn't like any of this- nothing had prepared her for someone to find her like this. From what Stan was able to tell her... He hadn't told her anything about agents with sensor-type powers, or a guy with a lightning katana. 

 

He really hadn't told her much outside of what she already knew.... which worries her. 

 

Still, she believes that he didn't know himself what these new agents could do, which she's fine with. Perhaps he's incompetent enough that it can be somewhat excusable if one of the agents turns out to be more than she can handle. 

 

Still, is he incompetent enough to screw her over?

 

She hopes not. 

 

And then something explodes in her face. Screaming as she recoils, she feels two shots enter her beast form, which incites more screeches. As soon as Amanda recovers, she spots Lara with what looks to be a Glock. Now where the hell did she find one of those? Amanda doesn't recall her having that. Then again, for all she knew Lara could have had a whole new magazine of weapons in her arsenal. 

 

She lunges for Lara, managing to knock her down. Lara drops the Glock for a second, but Amanda had forgotten how quickly Lara could react. Lara grabs the Glock again and shoots the monster right in the abdomen. That just about does it for the beast, which fades away and leaves a rather frustrated Amanda. She meets eyes with Lara, who once she stands up widens her eyes. Now... Had Lara expected that?

Edited by Mikasa361

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Illidan Stormrage, Lord of the Illidari
<Status: Stable; worried>
<Location: Mauna Kea Beach - Hawaii>

 

 

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Temeraire Rhowa, Warrior of Light
<Status: Stable; shocked and confused>
<Location: Mauna Kea Beach - Hawaii>
<Current Class: Ninja>

 

<People: Stan | Lara | Amanda>

 

~~

 

Oh gods firesand explosions-- The fireworks were enough to startle Temeraire, while it prompted Illidan to turn towards the sound and sigh. If this was who he thought it was--

 

Yep. The voice just prior to the fireworks. Illidan buried his face in one of his hands.

 

"Goddess dammit, Stan."

 

Then, everything became a blur. Men storming the beach, and some sort of monster. From the sounds around him, a fight was breaking out, fast. Illidan loved a good fight, but right now, he knew there'd be an extremely startled horse from the fireworks (he knew animals didn't react well to sudden loud sounds). "You handle things here, Temeraire. I'm going to try to find Xander." He knew it shouldn't be too hard now that Xander's a demon, but still... Maybe if he found Sieghorse, he'd find the king himself.

 

"Wait, Illidan, I--" Too late. Illidan was gone. "Gods damn it all. Just when I need help." Time for a little dodging and weaving. Temeraire dodged attacks, watching her opponents, not yet drawing her daggers...

 

She turned to try to find the monster, but... there was no monster. Not anymore, anyway. Now there was just a blond Hyur woman, apparently having a stare-down with Lara.

 

"Whoa, what?!"

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二番隊

.

.

 

Everything happens rather quickly, and Kuu is left disappointed. 

 

The monster he is fighting seems to be more concerned with her specific targets than creating mass-destruction, and it makes him pause. The creatures of this universe were so strange -- what kind of Hollow held back in the slightest?


It only reminds him that his battles here are controlled, specific, and limited; that would not be a problem if someone as illustrious as his Captain was fighting, but it is frustrating to the young Shinigami. He wants to battle, test his limits in a way that confronts the extremities of his abilities, and nothing has pushed him to that edge -- yet. 

 

He stands, aloft in the air, watching as the man who had entered below on a boat and the woman with the gun shoot towards the not-Hollow, all of her attention turned to them suddenly. The explosion blows up waves of smoke and sand around their forms, and he dissipates it with a quick burst of Shunko, waving his yari around with the movements of the wind. Vision cleared, he inspects the scene before him, interested. 

 

She has returned to her human form, much to his surprise. So she was not dead -- and with that, he had no justification in the world of the living to take a life. He squints, trying to see if there is any chance of death floating around her being, but returns nothing. Not her time -- unless her companions decided it was so. 

 

"Retreat," he murmurs, feeling the brush of his yari against his fingers, the shimmering energy as his blade speaks to him. Then, the handle of his weapon crackles with a familiar energy, and it retreats to its Zanpakuto form, which Kuu sheaths. Still in the air, he turns to look around, no longer interested in the scene before him; ah, that's right -- he'd run off when he sensed the strange energy, leaving Dennis to deal with Rufus. Where are they now? 

 

He spots them easily enough -- it is quite easy to pick out a scantily-clad demon and someone dressed like the superheroes in the comics that Omaeda was so fond of -- and his face lights up instantly, taking a step forward as he flash-steps to their side. He disappears from the air and lands right next to them, in the space of a breath.

 

"Can't kill her," he declares, glaring at the scene before them, crossing his arms, with a certain childish annoyance to his tone, "I'd get written up again."

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Forum_Signature--Fractal_Persona_Branch.

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The fireworks are still going. Pretty as they are, they’re so loud. Tien’s considering putting his hands over his ears again, to Damnation with looking weird because of it.

 

Then the beach explodes. Literally, explodes. Deafening explosions, bright lights, sand flying everywhere. People start to scream.

