Mizos

*Insert quip here*
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. One post per day
  3. 1-3 posts per week
Writing Levels
  1. Elementary
  2. Intermediate
  3. Adept
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Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Modern Fantasy, Historical, Fantasy, adventure, romance, anime, action, etc.
Before you open what lies below here...a fair warning. There is a lot.
I have divided what exist below into Main and Side categories.
Main tie into the overarching story of Pirate Age, its handy info if you want to know what's happened within the world, this will help in case there are blanks you want filled, it however is not 'mandatory' for understanding the overarching story, it's in-betweens that tie in enough not to be side stories completely.
Sides are akin to the Prophet Diaries, handy info but not anything you need to know for the main story. Read at your own discretion essentially but less than main.
I've also divided them into Pre Bonifaas and Post Bonifaas to help with the timeline.
With that said good luck.
Anything out in the open is just my regular posts, wanted easy clarification for that one which is above
Anyway yeah enjoy.

Main

Pre- Bonifaas

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In front of Runali sat Seliria and Caleb, the two Nova’s happening to run into each other considering the varying circumstances that brought each closer to Stardusk. Seliria did not look pleased to be near the Nova shipwright and Caleb...well looked like Caleb. He seemed pleased to meet with the Captain at least that’s what Seliria said, his face remained the same state it always was in front of her though.
Seliria had called for the Captain’s time, making sure to get a fair distance from Stardusk afterwards, she had Caleb ensure they didn’t have any extra ears, having him put up one of his inventions, which apparently would make any extra listeners….painfully obvious as she liked to put it as he handed the Captain a pendant to wear.

She seemed to take extra precautions once they were a far enough difference, she didn’t say it in so many words but she did mention the ‘fate’ of her shipwright was something they had to discuss, and it would be better done privately at first, after that she could decide what she wanted to do.
The woman had led them to a tavern once night fell, a few coin slipped to the bartender and the place was emptied, with even the bartender stepping out, once he set a few mugs down for them.
“I know taking you from your precious crew is heartbreaking but we have to talk about Luro Makachi...especially now.”

“Don’t think I’ve ever been in a quiet tavern…” Runali was fiddling with the pendant and looking around. “Cool.” She commented and took a sip from the mug closest to her. At first it looked as if she didn’t hear Seliria but after attention broke from her short inspection she looked back at the two with a raised brow. “Ah, they worry. It’s nice, but we’ll be fine. Unless something blows up then the first mate and the doctor will be rushing here post haste.” She waved her hand, dismissing the thought when she realized it wasn’t important.

“What’d he do? Did he break something? Because whatever’s broken, there’s no proof unless he said it but who’s really at fault if you let him get near whatever he broke. Whatever it was, not paying for it.” She shook her head, making her decision final. “Not because I can’t. Just because I don’t want to. Unless… it’s a rematch with Alton, then I’ll consider it.” Halfway through pleading her case, she figured she was nowhere near the point Seliria was trying to make but she figured she’d carry on anyway, just to get her own point across. But it was obvious she was finished when she grabbed the mug again and gestured for the two to continue.

Caleb opened his mouth when Runali touched the pendant but closed it when nothing happened, he started writing in his notebook.
“Touching pendant within Zone does not kill wearer, good to note,” Caleb said before glancing at Seliria.
The woman was gripping her glass tightly her eye twitching as the Captain spoke, clearly not pleased the topic had moved away and much less they were the accused all of a sudden. Caleb reached over and removed the now cracked glass from her hand setting it to the side. Seliria clearly liked Runali, she actually showed a bit of restraint there for a second. He didn’t speak such words out loud as he was attached to his arms. He offered a small shake of his head at Runali’s mention of Alton.
“Not for us to decide, Captains will be Captain’s,” Caleb said. “I will pass along your desire however.”
Seliria shut her eyes composing herself for a moment before looking over at Caleb.
“I vote we go back and let him remain ignorant,” the woman said. “I have little patience for this today.”
“We came all this way Seliria, and it was your idea to share this knowledge. Let’s see it through. We have our reasons after all.”
Seliria brought a hand to her face and squeezed the bridge of her nose but didn’t move, after a moment her shoulders dropped a bit and she looked back at Runali folding her hands on the table.
“If your Carpenter broke something of mine he wouldn’t be walking and I don’t care what he breaks of Calebs, our business is something else,” the woman said. “There’s something about your Carpenter you and your friends have missed.”
“Not that it’s any fault of yours,” Caleb added. “It’s not something you really notice, if the person themselves don’t even know then no one else is going too.”
Caleb said this filling in the blanks Seliria always forgot to.
“We did research of our own and just now were able to confirm it,” Caleb said.
Seliria shook her head still not able to believe she was going to say this.
“Luro Makachi has Observation Haki,” the woman said. “Very advanced Observation Haki. On par with Caleb’s.”
“Perhaps better,” the man added.
Seliria glanced at Caleb at this before looking back to Runali.
“We have a general idea of its strength from our tests, he without a doubt possesses it.”

"Thank you Caleb." Runali murmured into her mug. Her gaze was casted downwards, not having to see the glass to know it was broken. Runali just didn't want Seliria to know she found it amusing, so she stayed quiet and let her speak. There were limits to testing the cook's patience after all. Sometimes.

As the two continued, the conversation felt… familiar, but with new faces. For a moment her attention was on figuring out why there was so much familiarity, only to blink when the words 'observation haki' echoed. "...Hm...so that's what the cat was talking about." Runali muttered to herself. Part of her guessed it was something like that but another part of her didn't care to dig deeper. She trusted Luro and his abilities-- and one of his abilities happened to be seeing what she couldn't. It was a fact she accepted a long time ago. But now that the cards were laid out on the table, there were more curious matters at hand.

"You tested my carpenter? What, bored of your own so you poke at others?" She held an amused grin. "Or are you scoping out the competition?" She knew the Nova Captains, despite their strength, didn't care too much about the Pirate Lord seat, but the idea that the rest of their crew might have was a funny thought. Teasing aside, Runali leaned back in her chair and shrugged. "Pardon me for not knowing the scale of Caleb's haki to measure out the scale of Luro's but I do feel like I'm missing another piece here. Like, why care so much to come to me? Or even experiment on my carpenter?" In the back of her mind, there were a few reasons she could guess but most came out to be the same result at the end. Luro was strong, but he was also dangerous. Those two wouldn't be the first to enlighten Runali and definitely wouldn't be the last so long as Luro and that Imposter were alive.

Seliria arched a brow at the Captain, the irritation leaving her face for a moment replaced with light confusion.
“When did you lot become competition?” she questioned before her face returned to normal. “Last time I checked you’re in the same spot you were last we met.”
Caleb raised a hand as well to add in.
“I could never get bored of mess-speaking with Seliria. I can avoid sufficient boredom.”
“We’re going to have words about what you almost just said, but-”
Seliria cut herself off before looking back at Runali.
“To answer one of your questions we did it because no one else was doing anything about it,” Seliria said closing her eyes. “All that potential going nowhere is a waste, so we did something about it since no one else was going to.”
“Mainly because Luro asked us too,” Caleb added.
Seliria sighed at this and glanced at Caleb, the man seemed to pick up on the woman’s unspoken words and brought a finger to his head.
“Ah right that moment. Should I provide false information now?”
“Nah it’s already out there, doubt he cares she knows anyway,” Seliria said waving a hand. “It’s not a matter of care per say on my end. Luro is one of your own, trying to be a better person, as his Captain you should support that, not just for himself but the betterment of the crew, but if he doesn’t know what to do he needs help. Since you’d frown at us taking him away for months on end I’m telling you.”
Caleb offered a nod at this.
“We experimented on him to confirm that he actually possessed Observation after he approached us for aid some time ago,” Caleb said before setting a map of the Circle on the table. “Our results were….better than expected. We fully confirmed its strength recently.”

Seliria circled one of the large islands before tapping it, figuring it was familiar to Runali since it was where the crew fought Yuli and Maka.
“I’m not going to give you a recap of Observation as I already did, though I’m concerned as I’m sure I mentioned what Caleb could do in said lesson,” Seliria added at the end. “To summarize, Luro’s Observation can stretch out-”
She cut herself off and tapped the island again.
“At the very least far enough to cover this entire island.”

The woman disliked having to be the one to tell them but letting this sit wasn’t going to work out well for anyone, that being said she had her own feelings on the matter.
“If you don’t care or aren’t inclined then you can let the redhead never figure it out, the way he’s going he’ll never be able to use it willingly, he doesn’t even know he has it after all even with the knowledge of it. He’s your crew do what you want there. I’m just giving you the info what you choose to do with it is on you. That’s why you’re here, I’ve fulfilled my end of the bargain.”
“If you are inclined to aid the Luro who came to us when he was alone, then we’ll provide you what information we can.”
“Otherwise I have things to do,” Seliria said folding the map back up.
“I’m quite free but will be pulled along against my will.”

Runali opened her mouth to comment about the two’s odd relationship, but closed it almost immediately. There was a familiar stubborn feeling that rose rather instinctively and it made her grin falter. Fortunately, to her at least, she caught onto it before she could say anything and instead leaned forward shifting her attention on the map. “Of course I support him, it’d be ridiculous to think otherwise.” She began to tap on the table, mostly in thought, recounting the late night conversations she had with Luro about him wanting to be stronger to keep up with the crew. If he needed help… he could have just asked. But she could have also offered- though it probably would have been difficult to ask for help if he didn’t know exactly what he needed help with. Or, maybe she just couldn’t give the help that Caleb’s oddball brain and Seliria’s… lively personality could. Runali had to accept she didn’t have the answers to everything. Unfortunately, there was a ghostly cat that she knew would be jeering with an ‘I told you so’ but that was a thought for later.

Before they could comment on her prolonged silence, Runali held up a finger to make them wait. It followed with her picking up the mug and downing the contents until it was empty. “Alright, shoot.” She set it down and nodded to the both of them. “I’m not one to back from a challenge, plus it’d be fun t’see what he can do.” Runali twirled the empty mug as she spoke. “Can’t pass up the opportunity since you’re being so nice after all. And no worries, I’ve long since brushed up on that lesson. Well, all three of them really.”

Seliria didn’t seem pleased at being told to wait but merely picked up her own mug, Caleb’s presence seemed to calm the woman, or at the very least having someone around that she was ‘allowed’ to punch freely kept her calmer than usual. She merely took a drink from her mug as she waited for the Captain to speak her peace, hearing her response the woman sighed and stood up. Caleb lightly tapped on her side and grabbing the Captain’s mug shoved his now empty one a bit closer to her. The woman's eyes narrowed but unspoken words kept her from walking away and she moved over to the bar.
“Well at least you’re trying not to die,” the woman said walking away.

“At this point you know how Seliria is Runali, she doesn’t doubt you’d help him of course but asking politely to aid him isn’t really her speciality, ” Caleb said as the woman refilled their mugs. “While Luro was away from you Seliria ended up helping him from some trouble. I don’t know what conversation they had, she chooses not to share when that happened but apparently it led to her wanting to help him. She came to me right afterwards.”
Caleb glanced back at the woman who was grumbling nearby.
“It must have been something. Luro isn’t the type to keep things from you...well from anyone considering his very detailed descriptions but especially you. I’m sure he forgot as he does.”
Seliria returned and sat back down pushing the mugs towards their respective owners.
“Also for clarification this is not done out of kindness, Caleb perhaps but I’m here due to some annoying obligation.”
Making sure the intent was clear she continued.
“The main issue currently is Luro not recognizing his Observation Haki. According to what we know-”
Seliria cut off and looked over at Caleb who opened his notebook and continued.
“From Zilia’s observations and our own Luro has always relied on his strangely animalistic impulses. His instincts and intuition are surprisingly polished, probably from almost dying numerous times and his constant source of trouble. Which is commendable.”
Seliria narrowed her eyes at Caleb who turned a page in his book.
“Observation Haki however is not a normal sense. It acts independently of the other senses, that’s what makes it especially powerful and hard to trick. Luro doesn’t realize this and has attributed it to his normal instincts.”
“I’ll save you Caleb’s log explanation that I had to listen to,” Seliria said raising a hand. “About the state of Observation, why he does it and all that. Basically put…”

Seliria trailed off and picked up two mugs, grabbing Caleb’s and her own, both half full.
“Luro has been in two states,” she said placing the mugs down in front of them.
“The Imposter and then Luro,” she said before tapping the left and right mug.
“While he was Imposter Luro was locked in himself, he had no true focus, his potential was dormant. When he retook control and responsibility for himself however…”
Seliria trailed off pouring Caleb’s mug into her own causing the man to look fully over at her.
“The potential returned. I’m sure he’s mentioned his head being clearer.”
Seliria shoved Caleb’s mug back over to him.
“I don’t know when, I don’t know who, and I don’t even know if it’s true or not but there is a chance when he was a lad someone trained Luro to use Observation and didn’t tell him,” Seliria said.
“Focus is needed to use Observation,” Caleb added.
“Outside of Stardusk his attention span is basically a fish’s half the time.”
“Thus he uses it only in precise increments.”
“All the time’s Luro has come back alive hasn’t just been luck. Zilia herself said she was surprised how close some wounds were to vital organs but missed them by a hair.”
“In some moments his Observation saved him, though he is unaware of it.”
“So when he comes back with daggers poking out of him, somehow still alive because ‘every’ single one missed vital organs. It’s because he accidentally used his Observation Haki.”
“Mixed with his own instincts which is all he had beforehand.”

Caleb pushed a small book closer to Runali.
“This contains a lot of the information we found, share it with Luro. Let him know he has it and there are ways to train it written in there. We would have given it earlier but had to figure out his range,” Caleb said pulling his hand back. “No sense providing ineffective lessons.”
“Since you’ve probably already forgotten half of what we explained that’s in there too,” Seliria said. “We informed you openly so passing it on is up to you, out of our hands now.”
Seliria said this putting her hands up slightly before continuing.
“I’ll say this as nice as I can. You know this yourself Runali but you all have ‘barely’ scraped through on some occasions and that’s fine, doesn’t matter how you do it. If you’re standing at the end that’s a victory...but Luro Makachi has no way to protect himself. He doesn’t have Armament, he doesn’t have magic, no Power of Destruction. He has nothing. He’s a durable one but eventually he’ll fall, we all do, especially because he doesn’t have any precautions minus those gloves of his which rely on Armament, the thing he can’t harness. So even those aren’t going to save him forever.”
Seliria tapped the table at this with her finger.
“Observation is all he has. Until he gains something else he needs to harness that so he can survive. No one wants to see a fellow pirate die. His excitement and loudness make me want to beat the snot out of him.”
“Again.”
“Again,” Seliria said. “....but he struggles with all he has which isn’t a lot, and I commend him for that. You all are Worst Gen now, personally I don’t give a damn about spots or what have you. A bullet in the head kills you wherever you are in the world, only difference is you got more bullets flying at you now. Difference between good and great fighters is the ability to sharpen what you already have.”
Caleb nodded at this before speaking.
“Each one of you is precious to Luro but you are aware of that already,” Caleb said. “He can only harness it in small accidental bursts but most of the time it’s been for your protection or to keep his promise made to you all.”
“The incident with Yuli being the most recent one,” Seliria said.
Caleb grabbed the full mug, downed it ignoring the glare from Seliria and sat it down.
“That is all we needed Runali of Stardusk.”
“...well that’s not all but we’ve kept you away long enough, if you got something to say we’ll hear it otherwise I’m leaving. If I don’t get back soon Robin’s going to give me the face.”
“Then Alton will laugh because you can’t handle the face.”
“I can handle the face and I’m a grown woman for goodness sake I can go out on my own.”
“...you vanish for months on occasion.”
“I send letters.”
“That say ‘I’m alive’ and little else.”
“Your point?”

Save for a contemplative look, Runali kept her comments and thoughts to herself as Seliria and Caleb gave her a run down of information. Though, Seliria’s comment of her memory made the captain raise a brow. She tempered the need to challenge it and instead pulled the book closer, thumbing through the details while they continued.

“Hm,” She started with her gaze still on the book. “Well I’m not gonna be the one to hold him back from what he can do… Wouldn’t be fair to him. And… dangerous for me.” She was speaking out loud for the most part. “After all, save for… probably Tashigi, he’s probably a good majority of the reason I haven’t been shot.” Runali chuckled to herself and flipped through the book’s pages. “Yeah, get him to focus. That’s easy. Getting him to separate instinct from haki?” Runali gave a small shrug as she closed the book. “Nothing’s impossible. But also thank you by the way.” She waved the book in her hand. “For this. And for… doing your obligatory duty.” It was hard to say without teasing. Maybe one day she’d accept that she was doing things out of kindness… or when she did, she’d melt. Either way, Runali was curious to see the result. She left the gratitude there, figuring said Nova chef would blanch at any more. “Don’t worry though, I won’t let your testing go to waste,” She placed the book in her inside coat pocket. “Especially since you both went through all that effort- willingly even.” She stood to her feet, finishing off the rest of the contents in the mug. “Plus, makes for new training that may or may not be him throwing the elements at me and Jack. Time to shake things up.” While pleased with that new revelation, she gave a polite but mock nod towards the two.

“Caleb of the Novas. Sel also of the Novas. This has been an informative and… eye-opening- hah- chat. It’s in captain-ly hands now and I’ll make sure to take extra care of what you figured out.” There was a short pause and Runali tapped her cheek. “Or… end up doing things completely different and disregarding the given stuff… Whichever works best. Either way, Luro’ll be even more of a force to be reckoned with soon enough!”



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Red flashed in Luro’s vision and a flash of blue met it, the energy passed through and a new rip formed in his shirt, a minor cut hitting flesh. A heavy sigh escaped from Zilia as the red glow left her outstretched hand and she lowered it. Her gaze rested on Luro who stood in front of her, parts of his shirt ripped in random places, courtesy of her own devil fruit.
Luro messed with his glove mumbling to himself as she made further adjustments, for what felt like the hundredth time.
Luro had asked her for a strange favor, he wanted her to attack him with her Devil Fruit.
Thus leading to the present circumstance of Luro with multiple minor cuts on him, and Zilia having been the one who inflicted them.

This somehow all started with Luro going on about ‘power stuff’, she wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by that and as always his explanation didn’t help. However Luro somehow managed to get out some kind of comparison she actually understood. Luro could apparently see ‘vibrations’ in the air, or rather his Observation Haki allowed him to sense it. Apparently he could ‘tune’ the glove to those vibrations, akin to how they would tune the communication device to a certain frequency. Apparently he had done this by accident but he was trying to do it purposefully, the theory was that by doing this, he would be able to ‘capture’ the energy itself and use it.
Generally Zilia wouldn’t get involved with the matter but Luro generally didn’t try to protect himself all that often, when he brought up that this would not only protect the crew but himself she found herself unable to ignore it.
The Generator could also be placed in the ship if it worked, helping to mitigate damage done to the ship and ultimately the crew themselves, after weighing all of this with the extreme rarity of Luro actually looking after himself.

“One more time Z,” Luro said raising his glove.
Zilia sighed and held her hand out, even though she was helping Luro she still kept her power at a minimum, as low as possible for the experiment.
“Knife.”
Zilia spoke the words and the red energy shot out, Luro’s blew met it but he energy passed through it cutting another part of his arm, causing Zilia’s eyes to narrow.
Even weakened it still cut Luro, he was human and didn’t possess Armament, for reasons beyond her understanding he had to face her like this as well, something about an ‘acknowledgement of danger’.
“Again Z.”
Zilia stared at Luro and hand still raised spoke the same word, the red energy shot out and once again cut Luro, this caused Zilia to sigh and lower her arm. This had gone on long enough, she wasn’t going to let Luro get hurt anymore over a theory.
“Luro let’s-”
“Again Z.”
“No we need-”
“Please Z.”
Zilia stared at Luro his hand outstretched, red had stained most of his white outfit, and his hand trembled slightly causing him to grip it with his wrist, his gaze met her own and she could see something behind his gaze, something desperate. Luro was grasping for something within his reach, his fingers brushing against it but never truly taking hold. She knew that look, it was one he had on his face numerous times before.
“I’m close Z...I can feel it. Again.”
Zilia looked down at her hand and back at Luro, with a small shake of her head, more at herself then the redhead she raised her hand again.
“Give me something stronger this time.”
“Wha-you’re not handling the little things. Using something bigger-”
“I feel like I got it Z. Trust me.”
Zilia hand opened and closed and she lamented at her softness towards the crew.
“If you fail this we’re stopping. Understand.”
“Okay,” Luro said nodding. “Once more please Z.”
With a sigh Zilia spoke the words.
“Sword.”
The red energy gathered and shot out, she purposefully aimed where it would do the least damage, but Luro took a step over where the attack, if it connected, would be lethal. Zilia’s eyes widened and she extended a hand to shield him but it was too late, an explosion of blue shot up coating the red energy, and Zilia searched in her mind for what answer she would give the Captain.

In the end however her contemplations faded.
The red energy that should have struck Luro hovered in the air directly in front of him, stopping because of Luro’s will as the red energy floated over his glove, whirling around it. Zilia’s eyes widened and Luro fell onto his rear, a grin adorning his face as she stared at the pulsating energy.
“I did it….I did it!” Luro exclaimed.
Laughter echoed from the redhead as he climbed to his feet and moving his hand controlled the energy, tossing it back and forth from hand to hand.
“How…”
That was all Zilia could muster as she watched her energy being moved back and forth by Luro.
Luro eventually climbed back to his feet and with a twitch of his hand the energy was pulled into the glove and with a grin he opened and closed his hand looking back at Zilia.
“I found the right frequency Z. It does work!”
“I….can’t believe it. Possessing another Devil Fruit Users powers...not even other User’s can do that.”
Zilia reached up and pulled on her bang as Luro hopped around dancing in celebration, it was still hard to believe, if she hadn’t witnessed it for herself she’d find it hard to fathom, even witnessing it doubt still plagued her thoughts.
“I found out the problem.”
Luro’s voice pulled Zilia from her thoughts.
“The energy output was really low so it was hard for me to pinpoint the right frequency. When you made it bigger or well I guess louder, I could figure it out. The whispers became a yell.”
Zilia wasn’t sure she understood the process entirely but she believed Luro meant because it was bigger it was easier to figure out.
“Can we go again Z! I gotta make sure I can repeat it,” Luro said raising his hand once more. “Once is good and all but I need to be able to do it as if it's a habit.”
“Ah...yeah sure,” Zilia said. “It really is amazing Luro...I’m sorry for doubting you. If you manage to master this it could help immensely, even I should be able to use my power a bit more freely.”
Luro lowered his hand at this before giving a shake of his head.
“Hmmm I don’t think that’ll work Z,” Luro said resting his hands on his hips. “Your power is kinda special. While the energy is similar overall because you use different words the vibrations alter. I have what is basically a split second to find the right vibration in that moment. The feel of them were completely different from you whispering to yelling, I’m positive they’d change depending exactly how loud or soft your words are.”

Zilia gave a small nod crossing her arms under her chest at Luro’s words, what he said made sense. Her power altered depending not only on how she said the word, and what it meant to her but by volume as well, she knew this instinctively but to hear it from someone else was only a reminder that solidified it. Her power was like a constantly changing puzzle, just by her voice intonation altering the flow of energy could be different, that was part of what made it so hard to control.
“However…”
Zilia looked back up at Luro as he spoke and grinned at her raising his hand.
“...I’ll find a way for you to speak completely freely Z. This is just one step in that direction too.”
Zilia’s body tensed for a moment at Luro’s words before relaxing, her arms lowering back to her side before she smiled at Luro.
She raised her hand to him allowing red energy to flow around her fingertips.
She reminded herself again that Luro did what he did for all of Stardusk, including her. He was a mess to clean up after, but at the end of the day he did his best for them.
“All right here it comes Luro,” Zilia said holding her wrist.
“Ready anytime Z!”




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Luro stared at Zilia who was messing with her power a few feet away, ever since the incident at the Circle she’s been consistently trying to improve. She still sits nearby while he tinkers with things but now he hears the low hum of her power behind him, it was surprisingly soothing and he got used to it relatively quickly. Zilia however went completely quiet when doing so due to her concentration, so it cut off their conversation.
“Hey Z.”
The hum of energy came to a slow stop and though his back was to her, he could feel her gaze on him so he continued as she grabbed another piece nearby.
“You’re trying to make your power stronger right?”
“...yes.”
“So why aren’t you naming your attacks?”
“....excuse me?”
Luro turned around at this and noticed the narrowed eyed expression on Zilia’s face, he offered a grin and setting the object to the side, stood up and brushed himself off. Raising his hand he pointed at her.
“Give your attacks names.”
“...you mean like Alicia used to do?”
“Alicia stopped doing it...I thought she still did it?” Luro questioned tilting his head slightly.
“I haven’t heard her name her attacks in a while...or was I mistaken?”
“You can get used to it and just not think about it. I’m pretty sure she still names them.”

The two went silent for a moment contemplating the thought before Zilia shook her head and moved the conversation along.
“Well whether she still does or doesn’t-”
“Pretty sure she does.”
“Nonetheless….I’m not naming my attacks... I’m still not sure why she did it.”
“It’d make your attacks stronger though Z.”
Zilia sighed and leaned forward at this seeing Luro was seriously continuing this train of thought, she shut her eyes deciding to play along until he lost interest, which should be relatively soon.
“What makes you think that?”
“Things with names have more power right? With your Devil Fruit I mean so if you name your attacks won’t they have the same effect?”
“That-”
Zilia cut herself off as her eyes opened, she stared wide eyed at the floor in silence as she contemplated Luro’s words. After a brief silence her eyes narrowed slightly and she leaned forward a little more.
“That’s….technically correct...the concept would probably work…”
She questioned why Luro was always particular in times like these, it wasn’t a terrible idea. Association worked in that way as she attached names to her power amplifying it, giving names to her ‘moves’ wasn’t that far-fetched of an idea.”
“Just try it out Z, no harm in it right?”
“Minus me possibly blowing up the ship.”
“I’ll fix whatever you break.”
Zilia looked up at Luro who offered a bright grin to her, a sigh escaped from her as she gave up, ultimately Luro was trying to help her, not responding in kind would be rude.

The two moved outside and away from the ship, moving into a nearby forest. Zilia didn’t like trying new things with her powers on the ship, even if it didn’t work she didn’t know how it would respond to her attempts so she refused to risk it. Luro came along to watch the process, though Zilia only mentioned he was accompanying her. She didn’t offer much of an explanation minus ‘going for a walk’ not wanting to explain she was going to practice move names.
Once the two were far enough away from the ship and general civilization, they found a small clearing in the forest, Luro sat on the ground nearby and Zilia held her hand out palm up before beginning the process.
“Apple.”
She focused and a purple glow formed around her hand before hovering a few inches above her palm, she spoke the words simply and with her normal tone of voice, it wasn’t much bigger than an apple, same as its namesake.
She glanced up at Luro who continued to smile and gave a firm nod to her, with a sigh she let the orb fade and focused again, this time speaking exactly the same, but altering the words.
“O Child of the old land, bring forth your will onto me. ‘Apple of the Lost Land’.”

A flushed filled her cheeks as she actually spoke the words out loud, she started to comment on never doing it again, but stopped as she felt the air around them distort as if it was pulling in on itself, the energy flowed out of her hand and flared outwards knocking Luro onto his back and almost knocking Zilia off her feet.
The Orb that formed was far larger than the previous one, roughly the size of a cannonball, but the power being drawn out of it was considerably greater; she destroyed chunks out of the earth just summoning it, realizing this she she quickly locked the energy in a barrier and released it. The force still threw her and Luro back, knocking them against opposing trees. Dust and dirt flew up everywhere from the release and by time it cleared both were already climbing to their feet. Zilia’s eyes widened as she stared at the mini crater in the earth, the effects even after ‘sealing’ the power away.

There was a small moment where the two just stared at the destroyed area in front of them, Luro was the first to react, laughing as he pumped his fist in the air while Zilia fell onto her rear still staring at the crater. The effect had more than doubled just from saying a line from a book and a bit of visualization.
“Z it worked! It worked! That was great!’
Zilia stood up and walked closer to the hole, staring down into it. Her mouth twitching seeing Luro slide into it without a care, though seeing it was safe she walked down into it herself, bending down to trace her glove over the destroyed earth.
“...I’ll have to fill this back in,” she said sighing a little.
“That’s all ya got to say Z? That was awesome, it was so much bigger than the first one!”
“...it...yes it was Luro.”
“So you’re going to name your moves now?”
“No.”
Luro’s brows arched and throwing his arms up he brought them down to focus on the crater, almost a bit too dramatically and Zilia sighed.
“I get what you mean Luro...but…”
“...but?”
Red flushed into Zilia’s cheeks as she steepled her fingers together.
“...it’s embarrassing.”
Luro stared at Zilia in silence, he seemed to be waiting for something but when the doctor remained silent gaze focused on the ground between them Luro scratched the side of his head.
“Isn’t that a good thing though. Emotions amplify your power right?”
“Well...yes but...I don’t want shame and embarrassment to fuel my power.”
“...so anger’s fine?”
“You-”

Zilia raised her gaze to Luro but realizing her emotions were flaring immediately cut herself off narrowing her eyes at him, he grinned before resting his hands on his hips.
“You’re trying to control your power better right Z? Then you gotta put some of this stuff aside. I don’t really get what’s embarrassing about yelling out names for your moves but this is far more powerful than your usual stuff, and what if you accidentally make a reference from a book you know...the hundreds of books you know or it just comes to mind. Wouldn’t it be better to understand and control it?”
Zilia really questioned why Luro only showed signs of understanding when it came to things like this, it made it really hard to argue especially when he was right. Understanding her power did come first, not only to better help Stardusk but to ensure their safety, everything Luro said was right she couldn’t deny that.
“Well...yes that does make sense…” Zilia said. “I agree with you but…”
“...but?”
“...it’s really embarrassing Luro.”
“That embarrassment gives it power Z, just embrace it.”
A heavy sigh escaped from the doctor and she raised her gaze looking around the smaller crater, her eyebrows lowered a bit and she opened and closed her hand still feeling the power pulsating from her fingertips.
“...I will...consider using it more...at the very least I’ll learn to control it. Thank you Luro.”
“Anytime Z.”
She ignored the bright smile on Luro’s face and started making her way out of the crater with Luro following behind her, after filling the hole in the two made their way back to the ship. Somehow this day ended up more exhausting than necessary, and her eyes glanced over at the person she could blame for it. Though she couldn’t deny this information was handy, if not embarrassing. She decided to find some apple rum and slip it into his stock later on in the day, this deserved more than a simple thank you.
“I have no idea how Alicia did this,” Zilia said as the ship came into view.
“I’m pretty sure she still does it...though does her power increase when she names them or not?”
“I...I don’t know, it’d be weird to scream out the names if she didn’t.”
“I mean I’ve done it once or twice, though I was just mimicking her.”
“...was it more powerful?”
“Not really no.”
 
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Mizos

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Invitation Status
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  2. Female
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Main


Post Bonifaas


Luro's Banner.jpg
Zilia's Banner Finished.jpg
Lia.jpg

“I want to meet Imposter.
Luro stopped mid consumption, a few of the stolen nuts falling out of his hand and back into the bowl as he stared wide eyed at Zilia.
Per the usual routine Luro had stolen the nut’s from the kitchen, and though Zilia saw him for some reason stayed quiet and instead only followed him to the lower decks. Luro expected she wanted some for himself but soon realized that wasn’t the case as Zilia stared at him, seated a few feet away on her crate, her gaze focused on his own.
His face shifted back to normal and he tossed the nut’s in his mouth focusing back on the bowl.
“Luro?”
“I”m going to pretend you didn’t say that Z,” Luro said digging back into the bowl.
Zilia tensed a bit at Luro’s words, she expected that response but it was said with a gravity that didn’t regularly exist in the gentle giant’s demeanor.
“....I don’t like it either Luro but I need to see him.”
Luro glanced over at Zilia at this which caused her to continued.
“You know how my power works, I need a concept to draw upon. The more solidified that concept, the stronger it is. I don’t need to speak with him, just see him, that’ll be enough from what you’ve told me.”
Luro didn’t respond immediately, his eyes glancing towards his bowl then back to Zilia, after a short inner fight he set the former down and turned fully towards Zilia.
“You want to use the concept of Imposter with your power?”
“Yes.”
“Z...Imposter’s assistance doesn’t come without cost. It never does. I’m not sure how using him as a ‘concept’ would work but he’d find some way to make you pay for it. I don’t like putting you at risk like that.”
“I...understand that...but Luro we’re dealing with worse and worse things down the road. I’m trying to grow my power more and experiment more with it. I’m not sure how effective these things would be, and what little practice I’ve done has been from my own understanding but Imposter is connected to you and you alone, I want to know how such a thing will affect my ability.”
Zilia said this before folding her hands in her lap.
“I also feel this could be a good way for me to understand him better. Imposter is one of the main obstacles to your recovery, I don’t intend on talking to him but anything I can learn is better than nothing.”
“Imposter never appears as his real self to others, it’s always a fabrication of some sort. You won’t meet the real one,” Luro said resting his cheek on his fist.
“That’s enough, I don’t want to meet the real one...besides...I need to get stronger….please Luro.”
Luro stared at Zilia for a long moment, watching as her grip on her hands tightened slightly before a heavy sigh escaped from him.
“I’d really rather you not Z...but I know how important this all is to you and I did promise to help…you also helped me when I had the same problem.”
Luro muttered the last part to himself before looking back at her.
“I’ll give you five seconds.”
“Five seconds…”
“Honestly that’s too much,” Luro said straightening up. “When you get in there, the ‘moment’ you see him, close your eyes, cover your ears and shut your mouth. Cut off all your senses immediately.”
Luro held up a finger.
“Imposter creates insanity in all who stands near him, he erases your sense of self...if my memories are to be believed. Either way he does ‘something’ to people near him and it involves the senses I think. With five seconds that should be enough to let you see him, then cover most of your senses and get you out before he reaches you.”
“Right...I’ll do that. Thank you Luro.”
“Don’t thank me, I’m throwing you at someone who wants to kill you, the last thing I deserve is thanks. All right close your eyes Z.”
Zilia did as requested and a sweet scent suddenly hit her, when she opened her eyes to ask Luro what had happened she found herself in a white void, her eyes widening she quickly spun around only to be met with more white, and no signs of life. Her footsteps echoed and sent out ripples, the only semblance of any ‘ground’.

Zilia had little time to contemplate the world as she felt something crash onto her like a wave, she had to place her foot down to keep from getting knocked to her knees. Perhaps thanks to the void around her it was easy to find the source, she noticed a woman standing a few feet away her back to Zilia. Zilia’s eyes widened seeing it was her mentor of all people, at least that was her first thought, but something about her visage was twisted...inhuman.
Zilia’s instincts immediately screamed at her to run.
She didn’t realize why until the False Vilimar turned to look at her, she immediately shut her eyes as Imposter’s footsteps echoed and covered her eyes before closing her agape mouth.
She remained still shutting out everything she could, she couldn’t feel the rocking of the ship, nor the feel or smell of wood so she knew she was still in that world.
Footsteps approached her and she felt her body tense, the fact she could hear them so clearly made no sense to her, it made her question if she had covered her ears and she almost pulled her hands away, but forced her mind to focus on her own body and realized her hands were still very much covering her ears still.

The footsteps stopped a few feet in front of her and Zilia felt her heart sink into her stomach, she had mentally counted five seconds and yet she was still here, by now a few minutes had easily gone by, it was the only thing she felt she needed to focus on.
“Count all you like...there’s no leaving here,” Imposter whispered to her, a gentle whisper that echoed loudly in her mind as her hands covered Zilia’s eyelids.
Her body refused to move in response even though she wanted to jump away, as if something inclined her to remain still.
“Let’s finish what we started before.”
Imposter’s hand gripped her neck and just as she felt her grip tightened she felt the rocking of the ship and her eyes shot open, the first thing she saw was Luro gripping her wrist, red energy surrounded her hand as she reached out to him.
Zilia blinked and quickly took a step back and released the red energy safely detonating it a few feet away within a barrier, her hand trembling causing her to grip her own wrist to try and stop it. She opened her mouth but no words came out.
“Just give it a sec, I know your body doesn’t feel like yours just wait,” Luro said. “The Whispers will leave too.”
Zilia didn’t respond unable to even offer a nod, she just stared at her shaking hand and ignored the whispers screaming in her skull to kill the man near her, and the feelings welling up in her chest that made doing so seem natural. It felt as if she was trapped a cage merely waiting for her ‘turn’ to go.
After what felt like an eternity she was able to move her fingers, sucking in a deep breath she exhaled and coughed falling to her knees as everything came back to her. She took long deep breaths as Luro walked over to her hunched over form staring into the wood.
She looked up at Luro and his eyelids lowered a bit as he stared into her eyes, he reached up and gripped her cheeks to keep her from looking away and stared intently. Eventually he released her and nodded.
“Good he didn’t get you,” Luro said. “I’m surprised though...why didn’t he take you?”
“...that was not five seconds.”
“No it was three,” Luro said resting his hands on his hips.
“Three?! It felt like...like hours.”
“Sounds about right,” Luro said nodding. “I got you out before he got his claws in you...though he got close.”
“...I attacked you.”
“It happens. He gets a lock on your body and...that’s it. You kill everything within a twenty meter radius….he just went for me though….maybe he wanted me to not wake you up, take your body and stay with Stardusk.”
“I’m sorry Luro...I...I didn’t mean-”
“It’s fine Z...not the first time it’s happened,” Luro said. “We’ll talk about that later. You get what you need.”
Zilia didn’t like leaving it at tha currently but she offered a very faint nod before responding.
“Y-yeah I got him,” Luro said. “Luro he...he looked like...like Mentor.”
“To make you hesitate. He knew what would make you pause, that was enough for him to take over, that one moment you didn’t shut your senses.”
Zilia gave a small nod and slowly climbed to her feet with Luro’s help, she glanced over at Luro causing him to tilt his head at her. She wondered how he dealt with those constant whispers, with something…’foreign’ trying to control every aspect of you and taking pleasure in it. She could ‘feel’ it trying to take her, trying to change her.
“How do you deal with that Luro,” Zilia said hugging herself. “With something constantly trying to take away….’you’.”
Luro arched a brow at Zilia’s question before grinning and offering a shrug.
“I'm still figuring out who I am so it’s hard to feel scared of losing what little is there,” Luro said laughing a little.
The fact he said that with a lack of concern bothered her but that was a matter to address later.
“For now….association should work with Imposter,” Zilia said slipping her seastone ring back on, regretting forgetting to put it back on after her earlier practice. She made a mental note to repay Luro back later.




Present


Zilia stood in front of the dense forest, her eyes staring into the wood until she could see no further inside. The crew had docked and was now taking a bit of shore leave, she had decided to move away from everything before trying this again, last time she ended up summoning Imposter which took her form. If she was being honest she disliked the idea of following through with this but she needed understanding, her power could activate on it’s own from her emotions, if she accidentally summoned this Imposter, the one who borrowed parts of her appearance, having no knowledge on not only the manifestation but how to stop it would be deadly.
It was due to that she had moved away from the crew and was now slipping her gloves off, removing the ring she moved it to her pocket and took in a deep breath, letting it out before holding her hand out.

Back when she first tried to summon Imposter he didn’t come from Association as she expected, it didn’t take long for her to understand why. She didn’t consider him one, Association worked for every member of Stardusk, past and present because she felt a connection to them, a link. Even she could say that united under one banner at least, that wasn’t the case for Imposter. He was an enigma, he lived only for himself as far as she could tell and was more a threat than a friend. That ultimately created a problem for her, she had no way of summoning him, thus she had to use another word...Reflection.
The first time she had done so, that familiar feeling from that void filled her as her power manifested and out of fear she shut it down as fast as she could, fearing the results if she allowed it to properly come out.

In that desperate moment in Uitibuken she called it forth again and merely expected whatever came to be destroyed by the flames...but the Reflection stopped the flames. That act carried more weight than she realized at the time.
“Chat-Chat Fruit...Association: Shusui.”
Alicia’s blade appeared in Zilia’s hand and she gripped it causing it to fully form, the weight of it present in her hand as she turned the blade over to look at it.
Even after holding Alicia’s blade and the manifested weapon far more tangible than before she could still tell the difference between the original and this one.
She did the same summoning one of Jack’s knives, then Runali’s Chakram.
Association when used on anything that didn’t belong to her would always be weaker than the original, it was a simple reality. She didn’t spend years wielding Shusui thus her connection to it was faint at best, same for the remainder of weapons or powers on display.
Whether that would change with time she didn’t know but she understood that rule at least.
Thus Reflection which was born from Association would naturally be weaker, it wasn’t a close connection it was a faint one. Imposter was a ‘reflection’ of Luro and not someone she felt close to so the power should be mitigated even further...thus it made no sense that Reflection was so powerful, far more than Association.
“...how strong is the original?” Zilia muttered letting the Chakram fade away.

She held her hand out and steeled her nerves, backing down was no longer an option. She needed to understand this ‘Reflection’ at least enough to counteract it as she did the rest of her power.
She mentally prepared herself as she altered the flow of her power, a necessity to use it.
Using Reflection took a lot out of it, she was basically ‘forcing out’ what was there. If she had to compare it to something it was akin to fighting for three straight hours or perhaps swimming a lap around the entirety of Yula Fei or Jaiper. It was very exhausting and winded her to a point where moving was difficult, the good news is that meant there would be little energy to offer and thus the manifestation would fall apart quickly as a failsafe.
Reflection:Imposter.”
The black glow surrounded her hand and shot out with enough force to make her stagger backwards, she caught herself and steadied her footing already feeling the trembling in her legs.
She kept her attention forward as the fire hovered a few feet away and formed into the shape of a person.
Zilia didn’t feel as winded compared to before, probably due to not ‘reciting’ first. Giving the reflection extra power wasn’t an idea she was keen on.

While she expected the reflection to start as a silhouette first like before, to her surprise the flames glowed brightly and quickly broke apart leaving her visage in its place, fully formed and with that annoyingly familiar face. The Zilia Imposter looked at her hands opening and closing them, and looked at her body patting herself in random places, inspecting herself.
“Fascinating,” she said. “You actually summoned me again.”
Zilia didn’t move at first, she remained still having already severed the connection between them. She expected her to fade away but when the woman remained still Zilia removed the gloves from her hands and raising her hands up in front of her, clapped them together, the sound resonating loudly around them.
“Sure you’re surprised I’m still around aren’t you? I’ll teach you something before I get what I came for. You gave me a bunch of energy to bring me out...so I’m still running on it...even if our connection is severed.”
Zilia’s eyes twitched at Imposter’s toothy grin, she cursed herself for not contemplating that possibility. She didn’t have much time to regret her choice when she leapt backwards as the woman reached for her, she quickly placed her feet on the ground and got into stance.
Imposter slowly brought her hands back and smiled at her.
“Because of our connection I can feel your feelings, read your thoughts...you're scared. That’s good, you understand what I'm going to do to you. Your instincts aren’t wrong…”
A strange sensation passed over, for a moment it felt like a chilled breeze as it ruffled her clothes but as a red spark flickered near Imposter she immediately summoned her barrier.
In the next moment the forest that lied behind Imposter was no more.
“My intentions are quite murderous...oh call me Lia by the way. No need for us to share names right, I’ll just borrow from yours.”
She stood there, an ominous glow as wisps of red flowed off her body, merely manifesting the Chat-Chat Fruit’s power had turned the wood behind her to nothing, long black scorch marks the only sign of what had transpired.
Complete disintegration meant the energy was extremely potent and Lia was inspecting herself as if she’d gotten a new outfit, wielding her Devil Fruit at its worst. Zilia had been prepared for obstacles but this was quickly becoming a problem.
“I know I said I’d get in trouble more often...but this is a bit much...I can’t let the Captain find out about this
“I know I don’t have a lot of time thanks to you cutting off my power...and I’m pouring through a lot of it due to you...but all I need to do is kill you in two minutes.”
Zilia’s eyes narrowed and Lia snapped her fingers as red orbs hovered in front of her.
“Pay your cost Zilia, give me that body of yours!”

The first hit was like cannon fire, there was barely enough time to brace for it, the blow sent her flying back forcing her to drop her shield as she braced herself sliding back until she forced herself to stop. There was no time to recover as the next attack came, red flying past her skull and the sparks of the energy tingling her skin. She could feel the flow of power rushing past her as Lia gathered more.
More words formed around Lia, a strange alteration Zilia barely had time to register as more sphere’s flew at her, she brought her hand back.
“Arrows.”
Wisps of green came off her body and tiny sphere’s formed behind her, with a flick of her wrist they shot forward crashing into the red, the colors mixing for a brief moment, sucking in the air in around them before exploding.
Sand and dirt blew up between the two and Zilia quickly moved to the side to force distance while Lia’s vision was obscured.
“Projectile’s are fast but…”
They were weak and she wasn’t going to last long using them, the one good thing is she knew how to read her own power at least, so long as she kept a distance she could react to whatever was thrown at her.

She placed her foot down preparing to jump away again when Lia exploded forward through the smoke purple surrounding her fists, Zilia eyes widened as the distance between them shrunk, she barely had time to mutter a ‘shield’, blue surrounding her own hands as she blocked the strike.
The weight almost forced her to her knees, her teeth gritting as the ground cracked under her before she shifted her body redirecting the remaining force of the blow, a chunk of earth breaking apart at the flung pressure.
“Jack.”
Zilia’s eyes widened as Lia spoke, a wicked toothy grin forming on the creature’s face as a ring of knives appeared above the two. Zilia pushed Lia away and jumped away as the knives fell down towards her, she leapt backwards as the knives stabbed into the ground where she was, continuing to move away as some nicked her, tearing her clothes tightly as one narrowly missed her arm and another her leg.
“Bullet.”
Zilia’s looked back at Lia as she spoke again, making a forward motion forward with her finger, the green sphere flaring next to her.
Zilia raised her shield and braced herself, the green energy shot forward like lightning tearing apart the earth as it barreled violently towards her, Zilia’s eyes widened at the pressure already pressing on her and jumped to the side as it flew past her.
A flash of red pulled her back to Lia before she found herself face to face with the glowing sphere and with a snap, it detonated.
“Got ya.”

Zilia body flew backwards, traces of blue flying off her as the shield she managed to make was blown apart, her body hit the ground knocking the wind out of her as she rolled along the ground eventually coming to a stop.
“U-ugh…” Zilia groaned as she clutched at the ground.
She tried to climb to her feet when multiple red spheres appeared around her, some floating within her body, she froze in place at the entrapment, afraid to even breathe as the energy caressed her exposed skin.
“One full minute not bad,” Lia said walking towards her. “Longer than I expected.”
Zilia’s eyes narrowed as Lia raised both her hands moving them in front of her.
“I’d rather not grow back the limbs I’m about to blow off so why not just surrender. I’ll just trap you inside in that case, at least there’ll be something left of you.
“I refuse Lia, I won’t be-”
“Welp I tried.”
Lia clapped her hands and Zilia’s eyes widened as the orbs detonated a scream echoing from the doctors as she was caught in the explosion, Lia grinned before a laughed escaped from her.
“I was hoping you’d say that. Love when they refuse and make it easy.”
Lia stepped forward to claim her body when something shot out of the red smoke and pierced her skull, her eyes widened and she staggered back, Zilia burst out of the smoke and placing both her hands against the women’s chest.
“Cannonball!”
Purple energy glow around the doctor’s hands before detonating point blank against Lia, the woman’s body was flung backwards, a chunk of her torso blown apart in the process.
Zilia however was already gathered red back into her hand, as the creature landed on it’s fit and slid back a few feet feet, it’s body leaning back a bit before she straightened up.
Zilia’s eyes narrowed a bit as the hole in her skull was already fixing itself, and her body was already reforming.
“...I had a feeling…” Zilia muttered.
“Explain.”
Lia stared at Zilia a bright grin adorning her twisted features, Zilia felt like she was talking to a child in a strange sense, the amount of excitement in her tone at what just happened didn’t bring her comfort either.
“My power has rules, if those rules aren’t followed it becomes useless,” Zilia said. “You didn’t follow them.”
“I see….then I’ll just have to throw everything at you then to make sure you stay down!”
Something crashed into Zilia almost knocking her to her knees, her eyes widened as Lia held her arms out red, purple, and green started to swirl around her body, a culmination of colors all growing faster and more volatile with each passing moment, a whirlwind of colors that was destroying the earth around them, tearing it apart and ripping apart the very sand she was standing on.
“Di-”
Lia brought her hand forward when something pierced her skull from the side, her eyes widened before glancing in the direction of the shot, her entire body screamed at her as she noticed Luro standing nearby with a smoking gun.
Her mouth opened to summon more words when red suddenly flared near her, and she found her world suddenly upside down.
Zilia stood hand outstretched a red glow surrounding her hands, Lia’s decapitated head still twirling in the air, cackling laughter escaped from her.
“Oh I get it. That clap was-”
Her sentence was cut off as Lia’s body broke apart disintegrating into black mist, the collection of energy fading away with her as presence faded away.
Zilia lowered her hands before falling forward, Luro watched her hit the ground and blinked a few times staring at the now face down doctor.
“.....anytime you want to help Luro.”
“Oh was I supposed to catch you?” Luro said moving his gun to his back.
“...it would have been appreciated...can you help me now? I can’t move my body.”
“Sure Z.”

Zilia stared narrowed eyed at Luro causing him to stop when he looked at her.
“What?”
“Nothing
Luro stared at the clearly upset doctor in his arms and tilted his head before shrugging and walking along
Zilia had lost track how many times Luro had done this, she remembered resisting it at first but at some point she had just stopped caring, when she overused her Devil Fruit she wasn’t able to move, Luro helped her without complaint and she left the matter alone realizing that.
“I’ll pay you back later,” she said laying her head on Luro’s chest, unable to hold it up. “I should be able to move by time we return to the ship...I think.”
Luro grinned and continued walking, his gaze wandering around the ‘battlefield’ to keep from falling into any of the many holes.
Most of the ground was scorched, there were craters everywhere the two had fought and he wasn’t sure how they were going to explain a whole forest being destroyed.
“Thank you for coming by the way,” Zilia said.
“You said to find you if you clapped right? Just doing what you asked me.”
“Still it’s appreciated. I was already at my limit, you helped out.”
Zilia went silent for a moment, listening to the waves hit against the beach and the crunching of Luro’s boots in the sand.
“....is this what lies at the end of all of it.”
Luro stopped as Zilia spoke, almost in a whisper.
“What’s up Z?”
Zilia turned her head slightly looking towards the remnants of the forest, if it could even be called that. All life had been extinguished in an instant, the animals in the tree’s, the tree’s even the soil itself blown away in one moment, with a trace of effort.
“I need to control my Devil Fruit...I need to be stronger for what lies ahead...I don’t want to hesitate but….what I felt back there was...different.”
Zilia closed her eyes still feeling the singe of the energy against her skin.
“I’ve had my power backfire on me more than I can count I know what it can do...but I’ve never had it ‘thrown’ at me at full force like that before...it was haphazard, wild and all over the place but it took all I had just to defend against her. If she had actually concentrated…”

Zilia pushed that thought aside, she knew her power’s danger but she faced it in a different way today, in a way it was easy to forget how truly dangerous her power could be, even recognizing it could kill there was a difference between getting hit by a gun and getting hit by a cannon.
“Is that what it will become eventually…” Zilia said looking at the destroyed forest.
Luro looked over at the long scorch marks then back at Zilia before he continued walking.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Luro said drawing Zilia’s gaze back to him. “Your power’s pretty out there Z...but it doesn’t have to be like Lia’s….you understand it’s dangers better than anyone. You can make it strong and avoid that...besides Imposter’s crave destruction and don’t care about who gets hurt in the process, don’t compare yourself to them. You’re better than that Z.”
Zilia stared up at her for a short moment, her eyes widened slightly as she stared at Luro’s grin.
Lowering her gaze she opened and closed her hand as feeling returned to it, raising it she gripped Luro’s shirt causing him to stop and look down again, though Zilia had lowered her face.
“...thank you Luro.”
It was silent, barely audible and meant only for the only other person around but there was a sincerity in the soft voice it came from. Luro offered a small nod before Zilia still gripping her shirt pulled him causing his face to move closer to hers.
“Also…”
Zilia raised her gaze, a red glow to the woman’s eyes as a scowl decorated the doctor’s face as her brows knitted.
“How did you know that Imposter’s name...how long were you exactly there Luro?”
“Uh….” Luro said averting his eyes. “Well.”
A red glow surrounded Zilia’s hand and Luro looked down at it then back at Zilia.
“Ah you got some of your power back that’s good Z, I’ll just put you down now.”
“Answer the question Makachi.”
“......I came around the time you said ‘arrow’...it was just cool watching.”
Zilia’s eyes twitched and a few people in the town further down the road, swore they saw an explosion of red for a moment near the beach during one spring afternoon, followed by a man’s scream.

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Zilia stood in the open field, arms crossed staring into the distance, she was waiting for someone and sure enough that person’s footsteps soon approached from behind. She disliked knowing who it was not because she had summoned him but by his gait, whether it was grass or wooden floors if she heard his approach she was aware who it was.
“Hello Luro.”
The redhead took his place next to her holding what looked like a wanted poster, he looked over at Zilia before turning it towards her.
“Z...why is my name ‘The Masquerading Fabulist?”
“I told you didn’t I...you’re not the only one getting a normal name after giving the rest of us strange ones.”
Apparently Zilia had spoken with Mari and had her change Luro’s name, since new bounties went up for Stardusk as their bounties changed it wasn’t terribly difficult to spread the word. Surprisingly Mari had difficulty changing the name but managed to pull a few favors leading to Luro staring at the strange name he had been given all of a sudden.
“Hmm I like it though,” Luro said. “It’s got a certain charm to it.”
“Sure it does,” Zilia said before motioning to the spot ahead of them. “Anyway let’s get on with it...are you ready.”
“Yep,” Luro said putting the poster back into the box, slipping it back into his sleeve. “Whenever you're ready.”

After Zilia returned she had been experimenting with certain parts of her power, the first time had decimated most of a forest and almost killed her so she wasn’t exactly excited to do it again. The fact that she couldn’t control it the first time led to her current attempt, what happened on that island couldn’t repeat while the others were around. She understood how dangerous this ability was thus understanding and controlling it was all the more important.
Since Luro had fun watching last time instead of helping immediately, he was now going to be standing with her as she did so, meaning if it got violent he’d have to respond immediately.
“Isn’t this putting me in danger by the way Z?” Luro questioned. “Imposter hates me remember?”
“You’re durable so you should be fine,” Zilia responded holding her hands up.
Luro wasn’t sure how he felt about that but shrugged and rested his rifle on his shoulder.
“It should be fine, I realized my mistake from last time. I’ve made smaller Guardian’s since then and I’ve found out how to supply them with my own flow of energy then letting them run off with a chunk of it. Once I cut it off they’ll vanish pretty much immediately. Though...she may linger for a few minutes after depending, so keep your guard up.”
“Consider it done. Anyway go for it Z.”

Zilia offered a nod and held a hand out, as she did she spoke in a whisper as black energy shot out of her hand, her eyes widening as she gripped her wrist.
“Wait what?!” Zilia exclaimed as she tried to keep her footing.
“What’s happening Z?” Luro said holding his hand up as the gusts born from the power tried to blow the two backwards.
“I don’t know! I tried to use Reflection but it came out as Guardian for some reason! I didn’t even finish speaking! Maybe I messed up the incantation? Wait is it even an incantation?!”
Luro took his rifle off his back as the energy broke off of Zilia’s hand and crashed into the space in front of them, swirling violently a few feet away. Both prepared for the possible fight that may form as a figure slowly started to form in the center of the circle.
The grass at the Guardian’s feet started to wither, shifting into a dark brown as it seemed to drain the life of the things around it.
The black Haki exploded outwards throwing the two back, Zilia landed on her feet as Luro tumbled a bit, climbing to his knees a foot to slammed into him throwing him further back.
Zilia quickly turned and ran after Luro as the figure continued to lay into him, Luro put up his guard but was still thrown about slammed against the earth and hurled further and further away from Zilia. Unable to see where Imposter actually was with her visage fading in and out of sight, panic almost enveloped the doctor.
“Stop!” Zilia yelled just as she started to cut off the flow.
To her surprise Imposter’s fist stopped still raised ready to pummel Luro again.
“Huh...she listened...wait what?!” Luro exclaimed pointing at Imposter
Zilia’s run slowed to a walk as she approached the two and got a good look at Imposter, her jaw dropping as she stared not at a grown woman but a young boy still holding Luro by his shirt. He stared back at her, eyes that seemed to resonate multiple colors before settling on purple.
Luro seemed just as surprised about the situation, moreso that Imposter had stopped.
“Why did you make me stop Mother?”
Zilia and Luro looked at each other then back at the child, the words that came from him took a moment for Zilia to register, her eyebrows lowering as her brain tried to filter what she had just been called.
“Mother? Did you...just call me Mother?”
“I did...because you are my Mother. I was about to kill Luro why did you stop me?”
Luro looked at the kid then back at Zilia.
“Are you...Imposter?” He asked
The boy ignored Luro focusing on Zilia, the doctor took a moment to take in what was happening, she decided the main thing to focus on was the question Luro asked.
“...are you Imposter?” Zilia posed herself.
“I am yes,” the boy said. “Or rather I kind of am.”
“I see...and you’re listening to what I’m saying.”
“Well...you’re my Mother, why wouldn’t I?”
Zilia flinched a bit at this but that was enough information to work with.
“Then no killing Luro.”
The child's mouth twisted to the side for a moment but he released Luro and lowered his fist, Luro hopped up at this and leaned close to the boy bringing a hand to his chin.
“Remarkable...yeah it’s definitely Imposter, I get that feeling from him...but...no he doesn’t have the same look in his eyes, the same aura. Haha even my Imposter is interested.”
“I can still beat him unconscious right?” The boy said making a fist. “I dislike being compared to that ‘other me’.”
Luro stood up at this and looked over at Zilia, the woman sighed and held her hand out.
“Well for now I’m bringing you back. I’ll let you back out once we work through some of this.”
“What?! I don’t want to go back yet, Mother.”
Another flinch but Zilia looked at Luro then back at the ‘little Imposter’.
“...can you guarantee you won’t attack Luro?”
The boy jumped a bit at the sudden question and glanced at Luro who grinned at him, the boy’s eyes narrowed as he gripped his pants, silently trembling as he bit his lip to stop the words that almost came from him.
“....yes,” the boy said through clenched teeth.
Zilia sighed and the ‘Guardian’ dissolved into purple energy before flowing back into her.
“...we have to research this,” Zilia said staring at her glowing hand. “...this experiment was little more than…”
“A concept…” Luro said with a small nod. “That may be a good thing, it could mean you made a fake Imposter, that means it won’t act like the real one...well minus wanting me dead.”
“...let’s take our time with this one.”
“Agreed, at least it’s not that lady version of you, the one that wants to kill ya.”
“This time,” Zilia said with a sigh before the two made their way back to the ship.

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“So who’s the father of your kid Z?”
Zilia sputtered and coughed up the drink in her hand, looking over at Luro from her crate.
Luro looked up from the sphere in his lap he was working on, the doctor stared at Luro for a long moment, his eyes returning her gaze before she took a bite from her piece of bread.
“....I assure you there is no father.”
“Mother then.”
Zilia flinched realizing it wasn’t being dropped and with a sigh tossed the last piece of food in her mouth, shifting in her seat slightly.
“...it’s not so simple as there being another parent...and also he’s not my kid.”
“...he calls you mother though.”
“That’s not the point.”
“He came from you.”
“Also not the point.”

Luro tilted his head a bit but went back to working on his sphere with a shrug, Zilia thought the conversation would end there but Luro spoke up again as he twisted something in place.
“There’s gotta be another person he took after though, that’s how kids work. He looks mostly like you...and he came from you right, you’d probably naturally take influence from an opposing party as your brain naturally understands how kids come about. Since you’re around us all the time it makes sense one of us would be the kid’s other parent.”
Zilia stared at Luro for a long moment, her eyelids lowering slightly.
“...why do you only make sense in situations like this?”
“Situations like what?” Luro said looking up again.

Zilia shook her head and stared down at the tea in her cup, her eyes focused on her own distorted reflection, the boy’s face echoing in her mind for a moment causing her mouth to twist up slightly. She didn’t like it but there was a chance Luro was right, the child could have influences from another, but even if that was the case she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
“Let’s find out who this kid’s dad is Z. We can’t let you just stay a single mother.”
“Luro will you keep it down. I haven’t even told the crew that ‘it’ turned into a kid. I’m keeping it secret for a reason, at least until I understand further. You were the second to last person I wanted to find out so this is hard enough.”
“Who was the last?”
“The Captain of course, she’d never drop this if she found out.”
“Ah...well she knows now cause she’s right there.”

It wasn't technically eavesdropping if Runali was on her way to ask the doctor a question. Technically, she just happened to over hear… most of the conversation and didn't want to interrupt. But Luro was right, the captain was there and her question was thoroughly lost and replaced with the new information she had just learned.

The containment on her calmness was thinly veiled as she cleared her throat. Despite her calm voice, there was the twinge of excitement that followed each sentence. "...Keeping secrets. On a ship. Would be much easier… if you, y’know, didn't talk about them. Out loud. While everyone was on said ship."

The captain stood there, forcing herself still. But it lasted no longer than the breath Zil took because Runali was a ticking time bomb. Fortunately, she didn't yell. "You were gonna tell me last!? But this is important! I would want to know!" Runali shook her head, deciding that that particular complaint could come later. "When did you even have a kid!?" Thoughts rolled in and she had fallen into a sitting position on the nearest crate. "I don't think we can baby proof a pirate ship Z. I mean… we could try but that's not very practical… Huh, should we make a detour? If I'm not mistaken, there's a town about two days away if we go west instead of south… probably should pick up supplies." Her leg bounced absent-mindedly as she thought out loud. "I thought Jack would be first… wonder if he knows baby food recipes. He probably does…"

The tangent would have carried on had she not thought of two important things. First, she tapped Luro while still looking at Zilia. "Luro's right, we should figure out who the other parent is. I wanna know what stuff besides cool doctor teaching he'll pick up." The second thing made her snap her fingers. "Did you name him? He can't go around nameless."

All Zilia could do was put her head in her hands as Runali approached, frozen and unable to respond. What Runali said was absolutely correct, if she wanted to keep a secret openly discussing it was the worst thing to do, and it was clear she was excited. Zilia only leaned further forward, head still in her hands at the mention of why Runali would be the last one told. She only raised her head at the mention of baby proofing the ship.
“It isn’t impossible,” Luro said. “I already drew up some plans Captain, it’d take some work, and I’d have to move Zilia’s room but it’s very possible.”

Zilia sat there blinking, mouth slightly agape in disbelief before her eyes slightly narrowed trying to figure out how to address this situation. By now she should have understood that if she didn’t want something to happen on this ship, it would happen almost immediately, that’s how it always happened. She took a long deep breath and clapped her hands together after the Captain finished speaking.
“...okay...firstly I am...happy that you are so excited and considerate Captain...however as is normally the case when it comes to Luro’s comments I feel blanks need to be filled here.”
Zilia stood up from her crate and held her hand out to the side, as she did black energy gathered around it.
“By ‘kid’ I mean this.”

The black energy shot out of her hand and hit the ground nearby, the energy spiraled upwards twisting in the air near them and slowly grew larger, creating a mini tornado near them in the process. A pair of eyes peered out between the energy before it broke apart, bits of black energy hovering in the air around them as the figure came into full view.
A young boy stood a few feet away where the energy had been, from a basic look he didn’t look much older than seven or eight. He was garbed in simple clothes, a simple grey tunic and brown pants with brown shoes. There was a strange similarity in his face to Zilia’s, with even his hair matching almost exactly to the doctor’s, though his eyes were different and probably the only real sign that he wasn’t ‘human’, his eyes were a mix of colors, a shimmering combination of hue’s that shone in the light, though in one moment they looked light purple after he blinked.
“...he really does look just like a kid,” Luro said grinning. “You didn’t do the fancy talk in bringing him out though Z.”
“After the last one tried to strangle me? Not again. Still can’t believe she ended up like this.”
Luro turned to Runali and pointed to the boy.
“You know that thing Z summoned before, well she did it again and well...it turned into a kid. This one. It’s Kid Imposter, or Kidposter as I like to call him.”
The boy’s eyes moved over to Luro, his hands twitching causing red sparks to flow off his body, his eyes narrowing towards Luro recognizing who he was looking at .
“Mother...did you summon me to kill this man?”
“No. I told you not to kill Luro.”
Kidposter glanced at Zilia but closing his eyes let the energy fade away.
“If that is your wish Mother. Forgive my rudeness, it’s in our habit to hate that man’s existence.”
Though the voice of a child came from Kidposter, his formality and the way he carried himself made him appear as a child of proper upbringing, the boy folding his hands behind his back and going silent afterwards.


Zilia sighed and looked over at Runali.
“This is Imposter or rather an Imposter born from my own observations, manifested due to my power. I’ll save you the long explanation but I met an Imposter, things happened and now there’s another one.”
“Ah but it’s okay, this Imposter isn’t like the others,” Luro said holding a hand up. “He’s a fake of a fake of a fake. He’s like...a predecessor so he’s not as messed up as the others. He’s...an Imposter before becoming a full Imposter, a step before they become horrid creatures that erase all existences around them. Almost harmless. Still murderous though but he listens to Z.”
“There’s a certain irony to a horrid creature calling another horrid...but I’ll leave it at that for Mother’s sake.”
Zilia squeezed the bridge of her nose as Kidposter stared at the group.
“...for some reason he considers me his mother.”
“I came from you, that makes you my Mother,” Kidposter said looking over at Zilia. “If you didn’t need me to kill anything then why am I here Mother? Was it to meet Runali? Have you finally come around to making me a part of the crew? I believe I’m too young for a tattoo but if you say it’s all right then I won’t decline tradition.”
Zilia looked over at Runali as Kidposter continued to stare at Zilia, rocking back and forth as he waited for a response.
“I refuse to name him, that means claiming him as my own. I absolutely refuse to do so. Also no you are not joining the crew...Alicia is ready to sever Luro’s head from his body if he unleashes Imposter...I’m not partial to how she’d feel about this. You are still a secret.”
Kidposter’s shoulder seemed to droop a little at this but he offered a nod in response and went silent to allow the adults to keep talking.
“We still need to find his other parent though, he has to be connected to someone...oh why don’t we brainstorm with Captain! She already knows after all and if we find the other...maybe it’d help solve this mystery of how he came to be.”
“...or we could drop it and never talk about it again. That’s also an option.”

Runali could only grin learning Luro was one step ahead of her. When black smoke appeared and a kid came out of it, Runali's curiosity piqued even more. "Not… normally how babies are born. But this is certainly a kid. Though walking and talking crosses off at least eight things I was thinking for baby proofing the ship. Makes things easier even." The Imposter explanation only deepened this mystery. "I'd say you were lucky enough to skip some steps of the process but…" The captain’s imagination flipped through what Zilia could have meant about meeting an Imposter and whatever that entailed. "...Never mind." Those were personal affairs she would leave be.

Her gaze stayed on the boy as he spoke, smiling a little as he questioned. But when Zilia explained why she wouldn't claim him, her expression became a little more thoughtful. Before she answered Luro, Runali leaned forward, reaching a hand out to the boy to see if he would come closer.

"Alicia is many things. Patient and forgiving is among them." Runali was still examining the boy, but used her free hand to gesture to Luro. "If he can have redemption and forgiveness, you'd be more than allowed to explain yourself. It's not like you haven't told him not to kill. Besides, her blade is never the first option. Words are." Runali's words had a more serious tone to them in that moment, but as soon as she spoke to the boy again it lightened. "And don't worry tiny pirate, you're already an honorary Stardusk." She smiled a little wider, a little mischievous. "Kids of the crew are all honorary Stardusk until they're old enough to decide if they want to be or not. A new rule from the captain herself- me, of course. No tattoo though. We could get you a little patch and sew it onto your tunic." Before more ideas could pull her thoughts, she held up a finger. "But as an honorary Stardusk, you should know that you're not allowed to kill our crew. But it's okay, you're still learning."

Runali curiously held the boy's hand and spun him around. He certainly did look human. She very gently cupped his face to examine his features, almost as if committing them to memory. "Doc, he's got your cute face but in baby-er form. Looks just like you. You don't have much say in claiming him." She let him go and nodded, letting him stand next to his mom again. "Your funky magic made a kid. He's got thoughts and speech and feelings!" She wasn't 100% sure about the last part, but she'd like to think so. "You don't want another Imposter on your hands, yeah?" The captain clicked her tongue. "Well then, you can't treat him like one." It felt a little odd addressing him as if he wasn’t there so she divided her attention between the two. "Why not… I dunno help him find some hobbies? I mean, if all he's got is murderous intent then obviously he needs something else to do! Your mom's a doctor, trained and perfected in the art of keeping us alive." The look in her eye was a telltale sign that she herself would help him if she needed to.

"How long has the tiny pirate been around? Huh, better question, how much do you know kid? I'm not as, uh, well versed in Imposter magic as these two so not sure if you have knowledge of… everything or as much as a kid your age would." Leaning over to Luro, she whispered (even though it was loud enough to hear), "So we do rule out the Imposter Z met as a potential parent, yeah?"

Kidposter’s gaze moved over to Runali at her outstretched hand, his gaze moved over to Zilia and it took the doctor a moment to realize he was asking permission. With a sigh she made a motion with her hand and he walked up to Runali.
“I’m not pleased things are easier…” Zilia commented before looking over at Runali.
She was right of course, Alicia wouldn’t just sever her head at the first sign of Imposter that wasn’t how she did things, in a weird way having it confirmed by Runali calmed her down a bit, though it didn’t last long as she named her new rule. Zilia’s eyes twitched as Luro offered light applause and a firm nod at the Captain’s words.
“I like that rule. I can make a patch for him easily.”

This particular moment was partially why she didn’t want Runali to know, she was way too easy going with things like this and Luro...well Luro couldn’t sense danger until it specifically told him it was danger.
Her eyes twitched slightly at the cute comment her gaze moving over to Kidposter who made no attempts to move away, he seemed fine with being examined strange enough. He seemed more interested than bothered, curious what these actions meant.
“...it’s not magic,” was all Zilia could get out with a sigh.
“It’s basically magic,” Luro said resting his hands on his hips. “I’m with the Captain on the whole not making another Imposter thing, got too many bad ones.”
Zilia sighed but looked over at Kidposter as he tugged on her outfit.
“Mother I received a compliment. What should I do?”
“Compliment?”
“She said I looked like you.”
Zilia shut her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose, she took a long breath in and motioned to Runali eyes still shut.
“Thank her.”
Kidposter nodded and with a small bow to Runali spoke again in a polite manner.
“Thank you for the compliment Miss Runali. Being told I look like Mother makes me very happy.”
“I want one,” Luro said crossing his arms with a smile. “Can we trade Imposters?”
“I refuse to go with you.”
The child’s voice was far less polite towards Luro, but the redhead didn’t seem to mind.

Zilia walked away from the boy to a corner of the room as Runali spoke to Luro, she returned with a book in her hand, answering the first question upon her return.
“A little bit after we got back from Uitibuken,” Zilia said handing the book to Kidposter. “I summoned him by accident with Luro nearby, he’s the one who realized he wasn’t an immediate danger being the supposed expert.”
“His eyes aren’t completely devoid of humanity,” Luro said grinning. “Still I didn’t think about the other Imposter you met...I don’t think so because I pulled Z out pretty quickly.”

Kidposter eyed the book not sure what to do with it, but ultimately opened it before speaking again.
“If you’ll allow me to answer both questions. I can confirm I have no connection to ‘that’ Imposter. Luro pulled me out before he could infect Mother, though an imprint was left on her from their meeting we are not formally connected. She is not my other mother. For the other question...I carry as much knowledge as Mother does...and a little bit more.”
He looked up from the book at this.
“It’s only knowledge though, there’s a difference between being aware of something and seeing it for yourself. Miss Runali matches the memories in my head but ‘feels’ different in person...and Luro is far more insufferable than the memories reveal.”
Luro brought a hand to his chin as Kidposter returned to the book, ‘reading’ apparently.
“Hmmm I say we go from person to person and check then. If Kidposter looks at each member of the crew he may be able to tell who his other parent is. Let’s start with me then. Kidposter am I-”
“Absolutely not,” Zilia and Kidposter said at the same time.
“You’re not the father, not in any aspect,” Zilia said.
“Agreed wholeheartedly. I don’t acknowledge you in most aspects, fatherhood especially.” Kidposter said looking up from the book for a brief moment to glare at him before looking back down.
“....so not me then. What about the Captain?.”
Zilia’s brow arched at this and she looked over at Runali then back to Luro.
“...why in the vast seas would it be Runali?”
“Cause of how much you res-”
Luro’s words were cut off by Zilia’s hand as she ended up on top of her crate, hand over the giant's mouth at an inhuman speed.
“I’m pretty sure it’s not Runali,” Zilia said a bit too loudly, refusing to look at the Captain currently.
“Mother is correct. Miss Runali is more of an aunt than another parent,” Kidposter said turning a page in the book. “I am aware of Mother’s emotions so I’m positive since-”
Zilia’s hand ended up over Kidposter’s mouth and she shook her head causing the youth to nod and go quiet. Clearing her throat Zilia motioned towards the door leading upstairs.
“So it’s not you two, great let’s check the others.”
“Oh! You’re okay with doing it now Z?”
“...you’re not going to drop it so let’s just get it over with. However...he remains hidden while we do so, I’m still working out how to explain this.”
Luro gave a thumbs up at this and looked over at Runali.
“Who should we check first Captain? Alicia, Jack or….Cedric.”
Luro seemed to trail off a bit at the last name but ultimately brought it up out of habit.

Runali offered a smile at the kid’s thank you. She watched him, curious about his mannerisms and the way he...well, worked. And the more she watched the more he really did seem like a kind of clueless kid.

“Hah, there there Luro, I’m sure you’ll be a great dad someday.” She gave him a comforting pat, not that he needed it. Idly, she waved the same hand and added, “Besides, if you were there and helped… bring the kid to...life,” It was obvious Runali didn’t have a grasp on however that worked. “You’re kind of the closest candidate Zil’s got.” She couldn’t help but laugh and hold a hand out before either of them could get upset. “But you don’t have to claim him it’s fine, I did that already.”
Hearing that she was an aunt made her go wide eyed. “You can’t get rid of him, I’m an aunt! I’ve never been one before!” Runali decided to spare Zilia as she panicked to silence both of them. Instead, she made her way over and sat next to the kid. “Well, out of them I think…” She leaned back in thought. “Chef dad? While I know Alicia won’t cut first, I’m not sure what Adelaide would do if she found out…” Runali tapped her cheek. She paused at Cedric’s name, softly shaking her head as an answer before moving forward. “I think Alicia woulda told us if she had a personal run in with an Imposter… but she is the least likely to cause Zil to make that face that she makes at us when we get into trouble.” She looked up towards the stairs and then stood back to her feet, ruffling the kid’s hair. “Alright littlest Z, we’re going to figure out if your other parent is on the ship. Which… kind of weird to tell a kid, but it’s fine it’s fine.” She clasped her hands together and walked towards the door.

“Better figure it out soon doctor, because I was just gonna ask Jack if remembered ever having a kid with you.” It was a lie, she wasn’t going to say that exactly, but even she couldn’t help but mess with the doctor sometimes.

Luro grinned and puffed his chest out a bit at being claimed causing Zilia’s eyelids to narrow slightly, she was more than happy to leave him to the Captain, Kidposter didn’t seem to mind either.
Zilia brought a hand to her face at the mention of being an aunt, how was this hole getting steadily deeper with the passage of time? If this kept up they were going to start asking her to let him walk around sometimes. The thought of it made her shudder a bit as she lowered her hand, her gaze moved over to Kidposter who seemed to pick up on ‘reading’ as a hobby. She wasn’t even sure if he could read but it seemed to be holding his attention, he always raised his head when someone spoke to him or moved closer however to show he was listening.
“...that is true about Alicia. We’ll definitely check her but I think Jack is a good first go to.”
Kidposter seemed to maintain a simple ‘mature’ expression throughout the conversation, but his fiddling with the pages revealed he apparently liked the ‘nickname’ given to him.
“....another compliment...today is a good day,” the youth mumbled raising the book up to hide his face, though his comment wasn't exactly said quietly.

Zilia’s eyes twitched at Runali’s extra comment and she shaked a fist at the Captain before sighing.
“Please don’t do that. I don’t want more misunderstandings...especially with Adelaide. Knowing her she’d hear that from wherever she’s at now and don’t you dare pose that question on anyone else.”

Finding Jack wasn’t too difficult as lunch was close by, Luro peered around the corner of the open doorway into the kitchen, then Zilia, then Kidposter, though Zilia gently pulled the child away from the door. Jack was more than likely used to a few eyes on him, if he felt an extra pair he might actually look in their direction.
Zilia made a motion with her hand putting a mini barrier around them to mitigate their voices, though she informed whispering was still a good idea.

Luro looked back at Runali and gave a thumbs up before looking back at Jack whispering to the group.
“So is it Jack?”
Zilia was silent for a moment eyes lowering slightly, her fingers drumming on the doorframe before she whispered back.
“Jack and I connect on a certain wavelength, that is something I considered. Maybe because we joined around the same time, I’m not sure but sometimes I can tell what he’s thinking or feeling from a glance, and I’m sure he felt similar in some cases. It’s not as...constant as with Luro but sometimes our thoughts and feelings line up in certain situations, due to that we know the best course of action to take without words.”
Zilia said this reaching up to mess with one her bangs.
“We also take the time to understand one another. If we disagree we discuss it and try to understand why the other feels that way. There are few things off the top of my mind we truly disagree about but even still I know ‘why’ he feels that way and it’s the same with me. Thus arguments are rare between us, because that time is taken. To say there is no connection would be lie, so it is a possibility due to my trust of him he naturally became the child’s father.”

Luro gave a small nod of this and looked over at Kidposter, the boy however gave a shake of his head and responded quietly as well.
“Mother is correct in her feelings but I do not feel that same bond with him that I do with Mother. Perhaps out of respect to Miss Adelaide, Mother’s subconscious naturally removed him as a potential parent in my creation. It would be weird and difficult to explain to Miss Adelaide how Mr. Jack has a kid now. I think of him as an Uncle personally.”
Kidposter said this looking back in the direction Jack.
“Which is a shame really. I think he would be a good father...though I worry how we’d handle arguments with each other...from my memories he’s very stubborn when it comes to family…”
Zilia decided to leave that matter alone as that was opening a door that needed to remain shut, Luro moving away from the door spoke in response.
“So not Jack then….well let’s go before Jack notices us then. Next to Alicia. Captain I’m gonna put a bottle on Alicia myself. I got a good feeling about it.”

Had they not all stopped, Runali might have just walked in to greet Jack. It was near lunch and it was the perfect time to peek and see what he was making. But, she stopped with the rest realizing the approach was to sneak around the ship. Probably not the greatest plan, especially not with a spy, but she went with it. However she decided to only peek at Jack once also knowing that if she did it too many times, he'd notice.

"So?" She echoed Luro's question. The way Zilia explained it, it seemed like he was the obvious match. But when the kid spoke, Runali nodded towards him. "Family bonds are strong sometimes, but I suppose not all of them mean the same thing. But hey, littlest Z you've got a new chef uncle. I can show you where he keeps all the snacks sometime." She didn't even consider whether or not he could eat. "But you gotta be careful sneaking around in there. One thing moved and he's going to notice immediately."

With a quiet laugh at Luro she brought a hand to her chin. "Hah, if you're right I'll buy you one myself." She gestured the rest along. "I was with Alicia earlier, I know where to find her." She decided to leave out the fact that they were sharpening blades. It didn't seem like the best time considering Zilia had just mentioned being cut by one of her swords. "May want to keep up your quiet barrier."

“My family is growing….” Kidposter said making a triumphant fist. “Snacks? Ohhhh.”
Kidposter started looking around before patting his outfit and finding a pen, something that made Zilia’s eyes narrow a bit. He looked down at his book and started to write in it only for Zilia to gently grab his wrist, she handed him a spare notebook.
“Don’t damage books. Use this instead.”
“Right. Sorry Mother.”
Zilia’s eyes twitched realizing what she was doing and released the boy before looking over at the Captain and Luro, then back at Kidposter who looking up from his new notebook smiled at her.
“Thank you for the gift by the way Mother.”
Zilia turned away to face the Captain not offering a response and followed after her to find Alicia, she kept her barrier up as she followed after the Captain.

“Do you think Alicia’s the one Z?” Luro asked as they followed after Runali.
“...it’s not impossible. Alicia and I feel similarly on a fair amount of matters. We both meditate, sometimes together and I enjoy having tea with her and chatting. It’s such a simple thing but those things are small joys in my life that I truly appreciate and wouldn’t trade for anything. We both desire the safety of everyone around us and it goes without saying she causes the least trouble. While I can trust all of you, I know I can leave Alicia alone and it’s unlikely things will go completely downhill.”

“Hey I’m good at that too,” Luro said patting himself.
“Luro you set five places on fire yesterday, and only one was on purpose.”
Luro opened his mouth but closed it taking a moment to actually think about yesterday and the previous fires. He smiled at one but frowned at another.
“She is someone I without a doubt trust and have faith in. With Jack I do feel the occasional barrier...I suppose when he does his job as a spy, but there’s no such wall with Alicia.”

While the two talked, Runali only nodded here and there with what they were saying but she was more so peeking over littlest Z's shoulder. She pointed at his note, commenting, "You're a kid now so he probably won't question, but if you say the first mate- that's Alicia- wanted it and you're just the messenger, he'll also give you things." She grinned. "But it's only worked twice." At some point, she looked over at Zilia and teased. "Well, you think that because unlike you, Alicia’s an open book. Heh, your book has locks and traps." When they got to the room, she paused and placed a hand on the kid's shoulder to stop him. "I'll distract her if you need me to, but she gets really into sword sharpening. So we should be fine."

Runali looked down at the kid and gestured over. "What do you think? Cool sword mom? She could teach you how to cut ships in half and teach you how to make some really nice tea."

“Lying...is...sometimes...okay.” Kidposter said with a nod.
Zilia immediately reached over and tore that particular note out of the book, glancing sideways at the Captain in response.
“Just tell him straightforwardly,” Zilia said shaking her head before looking back at Runali. “There’s no need to lie.”
“My book is plenty open...well now,” Zilia said crossing her arms.
“Except the Kidposter thing,” Luro added.
“I’m going to bring it up eventually...I’m just considering how to do so without causing panic,” Zilia said messing with her bang.
Though feeling the tug on her sleeve she turned to look over at Kidposter.
“Just tell them straightforwardly...right Mother?”
Zilia’s eyes twitched and Luro had to turn his head to hold in his laughter.

Kidposter came to an abrupt stop but stared ahead at the swordswoman, keeping a bit of extra distance just to be safe, completely avoiding her senses was a difficult thing to do, but maintaining enough distance should at least keep her from investigating, feeling the presence of a crew member nearby was natural, just to be safe Zilia had Luro hold a crate in his hands, and told him to ‘look busy’.
Luro’s look busy was to take things out of the box and put them back in, which would seem suspicious...if not for the fact Luro did this all the time for no particular reason. It was assumed he did this to count the items inside and it was left at that.
Kid poster took a good look at Alicia and after giving a small nod, looked back at the others and shook his head.
“Really?” Zilia said her eyebrows arching slightly. “I’m...actually surprised.”
“Miss Alicia is a good candidate….but there’s a natural understanding I feel that separates us. Do you understand why Mother?”
“I...suppose I do. Both Alicia and I are rather stubborn in our ways. Unlike with Jack where we can end up on the other’s side, Alicia and I are generally on our own islands and prefer it that way. That’s not to say she’s not understanding, quite the opposite. She takes the time to learn, the time to understand...but her beliefs are her beliefs and my beliefs are mine. Our mutual stubbornness in the preservation of that...I suppose means there’s always a distance when it comes to certain things, but due to our trust of each other it never affects our relationship...still I feel she’s been more open to things lately.”
“I see her as a Godmother, if anything happened to Mother, I would more than likely go to Alicia.”
“Hey what about the rest of us?” Luro questioned arching a brow at Kidposter. “Most of us are good with kids.”

“You are a wanderer with no real home save the ship, and while Auntie does have a home she can go back too and is a good second candidate, Carabis also resides there and I’m not too partial to him, also she’s trying to become Pirate Lord one of the most wanted people on the seas. Uncle Jack doesn’t have a proper ‘home’ to return too as of yet, maybe save a Brothel and a Thieves guild, neither of which are good for a growing child raised on Mother’s values.”
“Wait what values are you talking about-” Zilia said but was cut off as Kidposter continued.
“Cousin Arcadius is in a similar situation to Luro but far more tolerable, Mr. Cedric’s main focus was Jack and regretfully is no longer with us."
Luro started to wonder how many of them were actually truly ‘homeless’ when Kidposter continued, he was also surprised he already knew about Cedric.
“Also even ‘if’ you were to argue it’d still be fine Alicia still trumps them all. She has ‘property and assets’ of her own given to her.”
Zilia averted her eyes at this.
“She has a large home on that property, lives in a relatively safe place that even the WG can’t randomly mess with, everyone there is nice and courteous, there are school’s and numerous teacher’s, the landscape is beautiful and there’s plenty of places to play. She’s used to raising others as she has students and cares for her sister’s. She is on good terms with the highest governmental official there, thus it’d be easy to get me into a school even as a foreigner. Does any of that apply to you Makachi?”
“Hmmm...maybe two things,” Luro said causing Kidposter’s eyes to narrow before he sighed and spoke again.
“Still….she seems like someone who would strictly make me takes lessons every week even if I didn’t want too, and voicing it would be hard if she was taking care of me...so for numerous reasons I hope not to go to her immediately. Now if she had all that and Auntie’s attitude that’d be perfect.”
“....I really do wonder why she’s still here some days,” Zilia mumbled bringing a hand to her chin. “Well I know why but still….”
Zilia looked up and clearing her throat motioned to move away.
“Well it’s not Alicia let’s check Kadi, and if you know about Cedric share it with us.”
“Cousin Arcadius isn’t the one” Kidposter said simply. “I looked at him while we were sneaking. Again, Luro but more tolerable, he really does feel like a cousin to me. There’s a distance there that’s pretty plain to see.”
“I...I see...well you did say that didn’t you,” Zilia said. What of Cedric then?”
“Hmmm are you following all this Captain,” Luro said. “Also this kid’s got a good head on his shoulders, he really is Z’s kid, especially the overthinking part.”
“How are your compliments somehow irritating Luro,” Zilia said glancing at him.

She gave the doctor an innocent grin before casually whispering to the kid. “Lying is okay sometimes. Like with the navy. It’s if you get caught is when it’s trouble.” She put a finger to her mouth in a ‘sh’ motion before standing and leaning against the wall. Teasingly, she made a ‘clicking’ noise at Zilia, imitating a lock and a book closing as Luro proved her point.

"Aw, Will wouldn't be able to hurt if he tried." Was the only comment Runali made as the kid explained himself. She couldn’t help but nod and agree here and there with his sentiments. They were pretty sound. He did his research- whatever that entailed. She couldn't help but chuckle at his reasoning for Alicia's godmother status because Luro was right, it sounded just like Zilia. "Aye Luro, it's fine. The kid's smart. If something goes wrong he can be a little prince in Alicia's fancy castle." She patted his head. "Too bad no one can be me, except me. Besides, no school's gonna teach you how to be the best pirate ever." Her gaze flickered over to Zilia before she quietly added. "Buuuut school is important, have to learn to be as smart as the doctor and all of course." She put a thumbs up for Zilia, exercising her 'good role model' act and suppressing another laugh.

"Littlest Z your family just keeps growing. That's exciting." She whistled. It was short and familiar enough not to raise alarm to the rest of the crew around but it was loud enough to get the attention of Coral. She flew down from the crow's nest and perched onto the captain’s shoulder. "That's littlest Z don't worry. Not an intruder," Runali nudged the bird's cheek as she stared at the kid as if inspecting him. Coral accepted that answer and nodded at the kid before looking back at the captain. "Consider her another addition to the family. Don't worry, she's friendly.”

Kidposter took notes as Runali spoke nodding every now and then, he seemed to pause at the mention of school being important due to the sudden shift but continued writing glancing up at Zilia at the idea of matching her.
“...smart like mother…”
A red tint rested on the boy’s cheeks and she smiled a little at the thought.
“That’s right...my family is getting bigger...I’m not alone.”
Zilia’s eyes twitched a little at this but she turned her gaze away, for the time being they had their focus, though she couldn’t get this strange turn of events out of her head. That weird version of her somehow turned into a child.
This child was Imposter, Luro confirmed it wasn’t a ‘real’ one, more a ‘subjective’ one thus his personality but it still ate her, Imposter had tried to kill her, that ‘other her’ had tried to kill her, she wasn’t sure how to feel about this child.
“...I’m not his mother.”

Kidposter expression seem to fall for a bit but he gave a shake of his head and answered the previous question.
“It’s not Cedric. I used to feel the difference, It's like night and day.”
Kidposter looked at Zilia who shut her eyes and crossed her arms.
“...that makes sense. I care...cared about Cedric, I truly did. He was a dear friend….but…”
“The distance he created between us hindered the relationship,” Kidposter said. “Cedric kept us at arms length for a while, while that’s not necessarily a bad thing especially considering the circumstances...that wall almost negated a feeling of unity.”
“Jack was similar but Cedric’s wall...was definitely higher and unlike Jack’s...he kept it up for most of his time with us," Zilia added "Though I did see him try to grow closer bit by bit. He also clung to Jack showing such a difference in acceptance. Luro’s nice to everyone and Alicia is always courteous so it’s not so strange but...with Cedric it felt different. It’s hard to build trust when thoughtful words are spoken...but you can still feel the distance between you. It’s...similar to promising to visit in a week when you live a few month’s away.”
“Of course that didn’t stop Mother from considering him a friend but….”
“It’d be hard to take ‘reference’ when I barely understood him...in that way he was the least likely. Still I believe it was worth checking, the fact I knew so little could have easily been the reason why I picked him.”
“I thought of him more like an older step-brother, but mother is right. Under different circumstances I’m sure he would have been above Uncle Jack, seeing as Mother took care of him.”
“...but Jack’s an uncle so how was Cedric….” Luro said rubbing the side of his head. “So...that’s everyone...so it’s no one on the ship?”
Luro looked over at Runali.
“Maybe someone off the ship then, like Isa?”
“...why in the world would it be Isa?” Zilia said sighing.
Luro stared at Zilia causing her brows to arch.
“What?”
“....how about Nora-”
“Finish that name and I'll cut your tongue out Makachi. Never speak that name in front of me.”
Luro grinned as Zilia’s energy flared and Kidposter brought a hand to his chin, he looked over at Runali.
“Do you have any guesses Auntie?” he questioned looking at Runali.

"Oh it can't possibly be anyone off the ship." Runali wandered back to the seat she was in next to the kid.She had gotten a little distracted at the mention of Cedric, but as they moved on, so did she. "Doctor doesn't like anyone as much as she likes us. She volunteered to be with us after all." A mischievous grin followed. "Unless of course she's got secret lovers around the world. There was the one guy we met, he seemed head over heels for Zil. Don't remember the name though. What a scandal, doc. Are you leaving a path of broken hearts while we're sailing? Hah! Are you reading secret love letters and disguising them as books?" She leaned back, setting Coral in her lap and then shrugged. Her laugh faded into a chuckle. "We're not gonna find another parent though. Not like this."

"Can't find one with the other in denial." She put a hand up in mock surrender. "Hear me out doctor," She gestured the kid over, once again moving Coral until she decided to perch on Luro. Runali squished his face. "Consider you ignore this cute face. Let 'em fester and do nothing but harbor a grudge. Might not turn out as another Imposter, but definitely is gonna be sad. Then you've got a sad kid with powers I surely don't understand. Powers that have nearly killed the both of you- and me for that matter but besides the point." She gestured to Kidposter again. "But! If not mother well… why not mentor?" She raised a curious brow, freeing the kid from her playful prodding and squishing. "You don't have to be a mom to make sure a clueless kid doesn't end up as an enemy, yeah? And you had a mentor before too, right?" She approached the last part lightly and somewhat cautiously not wanting to step on any metaphorical land mines.

"Besides," She added, "Who needs that when he's got the best aunt ever. I could teach him how to be a pirate and he can cause havoc with a purpose." She laughed and interjected, "Cept no taverns or bars for you, littlest Z. Way too young."

For a moment Luro thought Zilia was genuinely going to attack the Captain as the energy flared around her hand at the mention of Noram. Though ultimately she just sighed and the energy faded away as she rested her hands on her hips.
“Every bit of that sounds like a pain,” Zilia said squeezing the bridge of her nose. “Dealing with you all is hard enough, I don’t need extra out there.”
At the mention of denial Zilia looked over at Runali, Luro pulling a treat for Coral out of his sleeve and holding it up to her as he watched.
Kidposter not sure what to do remained still glancing over at Runali as his face was squished, Luro noting how actually malleable it was.

Zilia’s eyes moved over to Kidposter and her eyes seemed to twitch slightly at the mention of her Mentor, but she seemed to listen to what Runali was saying. The doctor crossed her arms understanding where Runali was coming from. No matter how she felt letting him be a danger to others and possibly himself wasn’t really an option she liked.
“A mentor...huh,” Zilia pondered messing with one of her bangs. “...maybe but-”
“...no.”
Zilia stopped as a quiet voice interrupted her, a voice shaking in response as the child stepped away from Runali and a little closer to Zilia.
“Why can’t you be my mother?”
“That’s….” Zilia said trailing off.
“Is it me? Am I the problem?”
Zilia’s mouth opened but the words she wanted to say wouldn’t come out causing her to shut it.
“I...I’ll be whatever you want me to be. Did you want a daughter I can change into a girl. Is it because I’m a child I can grow up, is it my face, because I look like you. If you hate it I can change it right now.”
The desperation from the boy pushed Zilia into silence, she found it hard to look into his eyes, pleading and looking for something she felt she couldn’t give him.
“...it’s not tha-”
“Then what is it?! Just tell me! I’ll change anything...just….just don’t...don’t abandon me.”
Sliding onto his knees he hugged himself, Zilia looking back over at him as he clutched the book, the only gift he ever received tightly to his chest. Zilia’s gaze moved to Luro and Runali then back to the makeshift child.
“...I’m sorry but I can’t be what you want me to be,” Zilia said. “I can’t magically care for you as a mother does, the very concept of even having a child is a foreign concept to me, even right now. You don’t deserve a superficial relationship and right now I can’t give you a real one.”
Zilia walked over to the child who now wept silently, head lowered as he tried to hide it with little luck, wet spots forming on the wood underneath him. Reaching forward, Zilia rested a hand on his shoulder.
“I’d be fine being your Mentor though, I can put my all into that and we’ll go from there.”

Luro watched the boy tremble quietly and Zilia stayed near him waiting for him to finish. His eyes went to Zilia and the gentle look she gave him, his eyes moving over to Runali as he let the two have their moment. This was very Z like, she didn’t like the idea of starting a relationship on false pretenses, this child trusted her, responding with a lie wasn’t the right way to confront it. In her own way she was trying to be respectful.
“....you won’t be my mother right now…”
After a while the boy spoke and Zilia gave a small shake of her head.
“No. Not right now.”
“....well that stinks.”
Kidposter stood up and opened his book back up, Zilia blinked a few times seeing his tears were already gone, a hand resting on his chin as he flipped through the pages of his book, his body language had shifted from sad to normal in the span of a second.
“This isn’t how this is supposed to go...did I mess up in my steps? I thought for sure that would work.”

Zilia quickly shot up and snatched the book out of his hand causing him to reach out for it as she stared at the page, her eyes twitching as she read words on the top of the page.
“....’how to trick Mother into loving me….’ really. Are you serious right now?! Most of these are checked, even the ‘sad breakdown’. Everything except Kill Luro!”
“...was that the part that made me fail?” Kidposter said glancing in Luro’s direction. “One sec.”
Kidposter raised a glowing hand to Luro when Zilia knocked him on the head with the book, Kidposter turned holding his head and started to complain, but shrunk back seeing the unbridled rage in the woman’s eyes. Luro noticed some of the wood in the area was starting to float and basically able to feel her rage took a small step outside of Zilia’s current firing range.
“Explain.”

Kidposter looked at the group and folding his hands together being his explanation, though there were now three extra lumps on his head.
“I wanted to trick you into providing affection for me.”
“Why?” Zilia said tapping the book in her open hand, clearly growing impatient.
Kidposter flinched a bit but continued.
“Well I’m a ‘Guardian’, I’m a manifestation of your protective power, and well for some reason, we have consciousness, me more so than the others. More than likely to help judge how to protect you better and read the situation better.”
“That...makes sense,” Zilia said.
“Well you’re not going to protect someone you don’t like, but it’s our duty. Since we have consciousness and aren’t just puppets, well some are but I’m not, anyway there had to be something implanted, a reason to protect you, a ‘need’ to protect you.”
“...and that need was me being your mother.”
“Exactly.”

Zilia messed with her bang trying to take this all in, while she was contemplating Luro spoke up.
“Why did you need Z to acknowledge you as your mom though, the need was there,” Luro said with a nod. “You had a reason, whether she acknowledged it or not shouldn’t matter.”
“Isn’t it obvious you buffoon.”
Luro tilted his head and Kidposter sighed and pounded his chest.
“I’m lonely!”
“....pardon,” Zilia said lowering her hand.
“I’m desperately lonely. The other guardians are boring to talk to, they aren’t as developed as I am. At the idea of speaking to an actual human of course I’d be excited and yes I was trying to trick you but I do truly consider you my Mother. I by all accounts have come from you, I just wanted you know...to be loved back.
Kidposter puffed his chest out before patting it showing no shame in his declaration
“I wanted to be coddled and given a bunch of affection. What’s so wrong with that? It’s not like we get paid, just consider that my payment. Ruffle my hair, read me stories, tell me I’m a good boy...or bad either one as long as my existence is acknowledged. I’m just asking for a little bit of spoilage, just a little!”

“...this kid’s hopeless.”
Zilia held a hand over her face and trembled, it seemed like she was barely holding it together trying to process everything happening.
“That’s why I chose this form and did all that.”
“...you chose a child’s body instead of the other one? Why again?”
“Because I’m adorable of course. Look at my squeezable cheeks. Who wouldn’t love me?”
Kidposter pat his cheeks in response and Zilia’s eyes twitched as she promptly pulled hard on them, Luro grinned a bit watching the scene, Kidposter trying to pry Zilia’s hands off while repeatedly apologizing.
“Well even if he’s a manifestation by Z’s power, Imposter will always be Imposter. It’s just in his nature to try and manipulate and control. The fact it was harmless just show’s further he’s not like the others.”
“I’m also not like that big version, she’s...different. I am serious though.”
Kidposter raised a hand and pointed at Zilia after he got away.
“I will gain your love and affection, Mother.”
“Declined! Also this is not harmless, there are multiple reasons why it’s wrong!”
Luro looked over at Runali as Kidposter closed his eyes muttering something about ‘another plan’ as Zilia stared at the wood trying to find the reasoning absent in all of this.
“What’s your take on all this Captain?”

As the kid broke down, Runali scooted her way back over to Luro's side, letting the two have their space. This was a matter she could not fix and something Zilia had to figure out. She almost felt bad for the kid, he sounded so sad and desperate and… "Oh, he was lying." The sympathy quickly turned into mild amusement. She couldn’t help the laughter that followed. "I can't say the kid is… entirely wrong here." She shrugged and leaned against Luro, also reaching up to reach up and pet Coral. "It's nice to know he'd much rather be a spoiled baby than be around a bunch of…" She tried to think of a word for them. "Magical… Murderers." Runali snapped her fingers when it clicked. "But you'll get nothing outta life like that." She shook her head in disapproval at the kid. "Lying is only bad when you get caught, remember? And you, littlest Z, told on yourself. You coulda played this game a little longer and had Z wrapped around your finger. Now it's gonna take longer for her to soften up." Again, she teased and mimicked the locking noise.

"...But, I s'pose if you started with the fact that you were lonely and y'know told the truth you probably would've earned her sympathy the moment she realized you existed." Runali adjusted her eye patch. "Manipulate your enemies, not your mother. And Luro here is not one of your enemies, you won't get a patch if you keep trying to kill him."
She looked up at Luro and grinned. "My take? Oh he'd be a good little Stardusk I think. But it is nice to know this one would rather protect Z than hurt her." She blanched a little. "We need a break from all the… gods and monsters fighting so this is more of a relief. What about you? How's it feel to see an Imposter that's not all uh, bitey and mean?"

She tapped Coral, motioning her over to the kid. "He was right about one thing though," She watched as Coral hopped over and perched in front of him to get a good look at the newcomer- a distraction from his 'new plans'. The bird bowed her head in mock greeting before holding out a wing to let him know he could touch. "The kid is pretty adorable." Still leaning on him, she looked back at Zilia. "Hey doc, if you're not too busy trying to retrace littlest Z's steps about his lies, you should probably give 'em a name. Y'know, give him one thing for all the," Runali looked over at the kid and chuckled. "Uh, hard work he put in to get this far. And also because you're gonna need a name to yell at him when he does this again- if he does it again of course."

Luro glanced over at Runali smiling a little as he leaned down a bit so she could reach Coral easier, his attention returning to Kidposter as he slammed a fist onto his palm.
“You’re right...ah why was I honest?! It was Mother so I ignored my basic instinct. I should have played it out for longer.”
“Stop making it worse,” Zilia said looking over at Runali, raising her head slightly.
Kidposter flinched a little at the idea of not getting a patch, his gaze moving over to Luro and it was clear the boy was internally fighting something, a part of himself that refused to let go.
Though he did look back at Zilia.
“...not lie to Mother though...I suppose doing so didn’t help matters.”

While Kidposter contemplated, Luro offered a nod in agreement of a break, fun as it was to fight gods and monsters there was a lot he wanted to get done, and fighting gods took up time, time he could be using making improvements to the ship, or reading up on more techniques. After he was done with his recent stuff then they could go kill a god or monster.
At the mention of a ‘peaceful’ Imposter Luro looked back at the boy as he spoke with Zilia, asking how much lying was good towards her.
“It’s...a weird feeling,” Luro said. “Every Imposter I know...that I’ve seen, personally or in my memories...or his memories...their memories...whatever it is have been horrid creatures that live only to spread chaos and misery to everyone around them. Who manipulate each and everyone they know...well you guys know you met him after all. It’s hard not to naturally put my guard up around them but...Kidposter’s different.”

Luro’s eyelids lowered slightly as he watched the boy.
“Maybe it’s because he’s not a ‘real’ Imposter, maybe it’s because he came from Z. He’s not like the others though, little things don’t match like what he just did. No Imposter would ever reveal their plan, I don’t even know the real name of the one who’s been inside me for years. A part of me thinks it’s just his natural manipulation but so many signs show it’s not, but is that just him toying with the one’s around him as he always does. I don’t know.”
Luro rubbed the side of his head.
“Then I realize I’m thinking too much. I believe his natural desire to spread misfortune and revel in the sufferings of others instead manifested as an obsessive desire to be loved by his Mother. Imposter does have a weird obsession with Z, there’s a chance that naturally moved to this child and became something else in the process. That’s what I’m hoping anyway. Z’s concept of Imposter is different from mine so that’s probably what happened.”

Zilia glanced over at Luro at this but Kidposter’s attention had already moved to Coral, his eyes shining as he was allowed to touch her. He tentatively reached forward and touched her wing.
“Soft….”
Zilia looked over at Runali with slightly narrowed seeing she was still touching on the concept of a name as Kidposter raised a hand.
“I’ll definitely do something again.”
“Back into the void you go.”
Zilia held her hand out a dark glow surrounding her hand, Kidposter quickly shook his head holding his hands out towards her before slowly backing away.
“I’m kidding! Well not really but I’m sorry, really!”
Zilia stared at him but sighed and lowered her hand.
“You know who the other parent is don’t you?”
“Of course I do.”
Kidposter covered his mouth with one hand realizing he answered on his instinct, the glow returned to Zilia’s hand and he raised both of his own up as an apology.
“I just wanted to spend time with you so I didn’t say anything earlier….honest. Anyway I know who I’m connected to. We actually saw them earlier.”
“So it is someone on the ship...fine. You tell me who the other is...and I’ll consider giving you a name.”
“...okay. If it’s for a name from you Mother.” Kidposter said with a small nod. “My natural hair color is actually the other parents. I just changed it to resemble yours. Here I’ll change it now.”

Zilia offered a nod as Kidposter rested a hand on his head, everyone on Stardusk save maybe two had different hair colors, picking out the other parent shouldn’t be that hard.
Imposter’s hair glowed and immediately shifted to its natural color, and Zilia immediately fell to her knees, the color draining out of her face as her heart fell into her stomach seeing the red that followed.
“Oh I’m the dad cool,” Luro said pointing at himself.
Despair given form was the closest thing that could be said about Zilia in that moment as she clutched her head, refusing to look up at the redheaded child. Her whole body shrunk in on itself and a silent scream echoed from the doctor, two nearby pillars had chunks of wood blown out of them even in her attempt to control her power. The fact that ship was still intact was little more than a miracle.

"Hm. Sounds," Runali clicked her tongue. "Sad." She sat up and looked over at the kid. "But you're right, we can only hope. If anything, we can keep an eye out just in case." She didn't think it'd ever be necessary, but she was still the captain and keeping her crew safe was still a priority.

Her attention fell on the kid getting reprimanded and she chuckled. "You're gonna have to learn not to stick your foot, kid. You're so far off to a terrible start. If Zil was a part of the Navy you'd be in prison by now." She chuckled. "Or worse. Navy Zil sounds like she'd have more of an iron fist and low tolerance for everything." Her tangent ceased and she leaned forward in curiosity, wanting to know the reveal just as much as the others. And when his hair color changed, Runali blinked. The smile she had grew into a grin until she was laughing out loud at Zil's obvious disbelief. It was far too loud and she covered her mouth to keep from alarming the rest of the ship. "What a little liar! But it is a nice look. Hah! You can be my… second favorite redhead now." She beamed, only to wave at the kid as Zilia had a moment. "Change back, change back before she ruins my ship!" It was said between laughs.
"Relax doc, this isn't so bad!" She tried to sound reassuring and less like she was laughing at her. "Could be worse- Ah, no offense Luro I don't think you'd be a bad dad- Anyway, the kid could be like an Imposter. Could be dangerous! All he's got is shared looks and childlike wonder." At the mention of that, Coral cooed and gently poked at the kid with her beak, probably to be pet.

She was going to reach over and pat Zil reassuringly but she decided not to make it worse than it was. Instead, she chuckled. "You're being dramatic, doc. No one said you've gotta marry Luro." There was a moment's pause, a thought of whether or not that was actually a requirement. She squinted and looked over at Luro, a question in her expression before turning back and shaking her head.
"C'mon Zil you can't say after all this time, you hate this face!" This time, she was poking Luro's cheek as she spoke. "Frankly, you’re the smartest of us here. You must’ve had a feeling at least. I mean, you spend an awful lot of time with him. He knew how to translate your vow of silences better than any of us could. He was there when you had the whole fiasco too, yeah?” All signs pointed to Luro but Zilia was doing a fantastic job of being in denial. “Luro’s got a way of being… the life of the party." She grinned and stopped poking him. "Though this… definitely makes littlest Z your kid. Dramatic, especially when it comes to him."

Seeing the energy start to flare again Kidposter nodded and patting his head returned it to Zilia’s hair color, which seemed to calm the doctor enough for her to straighten herself, she cleared her throat apparently back to normal, though the occasional twitching of her eyes showed she wasn’t over it, and clearly didn’t appreciate the laughter.
“Thank you Captain,” Luro said. “I think I’d make a great dad too. I already got ideas.”
“Never share them,” Kidposter said more than happy to pet Coral.
The act actually distracted him for a moment as Zilia looked at Luro as he brought a hand to his chin at her silent question before shrugging. She squeezed the bridge of her nose as she poked the smiling ‘father’.
The more Runali spoke about the possibility the more her stomach churned, at one point she moved her hand over her mouth and turned her head away, her eyes moved to the nearest bucket but she managed to swallow down whatever threatened to come up.
“I would also like to clarify that I haven’t ‘technically’ lied. I don’t accept that man as my father so it goes without saying I wouldn’t acknowledge it.”
Though Kidposter said this he sighed as his shoulders dropped in defeat, perhaps petting Coral calmed him enough to actually talk about it as his hands didn’t stop moving.
“Annoying as it is...he is the best candidate. Firstly I came from Imposter so Luro just makes sense...but even beyond that what Auntie said is true. Luro has been by mother’s side for a bit, he stopped her from leaving initially when she considered running away, mother has seen his strong and weak moments...she knows why he’s ‘Luro’ thanks to Lina….the only person aside form Luro she can say she understands is perhaps you Auntie, then Alicia, then Jack and so on and so forth. It would be a lie to say that a piece of each of you isn't with me but Luro is the most prominent.”
Kidposter smiled a little at this as Zilia messed with her bang still trying to calm down.
“Contrary to Mother’s general demeanor towards Luro, she truly does-”

“Boy.”
The weight of the doctor’s words hit Kidposter hard, even Luro felt his instincts kick in at the underlying message in that single word.
Kidposter swallowed hard and glanced at his mother, and for a moment he thought he saw red in the eyes behind her bangs.
“That’s enough.”
“Y-yes Mother. Sorry.”
Luro leaned over to Runali.
“That’s Navy Z.”
Zilia glanced in his direction caused him to whistle and avert his gaze, with a sigh she rested her hands on her hips.

Runali started to agree with Luro but she quickly quieted down, instead muttering, "Good thing she's family and not an enemy." Even Coral's feathers ruffled at the sudden intensity.

“Unfortunately you’re both correct. Annoying as Makachi is...I can’t deny I’m close to him, as much as the others anyway. In a way I did probably know...but I still dislike the result...at least with Alicia or Jack I could show a bit of pride….but goodness how am I going to explain this.”
Kidposter looked like he wanted to say something but closed his mouth and put his full attention back on Coral.
“Accepting him as my kid would be the same as acknowledging Luro as his father, and for various reasons I refuse that currently.”
“Should I be offended. I feel like this is a moment I should be offended,” Luro said rubbing the side of his head.
“However…” Zilia said looking over at Kidposter causing him to look back at her. “My power grows more powerful with names, and at the end of the day you need to do your duty as a Guardian...whatever that is.”
Turning fully towards the child she motioned to him.
“Your name is now Remi.”
Kidposter’s eyes lit up and he turned fully to Zilia, a bright smile finding its way onto the boy’s face as he stepped forward before Luro raised a hand.
“Don’t go with that name.”
The comment made Re….Kidposter stop.
“What?”
“I wouldn’t go with that name.”
“Why?! Are you really stopping me from acquiring a name Luro! Are you really ruining this moment?!”
“I’m not saying you can't just not that one.”

Zilia glanced at Luro not really sure why that name was forbidden but he seemed oddly serious about it, at least as serious as a smiling drunk could be. She didn’t like the idea of letting him have a part to play in the naming but with a sigh she looked back at Kidposter.
“Fine Val will work then,” Zilia said. “From what I know about you Imposter’s you manifest as whatever you want, you may come out as a girl next or a giant one eyed monster, so best to give you a name that can fit whatever you become. That and Val is a traveller within the tale of Yulian, one who seeks to change who he used to be. You have the option not to be a typical Imposter. So I think it fits.”
“Mother….I’ll cherish it. I’ll cherish this name until my existence is no more. Promise!”
Val hugged Zilia causing her to raise her hands, she stared down at him and the wide grin on his face and for the briefest of moments a small smile rested on her own.
“Ya really put some thought into it Z. That’s a great name for our kid. I approve.”
A chunk of the pillar next to Luro’s head exploded, Zilia’s now glowing hand extended towards him, her narrowed gaze devoid of any kindness. He knew those eyes were generally reserved for Noram, he wondered if he should feel honored about that.
“Never utter those words ever again. I know how to hurt you just enough not to kill you Luro,” Zlia said lowering her hand. “Per the Captain’s rules.”

"Note to Alicia… buy extra wood for ship repairs… and also stuff for doc to take her anger out on that's not Lady." Runali dusted off some of the wood debris off Luro, not really worried about the danger. She trusted Zilia could handle her own temper no matter how clueless Luro was about causing it. "But, nice to meet you Val! It's a good name, make sure you live up to it."

Val took a step away from Zilia, his multi-colored eyes glowing for a moment as a bright black glow surrounded his form, it faded as quick as it came and he looked at his hands opening and closing them.
“...hm...yeah I feel much stronger. Having a name’s the best. This...this is the power of mother’s clearly undying affection for me,” Val said grinning. “Also thank you Auntie!”
“It’s not,” Zilia clarified.
“All right! Let’s test this out!”
“Nope,” Zilia said holding her hand out towards him. “That’s enough out of you for today.”
“Whaaaat. I wanna play some more. Come on let me just remove one arm off someone. It doesn’t have to be Luro.”
“No.”
“....fine.”
A black glow surrounded her hand and Val’s body dissipated into black smoke before flowing back into Zilia, her hand shutting as she pulled in the last bits of it.
“This...was an annoying and painful venture but at least I have something else at my disposal,” Zilia said. “...hopefully any other guardian’s that manifest aren’t that bad.”
The thought made Zilia grimace slightly and she looked back at the two.
“Thank you for your help in this...well what little help you did give past the joy in my suffering.”
“Anytime Z,” Luro said raising a hand.
“For now Val remains a secret,” Zilia said looking at her hand. “I still don’t understand this new part of my Devil Fruit...much less the other one’s in there. I’ll experiment a bit more than share it with everyone. Promise. I also need to make sure he doesn’t randomly attack anyone and how to properly explain him. I’m going to organize my thoughts to ensure there isn’t any concern over him when I bring him out.”
“Up to you Z...though there are others like him right? Do you think they’re also children born from-”
“I’m going to go count my medical supplies...alone and not think of that possibility,” Zilia said walking away from the two.
“Wait Z! I got other questions! What if there’s more than one Val. Does that mean we have two kids?”
“I’m not listening to you anymore Makachi.”
“Captain Z’s not listening to me you tell her.”
“Gah take the hint and go away! The both of you!”