 

Tien’s ears are ringing. He doesn’t know what’s happening, and the rumble he feels in his bones is enough to drown out Fractal’s anchoring hum. Too bright, too loud, too much, too much, he needs OUT!

 

He thinks he might be crying. He’s not actually sure. The choked whining sound is definitely his, though. Even with the lack of blood, this is worse, far worse, than the chaos of the battlefields he’s delivered messages on.

 

He needs out. Out. Out. If he can get far enough away, somewhere safe, he can find a place to huddle until the chaos is over and he can calm down. He doesn't think about Yosuke, too overwhelmed by his storm of panic.

 

Disoriented by the sound and light, Tien doesn’t pay attention to which direction he bolts in.

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< STATUS: Stable; Confident >

< LOCATION: Mauna Kea Beach >

< AGENTS: Illidan >

< OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Sieghorse >

 

“Shh, shh, you’re alright. Everything’s fine; you’ll be okay.” Two soft, brown eyes stared at Xander calmly as he gently pet Sieghorse’s forehead. The horse flicked its tail idly as it leaned into the comforting touch. Xander held in the urge to sigh. Soon after the fireworks went off, Xander had dragged Sieghorse off to a secluded area under a tree. The stallion had been irritable. His distress was clearly displayed in his flattened ears and the jitteriness of how he walked. It had been six years since the war ended, giving Sieghorse amble time to grow accustomed to an easier and less frightful life. It took several minutes for Xander to finally get Sieghorse to relax. The stallion had grown suspicious of Xander’s horns, sniffing them cautiously like a dog before snorting aloud and turning his head away in disinterest. 

 

Pacifying Sieghorse before he could get too rambunctious was a relief, but it seemed as though the agents’ bad luck had finally caught up with them. The beach had fallen into complete pandemonium. There was an explosion clouding the silhouette of a strange, floating creature that lashed out at anyone who grew near. Xander could spot Lara firing away at the monster with guns that Xander was certain she didn’t have earlier. As the smoke of the explosion clears, the monster’s silhouette gave way to that of what appeared to be a human woman. Even from a distance, Xander could see Lara’s eyes widen in shock. Xander supposed it would be too much to hope that Lara’s astonishment was over the fact that a monster had crashed her party and not because she knew who the monster was. There never was an easy mission, was there?

 

With Sieghorse efficiently calmed and chaos breaking out, Xander knew he could not stand idly on the sidelines. He dropped his hand from Sieghorse’s head and made his way towards the horse’s side. He lifted a foot into the stirrup and quickly mounted his steed. Sieghorse’s ears perked up when Xander tugged at his reigns. It had been a few weeks since Xander had last rode Sieghorse. Between paperwork, the mission to the market, and meetings he hadn’t had the time to take Sieghorse out for a ride. Xander would be lying if he said he wasn’t eager to be on horseback. 

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Xander spotted a familiar figure approach. Xander ushered Sieghorse to trot out from under the shade of the tree as the figure grew closer.

 

“Illidan!” Xander called as the half-demon came within earshot. The last Xander had seen of him was when he and Temeraire had been standing next to him before unexpectedly running off towards the sound of thunder. Now that he thought about it, the strange creature did emerge from where Illidan, Temeraire, and the two men had run off before. “Did you and Temeraire find anything?”

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[Confrontation- Utakata, Lara Croft, Stanley Gulliver, Amanda Evert

 

Amanda raises her hand at her men, who all pause. A silence fills the air. 

 

Lara’s heart sinks as she watches Amanda approach her, brandishing a pistol from her side. Taking a step or two back, Lara keeps the Glock in her hands as her eyes widen further in fear. Her heart starts running at ten kilometers a minute as she backs up a little further. “A...Amanda…” 

 

Oh save your goddamn breath,” Amanda snaps, “Like hell you care that I’m alive.

 

Utakata raises his eyebrow. It’s interesting, the mix of emotions that seem to bounce around in Lara’s eyes. He can see fear, yes, but also relief, pain, and a feeling he’s only seen other people experience and never had the chance to truly feel for himself. It’s almost heartbreaking, really. Had he cared for Lara more, perhaps he would have felt bad.

 

Stan’s expression is much harder to read, partly due to the shaded glasses on his face. Where Lara is an open book, Stan is a blank sheet of paper. It’s frustrating, but at the same time it’s better for the mission if he doesn’t let anyone know what he’s thinking…. Or is it? He still doesn’t trust Stan in the slightest, but yet again Stan hasn’t given Utakata any reason to trust him.

 

Briefly, Utakata wonders why he isn’t doing anything. He could just take this woman out right now- her men are standing down, Utakata could easily tap into Saiken’s power and kill her. Honestly, if it were between this woman and Stan, Utakata would much rather take her out instead. Sure, he doesn’t want to suffer Lara’s wrath. But mostly he doesn’t like this woman’s attitude (seriously, who goes around crashing parties for some elaborate revenge scheme? Lame.). He stares at the blonde- Amanda- who shakes her head. 

 

A-Amanda, what are you talking about?” Lara’s voice trembles, her gun pointed but her hands wavering. 