Runali watched Zilia go, offering her a salute before chuckling. "We can ask her when we hit land, so she doesn't try to dump you in the ocean." She patted his arm. "We gotta have Val's patch ready for the next time we see him anyway!"

Val's Banner Final.jpg


Respect to

Akatsuki Hikaru

for Val

 
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Mizos

*Insert quip here*
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
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Writing Levels
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Preferred Character Gender
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Genres
Modern Fantasy, Historical, Fantasy, adventure, romance, anime, action, etc.
Main

Pre Bonifaas




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“Thanks for coming with me Captain. It would’ve been boring alone.”
Luro walked through a small port town the crew had stopped at, most of the others had gone off on their own or were attending to things on the ship. Luro would normally drag Zilia but even she was occupied with something and he didn’t want to bother her.
That and it had been a while since it was just him and the Captain, normally on the ship there was always someone nearby, even Coral stared sometimes when night fell.
“It’s been a bit since we’ve just gone out like this huh? Back when it was just the five of us it was more often...ah but Kai did follow sometimes being your bodyguard and all that.”
Luro grinned a bit at the thought though he rubbed the side of his head.
“I mean...that was to a degree when I was Imposter but that’s okay we’ll make up for it now.”

There were few people wandering in the small town, though there were shops it was clear the place was meant for the people rather than travelers. The few in front of their homes, waved to the two as they passed, used to people passing through. It was a surprisingly serene place with even minimal guards wandering about, the few not in uniform and clearly just members of the town. It was approaching midday and there were plenty of people either finishing up or starting their business for the day. It was a peaceful place with not much to it.
“Being in place like this makes me want to blow something up. I don’t know why.”

“Hm, should write a letter and see how he’s doing. And Nolan. Last I heard, his restaurant has been busy.” The captain smiled at the fond memories of a much simpler time. It was well before they were really getting into trouble. “No need to thank me Luro. I’d have come along any time.” Her attention turned to the people. She gave a polite smile when people waved and curious glances as shops began to open. The serenity of it all was almost a forgotten feeling. She was so used to the merchants and bustling coming and going of people that she almost forgot what it was like for a town to be calm.

Hearing Luro, she couldn’t help but chuckle. “Don’t tell me it’s too quiet here for you? Or is it the peacefulness and lack of people chasing us around?”

“...definitely the second thing. It’s been so long not being attacked I guess it’s habit,” Luro said crossing his arms. “Hmmm I’ll hold back though. The people here are nice, I wouldn’t mind punching a guard after a few drinks though.”
Luro gave a firm nod at this and grinned over at the Captain.
“Then I’ll ask you to come with me like this more often. Also tell him I said hi in the letter.”
Luro turned back to one of the buildings before he noticed a tailor nearby, holding up his tattered sleeve he pulled onto it a bit, only for a piece to get pulled off in the process.
“Uh...I’m going to stop in there for a second. Don’t move Captain I’ll be right back,” Luro raised a hand and sprinted ahead into the store, surprising the owner and the few customers within.

A few feet away two men sat eyeing a piece of parchment in their hands, one of them spit out the drink they had and immediately stood up grabbing their companion in the process. In the next moment they both stood in front of Runali. The two men were dressed similar, in simple tunics with vests, one red and one black with simple black pants and boots.
There were numerous weapons attached to the belts on their waist, one full of pistols, the other swords and daggers. Adjusting the Tricorne hats on their heads at the same time they pointed at Runali simultaneously.
“Captain Lev of the Stardusk Pirates, you stepped into the wrong town.”
“Yeah. We’re the Bounty Brothers, Milo and Hilo.”
The two brothers grinned and motioned to themselves before the one with the numerous blades on his belt in the red vest, who was apparently Milo held up her bounty poster.
“You’re a Worst Gen which means the bounty on you would set us up basically for life.”
“Or about ten years roughly,” Hilo added with a shrug.
“Wandering around on your own was the last mistake you’ll make.”

The people around the brothers weren’t paying too much attention to them, one even waved to Hilo who hesitantly waved back.
When Milo drew one of his blades the people seemed to understand danger was coming and moved out of the way, though a fair amount just leaned against nearby walls, curious how things would go.
“No one lasts against our Armament Captain Lev. Only one bounty has ever escaped us.”
“Well we only count one,” Hilo said. “The others got taken by that one Bounty Hunter.”
“Hilo stop talking and draw your weapons,” Milo said as Armament ran up his blade.

“I’d be happy to Lu...ro?” Runali stopped in her tracks when she was told to stay put and watched the man rush over to the tailor. “...Coulda just asked Cedric?” She let it be and decided to do as he requested and… not move. If he was going to be right back there was no real need to go anywhere.

Though maybe she should have at least moved closer to the door, so she thought as two men approached her about being alone. Runali didn’t say anything until they were done, mostly staring at their weapons in curiosity.

“Oh. I don’t want to fight you.” Runali noticed the townspeople moving away and watching and then gave the guys a closer look. “Hm… let me rephrase that. I don’t think you want to fight me.” A slow grin crept on her face as she leaned closer to them. “I don’t think you can[/].” The teasing ‘threat’ was immediately replaced with one of uninterest and she straightened up. “Besides, I’m busy. I’m waiting for my shipwright and I was told to stay right here. Go find someone else’s bounty to hunt. You’re gonna ruin the town’s nice quiet day.”

The people in town gave a small nod at the Captain’s words causing Milo’s eye to twitch, he looked over at his brother who looked at the townspeople enjoying their quiet day.
Hilo looked back at his brother clearly concerned about their current actions, but Milo just motioned towards Runali before rubbing his fingers together and making a few other motions, whatever their silent conversation was about they seemed to reach an understanding.
“Well show you what we can do Runali Lev!”
“The Bounty Brother’s will put everything they have into catching you,” Hilo said drawing two pistols off his belt. “Or at least most of it, we’re having a bit of an off day.”

The two men started to move forward when a large shadow suddenly covered the three, the two turned to figure out the source only to see a tall cloaked figure staring down at them. A red mask covered their face hiding their expression, and the cloak covered their body hiding everything about them, save their clearly large build.
The person towered over the three and Miko and Hilo froze up at the sudden presence, but the brother’s recovered quickly as the man held up a piece of parchment towards the two, revealing his toned arm.
The brothers noticed it was also a bounty poster for Runali Lev, Milo raised his sword and Hilo readying his guns.

The new stranger was clearly an outsider, more than likely not from nearby considering his amber complexion and large build.
“Oi we call this bounty. You can’t have her.”
The large man looked down at the Armament coated sword pointed at him and gripping the blade, snapped it in two like a twig.
Milo’s jaw dropped at his now broken blade and Hilo raised his gun to the man only for the stranger to grab hold of it, crushing it in one motion.
The two looked at their now broken weapons, then the remaining ones on their belts, then back up at the stranger.
“We’ll let you get away this time Runali Lev,” Milo said pointing at her.
“Next time we’ll get you, so long as nothing particularly stands in our way like today,” Hilo said pointing at her.
“Gah Milo let’s just go.”

The two brothers ran off and the large stranger watched them leave, the people remained nearby curious about the newcomer who approached Runali with the parchment.
Turning it around he pointed to a hand drawn map on the back and pointed at it.
“I’m looking for this island. Have you seen it?”
The man’s voice was surprisingly gentle, even muffled behind the mask there was a calmness to the measured low toned voice, with the words carefully spoken.
His voice almost resembled a gentle hum, no ounce of aggression in his form.

“Have me? None of you can ‘have’ me. I’m very much…” She scratched her cheek. “Had.. already? Doesn’t matter. Point is, I am not going with-” Seeing the sword snap in the person’s hand made Runali pause, now curious about what this newcomer would do.
After being placed in the Worst Gen, she knew something as simple as taking a walk wouldn't be easy but that didn’t stop her from hoping. It made her realize how many people didn’t understand how provoking attacks worked. “Listen, I appreciate the help. I could have scared them away myself, but I really did mean what I said about not being interested in a fight. I’ve got a full day ahead of me.” At least she thought she had a full day ahead of her. Who knew what trouble she’d get up to with Luro- whenever he got back from the tailor.

Not sensing any ill intent on the masked stranger, she let him approach, even more curious when he asked about an island and not a fight. “Oh. Uh,” She looked closer at the map, trying to distinguish what it was. “I don’t…. Think so? I’m not the greatest with maps. That’s what I have a navigator for. Maybe those guys you scared off may have known… Hey, are you a bounty hunter too? Or is the mask for, uh, regular intimidation tactics?”

The stranger looked at the map then in the direction the two had gone, he seemed to contemplate following after them but ultimately gave up on the idea, only offering a nod to Runali in response. He straightened apparently about to leave when her question stopped him, he stared at her in silence for a moment and looked at the map before turning it over to look at the bounty, then at Runali, then at the bounty again, then Runali one last time.
“Wait...you’re-”
The man cut himself off as something glinted in the sky, he quickly spun and raised his arm blocking as a rifle crashed into his arm, blue mist exploding as a grinning Luro flipped a switch putting more pressure into the attack. The man remained unmoved however even as the ground under him caved in slightly as the force crashed into him.

The sudden attack caused the man’s hood to fall off right before Luro pulled back the man catching him under his arms. The man gently set Luro down, a bright smile on the Luro’s face, even more than usual as he stared up at the stranger.
“I knew it was you! You’re quick as always,” Luro grinned.
The man didn’t say anything but his body seemed to relax slightly in the presence of Luro.
Moving past the stranger but grabbing his arm to make him turn Luro motioned to the man.
“Captain this is my old man, uh my actual old man.”

The stranger removed his mask revealing his face, he had the same tattoo as Luro, his eyes were shut but it was clear he was looking at Runali, he offered a small nod to her.
Though clearly older he had a youthful face, and there were certain similarities with the two’s features, but there was enough of a difference that it was clear he didn’t acquire all his father’s traits, though both had long hair, the taller man’s raven colored locks clashed well with Luro’s red, roughly the same length though the man’s was slightly longer.
For his muscular figure and imposing presence his face seemed a whole different entity, there was a quiet gentleness to him that seemed more prevalent with the mask off.

Runali had her hands behind her back while the man started to puzzle piece together who she was. Every time he looked at her, she’d give an innocent grin as if the picture wasn’t her. She would have kept it up had it not been for Luro’s attack. Instead she ended up taking one step back when the man was struck, and then another step back when the ground gave in. It wasn’t her fight and it’d be a little rude to take it from Luro.
Her hands were still behind her back but she did look a little more curious. There wasn’t any anger in the attack, not that Luro was ever outwardly angry, but he seemed less trigger happy about it. “I thought we weren’t gonna cause random… damage to… Wait, what?”

She had been looking at the ground, tapping it with her foot when Luro spoke. Her one eye narrowed for a second, processing what she had just heard, slowly straightening back up. Her attention turned to the man again, eyeing him over now that his mask was gone. Every now and then she’d look over at Luro and then back to the man until she seemed absolutely sure that’s what Luro meant.

“Huh…” Runali started but paused as her words got lost in translation thanks to the surprise. “His… dad? Your dad. Right.. Yes? Yes.” The captain cleared her throat trying to be a little more coherent and then put her hand out to shake his. “Never thought I’d meet you, so uh, nice to meet you? …Does this mean I won’t get an answer to the mask question?”

Luro’s father seemed to understand the confusion and patiently waited for Runali to put it all in place, Luro on the other hand happily humming, rocking back and forth next to the man. His happiness turned up a little extra at having come across his pops. Once Runali caught up he reached forward taking her hand in his, basically swallowing it, and gave a gentle but firm shake.
“It is nice to meet you as well. He talks a lot about you, I feel I know more about you than him sometimes. Forgive me for not giving you my true name. Only those in my tribe may know it. I go by the common name Bethany, please call me that.”
Luro pat ‘Bethany’ causing him to look at him as he released the Captain’s hand.
“Old man that’s a woman’s name.”
“Really? That would explain the stares I got.”
“Just go by the name I gave you.”

‘Bethany’ nodded and looked back at Runali.
“Since Bethany is apparently not fitting for me feel free to call me Malas.”
Malas gave a small nod at this before offering a small bow to Runali.
“Thank you for looking after my Mi’Lio. I know he is trouble at times but I would appreciate it if you continued to watch out for him.”
“Oh that’s no problem old man,” Luro said. “I’m not leaving the Captain’s side anyway.”
“That is good to hear,” Malas said straightening up. “Hopefully your relationship can flourish even more wonderfully.”
“Of course it will, after we get married I already got ideas on-”
“Marriage?”

Malas eyes opened ever so slightly revealing a pair of dark red eyes for a moment before they shut again, he immediately turned to Runali taking hold of her shoulders as he loomed over her.
“This woman is your Yliayo!”
“Oh..well yeah I guess she would be. That means fated one right?”
Malas offered a firm nod and took a long hard look at Runal, his eyes opening slightly as he ensured he got a proper examination of his future daughter in law..
“To think my Mi’Lio would find his Yliayo...this a wondrous day. How many Children do you intend on having?”
Malas posed the question looking at Runali then back at Luro, the latter waving his hand in front of his face.
“Hm. Oh well we’re not doing any of that till after the Captain becomes the top dog. We agreed on it. Can discuss that kind of stuff later so couldn’t tell ya.”
“Ah I see. My apologies Mi’Lio, Miss Lev. I...did not expect this day would ever come.”
Malas took a step back realizing he had acted out of turn, offering another bow as an apology to Runali.
“Miss Lev...I know this is a lot to ask...but could you spare a few days. There is a ceremony my people do for such occasions. A way to bless your future union and make you part of our tribe. It would mean a lot to me if you could put the time aside. If you wish of course, I would not force our ways on any not among us, I leave it to you.”
Luro looked over at Runali offering her a small shrug as an indication that he didn’t care either way.

“Aye, aye… Malas. And I wish I could say the same but it seems Luro forgot to mention you.” She looked off to the side and mumbled to know one in particular. “S’pose I owe Jack and Tashigi on that bet huh…” When the man mentioned Luro being trouble, Runali couldn’t help but grin. “Ah, trouble? He’s nothing of the sort. Never had a problem out of him before.” She couldn’t keep a straight face, giggling the entire time she said it.

Malas’ next move was a bit too abrupt for someone who was so used to being on the wrong end of a weapon, and she ended up stiffening. Fortunately, she relaxed right after when the idea of a ‘threat’ passed. “… I see he waited to tell you that one in person.” Her one eye went from Luro to Malas as the two talked, debating if she should interject at some point. That was answered when children were mentioned and Runali had to refrain from sputtering about it- which they’d only be able to tell by the quiet exhale.

With a nervous chuckle, she scratched the side of her face and tugged at the band of her eyepatch. “There’s no need to apologize. I could almost say the same for myself.” With her hands behind her back, Runali listened to Malas’ request, occasionally stealing glances between father and son just... to be sure. It was still a pleasant surprise, especially with how happy Luro looked. It wasn’t every day she had the opportunity to meet her crews’ family or loved ones. She had to admit it was kind of cute, but she knew saying something like that out loud could easily cause something to quickly prove her wrong.

“I wouldn’t want to break a tradition and I can’t say I’m not curious about things so close to home for Luro. Though, in his defense, I should have just asked.” She gave Malas an affirmative nod. “My crew can spare a few days without a captain. I’d love to go.” Looking at Luro, she mimicked his shrug mostly just to mock him. “Unless our walk is more important? Then of course that can be done first.”

Malas offered a nod a small smile coming from him as Runali agreed, a toothy smile from Luro as he moved his hands to his hips. A small laugh escaping from him as he motioned to Malas.
“We can walk anytime Captain. It’s not often I run into my old man. You’re not going to stick around for long right?”
Malas offered a nod to Luro but wanted to focus on the task at hand, deciding to discuss his business later. Digging into his cloak he started pulling out different maps, until he found the one he was looking for.
“I’m sure he’s forgotten most of it but yes our tribes does have it’s own way. Just as he forgets to mention that he has a father.”
“I know I have an old man, I just forget,” Luro said looking over at Malas. “Oh wait.”

Malas left Luro to his mental conundrum and showed a map of the area to Runali, he pointed to an island not too far off from the one they were on. There were a few marks on it with neat scribbles over them.
“There is a village there, a few of our tribesman are in the area. I called them here to take care of business I had in this area. They won’t mind helping you in finding the village. Start there and the rest should follow, I will join you as soon as I’m able. You may set out today or tomorrow if you’d like, I will be in the area for the week to handle a few jobs, which means we’re not going anywhere…especially if I can’t find the place.”

Luro seemed to pull himself from his own thoughts and looked back at the two.
“We should definitely head back and let the others know we’ll be gone a few days,” Luro said lowering his hand from his head. "Also where are you going?’

Malas showed Luro the map and eyeing it Luro pointed to the other map in his hand.
“You need to go there.”
Malas blinked a few times as Luro handed him the map back, he opened his mouth to say something when Luro smiled.
“I got stranded in that place once. I always remember where I’ve been stranded so I don’t end up there again…though it hasn’t worked yet. I’m sure it will eventually.”
Malas seemed content with that explanation, or at least understood pursuing would do nothing and grabbed his mask.
“I will leave you to it. I am glad my Mi’Lio has someone like you by his side, especially one so patient. I will take my leave.”

He went to put the mask back on but stopped before looking at Runali.
“The tattoo on our faces are a sign of our tribe. My house has many meanings in common but Outlander or Drifter fits the best. We’re considered outsiders to all tribes, traitors to the laws in a sense. By law we are required to show our marks at all times so tribes know who we are, and the great spirits know of our shame.”
“Yet the old man wears the mask in defiance of that,” Luro said grinning.
“I still show it when I approach a tribe as that’s our law Luro,” Malas said shaking his head. “…however yes I wear the mask as a symbol that I considered this tattoo a badge of honor not shame. That’s why I wear it.”

With that said Malas put the mask back on his face.
“Well one of many reasons but that’s the main one. Mi’Lio on the other hand wears his sin openly with pride as he always has done.”
Malas offered a wave to the two before turning and making his way further down the road, Luro waved until he was no longer in sight and gave a firm nod, looking at the map he left with them.

“Aye, aye Malas. We’ll cross paths again soon.” She compared maps but didn’t try too hard in trying to find which way to go so soon. The answer she got about Malas’ mask wasn’t one she expected, but she couldn’t say she was very surprised by it. For a moment, she looked between the two, specifically at their tattoos as if committing them to memory, but only gave Malas a nod of understanding as he left.

“This is going to be all kinds of fun, it’ll be good to see everyone again,” Luro said.
He eyed the map his smile shrinking a bit before he looked at Runali.
“Uh Captain. I’m all for telling everyone we’re vanishing for a few days…but if possible I don’t want to explain exactly what we’re doing. It’s…hard to explain but there’s a few reasons I don’t talk about my tribe too much. For now I’d rather they not know about them or my old man. I’d like to tell them one day but…not today.”

“Hm, I’ve always liked the tattoo.” She stated it to no one in particular while they watched him go and soon just like before, she was with Luro. “Alright, new adventures!” Runali paused mid clasp of hands to listen to Luro’s request, letting her hands fall to the side after. Her growing excitement for ‘something new’ muted as she thought over Luro’s request. “Oh.”

Turning on her heel towards the ship, Runali laughed. “I was never planning on explaining why.” She playfully nudged Luro. With the best ‘posh’ tone she could muster she stated, “As a captain, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. Captains make rules and break them.” The tone didn’t last because she started laughing midway through. “No worries. A simple ‘Leaving with Luro for a few days, Alicia’s in charge. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ should do the trick.” She tapped her cheek in thought. “I’ll owe Jack a favor if he can keep Sid and the cats busy… Yeah, no problem for me.” Her laughter died down and she gestured for him to follow towards Lady Luck. Her voice was a lot calmer as she continued. “It’s not my place to tell your story after all.”

“One day, but not today.” After falling silent and walking for a few minutes, Runali perked up again. “Hey, what your dad said… Does Mi’Lio mean son? ”

Luro smiled a little hearing the Captain enjoyed the tattoo, but he was still tense on what to do about his old man. He seemed to relax a little, smiling again hearing they were going to keep it between them, he didn’t move at first chuckling a bit at the Captain’s explanation while perfectly imitating a noble, making sure to follow shortly after.
“Thanks Captain I appreciate it,” Luro said moving his hands into his sleeves. “That understanding is one of the many reasons I love you.”
Luro raised a fist in the air and grinned.
“All right! Let’s go see the judgmental tribes!”
He lowered his fist catching the Captain’s question and grinned at her.
“Ohhh not bad Captain. Yeah it does. It actually means ‘He is the son of this man’ in the common tongue but that’s really wordy so my son works.”

“I-” Runali started to say something, it looked like she wanted to at least. But instead she smiled. “If I’m gonna be around, might as well pick up a word or two. But yeah, let’s go!”

After taking care of vanishing for a few days with Zilia throwing a bag of medical supplies at Luro, and giving him a stern warning about not having to use the whole bag. Escaping became a necessary action after a very long lecture from Zilia, telling them to send letters back everyday with Luro, quickly escaping after she paused to go check something.
Taking one of the dinghy’s it wasn’t too difficult to make it to the nearby island, which held an abundant forest past the beach surrounding it. Luro eyed the map as they approached only to stop noticing a bow on a nearby tree stump.

“One of Drifters must have put this here.” Luro said grabbing the bow.
Luro knelt down looking at the stump and noticed a mark on it, he ran his finger over it and nodded.
“Yep it’s from them, there’s one in the area so that’s good. Wonder who it is?”
Luro attached the bow to his back with a grin, adjusting it slightly so it didn’t clash with his rifle too much
“Guess I’ll have to make arrows later,” Luro said peering around the stump. “All right Captain let’s head in, I have no idea where we’re going but worst case we camp in the forest.”
Luro adjusted the bow on his back.
“Thankfully Z put snacks in the bag in case we got hungry so no hunting today…probably. Let’s go!”
Luro laughed and quickly headed into the forest.

“When you say they put that there, was that as a warning or as an invitation? It’d be awfully polite to leave it there just in case someone got lost.” She would have questioned no one staying around to help, but the name ‘Drifter’ gave her a small idea of how they might have been. Plus, Luro was talking about getting lost. “I haven’t been hunting since…” Looking around the forest, she hummed in thought. “A while? Long enough to not remember. But lucky you if we get lost at least you’re not alone. Two heads are better than one when it comes to that after all.” Runali had started walking through the forest, trusting that if they at least went straight it’d take them somewhere.

“Hey Luro… Do you believe in fate?” Realizing the question came at random, she added. “It’s what your dad said right? Something about being fated?”

Luro grinned at the Captain giving her a thumbs up at the notion of not being alone.
“We’ll have to go hunting together Captain, and I’ve never gotten lost while with someone, except that twentieth time but they’re at peace now.”
Luro gave a small nod at this before adjusting the bow on his face.
“It’s an invitation. My tribe is close with theirs. It’s believed we’re from the same clan originally. They should be welcoming, I don’t remember doing anything bad to them lately.”

Once they were in the woods Luro took a fallen branch and started whittling it, the shape clearly showing he was trying to make an arrow though he muttered about ‘sinew’ as he turned the piece over. He was only pulled from his task when Runali posed a question on him, he looked over at her, his brows arching at the strange question.

“Hmmm. The old man told me once that one of the Spirits in the beginning found that some humans were embraced by loneliness even though there were others. It was believed the Trickster Spirit was causing distress for the few people. Noticing this the Spirit would look at two humans, peer into their hearts, weigh their souls and observe their future. If they were doomed to loneliness she would connect their spirits.”
Luro pat his chest at this.
“That ‘connection’ is what leads us to our fated one inevitably, so we never have to walk alone in life.”

Luro grinned and focused his attention forward again.
“I believe in it, but I don’t think it’s a path you walk or some destiny you’re bound too. If anything it’s connections...maybe. It’s not something I think about too much.
Luro gave a nod at this before laughing a bit and rubbing the side of his head.
“Ah sorry Captain I droned on there. The Old man and I talk about it sometimes, why do you ask?”

“I see. No need to apologize. I asked and you answered, thank you.” She kicked over a loose stone, watching it tumble until it was out of her line of sight. “What? I can’t be at least a little curious about what things mean for you?” She teased. “Never thought to ask so figure why not now. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to see where our… beliefs? I suppose interests, align? After all, I can’t have you getting bored of me after we’ve claimed the best of the worst title.” There was always an air of excitement when she talked about the Pirate Lord status. It was mixed in with her laugh filling the quiet of the forest.

A moment of peace fell as she remembered traversing through the forest of her own home just to get to the temple she frequented and for a moment she wondered if the tiger lurking through was okay. “I was taught about fate and how things that were meant to be would always be. But it always seemed so forced like I’d never have a say in what would happen… so I always figured what better way to live life than defy what fate had to say about it.” She put her hands behind her back as she hopped over a few larger branches. There was a more subtle smile on her face as she moved a little ways forward. “But on the other hand, if fate has been leading me here, I’m definitely surprised but even more so happy with it.”

Luro spent most of his time ducking under branches, tracing his finger over a few specific tree’s as he walked alongside the Captain. He tilted his head a bit at the Captain, bringing a finger to his chin at the idea of learning more stuff about him.
“Hmm I like shooting things, buildings things, my friends, and you Captain….I think that’s it,” Luro said.
He lowered his attention back to Runali and grinned as he crossed his arms, lowering under another branch, he wanted to tell her he’d never get bored of her but he got caught up seeing the smile on her face, the one when she spoke of being Pirate Lord.
“I’ll never get bored of you Captain, I realize that everytime we watch the sea together,” Luro mumbled with a small grin.

The sounds of forest were always a calming presence, in places like this the voices were just a little bit quieter, still plenty loud but more like a group of people talking nearby then standing in the center of a crowd. It was surprisingly easier to concentrate on the important things, he almost lost himself to the forest song when the Captain spoke to him again. He moved his hands in his sleeves and laughed a little as she spoke of Fate.
“I can say I felt the same Captain. With all I lost getting to where I am fate and I never got along. L.A.S.S. itself stands for defying fate.”
Luro gave a small nod at this.
“The old man said the trickster likes to weave the fates of others, put harsh things in their path, lead them down what he believes the more ‘fun’ route. If fate led to our meeting I’m thankful for it, I definitely won’t shoot it in the face for this one.”
Luro moved his hands to his hips proudly exclaiming this, only to stop as his eyes landed on a tree.
“Oh Captain hold on,” he said stopping, tracing a bandaged finger over the branch. “This symbol…one of the tribes are close.”
A small laugh escaped from him as he turned to the Captain.
“You’ll like them Captain, they’re really friendly.”
Something whizzed past Luro’s face barely missing the man before an arrow lodged into the tree next to him, Luro looked over at the arrow then back at the Captain.
“Yep really friendly.”


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(Previously in Better later than never…. Luro asked Runali to accompany him on an errand, during that time Milo and Hilo two brother bounty hunters approached Runali, before she could show them why it was bad idea to pursue her a large towering masked man sent the brothers packing with surprising strength. This man was subsequently attacked by Luro, but not in the normal ‘happy murderous’ way but more the ‘it’s good to see you way’ because the masked man was actually his blood pops. His old man….his dad.)

(Bethany or rather Malas after finding out Runali was Luro’s fiance humbly requested she participate in a clan ceremony which would last a few days, to make her a part of the tribe and bless their future union.
After agreeing the two set out to the nearby forest where a tribesman from Luro’s tribe was supposed to help them find a village of the nearby natives, as Luro proclaimed his tribesmen were nice an arrow narrowly missed his skull.)


Luro leaned against a tree multiple arrows sticking out of it at mostly head level, he leaned around the corner only for another to stick into the wood causing him to pull his head back. Whoever was shooting the arrows had both of them in clear sight. Luro glanced over at the larger tree where he could see Runali, the person had apparently shot at Runali as well, though unlike Luro they had aimed for her feet to lead her behind another bigger tree. Any attempted step was met with a precise shot, almost as if they were reading her movements, Luro couldn’t move either as the shot’s aimed at him were a tad more lethal.
“Fantastic aim, they know how to read movement as well,” Luro said taking the bow he had acquired earlier off his back. “If the Trickster gave us this I’ll have to thank him later.”
His eyes went to the arrows and he eyed the feathers attached to the end of them his brows arching slightly.
“Captain don’t move I’m heading that way.”
Luro knelt down and pretending to move out grabbed a stick from behind him quickly pulling his head back as the arrow once again stopped him.

Whoever was shooting at them had no trouble aiming for two subjects at the same time leading to the assumption there were multiple shooters, though from the smile on Luro’s face he seemed to know them, that or he was just having fun, probably both.
Luro quickly tossed the stick behind him before throwing dust up, in the space between him and Runali, the arrow met the stick dead on but Luro was already moving, the second arrow narrowly missed him, going through his hair as he reunited with the Captain behind the tree.
Luro grinned and motioned to one of the arrows in the dirt.
“Could you hand me one of those, I’ll poke my head out at the same time so they focus on me while you grab it. I just need one. Judging from the angle of the arrows I know where they’re at.”

There were numerous arrows in Luro’s tree’s at varying angles, though the arrows seemed tilted slightly depending where they hit, they almost seemed to be in a row with a slight difference here and there.
With a grin the Carpenter had an inkling where their attacker was, so he just needed a clean shot.
“They won’t aim lethally at you...just me,” Luro said. “Oh this is so fun...it’s been so long since I’ve had a good long range fight like this. Normally it’d take hours but with you here they had to shoot more arrows. Gave away their position even with moving.”
Luro’s grin grew a little bigger and his feet dug into the ground a bit more.
“Once I shoot I’ll close the distance, they’ll have to dodge so I can close the distance. Captain if you can run in an arc to the right it’ll cut them off when they try to retreat, they’ll give up at that point. Once out in the open the fight’s over, especially if I have an arrow ready.”

“Shouldn’t you be the one not moving? After all, you’re heads taller than me and they seem to want to hit you.” Runali leaned against a tree, listening to the arrows strike near true anywhere they were. There was little relief that whoever was attacking wasn’t attempting to kill her when Luro narrowly missed several head shots. Though, despite the danger, Luro was having a grand time so Runali wasn’t too bothered. She trusted he knew what he was doing. That and she wasn’t the best at long range fighting anyway. “Aye, aye captain.” She laughed at the joke while doing what she was told.

Runali stilled when he told her and when he asked for an arrow she was quick to grab it… and then a second one out of curiosity. “S’cool if I have a… uh, memento?” She poked the side of the arrowhead. “Something to remember ‘em by. But I can give it back- not that they seem short on arrows.” Hearing his new plan, she bounced on her toes and put a thumbs up. “Arc to the right, cut them off. Sounds easy enough.” Before she prepped to dash off, she handed the second arrow to him as well. “Maybe have two arrows ready. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared.”

“Nah I’m taking the fun job in this one Captain,” Luro responded with a grin. “Alicia might get upset if I suddenly become the Captain you know.”
Luro grinned and leaned his head out giving Runali the opening to snatch the arrow, he took it with a thanks and knocked it as he spoke quietly to himself glancing around the tree. At Runali’s request he offered a shrug not seeing a big deal about it, though when he was handed the second he just offered a nod.
“....okay anddddd go.”

Luro pretended to lean out causing the person to fire before actually moving outwards, in that split second moving along with Runali he fired, judging by the grin on his face he seemed to hit his mark, and dashed quickly into the forest.
Footsteps quickly approached Runali shortly after, but feeling the presence of someone the person skid to a stop a few feet from Runali trying to stay outside of striking range.
They glanced behind them only to see Luro with a readied arrow, with a sigh the person held their hands up.
“You’ve gotten better...but you’re still making mistakes there. You like retreating in the same direction too.”
Luro made a small motion with his bow and the person stepped into the light, their ‘attacker’ was a young woman, a native it seemed dressed in what seemed like a mix of modern clothes and bounty from the forest.
Her top looked oddly familiar to the carpenters lowering his bow behind her, though it was buttoned up fully and her long sleeves were rolled up to the wrists revealing the bottom of the tattoo’s along her arms.
Her pants specifically leather leggings ran all the way down to her brown boots, she wore a red headband around her forehead and her long straight black hair was tied in a low ponytail, there were a few marks of black paint on her face, judging by the care put into it seemed intentional.
She bore no particular resemblance to the Carpenter, a pair of dark green eyes staring at the woman in front of her, her lips a thin line though eventually they curved into a small smile.
With a sigh she glanced at Luro who nodded and she lowered her arms, first putting the arrow back into the quiver on her back.
“...I still cannot hold a candle to you Ma’Nai,” the woman said.

She looked over at Runali offering a small bow.
“Forgive my rough introduction, in common my name translates roughly to Yiora, though it can be hard to pronounce for some, so I’m accustomed to nicknames. Ma’i….Malas sent me a quick message informing me I’d be escorting two people...I didn’t expect it to be Ma’Nai though. I ended up wanting to test him. Sorry you got pulled into that.”
“You went for the throat as usual Yiora,” Luro said grinning.
“I knew you would dodge them,” the woman responded calmly before looking back at Runali. “May I ask your name? If Malas trusts you that’s enough for me but even if I wasn’t trying you still dodged all my shots...I’d like to know the person who did that.”

Runali watched the interaction, making a game out of trying to guess who this new person could be. She didn't get many guesses in by the time she was acknowledged.
"Dodge or not you've got a really good aim! And so quick too, like you knew where we were going." Runali stuck her foot out in emphasis, "But probably should switch up which foot you aim for when you're not doin' lethal damage. If you make a pattern of it, someone else might catch on."

The tip was followed with a short laugh. "And no worries, this has been one of the more nicer introductions I've had with people. Usually it's bullets instead of arrows and well, more lethal. But, yeah! Nice to meet you Yiora." She parroted her pronunciation, careful to get it right the first time. Whether or not she remembered it after was for time to tell.

Yiora offered a small smile and nod at Runali’s suggestion returning her bow to her back.
“That is good advice. I will keep that with me,” she said.
Her brows seemed to arch at Runali saying her name right, clearly surprised but she only offered a smile in response and pointed behind her before walking in that direction, Luro folded his hands behind his head and followed after her. The young lady seemed to wait for something with the Captain but didn’t linger on it long deciding to just keep moving.
“Malas sent me a letter asking me to escort two people to the clan. I didn’t realize it’d be Ma’Nai and a friend though. When I saw you I couldn’t resist the urge to test myself against you again.”
“Haha only you decorate your arrows like that. I knew the Captain wasn’t in any danger so I relaxed after seeing them….though you really went for the throat as usual Yi.”
“I have to make sure you stay on your toes Ma’Nai, if you’re not challenged you’ll get rusty, besides I want to surpass you one day. Holding back does no good for either of us.”
“...I’m reminded constantly you come from one of the warrior clans. You guys always go all out...well that’s why I like them.”
“You’re compliment is appreciated Ma’Nai.”

The woman seemed to realize something and turning walked backwards to speaking to the two.
“My apologies, I spoke naturally without thinking. You’re an outsider right? Well not part of the actual clan but one who hails from outside. You have that aura about you.”
Yiora brought a hand to her chin.
“Hm...I’m sure you’d fit in with the Beastmasters for some reason...I’m not sure why….”
Yiora put the thought aside and continued speaking.
“I’m sure Ma’Nai hasn’t talked about us. Oh and Ma’Nai in common means, ‘he is the brother of this woman’. Luro and I work for the same clan, though I’m not an official part of it yet I work closely with the Drifters. I consider him and Malas my family, Ma’Nai and Ma’ira or ‘father of this woman’. There are others as well but I work with those two the closest...I suppose the closest term used would be his sworn sister.”

Luro grinned and pointed at Yiora.
“I’ve known Yiora for years, back when I was travelling on my own my old man helped her out and she ended up acting as the...uh...important person between us and her clan.”
“Liaison Ma’Nai.”
“Right that word. She’s pretty good at fighting Captain. Even I can’t match her at close range...well not that I can match many but still...”
“Well at long rang I still...wait Captain-”
Yiora sidestepped a tree as if she knew it was there and motioned to Runali.
“You’re the infamous Runali Lev, the one who took on 201 navy officers and 3 devil fruit users with all but a pointy stick and ingenuity. Ma’Nai has spoken often of you and your legends...was it true you fought a sea monster while substituting for the cook and the food still turned out perfect. Ma’Nai has told that story at least three times.”

“You are correct, I’m learning as I go.” Runali commented. She could have probably asked him about these things, but it wasn’t like she knew what to ask. Either way it went, she listened attentively to what Yiora was saying, curious to learn more about Luro’s life outside of pirating.
“Ah, family nice!” was her response to learning the translation and she grinned. “Good to know Luro’s got people looking out for him. Even if he doesn’t talk about them. But what’s a beast master? That sounds exciting.””

Runali hopped over a few fallen branches, glancing up at Yiora now with her own look of surprise. “Hm, infamous? S’pose that is true now- wait I did what now?” Hearing that Luro was the one telling the stories made a little more sense. In fact, she couldn’t help but laugh and take a quick hop forward to meet her steps. “I don’t normally count ‘em unless I have a bet going with the others but that does sound like something I’ve done.” Towards the sea monster story, she couldn’t help but look at Luro with a curious gaze, wondering where he came up with a story like that. “I mean that certainly sounds like something that’s happened. Luro’s a fun storyteller, so I’d say it’s true. But I think the rest of the crew has done a lot cooler things. You should see the first mate, she can cut down people in a snap. And the chef makes the best meals you’d ever taste. You’ll have to meet all of them one day! I’m sure they’d love it.” Her hand waved idly in front of her as if dismissing the thought.

“But that’s for another time. Today’s for learning about Luro’s life and, well, meeting the family.” She paused for the slightest moment just to fall back in step with Luro. With her hands behind her back she carried on in the relaxed stride. "Especially considering he's met all of mine. I think it's only fair."

“Haha we try but Ma’Nai makes it hard to find him. It’s not hard to find the mess he makes though,” Yiora said with a small smile. “You’ll meet the Beastmasters in the village, a few help the Drifter’s too. They’ll explain who they are better than I could. Our clan’s tend to butt heads often so my opinion may be a bit biased.”
Yiora gave Runali her full attention as she answered her question about the legends surrounding her, the young lady’s eyes shining as she confirmed Luro’s stories.
Luro only offered a grin at the Captain’s look, far as he was concerned it actually happened and now Yiora would spread that story to the others, he couldn’t wait to tell her the shark story.
“I would love to meet them one day, especially if they’re strong,” Yiora said. “Still you’re right there is much to focus on, the others will be glad to meet who you pledged your gun too Ma’Nai.”

Luro grinned at this and offered a small nod, noticing the Captain next to him he moved his hands in his sleeves and made sure to keep his current pace.
“I’ll answer any question I can, so long as Ma’Nai is okay with it...but I am disappointed you didn’t bring her sooner,” Yiora said pointing at him.
Luro only offered a shrug in response eliciting a small sigh from their escort.
“All well I didn’t think about it. The old man said it was important cause of the whole fated one thing.”
“Fate-”
Yiora froze at Luro’s words her eyes widening before her eyes went to Runali as she came to a stop almost tripping in the process. Her gaze moving to Luro then back to Runali as her jaw agape as she tried to find her words.
“S-s-s-she’s your f-f-fated one?!”
“Well yeah she’s my fiance after all.”
“Fianc-”
Yiora’s eyes rolled back and she hit the forest floor before she could finish her sentence, Luro stared down at her and shoved her slightly with his foot eliciting a groan from her, he looked back over at Runali.
“She passed out.”

“Oh good, you didn’t kill her.” Runali waved her hand at him to get him to stop shoving her. “Would’ve been a terrible first impression to the rest of the, uh, clans.” She scratched the side of her cheek. “Maybe you should lead with that. Y’know, that I’m your fiance and all.” Her hands landed on her hips. “Since ‘pledging your gun’ only means being a pirate and all.” While they waited, she leaned on Luro humming some made up tune.

A few minutes later Yiora was leading them forward again, one hand placed against her head. She seemed to still be taking in what she had been told, but after a bit of walking she seemed to process it slightly
“...my apologies. I did not expect Ma’Nai would...no that’s not right. It was hard to imagine someone...no that’s not right either.”
Yiora brought both hands to her head trying to find the words to explain this impossibility without sounding rude.
“Ma’Nai I thought you would be forever alone due to loving yet erratic personality. This is very surprising.”
It appeared she wasn’t able to say it without being rude and gave up trying.
“That’s harsh Yi, you’re not doing much better ya know,” Luro said before looking at Runali. “Yi here has messed up her last five marriage meetings, and many before that.”
“I have no desire to be with anyone weaker than me,” Yiora responded crossing her arms.
“...Yi you made them beg...some of them cried.”
“I merely tested them. They were weak so I sent them on their way. I’m thankful my sister found someone and had a few children...I’m thankfully left alone now.”
“...I think part of that has to do with most of the men not wanting to try anymore Yi.”
“My life is not important right now,” Yiora said looking over at Runali.

She stared at Runali for a long moment, her eyes lowered a bit and her gaze searched for something from the Captain. Though after a moment she smiled and gave a firm nod, looking back over at Luro.
“A good choice Ma’Nai. I like her, I can feel the heat of her soul and the fire in her gaze. She’ll be a worthy sister-in-law.”
Yiora looked back at Runali.
“I understand what Ma’ira wants now, he didn’t explain in his letter after all. I am a little jealous you’ll formally become a part of the tribe before I will but I am glad we’ll have another. I have no doubt you’ll pass the three trials. Once I myself join we’ll have a proper sparring match and I’ll call you sister properly, for now allow me to use your name.”
“Hehe! The Captain’s going to ace those tests. I passed mine after all. If I can do it, no doubt the Captain can do it,” Luro said patting a hand on Runali’s shoulder. “Captain’s got this!”

The bright energy from Yiora seemed to fade a bit at the mention of the trials, she turned fully back around crossing her arms under her chest, Luro tilted his head as he removed his hand and Yiora came to a stop.
“I agree...though the council is going to hate this….I should explain all I can to you I suppose.”
Yiora said before walking forward again.
“You should understand where the Drifters stand with the tribes...especially if you’re going to be a part of them soon.”

She couldn’t help the soft snickering as Yiora came to her own realizations. With the most amused expression and grin of pride at being called a ‘good choice’, she couldn’t help but add, “Y’know Yiora, maybe they aren’t as strong as you but maybe they could be… better at something you’re not. Heh, could be useful where you’d rather be lazy, y’know?” With a nod towards Luro she continued, “In close combat, Luro wouldn’t stand a chance against me but,” And she tapped her eyepatch. “But where I falter, he’s skilled. Hah! He’s kinda like my other eye, y’know? Or both.” She laughed. “I couldn’t tell you how many close calls with snipers I’ve had. He makes it so much easier. But as they say, plenty of fish in the sea. Just gotta look in the right places… At least I’m pretty sure that’s what my mother rambled about.” She ceased before she could gush too much about Luro, now more curious about the trials that she’d have to go through.

“I s’pose he wanted everyone to be as surprised as he was… But! Consider it a promise. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got.” She would have held her hand out to shake on it, but her head tilted slightly with Luro’s as she stopped. “Ah, well do tell me what I should be ready for. Luro doesn’t have the best track record for explaining things that aren’t inventions. I know I have a… uh, pirate-y habit of upsetting people but it’s never intentional… Unless I’m stealing, then it’s intentional- point being, I don’t wanna cause any unnecessary issue.” There was a small pause before Runali leaned forward slightly. “Also, I really wanna know what these trials are.”

“Hahaha this is your first meeting. Expecting it to go perfect is unrealistic, besides a little trouble for them wouldn’t hurt.”
Yiora turned to face the two as Luro tapped the side of his head clearly trying to remember causing Yiora to smile, she looked back at Runali motioning behind her with her head.
“The head chief will explain the trials as we’re not allowed too. Gives a hint on what to expect after all.”
This caused Luro to stop thinking, remembering that rule and Yiora continued.
“The Tribes are divided into two sides or rather opinions. Exploration and expansion has caused us to lose some of our stomping grounds, frequent contact with outsiders is getting harder to avoid essentially. One side believes we should have minimal contact and maintain our traditions, the other side believes we should learn from the outside and adapt. The Drifters are built for the latter.”

Yiora said this motioning each side with her hands.
“Drifters are those who are seen as traitors and outsiders themselves so they were made to have extended contact with the outside world by the previous Head Chief of the East. She saw no point in getting rid of able people who were still loyal.”
Yiora said this before her shoulders dropped a bit.

“Unfortunately, the head chief of the West and South are for tradition, the north remains neutral in all things and makes a decision after gaining all the information, but they can lean towards tradition in cases like this.”
Yiora offered a small shrug.
“We call Traditional Haru’ei or Mountains, and the Adapters Nomu’ma or the Sea. The Adapters don’t want to throw away tradition of course as you can see for yourself...but we don’t believe continuous interaction will cause us to lose our way and deep rooted traditions. While I understand where those hard headed ones are coming from, we can’t keep up without adapting.”

Luro crossed his arms at this and offered a few nods as Yiora motioned to the two of them.
“The Haru’ei tribes are also very large, so Drifters are very much hated by many...if you view the tribes as a tree with all it’s branches...the Drifters are thought of as a rotten branch to the side. Since you’re becoming one and he is already one there will not be much love there.”
Yiora motioned to herself.
“That’s not to say everyone will be your enemy though, myself and the other Liaisons appreciate the Drifter’s work, and the East Head Chief is our ally...she’s part of the council so she can’t stop them from glaring and talking about you...but she’ll make sure you get what you deserve as a member of our tribe.”

Yiora said this with a nod.
“I’m sure Ma’ira has already sent her a letter. Drifters can’t normally stay in a tribe for more than one day if that. However you’re staying for at least three. The others would normally stop that immediately...but they can’t this time so they’ll be extra mad.”
“Why can’t they stop us?” Luro asked folding his hands behind his head. “They stopped me before at first.”
Yiora seemed to hesitate for a moment but closing her eyes and hopping over a root, opened them and motioned to Luro.
“Ma’ira never finished his own ceremony....he went through all the steps but…”
“Oh….right…” Luro lowered his arms, his eyes moving to the forest floor. “Mother...had to leave.”
The seemingly endless energy suddenly left the redhead as he rubbed the back of his head, his body tensing a bit at the realization.
“He more than likely gave it to you, which he can do since you’re of the same tribe...I’m sure he kept it for that reason...he could have remarried at any time and rejoined a tribe but…”
“The old man wouldn’t do that….he was fine becoming a traitor...he wasn’t going to pretend their love wasn’t real after all...least what’s what he told me.”

Yiora offered a small nod.
“That’s why you can do this now. Those closed minded chiefs will hate it...but he followed tradition...they can’t say anything with how hard they enforce it. They’ll wish for your failure...but that’s all they can do. Malas tricked them to ensure you could have a proper one, they never would have accepted this normally...he was probably holding onto that just for you.”
Luro ran a hand through his hair and glanced back in the direction they’d come.
“...I’ll thank him later.”
“You should,” Yiora said. “Anyway that’s the gist of it Runali. You’re unfortunately getting involved with the ‘troublesome’ tribe. Stay close to the ones who truly want you to succeed. Like your ‘other eye’.”
Yiora said this with a chuckle and turned back around.
“We’ll be there soon, I’ll tell you who we are aligned with to make it easier. Admittedly with your wisdom I’m sure you’ll pick them out easily enough though...your words ring true after all. I can’t defeat Ma’Nai in marksmanship after all and I doubt I can match your cook.”
Yiora smiled and looked back at Runali.
“That’s the kind of mindset we have after all. Knowing how big the world actually is.”
“I didn’t get all that but I’ll agree the Captain’s smart,” Luro said.

“Ah,” Was all that she offered at the time. She took in Yiora’s words, memorizing bits and pieces that seemed more important than others, but ultimately understood the weight of her words. In a way, it reminded her own reason for leaving. The Drifters wanted to know what was out there, to see the world and what it had to offer. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have met any of her crew- she would have a lot less scars too but they were all just a story to tell. It was a shame they’d already cast their judgement, but she didn’t consider it too much of a loss. If she was going to make them upset, might as well do it in style. “Hm. Well now I really want to win the trials.” She commented aloud to no one in particular.

There was something unspoken she noticed when Luro brought up his mom. Instead of asking, Runali gave him the lightest nudge, enough to get his attention and smiled in reassurance. Yiora’s comment made her laugh however and she bounced on her toes as they moved forward. “Ah, getting involved in what I already know so well,” She jumped over a branch and grinned, “Trouble.”

With a new vigor, Runali bounded forward, taking pauses so Yiora could take the lead when she got too far ahead. “I’m not only smart, but I’m lovable!” She couldn’t help but snicker. “No one hates me once they get to know me! Give or take a handful of people but shh, shh, they’re no one important.” She waved a hand in front of her as if actively shooing them off. “Can’t wait to tell them a bunch of fun outsider stories.” At some point, she did end up back at Luro’s side, still rambling away. “What stories has he told you anyway? Did he tell you about the time we took over a whole island? Oh or when we went to Brass Cape?” She prattled on different snippets of different adventures before finally ending on a more curious question towards Yiora. “Have you ever left to explore the world?”

“We want you to win them as well,” Yiora responded with a smile. “Right Ma’Nai?”
“Yep! It’s fun seeing their faces when you pass them.”
Yiora offered a small nod as one of her few regrets was not having a painting done of the looks they had when Luro was made into a proper Drifter, just thinking back to it now brought her no small amount of joy.
The village was drawing closer and she knew the festival noises would soon fill the forest, her gaze moved back to Luro only to see him offer two firm nod’s to the Captains comment.
“Very Lovable! It’s impossible to hate the Captain after all,” Luro said grinning.
Yiora’s brows arched slightly seeing he was already back to his old self, her gaze moved to Runali and her lips curved upwards slightly realizing the reason, she turned fully back around to focus on the final part of her guidance, however she turned right back around at the mention of more stories.
“He told me of Bass Cape but not the island! Ma’Nai why didn’t you tell about the island?!”
Yiora listened intently to the stories glancing at Luro every now and then wondering why he didn’t share them causing him to laugh and raised his hands up slightly, at the question directed at her Yiora gave a small nod before answering.

“Since I became a Liason. My tribe is nomadic so we’ve always gone from one place to another but that place was always decided for us by those in charge. Perhaps that’s why we weren’t as terribly bothered by the loss of land, we never lingered too long. Thus when a Liaison was needed I volunteered...well partially since no one else did,” Yiora said with a small shrug. “It was a chance to travel on my own terms. Ma’ira is still my leader in a sense but he doesn’t tell where I can or can’t go, he knows my desire to explore. He merely asks for my aid as an equal, if I agree like I did this time I head to the place. I’m still connected to my original clan for the time being so I am not truly ‘free’ yet…but that will change soon. Ma’Nai tells me stories of many places and of strong people...each one is a new place to go to one day.”

Eventually the sounds of drums suddenly filled the forest, Luro eyes widened a bit and Yiora turned fully forward before motioning to area just past the tree’s.
“Welcome to the Festival of Lost Days, where you’ll join us.”
Jubilant voices filled the air as music echoed around the group, the ground itself seemed to shake as the musicians filled the area with song, people dancing either alone or with each other, losing themselves to the music. Some were dressed in garments that exploded with color, twirling around making parts their garments flitter through the air, others were dressed more simply but made up for it with their aggressive movements, leaping through the air and past each other somehow avoiding the ones around them, the whole forest seemed to come alive as the people around them celebrated the festival. Men, women, young, old, all danced to the sounds filling the area between and around them; almost each one seemed different in some way, from their mannerisms to their clothes, a collection of people that stretched far into the distance.
A few sang in one language, and others in a clearly different one, most singers being the ones who either couldn’t dance or were resting.
They were the ones who noticed the trio first.
A large gasp filled the area and all the music and movement came to an abrupt stop, everyone stared at the newcomers some mid step, with expressions that mixed between suspicion, fear and confusion.
Some people’s hands rested near the weapons attached to their waist, others glanced behind them at possible escape routes.
“Runali...say something,” Yiora said leaning towards her. “First impressions are important.”

Runali had been nodding attentively to Yiora, occasionally adding a brief recommendation of a place to go to. “If you can stand the heat, the Nyiri Desert is so nice,” she said at one point. “Utsukushi too, that one is perfect for tourists. And for fighting,” She added at some other point.
When music began to fill the air, Runali’s attention left the conversation and focused on getting to the source of the sound. Her pace quickened in a well known eagerness until she came to the source. Her one eye widened in delight as she watched, but the moment everything skidded to a halt, the captain immediately remembered the ‘gravity’ of the situation. Yiora pushed the point further.

Runali was mid clasp of applause as all eyes were on her. It was almost instinctive that she tensed. Pirating for this long usually made a person ready for fight or flight. But she relaxed almost as quickly as she was ready to defend herself. True to her nature, the pirate captain went out on a whim, deciding to take the leap and go with the first response that came to mind. Clasped palms turned outward in defense. “Before anyone tries to attack me... can I at least learn what the festival’s about? I really do like festivals.”

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Runali’s comment seemed to calm those gathered, at least enough so their hands left their weapons but their gazes remained focused on the new group, their bodies tensed and some took small steps back or hid behind the person nearest them. Approaching footsteps echoed due to the silence and an older man walked out of the people, hunched over slightly he walked with a wooden cane and stopped a few feet away from the group. Yiora made a mental note it was just outside of striking range showing his distrust.
He was dressed in a simple outfit, though there were a collection of tassels lining the edges of his sleeves and a few accessories hanging off his belt, no sign of modern civilization however existed on his body, his greying hair was cut short stopping near the middle of his neck and he peered at the group with his dark eyes.
The man opened his mouth and spoke to the group though it was in a different language, Luro looked over at Yiora who looked back at them.
“....Ma’nai you know our language.”
Yiora sighed and looked at Runali.
“That was a wonderful attempt Runali. This is one of the Haru’ei I spoke of, the Southern Head Chief he basically said ‘why is an outsider interrupting our tradition. Is this your doing Drifter?’ something along those lines,” Yiora said with a shrug before continuing.
“He knows common but refuses to speak it, this is one of our oldest festivals after all, steeped in tradition so he’s especially mad it’s being interrupted...though I find it funny.”

Another voice came from the crowd and another person stepped forward, an older woman gave a small nod to the group as she came to a stop a little bit closer but still at a distance. She stood upright unlike her companion and hands folded behind her back held a certain dignity to her. Though not as old as the man next to her, the lines on her face revealed the ravages of time were only somewhat kind.
Her clothes were far different than the older man’s, she wore a shirt and pants with what seemed like a poncho over it, and multiple little braids fell off her clothes, which seemed to be made of multi-colored gems. She was very colorful, her outfit almost resembling a peacock’s feathers, Yiora found the older woman’s grace mixed with her rainbow colorfulness was a strange combination but she somehow made it work.
Her brown hair with a mix of grey hung to her back in a short single braid, and her tired brown eyes shut as she brought her hands to her side.

“This is another of Haru’ei. The Northern Head Chief but she’s the neutral one I mentioned before,” Yiora said motioning to her. “She’s….somewhat opened minded.”
“Not so much to allow an outsider in,” the woman said opening her eyes. “A drifter may stay in one village or gathering for a day so he is permitted to stay, those are the rules...but she belongs to no tribe...I’d prefer it if you came back the way you came young lady.”
The old man next to her clicked his tongue revealing both his displeasure and clear understanding of common.

“I don’t see why we’re asking.”
Another voice this one filled with a bit more venom then the previous as a third person stepped forward, he was far younger than the others, more than likely around Luro or Runali’s age as he came out of the crowd.
He was garbed in the simplest clothes, there was nothing especially special about them. Though the other two held some manner of style his seemed only out of necessity. His long dark hair fell undone to the top of his back, and a pair of dark green eyes narrowed at the gathered group as he stepped forward, though like the old man he stopped just short of striking distance.
“...this is the last Haru’ei...the most annoying one. His mother, the previous Head Chief of the West, fought tooth and nail to stop the Drifters and well...failed. She passed that hate onto him,” Yiora said.
“The fact you can blantately insult me and my kin like that is something else future traitor,” the young man said. “Forcing me to use common at one of our own gatherings….you never cease to unnerve me Makachi.”
“It’s good to see you too Vami,” Luro said smiling at the man.
Yiora envied his complete lack of hatred for this man, in a way his kindness only irritated him further.
“My name is not Vami-ah never mind. I know better than to speak our language to you.”
Yiora pointed at the people starting at the old man and moving over to the one named Vami.
“You can call them Raik, Laria and Vami. That’s the name Ma’Nai gave them.”
“...those obviously aren’t our names but he refuses to call us anything else,” Vami said. “That aside, leave.”
Vami made a shooing motion with his hand.
“I don’t know why the outsider brought another outsider but your presence isn’t welcome.”
Yiora’s eyes narrowed at Vamil and just as she opened her mouth to throw a not so veiled insult in his direction.

“The Festival of Lost Days comes from a very old tale told among most of the clans.”
A gentle voice echoed from the crowd and the people started to clear as the woman approached the group.
“Long ago the Great Spirit witnessed multiple clans fighting against each other, over land, people...greed...needless reasons. She put her faith in her children, and tried to lead them to a peaceful resolution….but for a week they did not listen. With no choice she took action and forced them apart so they’d stop fighting. She then stole the days that they wasted away from them...telling them that during those days they must show companionship and respect towards one another….somewhere along the line it became a festival that lasts a week.”
The speaker finally stepped into the open a small smile resting on her youthful face.
“To not do so will cause misfortune to fall upon those involved, thus this is a time for all of us to get along….don’t you agree Chief’s?”
Raik and Vami averted their gaze from the young woman who had spoken up.

She was the shortest among the chief’s but her presence seemed enough for a few of those present to offer a small bow, Yiora being one of them. She was dressed in layers of clothing but didn’t seem bothered by the heat, most of her body covered in loose baggy clothing with simple but clearly talented ornamental designs, a long red scarf was also wrapped around her neck. She seemed taller due to the headdress adorned with feathers on top of her head, easily adding a few extra inches to her, Luro wondered if he should get Zilia one of them, it’d be hard to miss her if she wore one while walking around.
What stood out to most though was her long white somewhat wavy hair that fell not only over her shoulders but down her back almost touching the ground due to its length, her blue eyes peering through her long bangs.
Her expression held no emotion to it presently though she answered Runali’s question with sincerity.
Upon seeing Luro a small almost unnoticeable smile appeared on her face before her attention returned to Runali.
“If someone has shown an interest in our culture it’s only proper to respond accordingly. Understanding is important to a proper relationship after all.”
“That’s the Head Chief of the east I told you about. One of the Nomu’ma. Her grandmother helped form the Drifters while she was Head Chief,” Yiora said to Runali. “She’s the one to like.”
“...how are you this rude purposefully?” Vami said placing a hand on his hip.
“It’s good to see you again Machi,” the Eastern Chief said looking at Luro.
“It’s good to see you too Nyaskirvo.”
The young lady looked over at Runali.
“While I cherish Machi’s opinion...feel free to call me Chief or Nuli...I’m not especially partial to being called a god after all.”
“Nyaskirvo is really amazing though,” Luro said throwing his arms up.
“You’ve told me the story Machi...but I like being a normal person.”
“Booooo.”

Vami stepped forward cutting the two’s conversation short.
“Yes it’s a ‘happy’ reunion we still don’t know why this outsider is here,” Vami said motioning to Runali. “Much less why we haven’t had her leave yet. I can’t make the Drifter leave, I’ll let that go but no outsiders are allowed, there are no exceptions to that. I can guarantee if you try to ask her to stay, our vote should be obvious so let’s not waste more time than we have.”
“I believe she can answer that question herself isn’t that correct...Miss Runali. I also am quite confident you all would agree with me. We have been talking without offering our ears as much as we should have to our visitor.”

The reception was cold, but not cold enough for her to end up in a fight. To that, she sighed in relief, offering a thumbs up at Yiora’s ‘good try’. Runali’s mouth stayed shut the entire time people approached. First there was an old man, then a woman. Those two didn’t like Runali, but she offered them a kind smile anyway. They didn’t like her because of customs, not because of some vendetta. She could deal with that. The third one that approached made Runali raise a brow. This one was feistier. This one wasn’t afraid to speak out against her openly. Hearing from Yiora that he was also a chief made her click her tongue in disappointment, despite the beginnings of a grin forming across her face. If she was looking for trouble, Vami was the one she’d bother-- but she reminded herself that manners were first. Her first impression was already off to a great - by her standards- start. After all, no one tried to attack her.

At no point was she allowed to interject without interrupting them, so Runali remained quiet, only to turn her attention to the final voice, another woman who gave her the answer she really wanted. Runali’s one eye lit up in intrigue as she got the explanation and bowed (albeit a little later than the rest) slightly. It took a brief second for her to realize she was given the opportunity to speak by this Chief and she blinked in minute surprise. “Oh, huh thanks. And thank you for the lesson. It’s always fascinating to learn what reason celebrations are had. Back home,” Runali paused as if she remembered something and turned towards the Chief of the North… Laria if she recalled correctly. “Ah, I wanted to say your shirt is very pretty! It’s very colorful.” Without missing a beat, she rocked on her heels and looked at Vami with a mischievous grin, as if testing his patience. “You don’t gotta talk to me in common mister chief, but then I’d have to wait for translations. And then that’d take so much longer, y’know?”

Once again, she turned to Nuli but then snapped her fingers once again remembering a thought and looking back at Laira. “Even if I wanted to go back the way I came,” Runali chuckled, “I’d get lost without an escort, so I can’t leave without my,” As she gestured to Luro she laughed, this time more sheepish. “Ah, yes right.” She took a half step back and patted Luro’s arm. “I’m his…” Runali stopped in thought. “Hm… fated one… fated one… Your dad said Mi’Lio for you… Yiora uses Ma’Nai also for you… Oh, Yliayo! Ah,” She looked up at Luro. “Did I say that right?”

Vami’s eyes seemed to narrow as he was pretty sure he heard the outsider click their tongue but the larger issue was the fact she was still here, for some reason the Chief of the East seemed more chipper than usual and that bothered him. Being forced to call these people by their made up names instead of their true names just to speed up the conversation with this buffoon only agitated him further.
Laria didn’t seem too bothered by what was going on merely trying to figure out why the outsider was here, she couldn’t think of any reason why one would be allowed, none that made sense at least. At the compliment Laria stared at Runali, her eyelids lowering ever so slightly, she seemed to search for an intent behind those words, but whether it was a sincere compliment or Runali trying to butter her up she responded with a small nod.
“Thank you outsider.”
Vami however wasn’t as courteous, at the comment his eyes twitched at the Captain, he seemed to mutter something in his own tongue which caused Yiora to glare at him.

What came after however was what caught everyone off guard, the words that Runali spoke caused everyone in the area to tense, each chief save Nuli stared at the two in disbelief as Luro gave a thumbs up to Runali.
“That was perfect Captain. You’ll know it better than me soon.”
“Y….Y...Ylia-”
Vami couldn’t utter the words, jaw agape as she tried to process what had just come from the outsider as he stumbled forward managing to catch himself from actually falling, Raik gripped his chest and Yiora geninuenly thought the old man was having a heart attack. Even the stone faced Laria’s eyes widened at the news, her hands seemed to tremble causing her to move them behind her back.
Though the chiefs remained standing a fair amount of people behind them had either fallen to their knees or had passed out from the shock, men who were still conscious stared at the ground with thousand yards stares, looking at Luro, then Runali before bringing their hands to their heads, even a language barrier didn’t hide their despair. The women who had managed to remain standing stared in disbelief, and very few in disappointment, at what they had just heard.
Yiora had turned her head and covered her mouth, in a weird way she understood but that didn’t make it any less funny.
“Then this is a momentous occasion. We must prepare the ceremony immediately,” Nuli said clapping her hands together.
“H-hold on a second!” Vami said managing to find his voice. “A marriage ceremony takes...uh…”
“Three days,” Nuli said managing to regain her own composure.
“Right! A drifter can’t stay for three days. There’s no exception to that rule, and doing all the trials in one day isn’t an option, all of them can’t be prepared the day.”
Raik offered a nod still unable to find his voice.
“If you think we’re going to allow this you’re sorely mistaken.”
“....it is a fact the ceremony, even done quickly will take at least two days….A drifter cannot stay in a village for that long,” Laria said bringing a hand to her head.
“Actually they can,” Nuli said before pulling a letter from her pocket. “Machi’s kin has passed his right of ceremony to him...the right of ceremony that Chief’s had signed off on...which means Luro and Runali may stay.”
Vami quickly snatched the letter out of her hand and read over it, Laria and Raik read it over his shoulder, Vami read the letter at least three times in disbelief, Laria only had to read it once to understand, and Raik read it a fourth.
“No...no no I refuse to accept this!” Vami said. “This-”
“Is permitted by our laws,” Laria said cutting him off. “Your mother allowed it...we can’t ignore a previous chief’s acknowledgement….not over feelings.”
“You can’t be okay with this,” Vami said turning fully to Laria.
“...they’ve gone through the proper rituals...Malas knows our laws well after all. This is permitted, she can stay for the ceremony...however she should know the rule.”
Laria turned towards Runali.
“The outs….” Laria cut herself off. “The Yliayo of Makachi...Runali….is permitted to stay and perform the ceremony...however should she fail she will have to leave, she will treated as a Drifter and will be held by the same rules.”
“....fine…” Vami said running a hand through his hair. “She won’t make it pass the first one anyway...not an outsider. The moment she fails she’s out.”
Vami turned and walked away from the group, Raik stared at Runali for a moment but returned to the crowd without a word, Laria offered a small nod.
“I will offer my congratulations should you succeed...as is customary,” the woman said before walking away.
Nulia was the only one who remained behind and a small sigh escaped from her once they were gone.
“That went...smoother than expected,” Nuli said with a small smile.
“Great job Chief!” Luro said grinning at the young woman. “I haven’t seen Vami like that since I passed them. He must really want the Captain to succeed.”
“To live in your world for a day Ma’Nai,” Yiora said before looking at her future sister-in-law. “If you would like Runali I can introduce you to the others who work with the Drifters. I’m sure Chief Nuli has to prepare anyway.”
Nuli offered a nod in response and Luro grinned.
“Captain you get to meet all the fun people!”
“...I suppose it depends on your definition of fun.”

“The power I’d have if I could just… do that to anyone…” Runali mumbled to herself, though it was loud enough for Luro to hear. She watched as everyone had their own wild reaction to the discovery. While Runali had her own thoughts of why they might’ve reacted the way they did, she kept it to herself. Vami’s outburst about it made her snicker, but she immediately coughed in a poor attempt to hide it. She knew there were customs and traditions, but she couldn’t help but enjoy being the one to ‘shake things up’. The moment the other chief’s left, Runali couldn’t help but laugh at Luro’s comment. “Oh of course, of course. They obviously adore me being here. Can’t wait to see the look on V’s face when I finish the ceremony.” The sarcasm was there, but she continued to laugh. “I haven’t made random people collapse like that since…” She paused in thought. “I think since I took the one trip with Kaim.” She shrugged the comment off and turned her attention back to Nuli. Runali’s grin calmed into a gentle and genuine smile “I meant it seriously though, it really is nice to meet all of you, Miss Chief. I’ve known Luro for this long and as open as he is, a lot gets... missed out on.” Runali gave a small salute before questioning, “Not that I’m not brimming with confidence,” She joked, “but what happens if I don’t uh pass the trials? Leaving doesn’t sound like the only punishment of failure.”

Yiora’s invitation was met with curious excitement. “Yeah! Of course I wanna- well, if they’re all gonna start passing out again maybe I should… I dunno wait for the ceremony? Hm, actually that sounds boring, I do wanna meet the others.”

Yiora could almost feel Vami’s hatred from here, it was delightful though she noticed Runali say something, she didn’t catch it all. She did notice the small shift in Luro’s face however as he glanced at Runali, offering her a smile he looked forward again.
“It’s something you could do Captain, I’m sure of it.”
He spoke the words as if they were fact, Yiora expected him to laugh afterwards but he just stared straight ahead stating what he considered to be a fact.
There wasn’t much time to contemplate it as Nuli’s attention moved to Runali as she spoke once more.
“It will be interesting to see the look on his face,” Nuli said smiling. “I don’t doubt you’ll pass them. I’ll of course be the one to explain them when the time comes.”
When Runali spoke further the chief shifted a little, the woman offered a smile in response.
“The sentiment is shared by all of us Runali, that I’m sure of.”
Yiora offered a nod in response and Luro grinned as if it was only natural.
At Runali’s further question Nuli raised a hand to her scarf and shut her eyes.
“Of course you can meet the others. I’ll make sure that happens,” Yiora said. “Though about the other thing…”
She trailed off and looked over at Nuli as she opened her eyes and looked at Runali to answer the question.
“Failure means the spirits don’t bless your union. In a normal situation you would merely leave the tribe but in this case…you would be banished and forbidden to interact with anyone within the tribes.”
“Ma’Nai included,” Yiora said. “It would mean you’d be making an enemy out of all of us.”
Yiora said this putting her hands on her hips.
“Of course we won’t hate you or actually feel that way towards you.”
“It would however mean you’d never interact with us again...not even Malas would be able to approach you.”
“Same here,” Yiora said raising a hand. “Though I’d want too...it would be forbidden and…”
“It would give the other heads a reason to disband the Drifters. You would be ‘cursed’, it’d give them a reason to get rid of the Drifters essentially. Not that it would matter even if we did avoid you, I doubt Luro would leave your side...so it’d become an inevitability.”
Nuli offered a small shrug and smile.
“If you failed not even I would be able to stop the destruction of the Drifter Tribe.”
Yiora hugged herself, her eyebrows lowering at the thought before Nuli continued.
“However...when you succeed...that will only cement them further. Many of the tribes respect the Great Spirits. Luro carries the blood of one of us, thus excuses were made when he succeeded. You however are different, you have no ties to us, you’re a pure outsider. If the Great spirits respond to you…”

Yiora’s eyes widened.
“Then there’d be less arguments against the will of the Great Spirits. If an outsider is accepted then it would mean the Drifters have their protection.”
Nuli nodded.
“That’s the case. I can say I didn’t see this coming and it is quite the gamble, but Malas has faith in your union and I can tell you’ll be fine. ..as for how...if you’re really curious I’ll tell you after you succeed.”
Nuli smiled before motioning to the two of them.
“I know you’ll get it done Runali. I’ll take the gamble on you personally. Luro trusts you so I’ll trust you.”
“Right there with you,” Yiora said offering a small nod.
“Yeah Captain can do anything! She’ll bet it even better than I did. I can’t wait to see it!”
“Well...I’ll go get things ready,” Nuli said with a small nod. “I’ll return later.”
“I’ll grab you guys something to eat and drink as well while grabbing the others,” Yiora said. “We’ll save the drinks for afterwards.”

Yiora and Nuli walked away and Luro smiled as the two women faded into the crowd.
“...hmmm I ended up doing it when I temporarily left the ship. My emotions were still all over the place so it was hard to deal with. Thankfully the old man cast a spell on me to give me luck beforehand. If you want Captain I can cast the same one, ah if you feel you need it of course. I’m sure you’d be fine without it but I figured I’d offer.”

The well of energy seemed to stutter just a bit at the new weight of pressure if Runali failed. Being blessed wasn’t really her concern- after facing so many devils, divine intervention sounded like more of a risk. Being banned from this place and technically from Luro was a little more worrisome. "Hm, maybe I shouldn't have asked. I've been cursed before and somehow this feels worse." She laughed the sudden nervous energy away though and pushed on. "But if a chief herself believes in me then I don't have anything to worry about!"

The captain puffed up in all her confidence. "Besides, I'm not going down in history as someone who ruined a tribe. If anyone's gonna tarnish my name it's gonna be the Navy and I don't care about them." There was the implication that she cared about a group she had just met and upon thinking it over, Runali only nodded in the most matter of fact way. She watched the two women walk off and once again ended up by Luro's side.

"Luck spells huh?" Her gaze had been outward, looking at everyone else when he spoke. For a moment, she didn't respond, thinking over what they said and just taking in the sights. And then, finally she looked up at him, the excitable energy replaced with something more calm much like the times they sat staring at the sea. "You're here with me and… I think that's all the luck I need." It was followed with a gentle tug to his sleeve. "But when were you planning on telling me you could cast spells! You're hiding more tricks than these sleeves can hold!"

Luro gave Runali a small pat on the back at the extra pressure, though he smiled knowing the Captain would get past it and sure enough she had already steeled herself for what was ahead. If the two women caught onto the Captain’s implication they didn’t comment on it as they left, though Luro swore he saw a smile on Yiora’s face.
Luro’s eyes moved to Runali as she responded to his offer and his shoulders dropped a little, revealing he had been a little tense himself but the Captain’s calm always brought him back.
“Hahaha I gotta keep you on your toes Captain, though it’s just a simple one. Still you’re right...we made it this far without the spell...I’ll put it away then,” Luro said with a wide grin before a small laugh escaped from him. “I’m normally the one who brings bad luck, it’s strange being a good luck charm all of a sudden.”

“Truer words have never been spoken.”
A small group approached with Yiora trailing behind them, she promptly handed Luro and Runali a few items from their collective food sources, generally fruit and what looked like juice.
“We’ll save the grand feast for later,” Yiora said before motioning towards the people. “Let me introduce the others.”

There were three others that had approached them, on the far left was a young woman with a skull placed on top of her head, she wore clothes with what looked like animal furred aligned along the edges of most of the outfit, judging by the color of the fur if it was real, it wasn’t just from one animal. Her long wavy black hair hung to her back and a pair of golden eyes stared at the two.
Next to her was a young man, he was dressed simply, comparable to the many people around him, the only thing that stood out were two blue feathers behind his ear and a necklace with glowing blue stones. Next to him….was a very large grizzly bear.
The bear stared down at the two and let out a small huff, a moment later a small form appeared on top of the bear, and leapt off it laughing as it fell towards the two.
Luro grinned and caught the falling figure before spinning them around and holding them out, in his hands was a young child who smiled brightly at Luro and started giggling as he set her down starting to tickle her.
Yiora motioned to the gathered group with a smile.
“From the left is our resident Beastmaster, just call her Kioni, there’s no name in common for hers so that’ll work as collection of others. The one in the middle is a Watcher, their what you call Mediators, just call him Uarako...or Rako if that’s too much. The little one being tickled currently is a Strider...ah I suppose the word Shaman works for her in common. That’s….hmmm ah Ayi works. Call her Ayi.”
Yiori motioned to Runali.
“She’s-”
“We heard,” Rako said holding up both hands. “We were all in the crowd.”
Though his voice was gentle and in a strange way calming it was easy to see on his face his hidden desperation.
“I’m still recovering...please don’t say it again. Almost passed out hearing it...still I am happy my Mi’Nai won’t be forever alone.”
Kioni offered a small nod in response.
“Lu’Na has a new friend!” Ayi exclaimed this before running over to Runali. “Hello new friend!”
Luro moved over to the bear as it huffed again and wrapped his arms around the large creature, the bear shut its eyes as it leaned into him.
“It’s good to see you again Breeze, who’s a good girl. You’ve been taking good care of Ayi as always.”

Yiora laughed a little and walking over picked up Ayi to keep her from clinging too long to Runali, she held her out causing Breeze to lean down as she set the child back on the bear’s back.
“These are some of the other Liaisons. Kioni’s father was an outsider and her tribe planned on getting rid of her till Malas got her.”
Kioni offered another nod at this.
“I’m supposed to tell my story now…” Rako said placing his hands on his hips. “I’m nothing special. My tribe handles disputes, we work closely with the...uh Shaman’s...the moment Ayi was assigned to the Drifters one of us was chosen. I held no qualms getting away from my own tribe so I took Malas’ offer.”
“Ayi as I mentioned is a Shaman, they have the closest connection to the spirits, they also work as doctors. She may be a bit young but she could tell you every medicinal plant in the area and how to use them,” Yiora said. “The bear is Breeze...she’s her partner….I think. Only Malas knows their relationship and he won’t explain. Politics lead to her ending up with us, head of the family stuff and all that.”
Breeze’s head raised then lowered, it was uncertain if it was a nod or a movement but the fact she was behaving and watching the girl on her back, lead credibility to Yiora’s statement
“We’re all allies of the Drifters and thus we all hope for your success,” Rako said with a nod. “We’ll be helping out as much as we can during this whole thing...mainly keeping the people calm and serving as a reminder why no one should do anything stupid but also anything else if need be.”
Kioni gave a very firm nod at this and Ayi gave thumbs up to the two, Breeze let out a proud huff and Yiora grinned.
“We’re all family here so let’s do our best together,” Yiora said grinning.
Luro’s hands seemed to twitch but he offered a grin and slammed his fist into his palm.
“The Captain’s got this!”
“Yeah go Runali!” Yiora responded.
“It’s gonna be the best show!” Rako added.
“New friend’s gonna show em all!”
Kioni pumped her fist in the air.

“Forgive me now if I forget anything you guys have just told me.” She started after happily greeting Ayi when the newcomers showed up. “S’a lotta names. Lotta new faces. But it is nice to meet all of you.” With food in hand she began to nibble on that while they gave her the quick run down of who they were. All the while, her one eye continuously flickered over to the bear standing at their side. She definitely heard everything they had to say and nodded where it was needed but at some point she was more fascinated with the bear than the people.

At the mention of family, the captain's attention snapped back and she stopped inching her way towards the bear. "Ah," It caught her off guard, how casually it was said despite the others so avidly wanting her to leave. It made her smile turn into a large grin, even more so as they all cheered her on. "Hah! I'll be sure not to disappoint! If there’s anything I'm good at, it's… causing a scene." She couldn't help but laugh. "Or you know, causing trouble. But that's neither here nor there." Her idle waving turned into a point and with one quick excited breath, she asked,

"I dunno if this is rude to ask but can I pet the bear," She paused and went through the checklist of names she had just gotten. "Breeze?"

“Haha it’s okay, Luro still has trouble differentiating us,” Rako said with a smile.
“Hey I know who you are Yiora.”
“Okay now I know you know that’s wrong,” Rako said pointing at him.
The group smiled at Runali, Ayi grinning as Breeze offered a proud snort in response to the Captain’s assurance. It was a small gathering, far less than those gathered around them but each one with all of their hearts wished for Runali’s success.
“Well trouble works too at least for me,” Yiora said smiling.
“You would say that…” Rako said sighing.
At Runali’s question the two looked over at Kioni, the silent women looked over at Breeze drawing the bear’s attention, opening her mouth surprisingly she vocalized a bear’s voice, almost exactly considering her stature. Breeze responded with her own causing Kioni to point at Runali and respond before closing her mouth.
Breeze moved over and lowered her body slightly for Runali to pet her.
“Apparently she’s fine with it,” Rako said with a shrug. “She probably appreciates you asking.”
Kioni offered a nod as if confirming this.
“All right! Here’s to Runali’s success!”

The sun had set by time the ceremony was ready to begin, Runali had been asked to stand in the center of the camp, fire lanterns had been lit forming a circle of red around them, within the circle was her, Luro and the chief’s including Nuli who stood directly in front of themi. Outside the circle of lanterns were the rest of the gathered along with the Liasons.
The Stars twinkled brightly above as night fell upon the forest.
The center area was the most illuminated with a majority of the forest fading into the distant darkness only present by the nightly noises coming from it. Judging by the few faces that could be lit by flames there weren’t too many pleased ones, Vami’s in particular but he stood silent and still as it was a ceremony.
“Runali Lev, the fated one of Luro Makachi. We will now begin your induction into the Drifter Tribe. You will face three trials to prove your bond and to pay respects to the great spirits. If they accept you, then we shall welcome you as your own. If they should ignore or repel you, then your presence will no longer be welcome here.”
Vami seemed to smile a little at this but perhaps sensing Nuli’s side glance returned his face to stoicness.
“This First Trial will be if the Great Spirits will come to you. In short it’s to be recognized and prove the spirits watch over you. Specifically Hiayis the Huntress, she should come to you as a denizen of the forest.”
Nuli made a motion to her left and multiple lanterns lit up.
“You will walk into the forest alone, and if your soul is with us, they will come to you. Should that occur return to us afterwards. If they do not come by the night’s end then return when the sun peeks over the horizon.”

Nuli walked forward and dug into her scarf before pulling out a beaded necklace made of green stones that shimmered as light passed over them, for a moment it seemed something flashed within shiny pebbles but it faded quickly.
Nuli put it around Runali’s neck as she spoke quietly to her.
“This necklace acts like a sort of collar with a bell around it. It’s meant to help the spirits find you easier. Make sure not to take it off while you’re in there,” Nuli said smiling. “I can’t help you much here except to tell you...that when the forest ‘stops’, you should do the same.”

With that Nuli took a step away from her and made a motion with her hand, as she did a new path was lit by lanterns that flickered to life leading into the forest. Nuli took a few extra steps back and offered a small bow to Runali.
“I’ll be waiting here for when you get back Captain,” Luro said before patting her shoulder. “I know you’ll succeed so I won’t wish ya luck.”

“So just walk through the forest and hope I get visited by spirits.” Runali stared far into the distance and squinted. “So long… as it’s not Jones…” The chill that went down her spine disappeared when she fiddled with the new necklace. She stretched her arms out and shook her hands out. “Just like back home- except I’m not looking for a tiger.” To Nuli, she returned the bow with a nod. “Thanks.” There was nothing else she could think to say to the woman after already thanking her before and fortunately she didn’t have to because Luro was at her side. She couldn’t help but laugh a little as she reached up and pulled her eyepatch off her head. “Here, I don’t think I need it for walking through a forest.” She gave him a mock salute before taking steps backwards into the forest. “Keep it safe for me.” And as she walked into the forest, with hands behind her back she couldn’t help but flash a smile at Vami. A silent taunt if anything before she disappeared into the trees.

“When the forest stops, I should do the same, she said. Maybe I should’ve asked more questions- not that I have any questions to ask. Just keep walking until something stops you, that’s not hard. The hard part is making sure I don’t,” She ducked under a few branches in the dark. “Run into that.” Runali pushed her hair out of her face, blinking rapidly as she adjusted to the light of the night- though more importantly, she focused on what she could hear. But, for the most part it was silent and she was forced to keep moving, alone in the woods. A few times she did stop to rest, wondering if she deviated from the straight lined path she was walking (Runali definitely wasn’t going in a straight line) and debating whether or not she should stop so this ‘denizen’ could actually confront her.

The sounds of the forest filled the area around Runali, cricket’s playing their nightly songs and the gentle rustle of the leaves as forest critters scattered about. Fireflies floated around providing extra illumination the moon couldn’t. The light from above filtering in through the trees creating a mix of light and shadow.
A small flying squirrel leapt out of a tree in front of Runali, leaping to another branch causing leaves to fall.
Mid jump however with its hands and legs outstretched the squirrel froze in mid air, and all sounds in the forest stopped, the leaves falling remained stuck in the air, held up by some invisible force. The rustling of the leaves from the wind, the songs of the forest, all of it stopped abruptly as if the forest itself knew to be silent.

Soon a singular sound filled the forest, an animal’s footsteps echoing loudly within the wood, almost from every direction of Runali, as if multiple animals were approaching from every angle. Eventually however the sound moved to a singular location, to the spot in front of her.
An animal stepped into the light at this point revealing the source of the noise.
A large tiger stepped into the open, with fur the color of snow, which seemed to glow in the moonlight. It walked slowly but with purpose, as if seeking something though it’s face remained focused forward, making no note of Runali, at least until it lined up directly in her path.
The tiger’s eyes moved over to her and it turned to fully face her, the creature was clearly abnormal, easily larger than even Breezy from earlier, and it’s eyes seemed a mix of colors, almost rainbow like as it stared at Runali.
It showed no aggression in it’s stance, merely curiosity on noticing something else from usual was here.
It’s gaze moved to her feet than back up to her face as if checking something.
When it’s eyes landed on it’s necklace, the creature started moving towards Runali.
It’s eyes focused on hers, the creature altered its steps slightly as it approached taking a step into her ‘blind’ spot on occasion, though as it did so a visage of a woman appeared from that eye when Runali blinked, and only then. By time her eyes fully opened only the tiger remained. However each blink her blind eye saw the true form of the tiger, though due to the quickness of the action making out an actual visage was near impossible, only bits and pieces from each blink.
The Tiger eventually stopped directly in front of her, right within striking distance.
Sitting down it raised it’s paw and showed the bottom of it’s hand to her, the tiger’s mouth opened.
“You can move young leader.”
There was no voice to the words, they just resonated in the Captain’s mind, almost like reading words on a page.

The sudden stillness of the forest made Runali hold her breath. She started to look around, noticing things were just as still as they sounded. The moment the tiger came into view, Runali tensed in surprise and stilled her own curiosity, waiting for what would happen next. She tried to get a look at the woman that appeared, but realizing it was a losing battle she gave up and simply acknowledged that she was definitely the tiger.

“Feels like home kinda.” Runali breathed and let her shoulders slump. “You’re the huntress, yeah?” She started to reach for the tiger’s paw to shake it but paused realizing that may have been a dumb idea. The question was probably a little too obvious too so she added, “Ah, y’know just don’t want to accidentally cross paths and disturb the wrong spirit and all.” She rubbed the back of her neck and gave a light laugh. “Oh, wait uh,” In her casualness, she realized she was being far too casual upon meeting some spirit of the forest so she gave a polite bow in an attempt to be respectful. “It is nice to meet you and um, your forest is nice…?”

“Hey wait,” Joy bubbled up as Runali stood straight. “You found me- well, you came to me! That means… does this mean you’re,” Her hand waved in vague gestures, trying to find the right word for all this. “Y’know, okay with this? Or, uh, me?”

“Hahaha...I am not so bound by tradition as my siblings. You showed a modicum of respect, that is more than enough for me. Relax and speak freely.”
At Runali’s question of her acceptance the tiger gave a small nod in response as she lowered her paw.
“Very much so. Your soul is very beautiful, the necklace brought me in your direction but I found you easily enough with how bright it is.”
Her eyes moved to the necklace.
“It bears the scars that come with leadership...but is still so very beautiful...I see why many are drawn to it...why he was drawn to it.”
The tiger shut her eyes.
“I understand why they like you. My siblings I mean.”
Opening her eyes she looked back up at Runali.
“You are wise beyond your years to ask if I am the right spirit, given many malicious ones roam...but I won’t use up all your time. The second trial awaits you upon your return.”
The tiger stood back up at this preparing to leave.
“Oh and in respect to your respect I’ll inform you that my Trickster brother has an eye on you two. He is not inherently evil….but he is bad with restraint...I do not know if he will interfere but practice caution. The second trial is the most dangerous. Go with the blessings of the forest young leader, know some of us actually like you.”
With that the forest returned to normal, but just as the squirrel landed in a tree, a slim finger poked Runali’s necklace before she was out of the forest back at its entrance again, surrounded by the tribe.

“Wha-” Vami spoke up first shocked to see Runali had returned.
“When did she…” Laria said turning to look in Runali’s direction.
Raik’s eyes slowly widened as Nuli quickly approached Runali.
“Excuse me,” she said taking hold of the necklace and peering into it.
She was silent before a glow resonated from it at her touch, a small smile rested on her face and she turned to the gathered tribe.
“The Huntress has given her blessing. She has passed the first trial!”
Cheers echoed from most of those gathered, the Liaisons and Luro roaring the loudest among them, with even Breeze bouncing back and forth slightly in celebration.
Even a few of the tentative tribe members clapped, though still clearly shocked at the events it was hard to ignore if a spirit gave a blessing.
“That’s….that can’t-” Vami eyes narrowed as he eyed the necklace.
Clicking his tongue he turned and walked away from the scene.

Runali didn’t have time to process and try to respond to all that the Huntress said and didn’t fully recognize that she was back in the tribe until Nuli approached her. It surprised her, only for a second, before the roars of the crowd made her swivel on her heel to face them. “Oh I didn’t even have to walk back, thank the spirits- specifically the Huntress.” Because Nuli was still closest, Runali beamed at her. “Aw man, I had questions! I wanted to talk to her!” With a huff, blowing hair out of her face. In her excitement, the spirit’s words echoed in her mind and it made her smile. She whispered a soft thanks, in her own native tongue before speaking up again.

“Maybe next time! That’s a spirit I wouldn’t mind talking to. She seems much nicer than most.” Her head cocked to the side, looking towards the forest but ultimately she raised a fist in the air, cheering along with the rest. “Alright! Trial two!” Her fist turned into a rapid wave at the liaisons and Luro as they were the ones she heard the most. “What’s the next? Let’s keep it going!”

A small chuckle escaped from Nuli as she watched the tribes cheer and Runali respond in kind, Luro whistled and if not for Yiora would have already swept up Runali. The young lady holding the giant man back laughing all the while as Nuli looked over to Laria at the mention of the second trial.
“There is one thing to see before the second trial Runali,” Laria said. “Come with me.”
The woman didn’t exactly cheer but unlike the other two held no particular feelings in her expression, she had merely closed her eyes after realizing Runali had returned and recovering from the surprise.
She headed towards a seperate part of the forest also lit by lanterns and Nuli raised a hand to Runali.
“I’ll catch up,” she said before gently taking the necklace back. “Hiayis respects those who respects the forest...but she is one of the more down to earth of the spirits. She considers all creatures who roam the forest her children after all so she’s far less formal.”
With a smile Nuli gave a small shrug.
“She watches over us always. Perhaps you’ll meet again one day. The spirits are as strange as we are after all. Luro will rejoin you for the third trial but cannot approach you before then as he’s already gone through them, I’ll make sure he doesn’t set something on fire in celebration.”

With a wave Nuli watched Runali fade into the forest as Laria walked ahead.
“...congratulations on passing the first trial,” Laria said simply.
There was no malice but no excitement in her tone, it was almost business like in a sense, but it seemed the older woman felt it necessary to acknowledge Runali’s success.
“The second trial carries involvement with all present chiefs of the tribes, to be accepted by one is to be accepted by all….though reality is quite different the tradition remains. The four of us have already prepared mostly everything, though Nuli and I played a larger part then the other two.”
Laria went silent at this for a moment before continuing.

“I hope you don’t hold their attitudes against them. We’ve all suffered at the hands of outsiders, Nuli included...Vami who leads the west has easily lost the most of us. We’ve all lost our homes, families, friends...and our dignity to those outside the forest but that young man inherited his position in the worst way. Vami watched his father be killed as his mother was kidnapped in front of him while his home was burned down. His friends and remaining family slaughtered in front of his eyes as he was thrown into a cage, forced to watch when he was but a boy...we got there too late...and his eyes lost their light that day.”
She stopped herself remembering the child’s empty gaze as they pulled from the gaze but continued.
“A part of him knows you’re not those people but his distrust will not fade just from that. Every outsider is a threat we have to observe, Raik is no different….but he and I are old, too old for such hatred. The both of us want little more than to pass things down to her children as Nuli’s father did….but that just isn’t possible with the way things are.”

Laria came to a stop in front of a hut.
“I only tell you this as you are not part of our tribe. You should know it’s history...especially considering the second Trial.”
The woman opened the cover letting Runali peek inside, within the hut were people sprawled on the floor in random ways, judging by the scent many of them had not been bathed, or rather couldn’t be kept completely clean. There were attendants within trying to help them but the people on the floor didn’t seem to know where they were much less what was happening.
Some stared wide eyed at the ceilings, others clutched their skulls mumbling in their language.

Laria motioned to the corner of the room to a young man who was hugging his knees and laughing at some invisible spot in front of him, eyes wide and full of fear and malice as he trembled violently.
“That is my eldest son. Who was supposed to take over after his own trials,” Laria said before closing the cover. “Who even though I felt he wasn’t ready let participate anyway.”
Laria kept her back to Runali but continued.
“I don’t tell you this to dissuade...just so you know what awaits if you fail. You’ll lose yourself if you push yourself, this is common knowledge for our tribes so you should know. Nuli was going to tell you but I asked so we could talk properly.”
Laria stared at the cover and reaching up pulled it a bit more closed though the crazed voices still made their way outside.

“I do not dislike the Drifters...but not every person among them is a good person. Some are members of our tribes who have done horrible things but can still serve a purpose. Allowing them free reign is not allowed...if our people think after committing a crime they just get to go somewhere they can act more freely disorder would follow….but I do feel the limitations posed are harsh. Fairness is important, one that benefits both sides to the best of the situation. Emotions clouding that judgement is not the right way to address these things.”

Laria turned to Runali at this and motioned to her right to move away from the hut as she walked following the rest of the path.
“Those children who work with his tribe are not bad people...even Luro is tolerable in...small doses.”
She seemed to strain at the idea but there seemed to be sincerity in her attempt.
“What I’m saying is I will work to make sure things remain fair, and I’m teaching my children to do the same. When that happens the rules will change, though I doubt anytime soon considering Raik’s and more importantly Vami’s stances...knowing all that...do you still intend to take the second trial.”
Laria turned to Runali at this folding her hands behind her back.

Runali went from excitable to quiet, shifting to match Laria’s more serious energy. A few times, she looked behind her but her focus stayed on the chief. When she was congratulated Runali nodded in thanks and when she was given an explanation, Runali was focused on every word so she wouldn’t miss anything important. From learning about Vami’s past to learning about the… mishaps of the second trial, the captain was thoughtful and the quietest she had been since she had gotten there. It was a lot to take in, not that the tribe didn’t have their own hands full with the sudden ceremony they had to put together.

Laria’s question only made Runali stop in her tracks. She looked back where the hut had been and then up to the sky to see a few stars peering through the trees. After a few moments, Runali gave Laria a sincere look. “The distrust is how you all have kept yourself protected. It’s how you’ve stayed safe this far… But if you make every outsider your enemy, there’ll be a world of things you’ll never get to see and discover.” There was a wanderlust in her eye as she laughed. “If I had stayed home, I would’ve never met my crew- let alone Luro and all his eccentrics. But, honestly madame chief,” Runali gave a small shrug. “I’m not here to change your minds or your traditions. I’m here because I’m doing this for Luro. We both know he’d sooner do what he wanted than follow rules but this is important to him, so this is important to me.” With an affirmative nod, she added. “So if that means I have to go through trials to prove how important he is to me, then there’s no way I’m gonna say no. Fair or not miss Laria, I don’t plan on failing.”

The woman was silent for a long moment at Runali’s words, she kept her pace but it was clear she was listening to the young lady behind her, she only came to a stop at the mention of her intentions, the woman didn’t turn for a moment but her shoulders seem to lower slightly as an invisible tenseness left her.
“....you sound like that old bat,” Laria said with a defeated sigh. “She made the Drifters to find those discoveries.”
Probably the first sign of true emotion that came from the woman.
“...perhaps you being here for him is a good thing. Even I’m tired of our politics at this point. If more people like you are the next generation...maybe more will get done. That simple desire to do something for someone else...it shouldn’t be forgotten.”
With that said the woman turned around to face Runali.
“If you go in with those feelings you should be fine then. She’s ready Nuli.”
Laria’s spoke to the woods and Nuli walked into the light of the lantern with a small smile.
“Thank you Laria.”
The woman turned and walked away without a response, Nuli watched her fade further down the path and smiled.
“She won’t show it but she was worried. I think she likes you. Apparently she and my grandmother got into all kinds of trouble when they were younger. You might remind her of her younger days.”

Nuli started digging into her scarf looking for something.
“The second ritual essentially sends you to what you could consider the spirit world, or rather your consciousness goes. It’ll feel strange but you’ll naturally form your own body once you cross over, you’ll just feel...lighter, I won’t go into the how, ask the spirit if you desire as they’ll explain it far better than I. If you die there then you’ll end up like those in the hut so be careful.”

Nuli looked up at Runali as if to illustrate this point before going back to her scarf.
“The good news is that there is always a spirit guide to aid you. I don’t know who the aid will be, Luro had one when he went but won’t tell me who it was, or doesn’t remember.”
Seeming to find what she was looking for she smiled and pulled out a small pouch.
“The bad news is that there are ‘evil’ spirits there who will try to consume you. Thus trying to ‘kill’ you, the world itself betrays normal explanation, trust in your guide and yourself. When you're ready close your eyes.”

“Nice… chatting with you too, miss chief.” Runali waved even though Laria walked off and then looked over at Nuli. “Either you guys really get around or this forest is just a maze that goes back to your tribe. Either way, saves me a lot of getting lost.” She straightened up as Nuli began to talk about the next trial. There was a moment of hesitation, not because she didn’t want to do it, but because she realized she was once again getting dangerously close to dealing with spirits again. “I’ve… met my fair share of those I think- the evil spirits.” For a moment, Runali wondered if that cat Jones stuck in her would be her guide. Part of her hoped not, but maybe the familiarity would be nice. Instead of debating it Runali gave a thumbs up. “You’re in luck Madame Chief because the one rule I’ve given to my crew is to not die, so of course I will do my best to follow suit.” She took a deep breath and shook out her hands. “Alright, here goes nothing. Spirit realms, guides, possible evil spirits, don’t die. Got it. Easy peasy. I can do this.” Then, Runali shut her eyes, waiting to see what happened next.

“A good rule. All right I’ll put my worries aside then. Good luck on the other side.”
Something akin to dust hit Runali’s in the face, though immediately after it felt like water had enveloped her all around, a strange foreign scent filled the air even though the feeling of the sea surrounded her sweeping her off her feet. Only darkness met her eyes if she opened them and in the next moment, as if the world blinked she was set onto a large grassy field surrounded on all sides by forest, a bright blue sky stretching endlessly above, red clouds slowly drifting by as a bright blue sun shone above.
Perhaps because of the strange transition the ‘ritual’ had placed her on her back within the grand field, there was a gentle breeze and wherever this was it seemed to be spring at the very least.

Within what could be considered a few seconds of her arrival footsteps were already near her.
“Ah it seems you made it. In a way I expected this but it was very soon...”
The voice put words into the front of her thoughts similar to the huntress, though unlike before there was this invisible feeling as if the owner of the words was trying to find their voice.
A figure leaned directly over Runali peering down at her, perhaps due to the sudden shift in consciousness the visage of the person didn’t come through immediately, but the blurry image made no attempt to attack her and no malicious present came from them.
It’s nice to see you.”
The voice managed to break through and belonged to a woman, who reaching up moved a strand of red hair behind her ear as a familiar visage, who bore a kind smile came clearly into view.
“Future Sister-in-law.”




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Lina Makachi, the sister of Luro Makachi stared down at Runali with a curious expression, the red haired woman’s brows arched as she eyed Runali. She raised a hand waving it in front of the Captain’s face as if checking to see if she was really there. She was garbed in the clothes she had been seen in last, the numerous pistols still adorned across her body, though there seemed to be slight modifications with the top half resembling a blouse a bit more, the bottom half of her outfit still consisted of her pants and her half-skirt, which still made noise as she shifted her footing from one boot to another.
She smelled of gunpowder and rum similar to her brother, though more gunpowder than rum.

When Runali’s vision started to clear, she gave a wide eyed stare at Lina for a few moments before immediately covering her face with her hands. “Give me a second, let me process.” She held a finger up for Lina to wait but it only lasted for a second before Runali was standing on her feet. “Okay. Okay, okay okay.” She seemed a little rattled about seeing Luro’s sister, but it could have also just been the fact that she was once again in some form of undead territory. Runali rocked on her feet, first left then right, to test her balance and then pushed her hair out of her face to make sure she was seeing everything clearly. “Sky’s not the same. Still in a forest of sorts.”

With a deep breath, she finally turned to Lina. “It’s nice to see you again too. Though, I will admit, you were not the guide I expected. But… you are who I think you are right? Or are you just a” Her hand vaguely waved. “Random spirit that wanted to look familiar? No offense if you are, I don’t know how this works- if you couldn’t already guess by,” This time when she gestured, it was at herself.

Lina raised her body straightening it but offered a small nod to her folding her hands behind her back. She watched as Runali found her bearings, casually reaching up to adjust one of her pistols as she patiently waited, when she was addressed she lowered her arms back to her sides and looked back at Runali.
“As always your adaptation is impressive as usual Runali,” Lina said with a smile. “Hopefully I can just address you by name now seeing as we’re practically family.”
Pointing behind her she started to walk.
“Let’s walk and talk, staying in one spot too long draws attention.”

Lina started walking towards the forest though as the two walked it never necessarily grew closer, though the clouds drifted by as usual the land itself seemed to stretch on, the forest always just a bit further into the distance without changing.
“For your question...that’s hard to answer. I’m Lina...but I’m not Lina. By all means my soul is on Jones ship going through the cycle of reincarnation. I look forward to telling Brother I’ll be the older one next time at this rate after all,” Lina said this with a chuckle before continuing. “So I believe it’s the rule of this world. I participated in this trial as well thus I’ve been here, anything that passes through here leaves what could be considered and Echo.”
Lina stopped and turning gestured at herself.
“That’s what I am. That was years ago however long before brother proposed but somehow new memories filtered in giving me more information...thus I’m aware what Stardusk has been up too. There is an echo of brother and now that you’ve been here one of you.”
With that she turned back around.
“I carry my own emotions and my memories and experiences are still there so if it’s easier you can just consider me Lina, even though I’m not the actual one. I’ll leave it up to you.”
Lina continued walking at this.
“That being said I was chosen as your guide for some reason….I mean brother came through here I wondered why he wasn’t-”
Lina stopped and brought a hand to her head.
“Never mind I answered my own question. Brother has horrible sense of direction, the last thing he can be is a guide.”
She turned fully back to Runali.
“I was given a mess of information out of nowhere that apparently pertains to you by the ‘powers that be’ it seems.”
Lina said this waving her hands slightly with a bit of fake dramatic.
“So I know how to help you pass this trial, though there are plenty here who’d prefer you stay my job is to help you find your way out of here and help you deal with anything that wants you to stay, speaking of…”
Lina held her hand out palm upwards before Runali’s weapons manifested, she held them out to her.
“Here, more weapons the better right? Armament should work the same as well but take a moment to get a feel for it, I don’t sense any maliciousness yet so we’re safe for now. I’m here for questions if you have any.”

“Important part of being a captain is being able to adapt to everything- well, almost everything.” Her response was near instant, as if she had recited constantly. “It’s also just a good test of resolve. But by all means, you can call me by name, I don’t mind.” Runali began to follow Lina, taking note of their surroundings but trying not to think too hard about the impossibility of it all. Everything was possible in death, she presumed.

“I see…” Runali started after the explanation. And then she couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s very good to know, although I simply wanted to make sure you weren’t an imposter-” She made a face, “Or the Imposter... before following you around. Though, you’re definitely Lina if you know I’d be here much longer with Luro as a guide.” Being handed her chakram made her realize she hadn’t even thought about actually needing them all the while she had been in the tribe. She tested their weight, tossing them in the air just high enough so it would fall back into her hand and then she tested her armament letting it go only up to her wrists before she let it disappear. “Suppose we can’t be too careful.”

“So what are you guiding me to anyway? What’s the goal? And more importantly why would other spirits wanna stop me?” There was a moment’s breath before she also added. “If we do get into a fight, do you get injured? I know that if I do there’d be consequences, but what about you? The ‘powers that be’ tossed this on you, do you even want to be a guide?”

“That is true...haha though I’m no longer a Captain so I can’t completely relate,” Lina said with a smile.
At the mention of Imposter a heavy sigh escaped from the woman and she rubbed the back of her neck, she seemed to tense a bit at the name itself, but smiled glad she was trusted at least.
“That was a good move, I don’t know about that one personally. Haven’t encountered him here so he must still be in brother, or rather that’s what my memories tell me.”
Her eyes narrowed a bit but a sigh escaped from her.
“Yeah can’t be too careful, I don’t have all the answers but I at least know what problems we will have to deal with. Trickster may be one of them.”

After pointing in a direction to go she walked alongside Runali, adjusting the gloves on her hands checking her own armament, at Runali’s question her brow arched as she looked over at her. Bringing a hand to her chin she took in her questions, she seemed to find an answer in the small pause but waited sensing there was more and the ones that followed admittedly surprised her, though a small smile rested on her face as she listened to them.
“Answering the first questions….The objective is merely for you to get out of here. This seems to be a trial to test the strength of your spirit, or rather conviction if you wanna put it another way. The spirit’s may bless you but without determination nothing will follow, something along those lines.”
Lina offered a shrug as she wasn’t a great spirit herself so speaking for them was the most she could do.
“We’re looking for a manifestation of your will. You want to leave or rather succeed so in some form or manner an object will manifest to grant that wish. We just have to find it before the others do, once you get a hold of it a ‘door’ will manifest.”
Lina said with a wave of her hand.
“A literal one. Your consciousness will make sense what doesn’t in this place, you’ll change what the natural object is into something you recognize...which will be a door, you open it then go through. This field for example is also from your recognition.”
Lina said this pointing at the ground.
“This grass isn’t grass, but it appears that way to you because that’s what you're familiar with and since I’m looking through your ‘gaze’ I can see it.”

Lina realized she was droning on about the particulars of the world and shook her head.
“Anyway it’s all perception, we’re looking for an object that will open the way out, it’ll stand out here. It may not seem the world is moving but I assure you we’re making more progress than it seems.”

Just as Lina was about to answer the other question, she stopped and held her hand out, a putrid scent filled the air and it suddenly grew colder. The grass straight ahead of them wilted into a dull brown as a black ooze rose out of the ground, the strange liquid rose up into a strange blob, low groans escaping from it before the strange inky material took a human shape.
It’s skin was paler than a normal one, and black lines ran along it’s flesh and up it’s face, it’s sclera were pitch black and it’s gaze shot over to Runali as its pained groans suddenly grew louder, more aggressive.
Upon closer observation it looked like Laria’s son.
Before the creature could take a step forward a gunshot rang out, a bullet piercing it’s head. A low moan escaped the creature before it fell backwards, dissipating into black mist and fading away.
Lina lowered her smoking gun returning it to her waist.
“Corrupt Echoes or corrupted as I call them,” Lina said. “People who failed this particular trial and have nowhere to go. Without their own consciousness they’re naturally drawn to ones that come in here with their own, seeking out what they don’t have believing they’ll get it back if they seek yours. That’s not the case though, if they get a clean killing blow on you that’s it.”
Lina sighed a bit resting her hands on her hips.
“Not all spirits are kind, some want to see the downfall of others. They’ve trapped these ones in here and if they find a live one send Corrupted after them, if they don’t find us themselves. There’s generations of them roaming about so they’re basically endless, only one found us though so we got lucky.”

Lina continued walking as the grass returned to its natural green state now that the entity was fully gone.
“For the latter questions...I believe I can get injured. If they land a clean lethal blow I’ll more than likely disappear. I wasn’t given a clear answer on it cause I didn’t ask,” Lina said this smiling a little. “I made my choices and I don’t regret them...especially seeing what came of them. Brother smiles so much more naturally now...when I was told you were coming and the danger you were in I agreed without asking too many questions thus I’m not sure what will happen to me.”
She looked over at Runali with a small chuckle.
“Though I try to be the more thoughtful of the two of us nowadays...I am still a Makachi. We do jump into things based off feeling’s alone. So I can say I don’t mind being your guide.”
Lina focused her attention forward.
“I’m not honestly sure how long I’ve been here after all. I just woke up and have been wandering to and fro really, on occasion the spirits speak to me but aside from that I’ve just been sailing and trying to find a way to save the corrupted. If I can help someone not end up like them that works out well enough for me.”

With a shrug Lina stopped as another Corrupted manifested ahead, she noticed two more appear behind them, with a sigh she drew the pistol from her belt.
“In their current state there’s no helping them, they’ll always remanifest again so don’t feel too guilty on slitting their throats, it’s best to kill them before they ‘evolve’ so to say. It’d probably be good to get used to moving in your current form so I’ll leave the two behind you to you.”

“You are certainly a Makachi.” Runali commented in kind. “Shoot first, ask questions later I see- or in Luro’s case, let everyone else ask questions. But! Good to know, I’ll make sure we both get outta… here.” Runali’s attention turned to the corrupted thing in front of them, at least the ones that reappeared after the first gunshot. “Right…” Even though she was left to face off with the two that manifested behind her, Runali hesitated. She reached for her chakram but remained unready to attack. “Lina… As much as I want to get outta here- and I’m gonna…” Runali stole a glance at her with a look of seriousness. “Do you think there’s time to save one of them?” After seeing what had come of them in the waking realm, it was hard not to at least try. “The one you shot before, I saw him. He’s… well, he’s still alive.” She frowned a bit. “To lose family is… hard enough. But to watch them suffer-”

The corrupted started to attack and she dodged out of the way. Runali found her footing and her speed as she moved, keeping an eye out as they turned away from Lina and towards her. “I know it’s not my responsibility,” She yelled as she tossed a chakram straight through one that leapt at her. “But who wouldn’t try to help if they could!” The entire time she spoke, she was dodging the corrupted, opting to stay on defensive until there was a clear enough opening to toss her chakram again and finally cut through the second.

“Also,” Runali fell in step beside Lina. “If it’s not a literal door that we’re looking for- well, looking for at first… maybe look for a fancy crown.” A light and almost embarrassed laugh followed. “If this place is going off my… livelihood, I’m almost certain my will is still, uh, pirate shaped.” She drew a crown in the air with her finger. “Just a hunch though, it could be something from back home. It would be wild if it was my entire ship! Hopefully they haven’t gotten into too much trouble while I’ve been out...”

Lina dodged one of the corrupted attacks causing her to move out of the way, she started to go for a shot when it quickly changed directions moving away from her. Narrowing her eyes she went to line up a shot again, this one had apparently been a warrior, it knew how to fight.
Her gaze moved to Runali at her suggestion and Lina’s eyebrows lowered slightly, Runali’s concern in itself concerned her but in the end she smiled as she spoke to her.
“No I like that side of you too, it’s not a bad trait if not a little concerning,” Lina said. “They’re just echoes of their former selves. I don’t really have time to explain the whole thing to you but-”

Lina cut herself off ducking under a corrupted before kicking them away, the creature sliding back as claws formed on it’s hand.
“Think of the conscience as two separate halves. What’s done to these ones won’t affect the people in the real world because the connection has been ‘cut’, you however are still connected to your physical form, they want to ‘link’ back up with their bodies thus why they want you, they’re chasing that ‘link’. That missing ‘link’ between themselves and their bodies is why they manifest like this, they’re just mimicking what they were.”
Lina raised her gun as the creature jump and shot it through the skull, taking a step back as body hit the ground and dissipated.
“Finding a way to reconnect them is my job, you just focus on getting through this trial. Though that humanity of yours is probably why they sent me help in the first place, so your concern isn’t a bad thing.”

When Runali moved next to her she pulled out her other pistol and chuckled a bit.
“That’s adorable but okay if I have an idea that’ll make it easier to find,” Lina said. “I’m sure your crew is okay. One of the main troublemakers isn’t around after all. Now-”
Lina turned and fired a shot nailing the creature in it’s leg, the creature stumbled and Lina went to reload her pistol as it tried to recover.
“I leave the final blow to you. I am just a guide after all.”

“Well, no need to take forever.” The creature hoisted itself back up only for its leg to be kicked from under it and have a chakram sliced through its neck. “Wait, did you just call me adorable?” Before Lina could answer, Runali shook her head. “Oh Lina, your first mistake is to think the entire crew isn’t a buncha troublemakers. Don’t believe them if they say they aren’t.” She crouched down where the creature had once been and sighed. “But, I hear ya. Can’t do everything… Well, I could try but I’ve got a ceremony to finish and all.” She stood to her feet. “If I don’t then the Drifters will have to disband! I’ll be banned! They’ll try to stop me from seeing Luro! Because I’d be banned!” Runali spoke, flailing her arms in exasperation, walking in a direction she felt was right.

“Respectfully! It’s a dumb rule and I can’t let that happen!” Runali quieted down after she got that out of her system. “Respectfully of course, please don’t tell them I said that rule was dumb. Vami already looks as if he’d much rather skewer me.” She looked up to the sky and flinched slightly. “No hard feelings to the spirits either…?” Before she could dwell on it too much, she pointed forward. “Anyway! While we’re wandering…” Her hands went behind her back. “If you don’t mind me asking… why’d you go through these trials? Or, I s’pose, who’d you do them for?”

Lina averted her eyes at Runali’s first question though at her comment of her crew Lina smiled and held up a finger.
“One,” of them. Expecting pirates can’t cause trouble is just silly.”
She chuckled a little and offered a shrug.
“I think that doctor is pretty high on the list myself. I already owe her two rounds for taking care of Brother. May as well add a third for being a troublemaker.”
Lina followed after Runali offering a small nod in response to her words, the smile on her face vanished at the mention of the banishment, she wasn’t a huge fan of it herself but her voice wasn’t going to make it to them unfortunately.

“Hahaha seems you were holding that one in,” Lina said resting her hands on her hips. “Nah you’re right...I don’t like it myself but at least you respectfully don’t like it, I plain don’t like it. Also don’t worry about the spirits, some of them don’t like it either and the ones who do...well the huntress is keeping them in line so they’re not going to strike you down anytime soon.”
She offered a nod in agreement before walking alongside Runali, this was a world with manifestations from her subconscious, her instincts were better than Lina’s guesses.

At her question of her own trial she arched a brow and her gaze went to the sky for a moment, she folded her hands behind her head like a certain Carpenter and shut her eyes, putting on the ‘Makachi thinking face’ before lowering her arms.
“While I was a travelling I sought Brother’s father. I wanted to meet him, the one mother had fallen for and well...he didn’t disappoint.”
Lina crossed her arms at this smiling a little.
“Apparently our mother’s letters stopped after Luro was born, she let him know he had a son and that was the end of it. Brother had spoken of me so he knew of my existence but didn’t expect us to ever meet, heck running into Brother was a coincidence.”
With a small shrug Lina continued.
“The moment I introduced myself he asked me to join his tribe. Said he wanted me to be family.”
Lina laughed a little at this waving a hand in front of her face.
“He didn’t try to replace my own father even knowing our history, he didn’t ask me anything I didn’t want to share, he was considerate from beginning to end. He asked me simply if he could call me family. I was so taken aback I just agreed, next thing I knew I was going through the trials. I had been hesitant at first but once we got started I found myself pulled in.”
Lina gaze moved to the ground, her eyelids lowering slightly as a sad smile crossed her face, she gripped her arms a bit.
“...Brother and I were so far apart after all. I wanted something to feel just a little closer. I didn’t dislike Malas either and well…having a place to go back to was nice. Thus I participated, passed and earned the name Makachi.”
Lina’s eyes narrowed a bit.
“We threw away our last names and brother took the name Makachi from the tribe, given to him by Malas, granted he didn’t take these trials until much later when he left to grieve, he earned his name through something else….still we shared something, even though we were miles away in a way I felt closer to him….and I had hoped we’d one day return back to the tribe together….but well that was a bit too hopeful. Malas wept for me with Luro...I couldn’t ask anything more of a man who could have had nothing to do with me and I wouldn’t have blamed him at all.”