 

You damn well know what I’m talking about,” Amanda hisses as she walks closer. “Lara, you left me in that goddamn cave to drown.” She gestures back to her choker. “If it weren’t for that mask I pulled out of the wall, I’d be dead.

 

It’s Utakata’s turn to roll his eyes as he quickly snags some shards from the bottle he broke, slipping one between each of his fingers. Oh, poor baby, life must be so hard for you. But a bang sounds and sand explodes near his feet. Tracing the source, Stan held a revolver in his hand which he clicked to the next chamber. It was aimed at him, and Stan's other hand signs for him to not interrupt.

 

Amanda’s head swings over at the sound of the shot, then looks around to try and figure out why the hell Stan has a gun out. It looks familiar, but she can’t seem to pinpoint where it’s from. When she sees the man in the red kimono take a few steps back, she realizes. “Don’t attack me…. I can take your ass down, you little twink,” she hisses at Utakata with a glare. She points the gun at Utakata’s head briefly. “Or I can just ruin that pretty little face of yours. Your choice.

 

Utakata’s annoyed, but he decides to take Stan’s gesture and stand down. Even the waves of chakra he emanated fizzle out into the air. “Yeah, yeah, fine.” Quietly, he puts his hands up until Amanda is no longer pointing her gun at his head, after which he puts them back down. He keeps his pipe at the ready, but leans against the bistro table to show that he won’t interrupt anymore. His eyes narrow. Oh, you have no idea what I’m capable of… That little beast of yours wouldn’t stand a water drop’s chance in Hell. His expression sour, he fiddles with the tassel on the pipe, keeping a close eye on Stan and that gun of his. 

 

Lara blinks a few times, barely able to register anything that’s going on. “Amanda, there was no physical way you could have survived that- you were trapped in there and if I went to get air and come to get you…..” Lara winces. 

 

Oh, you would have died too, what a goddamn tragedy,” Amanda spits. She straightens the arm holding the pistol. “You know what really stings? The fact that you never even bothered to…” She rolls her eyes, pretending to think, “Oh, what is it that archaeologists do again? Oh, right…. Dig.” Turning the safety off, Amanda shoots an icy glare at Lara.

 

Lara doesn’t know those eyes… Not anymore. Those aren’t the eyes of the woman she once loved… They were cold, lackluster, and vengeful. Amanda had died a year and a half ago…. And this was the husk that her soul left behind. Such a vibrant, wholesome, sweet young woman…. Is this what it looks like when someone succumbs to hatred?

 

I had a whole plan,” Amanda mockingly laments, “I was ready to take you somewhere when you were distracted, mess with you a little bit…. And maybe perhaps kill you afterwards. But it seems,” she huffs as she shoots a glare at Stan, “that either I was betrayed, or your boyfriend is just that incompetent. Or, by some chance, both.

 

Stan perks up when mentioned directly, but remains still. Amanda glances over at him for a second and smirks. “Lara, you really do have a type when it comes to men, don’t you…. 

 

Lara takes a step back. “...The devil do you mean? So what if I-

 

Let me break it down for you, Lara Rochelle.” Amanda’s voice lilts as she walks carefully, almost like a predator wanting to toy with its prey before jumping in to make the kill. But Amanda knows better than to kill her out right. No, she wants to see Lara suffer a little bit. “You only like green eyed men because you miss your dear mommy… Don’t you?

 

Stan finally points his gun away from Utakata's feet and slips his sunglasses onto his head, revealing the aforementioned eyes. Amanda was definitely just trying to get under both their skins with her words, and if that's what she wanted to do, he'd oblige. "The only green eyed monster I see here is you, missus Amanda."

 

Utakata lifts both his eyebrows. What Amanda said was cruel… and he had to admit, though reluctantly… Stan’s comeback was good.

 

Amanda chuckles from somewhere deep within her chest. “Oh, what are you implying, Gulliver? That I’m envious? Please, what have I to be jealous of… Lara? Trust me, I’ve dated her, she’s nothing special at the end of the day.” Her eyes narrow. “I’m just here to give her what she had coming.

 

Utakata gets his pipe ready. His eyes once again turn pale yellow as he readies himself for the inevitable scuffle. 

 

Lara freezes, taking it in. Amanda…. Just made the lowest dig Lara had ever seen a person do. Nobody, nobody who knew what was good for them, would ever bring up her mother like that. She snarls, her arm straightening and the grip on the Glock firm. “You’re not the Amanda I know…. She’s dead.” Lara’s finger carefully hovers over the trigger. “She died a long time ago.

 

That was all the confirmation Stan needed. He twists and shoots, aiming at the center out of trained reflex, not caring if he hit any of Amanda's vitals. It would have been fun to continue the banter... but if there was any time where Lara needed him the most, it was now. 

 

Besides, even if he got the blond lady straight through the heart, he was sure she would be vengeful enough to survive even that.

 

Amanda yells, feeling the shot in her abdomen. She hisses, holding up the gun to Lara and firing two shots. One grazes Lara’s shoulder while the other hits her in the abdomen as well. 

 

Lara yelps in pain, gripping at her stomach area. It’s only by luck that it misses anything particularly important. She doesn’t remember if she packed any medical supplies in her purse, and has no idea if Stan left a medipack in that drawstring bag of his. Feeling the pain rush through her, she drops the Glock and falls to her knees, a low whimper coming from her throat. She hadn’t expected Amanda to shoot her, and that was her mistake. While it’s a damn shame this dress was ruined, that is the least of her problems. If she can’t so much as cover the wound in her abdomen, she’ll bleed out.

 

Stan lunged forward to grab Lara and lay her down gently, properly. Revolvers were slower than other handguns and it was frustrating that he couldn't interrupt Amanda before she had fired. He remembered seeing in Lara's purse a small canvas bag with a red cross on it. But before he could stop the bleeding using the first aid kit, he had to distract Amanda, somehow.  "Utakata, cover us!"

 

Stanley…?” Lara’s voice is soft. His touch had been gentle… though this was the last circumstance in which she’d wanted to be laying in Stan’s arms. She winces, keeping her hand on the wound. God… This bloody hurts….

 

That’s enough for Utakata. “On it!” He does his best to stifle a shout of pain as he feels his skin begin to burn, as if he had jumped into a fire and kept on running. Feeling Saiken’s power take over, he feels his body transform into the familiar wild beast he was used to resorting to if someone was in danger. Letting out a screeching growl, the beast rushes towards Amanda and grabs her with a couple of tails. As she struggles, he attempts to allow acid to seep onto Amanda’s skin. Very little manages to make contact, but it causes Amanda to howl in pain. He manages to hold on for a while before Amanda grabs a glass bottle and whacks him with it. He lets out a screech as his tails give some slack. Amanda manages to break out of his loose grip and elbow him in the face, sending him back into his normal human mode. Utakata covers his nose, which he’s certain is bleeding. “Shoot,” he hisses. 

 

AUGH, ENOUGH OF THIS,” Amanda yells as she detaches the mask from her collar and her eyes yet again begin to glow. This is something Stan never told her, and she doesn’t give a damn if Stan knew or not. She’s pissed off now, and she’s ready to end this.

 

Utakata hadn’t taken into account that Amanda could easily change into this strange beast of hers- else he would have led her elsewhere and...

 

That thought is interrupted as the beast that appears once more scratches what seems to be a large hole into the air in front of the group. Before any of the three could react, she manages to get a grip on all three of them, and what feels like two others, dragging them somewhere that Utakata has no idea. 

 

His eyes widen as the rip they were shoved through closes and everything turns pitch…. black….

Edited by Mikasa361

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Illidan Stormrage, Lord of the Illidari
<Status: ???>
<Location: Mauna Kea Beach, Hawaii -> ???>
<People: Xander>

 

~~

 

Oh, thank Elune, Sieghorse was calm for the most part. Illidan was glad that he'd found Xander so quickly. "You can probably see it from here, but... Long story short, everything has gone to hell..."

 

Before Illidan could elaborate further, he heard gunshots ringing out and whipped around towards the direction they had come from.

 

Instead of a shootout, as he'd expected, he instead saw a portal made of dark magic.

 

OH HELL NO! He was not about to let anyone be kidnapped. Before Xander could even speak, Illidan had drawn his Warglaives and rushed into the portal as it closed.

 

It wasn't long before even his Spectal Sight went black.

 

~~

 

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Temeraire Rhowa, Warrior of Light
<Status: Stable; panicking>
<Location: "Sapphire Avenue, Ul'dah">
<Current Class: Ninja>
<People: ???>

 

~~

 

When Temeraire next opened her eyes, she felt dazed. What kind of doozy just hit me...? One minute I'm dodgin' bullets at that party, then Lara and that other girl had been talkin', then there were gunshots, and then...

 

The next thing after that had been a blur.

 

Just... where am I...? Taking a look around, Temeraire found herself in...

 

Ul'dah...? Why am I in Sapphire Avenue? And where is everyone? She hadn't expected to be back home again. Looking at the sky, she saw that it was nighttime (or, at least, it looked like nighttime - it certainly didn't feel that way). The appearance of the place was almost surreal, though; Sapphire Avenue - the busiest market street in all of Ul'dah - was deserted, mostly destroyed, and littered with... stains?

 

No, not just any stains. Blood stains.

 

Oh gods, there's... so much blood. Temeraire - brave, reckless Temeraire - was starting to falter and tremble at the sight. There was blood everywhere: on the road, on the walls... hells, even on the tarps covering what few marketplace stalls hadn't been destroyed. Please no please no please no please no--

 

"Yo."

 

Temeraire spun on her heels, daggers drawn, to see...

 

Herself?

 

"What in the seven hells--?!" It was like staring in a mirror - everything from the facial markings, to the fluffy tail, to even her hairstyle, was identical except for the eye color. The eyes were a very unsettling yellow, and glowed slightly in the dim Ul'dahn moonlight.

 

And when she spoke, even her voice was identical. "Oh, don't look so surprised, Temeraire - if that even is your real name. Oh, wait, it's not."

 

"How do you know that?"

 

"I'm your shadow. Your true self. Duh."

 

Temeraire groaned. "Of course this had to be some stupid 'dark side of the soul' auroch s****."

 

"You call it that, but denying it ain't gonna make me go away."