Lina rested her hands back on her hips looking back at Runali.
“Still thanks to that a piece of me remains here to offer guidance….though now that I think about it...this was the first time I had an extended conversation with the Great Spirits, it’s generally just requests or messages...I really should have asked them what happens if I’m killed by these things...or well...anything else. Wasted opportunity.”
Lina sighed a little at her hindsight.
“Oh well, relying purely on the answers of others isn’t my style. Anyway that’s my story, I came here on a whim, was treated like family, and joined the Drifters.”
Lina rolled up her right sleeve and past a few tattoo’s was the symbol of the Drifter, she chuckled a little and lowered her sleeve back.
She started to comment when the path ahead of them suddenly shifted, a field of bright white flowers forming past the grassy plain, suddenly shifting as if an invisible line had been drawn.
“...I’d say your crown is nearby...good instincts Runali,” Lina said. “....I didn’t pick up my brother’s lack of direction when I died did I? I do remember relying on Mia for navigation while I was alive sometimes…”

"I see…" While Lina spoke, Runali's gaze had been forward, but towards the end she smiled and looked towards her. "Luro is pretty convincing, hm? Hah, but then again I met Malas and agreed to the ceremony all in one spur of the time. Can't say I didn’t get excited about the idea… y'know to learn about the different past, well, lives he's had. Or places he's lived." The tattoo piqued her interest enough to stop and look until it was hidden once more. With a sigh, Runali carried on. "In a different life, I wish we could have gotten to know each other more." It felt solemn as she spoke. There was no breeze but the flowers that appeared wavered as if responding to the shift in her emotion. The sudden heaviness didn't last too long though because Runali picked up her pace just a little and moved forward. "But who's to say you can't ask them now? I mean, what better time to ask when you have all the time in the world? Hah! When I get there, I plan to bother Jones endlessly. Torment him until he has no choice but to throw me off into the next life." It was hard to tell if she was joking or not and her laugh didn't help either.

When she finally noticed the path shift, she started to look at her surroundings more making sure she was going the right way. "Oh you know, after getting lost so many times, I picked up a few things from my navigator." While it was true, she didn't have the heart to tell her she was only barely paying attention to which way the path took. "But who knows, Luro might have been contagious. Or, maybe you took the captain-ly approach and let the crew do what they do best. No need to know everything when your crew is right there! Heh, well until your crew demands you learn at least the basics so you don't end up stranded somewhere."

She tossed her chakram in the air as they followed the never ending path until she decided to pick one of the flowers. "Should we expect it to be difficult the moment we find it?" She pointed ahead to nothing in particular. "Like more creatures hovering about?"

“Haha it’s a different kind of charisma but there all the same,” Lina said in agreement. “Still I’m glad you came here.”
Lina went silent as she spoke of the lives Luro Makachi had, she closed her eyes understanding where Runali was coming from. While a Raven she wanted to see the life Luro had lead while roaming about, the places he went too, the people he met. She understood it all too well.
“Yeah...I get that…” she said almost to herself.
Her gaze moved over to Runali as she spoke again, her eyes widening a little at the Captain’s words.
“....I would have liked that too,” she responded simply.
Thankfully the small moment moved on quickly and Lina laughed a little at Runali’s suggestion, it wouldn’t be surprising if Jones just got tired of her and sped up her process.
“You’re quite right. I really should pester them more. I got plenty of time after all and I look forward to witnessing that myself. Hell I’m sure I’ll join you in it.”

It took Lina a moment to recover from her mini crisis before a weak chuckle escaped from her.
“I tried to be responsible...but I did rely on Mia for some stuff…” she said.
Her attention focused forward again at the mention of more of the Corrupted.
“Hmmm...they may be drawn to it...but it’ll be hard for them to manifest within this space. This place carries a lot of your presence but that means it’s less connected to the natural state of the world. They may come at us from the outside, but manifesting inside will be impossible.”
She stepped into the flowery domain and a sudden warmth filled her, it almost made her stop but she just cleared her throat and continued forward. To Lina at least it felt like a gentle embrace, an oddly familiar one and she had to shut her eyes to push back the emotions welling up in her as she continued forward.
The two didn’t walk for very long before coming across something, a single stump sitting in the center of the field, and on that stump was a familiar redheaded man currently inspecting the crown in his hand.
Lina came to an abrupt stop at the presence, her eyes widening as Luro sat just ahead of them trying to make heads or tails of the crown.
“Brother…” Lina’s voice came in a whisper before a wide smile adorned her face. “Brother!”

Lina sprinted forward towards Luro who turned to look at her, the moment their eyes met Lina’s eyes twitched and she immediately leapt backwards returning to Runali’s side before holding her arm out in front of her.
The former Captain’s hand trembled slightly and her other hand went to the pistol on her waist.
“...no.”
Her voice came quiet and Luro stood up from the stump holding the crown in both hands.
“....I knew it was a possibility...but I didn’t want to believe it. Of course that’s the case. If brother has an Echo...then of course ‘he’ does too.”
A wide grin formed on the face of ‘Luro’, as his eyes peered at the two of them, the bright light that normally resided in them was greatly diminished, and the childlike grin that normally accompanied him was now replaced with a smirk coated in sadism.
“Ha...hahaha...hahahahaha! Hahahahahahaha!”
“Imposter….”

“Runali Lev!” Imposter said throwing his arms out. “How much trouble Luro went through to make sure we never meet, and you come to me yourself!”
Imposter laughed, his voice akin to the ‘old’ Luro, and his laugh echoed all around them as he pointed at the two women.
“This is our first meeting without the filter isn’t it?”
His voice wasn’t Luro’s but was at the same time it was. Something in it resembled human but it created the feeling it was fake, like staring at an old friend after years apart, trying to work out the differences and similarities and finding more of the former than latter.
“It’s nice to meet you again. My name is...well just call me Imposter. Now let’s just get rid of this.”
Imposter snapped the crown in his hand in half causing Lina’s eyes to widen, the flowers all around them immediately wilted as the laughter of a madman echoed from Imposter as he threw the pieces aside, coated in lunacy and a dreadful joy.
“Oh now isn’t that a shame. Guess we’re stuck here together. Well we have to talk anyway.”
“Impossible…” Lina muttered. “Breaking that...shouldn’t be possible.”
Imposter stared at Runali tilting his head slightly as he grinned at her.
“Ah I should call you Captain in this body right? Sorry I forgot all the weird rules ya know...since I don’t have to follow too many here. Now I’m sure we have plenty to say to each other...considering our history. I gotta lot to say so why don’t you just go first.

"Do you think,"

Whatever she originally planned to say was long gone the moment she saw Luro. Unlike Lina, her first reaction was confusion. After all, why would he show up unless he was worried? Or unless something went…

"Ah, that's… yeah. That makes more sense unfortunately." She spoke under her breath as she processed the fact that Imposter was standing in front of her. Runali liked nothing about the Imposter and the more he spoke, the more she disliked him. But, Runali gently moved Lina's hand and took a small step forward. "I won't lie and say I share the same sentiment… Captain is what I'd rather you call me, yes. But you don't seem like a… creature that likes to follow rules anyway." Runali looked at the crown now in two and then at the flowers around them. "I guess we will have to talk…" Her balled up fists betrayed her calm tone. She was in a foreign place with a small grasp of how the world worked and she was trying her damndest not to follow the tradition of strike first, question later. Plus, she knew Imposter was dangerous but she was hoping she'd never have to test how strong.

"I will grant you that talk," She took a breath and gestured towards the crown. "But whether you like it or not, I will be getting out of here." 'Impossible' rang in her head, but she shoved it aside. "This isn't really an adapting thing but… I've seen impossible Lina. This feels more like possible." She wasn’t sure if Imposter could hear her quick comment to her but she carried on addressing him.
"And believe it or not, I don't have that many questions for you and the ones I do have, I'm sure you could guess. But I'll ask anyway just to move this along." The captain looked over at Lina and her brow furrowed for a moment. "Before that though," She turned back to Imposter. "your business is with me and not Lina, correct?"

When she got her answer, she simply nodded and put her hands behind her back. "Then answer this- and if you don't mind, please spare me the… prose. Why are you hellbent on killing me? Why'd you choose Luro to torment? You're a creature that's lived far too long, with far too much time on their hands, you don't get bored playing whatever game it is you do?"

“Haha you are correct in that Runali and my thanks for being so courteous to my request.”
Imposter response to Runali escaping caused the smile on his face to grow just a few inches wider, his eyelids lowering slightly. He made no particular comment, but the amusement on his face wasn’t hidden in any aspect, and that smile turned into a small grin at the idea of ‘possibility’.
Lina was trying to hold in her disgust at seeing her brother like this but offered a small nod to Runali, the moment you relented that’s when you lost, she knew that all too well.

He offered a shrug to the idea of knowing her questions but at her question of Lina’s fate he glanced over at his ‘sister’.
“It is about you but since I know she’ll dislike being killed by her brother again I’m going to kill her anyway.”
The casual remark caused Lina’s hand to wrap around her pistol’s handle.
“Aww I like the prose though,” Imposter said with a small pout. “Also you were right...those are the questions I guessed, minus that last one.”
Imposter ran a hand through his hair and motioned to Runali.

“Spare you the prose right? Then to put it simply. I don’t really need a reason to kill you, humans need reasons to do things. I want to so I’m going too, putting a reason on something gives it significance, I want your death like I want a bottle of rum at the tavern, an everyday desire that just comes naturally.”
He folded his hands behind his head towards the second question.
“Eh I got free time.” That was the response he gave to the countless pain and suffering he had brought upon Luro Makachi, without an ounce of shame with a casual expression.
At the final question he offered a shrug.
“It’s cause I’ve lived so long I do these things. I take pleasure in the suffering of others, even myself. I could be considered a horrible, contradictory creature. Anyway there you go, minimalist answers.”

With the questions answered Imposter clapped his hands together causing Lina to tense up.
“All right my question, first let’s set the atmosphere.”
Black smoke exploded out of Imposter and passed over the two, Lina held her hands up, her eyes narrowing as she tried to peer through the sudden smog with no luck, hearing Imposter’s laughter all around her didn’t help. The smoke eventually passed them and Lina looked down noticing the two were now surrounded by black fog that went up a little pass their ankles, completely hiding the ground they were standing on. The tree’s foliage in the distance had all but withered leaving only bare tree branches, the bright blue sky had shifted into a bright crimson, a singular amethyst moon hanging high in the sky, with what appeared to be dead leaves hanging off the floating creation akin to a dead willow tree, the black leaves stained parts of the red sky creating a trail of dark liquid that fell to the distant ground below. A great chill had filled the area as if the two had been transported back to Yakone, and every now and then it felt like slim fingers traced along skin, almost trying to cut it with sharpened nails.
Nothing remained around them but death, themselves and the person who had created it.
“All right let’s-”
Imposter cut himself off and looked up at the moon, the moment he did Lina fired up a shot at him, the black smoke shot up blocking the bullet before lowering again causing her to click her tongue.
“Hold on a sec I’ll get to you,” Imposter said holding a hand up to the two. “Just one moon...where are the others? Ah those damn great spirits are interfering aren’t they. Thought I blocked this spot off from them.”
Imposter lowered his gaze to his hands and opened and closed them.
“...yeah I’m not all there yet. That’s unfortunate. Still enough to kill a human but now I can’t play as long. Damn I really wanted to tear you apart slowly, piece by piece ya know. Gods ruining my fun again.”
Imposter looked back at the two and clapped his hands together.
“Anyway so Runali again without the prose. I’m going to kill you, take your body, kill your friends and drive Luro fully insane just cause well...I can and it’ll be on my way out anyway. I mean they’re loyal to you and would follow you anywhere so that’s easy. Then I’ll go off and I don’t know...just keep killing haven’t finalized the plan yet just kind of rolling with it.”
With a chuckle Imposter continued.
“With that said-”
Imposter snapped his fingers and black globs rose up behind him, Corrupted rising out of the ground in droves forming a row of black behind the man, Lina’s eyes widened at the fact he managed to actually form Corruption but taking a look around it was clear this place was no longer Runali’s, of course nothing would stop them from rising up now.
“Kill the redhead but capture Runali. I want to watch the life leave her eyes up close and personal, feel free to rip off an arm or leg that’s fine.”
The corrupted creatures screamed before rushing past Imposter, Lina eyes narrowed as she prepared for the fight ahead of them, they were coming in steady row’s but that was still at least ten from the get go with a countless continually forming number behind him
“Oh right my question sorry, my question is what last words do you want me to deliver to your fiance?!”
Imposter laughed pointing at the two women as Lina drew her pistols and immediately started firing.

"Oh come on, that can't possibly be the only reason." The way she spoke was almost challenging despite what the two were now up against. "It's more than just because you can. I know obsession when I see it!" There was probably a rule against taunting spirits out there, but she figured taunting this one was an exception. "Nothing and no one in this world has obsessed as much about killing me as you have. I wish I could be flattered but you're such an awful thing."

She took a step backwards as the creature's began to charge, but she stayed close to Lina. "If the gods are stopping him, I'd hope we only need to stall until they realize what's happening. But I'm not one to wait for divine intervention so the only way to get this to stop is to…" Her one eye flicked over to Imposter again before he disappeared. She wasn’t sure if he could be killed but she was also still staring at Luro's face. The confliction rose and fell, but in the end she knew that wasn't Luro.
"Ah, wait. Lina, this still is my world yes? Meaning…" She began to pat herself down, sifting through her pockets and clothes and sure enough found a single pair of gloves. "...Luro has randomly stashed things on me countless times so I'm sure he'd stash the gloves at some point." And even if he never did, it was enough for her to manifest one of her favorite weapons. "There's still gotta be some way out of here yeah? You said it was based on my will right? And I'm still kicking so that means we're not down and out yet." She put one of the gloves on and ripped one of the chakram off her belt.

"One thing I can always count on Luro for," The infused haki went into her blade and caught fire just as she hurled it down the row of corrupted. "Making the coolest weapons." She handed Lina the other half of the set. "Haki based! Just do what I do to get the fire going and then do as you do!" Fortunately her 'world' would grant her the ease of use because there wasn't much time for detailed explanations. She pulled the second chakram as she caught the first and muttered, "Huntress, I… really hope this isn't the Trickster you spoke of. Feels kinda inherently evil to me." She took a deep breath, giving up on trying to search for Imposter in the dark.

With flame in her hand a fire of determination in her body she belted out as loud as she could. "My name is Runali Lev and there's no way this is where I die! And if you want me dead, you face me yourself!" She huffed and took another breath, falling in step with Lina, tossing a chakram to an oncoming attack. "Call it what you will, but I've never been the best at sharing… so when you mentioned this weird... dreamscape being mine, did the spirits ever mention anything about keeping it that way?"

“My feelings! Runali that’s so harsh! Give me more of that! Ah this sensation! This familiar burning hatred! Just like on the island! Hahahahahaha!”
“I mean they left me to deal with this so yeah maybe divine intervention isn’t-” Lina cut herself off at Runali’s question but offered a nod to her. “Aw that means he trusts you, but what did he stash-”
When the glove was tossed she caught it and turned it over in her grip taking in Runali’s advice, the moment she slipped it on her eyes widened slightly. She wasn’t sure if it was the same thing that gave her memories up to this point but for some odd reason, the glove felt almost natural.
“I’ll pass those last rebellious words onto him!” Imposter yelled as he motioned towards the two. “He’ll know you fought needlessly until the very end!”
Lina snapped her fingers and fire circle around the glove before circling up her arm as the creature Runali attacked faded into mist.
“My job is to avoid chaos enveloping this place and to act as a guide to wandering souls….I suppose in a vague way they did. I doubt they saw this coming though.”

With a grin the flames rotating around her arm flashed brightly and with a chuckle she held her arm out.
“You’re right though, you’re still kicking and even if they didn’t I’m still going to make sure it remains yours!”
More creatures rushed towards the two and making a sweep of her arm multiple flaming orbs hovered in front of Lina, the sphere’s of fire glowed bright before throwing out a barrage of mini orbs, the mini globes crashed into the ground and creatures exploding and decimating everything in their path as they detonated on contact. Mini explosions filled the space between them as Lina prepared more fire around her glove.
“My name is Lina Makachi! I won’t let you take away my Brother’s hope!” Lina proclaimed at the grinning creature.
Lina leapt back dodging a strike at her and hurled a ball of fire into the sky, shooting the approaching creature with her pistol before landing. Jumping back a bit more she held her hand out causing the ball to stop and grow in size becoming a miniature sun.
“Runali don’t stand near it!”
The sphere started to quickly rotate spewing flame in all directions, filing the area with a constant blaze, creating an inferno within the area as fire flared all around them.
“I’m actually a little mad brother didn’t finish these when I was alive. I’m jealous you guys get to use them!”

Lina slammed her hand into the ground gathering all the flames that hit the ground into one spot and with a loud yell slammed her foot down and hurled them forward, creating a blazing hurricane that drew in all the corrupted creatures unfortunate enough to be anywhere near it.
“...okay now that’s cheating,” Imposter said putting his hand on his hips. “How does this guy manage to make my day worse by not even being here.”
The fog protected Imposter from the flames, and though he complained a grin still rested on his face as his creatures were dispatched in front of him.


“I do not hate many things, but I do hate that creature.” Runali remembered the last miniature sun that was made with the gloves and detoured backwards Lina. “Consider it a gift then! From me to you!” She watched as the creatures that remained, and the ones Imposter created continued after them. “You’ve got a good handle on one. Ha, when we’re done with this you can have the other too!” Runali narrowed her eyes as she spotted an opening towards the Imposter. “Keep these things busy, I’m gonna go for the source.”
Runali ran towards the creatures, ducking and dodging through them as they tried to swipe or grab her. “For someone that’s hellbent on killing me,” Runali stopped just before the fog and placed a hand in front of her. She watched as the fire created another wall around the fog and then began to trail around it to engulf Imposter inside. “You’re doing a terrible job at it.” She kept her guard up, sure that he’d have some trick up his sleeve, but she didn’t have time to stick around. Now it was time to find their way out. “What is it? Lonely and in desperate need for attention? Upset that the world wasn’t nice to you so you’re taking it out on the world? Or maybe it’s the other spirits that were mean to you so you’re just having the longest tantrum ever.” Runali kept looking around as she spoke, hoping her banter- her taunting, really- would keep Imposter occupied for a bit.

“Ah!” In the midst of the fog and smoke, she spotted a glimpse of the now broken crown on the ground. She broke away from the fiery wall and ran towards it. It still being around gave her some bit of hope. Not everything had suddenly disappeared when Imposter showed up.

“That’s two rounds I owe you then!” Lina yelled back at the idea of possessing the gloves.
Lina offered a nod to keeping the creatures occupied and unleashed another blaze forward, detonating it as the flames passed over them. Bit by bit they were wearing down the numbers, eventually only Imposter would remain.
The man himself eyes’ moved to Runali as he was spoken too, his brows arching slightly as he stretched his arms in front of him.
“Oh no I’m just playing with you Runali, if I wanted to kill you-”
Imposter held his hand out and the crown flew towards him before he caught it, with a snap of his fingers, the gloves and the fires all vanished, Lina’s eyes widening as for a second, the world seem to shift and the two women found themselves next to each other again.
Lina’s eyes widened and she quickly shoved Runali away, immediately after something pierced her chest, the pain shot through her immediately and she looked down at the new hole in her chest created by the a sharp tail sticking out of her.
“I would have gone ahead and done it….that luck of yours is something else.”
All around them the Corrupted had reappeared, their forms breaking apart as they formed into globs and grew taller and wider, quicky towering over the two as they took on monstrous forms, at first they had no real shape but soon they took on the appearance of monsters that roamed the sea’s, one of which resembled the very same one that destroyed the coral.
“...they evolved,” Lina said before coughing blood dribbling down her chin. “...they evolved into demons...we have too…”
She cut herself off as she coughed into her hand, staring at the blood now on it. She didn’t like this, something pressed on her, something oppressive was trying to force her to her knees. She could ‘feel’ his animosity around them.
“I said it earlier right? Don’t kill Runali. That’s changed now...I’m bored.”
Imposter sighed as Lina eyes moved to the monster’s surrounding them.
“You’re a strong person Runali. You truly are, you’ve survived many things. Not always cleanly but you made it through...but not this time. It’s not that you couldn’t, given time I’m sure you would have won...it’s just that you lost the moment you set foot in here.”
Imposter crushed the remainder of the crown.
“I no longer need that world and the spirits will become mine eventually. Goodbye Runali.”
The Monster’s all leapt towards the two and Lina grabbed her pistol, Imposter laughed preparing to step forward when a loud clap resonated through the area.

“All right that’s enough,”
Chains shot out and grabbed the monsters slamming them back to the ground and binding them, Imposter’s eyes widened before they wrapped around him as well.
“Wha-”
“....did the spirits?”
“Some people have called me that.”
A head poked out of Lina’s chest causing ripples to form on her body akin to water, judging by the horrified expression on the woman’s face she clearly wasn’t aware what was happening.
The ‘person’ fully left Lina revealing it was another Lina, though she seemed more...demonic, as if something had possessed her, even her voice seemed possessed, a mix of hers and someone else's, echoing in itself.
The other ‘Lina’ motioned towards the original Lina causing the hole to close in her chest before looking back at the bound Imposter.
“If you’re going to use my name then don’t embarrass us.”
“Wait you’re an Imposter? Then you’re-”
“Yep I’m a higher tier.”
“That’s not-”
Imposter didn’t get an opportunity to finish his sentence, the female Imposter’s eyes flashed and every creature around them, save Lina and Runali turned to dust before dissipating into mist. The woman sighed as the fog at their feet dissipated as she rested her hands on her hips.
“I know there are countless versions of me so a few aren’t going to be quite up to snuff...but he was an embarrassment as an Imposter. Anyone can throw a ‘horde’ at someone and win….disgraceful...and that’s coming from me. I mean I’m know I’m a stronger manifestation….better version but that’s no excuse too...ah it doesn’t matter you’re dead so can’t hear me anyway.”

Lina stared at the spot where the other Imposter had perished, in the span of one moment it had all ended by the hands of another Imposter. The two seemed night and day looking at them, the male imposter clearly radiated some presence but this one seemed non-existent. If she wasn’t looking at her she wouldn’t even know she was there, she seemed weaker than her but that was clearly a purposeful deception judging by what she had done.
She disliked admitting it but this seemed like Imposter, a deciever from the beginning, one who keeps their hands close to their chest and only reveals their real strength to resolve the issue in front of them.

The female Imposter who was now the only Imposter turned to look at the two, causing Lina to twitch and grab her gun.
“Calm down I’m not here to kill you. I would have done so with the rest of them. Unlike that one I don’t go on long explanations and need to ‘prove’ something, if ya gonna kill someone then do it, don’t waste time with all the talking. Murder them, step over their body and continue your day….it’s probably cause I’m the actual echo of Imposter, tied to one within Luro...well closer tied to him anyway.”
“So...we’re still alive because…”
Imposter pointed at Runali in response to Lina.
“I need her to leave, that means it’s time for you to go Runali. Say goodbye to Lina, I’m helping you get out of here.”
“...huh?” Lina tilted her head at Imposter’s words.
“Did you not hear me? I'm helping you leave here, or rather pass this trial. You see I get quite the present involving your fiance if I help you. So-”
Imposter snapped her fingers and Runali’s crown appeared in her hand before she tossed it to Runali.
“Get going before my natural instincts kick in and I start attacking you.”
“The Crown….but it was-”
“That crown was a fake I made, just like that Imposter. Well...he was an accident, the crown was on purpose, I know how I work. I sneezed and accidentally made him and-”
“Sneezed? Wha- Echoes can’t make Echo’s, only spirits can.”
“Lina.”
Imposter motioned to herself.
“I’m Imposter. Bringing disorder and breaking the natural order of reality, including the laws of the so called ‘gods’ is what I do before lunch….which I was having while watching.”
“Y-you were watching...from inside me….how were you eating...”
“How isn’t important, I was having fun watching at first cause he was kinda cute like an angry puppy and it was a way to pass the time but it got...embarrassing. He ruined everything anyway. This was not how I wanted to meet Runali...I’m going to make sure he suffers an eternity for ruining our clearly laid out plans. Ugh….just thinking back to it embarrassing…the one thing he did right was ruin things.”
“Wait wha-”
“Trickster pulled some strings some time ago. Ask ‘him’ if you want to know what happened or why I’m not killing you. Oh right, Runali when you get back do the third trial immediately. I know you’ll be a little woozy, it’s fine it’s a simple trial and you’ve been through worse. You’ve literally died a little lightheadedness shouldn’t stop you. The Huntress gave you a present but it’ll only last till morning, a little apology for not intervening sooner. She was keeping the evil spirits from hurting you guys further so her hands were kinda tied.”

Runali was in a whiplash after seeing Lina get stabbed, to almost dying, to seeing double. She was just as shocked as Lina, though a testament to it was her silent confused stare while the… Imposter was explaining herself. At some point, she pressed her hand against her forehead, sighing something in her native language. “<This family might be the death of me before the gods get to me.>”

She caught the crown after, inspecting it over and over as if it would reveal something out of place. Still listening to Lina and the other Imposter, her brows furrowed. “Alright. That’s enough of me trying to understand what’s going on. My brain will melt faster than I can comprehend anything that goes on.” Her demeanor shifted into acceptance. “I came here to finish a trial and m’not gonna waste the opportunity. Adapting and all,” It was a little obvious she didn’t believe that last part but it was the best she could do at the moment.

Runali stuck a hand out to Lina. “Seems like I couldn’t give you those gloves like I said… but I think you’ve got other… creatures to deal with. I’ll at least be able to tell him you learned how to use them quicker than I did.” She couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’d say good luck figuring out whatever this is about but I’m just glad you’re…” Runali squinted. “Well, not alive but… you know not stabbed through the chest.” She straightened up and glanced over at Lina’s new ‘other half’. “And, uh, thanks for the save… I have so many questions but I will reserve them for another time. Hopefully a longer time from now.” The crown was being spun in her freehand until she took it and placed it on her head. “Till we meet again and all that, yeah?”

“Probably,” Imposter said when Runali spoke to herself. “Be kinda funny if they beat you to heavenly beings though.”
Lina wasn’t exactly pleased at what all was happening but there was little choice in the matter, even if she wanted to stop her that was a whole other matter. She was pulled from her own thoughts and possible machinations at Runali’s words and her hand, with a smile she reached over and took the Captain’s hand in her own.
“Haha I’ll work something out. I have what is probably an eternity in here to figure things out. You get out of here and make yourself a legend. I still want to brag I know you when we meet on the other side.”
“I mean you and I aren’t bound by the laws of this world. We can leave whenever we want. Well I can, you’ll feel guilty taking over another person’s body.”
“We’re having a long talk afterwards Imposter, especially about that.”
Imposter looked over at Runali at her words ignoring Lina, a small smile resting on the woman’s face, there was something dangerous hidden behind it but it lasted for only a moment, turning into a ‘genuine’ smile about as quick as a blink.
“Think nothing of it...really I’m just being selfish and a bit sentimental. Luro and I come as one after all. I didn’t think I’d have a fiance at my age but stranger things have happened, I’m sure we’ll meet again….next time we’ll talk ‘properly’.”
A bright door manifested nearby and bursting open bright light poured through enveloping Runali and blocking the two from sight.
“Oh right before I forget. When you have time...preferably once you finish the last trial. Let Luro know the woman in his memories is quite real...even if his memories of her may not be. The other me may enjoy his torment on the matter but personally I’d like to see the result when he finds out.”
“Cryptic till the end...okay now we’re having a long talk about what just happened.”

“Runali….Runali!”
A familiar voice called to Runali as the world returned to normal, the entire tribe stood around Runali, the Liaisons all surrounding her, with breeze nuding the Captain with her nose, Luro hovering over her as well as Yiora gently shook and called her.
She had been laid into the center of a circle, the lantern providing the brightest illumination since it was clearly deep in the night and darkness had enveloped all but the lit parts of the area.
“It seems she’s awake...thank goodness for that...some animals carried you out of the forest Runali,” Nuli said. “Your spirit seemed...in turmoil...some of us feared the worst.”
“I told ya the Captain’d be fine,” Luro said resting his hands on his hips and straightening up.
“....you were trying to jump into the spiritual world yourself Ma’Nai…” Yiora said glancing at him. “If I hadn’t stopped you-”
“Hey you almost jumped in too ya know,” Luro responded pointing at her.
“Now now…” Nuli said as the two started poking each other. “I’m sure Runali is tired, we can save that for later. I suppose we can do the final trial tomorrow. For now its good to have you back Runali.”
Laria stood nearby and her shoulders lowered ever so slightly seeing Runali return with her senses intact, the older woman visibly relaxing, turned her body away from the scene fading back into the gathered crowd.

Runali didn't know what startled her first, the sound of being in the waking world, someone she couldn't see poking her, or the many… many eyes on her when her vision started to unblur.
Instinct made her grab Yiora's hand, but she let go as she started to gather herself recognizing the familiar sounds and people… and bear around her. Slowly she sat up, shaking her head as if that'd brush off the dizziness she had. And with one deep breath, Runali exhaled, "That was insane! I almost died!" Her hand rested on Breeze, giving her appreciative pets as she stood to her feet. "Let's see…" Runali wiggled her fingers and then moved her feet, testing to make sure she could still function properly. "Hmmm, no thanks Miss Chief! Let's finish the last trial now, I'm fine!" She took a few steps in place to get her blood flowing. The adrenaline and excitement of it all had died down considerably, but she felt fine enough to keep moving.

"Plus, it's the last one yeah? If we do it now, it's more free time for celebrations!" She leaned against Breeze, sighing again before speaking a little softer just to Nuli. "Plus the, uh, spirit said it was best to do it now. But it's fine, I've gone through worse fatigues before." With a smile, she gave the woman a thumbs up as reassurance.

“Oh you too Captain. Imposter tried to kill me in mine,” Luro said with a grin. “Who tried to kill you?”
Kioni looked over at Yiora, then over at Breeze who offered a small huff, Kioni returned it and Breeze gave a small nod in response, the bear made no attempts to move away from Runali, which seemed to say enough about her feelings towards her, and whatever conversation the two had seemed to remain between them. Ayi hopped off Breeze at the mention of the final trial and though a few of the Liasons looked worried, along with Nuli herself the eastern chief smiled and offered a nod.

“Oh I- ehhh I’ll talk about it later.” Runali commented towards Luro before paying attention to Nuli again.

“If you say so Runali, it’s the simplest of the trials but also very important,” Nuli said. “If the spirits have spoken to you directly to continue then who am I stop it.”
“The first and second trials are the only ones needed to really become a part of the tribe,” Rako said walking forwards himself. “The third one is reserved as a recognition of a Yliayo. You see those who don’t want to go through the second trial.”
“Due to it’s clear danger...which we’d like to talk about with you later” Yiora added before Rako continued.
“Can try to just do the third after the first...regretfully that’s only reserved for ‘formal’ members of the tribes. Drifter’s haven’t been added to it yet.”
With a shrug Rako continued.
“Thus while the simplest it’s also judged harshly. Skipping the second trial isn’t normally permitted after all, so the third one if the second is skipped is judged especially harshly...but that’s not the case since you came back. The second is a test of your determination after all, while relying on another for things is all well and good you need a bit yourself.”
“Thank you Rako,” Nuli said to the young man. “Normally I’d explain it but….I’ll be going in with you so I’m a participant and thus can’t.”
“I’m also one but I won’t be going in...wherever that is,” Luro said raising a hand. “I’ve never done it before but they needed my permission so I gave it.”

Ayi walked forward and held up a small bowl which Yiora went to grab, to her and most of those gathered surprised the hand that grabbed the bowl was Vami.
The chief stared at the three in front of him with a narrowed gaze and Yiora’s eyes narrowed as he held the bowl in one hand, she was half waiting for him to dump out the contents when he walked forward dipping his finger into the towel.
“Huh?” Yiora said as her body straightened.
Vami reached up and made marks on Nuli’s face, the Eastern Chief seemed surprised at first but smiled and closed her eyes as red marks were made very carefully along her face.
Once he finished he stepped over to Runali and dipped his finger again before repeating the process.
“By all means you are now a Drifter...which means I’m required to treat you as a member of the tribe,” Vami said as he made the marks on her face. “I still don’t like the lot of you but…”
His hand stopped moving for a moment.
“....as much as I dislike Luro no one needs to lose someone to the second trial…”
He trailed off for a moment but finished and with a sigh stepped away.
“...good luck Drifter.”
He stepped to the side and started working on Luro drawing different markings as Raik stepped forward himself.
“Fly freely in the other world young Drifter,” Raik said tapping his cane firmly.
“Raik….” Yiora said looking over at the old man. “...that was really bad. That’s such an old man way of saying good luck.”
The old man twitched and raising his cane started yelling at the young lady in their language causing her to laugh as he walked after her, showing he didn’t need the cane as much as it seemed.
Laria stared at the scene with her hands folded behind her back, a heavy sigh escaped the chief but for a moment Nuli thought she saw a smile on the woman’s face. It seemed to be a trick of the light as it was a thin line when she doubled checked.

“All right let us test the bond you carry with the one known as Makachi,” Vami said. “May the spirits guide you.”
With a snap of his fingers the fire all around them quickly shut out, when light returned Runali and Nuli had been moved to a world of white, a space that stretched on infinitely into nothingness. The ground below them rippled when they walked or moved and looking up the area above them shifted into a orange sky, the ground beneath them also turning orange in response.

Nuli opened and closed her hand.
“It’s been sometime since I’ve done this,” she said. “Let’s see.”
Nuli held her hand out and white orbs formed in the air around them, the orange glow overtook them and a moment later, the orbs glowed and expanded into what looked like windows, within these ‘windows’ was Luro, it seemed of varying ages and different times.
Nuli smiled as she eyed the scene.
“Just as I expected….your bond is strong. It was easy to manifest his memories,” Nuli said. “Basically no resistance at all.”
Nuli looked over at Runali.
“The final test is very simple, by all means you’ve already passed it. I’m sure you know but it’s not uncommon for those closest to us to not show or tell us everything. We all have our secrets after all, but that’s not always from a lack of desire or willingness. That’s what this test means. To one your close too...there’s a sense of trust, to show something you wouldn’t show others.”
Nuli motioned forward.
“Go on and take a look, he said it’s okay. I’ll tell you the rest once you’re done. See the life Luro wants but can’t show you and feel what he felt.”

“It’s a good thing there’s so many of you with how many rules and instructions there are around here.” Runali’s hands were behind her back as she attempted to follow Raik’s explanation. It was more or less successful, but it wasn’t like she had time to mull over it to understand when Vami was in front of her. Even she was a little surprised by the act, but she said nothing of it and let him add the marks. It looked as though she wanted to say something, maybe something comforting but instead she told Vami, “Thanks.”

“So… Nuli, you’re also joining me on this-” The change of seeing something turn into nothing made Runali freeze where she stood. This tribe was full of tricks and surprises that she couldn’t keep up with even if she tried. “-... Right, well.” It was hard to figure out what to exactly say after that explanation, so Runali hesitated forward towards the windows. “Is- Is this a two way thing? Is Luro digging in my memories??” She paused for a moment, mostly to think of the possibilities he could have been seeing, but eventually turned her attention back to the present. “I’d much rather… I dunno him tell me these things himself. Feels like I’m intruding this way…” When she got close to one of the windows, she looked back over at Nuli. “But if he says it’s okay then… sure I’ll look.”

“It’s one way he can’t see yours,” Nuli said with a small shake of her head. “You needn’t worry, anything he doesn’t want you to know won’t show….and...from the look on his face he seemed content with you knowing.”
Nuli went silent after that and raised a hand though once Runali stepped forward though once she was a bit away from Nuli, a smiling figure appeared behind the chief, immediately after the air in front of Runali rippled, as if she had stepped into the ocean itself. Judging by Nuli’s surprise and her outstretched hand this wasn’t part of the ritual, but by then it was too late.

The next place Runali’s boots landed was on Lady Luck in the middle of the ocean, the empty space replaced with endless sea on all sides. Though there had been clear modifications done to the ship, it was without a doubt Lady Luck.
“Oh didn’t realize I had a visitor.”
A voice that was familiar and somehow not called out to Runali.
The owner was a man in attire that seemed akin to Brass Cape, a pair of black trousers with a golden chain hanging out of the pocket. A simple black vest accompanied with a white dress shirt he wore on his torso and a pair of black boots, one hanging off the edge of the ship where he sat to finish it off.
Though dressed formally his clothing was undone slightly, his wrist’s cuffs unbuttoned, the tie around his neck loosened and his vest and shirt slightly undone and untucked. A belt adorned with multiple ‘gems’ hung slightly askew off his waist as well. The man reached up with a gloved hand and rubbed his stubbled face, a pair of silver pince-nez rested on his nose and his long red hair was tied into a low ponytail.
“Ru-” the man cut himself off. “No….no you’re not her...the current her anyway.”
The man chuckled as he grinned and lowered his hand, his eyes went over to the bounty poster on the mast, the one for the ‘Pirate Empress’, and a Runali that wasn’t the current Runali.
“I see...this is what Imposter meant….figures she’d give me a riddle that would solve itself years later.”
With a small shrug the man motioned to the spot in front of him.
“The me you know calls you Captain right? Let’s stick with that. I’m sure this is all confusing. It’s the same for me. Seeing the past version of my wife is….surprising. Still…”
The man who was clearly an older Luro grinned.
“No need for all that right now, let’s take in the sea. Let the rest come naturally. I was on my way back to ya since I missed you anyway.”

“Nuli is this supposed to hap-” She whirled around, suddenly on her ship… at least it looked like it. “...At what point do I realize I’ve died and this is a sick joke…” Runali started to take steps towards the mast, just to touch it and see if it was real, but froze in place when she heard someone else speak. “Oh you’re here t-” In the short span of time that she recognized him, Runali’s expression went from relief in familiarity, to surprise about the changes, to… suddenly being flustered. In one quick motion, a hand was on her cheek and she turned away from Luro. “Thousands upon thousands of dangerous situations and this catches me off guard.” Her eyes were shut as she mumbled various things to herself ranging from “This could be another test.” to “That can’t possibly be Luro?!” None of it was out of earshot so despite her mumbling, Luro could definitely hear her.

An alarm bell rang in her head, catching exactly what he said. “Hold on,” She spun around again, slightly more composed. “Did you just say ‘past version’? Meaning,” She squinted at him, looking him over once more. “You’re… from the… future.” It fell silent for a moment and then she pushed her hair back. “<That doesn’t make any sense… and there’s no way this will ever make sense.>” Her hands clasped together and she heaved a sigh, taking a look out at sea and then taking a look at Luro again. “...But I guess… It’s not the worst place to be right now…” Just like her ‘current Luro’ this one still had a contagiousness about him. He was calm and inviting and that made her relax a bit and walk over to where he was sitting. “Hm… would it make sense to you if,” Runali took a seat on the edge of the ship and looked out at sea. It certainly looked real, but it was hard to say. “I told you that I was in the middle of my last trial?” She pressed her thumb against her cheek, pointing at the marks Vami put there. Her head tilted a bit in confusion. “On your way back? Where’d you go? Or, hm, where’d I go… I guess?”

Luro reached down and grabbed a rum bottle as Runali took a moment to take it all in, with a slight chuckle he popped the top off it.
“You’ll never stop be entertaining Captain,” he said before taking a small swig. “I assure you it’s me, just Imposter free...and a bit of yourself rubbing off on me after all these years.”
After a moment it seemed she caught onto the situation and he grinned at her when she looked him over, a grin that seemed even brighter than his old self, with a hint of whimsy within it.
“Catching on quick as always Captain. Not bad right. Had to clean up a bit as the husband of the empress after all.”
Luro said this holding his arms up and looking himself over.

He started digging into one of the secret compartments of the ship when Runali sat down, his brows arching as she spoke to him, though he was digging for something his eyes remained focused on her, showing she had his full attention. With a smile he grabbed another rum bottle and handed it to her.
“Guess I’ll answer the last question first,” Luro said. “I didn’t like not helping you with your empress duties so I fill in sometimes for you, took a job in the area too so it worked out double.”
Luro chuckled a little at this before continuing.
“You lost a bet with Jack and Ali and are babysitting their kids with Remi, oh Remi’s our daughter by the way, but you had duties and didn’t want to abandon them...but also didn’t want to go back on your word with Jack and Ali so I offered to do them for you.”
With a shrug Luro took a small swig and looked back at the ocean.
“Kind of regret not just waiting and going together...if you met me and your future self that would have been even more entertaining.”

With a small sigh at the hindsight he glanced over at her.
“I can believe you. I can only take this in stride myself because Imposter warned me of it. Told me I should answer any questions my ‘fiance’ has when I see her. By time I fought her again properly we were married so it made no sense...well until now.”
Luro looked back out at the sea, his eyelids lowering slightly.
“Though...you won’t remember this...well in here,” Luro reached up and tapped the side of his head. “I’ll save you the long winded explanation. Something about not having knowledge where you don’t exist or something. You’ll only remember it here.”
Luro tapped his chest which also drew attention to the Stardusk symbol still on full display.
“Think of it as a dream if nothing else. I’ll probably forget too. This may be a future that doesn’t exist after all...well I’ll exist cause you’re around and I’ll make it a fact that you’ll become empress. I believe those two things will stay the same but anything else could change.”

Runali took the bottle and couldn't help but inspect it. She didn't know what she was looking for but it definitely had something to do with realities and where she was- but everything felt and looked normal so she took a drink. After the day she'd been having, she needed one. It wasn’t a bad one, but there were a lot of mental hoops she was jumping through today. His answer only further rattled her, but fortunately it didn’t end up in a coughing fit of surprise. Instead his answer was met with a furrowed brow, when she heard she lost a bet. Though it turned into acceptance when she realized it was from Jack and Adelaide- that made sense, it was nice to know some things were normal. Though as the mention of kids she responded with a sharp inhale, only to exhale out, “Now I think you’re doing this on purpose.” The words tumbled out quick and were immediately drowned out with another drink but cut short with a quick, “I don’t think I could handle meeting you AND myself. I would probably combust. I’m sure I already did. Gloves or not.”

Hearing that it was close to a dream made her breath a sigh of relief. “That’s something I can understand. Which…” She pointed the bottle at him. “You’ve been the first person… that actually has made sense in the past day I’ve been doing this." She couldn't help but laugh. "You get how wild that sounds, yes? I hope so because I can’t begin to explain the day I've been having- I mean there was a spirit tiger! And then I saw your sister- and then we almost died! Ah," Runali snapped her fingers. "But technically you know that though. You've been here- or there- the whole time. I just haven't had time to yell about it all yet because I've been going from one to the next… Hm, that'll be a story to tell." Runali fell in thought for a moment before looking back at him again. "Haven't gotten a chance to tell you yet, but I did meet Imposter in the second trial. Or uh, two of them. But, you said you're free from that… How-" She paused. "Or.. When?" Runali frowned a little. "Is it bad to ask what happened in the future if I won't remember the answer? Or if I do, would it be weird to know something and maybe ruin the possibility that it happens??" She threw her hands in the air. "I have so many questions!" She nearly tilted too far back and ended up having to catch herself. "But I'm tempted to wait… The fun's in the journey, y'know?" Then she huffed, blowing hair out of her face. "But if I'm not going to remember, it shouldn't hurt to ask right?" Again, she exhaled and exclaimed, "I wanna know everything! What's Remi look like? Is she happy? How's the crew? And they have kids too!? Did Alicia become some wild goddess!? Did I lose any more limbs? I've already lost an eye. I don't want a peg leg or something, that'd be a pain for balancing. Is Coral okay?! Oh she's probably old by now too." She began patting the ship. "Can Lady fly still!? Ohhh what's our bounties?" Runali took a breath, realizing she was asking more questions than she had planned. So, she relaxed again, took another drink and then gave Luro a softer look. "Ah, but more importantly, you… look happy. Happier. And if that's a future I'm a part of, makes me more excited to get there."

“On purpose? No never,” Luro said grinning at her. “S’all true though and a shame the look on her face would have been great too.”
His brows arched hearing he was the only one making sense and he lowered his own bottle a laugh escaping from him as he nodded in agreement.
“I’m the one making sense? Things must have taken a weird turn for that one.”

He listened to what she’d been through and nodded here and there, giving a shrug and smile at the idea of knowing it, he understood but also remained silent so she could yell as much as she wanted, he believed she was owed that after the day she had.
He started to answer the question of how but stopped when she questioned if she wanted to know the future, he smiled before taking another sip, leaning forward a bit as he watched her go back and forth.
At the barrage of questions a chuckle escaped from him which eventually developed into laughter, natural curiosity seemed to win out, that was just like her. He closed his eyes as he listened, taking in this small moment, didn’t matter which version it was, moments like this brought him a certain kind of peace. He opened his eyes when she stopped and looked back at her, his eyes widening ever so slightly at her comment on his happiness.

Blinking he reached up and scratched the side of his cheek averting his gaze for a moment.
“Haha….you haven’t changed. Still making my heart flutter at my age,” he said before looking back at her. “Well I’ll start at the end then. I am without a doubt happier because you’re here and I’ll be right there in that future with you...no matter what happens. That I can also say will come true.”
With a gentle smile he started to answer her questions one by one, explaining the many adventures they all had.
“Our bounties are insane. If you thought the old ones were bad we’ve easily quadrupled that number and beyond, probably because of all the-” Luro explained with a laugh. “Also of course Lady can. She can stay in the air for days at a time if need be now. I worked with Caleb at some point and we came up with-”
He threw his arms out a bright still childlike shine in his eyes as he talked about the ship and what she could do now.
“Coral’s still kicking. She mainly stays at homebase with you, she’ll go wherever you or Remi goes if you go out. If I take a short voyage she’ll go with me to keep me company too. For your body parts...well there was this incident and now you wear two eyepatches.”
A solemn look fell over his face and his brows narrowed but he stifled a chuckle and waved a hand in front of him.
“I’m kidding you haven’t lost anything. Got close a few times but you had us and your own ingenuity.”
He explained a few of the close calls, and showed one of his own scars from the incident describing how close it was.
“Oh man where do I even start with Alicia so much has happened. Well first off people say the name Alicia before Sakura now, you know we ended up fighting and-”
Luro told the many tales of Alicia and what they all went through helping her out with one of her ventures years ago.
“Her sense of humor is...exactly the same, pretty sure we’ve accidentally or purposefully saved the world with her too. It's still confusing to me. She’s in Yula Fei now though, still visits and we stop by often.” Luro said rubbing the side of his head. “Let’s see Kadi is turning into a monster. It’s a long story but we’re used to it at this point. You’ll see eventually.”

Luro went into that particular story with probably more hand motions than necessary.
“Jack and Ali run a floating bistro and Cedric well he’ll be where Jack is but he’s grown a lot too...I’ll tell you we almost lost him back then. Also yes some of us have kids, Jack and Ali’s are adorable, Remi and Z love them, though the former won’t admit it openly to us, she can’t not show them affection when they're around. Masu is off being rich somewhere, we do business with her here and there.”
Luro grinned at the memory before clapping his hands together.
“Z has about...twenty kids. Who knew she had it in her?”
With a small shrug he laughed a little before flinching and glancing over his shoulder, blinking he turned back towards her.
“...actually she’s below deck guiding the ship, to avoid getting blown away later I’ll clarify that she runs a temple where she takes in lost people...and some of them are children.”
He tapped his foot on the deck as if to clarify this.
“It’s a story on how she can control it below deck but you wanted to pull a trick on the navy so I made it possible to guide the ship from below deck, I’ll tell you seeing the look on their faces to see a ship moving without a crew is still funny to watch. We still laugh about it. Hey maybe I’ll call her up here, she’s changed so much too. She’s freakishly strong, and she’s always with us in some fashion. She normally comes with me on trips and visits you often, her place is nearby.”
He leaned back a bit at the topic of Remi and a bright grin formed on his face, a ‘father’s pride’ more than likely.
“Yeah Remi’s happy, Z babysat for us a lot so she has the ‘Z’ face and is more serious than she needs to be but she loves both of us more than she'll say...just like Z. Well mainly she won’t tell me, she’ll openly show affection and her respect for you. For some reason she hides it from me, but I know it’s there. Still fun to tease her for it...wait is that why she won’t…nah can’t be.”

He waved his hand at the very idea before digging into his sleeve and pulling out a box held up a poster of Remi, a young lady with medium length straight black hair, just as he said she had a ‘Z’ face, a mix of seriousness and determination. She wore a blade that looked like a familiar rifle on her back and a single chakram rested on her waist, she was dressed in a mix of Brass cape clothing and what Runali wore in her younger years or rather current years and was about Runali’s current height, slim with a strong stance she gave off a powerful presence.
“Her hair was long until you cut yours...then she wanted Z to cut it. She won’t admit it’s cause she liked how yours looked shorter. She occasionally looks at mine with this guilty look on her face when I’m not looking...it’s so adorable.”
Luro laughed a little as he looked at the poster himself.
“Hah...so affectionate when she was younger. Still that cute side of her comes out on occasion,” Luro said putting the poster away. “She’s strong too, she likes to spar with us and well...everyone. Thanks to Z she’s heard the stories of us so she likes to duel with each member of Stardusk, mainly you and me though, she won’t admit why but it’s easy to guess.”

With each story Luro told, Runali had an emotion to match. Warmth, Pride, Shock, but most of all excitement. There was a certain thrill to knowing that what Luro was saying could be hers soon enough. All of those wild stories could happen and they sounded so fun. It didn’t really dawn on her until then that when Luro mentioned her being the ‘empress’ meant she did the thing she set out to do. She managed to get to the number one spot. And knowing that along with all of their success made her excitement turn into quiet and bright joy. She could feel the tears stinging her eyes and she laughed and shook her head to dissuade worry. “No, no keep going, I’m just really excited.” The stories kept going and then she got to hear about Remi and she immediately wanted to know everything. There was a moment where she wanted to question about her haircut too, but figured it was probably nothing. It wasn’t like she didn’t have a million more questions with every word, but when Luro started talking about Imposter, she shoved the questions aside.

When Luro got to the original question he brought a hand to his chin.
“...it was a few years back now. Saying Imposter is gone isn’t exactly right either, it’s impossible to get rid of that one. She’s still there just no influence anymore. I still ‘feel’ her but her voice no longer invades my thoughts constantly. Allows me to think. A lot happened but well-”
Luro cut himself off trying to find the right words.
“Imposter called me ‘Renegade Luro’ for some reason, back when you did your trials she let you go right? That’s because you make me. This…’Renegade’.”
Luro pointed at himself as if to illustrate this point.
“You see I fought Imposter for control while I was away from the crew after I woke up back then. I honestly would have lost but she didn’t kill me during the fight, instead she let me ‘beat’ her...that’s because she saw the ‘me’ in the future during our fight. Thus I ‘won’ and gained ‘control’.”
He said this making quotations with his fingers before lowering his hands and looking back at the sea, his eyes narrowed ever so slightly.
“...I’ve never really lived for myself...maybe that’s why I understood Alicia in a way back then...who knows anymore,” Luro said this with a small shrug, a bit of the energy leaving his voice for a moment. “When I was in the streets I worked to try and help mother...when she died it became Lina, then Nura and the orphans along with her. Even after the incident I still lived for them...then I met Stardusk and they woke me up...even after that I still lived for them and their ambitions, no dreams of my own.”
Luro closed his eyes at the memories.
“However I started thinking around that time…’what do I want’, and I didn’t know the answer because I didn’t know myself. So while searching for well…’me’ I realized I wanted one thing at the very least.”

Luro raised his hand with the bottle and pointed at Runali.
“Just a little more time with her.”
He grinned at Runali and lowered his hand.
“Apparently that goal, that almost childlike wish as Imposter says made me into this. I grew stronger so I would never be taken willingly from your side. Strong enough to go against Jones himself if need be...I assure he ain’t taking you easily when it’s your time.”
With a small laugh Luro turned his attention back to the sea.
“Imposter said to fight this ‘me’ you had to exist in my life. So to me I won because you were there to go back too, that’s what I’m positive about. So ‘how’ I won was because my Captain gave me a very simple rule that I’ve made sure to keep.”

Looking back at Runali he opened his mouth to say more but stopped and looked back out at the sea, his eyes lowered a bit and with a sigh he swung his legs over the side and stood back on the main deck.
“...I think our time is up,” Luro said taking the rifle off his back.
As he said that a large creature burst out of the sea, the monster roared at those on the ship towering over it and Luro sighed a bit as he loaded a shot into his rifle, as the sea monster’s multi-eyed gaze rested on the floating vessel.
“Why is there always some kind of interruption when I’m having a heart to heart with my other ‘other’ half here.”
Raising his boot he stomped the deck.
“Z! Dinner’s here!”
The ship came to a stop and footsteps could be heard running towards the main deck from below.
“Imposter.”
“Yeah Yeah.”
Imposter stepped out of what seemed to be directly behind Luro, still possessing the body of Lina and looked at the creature.
“...wow that thing’s tiny. You want me to take it out?”
“Nah I wanna show off a little for our guest.”
“Guest?”
Imposter looked over and noticed Runali, her brows arched before a small grin rested on her face, before she could speak however Luro did first.
“Captain...the future is never truly certain. There may be more people...there may be less in yours. Even if it’s only in your heart, remember that no matter what happens, no matter how many people remain, or what lies in our way, I'll always be on your side. I share your burdens just as you share mine.”
Luro stared at her as the creature drew closer.
“...I wanna hug you really badly right now...but I’m not sure if the present you would be mad if I embrace you like I do her. It’s a weird situation I’m not sure how to confront, I mean it’s you but it’s past you...that and Remi will be jealous….aw man now I want to do it more.”
“Oi.”
“Oh right the monster, I forgot.”
A large wave suddenly blew over the ship and laughter escaped Luro as his rifle roared to life the orbs on his waist letting out a bright glow as the water parted in response revealing the now attacking creature.
“All right! Let’s give them a proper Makachi welcome!”
The door to the main deck flew open just as the remaining water crashed into the ship.

“Runali!”
A bucket of water was splashed into Runali’s face back in the forest, Rako holding the bucket stared down at her as the gathered crowd eyed the Stardusk Captain, Nuli was nearby with her hands folded together, worry playing over her face.
Luro stared down munching on a piece of fruit but was clearly interested in what was going on.
“...Runali? Oh good I think she’s waking up. Goodness that took three buckets.”

“Huh…” Runali couldn’t help the grin. “Guess this means I must be a pretty good captain if that means making you into some ‘Renegade’.” She laughed until she saw him look out to sea. Before she could ask, she was stepping back into the ship at the sight of the sea monster. “… Well I wouldn’t consider everything in the sea as edible… but you’ve lived this long so who am I to say.” for once, she didn't immediately feel the need to jump into being battle ready. After all, this version of Luro was only worried about the interruption. So when Imposter appeared Runali's attention turned to her, wanting to say something, but stilled in surprise as Luro beat them both to speaking. "You're," Runali looked up at the sea monster and grinned. "I'll just hug 'current' you."

And then she woke up, or at least she shut her eyes tighter when she was splashed in the face. "Dunk me in the ocean why don't you. I'm sure I'd wake up faster." Her grumbling turned into a sigh as she pushed herself up. It took a few rapid blinks to get her vision together, and a few more to realize her hair was wet and ruining her field of vision. The frown she had didn't last long. When she pushed her hair out of her face, she couldn't help but lean back a little at all the eyes staring at her. “Aye, yes relax, I'm not dead I was-" Runali paused mid sentence as the memories began to fall through her fingers like sand. Most of the detail had been gone but she knew for sure it was about Luro, reminding her of the last things both of them said. "...dreaming." There was no way better to put it, she didn't think so.

Runali started squeezing water out of her hair as she carried on. "Nuli might have to give clearer instructions next time. But I’m not y’know, dead from this trial so that’s something.” Spotting Nuli with a worried look, she gave a wave before looking a little more confused. "Was there… a purpose to knocking me out for… the second time today? And is that the last?" Looking at Luro, she raised a hand so he'd help her to her feet.

Luro smiled and handing his fruit over to Yiora helped Runali up, holding his hands up he started drying her with the gloves, Kioni walked over with a comb and a thumbs up before moving to help Runali as well.
“Vami suggested it but we declined and when he pressed were reminded you might drown by Laria,” Rako said simply. “Least it wasn’t from the spittoon bucket.”
“Would have woken up on the first one,” Vami said rubbing the back of his neck.
Nuli seemed to release a breath she was holding before going to answer her question.
“No you...weren’t supposed to end up knocked out. That wasn’t supposed to happen,” Nuli said with a shake of her head. “The spirits haven’t been this active for generations...even still to physically pull you away in the third trial….”
Nuli trailed off bringing a hand to her scarf, adjusting it slightly.
“The Huntress appeared and told me her brother had taken you but that’d you’d be fine...she then made me leave that domain when I asked to search for you, apparently I ‘wasn’t allowed to see’. I came back normally...I found you on the ground when I returned.”
The chief seemed upset at the events and a heavy sigh came from Vami seeing her expression.

“This stuff is normal for us, if you don’t like it you’re free to leave the tribe whenever you want... until then...” Vami said trailing off before looking over at Nuli.
The Eastern Chief blinked before smiling and clapping her hands together.
“There were a fair amount of issues but welcome to the Drifters Tribe Runali! You passed everything!”
A great cheer filled the area around them, the Liaisons easily cheering the loudest, except Breeze who gave a content huff as Ayi danced on her back. Luro laughed heartily causing Kioni to flinch but the silent woman raised a fist in celebration before returning to Runali’s hair.
The people around them though confused at first eventually joined in before the dancing and music continued, the festival coming back in full force as more lanterns lit the area and the sounds of drums started accompanying the musical tunes and singing all around them.
“Well...the people don’t need too much of a reason to celebrate,” Rako said.
“...even though they were confused and distant just a day before,” Yiora said sighing.
“Well let me be the first to formally welcome you among the Lia-”
“Welcome Ru’Ni!” Ayi yelled running up to Runali and embracing her.
Yiora eyes twitched and Rako smiled.
“She means Sister Runali, though the word is Mi’Nim,” Rako said. “Since Yiora was slow on the draw, let me be the second to-”
Kioni pat Runali on the shoulder with a nod causing Rako’s eyes to twitch.
“Welcome to the tribe Captain.” Luro said with a grin.” We’ll have to get you a tattoo somewhere. I’m sure-”
“I’ll handle that.”
A familiar voice came from the crowd and finding the source wasn’t too hard as the owner easily towered over everyone there. Malas walked forward causing the sea of people to divide and removed his mask, his eyes went down to Runali and he offered a small smile.
“Vami explained things when he came looking for me...it seems you’ve been through a lot over what was supposed to be a simple affair. You have my apologies for the extra trouble. If you’ll allow me, I’d be happy to do your marking just as I did Luro’s.”
“Whenever you like of course,” Nuli said. “It doesn’t have to be in the open anymore, so long as it’s shown when you encounter a tribe. That rule was passed properly.”
Vami clicked his tongue at being named but waved his hand.
“Business later, though interrupted by all this there’s still a festival going on.”
“Yeah let’s get back to the party!” Rako said throwing his fist up. “For our new member!”
“No it’s for-” Vami said only for Yiora to also raise a fist.
“New member!”
The man sighed only for Raik to rest a hand on his shoulder, he looked at the older man and Laria who approached from his other side and offered a shrug before looking back at those connected to the Drifters who all gathered around Runali.

While the festival roared Luro eventually took a seat away from everything, on a nearby log cleaned as a makeshift bench. He had been dancing moments before but for some reason walked away to sit by himself as the people celebrated in front of him, everyone dancing with the new member of the tribe, spinning and twirling with each other as the night went on.
Luro took a sip from his drink as the smile on his face shrunk just a little as he stared into the excited crowd of people.

"Well you can't say it's normal right after Nuli said that wasn't supposed to happen. That's not how normal works, Vami." It was a tease, but it was quickly brushed aside with the sudden uproar of excitement. "Fair amount of issues does not… bring confidence to- it doesn't matter." At that point she was only talking to herself because the cheering and celebrations began.

Runali laughed when she was hugged and happily patted Ayi's back through everyone else's congrats. And much to her surprise, Malas had arrived. "Oh just in time for the rest of the party." She waved away his apology. "Nah, it was kinda fun! The parts that didn't try to kill me at least." Her interest piqued about tattoos and she was just about to tell Malas exactly where she wanted it, but ended up being swept into the festivities. She was telling the truth when she said she loved festivals. It almost made her feel at home as she danced and celebrated with the Drifters, eventually finding herself with all of the tribe. When she got tired of dancing, she ended up with a small group, telling wild stories about the Stardusk. “And then there was this huge crocodile! You shoulda seen the size of its teeth!” She was making a chomping motion with her hands, laughing as she carried on. “But that wasn’t as wild as-” Her stories continued until their attention was on something else which was fine by her because after being the center of everyone’s attention for the day she couldn’t help but slip out of the excited circle and take a seat.

Or at least start until she spotted Luro not too far off and decided to sit by him instead. She watched the festivities, content with sitting quietly and watching the others dance and party. “In hindsight,” Runali started after some time. She put her hand out towards him. “I thought these trials would be more physical than- well, mental. Spiritual? Either way it goes I probably could’ve kept the eyepatch.”

Luro glanced over at Runali offering a smile but remained silent staring forward.
For a moment the roar of the festival grew quieter in that small spot for him, which made it easier to hear Runali when she spoke to him, his brows arched and his small smile grew a bit wider as he took her hand in his own.
“It’s something else right? Still really fun though,” he said grinning at her. “You came back faster than I did Captain and I only did two, that’s what I expected though.”
Though the grin faded as quickly as it came and Luro stared back at the crowd, his eyes seemed to peer past them as his smile shifted into a small one, a strange sadness reflecting in his gaze for a quick moment as something pulled out at him, his mind felt clearer for some reason today.
“....I thought I lost this,” Luro said his eyelids lowering slightly. “When I lost Lina….everything seemed to fall apart around me….that strange world I created….in that moment I felt I lost this warmth. Stardusk gave it right back to me though….you guys are my family and I care about each one of you….but a small part of me felt sad that I had nothing to go back to...when everyone on the ship had a ‘place’ they could go. You always have your home as does Alicia, I know Jack’s dream and even then he has Ali to go to and Cedric...well Cedric is fine as long as he’s with Jack….Kadi has some pull in the Undersea but I’m sure he’d be fine elsewhere and Z’d be fine...but me...Lady Luck is all I got.”

Luro’s eyes moved to the ground for a moment.
“I’m still lucky though. I got people who would miss me if I died and it’s not like anything’s going to change anytime soon...I’m lucky...but...it still hurt to lose the family I had. I clinged to your guys dreams and goals cause I wasn’t used to having any myself. In the end I’ve used you guys as excuses...and I would continue to do so if allowed...but….”
Luro raised his eyes looking back at the smiling faces.
“I was so lost in my own delusions I forgot about them….these people who would miss me if I’m gone. An old man who cries with me, a sister who looks up to me for some weird reason, a brother who would fight an army for me, a tiny sister who wants nothing more than to stay with me, and a quiet sister who would step forward to help me without a moment's hesitation, a chief who always speaks in my defense...and of course a bear who gives me free rides.”

Luro laughed a little at the very idea his eyes moving over to the chiefs, Vami seemed to be yelling at Nuli about something though from her and Raik’s laughter, and the small smile from Laria it didn’t seem too serious.
“....I have all these people here...and I just...forgot them. I forgot this warmth I still had waiting for me....haha...and I almost lost to Imposter back then...it’s kind of embarrassing.”
Luro’s hand tightened around Runali’s and he looked over at her.
“....you gave me this back, just by being you, by giving someone like me a chance...you gave me something very important back. Thank you.”

“Well,” Runali watched the group interact. Her voice trailed off into a short chuckle. “I didn’t really do much.” Her smile grew when she finally looked at him. “You’re a pretty good shot and you listen to the one rule I give.” She stifled a laugh and patted his hand with her free one. “I said don’t die… but you did all the heavy lifting getting to this point. Don’t take credit from all your hard work.” With a point towards the festival, she nodded. “And look at you, a family at sea and a family here. There’s no way you’ll forget now.”

Luro smile grew a little wider.
“....I’m still working things out and I’m sure I’m gonna cause more trouble cause that’s just how I am...but you gave me a goal. One I can chase on my own. One I can pursue while I help everyone. Something I can call my own...and that’s very precious to me. That’s why I’ll share your burdens just as you shared mine….I’ll do my best so just know I do love you Ru-”
“Hi guys!”
Rako held a hand up but stopped as Luro looked over at him and he noticed it was just the two of them, something seemed to click in his mind and his eyes twitched.
“Did I...interrupt something?” Rako said slowly lowering his hand.
“Of course you did!” Yiora said stepping forward from the woods. “Were you not listening?”
“Why were you?!” Rako responded.
“Well I mean...I saw them and you know...I had questions but didn’t want to interrupt…”
Kioni offered a small nod at this stepping out of the nearby bushes.
“Ra’Na’s inensitive!” Ayi said walking away from the festival, giggling as Breeze nodded in agreement.
“It’s insensitive and I’m not.”
“Read the forest Rako,” Yiora said bringing a hand to her face. “...sorry for interrupting you two.”
Luro stared at the gathered group as Nuli and the chief’s walked over along with Malas.
He reached up and gripped his chest for a moment before grinning at those gathered.
“S’fine. Nothing I can’t say later,” Luro said beaming at his comrades. “I got all weird there. Let’s continue the festival!” Luro said standing up.
Turning he held a hand out to Runali.
“Let’s get back to it Captain.”

Runali was left with a silly grin only for it to deflate into mild embarrassment when she realized they were being spied on. When Yiora apologized, Runali waved it away. “Hah, it’s okay. We have time.. Oh! Huh that reminds me,” She let herself be pulled up but when she was steady on her feet she grabbed Luro into a hug. Deciding not to give the reason, she stayed quiet in the short moment and when she pulled away she grinned. “We have time, but from what I learned, the festival does not have as much.”

Luro seemed surprised by the embrace at first but with a smile returned it, those gathered save Kioni and Breeze the latter who proudly huffed chuckled as Runali moved away.
“Hm your right Captain. All the time we need. Let’s get back to it!”
Taking Runali’s hand he ran back towards the festival with everyone joining them as the festivities went deep into the night.
For one night, the regular world wouldn’t exist, only joy and merriment for those around them and those out sight. For one night, they were allowed to have back another that was lost, a simple reward in honor of the bright future lying ahead.

A gentle breeze tickled Luro’s cheeks rousing him to consciousness, he felt something soft all around him and at first he thought it was the bed he was on, but seeing as he was inside a structure he thought it was weird he was feeling a clear breeze, and also something was tickling his arms. It wasn’t until he heard rustling that he opened his eyes only to find orange sky welcome him.
Luro blinked a few times and glancing around sat up to find himself in a field of wheat that seemed to stretch on indefinitely.
It wasn’t uncommon for him to wake up in strange places after a night of drinking but it was rare he knew where he was when he woke up. This wasn’t the first time he had ended up in this place and since it wasn’t of ‘this’ world he started to wonder if Imposter had pulled him into some weird destination again.
That didn’t feel right however as he stood up, his body didn’t feel heavy as it normally did and there was a warmth to this place he knew all too well but couldn’t explain.
“...I know this place…”

“This place has a strong connection to your memories...but thanks to Imposter it’s buried inside so it remains familiar but unknown.”
A voice called out to him, one that made his chest hurt a little.
He turned around to see Lina standing a few feet away, a small smile resting on her face, her visage bathed in the glow of the evening sky pulled at something in him, a memory that tried to surface only to fall back into its depths, remaining unknown.
“Hello again Brother.”
“Lina…” Luro took a few tentative steps forward and Lina offered a nod in response.
Reaching up he pat her head, before patting her cheeks then pulling on them eliciting a small ‘ow’ from her.
Before she could comment on it Luro had pulled her into a tight hug, a weak laugh escaped from him as he closed his eyes.
“I know it’s not real...it can’t be but…”
Lina smiled and wrapped her arms around Luro.
“I know...I missed you too. Come we have much to talk about.”
“...one more minute.”
“...all right fine. One more minute.”

After ‘one more minute’, Lina motioned to a nearby table with a single bottle sitting on it, two mugs in front of two opposing chairs. Luro took a seat used to seeing tables randomly manifest in his own little world, which was more than likely why Lina chose not to explain it.
Pouring drink to the brim of both glasses he raised her own glass mug.
“We never got to toast right? A toast to reuniting.”
“Hm and to whatever brought us back together.”
Slamming their mugs together both downed their drink quickly before Lina spoke first.
“This ‘situation’ was a gift for some trouble that happened earlier. Something for me. Regretfully you’ll still be bound by the same rules Runali was….you’ll forget this the moment you awaken.”
Luro stared at Lina as she poured more into his mug, a small smile resting on his face, but he knew his sister and could tell the sadness hiding behind it. He couldn’t deny it himself, this was a dream, a part of him wanted it to be more but it was a fleeting thing, a moment at best.
“However….I hope that our talk and this time...lessens the load on your heart just a little,” Lina said filling her own mug. “So let’s make the most of our time. No need to think too heavily about it right.”
Luro blinked but grinned at Lina offering a firm nod.
“Yeah you’re right….you’re here now. The why ain’t important.”
“This bottle’s endless too so let’s make the most of it. It’s the good stuff after all.”
“I can tell. It burned just right going down,” Luro said with a toothy grin.
“Only the best for family,” Lina said waggling the bottle before both broke into laughter.
Lina set the bottle down taking a sip from her mug before pointing at him.
“Anyway you know I miss you.”
“I miss you as well,” Luro responded.
“Good we miss each other. I love you as well.”
“I love you too,” Luro responded again.
“Good we miss each other and we love each other. Mushy stuff out of the way. Now the fun stuff. Tell me the thing you like about Runali.”
Luro had to hold back the tears that almost threatened his eyes, and the simple warmth welling in his chest almost consumed him. This conversation, their back and forth, and the simplicity born from a simple desire to see each other again, this was something he missed. However Lina was holding back too, they could cry at the end, right now wasn’t the time.
“One thing?” Luro questioned tilting his head
“Haha that’s what I expected. Okay top five things.”
“Top twenty got it,” Luro said folding his hands on the table. “Okay so first thing-”

A small puddle showed the two siblings engaged in their lively conversation, a single figure staring down into the reflecting pool, a small smirk resting on her lips as she folded her hands behind her back. The woman stood within a darkened room, the strange water at her feet and a single lantern providing the only light.
Behind her was a chained up Imposter who slowly raised his head, his eyes moving to his wrist which were chained to an unseen wall behind him. He tried to pull free his gaze resting on his female counterpart standing a few feet away.
“You won’t get away...I’m you but well...better remember? I know your tricks.”
“...why are you watching those two?”
“Not that it matters to you...but well thanks to Runali the seeds have been planted. I’ll be able to leave this place properly...which means I’ll have to thank her personally once I’m out. I’m going to bring so much misfortune to everything...those two especially. I can allow a simple happy moment like this. No matter how sickening it is.”
“...you can’t leave.”

A heavy sigh escaped from the female Imposter and she turned slightly to eye her captive.
“How are we the same person….seriously?” The woman said, shaking her head. “I can leave this place easily, the problem isn’t going into the world it’s manifesting. I’m not ‘allowed’ to or rather we aren’t. Due to what our existences do to all things, ‘god’, ‘human’, ‘demon’, and everything in-between. You should know this Imp.”
“Imp?” Imp said narrowing his eyes.
“Yeah Imp….you don’t deserve our name. Anyway that won’t be a problem anymore thanks to Runali.” Imposter said turning around. “I’ll be able to enter the world again properly. Then I’ll ensure Luro Makachi’s nightmares become reality...as I’ve always done.”
Imp glanced over at the pool of water
“Well that makes sense. Every Imposter hates Luro after all, you’re no exception.”
“Not every single one,” Imposter said shaking her head. “There’s an Imposter who doesn’t hate Luro.”
“What...but that’s-”
“I know trust me. You being a copy of a copy I shouldn’t expect to know anything about it.”

Imposter offered a shrug and turned fully back to Imp who pulled at his chain, he seemed to realize he wasn’t escaping this situation, something was suppressing his presence here, in the end he’d end up absorbed back into his maker, he could feel that and it pulled at something in him.
“...I just wanted Runali to remember me. Is that so bad!? I know I’m imperfect but I thought with the right stimulation she’d find me! She’d see the real me!”
“That’s what makes you so damn foolish. The ones like you give the rest of us a bad name. Alicia could easily be her descendant for all we know. Hell Zilia could be. Clinging to the past like that….”
Imposter snapped her fingers and Imp was torn into pieces in front of her, ripped apart mercilessly before dissipating into smoke and flowing back into her own body.
“Pisses me off the most.”

Turning back to her observations she waved her hand over the water staring at Stardusk gathered all together, her lips curled into a small smirk and she crossed her arms under her chest, eyeing the jolly pirates with eyes shining with curiosity.
“We’ll meet eventually Stardusk. I’m looking forward to it.”


 
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Mizos

*Insert quip here*
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. One post per day
  3. 1-3 posts per week
Writing Levels
  1. Elementary
  2. Intermediate
  3. Adept
  4. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Modern Fantasy, Historical, Fantasy, adventure, romance, anime, action, etc.
Side

Post-Bonifaas

Nikos' Banner.jpg
Nina's Banner 2.jpg
Kaim's Banner 2.jpg
Ria's Banner 2.jpg
1633024284833.png

Kara Banner.jpg

Isari's Banner First.jpg

Nikos leaped back his blade cutting one of Kara’s tendrils as they flew at him, sliding back his eyes narrowed as his hand moved over his sheath blade. He eyed his comrade who eyed him like a predator hunting wounded prey, he couldn’t find a shred of mercy in those eyes. If this kept up he was going to have to actually hurt her.
“I wish it didn’t have to be like this Nikos...I care a lot about you...but this has gone on for too long,” Kara said extending her hand.
“Kara you need to calm down,” Nikos said jumping back as another tendril lashed at him. “There’s no reason to do this!”
“No reason!” Kara exclaimed her eyes narrowing at him. “Your death is the only way to resolve this!”
Nikos sighed as Kara sent multiple coils at him, his eyes twitched before all were cut finely by his blade, Kara sliding back as one cut drew a bit too close to her bangs, she lowered her body as she slid backwards, her hands closing into fists as Nikos took a more firm stance.
“You want me to come at you properly Kara...you know what that means,” Nikos said his eyes narrowing at her.
Kara pushed down the emotion rising in her and summoned more coils.
“I’m not backing down on this. I will fight until I can’t anymore Nikos.”
The two eyed each other and each one took a step forward before a loud clap caused the two to look in the direction of the noise, Kaim walked up to the two his mouth twisted to the side as he stood between them.
“Sooo multiple questions...one why are you in the middle of a forest,” Nikos said motioning to the woods all around them, save the now open area the two stood in, the presence of stumps, leaves and animal droppings, the only sign forest used to be there.
“...and why are you fighting this early in the morning?”

Nikos eyes returned to Kara seeing her coils were still hovering behind her body.
“I was walking through town with Isari.”
“To take her away from me!” Kara exclaimed the tendrils behind her glowing a bright red.
“To show her the town and see if she wants to live here...as we’ve been doing.”
“I won’t allow it!”
“The both of you are impossible, especially you Kara,” Kaim said holding up a hand. “Nikos I’m guessing you let her lead you out here.”
“...yes she said she wanted to talk…” Nikos said.
“Kara you do this almost every time we enter a village. Doesn’t Isari’s opinion matter?” Kaim asked.
“Well! I mean...yes...I guess it does...but it’s not fair!”
“Just...put your weapons away. You scared away all the animals,” Kaim said. “Well the ones who aren’t playing dead.”
Nikos looked over at Kara and moved his hand away from his blade, Kara’s coils sunk back into her body and Kaim sighed before looking at Nikos.
“How’d it go anyway?”
“Not well,” Nikos said. “She’s uncomfortable here as well.”
Kara gently pumped her fist nearby and Kaim sighed, deciding to ignore it.
“Nikos I know you had a suggestion for her right? Maybe now’s the time to bring that up,” Kaim said.
The Prophet Leader moved his hands to his hips, his mouth twitching to the side for a moment. He offered a small nod and motioned past Kaim.
“You’re right, let’s head back to the ship. Isari’s already back there.”

When the trio returned to the ship Isari was nearby putting books in order with Tari, seeing the three she smiled and raised a hand to them. Kaim went to raise a hand only to see Kara had already attached herself to her, he sighed and lowered his hand before Nikos whistled. It was a simple way of gathering everyone in one place and save for Aira and Emil who were out the group gathered together in the living space.
“This meeting will be short, it’s about what to do with Isari,” Nikos said. “We’ve traveled to many places and have had little luck finding a proper place for her...due to this I’ve been in contact with Lady Zilia and after a bit of thought and communication came to a conclusion.”
The group’s eyes all rested on Nikos and with a sigh he motioned to Isari.
“Isari...would you like to stay with us?”
The young woman’s eyes widened a bit at this, Tari and Kara also seemed surprised by the leader's sudden offer.
“Yes!” Kara exclaimed holding her arm up, the other still wrapped around Isari.
“You don’t answer for her,” Nikos said looking back at Isari. “I didn’t pose the question to you for all this time because...well you know our work at this point. All of us have made peace with our profession and what we do. Our job’s aren’t always clean, sometimes...we take lives, kidnap or worse. I and especially Zilia didn’t want you exposed to that kind of work.”
Nina and Ria offered a small nod to this and even Kara found her gaze drifting away from Nikos, Kaim remained silent his gaze moving to Tari who merely listened, giving Nikos her full attention.
“...that being said...you’re your own person. Zilia and I agreed about that. You can go where you want to go...and while I closed off that option to you...you seem comfortable here, we both see that. If you want to stay here...I’m not going to tell you that you can’t...just to be prepared for what you may have to deal with by associating with us.”

Isari folded her hands together, her eyes meeting Nikos’ as she took in his offer.
It was hard to tell what the young lady was thinking, though after a moment she reached up and gently removing Kara’s arms stood up. Walking over to Nikos she held a hand out.
“I look forward to working with you Boss.”
Nikos eyes widened slightly but he managed to regain his composure quickly seeing Isari’s sincerity, her hand didn’t even tremble as she extended it out to him.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure...Zil had to walk a rough road to find her way...I don’t expect things to always be easy for me. I may have to cross lines that make me uncomfortable...but I have to find my own way and I can’t do that if I’m afraid to take chances. I like it here, everyone’s nice. I like having tea with Tari, reading with Nina and Ria, walking the town with Kara, helping Kaim spar, listening to Emil’s many stories, target practice with Aira and helping you with dinner. I enjoy each moment here. Let me be a Prophet.”
Nikos looked at the others before raising a hand.
“All for Isari becoming a Prophet say ‘Aye’.”
“Aye,” the Prophet’s said simultaneously raising their hands.
Nikos lowered his hand and took hold of Isari’s outstretched one. Offering a gentle smile he gave it a firm shake.
“Welcome to the Prophet’s Isari...I imagine Emil and Aira won’t mind.”
“It's a majority vote anyway even if they did,” Kaim said grinning. “Welcome Isari! Let’s celebrate by having you make three golem’s for me to fight!”
“....we can...form a...formal book club…” Ria said causing Nina to nod.
“Zilia can join too,” Nina added.
“We’ll start you off with simple tasks first,” Tari said. “No sense in having you do anything heavy handed at the start, we all have to earn-”
“Isari!” Kara said tackling the woman almost causing her to fall. “Now you’re here forever! I’m never letting you go.”
“B-Big Sis Kara, too tight, you’re squeezing me too tight!” Isari exclaimed laughing.
Nikos watched the scene from a few feet away, a smile finding its way onto his normally stoic expression.
“Not everyday we get a new member,” Kaim said patting him on the shoulder. “We should celebrate tonight.”
“...that’s not a bad idea. We’ll wait till Aira returns from her mission then have a big dinner. We’ll send something to Emil as well.”
“He’s going to be relieved that Kara's possessiveness will be somewhat toned down when they meet again, since she’ll have someone to cuddle with while he’s not here.”
“...you’re being awfully hopeful.”
“Shhh Nikos...don’t ruin this moment.”
Nikos shook his head and watched his friends...his family as they all welcomed their newest addition.
“Let’s do what we can to make it easier for her.”
“Of course as we always do for each other.”

Isari's Banner Final.jpg

Respect to
Mika Pikazo
For Kara.
 
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Mizos

*Insert quip here*
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. One post per day
  3. 1-3 posts per week
Writing Levels
  1. Elementary
  2. Intermediate
  3. Adept
  4. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Modern Fantasy, Historical, Fantasy, adventure, romance, anime, action, etc.
Side

Post Bonifaas


Maka's Banner Original.jpg
Yuli Banner (False).jpg
Adjusting his mask Maka eyed the long dirt road ahead of them, the next town was a few hours away but they’d easily make it by the evening. Though waking up Yuli this morning was an issue as it always was, they managed to take on a job and earn enough money to stay in an inn tonight.
Though accustomed to it, they had been sleeping in the woods for what felt like the past month.
They were now headed down a straight road, there were plains that stretched far on either side of them with the forest lying in the distance, finding roads again was the highlight of the two’s day.
Maka looked over at his companion who was counting the coins they had currently, he noticed her appearance had changed once again causing his brows to furrow.
“You changed your appearance once again,” Maka said breaking the silence between them.
“Thank you for noticing,” Yuli said patting the side of her head with a smile.
“I noticed you take that form even when we’re in private. Since your real face was already shown I figured you would linger in it more especially with those ex-Raven’s no longer chasing you.”
“Who said that was my real face?”
Maka arched a brow at this and Yuli glanced at him offering a smile.
“It’s not hard to maintain different appearances, let them think that was the real me, it’ll make it easier to deal with them later.”
Maka offered a chuckle and focused forward again.
“Always planning ahead, as to be expected. Well let’s review what needs to be done.”
“So we’re just going to ignore how badly you want to see my real face? Okay then.”

Ahead of the two were a group of men and women standing in the middle of the road, some had their weapons out resting on their shoulders and a few sat on either side of the road; climbing to their feet as the two approached. They were dressed in simple clothes save one man who was decked out in a bit more finery than his compatriots, a tricorne hat resting on his head as he stepped forward, clearly the leader of the outfit. He reached up and smoothed his greasy and messy short black hair before putting his cap back on.
“Not to be rude traveler’s but there’s a toll for passing through this area. Just set the gold you have right there on the ground and we’ll let you pass without complication.”
The man’s companions laughed as one casually swung his bludgeon around.

Maka and Yuli’s pace didn’t stop and the two shoved their way past the group as if passing through shubbery, one of Maka’s shoves sent one of the bandits rolling down the hill. The leader watched the scene in shock before regaining himself and yelling towards the two.
“Oi! Did you not hear me?!”
Maka and Yuli stopped and the man glanced over his shoulder acknowledging the group.
“Sorry I tend to ignore the buzzing of insects, did you need something from me?”
“Kill them. Both of them,” the leader said pointing towards the two. “Make them regret angering the great Vilos.”
Yuli failed to stifle a laugh at the leader referring to himself in the third person.
Maka and Yuli turned fully towards the group as they brandished their weapons.
“Female mayflies live about five minutes,” Yuli said.
“Pardon,” Vilos said drawing his own weapon.
“Just reminding you of your life span,” the woman responded with a grin.

The bandits rushed forward red in their faces, their weapons raised, Vilos started to step forward but froze as his friends suddenly flew past him, his eyes wide open not entirely sure what had just happened. He had blinked and suddenly his friends were on the ground near him, groaning, some already starting to bleed out.
“Wha…”
Vilos looked back at his friends then forward again only to see Maka in front of him, he swung at the man only to have his sword knocked out of his hand with a ‘shooing motion’ of Maka’s hand. Reaching forward Maka removed his hat and grabbing the top of Vilos’ head slammed his face into the ground.
He tossed the tricorne hat onto the man’s hoisted hindquarters and turning continued on his way.
“So as I was saying in the next town we should eat and find a place to sleep.”
Maka watched as Yuli dug into the pocket of the now unconscious leader and pulled out his coin before catching up to him holding up the heavy pouch.
“Extra funds.”
“In the middle of the road? Your luck never ceases to amaze me,” Maka said.
“I mean who’s going to miss it right?” Yuli said grinning as the two continued forward.

From what they knew about the town it was a relatively small place and after reaching the place they realized just how true that observation was. There really wasn’t much to the town, even calling it a place to pass through was rough. It clearly wasn’t a place meant for traveler’s, there was a single inn in town but the rest were homes and businesses like bakeries that upon closer observation served as both abode’s and workplaces. No stands for traveler’s or anything of that sort, neither expected something akin to Utsukushi but was surprised that this was by all means a simple town.

The only thing that really stood out was there were two districts, an old and new one. The old one was essentially abandoned, apparently the town from many generations ago, the people hadn’t figured out what to do with that part of town and there was too much sentiment to just tear it down so it stayed up, a place of dilapidated buildings and old weathered signs.
If any such people existed in the village it would be a perfect den for thieves and bandits but neither were to be found when they passed through it, Yuli even jiggled coins out in the open trying to coak some out.

Maka made his way through the main part of town with Yuli and was greeted by many people, some asking him to stop and share their stories. A nice middle aged woman, who was apparently a baker named Mattie, gave him and Yuli free bread. When Yuli tried to pay for them she pushed the coin back at her saying ‘it’s extra anyway but just as good’ and waved them off.
Apparently visitors were rare in this area due to the bandits nearby so the few that managed to get through they liked to talk too and have them share their stories, if they weren’t irritated at paying the ‘toll’ from earlier and found a way to slip past them.
“The people here are oddly generous,” Maka said staring at the bread roll in his hand. “Did you sense anything ill from them?”
Yuli tossed a cream puff into her mouth before responding with a shake of her head.
“Nope. Even Observation didn’t reveal any duality in their actions.”
“...same here, their heartbeats didn’t give anything away either,” Maka said. “Guess there are still people who are this sickeningly sweet to strangers.”
“Makes me wanna burn the place down,” Yuli said smiling. “Only a little though.”
Maka wasn’t sure if his companion was being serious but the thought was put aside as a little girl ran up to him, he stopped and stared down at the long black haired girl, dressed in a simple what was once white dress, splotches of brown revealing its age.
Not necessarily a surprise as everyone in the town was dressed in simple clothing, there was no nobility here or district for them, this town was the epitome of ‘common folk’.
“Hi Mr. Wolf. I’m Emily.”
Maka didn’t respond immediately, surprised by the girl’s manners but offered a nod at her in greeting.
“Nice to meet you Emily.”
Emily offered a small bow before speaking again.
“Why do you wear a mask Mr. Wolf?”
Emily posed her question pointing up at Maka’s mask, even standing under him she couldn’t see his face.

Maka stared down at the child and shoved the roll into his pocket.
“When I take my mask off I stop being human,” Maka said.
He held up one hand and curled his fingers in like a claw before bringing a finger to his lips.
“Don’t tell anyone.”
The little girl giggled but covered her mouth with both her hands before nodding and running off.
Yuli approached Maka who waved the child away before patting him on the back.
“Didn’t know you liked kids Maka, look at you getting all soft.”
“Children are honest,” Maka said, keeping his back to Yuli. “Hard to hate them.”
Yuli’s smile slowly left her face at the man’s words, she felt there was something else behind that but unable to read his expression she let it go and followed as he continued forward.
Maka came to a sudden stop however Yuli doing the same and the two looked at each other before nodding and leaping back into the nearby shadows.

A large explosion hit the town and the people started to scatter as fire soon consumed one of the buildings, grabbing their children and running away from the growing flames. Loud laughter filled the town as bandits entered the town, many of them smashing out the windows of the buildings as they made their way through.
Vilos walked alongside his men and yelled out, drawing the people’s attention.
“All right! I’m going to make this real simple! I’m looking for a man in a mask and a woman with short hair travelling with him ! You bring them out and only a quarter of you have to die today!”
Maka and Yuli watched the scene below from a nearby rooftop, Yuli munching on the bread from the bakery.
“It appears we lead bandits here,” Maka said adjusting his mask.
“Kind of,” Yuli said. “From what I gathered they attack this place every now and then. They have guards to deal with it but the barracks are on the other side of town, near the abandoned part. Apparently they don’t get paid enough to be on guard duty constantly.”
Maka looked over at Yuli who offered a shrug.
“Though I suppose in this case we’re responsible for them attacking today instead of say...tomorrow or the next day. It’s never been this number of them before either. They generally come in with a few, steal a bit then run off.”
Maka sighed as that only meant it was still their fault, his gaze moving down to the town.
“Well they should reveal we were here and that’ll resolve that issue, they’ll chase after us and the guards will handle the rest correct?”
“Yep, I mean two or three might die but the guards are probably already on the way.”
“Well our business here is concluded,” Maka said. “I don’t feel like dealing with those weaklings again and I’m tired of this town’s ‘niceness’ anyway.”
Yuli nodded in agreement and started to leave but stopped seeing Maka wasn’t moving, just as she was about to inquire why she realized it herself.
The people weren’t talking.
Not a single word was uttered from their lips, they merely stared down the bandits defiantly.
“Do you not understand what I just said?!” Vilos exclaimed. “I will start severing heads if you don’t tell me where they’re at!”
Once again the people remained quiet only watching the gathered thugs, Vilos grit his teeth and motioned towards the people.
“Start making bodies, when they’re ready to talk then stop, aim for the women and children especially.”
The bandits ran forward and the people turned and ran as they chased them down, Yuli made her way back to Maka as he watched the scene in silence.
“Fools...protecting someone you just met. Let’s go Yuli,” Maka said turning his back to the chaos below.

Emily ran away from the bandits with her mother who gripped her hand tightly, the two unfortunately didn’t make it far before one of the bandits tackled the mother, the girl falling in the process. She reached out for her mother only to turn as she was bathed in a large shadow. Her eyes widening as a bandit approached her sword raised, with a laugh he brought it down on her a wild look in his eyes.
The blade however didn’t reach her, as someone grabbed hold of the blade mid descent, a familiar figure wearing a wolf’s mask.
“Mr. Wolf!” Emily exclaimed pointing at his mask.
“Close your eyes.”
The girl stared for a moment, nodded and listened to Maka covering her eyes with both hands, the masked man broke the sword with little effort before stabbing it into the bandit’s neck. He grabbed the wide eyed and now bleeding man by his clothes and flung him into a nearby alley out of sight, eyeing the darkness until he saw the body stop moving and his gurgles stopped.
He glanced behind him to see Yuli snap the neck of the man on the girl’s mother, also flinging his body to the darkness of the alley.
“You can open your eyes,” he said as Yuli helped the mother up.
Emily opened her eyes noticing the bad man were gone, she smiled at Maka who returned it and looked past her to the mother who offered her nod of thanks. However as the woman’s face shifted from gratefulness to fear he turned his attention forward again for a furry fist to slam into his face. The punch sending his mask bouncing along the ground as his head remain turned slightly from the punch.
“...kid you better run,” Maka said bringing a hand to his face, peering at her between his fingers.
A pair of glowing orange eyes, formed into slits, met the girl’s.
“I can’t maintain my human form anymore. Go...and don’t look back!”
Nodding the girl grabbed her mother’s hand and the two ran off, Yuli watched the two run off and looked back at Maka who turned back at the Zoan who now towered over him, if he had to guess it was probably a snow leopard given it’s white fur with black spots and cat like slits similar to his own.
“You’re version of ‘let’s go’ is different than usual Boss,” Yuli said grinning at him. “Nice acting too by the way. Sure you weren’t a Quill yourself?”
“You have your orders Yuli,” Maka said cracking his knuckles turning back to the fully transformed Zoan.
“Aye boss already working on it. I’ll ensure that kid and her mother stay safe personally.”
Maka nodded and stared up at the Zoan.
“We’re of a similar family,” Maka said to the Zoan running a hand through his hair. “Show me you deserve to be.”

Bandits ran throughout the town, a few of them approaching one of the civilians' weapons reared back, a large stick slammed into one of the bandits' head breaking apart in the process. Mattie smiled as the man stumbled from the hit, though as he remained on his feet, blood running down the side of his face a weak chuckle escaped from her.
The man turned and raised his sword only for the sword to fly a little off into the distance sliding along the ground along with something else, the man looked up at his hand which was supposed to be holding it only to notice it was gone, now laying near the blade.
He didn’t have time to scream as the clawed hand of a beast grabbed him by his skull and lifted him off his feet.
Slayis eyes gleaned back at the baker who stared back up at him, clearly afraid but avoiding running since he seemed to be helping.
“My Master said your bread was delicious.”
The creature delivered the message before crushing the bandits head and dropping the limp body to the ground.
“Go inside our orders are to ensure none perish...being in the open may prevent me from keeping that promise. You’ll be retrieved once this area is clear.”
Mattie nodded and with a small bow quickly ducked into one of the buildings, Slayis leaned down and ran through the town on all fours, tearing through the bandits without hesitation and with extreme prejudice as he came across them.

Vilos walked with a female bandit through the burning town motioning to a group trying to flee ahead, nodding the woman ran forward with her own group prepared to cut down the ones trying to flee. They stepped forward only to run into some invisible wall, a few didn’t stop and thin wires cut through their flesh like a knife through butter cutting them into pieces before they even had time to register it.
The woman looked at her now bleeding arms having ran into them slightly and her eyes widened seeing the many threads before them, invisible at first glance, running along the buildings blocking them from pursuing.
“You’re smarter than your friends,” Puppeteer’s voice filled the area.
The girl stood atop one of the buildings with both her hands out, the ‘wires’ having blocked the group in.
“A majority of your friends ran forward without thinking...like that one,” she said motioning to the chunks lying a few feet away. “My duty has been to divide you all from the ‘innocents’, with that said….”
Puppeteer’s hands twitched and the wall of the thread moved back, the female bandit eyes widening as they passed over her. Vilos eyes widened watching the female bandit stare at her hands before she fell into pieces similar to her comrades.
“I’ve been asked to capture the ‘leader’ alive...if possible,” Puppeteer said. “Perhaps I’ll tell Master he struggled.”
With a small smile from the girl the threads closed in on Vilos as he screamed.

Yuli stood on the rooftops with the Emily, her mother and a few of the other townsfolk put there by Slayis the rest were on opposing rooftops staring down at the carnage below. Yuli’s eyes moved to the side as Puppeteer manifested next to her.
“That everyone?” she questioned.
“All people accounted for Master,” Puppeteer said. “We found no bodies of innocents, I believe we have saved all within the town thanks to your strategy. Slayis is cleaning up the bandits that were trapped in by my threads and double checking.”
“Good thing this town was so small,” Yuli said. “Boss giving me these impossible tasks…”
Yuli looked down as someone tugged on her shirt, she looked down to see Emily.
“Is Mr. Wolf going to be okay…” she said pointing ahead.
Maka was leaping from rooftop to rooftop in the old district away from the Zoan.
“Of course he won’t be!”
Yuli’s eyes went to the extra voice to see Vilos tied up in Puppeteer's threads lying a few feet away. “Snow’s our greatest weapon! He’s-”
“I’m going to stop you right there,” Yuli said. “I don’t have time for all that cliche stuff, your friend’s already dead.”
“...huh?” Vilos said looking back at the fight.
“Boss was just checking to see if he was worth anything...and he’s made his decision.”

Maka leaped backwards as Snow’s fist crashed into one of the rooftops forming a hole in it, circling around him Maka fell back into the newly created hole. Snow slammed through the roof following him causing Maka to jump backwards, the Zoan crashing through the floors of the building.
Maka leapt out one of the windows as the building collapsed on itself, the maskless man brushing a bit of dirt off his outfit.
Snow burst out of the rubble and landed a few feet in front of Maka, the man having lead him to what looked like an old town square.
“I didn’t feel your first punch and now you can’t hit me,” Maka said crossing his arms. “I thought being a fellow User you’d be worth keeping in my future kingdom...but clearly you’re not fit for it.”
Snow leapt forward and Maka sighed, allowing claws to form on his hand his brought his arm in front of him in a wide arc; Snow felt an invisible pressure pass over him before he was thrown backwards. He hit the stone wall behind them hard enough to knock the air out of him, before large claws marks formed along his torso, red burst out of his body and as the pain suddenly registered.
He landed on the ground face first, his body refusing to move as Maka’s footsteps drew closer, Snow’s eyes moved up to the man’s who stared down at him with the gaze of a predator.
“Know your place in the hierarchy,” he said raising his clawed hand once more.

By time the guards made it to the town Vilos was lying tied up on the ground and the people were already working on putting out the few fires remaining. The guards looked around at the mess including what bandits were still alive before one of the people approached to explain the situation.
“Mr. Wolf!”
Maka turned from Mattie who was shoving more food into Yuli’s arms to see Emily who ran up to him.
“Your mask!” The girl yelled holding the mask up to him
Maka stared at the child before reaching down and gently taking it from her, staring at it he placed it back on his face and with a small adjustment offered a smile to her.
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome! Also your eyes are really pretty Mr. Wolf.”

“Look at his eyes...it’s that of a beasts….stay away from him…”
Maka's mouth moved up slightly as he pushed old voices aside, with a smile he reached down and ruffled Emily’s hair.
“Well thank you.”
The mother offered a small bow to both of them.
“Thank you so much for your help. Thanks to you we no longer have to worry about those bandits,” the woman said.
“Lost my husband to those bastards so you have my thanks as well,” Mattie said. “You’ve done this town a service...though if you don’t mind me asking who are you two?’
Yuli looked over at Maka at this, the man looked at the small group gathered before motioning to himself then Yuli.
“Merchants though we’re just getting started.”
“You fight pretty well for merchants,” the baker said smiling at him.
“Well we’re on the road a lot.”
“You’re welcome to stay in town, I’m sure everyone would like to celebrate with you,” the mother said causing Emily to nod.
“Oh that sounds-” Yuli started but stopped as Maka held a hand up.
“That’s quite all right,” Maka said with a small nod. “We have a lot of ground to cover and a short amount of time.”
Those gathered clearly didn’t want the two to leave but Mattie spoke up first patting Maka a bit too hard on his shoulder.
“Well you all come back at anytime. You’re welcome here.”
“...thanks...oh and here,” Maka said dropping a bag of coin into Mattie’s hand. “Use that towards repair of the town. I’ll just consider it a future investment.”
Maka and Yuli turned and waving to the small part of town that came to see them off vanished further down the road.

“Merchants huh...maybe leave the lying to me next time boss,” Yuli said poking at the fire between them.
Night had fallen and the two had moved deep into the woods, Slayis and Puppeteer were on guard duty leaving the two in each other’s company.
“It’ll work for now...besides...taking another kingdom has it’s disadvantages. If we want a place for ourselves and those like us...we should build it on our own. We'll need revenue, information and influence for that. Becoming merchants could help with all three of those aspects. I imagine it would be little problem for you to handle that Yuli?”

“I suppose so,” Yuli said tossing more sticks onto the fire. “I’m fine with the idea and a few whispers and some coin is enough to become official...but we’re sleeping in the woods again aren’t we? I know we’re here but I have to ask, no inn tonight really?”
“We sleep in the woods tonight, Yuli.”
“Damn it...well at least we got plenty of food,” Yuli said eyeing the satchel a few feet away, a gift from one of the townsfolk for their ‘heroes’.
She peered over the fire at Maka who sat on the other side, her mouth curving up slightly into a smirk.
“Are you sure though, me helping to manage that much money? A bag of coins isn’t worth stealing but if we start coming into wagons of coin with this gig I might take some for myself…”
The woman’s brows arched at Maka who spared no glance towards her, his eyes remaining on the flickering flames as they crackled in front of him.
“I mostly trust you wouldn’t do such a thing so it’s no issue.”
“Mostly?!” Yuli said, bringing a hand to her chest. “Not completely, I'm offended.”
The woman brought her arm up to her head pretending to be offended as she swooned backwards slightly.
“It’s hard to trust someone completely whose real face I haven’t seen.”
Yuli lowered her arm and looked back at Maka at this, the edges of her mouth twitched slightly and closing her eyes she stood up drawing Maka’s attention to her finally. Walking around the flames to stand next to him she stared down at him.
“...so if I show you my true self...you’ll completely trust me?”
Maka arched a brow at her, his mask rested to his side so Yuli could clearly see his curious expression.
“I’ve never shown my real self to another since I obtained this power...are you sure you want to know the real me?”
The woman didn’t wait for an answer from Maka, the familiar glow surrounded her body before her form changed, she shrunk a bit in height as the light faded revealing her new appearance.
The young woman that stood in front of him had no particular way about her, unlike the other variations there was nothing too interesting about this one, she was simple and plain which in a way made her stand out more compared to the other ‘Yuli’s’. There was an innocence in her eyes lacking in the other variations, a light within her gaze snuffed out in the others.
With a crooked smile Yuli held her arms out.
“Well what do you think?” she said. “Disappointed?”
Maka stared at her for a moment before resting his hands on his knees and standing up, he stepped closer to her causing Yuli’s eyes to widen slightly. Leaning forward he sniffed her causing her to jump a bit.
“O-oi-”
“Don’t move.”
The man spoke the words in a whisper and Yuli ended up complying without realizing it, even as a hand was rested on her shoulder. Maka’s warmth was closer than usual and she could feel her body trembling as she forced her gaze away. She knew what he was doing but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with.
Finally Maka backed away offering a small nod to her.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” he said with a smile. “I’ve memorized your natural scent, thank you Yuli, especially for trusting me enough to show me your real self. I hope I responded properly in kind.”
Yuli slowly lowered her arms, her eyes narrowing at him as she managed to maintain what composure she could given the circumstances.
“...Boss you’re creepy you know that. You don’t just walk up and sniff women.”

Maka’s eyes widened a bit at this and the woman sighed realizing he genuinely didn’t realize that was an issue. He cherished his Zoan nature more than his human one on occasion so she was used to such things thankfully.
He was trying to show respect in his own way...it was just weird.
“Well it’s fine with me cause I know you gotta do your Zoan thing, but if you’re going to ‘mark’ your territory you could at least take me out to dinner first. Besides who said this was my ‘natural form’.”
Yuli smiled at this causing Maka’s brows to lower a bit.
“This isn’t your real form either...a shame I like this one.”
Due to Maka lowering his eyes to the fire he didn’t notice Yuli moving a hand to her face, hiding the look that came onto it, by time he looked up at her, Yuli had turned her back to him.
“Is something wrong?”
“...it’s because you say stuff like that…”
“Yuli?”
“It’s nothing, I’m going to bed early.”
Yuli walked back over to her side and summoning Slayis hopped onto her makeshift bed.
Maka stared at his companion before shrugging and poking the fire again.


Maka's Banner Final.jpg
Yuli Banner.jpg


Respect to Enji, Zabeo and Mogumo
Enji
Zabeo
Mogumo

Main

Post Bonifass


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Nikos' Banner.jpg

Lively towns were generally a good place to find work and occasionally people.
Nikos knew this firsthand, a fact he was reminded of as he passed through a crowd of people eyeing the letter in his hands. He pushed his pince-nez back onto his nose as his mind went over what had to be done today.
He had woken up early in the morning to get a headstart on finding his target for the day, unlike the other ones they’d been hunting, this one was smarter, knew how to hide his tracks. Which made sense as he was an ex-raven, under different circumstances he wouldn’t go after his life immediately, but he had taken the side of those who wished to destroy the code, and though smart he was too ambitious for his own good, they had butted heads before he expected that again.
Lily had informed him where he was at after taking out another Bastion and since he was closest to the location, he set out to deal with him. Admittedly if he was being honest there was another reason he was going after the man.

His thoughts drifted as he walked through the crowd, his eyes narrowing as he read through the letter again, he somehow managed to avoid bumping into the few people as he made his way through the town but his attention was clearly elsewhere.

Lively towns were always fun to be in. More things to take, more taverns to cause trouble in- and of course more possibility of bounty hunters and navy soldiers. Runali wasn’t really keeping a low profile and most of the trouble she had already caused was a few miles the opposite way. Runali wandered the streets with the flow of the crowds, searching for anything interesting. And to her surprise, a familiar head of red hair came into view. Her hand started to go up to get his attention, but she put it down noticing Nikos wasn’t looking up. “Hm.” Instead, she drifted into the crowd, walking past him until she could casually do a heel turn and follow behind him. For a few paces, she considered sneaking up on him, but he was always so… frigid. It probably wasn’t the best idea, as much as she wanted to do it.

Instead, she did a little hop and fell in step right beside him. “Y’know, you should really pay attention to the road. Never know who’s gonna show up.” Runali’s hands were behind her back and she smiled. “Long time no see, Nikos~ Fancy meeting you here.” She looked over at him and gave a mock salute in greeting.

Nikos had some odd feeling in his stomach all of a sudden. This strange inkling to suddenly attack the area behind him...or next to him, somewhere around him his instincts were screaming at him. It was enough to pull him from his thoughts, though at that point the ‘presence’ showed itself causing him to jump slightly. The only reason his hand didn’t go to his sword was he recognized the voice and even then he was tempted.

The man’s eyes moved over to Runali, they narrowed slightly as he contemplated his actions, his eyes moving from her, to the sheet of paper, then back to her. A sigh escaped from him realizing his business priorities beat out his personal ones, at least for now.
“Anyone silly enough to try something would have paid the proper price for it,” Nikos said folding the letter. “It’s been a while Lev...I wish it had been longer.”
Nikos started to wonder if he should slip into the crowd and now that he was thinking about it he heard some mischief had happened a ways back. He regretted not paying more attention, much less being far enough gone Runali was able to get this close before he noticed anything, he crossed his arms as his brows furrowed.
“Gah...letting you get this close...I really was out of it,” he said before bringing his arms back to his side.
Just as he was about to say something further he blinked before looking back at Runali.
“Wait...Lev if you’re here is that annoy-” Nikos cut himself off before starting again. “Is Makachi here?”

Even though she didn’t say anything, there was a subtle smug grin when he jumped in surprise. “You’re always so tense Nikos, you should try the hot springs around here.” Her head tilted ever so slightly almost as if she was confused before she shrugged and smiled again. “Aw, I missed you too. Y’know if you want to visit you can, we wouldn’t mind the company.” She watched him grumble and she could only laugh. “Don’t worry Nikos, it happens to the best of us! I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten snuck up on. Mostly by Jack. Sometimes you just have your guard down because you know it’s a friend.”

His question made her take a step forward, a little ahead of him just so she could walk backwards and talk. With a hand to her chest, she mocked. “I wouldn’t just share Luro’s personal affairs like that. He’s his own man, he has his privacy to uphold too!” She couldn’t keep up the bit as she started to smile. “Besides! It’s not like he follows me everywhere I go. Sometimes he’s with the doctor.” She sidestepped a passerby before turning to face the right way, adding, “Guess you’ll have to redeem your vigilance and find out for yourself, huh?” A curious look crossed her face and she pointed to where he placed the paper. “Ooor, I’ll tell youuu if you tell me what business you’ve got here?”

The man waved away the notion of both relaxing and visiting, he didn’t have time for Lev’s...Levness he had work to do. He couldn’t afford distractions and she was one of the worst ones around.
“We are not friends we are rivals thus why it matters that-”
Nikos ended up cutting himself off seeing Runali pull ahead, a sigh escaped from him as she didn’t answer his question though she wasn’t wrong, there was a chance he wasn’t with the doctor and if that was the case it wasn’t good.
“Why would I share my business when you refuse to share yours, there’s no equality there,” Nikos said before a red glow consumed the letter destroying it.
Though he said that the man seemed to hesitate for a moment, his eyes narrowing slightly as he seemed to fight with something internally. Whatever battle concluded Nikos clearly didn’t like the victor.

“Makachi owes me one, inform him of that...well if he’s alive,” Nikos said glancing over at Runali before looking forward again. “I’m here looking for an Ex-raven, one that was part of the rebels the abandoners of the code. Though not a quill he was a previous candidate and has been making movements, for why I asked my question?”
Nikos offered a small shrug at this.
“One of his lieutenants, a Zoan apparently has quite the vendetta against Luro. I’m not sure what he did to him, but he wants his head on a pike. I have business with him and his boss. To my knowledge he’s traveling with a quarter of an army, and lieutenants consisting of Paramecia and Zoan’s.”
Nikos adjusted his sword and picked up his pace to move past Runali.
“The safety of Makachi is not my concern, but he’s got eyes on his back in this town, I’d warn him while I go deal with the source, especially if he’s on his own...well if they haven’t gotten him already I wasn’t expecting him to show up.”

Nikos casually stepped past an approaching person his eyes scanning their face for a moment as he kept forward.
“These are ex-ravens, the kind who’d poison your drink while acting buddy-buddy with you. Though it’s not as if Makachi would just drink with random strangers or act needlessly friendly with someone he just met, that doesn’t match him at all. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to deal with my problem.”
He made no effort to hide his own sarcasm.
“Or do you want to stop playing games before I have to explain to Kaim why his drinking buddy bled out in a gutter today.”

Silent waiting must have paid off as she continued forward without answering Nikos’s question about sharing info. And when he did share, it was clear her interest piqued. “Well… who doesn’t have a vendetta against Luro is the real question… but good to know.” She couldn’t help but scratch her cheek, looking away as she mumbled, “Would be more concerned about poisons if he didn’t drink most of them anyway…” Runali straightened up and waved her hand in front of her. “Dying in a gutter is too boring for him. He’d never let that happen. If he was in trouble, he’d make it known. Then again, if he was in trouble, she would have told me.” Before he could ask, Runali pointed upward. Up in the sky, a bird was perched on a taller building, occasionally flying around to look ‘casual’. Runali looked up, making eye contact with her before making a small gesture. From a distance, it looked like she nodded before flying off.

“Hey have you guys considered getting a pet for your crew? Really helps morale sometimes. You should get one.” She looked up and down at Nikos and hummed. “You seem like a cat person. Sneaky, quiet, and mostly claws and glaring. Perfect match really.” Realizing she hadn’t explained what she just did, Runali put her hands behind her head. “If I can count on anyone to know where Luro is, in order it’d be Coral, Zil, then Jack. Only because Coral has flight advantage. Oh right, so are you just blindly searching town or do you know where we’re going?” She had a feeling Nikos would question so she added, “Of course I’m gonna help. Makes the work easier if a friend helps.” She shrugged. “Plus, Luro’s my fiance and a part of my crew. If people have problems with him, they’ve got problems with me.” She patted his arm. “I’m sure you understand, you’ve got your whole family to keep an eye out for and all.” There was a beat of silence before she exhaled, “Plus, I’ve got nothing better to do anyway.”

“May your faith not cause you to lose someone Lev.”
That was the most Nikos said in regards to her trust in Luro, there seemed to be something else as he spoke the words softly and without his usual cadence but he returned to normal quick enough at the mention of Luro and him being in trouble.
“I’m not so sure he would say something, especially if it meant putting you in danger. If he loses it just meant he was too weak, same for dying,” Nikos said. “...well there’s no point explaining it, you only hear what you need to.”

Nikos let the matter go, he wasn’t sure why he was acting like a child. This always happened near this woman, he took a small moment to regain himself glancing over at Runali at her comment of a cat, he didn’t respond immediately but his glare spoek volumes at the comparison.
“...I’m not good with animals and my crew aren’t ready for a pet….Kara especially, she almost stabbed me over borrowing Isari yesterday, if I put another adorable thing on that ship she’d slit my throat in my sleep just to spend more time with it,” Nikos said. “Though I don’t dislike your bird.”
At finding Luro Nikos brought a hand to his chin.
“I can trust that judgement and for the last time we’re not fre-”
Nikos flinched, eyes going wide as she mentioned the word ‘fiance’, whatever caused him such shock faded relatively quickly and he sighed.
“...right...that is a thing isn’t it,” Nikos said. “I forgot…or maybe repressed it. Hard to believe but you are the only person who can actually tolerate him for long stretches of time.”
He only offered a sigh at the mention of family.
“I will not agree or disagree with that statement but I do understand your nosiness, and I do know where I’m going, running straight at them would be foolishness so I was pacing the area to draw out-”

Nikos cut himself off as someone ran in their direction from the crowd, his eyes widened a bit recognizing the familiar figure. Zilia came to a stop in front of the two clearly out of breath, she opened her mouth only to close it seeing Nikos who offered a small nod to her.
“Sir Nikos it’s good to see you again,” she said offering a small bow to him.
“You as well Lady Zilia,” Nikos said offering a smile though it fell quickly. “Why were you running?”
“That’s-”
Zilia started but cut herself off realizing Nikos was right next to Runali, her eyelids lowered slightly and her mouth twitched as her panicked expression shifted to nervousness. The act caused Nikos to raise his hand.
“I’m here on business, thus my personal affairs with this one is on hold,” he said pointing over at Runali.
Realizing there wasn’t going to be a fight Zilia looked at Runali.
“I think Luro’s been kidnapped.”
Nikos’ eyes narrowed slightly as Zilia continued.
“I was at one of the stalls and he was standing a few feet away, when I looked back at Luro to ask if he wanted something I noticed him near this cloaked figure, he seemed to be talking with them when the person threw something in his mouth before dragging him into an alley. The stranger looked in my direction as they did so but I couldn’t catch their face, I saw them smile though before going out of sight. I ran after them but they were already gone without a trace.”
“Just like a Raven...were they a man or woman?” Nikos asked.
“They looked like a man.”
“Damn it...that could have been Garim then,” Nikos said. “He didn’t resist?”
Zilia shook her head then looked back at Runali.
“I’m sorry Captain...I should have kept a closer eye on him.”
Nikos brought a hand to his chin looking over at Runali.
“Since Luro’s officially involved in this I suppose asking you to stay out of it is no longer an option. Why don’t we head to the meeting location and see if he’s been taken there. I assure you Garim will want his death to be slow so he’ll still be alive.”
He looked back at Zilia.
“Lady Zilia can comb the town with Coral, since they’re the top two Luro-Finders, if he’s not at the base yet they’ll find him. How does that sound Lev?”
“You’re going to help Nikos? I...could have sworn you hated Luro though.”
“I can’t stand that walking man-child...but I dislike Garim and his boss more and have business with them. Lev can help Luro and I’ll do what I came here to do, one less thing for me to deal with...besides….”
Nikos eyes narrowed a bit as he trailed off.
“I owe him one favor and I hate being indebted to him.”