 

"Then humor me: if you ain't s'posed to be some sick opposite of me, then what are you supposed to be?"

 

"The part of you that you tried to leave behind with the Vulture tribe. The part of you that gets sick to her stomach from killing people, and feels guilty from causing so much as a single bruise in a fight. You'd rather die yourself than have to kill another living person.

 

"You're still guilty about all those deaths that the Lord of the Inferno caused, whether it was through his Amalj'aa lackeys impaling Ul'dahn people on spears, through the Immortal Flames that died trying to protect their oh-so-precious crystal cargo, or through those poor refugees who had to die due to being tempered by you-know-who. You were powerless to help and you're guilty because of it. All those people died because of you, V'rasto Rhowa."

 

"No... No, you're wrong! That ain't me! THAT'S NOT ME!!" In a lot of ways, Temeraire was lying to herself - as much as she said otherwise, she was very guilty at having been unable to help all those who had died. With the tempered people, it had been inevitable as that had been the only way to free them from such a fate, but with the slaughtered civilians and the Immortal Flame caravan guards? The guilt ate her alive.

 

No sooner had Temeraire spoken the words, however, than the mirror Miqo'te was surrounded with a dark aura. She looked angry and a little sad. "...suit yourself, then - I'll kill you and take your place!"

 

And then the "other" Temeraire no longer resembled Temeraire, but now had the form of a giant flying monster. The beast vaguely looked like a bird, but had fangs instead of a beak and a body covered in fur instead of feathers.

 

Temeraire drew her daggers in a panic, trying to back away. "O-Oh gods--!! Someone, anyone, HELP!!"

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...Where am I?

 

Where’s Fractal? 

 

These are Tien’s first thoughts as he slowly reorients himself, tracing the edges of his memories to figure out what happened. He’d run, yes...picked the wrong direction to run in. Towards people rather than away. By the time he’d blinked the flash from his eyes, he was on the outskirts of a dramatic confrontation. Then...Fractal had given him the warning he’d asked for earlier--about an odd presence, letting him know that it had turned urgent--some kind of creature had appeared, and split the air, and…

 

And now Tien is here, at the outskirts of a military camp on a misty night. No. Not a military camp. Amaram’s military camp. They’ve moved before, but they generally keep the same setup. Tien’s lived in the army for four years--no, maybe it’s five now--would be five--at any rate, he’d recognize it anywhere.

 

Also, Fractal is gone. That’s worrying. And while Tien doesn’t mind misty nights--they can be soothing, in their own way--there’s something that’s just unsettling about this one. Tien turns in a slow circle, scanning for signs of life. 

 

He turns; and his breath catches in horror. 

 

Behind him is a battlefield, both utterly unfamiliar and somehow the gestalt of every battlefield he’s even been on, soaked so deeply in blood that the grass cannot emerge from the ground. Bile claws its way up Tien’s throat, and he claps a hand to his mouth to keep from retching, stumbling backwards as he squeezes his eyes shut.

 

Fractal would be telling him to breathe. Fractal would be helping him calm down. But Fractal isn’t here, and Tien stumbles off to the side to throw up before he can even think about trying to take deep breaths and recenter himself.

 

It...passes. Tien doesn’t know how long it takes. But he stands up, wipes his mouth, and wanders into the unnervingly pristine camp instead.

 

It’s hollow. The buildings are there, every item in its place, but there’s no people. Nobody at all. It’s just...still. He doesn’t even have Fractal to hum to him and keep him company. Almighty, he hadn’t realized how much he’d come to rely on her being there… 

 

Tien lets his feet carry him, and when he pays attention to his surroundings once again he realizes he’s come to a stop in front of Amaram’s command tent. He hesitates for longer than he’d like to admit before he finally decides to move the tent flap aside and go in.

 

“There you are,” his own voice says. “I was wondering when you’d finally show up.”

 

Tien freezes. In front of him, sitting in Amaram’s seat is--himself. Or, no, not himself. Not quite. There’s something wrong about him--it--this illusion. A kind of invisible darkness. And the eyes…the eyes are yellow. Not Telinar’s yellow, the bright gold Tien had chosen himself, but something pale and sickly.

 

“What in Damnation…?” Tien mutters under his breath. The--illusion?--stands up and circles around the desk in an uncannily fluid motion, a slinking tread that puts him in mind of some kind of predator. Tien backs up automatically.

 

“We’re going to have a talk, you and I,” his false mirror says, voice taking on a mocking tone. “Little Lightweaver Tien, redundant, pushed aside, always forgotten.”

 

Tien swallows hard. “That’s not tr--”

 

“Oh yes it is.” Not-him cuts off his protest before it can go anywhere. “You can’t lie to yourself forever, little Lightweaver. Our parents forgot us. It’s why we’re in the army, because it was always about Kaladin’s education, Kaladin’s safety, Kaladin Kaladin Kaladin. They forgot about us and thought Roshone would too. But he didn’t, did he.” 

 

Tien’s hands shake from a resentment that he’d thought had burnt out long ago. “Shut up.”

 

The corners of his--its--mouth curl up in a cruel smirk. “And then the army itself! Being forgotten would have been a good thing there, wouldn’t it? But they couldn’t do us the courtesy of that, either. No, they made us bait, shoved us to the front lines, got us nearly killed twice--oh, and let’s not forget we couldn’t save anyone there either, not even our golden boy brother--and then Amaram!”

 

“Amaram kept us--kept us safe,” Tien snaps back. “He kept us out of battle, he--”

 

“He used us!” Tien’s not-self snarls, face twisting into a mask of anger that Tien has never seen in a mirror. “That’s all he did! He used us as a tool in his power plays! Fractal knew it from the moment he picked us out as useful, and you were just too much of a coward to protest it! You wanted to be safe.” It spreads its arms. “Well, it didn’t save anybody else. You remember Keor.”

 

Tien flinches. “Shut up,” he says again, “shut up!”

 

“And let’s talk about Telinar!” It continues relentlessly. “Little Lightweaver finally deciding to take a stand! But we’re too much of a coward to try and do it with our own face, aren’t we? So we made a false face, a false name, and we tried to make up for our sins of complacence by keeping others safe, too little too late. It’s not enough, was it? It was never. Enough.” Its face twists further, into something almost animalistic. It does not make Tien’s face unrecognizable. With something like horror, Tien realizes that all it does it turn hauntingly familiar in its foreignness. 

 

He’s heartsick with the memories of his failures, trembling from a truth he’d been avoiding, burning from a resentment he’d tried to bury, and he doesn’t understand. “What do you want?!” Tien yells. “What’s the storming point of this?!”

 

“I want us to do something!” His yellow-eyed mirror yells back. “I want to stop hiding! We’re Radiant! We have a storming Shardblade! We have all the blackmail we ever collected for Amaram! We could use it, storm it! We know how to use power! I want to find everyone who ever hurt us and watch them crumble!” It stalks forwards to get in Tien’s face. “And if you’re too much of a coward to do that, then I will.”

 

What scares Tien isn’t the threats his mirror makes. It’s the way his own heart stirs in response to its words, the way he wants to do it. He knows it’s wrong. He can’t even get to the people who hurt him here in this other world. But Almighty, it would feel so good to take out a little of the emotion he’s been bottling up for years and years…

 

“What are you?” Tien whispers. 

 

“I am a shadow,” his other self hisses, “the true self.”

 

Suddenly, somehow, that makes it all click. 

 

“Oh,” Tien says softly. “Oh. Of course you are.”

 

His shadow blinks in surprise, expression untwisting from a snarl of rage into a much more familiar one of confusion. Tien gathers that this isn’t usually how it goes.

 

“You’re where my anger goes,” Tien whispers. It told him as much, but he needs to say it out loud, put the pieces together for himself. “You’re where my resentment goes, my rage, my hate. Everything I try to bury.” He steps forward, lifting a hand, and his shadow steps back in tandem. “I know you,” he says, voice rising to normal volume. “I know myself. I can’t...do that.”

 

“Why not?” 

 

“Because we’re a world away, and they’re not worth--”

 

“Don’t you lie to me,” his shadow snarls. “Little Lightweaver, you were doing so well. Our spren isn’t here; give me the Truth.”

 

“Because I’m scared,” Tien whispers. “I’m scared of retribution. I’m scared of responsibility without a mask to shoulder it. I’ve spent so long as a shadow that I’m scared of being known.” He closes his eyes. Takes a deep breath that sends a shudder through his body. “But I want to. Almighty, I want to.” He opens his eyes and stares his reflection in its sickly yellow eyes. “I think that scares me the most,” he admits to himself. “That you’re me, and that I can want to hurt people so badly.”

 

There is a flash of light, and his shadow is gone, replaced by an almost ghostly image of a masked woman with pale blue skin, dressed in flowing, entirely foreign clothes. Two much smaller girls peer over her shoulders, one violet, one green. A second flash, and the apparition vanishes into a shimmering card.

 

Tien reaches out and takes it, his breath catching. It depicts Roshar’s three moons arrayed in the sky over a river; violet Salas, green Mishim, pale blue Nomon. The largest moon, Nomon, is displayed front and center, the glyph for ‘moon’ etched in gold on its surface.

 

He’s not sure what just happened, exactly, beyond swearing a sort of Ideal. A Truth spoken, a power given. But not by Fractal. He still doesn’t know where she is.

 

Whatever just happened--a nervous twist in his gut, a directionless anger he can no longer bury--Tien needs to find Fractal.

 

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Edited by Pachimew

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Stan --  ???

[???] - [???] 

 

Stan struggled to regain consciousness. He attempted to grip the cold, smooth ground with his fingers before even trying to open his eyes because of the pounding in his skull. Even if he wanted to stay on the ground, he felt he couldn't rest. He had something important to take care of, and the warm body nestled tightly in his arm was proof of that promise.

 

He snapped his eyes open. Right. Unfinished business. Lara was still bleeding from the gunshot wound, but he had at least managed to bandage it during the few minutes before Amanda pulled her trump card. Out of necessity, he had to carefully cut through Lara's dress using his multi-tool while holding one end of the gauze in his mouth.  Despite not even being a healer, he lamented that he had been forced to fix up a lot of things in the past week. Then again, this week was abnormally eventful, even for the XDRS.