“Well you certainly can’t have Coral, but she can stop by for visits.” The conversation pushed on and Runali couldn’t help the short laugh at Nikos’ visible surprise about her ‘fiance’. When Zil ran towards them she sighed away her smile, still as calm as ever. “Well, it’s a good thing Coral’s already gotten a head start in the search. Next time, we’ll just leave her with him too.” Her brow raised when Zilia apologized but she ended up smiling and patting her shoulder. “What are you apologizing for? You got details we need. And there’s hundreds of people that don’t like Luro, it’s bound to happen every now and then.” She gestured Zilia off and laughed. “And y’know, since he’s stressed you out today you get a free hit. Not that you wouldn’t do it anyway. When you see Coral, just tell her he’s been kidnapped if she hasn’t figured that one out already.” She only nodded towards Nikos’ plan. After all, he already had plenty of information to get to the source of it all, or enough information to cause a mess and have the source come to her. But Nikos was more of the sneaky type so she decided to reserve the trouble for when it was… needed the most. She gave a salute to Zilia before she ran off, calling out. “If you find him and need to cause trouble, have fun! You can blame Luro if it makes you feel better!”

“Alright Sir Nikos, lead the way.” She put her hands up in playful surrender. “Was your mission to start with so I’ll follow your lead. Don’t want to step on your toes and all.” She closed her one eye as she followed Nikos around this ‘base’. “For the record, I hear a lot better than I can see. But you’re blind as a bat, you should understand that. If I worried about Luro all the time, I’d be as high strung as Zil. Hah, or you. Plus it’d be a little rude not to have faith in him. If I don’t believe in my crew there’d be no reason for them to stay with me.” She shrugged. “But his skeletons bring us back together to stir up trouble. Like the good ole days.” By her laughter, it was obvious she was joking. “If there’s a group of them, want to place a bet to see who gets rid of the most?”

Zilia offered a small nod before cracking her knuckles.
“Aye Captain, he’ll get two today for this. I’ll be off then,” Zilia said.
She offered a nod to Nikos before running off, the Prophet Leader looked over at Runali and sighed before moving to their destination.
“For the record yourself I see far more than you can imagine,” Nikos said. “As a leader I understand having faith in your crew, I don’t fault you for that, it’s one of the few things, very very few I must emphasize that I respect about you. My ‘high strungness’ comes from understanding what it means to lose someone as a leader. Something we both know.”
Nikos shook his head at this.
“If you want to handle that with Faux-flippancy by all means do so, I’ll stay like this. Those foolish enough to attack my family should know exactly what they’re getting into from the get go.”
Though Nikos said this he ultimately reached up and removed his pince-nez squeezing the bridge of his nose.
“...that was rude, I apologize for that,” he said putting his glasses back on. “Since I feel I stepped over a needless line I’ll play along with your game. If you take out more than I do you can pick what you want...though no promises I’ll agree. It’ll be the same for me...though I wouldn’t make the wager myself Lev.”

The base itself was a wooden warehouse on the edge of town, it looked abandoned from first glance but Nikos pointed out marks in the sand, footprints that someone tried to hide.
“...they already know we’re here,” Nikos said before closing his eyes. “There’s a fair amount of people inside as well, there’s too many people to pick out your Carpenter but I do sense animalistic bloodlust so that’s probably him.”
Nikos opened his eyes and at the wooden warehouse in the distance.
“...do you think you can practice patience for five minutes so I can get answers. It shouldn’t take that long to figure out where Luro is. Garim is a fool but his boss Telias isn’t. Are you ready?”

“...Sounds weird when you apologize. Like you actually did something wrong.” She waved it away as if telling him to stop. “What’s rude is someone kidnapping Luro instead of just putting up a proper fight. You’re not rude. You’re just...” Runali suppressed a laugh and waved him away again. “Never mind, I’ll take the apology.”

Spotting the warehouse, she rummaged through her pockets sliding one glove on and deciding to leave the other in her pocket. “Careful of the windows.” She adjusted her eyepatch and sat on a stump. “...Animalistic bloodlust? Is that what you call it?” She didn’t seem to disagree but did find it amusing. “I go fishing as a pass time Nikos, I can give you five minutes. Since they already know we’re here,” She flexed her hand, testing out her haki. “I imagine the formalities will be a lot quicker.”

He had numerous comments and already wanted to take the apology back but put the matter aside as Runali slipped on her glove. His eyelids lowered a bit recognizing it, the strange invention Emil became obsessed with for a bit. A glove able to manifest the power of Logia without the disadvantages. Though from what he saw it was nowhere near an advanced Logia’s level of control but the fact it could mimic it alone was hard to ignore. With time there was no telling what that invention could create.
He put that idea aside as Runali agreed to wait five minutes.
“I’ll hold you to that then and that’s what it feels like. Train your Observation Haki and deal with a rabid animal, the difference is miniscule once he gets started, or maybe don’t that bloodlust of his is constant, best not to get acclimated to it.”
Nikos turned towards the warehouse.
“Speaking of that murderous intent is smaller than usual; he must be in a good mood so I doubt he’s in danger presently,” Nikos said before walking forward motioning for Runali to come along. “Less formalities and more talking without our input...so the usual, expect a terrible speech. I’ll fiddle with my clothes in someway for each minute that passes.”

The two entered into the building and little but shadows surrounded them, Nikos opened his mouth to say something when a red cage suddenly manifested trapping the two within it.
The moment this happened the lanterns were lit filling the place with light, revealing the many people within all garbed in cloaks, that seemed to stretch from one end of the warehouse to the other, looking behind them a few moved in the way of the door. One stood a few feet in front of the two his hand outstretched towards him, their ‘captor’ apparently.
Light clapping came from above drawing Nikos attention up to one of the platforms near the other side of the warehouse, a cloaked man stepped forward into the light before halting his applause.
“Good to see you again Nikos.”
“Garim.”

The man reached up and removed his hood, revealing a young man with black medium length hair, combed over to the side. Nikos could tell he had it taken care of recently, partially because he could smell the materials used it from where he was standing.
“Still vying for attention as always,” he mumbled crossing his arms.
The man had scars over both eyes which were a dull blue, and with a smug grin he pointed down at the two.
“You’re slipping Nikos walking right into a clear trap.”
“I’m having an off day,” Nikos said. “Let’s cut the chatter you know why I’m here. Where’s your boss?”
“Hey hey not so fast, we were just reunited old friend. I see you have Runali Lev with you, Captain of Stardusk. Oh yes...we know all about her….make the cage as hard as Seastone.”
The user nodded and the cage turned into a bright blue, the bars seeming to shift as well.”
“Being cautious aren’t you Garim.”
“I can take risks with you...but that woman there...don’t know what she’s thinking so best to play it safe. We didn’t do that the first time and paid the price.”
“There is no we anymore Garim, the Raven’s are gone….they have been for a while.”
He said the last part quietly before adjusting his jacket clearly not offended at being underestimated.
One minute.
“Didn’t realize you and her were working together. Thought you hated this lady?” Garim questioned.
“Temporary arrangement,” Nikos said crossing his arms.
“Well Runali Lev my name is Garim, I’d offer better hospitality but anyone who calls that...that…’thing’ friend I’m afraid is naturally my enemy, no offense.”
“Apparently he’s her fiance.”
“...is she right in the head?” Garim questioned putting his hands on his head. “You know it doesn’t have a heart right? It’s just pretending.”

Runali tapped the cage bars with her foot. “Nifty.” She paid more attention to the hooded figures around than to Garim. Apart of her promise to be patient, she decided to stay quiet since antagonizing her captors was probably breaking the deal. Though, Nikos never said anything about if they attacked first before the five minutes were up. Her eye landed on the one that created the cage and she gave an innocent smile.

“Oh?” Runali finally paid attention to Garim when he directed his questions at her. “Offense taken. You could still show hospitality to your enemies. Nikos does it. But,” She looked around at the warehouse again and shrugged. “He’s more… classy so it seems.” With the opportunity Garim gave, she couldn’t help but tease. “Oh no mister Garim...I had to trade my sanity in when I got this eye.” She tapped her eyepatch as she walked a little closer to the bars, sounding just a little more ominous. “There’s a reason it stays covered, you know?” But before the tension could get too heavy, she clasped her hands together with a laugh. “Of course he has a heart! If he didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to steal it.” There was a dramatic pause as she leaned away and moved to stand next to Nikos again. It was a shame Jack wasn’t here at that moment, she was almost sure he’d lose his composure hearing that. “...It’s in a jar on my ship, right next to my decorative skeleton of the last person that tried to kidnap him. Any other questions?”

Garim’s eyes twitched at Runali’s attitude and Nikos could only squeeze the bridge of his nose, he expected this but it didn’t make the situation any better. While Garim tried to take it with a smile the more she continued the more it shifted into a scowl until he was gripping the banister of the platform, the wood cracking slightly in response.
“How dare you?! Do you not understand the position you’re in?”
Garim waved his hand and the cloaked figure nodded and closed their open hand a little causing the cage to shrink slightly, Nikos casually took a step closer to Runali arching a brow at the act. He adjusted his belt while doing so.
Two minutes.
“If I wanted to kill you I could! You’re trapped by me so show a little respect!”
“She’s not going to do that so you might want to give up on it,” Nikos said. “The closest she’s come to it with me is what she just said.”
Garim grit his teeth but shutting his eyes stepped away from the banister crossing his arms.
“It doesn’t matter, Luro will die today for what he did to me….to my kin. Nikos if you give up your hunt I’ll let you go, not her though, she’ll pay for insulting me.”
Garim grinned, clapping his hands together.
“Actually would you like to watch? You two have quite the history together don’t you? You’ve known each other since you were lads. You know what Luro’s really like, what he’s done. If the Navy hadn’t buried that information on him to save face in the South Sea, there’s a chance he woulda been a Worst Gen with the amount of sin’s he committed!”
Nikos calmly adjusted the gloves on his hands as Garim continued.
Three Minutes.
“I know you hate Luro, can’t stand him for all he’s done. You’ve seen the Monster of the South Sea! You know why he needs to die! You understand Nikos, you’ve known him the longest! He’s an animal that needs to be put down!”
Nikos glanced up at Garim before crossing his arms over his chest.

“I don’t disagree that Luro is a monster, even when I look into his eyes now I see the eyes of that ‘creature’ I saw in that town. Bodies lined up everywhere, chunks of...meat thrown all about...sliding down the walls, toys abandoned in the streets and the buildings smeared with red...and the stench...it reeked of burning flesh mixed with Jones knows what, the air heavy with misery and despair...and that grin from his silhouette in front of the roaring flames, that towered over the mayhem it had caused...a childlike smile...as if it wanted to be complimented for what it had done.”
Nikos closed his eyes at this.
“He’s irredeemable. While many are fine leaving his past alone, someone needs to ensure he’s never forgiven for what he’s done, and being the only witness I don’t intend to.”
“Exactly! He’s a freak of a nature! I knew you’d understand!”
“Still Luro Makachi is better than you are.”
“...huh?”
Garim’s excitement suddenly died down as Nikos adjusted his belt.
Four Minutes.
“Luro is an arsonist, a murderer, a thief...he’s many things. He has done horrific acts to many people, and he’d do them again if given the order. Without a doubt Luro is what we would call a monster....but he’s trying to change.”
Nikos raised a finger and pointed it at Garim.
“Unlike you Garim. Clinging to your former glory...it’s hard to watch. I once thought the man could never change...then I met the woman who made him put a collar around his own neck. Someone who managed to touch something no one else had; then he gained a family who changed him. When he speaks of Stardusk I see a shine in his eyes that was never there. The beast I saw that day hasn’t left him...but he chose to continue forward, to be better. To accept his past, his sins but not cling to them and by that matter has managed to change, though only by a little.”
Nikos said this before crossing his arms.
“He chose to at least try and be better. Whether he succeeds or not who knows, but he’s trying...and that’s more than I gave him credit for. You however can’t change, and you’re still looking for Luro...pathetic. He took your lover from you...but she raised her weapon to him first for you….and Luro had a very simple rule, once a weapon was pointed at him...he had no reason to be merciful anymore. Her death was your fault Garim, he scarred your eyes and left you alive, and you clung to your hatred and it cost you everything.”
Garim’s face was completely red at this point, Armament coated his hand and he punched through the wood before he screamed, his voice coated with anger.
Multiple guns were trained on the two from up above and Garim pointed down at them.
“Oh I will find Makachi and when I do! He’s a dead man. I’ll bring him your bodies first so he knows what it feels like to lose someone he loves!”
“He already knows that,” Nikos said adjusting his collar. “Also thank you for confirming he’s not here, that makes this easier.”
Five minutes.

Nikos hand moved to his sword and he gently tapped the top of the hilt with his finger.
The hand of the User fell to the ground after and the man’s eyes widened as he yelled and stumbled backwards gripping his now bleeding stump, the cage dissipating as he hit the ground.
“Thank you Lev, seeing his hand move from Garim’s weak threat I realized how he was using his power. Had an inkling but confirming it made it easier to act. I knew you’d goad him into doing something stupid, most people can’t tolerate you after all.”
“How?! Whatever! It doesn’t matter!”
Multiple cloaked figures walked onto the boardwalk near him and he grinned down at the two as the rest of his people joined him.
“Shoot them!”
“They can’t Garim.”
Garim started to question Nikos when the bodies of the Gunner’s fell from the top floor, their bodies falling apart as they plummeted towards the earth and hit the ground in chunks.
“How dare you make me compliment that buffoon...your death will not be gentle Garim,” Nikos said glaring up at the man. “Only reason I haven’t cut you now is I want to see the life drain from your eyes up close.”
“How did he...I didn’t…” Garim looked at the bodies on the ground then back at the two.
“All of you will die here today, you seek to rebuild the Ravens so you’ve chosen your fate. Lay down your weapons and I’ll make it quick, resist and I’ll ensure your last moments will be painful...so you can properly reflect on your stupidity.”
“Kill them!” Garim yelled causing the cloaked figures to jump off the platform and the ones in front of them to draw their weapons. The figures that had been by Garim were a bit taller then the others and when one flexed their hand, claws forming on them it became clear they were the Zoan’s.
“Lev you mind sealing the exits...that glove can do stuff right, also I’m at 8…” Nikos trailed off.
He tapped the top of the hilt again and severed the head of the User, watching his body go still.
“9 currently.”

“I don’t understand why everyone that’s been in this bird cult has their panties in a bunch. I didn’t even do anything.” Runali’s confusion was directed at NIkos, but it was obvious he wasn’t going to give answers, especially not when he agreed. “You’d think, leaving woulda loosened yours.” She rolled her one eye, obviously not seeing the problem. The cloaks all began shifting their posture, a clear sign they were ready to attack. She rocked on her toes, counting down as the five minutes ticked. “If I didn’t already know it Nikos, I’d think you actually liked us.” She tossed her chakram behind them before he could respond, watching it ignite in flame and cut down the four that were at the door. “Nikos said you guys have to die,” She told the ones that paused in their race towards her when they saw her hand catch fire. “Nothing personal, but you guys started it.” A flaming dagger embedded into the door they had walked in from. The fire expanded and quickly disappeared when the door melted shut. The other exits got a similar treatment and Runali was left surrounded on all sides. She put her hands up in a mock surrender. “Hey Nikos,” She called over but didn’t take her eye off the group. “It’s gonna get a liiiittle warm for a second.”

She clapped her gloved hand with her armamented one, creating an explosive fiery force that swept the bottom floor. The ones immediately near her were incinerated, while the rest either rushed to safety or got burned in the process. The flames circled Nikos as well, but they never burned him, instead obscured him from view from anyone else trying to attack. “Should’ve counted them before I did that, whoops… well, there were at least five of them. Can’t say about my blind side...”

Just as easily as the flame was created, with a wave of her hand it dissipated. Had she not heard the ‘huff’ behind her, she would have inspected one of the dead Ravens that didn’t get turned into ash. To her surprise and oddball delight, she was standing face to face with a Zoan bull type. She took a few steps back to put space in between them. What she anticipated was for the bull-man to charge at her. What she didn’t anticipate to happen so soon was how hard he collapsed the moment he took a step forward. Along with a few others that dropped as well. “Hm. Too much… Still works though.”

“You and Luro are the only two I can’t stand, I have no issues with the rest of Stardusk,” Nikos said with a small shrug.
Nikos' brows arched as the flames consumed the cloaked fighters around them, the ones that didn’t escape at the very least, of which there were few. His eyes glanced over at the flames noticing that they didn’t consume him as well.
“...she has such good control of it,” Nikos mumbled. “Something to remember...though...”
Nikos gripped his hilt seeing he was obscured from view.
“Since I can’t be seen….’Whisper’.”
Nikos drew his blade slightly only to immediately return it to it’s sheath as the fire faded revealing him again, he looked over at Runali and the Zoan who immediately collapsed.
Waving a bit of the smoke away Nikos looked at Garim who could only stare in disbelief at the destruction that had happened in the span of a moment.
“How….this...this isn’t what the research…”
“You can’t rely completely on information Garim, especially when it comes to Stardusk,” Nikos said. “Was reminded of that when I dealt with Lev the first time.”
Garim looked at his remaining forces, a few cloaks and some of the Zoan’s were still standing, that was enough for him to get away, he took a step back before Nikos snapped his fingers.
“Since I have a feeling you’re not counting Lev...we’re even.”
Multiple red lines suddenly manifested around them, running along the bodies of the people and parts of the structure, Garim noticed none were on him but on both sides of the platform.
None were near Runali or Nikos and as the people looked down at the strange marks along their bodies and along their arms and necks, Nikos spoke again.
“The red lines are where I’ve cut you. My way of politely informing you of your death, since you didn’t feel the blade.”
Nikos reached over and put a hand on Runali’s shoulder and gently pulled her back a step as crimson painted the floor in front of them, the bodies around them falling to the ground in clumps, clean cut marks now showing on the skin of those cut by Nikos’ blade.
Long deep cut marks formed in the wood of the building and Garim fell to the ground as the platform he was on fell apart, he landed in some of the bodies breaking his fall and Nikos walked forward, stepping over the bodies in his way.
“N-no! Stop! Stay away!” Garim screamed trying to back away.

He climbed to his feet and tried to run towards the back exit, Nikos hand twitched and the man fell as his ankles were cut by an unseen blade. Garim landed in the bodies of his compatriots and screamed as she stared into the lifeless eyes of one. He turned over trying to back away from the approaching Nikos, his hand slipping as he tried to climb over a blood covered body.
“Please! Don’t kill me! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! I-I’ll let it go! Just please spare me!”
Nikos eyes narrowed as Garim extended a hand towards him only for it to be cut off by the same invisible blade, the man’s blood curdling screams filled the warehouse as he gripped the stump tears rolling down the side of his face.
“...you put yourself above Luro...sickening. The man’s a menace but at least he accepts it,”

Nikos said before the man’s other hand was severed, his screams filling the warehouse once again.
“When he killed he owned why he did it,” Nikos said kicking Garim sending him tumbling over the bodies and into an open area of the warehouse near the back exit.
“You did all of this, took all these lives and then just want to ‘let it go’, you deserve a slower end Garim,” Nikos said slamming his boot onto the man’s chest. “The man lived his life for his sister, killed for her, and accepted each sin with grace even at the end of it, with a blade pressed against his throat he offered no apology, only acceptance, and you have the audacity to ask for your life to be spared. If you weren’t going to commit to being the villain, don't play the part.”
“No! Please N-”
Garim’s voice cut off as his head rolled a few away, cut by Nikos blade. The only sign he had drawn it was the sound of it being put away.
The Prophet leader breathed heavily, staring down at the body of his former comrade.
“None of our hands are clean Garim...those who can’t live with that reality don’t deserve to put themselves above others for the blood on theirs.”
Nikos took a long deep breath, seeming to regain his composure and turned to Runali.
“...forgive that display Lev. Their leader should be past here,” Nikos said. “Since Luro hasn’t been taken I understand if you wish to head back to town. The man’s an old comrade of mine so some unfortunate tidbits may get shared between us before I remove his head from his shoulders. I owe him to at least hear him out but you don’t have to stay around for that….worried what you’d say anyway.”

“Nikos you’re pretty brutal.” Runali commented as she watched Garim’s head roll. It was said in a light hearted manner like it was a compliment. She walked just a little closer, crouching down to inspect the mess with a wrinkled nose. “But, you know what I like about you? You’re honest.” She looted a few pockets within reach, curious to what she’d find and then stood back up. “And just so nice. I mean, keeping count for me? All those nice compliments about Luro too?” She removed her glove and stuffed it back into her pocket, walking towards the door they came through. “Long speeches aside, you sure do have a way with words. And on Luro’s behalf, I’m flattered.”
A quick kick knocked the door off its hinges despite it being welded shut. With a mock bow, she gestured him outside. “And well, if Luro’s not captured then Zil and Coral probably found him by now so he’s fine. And it takes the doc some time to get her scolding out sooo,” She shrugged. “I’m nosey, I wanna see you cut more people into pieces while talking about honor and uh, morality. Besides, you get to see all the cool stuff I do all the time! I think it’s fair I get to see what you do.”

“Don’t expect it often,” Nikos said in response to his ‘niceness’. “I have no issues giving credit where it’s due….and I also refuse to hear you say later how you had ‘this many’ instead of ‘that many’.”
Nikos sighed a bit at the idea of his ‘cool’ stuff walking out of the door and onto the sand towards the makeshift docks where he was sure his last target was.
“I normally give my target’s quick ends out of respect...Garim didn’t deserve it,” Nikos said crossing his arms. “Still I’d prefer not to reveal all my tricks so don’t expect any more….’cool stuff’ from me.”

While the two made their way to the docks which rested on the far side of the beach, Nikos brought his hands behind his back and kept his attention forward. The beach was a wide open area and it was easy to see from one end to the other, there was no easy way back to the town minus the warehouse they had come through due to the high walls a little further beyond.
Some remnants of a previous war Nikos didn’t take the time to research too much into, essentially there was no way back besides through them, a fact Nikos knew his target was aware of, but it also meant he’d see them coming.
“To your earlier comment Lev,” Nikos said keeping his attention ahead of them. “You’ve done far more than you know about Luro.”
There was a strange weight in the man’s comment and he seemed to linger on the statement before he continued.
“I just don’t bother explaining it because you look at Luro a certain way, trying to explain how I see him would be the equivalent of telling you you’re not allowed to see him a certain way anymore...and we both know how you handle being told what to do...though it’s the same with me.”
Nikos offered a small shrug at this.
“I know a Luro you don’t know...and you know a Luro I don’t know. Until recently anyway….”
Nikos trailed off a bit and brought his hands in front of him crossing his arms.
“You remember when I brought your doctor and shipwright back to you? When you got separated for a moment...I know neither went into too much detail into what happened...mainly because I asked them not to...but I fought Luro.”

Nikos waved his hand at the notion before bringing both back to his side, resting them on his hips.
“Just like every other fight we’ve had since the two of us were lads I won, and I even told him ‘Come at me with the intent to kill because I’ll do the same’ and he did. Sword against his throat I stared into his eyes again...and I saw something different...only a little though, miniscule even...but they weren’t completely the eyes I know.”
Nikos stopped for a moment, his eyes moving to the ground as his eyebrows narrowed.
“The man is still a menace but as I saw back with the Ravens...he’s changed under you. He’s changed immensely. He’s still the same bloodthirsty, murderous, manifestation of misery and destruction...but only when he needs to be...because of your strange rules.”
Nikos shook his head and continued walking again.
“I still see the person I spoke to when I was barely able to call myself a man...but there’s something else there now. A light that didn’t exist brought forth by you and Stardusk. I doubt he’ll completely abandon his ways...but still...he’s changed from the man I know and he stayed the same for over a decade so that says plenty.”
Luro scoffed a bit at this.
“Kaim made some annoying comment how he’s the closest thing I had to a childhood friend, being outside the organization. Deciding to ignore the amount of times we’ve tried to kill each other...but I know Luro annoying as that is...and he’s different.”

Runali opened her mouth to say something towards his first question, but decided against it and listened until he was finished. She looked thoughtful, taking his words to heart, if only for a few moments.
It lasted until she mumbled, “Shouldn’t call Kaim annoying every time he’s right.” As if to look innocent, she scratched her cheek and looked out towards the docks. “Manifestation of misery and destruction seems like a lot, especially for a squishy giant like Luro… but,” She continued with a shrug. “You’re right, I don’t know the Luro you knew. And maybe I never will.” She followed along after him, looking up at the sky to see if Coral was around. “Fortunately you’re also right about people being able to change. I mean, you did, after all. Would be odd if Luro had all this time to grow up and you stayed,” She paused to look him up and down in inspection. “...A mindless zombie only following orders. You’re more fun this way. It’s no wonder he likes you so much.” She couldn’t help the chuckle that followed. “Tell me though, is it annoying to know that he’s able to change or is it annoying that you’ve found similarities between the two of you? Y’know, besides the red hair.”

She nudged his arm with hers and grinned even wider. “You wanna know something funny? Common factor in all that change?” Runali placed a hand over her heart, her one eye sparkling up at him. “Meee~” She laughed even more. “But where Luro found a family, I do wonder, what did you find?” Before he could answer, she raised a hand. “You don’t have to tell me though, I know you like to keep your secrets.” Runali let out a soft whistle as she walked ahead a few steps, her words trailing off. “So long as you tell me and Luro at our big wedding party after I become Pirate King. Which you and the Prophets are obviously invited to.”

“I was not a mindless zombie-” Nikos started but stopped running a hand through his hair. “Not mindless anyway…”
At her question of similarities Nikos waved his hand at the very notion, but lowering it his brows knitted slightly, he left that question alone mainly because what she said afterwards almost caused him to stumble, his eyes twitching as she inferred something extremely aggravating.
“...the truth in that statement makes me want to cut you,” Nikos said, squeezing the bridge of his nose his shoulders slumping slightly. “Also it’s none of your business...though unfortunately you may gain the answers to those questions anyway.”

Nikos lowered his hand and looked back at Runali at the notion of her wedding, he recalled Luro mentioning something about an event after Runali became Pirate King, so that was it.
“If you don’t figure out the answer then when you don the crown of Pirate King I’ll provide the answer before our next proper match,” Nikos said with a small smile.
For some reason when it came to going at Runali again, once the both of them had reached the height of their ambitions it lit a strange fire in the man, though realizing he let his emotions slip out, he cleared his throat putting his stoic face back on.
“Very well, the Prophets will attend. We’ll be at the top of the world in our own way by then, look forward to it Lev.”

Once the two made it to the sea a large ship sat in the water in front of them, its sails had been ripped to shreds and a man, the owner, stood staring at it, his hands folded behind his back. He didn’t turn around when the two approached; Nikos stopped a few feet away just outside of striking range as the man wore a sword on his waist.
He was a man dressed in black garb with gold trim from head to toe, including his boots, though it seemed to resemble a noble’s garment upon closer inspection the tunic was simple along with the pants he wore.
“When did you destroy it?”
The man’s voice was low and he spoke evenly and calmly, as if he was talking to an old friend.
“‘While I was ‘pretending’ to look for you,” Nikos responded.
The man chuckled and turned fully to face the two.
“So before Captain Lev here ran into you, as impressive as always Nikos.”
Wrinkles lined the man’s face acting as a sign of years, his dark green eyes were gentle but his stance was strong, his greying hair had been slicked back and he offered a smile to the two that now stood in front of him.
“A pleasure Captain Lev, this is our first meeting but I’ve heard a lot about you,” the man said. “My name is Cleos, like Nikos here I was a Quill Candidate. That’s just a fancy way of saying I was part of the upper echelon of the Ravens at one point.”
The man offered a small bow.
“I was the one who ordered the waters and produce of Jaiper be poisoned to draw you back home. An attempt stopped by this young man here,” Cleos said motioning to Nikos. “I was the one of the ones who committed many horrible atrocities.”
Nikos eyes narrowed at this.
“Why are you telling her this?”
“I think it’s important to establish where you stand with people from the get go. I was going to kill her family and friends without hesitation or remorse, I don’t seek to hide who I am, much less what I can and will do. That and one should own their acts of villainy.”
Nikos didn’t approach Cleos immediately, it was clear his guard was more up than he was showing but at the same time he made no attempt to run.

Runali seemed as content as can be as she walked the rest of the way, humming a song from back home. It died down when they finally approached just who Nikos was looking for. “Birds of a feather flock together, yeah I got it.” Her response was low, mostly to Nikos as she nodded towards Cleos’ introduction. Her hands had slipped behind her back and contentment quickly became a raised brow as he began to tell her more than… she really needed to know. “Hm. Knows who I am. Commits to villainy. Has that strange bird cult vibe about him.” Runali raised a hand, getting Cleos’ attention. “Before you get all,” She made a cutting motion with her hand, “you’ve got my curiosity. Why exactly do you hate me? Is there a reason… Did I kill someone you know…? Is it the pirate thing? People are a little sensitive about that.” Then she realized it really didn’t matter at the end of the day, so she took a slight step back. “...Right,” She glanced over at Nikos, “I’ll let you handle your business.”

“I would appreciate you not comparing me with this piece of filth Lev,” Nikos said not looking at Runali. “He wasn’t part of the Clipped...never mind expecting you to remember is asking too much already forget it.”
The man’s eyes narrowed at Cleos as he brought a hand up to his chin at Runali’s question.
“I don’t hate you Captain Lev, you've done no wrong to me, and I don’t mind pirates I’ve even worked with them. It was just business same as this.”
“...as to be expected...speaking of killing thousands of lives like your discussing the weather. You haven’t changed Cleos.”
Cleos offered a small shrug and watched as Runali took a step back before looking back at Nikos.
“Will you indulge me for a moment Nikos. These are by all means my last words. I know I can’t stop you, and I made peace that this day would be my last already.”
Nikos crossed his arms but nodded.
“Of course Cleos, I have some honor for the man who once fought by my side. Speak your last words, and say what peace you have.”
Cleos offered a nod and bringing a hand forward motioned to Nikos.

“I am surprised at how much you changed Nikos. When you came to the Ravens you were but a lad, a child holding a sword that seemed bigger than he was. Many of the Elders at the time had no hopes for you, much less your ability to follow the code...they didn’t see the fire in your eyes. You had the face of someone who lost everything and that meant you had no reason to hesitate in taking what was in front of you.”
Cleos made a fist and Nikos remained silent.
“The Ravens were your home, they were you family, your friends. It was most of your life, your childhood and a bit of your adulthood as well, and you rose to the top. You were given a castle...an army...a kingdom. One of the youngest to reach such a high point in the organization, of course you acted as a puppeteer but the kingdom was yours all the same. A child ruling over people and bringing posterity, you brought revenue and played your part very well.”

Cleos turned and started pacing, making no attempt to run just moving back and forth as he spoke.
“Then you lost everything. You put your faith in the wrong person, trusted someone who deserved suspicion and all of it was taken away. You worked endlessly, took numerous lives and threw away what little you had left and the organization knocked you down to the bottom, you became a reject, a black sheep, ridiculed and hated...but you still rose up.”
Nikos sighed and rested his hands on his hips.
“Why are you telling me this Cleos.”
“Because I know the other reason your here Nikos,” Cleos said holding up a finger. “Killing me is one but...you wanted to help Luro didn’t you?”

Nikos glanced at Lev then back at Cleos who continued.
“Because you understand. You both lost what you had, you both broke promises you desperately tried to keep. You held onto the Ravens with everything you had because you had nothing else...and Luro is the same with Stardusk. You know the pain of losing that and you don’t want him to feel the same. In a way you both could have ended up the same, you just grew up in a place of Order and he a place of Chaos.”

Cleos stopped pacing and steepled his fingers together in front of him offering a smile to Nikos, who raised one of his hands and motioned to the man before speaking.
“So you’re last words are telling a part of my life story for some reason. Bragging at what you found out after over a decade of digging,” Nikos asked.
“No...I just felt it was something Lev should hear. Words you’d never say yourself,” Cleos said. “You always keep your feelings to yourself. This woman has brought change to you for the better Nikos. I don’t say this as a former rebel but an old friend, your potential was wasted there.”

The Prophet leader removed his pince-nez and cleaned them with a cloth, glancing up at Cleos who smiled seeing the man was growing impatient.
“How will Lev understand your feelings if you never say them, you wanted to show her your blade at one point did you not. You only reserve that for those your truly respect.”
“She declined so I know where we stand, now I have other appointments Cleos,” Nikos said putting his glasses back on. “You expect too much of her, the Ravens will always have a place in my heart, I’m supposed to just pretend she’ll get that and forgive all they’ve done, that’s foolish and the dream of a child. Lev will be Lev, Luro will be Luro and I’ll be me. She can have whatever opinion she wants about them I know how ‘I’ feel about them. Same with Makachi. Don’t speak for me Cleos, I’m not as desperate for acceptance as I used to be. I made my peace when I turned my blade against them. I didn’t choose this life to gain her respect, I am the leader of the Prophets, I fight for them and no one else, she’s just something to deal with later down the road as promised. Now let’s hurry this up before Lev falls asleep she tunes out about three minutes in so you’ve wasted both our time.”
“...is that why you openly shared-”
“Yes because she’s probably staring at a bird or something, or counting the coin she took off the dead bodies back there. Probably catching every other word at this point.”

Cleos offered a shrug and grabbed his sword.
“Very well...still may I ask for a proper Raven burial. I know that means losing my bounty but-”
“Fine,” Nikos said holding a hand up to him. “I told you I owe you that, that makes us even though old man.”
A small smile found its way onto the man’s face and he stepped forward, Nikos gripped his sword’s hilt and the air around them distorted for a moment, the air vacuuming in towards the swordsman before blowing outwards. In the next moment Cleos was falling towards the ground, multiple cuts running along his body as Nikos straightened his body, the man’s sword flying past him landing a few feet away.
Nikos eyes moved to the unmoving body lying at his feet, he took his hand away from his blade and knelt down. He closed the man’s eyes and keeping his back to Lev spoke again.
“...go on back to town Lev. I have to give this fool a proper burial.”
Nikos said this leaning down to lift the man’s body, moving it towards the boat.
“I’ll meet you there when I’m done.”

Even hearing both of them address her, she stayed silent. Her gaze had wandered a few times to different boats or to the sound of people in the far distance, but it always fell back to the two in front of her. So when she heard Nikos talk about her, she couldn’t help but crack a small smile. A quip was there, but it was for another time she decided.
In moments, Cleos’ body was on the ground. And in those moments, Runali watched Nikos assessing his technique. She had to admit, he had definitely gotten faster since the last time they fought and she would have told him she was impressed. But he would have gotten embarrassed about it or something. She thought over Cleos’ words, understanding them but still not satisfied by it. It wasn’t the old man’s place to tell her that. It was Nikos’. And until he could express his own feelings, well, this was just the ramblings of a dying man in her eyes.

Hearing her name made her perk up again, realizing it made her seem like she wasn’t paying attention. She didn’t move at first, simply staring out at the two of them with a softer expression. “...Wasn’t comparing you two. Just so you know… I know better than that.” The moment she stood, Runali let the more lighthearted nature of herself show. “Better not be an excuse to get rid of me.” She joked. Still, she gave a small salute even though Nikos’ back was turned. The one indication that she listened was that the soft song she started to hum began to sound farther and farther away until she disappeared.

The town was still busy as ever, as if nothing happened- and to them, well, if Luro hadn’t accidentally blown up a portion yet then nothing would have happened. Runali’s song changed the moment she stepped into town. She whistled out, calling for Coral to drag Zil and Luro back to her.

Nikos raised a hand to show he heard Lev, he admittedly took more offense to the comparison then he should have.
“It partially is,” is all he said in response to her.
Offering a wave with his back still to her as she walked away, he drew closer to the boat.
“I’ll make sure your daughter gets her gift too old man...even though you didn’t ask.”

Once back in town Zilia didn’t follow behind Coral with Nikos making it back to Runali before the doctor did. He had cleaned what little blood was on him and catching up to Lev he tossed her a bag of coin as he shoved the other in his pocket.
“For your help back there,” Nikos said. “Half the bounty for Garim. I also found your doctor. I'll take you to her.”
Nikos walked forward motioning with his head for Lev as he led her back to her crewmember.
“I had Kaim sent here as backup in case Cleos tried something...but ultimately he didn’t, a shame I wanted more of a fight from him,” Nikos said adjusting his gloves.

He went silent afterwards, his eyes scanning the area ahead, enough time had passed that the streets weren’t as crowded and he seemed to close his eyes for a moment, checking something before opening them again.
“Cleos told a mix of lies and truth’s back there as all Raven’s do. Still some of the facts about Luro and the Raven’s were true. That organization...was my home for a long time. Letting it go hurt, as if I was destroying a part of myself in the process. When I lost my home I had my mentor, when I lost my mentor I had the Ravens...and when I lost the Raven’s I had my crew...I’m tired of losing things, tired of this annoying cycle, I refuse to lose anymore.”
Nikos eyes narrowed a bit at this.
“Luro and I had a long conversation while he was with me. We talked about far too many things in my opinion. He didn’t share everything, said it wasn’t right that I hear something he hasn’t even told you yet...but he told me enough.”
Nikos eyes went to the blade at his waist, his hand traced along the sheath for a moment.
“The Raven’s are where I met my crew, so parts of it I’m grateful for...but it also took more from me than it should have. Now I’m thrown into the world having to relearn myself much less my values and why I bother drawing this weapon...so I can empathize with Luro and I decided to help him since I had old business with these two anyway.”
Nikos said this resting his hands on his waist.
“I mean if someone like him can change...shouldn’t be that far off for me.”
With his peace said Nikos looked back at Runali.
“That’s all you get...and that’s only because you won the bet.”
Nikos held up a finger.
“By one person...I lied earlier..those gloves made by that man are a menace.”


“Oh how kind of you to rejoin me.” She hopped off of a bench she found herself on to follow Nikos back to Zil. She started to give the bag of coins back, but figured she could make better use of bribing Zilia with it instead.

There was something about Nikos that always gave away when he wanted to tell something important and personal. Runali noticed it but spared him the thought and listened. It was the least she could do after all. So, she gave him the courtesy of not saying a word. No quips, no jokes, just a content expression. Though, contentment slipped into a playful grin when he admitted to his loss.
“Y’know, typically you don’t get to choose the winner’s pick when you lose… but I’ll let it slide. Just this once. This was a nice reward.” When it fell silent again, this time Runali was contemplating what to say next. Choosing her words a little more carefully than usual, she broke the silence. “You don’t grace us with your presence often but I’d be blind if I didn’t see that you’ve changed. And for the better. When I first met you, you were insufferable for a list of reasons. But look at you now, admitting you lost a gamble to me.” She laughed. “I’m glad you have goals and all, but I’m… happier to know that your sole focus isn’t trying to best me in a fight. Not because I don’t think you can, but because there’s so much other stuff to… care about. If you’re not gonna take it Kaim or Luro, take it from me,” She looked over at him. “Not everyone’s lucky enough to live more than once. Or even live this long. Best to have fun while you can.” She spun around to face him, still walking backwards with a starry eyed expression. “You’re free from the bird cult! Sure you’ve lost things, but now you’re your own man with a family that supports you! You’ve gained things too and frankly you’ve got everything you need and more!” She stepped to the side again, patting his shoulder in reassurance. “You and Luro have been in survival mode for so long you forgot how to live. And well, Luro’s got a head start. Don’t fall too far behind him.”

There was a lot Nikos wanted to say, especially when it came to his loss being rubbed in his face but he listened. He didn’t like taking advice from Runali but he didn’t deny what she said was right, weird as their relationship was the woman next to him had dealt with her own burdens and made it to the other side. He respected Runali as a fellow leader, he knew how much she cared for her people, same as he cared for his. Though there were times she was insufferable he knew there was some wisdom in her words...some.
So instead of throwing out another random comment or denying her he kept it simple.
“Thank you Lev, I don’t intend on losing to that man of all people,” Nikos said allowing a smile to grace his features. “Of course I’ve changed, I don’t need anyone else telling me what I got...but it’s appreciated all the same. Even that insufferable Kaim is precious to me...and maybe I can tolerate Luro a bit more”

The two walked into a local tavern to find Zilia already there, seeing the two enter she approached them.
“Captain, Sir Nikos, I’ve ran around the entire town and Coral eventually led me here.”
“The tavern...why didn’t you start here?” Nikos questioned.
“I did...it was the first place but he wasn’t here, apparently he is now.”
Nikos took a good look around the crowded place before his eyes landed on a familiar tuft of red hair, he pointed at one of the tables.
“There he is!”
However in front of him was another cloaked figure, Nikos grit his teeth and started moved towards the table.
“They’re still trying to poison him!”
Nikos reached for his blade as he approached the two, however seeing a familiar tuft of purple hair poke out of the hood he froze and removed his hand from his blade.
“Kaim?”
The cloaked figure lowered their hood revealing the easygoing Prophet who offered a grin to the group.
“Oh hey guys! You finished already boss?”
Zilia walked up to the two as Luro raised his drink to everyone offering a grin to his gathered friends.
“Kaim...what are you doing here?”
“Huh...whaddya mean you called me here.”
“...why are you in a cloak?”
“You told me to be inconspicuous cause of the people who might try and kill Luro. I knocked out one of the ones following him and took his clothes so I’d blend in.”
Nikos brought his hand to his face as Luro finished his mug and raised it for another.
“Wearing a cloak...doesn't make you inconspicuous, it makes you stand out more!” Nikos exclaimed causing Kaim’s brows to lower slightly.
“Oh yeah it does doesn't it. Well anyway I stole Luro and moved him around to keep him safe...though honestly most of them ran off somewhere near the docks.”
Nikos sighed realizing they were probably called back when he and Runali got close.
“...you’re the one that pulled Luro everywhere,” Zilia said looking over at Kaim.
“Yep! Had to make sure he didn't get found. It was really hard, it felt like someone was trying to track us. We just moved into buildings here and there while enjoying the day. He said we should go to the Tavern first but I declined that, save the best for last right?”
“That was me…” Zilia said. “I was tracking you.”
“Oh I see,” Kaim said before looking back at Luro. “Oh Luro try this one.”
Luro opened his mouth and Kaim tossed in a piece of candy.
“Ohhh this one’s good too.” Luro said pointing at himself.
“Told ya!”

Nikos and Zilia stared at the two carefree souls in front of them, the two stepped forward at the same time before Nikos grabbed Luro by the front of his shirt as Zilia did the same to Kaim.
“Huh?” the two men said simultaneously.
“I take what I said back, you are the manifestation of misfortune. Do you have any idea what you made me say today Makachi while I was worried….in front of this woman of all people!”
“Do you have any idea how worried I was when he went missing, and you were having a playdate!”
“Did I make you say something Nikos?” Luro questioned.
“I mean weird way to put it but I guess so?” Kaim assumed.
“Ten second head start,” the two said together before releasing them.
“What do you mean ten-”
Energy flared around the doctor and Nikos’ hand went to his blade, the act alone clearing out the tavern causing the two men to look at each other before they sprinted out the door together.
“See you back at the ship Captain...with Luro,” Zilia said before running after them.
“Until next time Lev,” Nikos said following after Zilia.

“Don’t hurt him too bad, he’s gotta be able to make it home!” It wasn’t clear who Runali was talking to at this point… but it was probably both at the rate the two were running out. There was barely time for greetings or goodbyes before both Zilia and Nikos were hunting down the two, leaving Runali standing at the tavern by herself. Eventually, she walked outside, glancing to her shoulder when Coral perched there. The two shared a look and Runali laughed walking back towards Lady Luck. “Y’know, fishing sounds nice right about now. Maybe I’ll join Alicia for tea.”


Main

Pre-Bonifaas

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“I need you to hit me really hard in the face.”
Those were the words spoken by Kaim as he stood in front of Runali and Jack.
Shortly after the events in the circle, once Zilia cleared everyone for health Luro called in a favor, and after an exchange of coin and few punches Kaim was hired.
Luro didn’t mention the man’s involvement in his letter to Runali and Jack however only asking to meet on an island with very specific coordinates and nothing else, where the Prophet was waiting for them with his hands on his hips.
Thus leading to their current situation and his first words to the two.

“...I have an odd feeling Luro didn’t explain in his letter. I’ll be aiding you in your training this time. Luro’s making final changes to his invent-thingy and I’ve been hired to assist for reasons. I need to see how good your Armament is though so I need ya to hit me. He’ll catch up in a little bit.”
Kaim pat himself.
“Don’t worry, long as you don’t swing a weapon at me, I’ll absorb most of the blow.”
The prophet stood there with a small smile, he didn’t prep himself by hardening his Armament just looked between the two to see who would go first.

The stare Runali had was unblinking, as if she was processing what Kaim was saying. She couldn’t help the slight head tilt to look past Kaim and towards the empty space as if Luro would appear from behind to explain this whole thing… Not that his explanations were the most clear to begin with. Subtly, she shook her head of the stray thoughts and looked at her fist only to then raise a brow at Kaim.
“Right…” Her voice trailed off in a way that could only be explained as teetering belief that it was a good idea. ‘Really hard’ and ‘full force’ were fortunately two different things because the latter, she knew she hadn’t exactly done- at least not in a while. She clenched her fist, examining the armament but soon after let it go. “Right.” She echoed and took a half step back while simultaneously nudging Jack forward. “You’re up first then.” Before Jack could protest she gave him a smile and thumbs up, a sure sign that there was no use trying to debate.

Jack gazed at Kaim and tilted with Runali in silent mimicry, equally nonplussed, and a little miffed, at the presence of one Vermillion Prophet. One that they’d been seeing a little too much of, in Jack’s opinion.

The Stardusk cook sighed. It was less painful to just play along in these training sessions. He trudged up to Kaim. “I wish Ria was here,” he muttered, and performed a roundhouse kick aimed at Kaim’s face.

Thanks to the one-on-one bouts Runali and him did on the ship, his kick had a boost of speed picked up from the nimble captain. It happened within a single blink: a twist of the torso, leg flew up, and his heel made contact with Kaim’s cheek. He decided to reinforce his whole foot with Armament too, just in case.

Jack returned to Runali’s side, and tilted his head to meet Kaim’s gaze. “Doin’ okay there?”

“Trust me she’d like to be here too,” Kaim responded with a grin. “She wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation though.”
He didn’t seem to mind who went first merely waiting for the connection of the attack, he merely stared at Jack with the same smile as the kick came and slammed into him, the force sent the vermillion prophet sliding away from the two. Strange enough the man’s feet remained planted causing him to slide along the ground. Kaim crossed his arms over his chest, eyes closed as he continued to skid along the ground away from the group, eventually he came to a stop and with a small nod he brought a hand to his chin.
His facial expression seemed akin to someone eyeing prices at a fruit stand
The man’s body vanished and reappeared in front of the two and he gave a small nod.
“Not bad I actually felt that a bit, you’ve trained your Armament,” Kaim said grinning. “Anyway yeah I’m fine. If i had to put it into words how that felt….it was like getting punched by a slightly miffed five year old. So yeah all good here. Consideration is appreciated though.”

There didn’t seem to be any mark on the man’s face or any sign he had been attacked, he didn’t seem bothered by the sudden assault only offered a nod thankful Jack had given him a good smack.
“Kay Jack should be able to handle it without him dying, your turn Runali,” Kaim said pointing at his face.
“Really put your all into it. Luro asked me to gauge you. Ya don’t wanna get left out of the fun cause ya held back right. I’m ready whenever. Pretend I’m Carabis or something if need be.”

Seeing Kaim unphased by Jack's hit made her raise a brow, admittedly out of curiosity. Training with Jack, she knew just how hard he could hit, but for him to consider it barely a graze was… interesting to say the least. She flexed her hand in response to Kaim's slight goading, still debating.

While Runali knew she could hit hard, she also knew that despite it, she actively held back, opting to avoid hitting her crew with the amount of force she could muster. It was mostly out of safety for them… and of course her outspoken rule of not hurting her own. Kaim, while liked, was not her crew. "Experiments or not, I'm not keen on hurting people for no reason- well, people I consider friendly at least." Runali spared Jack a glance, gesturing that he moved behind her as she took a solid stance.

"But… since you're so sure, I suppose it can't be helped." Runali glanced behind Kaim, this time looking at the scenery, predicting how much of it would be laid to waste. "Hm." With a ready nod, Runali reared back and punched Kaim square in the jaw. Armament compacted into her fist as she swung, mostly just as an added bonus.
Similar to when she first fought Nikos, but with a new intensity, the force alone caused a destructive trail behind Kaim, but this time she made sure to make contact and for once, not hold back.

"Uh… how's that- or you, I guess?" Runali questioned with a slight scratch of her cheek.

“Don’t fret too much about it, I do appreciate the consideration though. Most just punch me without thinking too much about it so it’s nice.”
Kaim shoved his hands in his pockets and waited for the attack, the moment she looked past him a grin rested on the man’s face, he could tell this was going to be entertaining.
When the attack slammed into him, similar to Jack’s he went sliding back with his feet still planted, though his head had turned from the punch, his face hidden from the two as the distance between them grew greater until he eventually slowed to a stop.

Kaim stayed that way for a moment even after stopping and took one hand out of his pocket, with a laugh he turned back towards the group and his body vanished for a moment before he reappeared in front of them.
“Just kidding I was just messing,” he said before offering a bit of light applause “Not bad, I see why those two consider you rivals. That wasn’t bad at all.”
Kaim grinned and moved his hands to his hips.
“I’m fine thank ya. Hmmmm for comparison that was like a miffed seven year old. Had a bit much punch to it. I won’t tell Nikos how hard you hit now of course.”

Similar to Jack Kaim seemed unharmed though he brushed a bit of dust off him and removing one of his shoes hit the bottom to get a few rocks out of it.
“Guys!”
A familiar voice came from behind Runali and Jack as Luro ran towards the group, waving his hand as he approached.
“Sorry I’m late. Had to make some last minute changes. Did you check em’ Kaim?”
“I did,” Kaim said slipping his boot back on. “They’re ready. Oh right Luro could you attack me?”
“Great! I knew they would be,” Luro said removing his rifle off his back “Where should I attack you Kaim?”
Kaim tapped his forehead and Luro nodded moving to load a shot into his gun.
“Let me go ahead and clarify something first,” Kaim said waving at Runali and Jack. “I know I just compared your hits to children after all, don’t want the wrong message pout out there.”
Kaim motioned to his entire body.
“You know that Natural Permanent that surrounds your body, not the hardened one but just the one that surrounds our bodies naturally. Well mine’s polished to a point it’s basically constantly hardened.”
Kaim said this raising his arm and hardening it before pointing at it.
“Like this. So I guess you can say I walk around in full body armament without using up any of my Haki. Thus I ignore most physical attacks without much effort anymore.”
Luro fired his rifle and the bullet hit Kaim square in the forehead where no Haki was hardened before falling to the ground, the bullet bent as if it had hit a harder external force.
Luro ran up after and jumping slammed the butt of his gun against’ Kaim’s skull, the latter’s head moved but he didn’t seem to mind the attacks Luro was inflicting on him. Luro continued to move around Kaim’s body hitting him with his gun, swinging it repeatedly against his head as Kaim continued.
“So attacks not coated in Armament I don’t feel, weapons included in that. Due to the strength of my own Armament I don’t really feel too many physical blows with Armament either. I’m trained to take pretty much any punch, kick, knee, headbutt or what have you covered in Armament. Weapons are an exception because of this training but only if the Armament is strong otherwise they generally break against me or well bend as you saw.”

Kaim offered a shrug as Luro jumped and slammed a rock against Kaim’s forehead, the rock breaking into pieces as Kaim continued paying no mind to it.
“I don’t say this to brag but to let you know how polished your Armament actually is. The fact that I even felt your attacks shows how strong it’s become, thus my excitement. Luro asked me to be the control in your experiment. If I didn’t feel your armament then it was too weak. If you need numbers 50 people with armament punched me over the last few days and I didn’t feel any of their attacks, thus you are at the bare minimum stronger than those 50 other people.”

Kaim clapped his hands together and grinned at the two.
“Ahhh it’s not fair Risa and Nikos have claims on you guys. I’d love to just go a few good rounds with you, there aren’t too many people who can break through my natural Armament. It’d be so much fun if we just...went at each other! Still they’d never let it go if I pushed that on you. Anyway I think they understand Luro.”
Luro carrying a huge rock larger than his own skull over his head slammed it into Kaim’s face, the rock once against breaking and Kaim arching his brows at him, his only acknowledgement of the rock was him brushing some off it his shoulder.
“Got it,” Luro said turning to Runali and Jack. “Here you go.”
Luro threw a pair of gloves towards both of them before slipping on a pair himself.
“I managed to break past the limits of the gloves even further,” Luro said a bright grin adorning his face. “I really really think you’ll like this. I’ve been excited to do this one with you guys. I woulda gave it to you in the Circle but there were still problems with them. I finally fixed the problem though.”
Luro’s closed his hands into fists and bounced a little in spot.
“Are you guys ready to see? You’ll have to pay close attention. This one is really really fun but it’s also really dangerous.”

“Thanks… I guess,” were all the words Jack had to offer after Kaim’s little spiel. There had been a sting to his pride, but it quickly dissolved under learning about Natural Permanence, something he admitted he hadn’t heard of. It covered miles in explaining how this Prophet was as strong as he was, and Jack filed away that information. Kaim’s invulnerability could prove useful in the future. Or one big problem.

Snatching the gloves out of the air, Jack couldn’t help but cock an eyebrow at Luro’s giddiness. The big man was prone to excitement but this display suggested he’d outdone himself with the latest iteration of the gloves. It was also surprisingly contagious.

A sly, half-smile curled up Jack’s face as he put on the gloves and adjusted his glasses. “Ready when you are,” he said to Runali.

“Claim is an odd word for friendship… but Nikos is a little weird. But, I do appreciate not telling him about that. Something tells me he’d be… upset.” Runali filed the information away, tilting her head ever so slightly as Luro not only appeared but gave a very… peculiar demonstration of Kaim’s skill. If there had been anyone around they would have certainly thought this was insanity rather than resilience. She couldn’t help the slight flinch that came with a rock being cracked over his head.

“M’starting to think there’s not much up there that needs protecting. He’s certainly been rattled enough.” Runali mumbled over to Jack, suppressing the laugh that followed. Similar to Jack, she watched Luro’s contagious excitement and felt the giddiness begin to creep in as well. “You dragged us out here to show us something cool, of course I’m ready to see!” She slipped on her gloves and leaned over on Jack. “Since when were these things not dangerous?”

“Haha you know him so well...he’d absolutely be mad...and would make us train harder so that’s the other reason it stays secret.”
Kaim glanced at the two as they whispered but only offered a smile and took a few large steps away from Luro, his part in this was done and he was curious what his buddy had come up with.
At Runali and Jack’s readiness Luro brought a gloved hand to his chin.
“Haha then let’s not waste any more time….Oh and I figured you’d guys be fine...but I used Mia’s Haki to test them the first time...and the gloves kind of exploded but I fixed that problem...probably. Anyway I’ll show you what they do.”

Luro held his hand out in front of him as he did something in the air around the group shifted, something unseen suddenly filled the area around them. Kaim looked down at his arms noticing his hair was starting to stand on end, like something invisible was caressing him. His brows arched as Luro kept his hand extended and with a twitch of his fingers small purple orbs started to float in the air around the gathered group. Luro grinned and snapped his fingers as he did the orbs glowed brightly before lighting suddenly exploded out from them, a large violet dome suddenly enveloping the group, electricity passing over the multiple gathered orbs and filling the air around them with mini strikes of lighting, surrounding the group in a sphere of electricity the sparks continued bouncing between them, and crackles of lighting randomly appeared around Luro’s body, and due to the amount of electricity he was harnessing his hair floated a little as he grinned.
“Thanks to you guys we can now use the power of storms!”
Luro grinned motioning to the now visible sphere he had put them in, electricity bouncing around the group at random intervals, it seemed to be purposefully avoiding them, more than likely because of Luro as he lowered his hand.

“It took forever to learn how to get this just right, but anything within this weird dome thing I can control, you guys can to. For example-”
Luro made a downward motion with his fingers near Kaim, sparks appeared above Kaim causing him to look up before lighting crashed into the man.
“I didn’t gather too much Kaim!”
Kaim coughed at the lighting dissipated, his clothes now scorched black in random spots and his hair frazzled, he coughed out black smoke and waved the air in front of him.
“Ow….thanks for that….wait ow? Huh I can’t mitigate lighting...that’s good to know.”
“You can use Infusion and Expel, but this one’s a lot harder to control. It’s far more volatile, even more so than the others.”
Luro made a motion with his hands and his rifle hovered off his back and levitated next to him, the man crossing his arms at his partner twirled slightly in the air.
“It responds interestingly with metal too. If you surrounded it with electricity it’ll float like this.”
Luro motioned at his rifle and had it orbit around him as he talked, a few bullets left his sleeve and did the same.
“Careful if you put it around your weapons. It again realllly likes metal. Put too much power and you’ll shock yourself.”