 

Stan breathed in shallow, cautious breaths, as if he risked waking up some unknown predator. The room carried the aroma of expensive cigars, and the last person he remembered that smell from was someone he'd rather not encounter again. Silently, he rose and slipped the revolver out of his pocket. He then took off his suit jacket and wrapped it around Lara in case she found it appropriate to complain about the indecency of her ripped clothing. However, he didn't see anyone around after a cursory glance. Weren't there several other people who also got caught within Amanda's grasp? The room they were in was small and empty of people, but was crowded with luxurious pieces of plush furniture. Instead of a ceiling there was an endless mass of swirling red and black clouds, casting a red glow over everything. He thought he knew everything the Force Monster could do, though in the end even Amanda's thorough documentation was lacking about this 'Shadow World' which the beast could travel to. What was most uncanny of all were the candid, secret photos plastered on the walls, all of them containing people familiar to him. Some were of women he hadn't thought about in ages; others were of XDRS agents, taken when they weren't looking. He tried to force his fear down, tried to clear his mind. What was this place? How did they get these -- borderline perverted -- photos?

 

The curtains suddenly parted with an audible noise. Stan whipped around and pointed his gun at what he assumed was a window at first, but instead turned out to be a concealed alcove featuring a large, round bed surrounded by two pairs of veiled but scantily clad female assistants. On the bed itself, Stan locked eyes with his organization's boss, Xander, who had his fingers tangled within the hair of a man who looked remarkably similar to himself -- right down to the mechanical parts. That man, in turn, had a blond boy with a face tattoo -- Duke?! -- curled on his lap.

 

Despite all his instincts telling him to stay alert, Stan's arm shook. He lowered his gun and grimaced. He was uncertain what emotions he was supposed to be feeling.

 

"Hey babe," his copy said when looking over, ignoring Stan and speaking to Lara. "Nice of you to join us. Why don't you come and take a seat? We've got a lot of catching up to do."

 

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Edited by TehUltimateMage

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[Lara Rochelle - Shadow World - Cigars and Blood]

 

She wakes up to the feeling of a rather heavy suit jacket being placed over her. Sitting up, Lara carefully wraps herself in it, taking note of the rip in her dress. Had she not been shot before, any tear in this dress would have been rather annoying... But perhaps she'd be able to have a dress like this custom made for her anyway, so it matters not. Stan must've given the jacket out of courtesy, although the number of times she'd been comfortable walking around in less is embarrassingly high. 

 

Something about this world is strange- she knows it's not home from the sky alone, which seems to cast a bloody glow on the entire room she's in. Lara closes her eyes and takes a few deep breaths, remembering the pistols she has in the drawstring bag. She may no longer have the Glock, but if needed... Opening her eyes again, Lara takes a look to observe some of the images on the walls- had she seen herself in those images? - with not only XDRS agents, but with women she had never met a day in her life. Quietly, she takes out one of her pistols (and admires just how bloody beautiful they are now), lowering it to her side as she keeps observing the room. On a normal occasion, the smell of the room would be enough to make her sick. It reminds her, vaguely, of places she was often dragged to by people she used to call friends in her first year of university, bringing back memories that she'd much rather repress. 

 

Like Stan, she points her gun as soon as she notices the curtain move. But what she sees... Is not only odd... But nauseating. 

 

On the bed that's exposed, the first thing she sees is not the assistants, not the two men all cozied up on the bed, but... Stan. She'd recognize that face anywhere...

 

But his eyes. His eyes glow a disgustingly yellow color, pale like Utakata's when he summons the power of whatever the hell it is... But also iridescent, so much so that had she found a light switch and shut it all off, those eyes would still be loud and clear in her vision. Lara keeps the safety on for now, taking a step forward. Her heels- which are much more durable than she had previously thought they would be- make loud clacking noises against the floor. Her blood is pounding in her ears... What kind of messed up dream is this?

 

Lara glances at Stan, her Stan, who grimaces at the sight. Finally, Creepy Piss-eyed Stan decides to address her, his smirk wicked and his voice dripping with honey-diluted poison, "Hey babe. Nice of you to join us. Why don't you come and take a seat? We've got a lot of catching up to do."

 

Lara glances behind her first, noticing Utakata face-down on the ground. How long had he been knocked out? Had something happened, or is that the effect of this world? ....She doesn't have time to figure it out. Quietly, she holds her gun up at this "Stan" as she walks to one of the couches directly in front of the alcove and takes a seat, crossing her legs at the ankle as she had been taught to do in dresses. She lowers her gun and places it across her lap, making direct eye contact with this familiar stranger. 

 

Ugh, mistake. This close, Stan's eyes are much more troublesome to look into. But she was taught to make eye contact as a girl, so she does such. Taking a few deep breaths to try to calm her nerves and stomach, she doesn't take her eyes off what is in front of her. Her hands lay over, one on top of the other, on the pistol. She has to be cool, collected, in control. 

 

"Catching up, you say." Casually, she leans back in the sofa and allows the jacket to roll down her shoulders. Her right leg crosses over her left knee and Lara relaxes, not once taking her eyes off of "Stan". She takes her pistol and once again holds it up, her thumb brushing against the safety. "I'd like an explanation first... You'd be willing to tell me a thing or two about this place, I take it?"

Edited by Mikasa361

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< STATUS: Stable; Wary >

< LOCATION: Mauna Kea Beach >

< AGENTS: Dennis, Kuryuu, Xander >

< OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Yosuke, Milk Cream, Sieghorse

 

In the wake of the chaos, the three man stood together in relative silence. Rufus crossed his arms against his chest and began tapping his foot impatiently. It took an incredible, a commendable amount even, of restraint for Rufus to not roll his eyes at Kuu. 

 

“Your captain isn’t here, Kuu.” Rufus said, narrowing his eyes. “She can’t write you up for killing someone if she doesn't know you killed someone. Not that any of that matters considering she’s gone and she took people with her!” Rufus threw his arms up into the air in a single exaggerated motion. Rufus agreed to go to Earth so he could relax, prank a few privileged humans, and simply blow off some steam before finding a new bounty to hunt, but no. None of that was going to happen because they ran into X-Dreamers after searching for them for so long only to find out they ticked off someone else. Now, what, six people were missing? Rufus didn’t bother to count, but, based on everything that had happened so far, it seemed like someone else had been banking on the X-Dreamers being at the party and snatched as many of them as she could before disappearing off into somewhere. This was dumb. So dumb. Rufus was getting real tired of dealing with messes he didn’t create. 

 

“Ugh, we waited too long to act. Now look at what happened!”


“We needed confirmation that the target was here. Now that we have that, we can proceed.” 

 

What? Rufus turned his head towards the sound of the voices. There was the waiter who never returned to clean his shirt and a small black and white cat standing next to them. Rufus hadn’t pegged them for out-worlders before, but the way the waiter was speaking made Rufus think otherwise. Slowly, Rufus lowered his hand towards his holster and flicked the top open. 

 

“We didn’t even leave a calling card this time! That’s our thing, Akira! Calling cards are our thing!” Was that… that cat talking? Rufus had been unsure who the waiter was talking to at first, but glancing down at the cat revealed that yes, it was moving its lips in-sync with the words that were being said. What in the world was going on?

The waiter shook his head sadly at the cat.

 

“We’re not stealing anyone’s hearts, Morgana,” the waiter said. “There’s no need for a calling card. But…” The waiter cleared and his throat before promptly adjusting his bowtie. “I think it’s about time we introduce ourselves.” Rufus watched warily as the waiter and the cat walked over towards a table. Rufus nudged both of his companions and motioned towards the waiter who was now cupping his hands over his lips.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen of other dimensions, and every normal person unfortunate enough to be here, may I have your attention, please?” The waiter nodded over towards the portal had closed just minutes ago. “Your friends have been taken to another world. The woman who took them, Amanda, has been planning this for some time. She thought that by dragging your friends to another reality you’d struggle to find her. Under normal circumstances, she’d be correct; however, she missed one tiny detail.” With a wink at the growing crowd, the waiter threw his uniform in a flourish. The waiter uniform fell to the sand, revealing a sleek, black outfit the man had underneath. Rufus briefly wondered how the stranger managed to hide such a complex outfit underneath his waiter attire, but he had little time to think about it. From his pocket, the former waiter pulled out out a black and white mask that he promptly affixed to his face. Underneath his mask, Rufus could see the stranger grin.

 

“Allow us to introduce ourselves.”

 

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< STATUS: Stable ; Determined >

< LOCATION: : Mauna Kea Beach - Center of Party  >

< AGENTS: Rufus, Dennis, Kuryuu, Xander  >

< OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Mona, Sieghorse 

 

“You may call me Joker, and my companion here is known as Mona.” Upon hearing his name, Mona’s ears perked up.

 

“Yeah!” Mona said, jumping up with his tail sticking straight up like a flag pole. “We’re known as the Phantom Thieves!”

 

“Two of the Phantom Thieves, at least,” Joker said with a nonchalant wave. Satisfied that he attracted the attention of all the other dimensional travelers,  he stepped down from the table and back down onto the sand.

 

“If it wasn’t clear by now, this party was a trap setup by that woman you saw earlier: Amanda Evert. We Phantom Thieves grew interested in her when we found out she was dabbling with a reality that we not only know to hold great power, but one that we are experts in. This world has multiple names and rules depending on who you ask but…” Joker made a winding motion with his hand. “It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is we’ve been tracking Amanda until now. Not only has our presence been undetected, but we believe she doesn’t understand the magnitude of power that is at her disposal.” 

 

Joker clasped his hands together. “Of course, if she were to learn how to use the world’s power in order to make herself stronger, she might be able to do untold damage to anyone who dares cross her. Mona and I were planning to take her down ourselves once we were sure of her intentions but we don’t mind giving a free ride and thoroughly explanation of how the world works.” Joker stuffed his hand into his jacket and rummaged through one his pockets. He fished out what appeared to be a pair of fancy scissors with decorative handles that he snipped several times. “If you’d like. Otherwise, we’ll be handling this mess ourselves.”

Edited by Doctortear

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