Luro tossed two small spheres to Runali and Jack, he pulled one out of his sleeve and held it in front of him, electricity sparked around it and the little metal sphere hovered just above his hand, a purple glow surrounding it as lighting sparked off it.
“Try this first before using your weapons. Oh and avoid putting too much power into. This can kill pretty easily after all. Like absurdly easy. It’ll fry you alive before you can blink, but I’m sure you guys got it.”
Luro snapped his fingers again and the dome of electricity dissipated and the sphere fell back into his hand without its energy source, he also caught his rifle before it fell and the bullets fell into his sleeve.
“You guys try conjuring the dome’s now. You’ll get a feel for it. You can control everything within it, you’ll feel the flow of the energy, just direct it. I’ll use Expel if you summon too much. Here’s how to conjure it. Snapping your finger creates the spark, but so long as you use something to spark it anything will work.”
Luro gave a brief explanation and rested his hands on his hips waiting for the two.

On his belt, Jack’s twin shimi blades rattled in their sheathes, affected by the conjured lightning. He put both hands on them as he looked around. “Well… color me impressed,” he said with awe.

The lightning was beautiful and he could instantly feel the volatile danger in it. Goosebumps not caused by the phenomenon shivered up his arms.

“We should practice at a distance, Captain,” Jack observed and began moving several paces away. He had a good feeling he was going to shock himself in this exercise; he didn’t want to see what would happen if they shocked each other or create domes that would collide together. Or hurt Luro. Curiously, Kaim wasn’t included in Jack’s list of potential incidents.

Once he felt they had a safe distance, Jack jumped straight into practice. Being mindful of power control, he scaled down the haki he normally put into the gloves and snapped his fingers. The spark came easily -- nothing blew up. Step one was a success. He breathed out his relief and continued on.
About five minutes in, Jack’s weak dome flashed a violent purple and a giant crack! rent the air. When spots cleared from their vision, the odd group saw him standing in the center of a large blast radius, blackened and his hair bursting into an afro. He had his fingers pointed to the ground and a bewildered expression on his face. He coughed once.

“Hey, uh, Captain,” Jack wheezed, “make sure to keep yourself grounded. You know… just in case.”

“Whoa.” No matter how many elements Luro conjured it would continue to be amazing. This one, unlike the other two, however, made her temper her excitement. She was never a fan of storms- not after the ones that nearly killed them- but she shoved that aside when she was tossed the sphere. “Ever the careful one.” Runali remarked as Jack distanced himself. He was right though, she didn’t want to accidentally electrocute anyone there or herself for that matter, so she took a few steps backwards as well. Runali examined it carefully, taking a moment to acknowledge her chakram reacting like the others’ weapons. She was being a lot more careful with this one compared to the rest. “Hmmm,” She snapped and watched the small bits of lightning jump from one hand to the next. The moment she started to conjure her own dome, it quickly disappeared upon leaning away from the sudden explosion.

“Uh… noted.” When she was sure he was fine, she couldn’t help the short laugh. “Careful chef, I think you may have overcooked that one.”

Though, her results varied similar to Jack’s. Most of the large domes she attempted ended up sputtering out or backfiring and sending her sliding backwards. “I think that one killed me.” She breathed out at one point, fully knocked to the ground. With a cough, she put a thumbs up to show she was okay before climbing back to her feet. “Alright, this time I got it. After the first few times, easier to tell where it starts to go… wildly wrong.” She clasped her hands together and repeated the process. It took a hesitant minute but sure enough, she got the dome to surround her completely and stay there without backfiring.

Luro smiled as he watched the two create the sparks and remained silent as he watched them attempt to make the dome, that was one of the hardest parts and it took him a long time just to reach this particular point, even now he worried the energy would be too much, thus when Jack’s blew up his hand twitched ready to Expel it, but upon seeing Jack fine he ended up turning his head holding in the laugh that almost escaped.
Kaim however was rolling on the floor unable to hold it in.
“Guess I was worried for nothing…” Luro mumbled as he watched Runali summon her own dome.

“Hahaha you guys did great. You got it way faster than I did. You should also keep your hair like that Jack. I wanna see Ali’s face when she sees it.”
Luro said with a grin before resting his hands on his hips.
“Hm okay manifestation is the hardest part, but since you did it let’s explain the rest.”
Luro snapped his fingers causing his own dome to come forward, though he kept it relatively small he held his hand out causing ‘snakes’ of electricity to manifest and circle around his dome.
“If you take a moment to really feel it...” Luro started. “You’ll be able feel two different flows running through your dome. I call them currents cause they kind of feel a little like waves to me. You’re actually already using them.”
Luro said this before motioning to their domes.
“These domes are only made when those currents are manifested properly, so you’ve already created the flow now you just have to control it. You should feel it, two strong waves passing over you, I don’t know how it’ll feel to you but it kind of feels like being submerged in the ocean to me.”
Luro grinned at this before pointing down.
“You need to be able to control those currents for the next thing, while you can clearly summon both together being able to control both of them at the same time is important, so we’ll move on once you can do this.”
Purple sparks surrounded Luro before his feet lifted off the ground and he floated in front of the two with a grin, raising his legs he sat tailor style in the air and leaned forward resting his hands on his knees.
“Control both the currents and make them intermingle with each other, when both come together they let you do this….but only if one isn’t stronger than the other. Go on and give it a shot. You need to have a feel for it, this element is volatile but...surprisingly once you understand and respect it, lighting is surprisingly easy to work with. It’ll follow whatever flow you tell it to, but it’ll put out as much power as you want so be careful.”
Luro offered a small shrug and laughed a little.
“It’s kinda like Alicia.”
“I have multiple questions about how it’s like Alicia…” Kaim added still keeping his distance.
“Don’t worry about the specifics, also don’t tell her I said that. I’m not sure how manly Lighting is yet so I don’t wanna compare her to it yet.”
Luro smiled at this before laying sideways as he continued to float, he held up a finger as he rested his cheek on his fist
“Oh right I’ve only done this with limited amount of energy. If you put too much into it you may go flying. I’m not sure as I don’t have Armament so I couldn’t test how it feels to fill it and control the current at the same time, I only used what was available. I’m sure you guys got it though.”

Jack patted his hair down with a pout, giving a side glare to Kaim who was still sniggering behind Luro. “When do I get to test it on him?” he muttered under his breath.

Jack tore his attention away to focus on Luro, with great reluctance. An eyebrow quirked as he watched this new feat and then looked down at his hands. “Huh… alright then. Worth a shot.”

Unlike the first time, Jack didn’t electrocute himself again. If anything that mishap, painful though it was, gave him a better feel for the electricity. It was less about control and more about direction and output. The right nudge produced the lightning the way you wanted but once it was out… it was a flip of a coin on what happened next.

Reminds me of Adelaide, Jack thought with a wry smile as he hovered in midair, imitating Luro’s posture.

He looked over at Runali. “How’s it going, captain?”

The captain had fallen into a seated position, bouncing lightning bolts from the dome to her hand, finding entertainment in that. Of course, she tuned in to listen to the next explanation more or less understanding it as she normally did. Had he asked for her to repeat any of the instructions she probably would have failed it though. Seeing Luro hovering did pull her attention to the two of course, in intrigue. Flying ships were cool, but flying people sounded fun- no matter how dangerous the extra voltage might have been.

"Time to try." She was on her feet, flexing her fingers. She mulled over Luro's explanation of oceans and currents and hummed in thought. She tried it a couple times, only getting random bolts here and there. Her brow furrowed a bit as she studied the dome around her, only raising a brow when Jack called out to her. "Could be worse. Could be electrocuted." Another bolt came towards her, but she leaned to the side to dodge it.

Her eyes closed in thought. Ocean waves weren't working out very well. So she quietly began to hum a tune. It was something soft and something she remembered from a festival back home. Runali started to conduct the lightning around her, not watching as it began to surround her and lift her up into the air. It wasn’t until she stumbled into a sitting position, now in the air, did she open her eyes. "Oh." Her concentration broke and she nearly fell, but with a quick clasp of her hands, she used the lightning again to catch herself. "Hey this isn't so bad." Runali decided to stand and test taking a few steps in the air, though each step was light on her toes as if she was doing a balancing act or more accurately, a dance. "Hah! This is kind of fun. Oh whoops-" With excitement getting the best of her, she attempted a little hop of joy only for that concentration she built to disappear and send her falling towards the ground.

Luro watched the two carefully observing how they built and controlled the lightning, it was a little different from how he did it, especially the Captain’s but the end result was the same. He could feel the flow of the waves from where he was and he smiled a little as the two managed to accomplish his feat with minimal difficulties. Being able to supply Haki and maintain it really did help control the flow better. He knew all too well that the elements responded better to a continuous flow than a start and stop, save for Ice whose differences were minor but still present.
He still grinned watching thet two’s success, and no one was dead yet so that was a victory.

When Runali fell Luro quickly extended his own dome and holding his hands out ‘caught’ Runali’ before she hit the ground, gently setting her on the earth.
“You can also do it to the others...but it takes a lot of energy,” Luro said as his dome vanished.
“It’s a bit harder though without hurting them so uh...practice on objects first.”
Luro looked over at Runali and Jack and smiled before walking over to the two.
“You guys are always so good at figuring out the gloves. I was being a little careful with these but I had a feeling you’d get a feel for them. You’re also not dead so needless worry after all.”
Luro clapped his hands together.
“Okay we’ll do the next thing today then. I’ll need the gloves back first though. I put limiters on them jusssst in case, but I’ll take them off now.”
Luro waited until the gloves were returned before he did a few movements with his hands, hit a few invisible buttons and a hidden compartment opened on both, sitting tailor style, he pulled out his tools.
“I’m going to increase the generator's output while I’m at it. Seeing as Jack had new hair for a moment I’m glad I had it set to low,” Luro said with a chuckle. “It’ll take a few minutes so just relax and-”
“Oiiiiiii!”

Luro looked over at Kaim who had taken a few extra steps back and was now waving at the group. His extra distance probably taken after Jack’s comment, he now stood near the forest.
“Stardusk come over here! I wanna show ya something cool, I think you’ll like it!”
“Or...go see what Kaim wants I guess,” Luro said arching a brow. “If ya don’t wanna sit here and watch me mess with this thing you can see what he wants. I was wondering why he didn’t leave…”
Kaim was making repetitious beckoning motions and pointing to the spot in front of him.

With great care, Jack dismantled his dome and returned to solid ground. He squinted at Kaim for several moments, debating if he felt like humoring the Prophet, before shrugging to himself and trudging in the man’s direction. He was sure the captain would go anyway.

“What did you find, Kaim? Is Sara Masuma lurking around for a second bout?”

“Wouldn’t call it good at figuring it out,” Runali spoke more out loud than to either of them. “M’just sturdy and can afford to blow myself up on accident.” She gave Luro an appreciative thumbs up as she dusted herself off. “Would not recommend it for anyone else though.” She huffed out a laugh before she was handing her gloves to Luro as well.

At the freedom to relax, Runali was ready to collapse next to Luro. However, Kaim’s siren call of ‘something cool’ redirected her attention and kept her standing. “He said something cool, Jack. Not a miracle.” She gave Luro a quick shoulder pat, before leaving him to his own devices and catching up with the other two. “Is it treasure? And if it is, I call dibs! Unless it’s cursed, then Jack can have it.”

“Sadly no, regretfully no one wants to have a proper bout with Old Kaim,” Kaim said with a shrug.
He offered a nod to Runali’s comment at a miracle but patiently waited for Runali to join before pointing over to the forest a few feet away and walking over. The man didn’t go too far in as Luro was still in line of sight, but from their distance more than likely out of earshot, especially with him focused on the glove which sparked, shocking him as he continued messing with it. Judging by how he ignored the electricity still sparking off his body he seemed used to it.

“It’s more like I’m gonna help you two find something Jack,” Kaim said with a grin. “It’s a kind of a treasure, not the one you can get money for though. Think of it as thanks for showing me something so interesting.”
Kaim gave a grin and a shrug at this.
“Still before that I want to discuss something with you two, I’ll be quick of course I don’t like long speeches or detailed explanations after all.”
Kaim raised his hands and clapped them together.
“Luro Makachi is weak.”

Kaim raised a hand to the two realizing he had said something rude but smiled wanting to continue.
“Not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s that very same weakness that taught him adaptability, it’s the reason why he’s found a way to manifest the power of Logia without any of the weaknesses and that is a terrifying concept. He’s strong where he needs to be, considerably so and that’s been proven time and time again.”
Kaim lowered his hand at this.
“His ingenuity is something else, that being said I’ll say it again to make sure the point is made clear. Luro Makachi is weak.”
Kaim put his hands on his hips.
“For example, I was helping Luro with his current gloves. He wanted to surprise you but needed armament so he approached yours truly. It took Luro weeks to even use the electricity...something you two managed in moments.”
Kaim raised a finger to the two.
“That’s the difference between you, granted part of that has to do with figuring it out and the gloves working better with Armament flowing through them than not, but that’s another issue. He can’t summon that himself, I've been teaching him what I can for it but that can take years, even for the smart ones. The inventions he created he can’t even use their full potential even when he understands the process it takes time.”

Kaim lowered his finger and looked over at Luro.
“He was happy it worked and happy you were happy...but I don’t know...I felt there was a tinge of sadness there too. Guy has to see that distance between you and him probably everyday at this point I guess.”
Kaim looked back at the two.
“Sorry I’m droning on...what I mean to say is. Take away your weapons and the gloves and you guys can handle yourself if someone gets close, most of your crew can. Luro is not in the same boat, a fact he knows all too well, especially after Trovale, if not for that healing lady from what he told me, he’d probably be a dead man...probably he is surprisingly durable.”
Kaim raised his hands at this and grinned.
“You guys have been around him longer, you certainly know him better than I do. I‘m sure this is old news but I’m saying it from what I saw. There is a canyon of difference between you and him.”
Kaim lowered his hands and looked back over at Luro, crossing his arms
“I’m sure Luro will find his ‘strength’, whatever that may be, in whatever form it comes. I don’t doubt that, hell I hope he finds it sooner than later, it’ll make fighting him even more fun. This is all just something to keep in mind, Luro has his strengths and his weaknesses only push him to find more solutions...but there’s some things he just can’t do, it’s why I like you guys, the way you cover for each other is great. That being said, Luro is very very strong, but he’s also very very weak. I can’t wait to see where he ends up myself, I mean you guys are freakishly strong and he’s trying to match that, especially you Runali, Luro has no choice but to match you or at least get close after all.”

Kaim looked over at Runali at this before a chuckle escaped from him and he rubbed the back of his head.
“Sorry didn’t mean to get all depressing and serious there but I like Luro, and you guys. I’m concerned for him so I couldn’t help but say somethin’. Anyway I’ll listen if you want to add to that of course, not fair only my opinion is shared, if not I’ll show you what I called you over here for, it’ll make up for the time I just took from ya, promise.”

Runali's eagerness visibly deflated into something akin to contemplation. She wasn’t upset, no, but she was thoughtful. This conversation felt… familiar and yet it still generated a sigh from her. Attentiveness was a must in her line of work, but where she kept her eye the most was on her crew. And as much as she’d never admit it, she did so even more after their shipwreck. Runali took care in knowing her crews’ strengths, their weaknesses, how they felt about being a Stardusk, and so much more. She had to. Not because it was her job, but because they were her family. And there was no way she’d let them get into trouble she knew they couldn’t handle.

But, Kaim was right. Partially. As much as she didn’t want it to be true, Runali never truly viewed the world through rose colored glasses. “Raw talent is an impressive feat. And he has that. But,” Runali tapped her eyepatch. “He’s got haki. He just… I don’t think he realizes it still.” Her hands fell behind her back. “But, I do appreciate the concern. He’s more reckless than I am so it’s nice to know others outside of Stardusk care.” When Kaim laughed, she leaned over towards Kaim and grinned. “Heh, don’t tell Nikos though he’ll probably go on a long rant about the importance of business. Maybe also make you work extra.” Falling back a little to nudge Jack’s side, she grinned. “Time to get Luro into shape with his own training sessions, don’t you think? Can’t have Kaim here thinking that he’s got a chance at beating one of us in a fight.”

A quirked eyebrow was the most Kaim got out of Jack. Inwardly, he felt defensive on Luro’s behalf. And a little bit abashed he hadn’t caught it first. His trust in Kaim only went so far but even he could see, belatedly, the Prophet wasn’t wrong. Concern won out in his turning thoughts. Jack slid his gaze over to Luro and only looked away when Runali called for his attention.

“Past time, it sounds like.” Jack shared his slick smile. “Though I think we’re all selling him short. Luro’s surviving the Imposter every day, after all. Don’t worry -- we’ll fine tune your fiance in no time.”

Kaim listened to the two in silence, a small grin finding its way onto his face though it faded at the idea of being handed extra work.
“This whole situation never happened as far as I’m concerned...he will absolutely make me work extra,” Kaim said with a sigh.
At the mention of a fight the man grinned and slammed his hand into his fist.
“Haha...I really wanna test that myself personally. A good ole fashioned brawl is just what I want, heck I’d be fine going a round with all three of you...but I don’t wanna get killed at the same time by my friends, if Nikos finds out...much less Ria I’ll have to sleep with one eye open.”
Kaim sighed.
“Still Luro’s pretty lucky to have you guys, make sure you train him up well. We’re not exactly standing still either and one day we’re gonna end up fighting you again. Ria may not kill Jack till he’s on his deathbed, she’s one to keep her promises but I guarantee a spar will still happen. Don’t wanna fall behind.”
Though he laughed at this it faded quickly and the man brought a hand to his chin.
“Imposter...huh….hm.”

Clapping his hands together Kaim motioned over to the nearby forest apparently moving past whatever he was going to say.
“Anyway enough of that, now for the reason I brought you over here. The treasure I mentioned. Just stand right there and stare at that tree. Don’t blink.”
Kaim walked over to the tree and holding his hand up stood a few feet away from it, waving his hand and swatting at the air as if to show the distance.

Holding his hand out in front of him, he closed it into a fist, as it did a red glow suddenly flared from his arm, pure Haki surrounding it before in the next moment, the tree in front of him exploded.
The explosion seemed to come from inside the tree as if something had detonated within it, blowing out the back half of it, while the front remained untouched.
Kaim lowered his glowing arm with a grin before motioning to the tree and the chunks of wood now lying a few feet away.

“This is one of the most advanced armament techniques, or considered it at least by the ones who taught it to me. You can call it Emission. It’s a bit of a secret, I learned it myself on some small island not even on the map...months away from here. I can assure you this skill doesn’t exist in this region at least.”
Kaim held up his arm and let the Haki flow again, the familiar red glow coating his arm.
“The technique could be considered stronger than Hardening, least in my opinion. It emits an invisible burst of power in the direction you push it. Allowing you to hit something without physically touching it. What I just did, ‘Internal Destruction’ is what makes it extra dangerous though. Master it and basically-”

Kaim cut himself off and walked back over the two, letting the glow fade from his arm he raised his hand and tapped Jack’s chest with his finger.
“It penetrates hardening, meaning doesn’t matter how strong ya armament is, the person can ignore it and hit you directly...or aim for those sensitive organs within there instead.”
He moved his hand away and shoved them in his pockets.
“Soooo you interested in learning it? If not s’cool figured I’d offer. It could help ya use the gloves better too...just puttin’ it out there, no pressure.”
Kaim offered the two a grin and folded his hands behind his head.
“Ya won’t learn it today if you take me up on it of course but I can show you some steps to help manifest it.”

"I'll have you know, my fiance is perfectly-" Runali caught herself before she finished that sentence. It would have led down a path of Jack teasing her and so she waved him away in earnest to focus on Kaim. For a moment, Runali looked genuinely confused about the idea of the Prophets fighting them again, even more so about 'killing' Jack. "...You guys sure take sparring seriously?" It was mumbled mostly to Jack as Kaim went over to demonstrate whatever cool thing he was planning to show,

"Oh that poor tree." Runali’s comment turned into an all too familiar eager grin. New tricks were always fun to learn, but the fact that Kaim was willing to teach it, well… "I say this as your friend Kaim," She patted his arm. "I cannot wait for the day Nikos learns you taught us this. I can picture his face now." She couldn't help but laugh. "I can already hear the boring lecture he will give." With a mock sadness, she placed a hand over her heart. "You were a good friend Kaim, you will be missed after Nikos throws you into the ocean." And with a snap, her expression changed into excitement. "But also as your friend how dare you think I wouldn’t want to learn something as cool as that!?" She flexed her hands, feeling out her own haki, but quickly remembered all the lightning training that they had just done. It probably was… smarter not to try it out right now. Stacking on training lessons was probably a bit of an overkill, no matter how much stamina she had to burn.

"Fine, fine, I will wait. I will be patient."

Jack scratched at his cheek as he stared at the broken remains of the tree, for once not hiding the fact he was caught off guard. “... huh. Well, what do you know.”

Runali interrupted him, but he was glad she did. His grin returned in earnest as he came to her side and rested an elbow on her shoulder. “Captain’s right. Nikos is going to kill you for helping the enemy. Talk you straight into old age. Hey, should we make a bet on how long it’ll take Nikos to find out? It’ll be fairer odds than our last one.” Jack directed this last bit, smirking at Runali as he alluded to her poor marksmanship with an ice pistol.

To his gamble, Runali only offered a snap and thumbs up, deciding to save her commentary for later. But, it was enough of a gesture to say ‘You’re on.’

After a moment’s reflection, Jack sighed and nodded warily. “Interesting as that is, best not overdo it today.”

Kaim rubbed the side of his head knowing all too well that Nikos would scold him for this later, and tossing him into the ocean would just be the start of his punishment. Though he smiled glad the two were at least willing to take him up on his offer, though shoving his hands in his pocket he grinned at the two deciding not to push it, that was a good idea considering how much had happened today.

“Well my multiple tiered punishment would come one way or another,” Kaim said grinning. “Also please I never once considered you guys enemies, even Sara and I agreed it was nothing more than a contest of strength...also saying that out loud please don’t tell Nikos. He will actually kill me for that. I’m supposed to go on some long speil but it’s too much effort. We’ll work on the technique another day then.”

Kaim motioned past the two as Luro approached them, with a grin the redhead slipped the glove on before looking those gathered.
“Today was productive thank you guys, this will give me a lot to work with.”
“Happy to help Luro, ah though could I ask a favor. Could you hit me with lightning in my ascension form? I’m curious about the difference in pain...also I really have to pick a better name for that, I can’t let Nikos pick stuff for me.”
“Ohhhh that would be interesting. It naturally shields your body so it would be good research.”
“Right and worst case I die right.”
The two laughed heartily making it hard to judge if they were being serious.
Kaim made a motion for Runali and Jack to take a small step back anticipating it might get a bit messy, closing his eyes Haki manifested around Kaim before his form shifted into his other state.

White Haki flowed out of Kaim, a fog of concentrated energy forming at his feet as his hair shifted between multiple colors, white eventually overtaking it before purple shifted into it as well. Opening his eyes, his eyes came to match his hair a mix of the two colors, any other change was hidden by the man’s clothes but the air grew heavy with the presence of his Haki as he opened and closed his fist.
“Okay Luro go ahead.”
Luro nodded and held his hand out, Kaim grinned and braced for the attack. The generator flared to life and the collision of power almost seemed to manifest in the air between the two, sparks flowing in the air between them lashing outwards in response to the collision...but it never came.
Instead a bright flash filled the air blinding everyone in the area, the sudden pressure around them seemed to grow significantly heavier and as the light faded Kaim’s eyes readjusted before widening, as his jaw dropped

Luro stood a few feet away, coated in white Haki, his hair had shifted into the same white and purple of Kaim’s, and his eyes had also changed color. White lines ran along his skin, resonating slightly with energy. Luro blinked a few times and stared at his hands and the white Haki presently surrounding his body.
“...huh…” he said. “That’s interesting.”
“Interesting?!” Kaim exclaimed motioning to Luro. “That’s my form! The energy’s exactly the same! That’s...how?!”
Luro shrugged and looked over at Runali and Jack.
“You guys got any idea?”
“This is...no this doesn’t make sense. Luro...Luro of all people shouldn’t able to…” Kaim trailed off staring at Luro. “Runali and Jack maybe with a lot of practice but…”
“This has never happened before,” Luro said opening and closing his hand before hopping from foot to foot.
“I stole Kaim’s fancy form!”
Kaim stood, eyes narrowed a bit as he tried to understand what was happening.
“...this...is impossible. It’s like a normal person suddenly using Logia powers…which well I guess tracks but still….”

Runali didn’t hesitate to pull Jack backwards a few steps back with her. There was no need to get caught in the cross hairs of two unequally wild men and their experiments. “Ascension…?” Runali mumbled to Jack in confusion. “You’d think they’d run out of all the fancy and flashy powers.” She leaned on Jack, truly the only person that could understand her ‘plight’ of only having strength and skill alone. Sure enough, the sudden change in Kaim’s appearance only made her raise a brow. “At what point does it stop being haki… and start becoming something else…” Her head tilted, waiting for the lightning strike only to blink and see instead of lightning, Luro mimicking Kaim’s odd technique.

“Huh…” It was hard to keep up with being surprised by everything Luro created, so Runali was left to stare at him. “...y’know I think I prefer red more…” The moment she said it, she realized that was probably the least of all their concerns, especially Kaim’s. So, instead she called out, “Luro, once you stopped being just my sharpshooter was the day I stopped understanding half the things you do.” She chuckled. “Especially now that you and Caleb are friends.” He didn’t look injured and he seemed to be moving just fine, so she called out again with more curiosity. “You’ve got haki now Luro, so get a feel for how it works! Focus all that energy into your fist and punch Kaim as hard as you can! Think of it like the gloves, except… no gloves!” As she spoke, she once again grabbed Jack to start taking steps backwards. “Don’t worry, Kaim can take it! It’s his own fancy form after all.” Another step back. “Shift your hips when you punch him! You’re a giant, you can put all your weight behind it!”

“Yeah! What she said!” Jack called out, a huge grin on his face. “And Kaim said Luro was weak,” he added to Runali. He leaned on her as much as she did on him. “Luro might not have armor on his body but his mind and gun more than makeup for those weaknesses.”

Pulling Runali back a little bit more, expecting this spar sequence to be intense, Jack sat on the ground to watch the two duke it out. You’re about to see what it means to underestimate Stardusk, Prophet, Jack thought, his smile sharpening into predator’s delight. He hadn’t approved of Kaim’s assessment of Luro, though he wasn’t about to argue with his captain in front of Kaim. He hoped that his blood brother would now prove the man wrong.

Luro looked at the energy running along his body opening and closing his hands.
“This is Haki...hmmm...okay I think I can do it,” Luro said. “Kaim I’m going to punch you in the face!”
The Prophet was pulled from his thoughts at the sudden declaration but ultimately grinned and lowering his body brought his arms to his side.
“Go for it! Hit me with all you got Luro! No idea how you’re doing this but I’m not turning down a free fight!”
Luro nodded and brought his fist back, the energy around him flaring outwards as it built up strength, Kaim’s grin only widened before Luro brought his first forward, crashing into Kaim’s face dead on.
Nothing happened.
Kaim blinked at the fist presently against his forehead and Luro pulled his hand back staring at it then back at Kaim, tilting his head Kaim raised his hand and putting his middle finger and thumb together flicked Luro in the skull.
The act sent the carpenter flying backwards causing Kaim’s jaw to drop.
“Ah,” was all that escaped from him before his body vanished.

Kaim reappeared and caught Luro from behind before he could fly into the distance and the two vanished, reappearing back in front of Jack and Runali.
“Sorry...just wanted to see if it was only defensive,” Kaim said with a shrug.
“...it didn’t work,” Luro said waving a hand to Kaim indicating it was fine.
“Hmmm I guess that makes sense,” Kaim said, exiting his form. “I achieved this stance through years of dedication, learning to control the natural state of my Haki which if done incorrectly can either kill or prevent you from using it at all. I’ve broken my limbs and thought I’d never fight again in pursuit of it. I earned this power through hard work...just…’learning it’ doesn’t make sense.”
Kaim held up a finger.
“At the very least you need to have strong Armament which Luro can’t even do.”
Luro’s form faded and he returned to normal.
“Booo...guess I can’t use it then,” Luro said crossing his arms. “Not sure how I did it in the first place.”

Kaim looked over at Runali and Jack before looking back at Luro.
“While I...kinda want to talk about Jack seeing how happy he was to see me getting hit,” Kaim said patting Luro’s shoulder. “Don’t let this get ya down. You matched my aura exactly even the flow of Haki...as I just said I earned this power...but you managed to mimic it which is still an extreme feat.”
Kaim grinned at this.
“If you can mimic my power so well, even the flow of the Haki...you could probably find a way to really harness it. I’d like that.”
Luro looked at the glove on his hand which had fizzled out then back up at Kaim.
“You would?”
“Of course! I mean think about it. If you found a way to ‘steal’ another person’s power and use it yourself that’d be on a whole other level,” Kaim said. “Imagine it, Alicia goes all ‘Power of Destruction! ' and you just go ‘oh me too’ and boom Power of Destruction. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
“It sounds really fun!” Luro said his eyes sparkling at the very idea. “I’d do that glowing eye thing and throw out stuff like ‘Slash of a thousand suns’ or something like that!”
“Right?! So why don’t we all figure out how to harness this power. I’ll help anyway I can without getting in trouble. Besides the stronger you guys get, the more competitive my friends get, which lights a fire in them that I love seeing. On top of that if you managed to actually emulate my power you’d be able to go toe to toe with me, then we can really go at it.”
Kaim raised his arm as it turned black from hardening.
“I mean Haki does change the body, hardening alone is proof of that. What you discovered could set a lot of things in motion Luro. Haki is still a concept with much to learn, you changed the Haki that naturally surrounds your body...that’s no easy feat.”

Luro crossed his arms closing his eyes offering a small nod here and there to Kaim’s words, opening his eyes he turned his head towards the sky, a loud laugh escaping from him before he looked over at Runali and Jack.
“Captain I got an idea! I may need to take leave for a week to take care of some things. I know just who to ask in helping me figure this out!”
He looked over at Kaim.
“Kaim be my assistant. I need help with Brass Cape and the Nova’s,” Luro said grinning. “I’ll handle the Cutthroats.”
“Wahahaha leave it to me! You can trust him with me Runali, I’ll even get a contract to make it official...just don’t tell Nikos.”
“Ah and let’s call the training here today, the gloves are out of commission anyway,” Luro said, turning fully to the two. “Thank you for helping me Captain...Jack...thanks to this I may have discovered something amazing...if I can get this to work…”
“You could summon familiars like Cedric,” Kaim said elbowing him.
“I could finally have that elephant on the ship!” Luro said grinning turning back to Kaim.
“Elephants and Tigers!”
“Ohhhhhh and Bears!”
“Also you know how Haki feels so this can help with your Armament training!”
“Also Lions!”
“Yes Lions I forgot about Lions! What other dangerous animals are there!”
“Sharks!”
“On land! Maybe give them legs!”
“Leg land sharks!”
“Uhh let’s work on the name but yeah that!”

Runali went from leaning forward in anticipation to falling back by Jack’s side when nothing happened. “We’ve still got time to toughen him up.” She said to Jack. And then when the chaos between Luro and Kaim ensued she could only dramatically sigh. “Who would I be to stop your training?” Hearing that he was going to bother the other worst gen pirates, she pointed to the sky. “You’re taking Coral with you though. She can keep the peace better than you can. And I dunno if the Cutthroats even like Kaim.” At his thanks, she gave a salute. When they started talking about animals, Runali shook her head and pointed towards the ship. “C’mon Jack, we’ve lost them, they’re gonna be at this all day.”

“Right behind you,” said Jack drily as he lit a cigarillo. His feelings mirrored hers, and wasn’t about to stick around to Luro and Kaim shouting at each other for the rest of the day.

“Sooo…. Want to make bets on what Nikos’ first reaction will be when he finds out what happened here?”




 
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Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
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Location: After Davy, sometime before the colder months of Bonifaas

“I s’pose ‘versatility’ is all fine and good,” Runali’s air quotes showed enough emphasis about how she felt about the current situation. She was sitting on a tree stump with fresh snow surrounding her. By the looks of how green and warm it was farther out, it was obvious the snow wasn’t from the current weather. And based off the gloves she wore, it was obvious that it came from her… Or at least obvious to Luro and Jack who were across from her. “But I don’t see why I can’t just get really good with the fire ones and skip being cold.” She held up her gloved hand, creating an icicle and then immediately reshaped it into the Stardusk star and then finally a pistol. “Haki is easy. I can control it.”

She mumbled something that sounded like exasperation in her native language, before she fiddled with the ice pistol. She aimed at the nearest tree, squinting ever so slightly. And when she took the shot, it strayed too far to the right. Runali puffed in disappointment, her hair blowing upward and then falling over her eyepatch. “No need to aim if I can get close enough… Either way! Every glove should work the same, yeah? Easier than this at least.” She waved the gun until it crumbled to the ground. It wasn’t clear what started her rambling, whether it was Jack and Runali’s ‘mandatory’ switch of gloves to practice with or if it was her own lack of precision when it came to handling the ice gloves, but it eventually petered off when she felt her point came across.

“I couldn’t agree less,” Jack grumbled. His gloom shifted to Runali. “If I have to suffer, you have to suffer too.”

Upon receiving the fire gloves again, his smug happiness wilted away when the captain’s retribution came at him in snowy waves. Now Jack sat in a circle of charred grass, poking at a campfire in thoroughly soaked clothes.

Despite his poutiness, Jack’s attention glued onto the icy pistol. He fidgeted and glanced at Luro. “Also, the more tools you can use against your enemy, the better upper-hand you have. And all tools must be used proficiently to be effective.”

Jack stood up and went to a big tree in their vicinity. A twist of a hand; fire bloomed around his fist. He focused the flame into a torch and carefully drew it over the trunk.

“There.” He stepped back with satisfaction, revealing a black makeshift target burned into the tree. “Trying practicing with an ice pistol again, but at this. I’ll bet you 10 dollars for every hit.”

Luro stood near the two smiling as he observed Runali messing with the ice gloves, watching the two messing with the gloves always brought him a bit of joy, and as was customary the snow somehow voided the carpenter, who somehow stood atop the snow itself emitting the same amount of heat as he watched the Captain take aim. His brows lowered a bit before she fired, his eyes moving where the bullet had landed, missing his mark.
“Captain ya can’t be empress and not hit something five feet in front of you...that’d look really bad,” Luro said moving his arms into his sleeves. “Sides the more ways you have to hurt someone the more fun you’ll be. Someone who can throw fire is fun...but someone who can throw ice and wind at you too will really leave an impression.”

Luro held up a finger.
“A wise man once told me, ain’t no point holding the gun if you don’t know which side’s the barrel. Right before he shot himself in the head by accident...wait was it a man? Either way I can’t have my Captain not able to hit something in front of you. I’m happy to shoot anything you point at...but I’ll be worried if you’re so bad you can’t hit the mast of a ship.”
Luro grinned and pointed at the target.
“Oh nice idea Jack, besides you’re really good with Ice Captain. Remember the ship with those circus people, and when we were fighting in the Circle. You showed me something interesting then. I always look forward to seeing what you guys will do next.”
Luro motioned to the stump.
“If ya managed to hit it I’ll make whatever you want later as well.”

“Upper hand… I’ve got two and then an entire crew behind me.” She mumbled under her breath. ‘Aiming’ was never one of her strong suits. Though at this rate, she wasn’t sure if that was the case before or after she lost an eye. At least, she had an excuse if her aim was bad post eye loss. She had adapted! She learned how to walk with her guard up, learned how to be hyper aware of her surroundings, she even improved her balance well past others. And somehow! She could never make sense of long ranged weapons! For so long she was hoping to skirt past this, but she didn’t take into account that her own crew would harass her about it.

Runali sat up with a look of protest towards Jack’s ‘game’, only to flinch ever so slightly when Luro agreed with the cook. “Ugggh,” Runali’s hand went up in exasperation and she dramatically fell back into the snow. It was soft enough that she sank in just a bit. “You’re not s’posed to agree with him! Now Jack’s gonna bother me about it forever.” The cold outweighed her own dramatics and eventually she hopped back onto her feet and dusted off some of the snow that clung to her.

“Ah, right. The Court.” She remembered instinctively making a bridge to get her and Luro out of harm’s way. Sure, she did it, but how was another question. Even in the circle, the large wall of ice was just another act of instinct. In that moment, her only thoughts had been to ‘keep them safe’. Acting on instinct was… easy. The gloves grew a little colder as that ice ‘gun’ appeared back in her hands.

When offered a prize, Runali couldn’t help but perk up a little only to stick her tongue out at him. “You’d do it anyway if I asked, I bet.” Turning back to eye her new target, she nodded. “But fine, I’ll bite. Jack’s already made the bet… I’ll play this game.”

Or at least, she tried to. Even though she tried her best to aim right at the target she had already missed the target four times. The first two veered too far the right. The third managed to be too high, but still hit the tree. The fourth, when her hair obscured her vision, managed to be closest to the mark. “I’m not going to quit because that’s not very captain-ly… but captainhood aside, I will complain about it.”

“Complain away, then,” Jack’s smugness could’ve melted the rest of the snow away.

Settling down next to the fire, his smirk dissolved into a frown, as she failed one attempt after another. Sure, losing an eye messed with one’s depth perception but.... Jack wisely decided to keep any nagging questions to himself, up until the fourth shot failed to hit the target. Jack flinched. “Too bad Ray isn’t here. You’re using his weapon after all.”

“I’m always on your side Captain but as a marksman I can’t let this one go, sorry,” Luro said with a grin.
It was abundantly clear he wasn’t completely sorry, getting to watch his Captain shoot things was on his list of things to try and do before he died, he doubted Alicia was going to cut a whale in half any time soon with a spoon so this was the closest he was getting to completing one.

At the mention of a prize he tilted his head at her response.
“Course I still would, I love you after all,” Luro said moving his hands into his sleeves. “Ah there’s three things I wouldn’t make even for you though, so you could ask for one of those. You can get back at me later with that if ya want.”

Luro watched the scene flinching with each shot missed, he rubbed the back of his head and started to wonder if he should help Runali out. Would that mess up the bet? He kind of didn’t want to give her the power to make him make one of those things as well….but this was hard to watch.
“...Captain...I’ve fought blind marksmen before who shoot better than I do...so it’s really hard to make up an excuse for you right now…” Luro said resting his hands on his hips. “...I’ll help ya if Jack doesn’t mind since you gotta additional bet with him. You are getting closer at least so you’re adapting pretty well.”
Luro’s gaze moved over to Jack at the mention of Ray and a chuckle escaped from him.
“Oh yeah Ray was great with the ice pistols. It is thanks to him we can even use Ice as well. Captain you remember when he’d pull them and just start firing at anything that moved?”

Runali made a face at Jack, but further ‘hmph-ed’ when Luro messed with her too. Though, the latter was… quickly excused of his ‘taunting crimes’ as she couldn’t stay mad at him for long. …Even if he further cemented how bad of a shot she was. “Aye I get it, I get it. M’not good you don’t gotta put salt in the wound. Jack does enough of that. You may be brothers but you don’t haveta be like him.” She was loud enough for Jack to hear across the way. “Bah, if you love me you’ll help me whether Jack cares or not.” In her chatter, she was fiddling with the gun and aiming at the target again. “S’called loyalty to your fian-” The moment she fired, Runali’s attention was pulled into curiosity. “We’ve met hundreds of people, can’t expect me to remember everyone that’s helped us along the way. That’s a lot...” She scratched her cheek in thought. “Though someone helping you with your ice gloves sounds like something I’d remember...” She stood in thought in an attempt to jog her memory, before shrugging and going back to her new bet. “Where’d we meet him? Oh,” She pointed to the target, realizing while she wasn’t paying attention she managed to hit it. “Hah! I did it!”

Jack’s eyebrows snapped up to his hairline as Runali rattled off. Mostly at her off-handed forgetfulness, but he couldn’t help notice that she hit the target when her attention was the least focused on it. It was something he’d note for later. The former was the punch that set him on edge.

He sat up, looking at Luro with surprise before addressing her. “Cap-- Runali. Ray was Stardusk. He joined you before I did.”

Luro only smiled and offered a shrug to Runali, she was right but for some reason he couldn’t pass up the chance to tease her a little today. He wasn’t entirely sure what had gotten into him but that was quickly put aside when Runali seemed not to remember the person who helped him with the gloves, it caught him enough off guard he almost missed the Captain hitting the target. He ended up pulled in two different directions for a moment, he was really proud of the Captain for hitting the target but why didn’t she remember Ray?
“Great job Captain. I knew you could do it,” Luro said deciding to start the most important thing.

His eyes went over to Jack meeting his gaze and he opened his notebook flipping through it as Jack tried to explain Ray. Luro had to take a moment to actually double check himself, he was positive Ray existed but at the same time Imposter had made up three other crewmates. Checking his notes he found his name scattered throughout them and putting that away and pulling out his box he found his Wanted Poster among them, Ray without a doubt existed.
“Yeah Captain Ray used to be one of us,” Luro said holding the poster out towards her. “He was on the ship before even I was. Had a thing for you too….ah.”
Luro brought a hand to his chin.
“He’s...probably going to have words for me when we meet again…We should avoid Lendria for a while...he’s probably going to be a little mad.”

She outwardly scoffed at Jack’s comment, taking aim yet again. “That’s ridiculous Jackie, I remember every person that has called themselves a Stardusk. If I remember nothing else from my time out at sea, I know for sure I’ll remember that fact.” There was an assuredness in her tone that didn’t show any sign of doubt.

Runali took the shot as Luro spoke, her eye going to the wanted poster at the last second. “What’re you talking about?” Abandoning the game for a moment, Runali gave a curious examination towards the wanted poster. “...Raymond Skalter…?” She carefully flipped it over, expecting some sort of joke or anything that would make it clear that it was fake, but sure enough the navy’s insignia was stamped on the top to mark it official. “That… no, that can’t be right.” She wanted reassurance, but the look Luro gave made her brow furrow. “The only person on this ship that’s had a ‘thing’ for me is you… Unless someone else isn’t fessing up.” The captain shook her head. “I know my memory gets fuzzy sometimes but… I started by myself… there was Kai and Nolan… Then you came along Luro and shot at me. Then Marcos for a little while and Danny.” There was a short solemn pause at the mention of Danny but she pressed on. “Kai left, then Nolan but we found Alicia at the tournament. Kadi was at sea and I can’t forget about Bentham of course.” The more she thought about it, the more static she got at certain points in time, but each addition there was an additional snippet of their journey or how Stardusk found them. “There was Colt even.” She felt bad about his death too, but she was more upset about being unconscious for the most part. “Then there was the other Dani and Cecilia although they pledged to the Cutthroats at the end of the day. Kidnapped Aidan for a while. Forsythe was a marine but she helped too…” She was idly tapping the barrel as she continued. “We escaped Kane’Artem… Then we met Sara, then Jack, then Zilia. I got Coral when we went to Jaipur of course. Then Cedric and cats included… And now- and now we’re here.”

Jack noticeably fidgeted as Runali recounted all the members, past and present, of Stardusk. The gap in her knowledge was unnerving, and wholly incomplete. Not a single inkling of Ray’s existence seemed to be within her awareness. Jack hadn’t known the man long himself, but he’d left a permanent mark in his memory. To see someone who shared intimate history with Ray suffer amnesia of him was… unsettling.

A rare stroke of existential musings crept over Jack. He shovelled them to the side, not wanting to be distracted by Runali’s own problem.

“Runali, you can’t deny the wanted poster. It’s legitimate. And both Luro and I -- and everyone on Lady Luck beside my brother -- know Ray. He sailed with us; we went down to the Undersea with him. The only one who’s forgotten him is you.”

“Well I mean Z does stare at you often but aside from that Ray without a doubt did...which I forgot about it….well next time I see him it’ll be a funny story.”
Luro went silent afterwards as he listened to Runali, he gave nods here and there but eventually he stopped nodding, and his eyebrows lowered a bit, as Runali started skipping parts, reaching up Luro rubbed the side of his head and looked over at Jack.
He seemed bothered by this as well, Luro’s gaze moved to his wrapped up hand and allowed Ice to surround it before it dissipated.

Ray had helped him frequently with the ice gloves, without his help he wouldn’t have gotten this far so quickly, and he remembered how he played his violin on the ships, singing shanty’s with the rest of them. Captain wouldn’t forget someone like that, especially one who wore the symbol of Stardusk.
“Ray was on that ship with Kai and Nolan when you picked me up, he didn’t trust me at first either. Ray would play music on the ship when we all sang, he taught most of the ones we still sing today,” Luro said. “He got his Devil Fruit when we were helping with Yula Fei, he helped us fight when the bad Ravens attacked in Cerula.”
Luro pulled out his notebook and flipped through it, digging in his memories that seemed real, having Jack here to confirm he had existed really helped.
“Ray was with us before Alicia, he always went on about Lendria….he died with us the first time,” Luro said closing his notebook. “To the Locker and back, Ray followed alongside us the whole time. The Undersea as well.”

She was absolutely sure of herself. Runali had put her life on the line for her crew. They had been through hell and back together. There was no way she’d forget someone out of thin air.

And yet her distress rose as they told her the exact opposite. She ended up crouching in the spot she stood with a cold glove running through her hand. “...No?” It sounded less certain. “No. No no no. Absolutely not. There’s no way.” Her assuredness faded with each word. She shut her eyes for a moment, taking a breath. If she was bothered about how cold the gloves were it didn’t show as she rubbed her face as if that would bring back memories. The ice gun had long since fallen in front of her and eventually she fell into a sitting position. Runali frowned at the snow, trying to figure out what piece was missing and how it happened, but she refused to believe that her own memory was failing her that badly. “It doesn’t make-” A memory flashed in her mind and she sat up a little too quickly. “When…” She made an almost pained face, hoping the answer would be wrong. “When… was the last time we saw Davy…?”

Jack responded first. “A couple months ago. He came to the ship and… separated you from us. Offered us all deals. Why….”

Lips dipped into a frown, and Jack went fishing for a cigarillo. He was muttering under his breath and soon enough, he believed he understood what the Captain was getting at. He lit up the smoke and looked at her square.

“Do you think you made a deal with him? And he took your memory of Ray away?” asked Jack.

Worry almost flashed across Luro’s face seeing the Captain’s state, he shifted his stance and his body closed in a little showing what his face wouldn’t. Though as Runali slowly came to realize the difference his brows lowered a bit, he knew fragmented memories all too well and he walked over and knelt down next to Runali, placing a hand on her shoulder.
When she sat up however he took a small step away looking over at Jack as he pieced something together.

The idea made Luro scratch his head but it was enough for him to consider something he kept in mind.
“...you definitely remembered him beforehand if that helps,” Luro said with a small nod. “I even spoke of him at our previous sessions...especially when I first got fire to work properly...so before that moment with DJ...we definitely spoke of Ray and you didn’t question his existence...that theory is probably right.”

She mumbled a curse under her breath. And then a few more quietly followed until it sputtered into a defeated noise. She only had vague memories of that day. Talking to Luro, being angry about… something- Runali pulled her glove up to stare at her palm. There was nothing there, but she could feel the tingling warmth that was left when she shook Jones' hand. Nothing was there but she could remember the signature embedded in her palm. She tried convincing herself that it must've been for the better, but nothing could justify forgetting an entire person, especially not someone she called a crew mate or friend.

With a deep inhale, Runali put her head in her hands again. “<Just cut out my tongue the next time I try to make deals with devils.>” It was followed by a loud exhale. Whether they understood her or not wasn’t much of her concern, because she was back on her feet with weapon in hand.
Acceptance was quickly followed after her denial.

Once more, she sighed, seeming to steel herself. The icy gun shifted into something similar to Jack’s throwing knives. “Just… tell me one thing?” She looked at the two and then looked down at the knife in hand. “Raymond,” The name felt unfamiliar to say and it showed with how she paused and fiddled with the knife. She narrowed her eye at the target and tossed the knife, hitting the edge of it. “He’s not… dead is he?”

“No.” Jack made a wry smile. “Not unless Jones lied to me. You’re not the only one who decided to make a deal.”

Her shoulders sagged a little hearing the answer. There was some relief knowing that at least there was some hope to this. Even if she didn’t remember him, at least one day they could find him again. And when they did meet again, at least there’d be stories to tell later. She made another knife and tossed it, this time hitting the edge of the bullseye.

Jack watched her, and his expression softened. He could tell where her mind went and it eased him to know this wouldn’t plague her. Not often, at least.

It turned into a smirk when the knife bounced off the target. “That’s another 10 dollars. You didn’t think our bet stopped at bullets, did you?”

Luro watched Runali in silence, running a hand through his hair as she put her head in her hands. Even if he didn’t fully understand what she had said he got the general idea. His own memories were a jumbled mess and he had to constantly remind himself that Stardusk, especially the two right in front of him were very real, Impster had even tried to erase Ray from his own thoughts. Dealing with such entities came with a cost, one that made him do the exact same thing. Luro took out the box out of his sleeve and stared at it, he always had proof on him just in case, he was glad this time it came in handy at least.

He put the thoughts aside putting the box back in his sleeve, he offered a nod at Jack’s answer to Ray.
“We’ll end up in Lendria one day. It'll definitely be a fun story at least Captain. He’s met Jones he’ll catch on quickly.”
Ray was alive and even if it was shocking at first he didn’t doubt the two of them would get along again, he knew how much Ray cared about the Captain and they got along easily the first time, they’d get along again.
“...he’s still going to be mad about the fiance thing though,” Luro mumbled crossing his arms. “Well that’s for later.”
He looked up his eyes glancing over when she hit the bullseyes, clapping a few times.
“Perfect Captain. Now do it 20 times in a row and I’ll leave you alone. With bullets though.”
 
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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
  3. Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Primarily Prefer Female
  4. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
Post Bonifaas

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A little bit of time had passed since the crew’s journey into Uitibuken, though the scars were still fresh and the island itself wasn’t far enough away for the doctor’s liking. Once she had slipped the seastone ring on Zilia’s allowed herself to cry if only for a moment, she took a moment to mourn with Jack, hugged him tightly and apologized.
She knew it wasn’t needed, she knew she had done all she could and he probably appreciated that but saying nothing didn’t feel right either. It was also an apology she couldn’t stay and mourn him for longer, the Doctor had requested a temporary leave to attend to personal affairs, promising to return soon, at worst within a few weeks.

Understanding that leaving the crew alone for that long without a doctor was the height of foolishness she apparently called in a favor and had Kara serve as the crew’s doctor, her skills were on par with her own so she knew she’d be in good hands.
Also Kara only hated her so there was no real risk of anyone’s safety, the woman’s pride also stood in the way, allowing a Stardusk to be put in a bad position would put her at a lower station as a doctor then Zilia. It was a low blow and manipulative but she had little patience and wanted to ensure everyone would be safe while she was gone.

Zilia had noticed Luro was the same as he always was, smiling and continuing his tasks as normal. It was almost jarring in a sense, such upbeatness shouldn’t exist in such a solemn place, at first she thought he didn’t care but every now and then she’d see the wrap around his waist had changed, to the scarf that Cedric had given him and she understood.
Luro couldn’t grieve normally.
This was what he could do understanding himself, and it was more than he’d do for anyone else.
She left with this knowledge promising to return soon, she felt Luro understood the other reason she was leaving. She couldn’t let out these emotions around people, she needed to scream and cry out away from the populace, throw out the dark feelings bottled up inside. She knew what would happen if she ignored them so she also left to let that out properly but she didn’t add that to her explanation.

Luro without a shred of mercy took everything he could get from the royal family. He was the definition of a pirate when it came to a reward. He would have thrown in the first born of the princess if he cared enough. Money, treasure, a new throne chair, fancy sheets, supplies for the ship so Alicia didn’t have to worry about them for a bit, books, a child’s doll. No one knew why he wanted it but he still took it, of course he chose one the kid wouldn’t miss terribly but still had it handed over in front of the child.

Though seemingly heartless he didn’t force them to part with everything precious to them as they did get the ship back and he expressed his thankfulness for that. He however did get the clothes off the butler’s back last because “it looked fancy.”
He stood there waiting for him to undress, pointing to the chest of goodies that was already at the brim.
“You guys mentioned a reward or something right? I just wanna make sure we’re even in terms of saving your city, pretending to play princess and the many other things.”
He’d let the others negotiate the rest.
“Right now we’re dealing with the loss of one of our crewmates...and family.”
Luro paused at this, his eyelids lowering a bit before continuing.
“I’m not sure how the others feel and I’m not sure if we'll meet again so I’m covering at least some of the bases. Oh I fixed some of the things that got broken in this place too, that charge for that is in there too.”
Luro looked over at the butler.
“Shoes too Salem, everything but the skivvies my friend,” Luro said with a grin. “Thank you for your patronage.”

------------
After Zilia’s departure


“Jack!”
Luro called to Jack as he wandered the ship, the crew had finally taken shore leave stopping at the first island they could find away from everything.
Luro went in the direction Kara had pointed him in to find Jack, the woman apparently aware as it was her job to keep an eye on all the ‘patient’ until they returned. Though she kept her distance knowing many were in mourning or were just leaving it.
“Sure he was here.”

Kara’s directions led Luro to the island’s tailor square, which bustled with foreign merchants selling everything from thick, seal-hide gloves to the finest Sunterian silks. Jack’s scent led him to a vendor of heavy winter gear. Cedric’s remaining familiars perched on a snowflake-embroidered yawning above the small store, lounging in the sun, which meant the cook must be inside the shop.

Jack was tallying up his payment when he heard Luro’s familiar footfalls enter the shop. “What are you doing here, Luro?” he asked without turning around.

He handed the money to the shopkeeper -- a small man with dark skin and a luxurious beard -- and nodded when he asked something in a foreign tongue. The shopkeeper grabbed a heap of cloth from the table, nearly falling over from its weight, before teetering into the back past a beaded curtain. Only when he vanished did Jack turn around, offering his classic half-smile. It looked strained.

In the wake of Cedric’s death, it became clear Jack had two types of days: The ones where he was good at faking being fine, and the ones where he wasn’t. Today appeared to be the latter.

“I thought you’d be out with Runali or something,” Jack said. His gaze drifted occasionally away as Luro spoke. Jack was usually more attentive when talking to his crewmates -- and had a better notion of their activities.

Luro gently scratched behind the ears of both familiars as he entered, a practice he had grown accustomed to at this point. He smiled a little as Jack called out to him but he didn’t respond immediately noticing Jack was in the middle of a transaction. He waited until the man turned around before Luro moved his hands into his sleeves.
He offered a grin in return merely because Jack put forth the effort, but even someone like him could see he wasn’t having a good day.

“Told her I had to handle some stuff,” Luro said chuckling a little. “Which is why I’m here, I gotta borrow you for a minute. Can’t really ask anyone else, I won’t take ya for too long.”
Luro motioned to where the guy had gone.
“We’ll hurry that back to the ship then you gotta come with me.”
Luro put his hands on his hips and laughed a little, Jack was essentially trapped at this point. Now that he was this close getting away was no longer an option, he’d have to thank Kara later.
Just as Luro suggested he helped Jack return the items to the ship, then throwing an arm around his shoulder lead him right back into town with the redhead pointing ahead.
The two approached the tavern with Luro humming a small tune to himself.
They passed the building with Luro not sparing a glance at the delectable treasures within, his attention only focused forward a bright smile on his face.

Eventually the two made it to the outskirts of the town, away from people and essentially everything. Luro had brought Jack to the beach on the edge of the island, the waves crashed gently against the shore a few feet away from seaside chairs that had been placed there, three of them. Each one was clearly well built and had little canopies above them to protect from the sun, the seat rested a little off the ground and it was unlikely they had been there when the group arrived.
Luro motioned to the middle one.
“Have a seat,” he said removing his arm from him and making his way over to the far one. “Again, I won’t borrow ya for long.”

“…oookay.” Bemused enough to forget that he was supposed to be feeling depressed, Jack did as asked. His fingers followed the grain of the chair, admiring the craftsmanship, before looking up and out to the sea.

The tension in his face unraveled with the salty breeze. He leaned back into the chair and took one long, cleansing breath.

“Okay,” he said again, more to himself than Luro. But dragging his gaze away from the waves to focus on his blood brother showed Luro he had Jack’s full attention.

“What is it?”

Luro tossed Jack a rum bottle pulling it from who knows where and took a seat next to him, he smiled at him before offering a small shrug to him.
“Just a conversation we should have had some time ago...not that I have much to say,” Luro said.
His smile shrunk a little bit and his eyelids lowered slightly as he leaned forward a bit in his chair.
“I don’t really have any magical words of comfort or some wise comment on everything, especially to make things better. I don’t really think there are any...if there are I certainly don’t know them. Maybe Captain or Alicia would have them, even Kadi. Not Z though she’s just straightforward after all.”
Luro grinned at this but it didn’t stay on his face for very long as a small almost imperceivable one found its way back onto his face again.
“We’ve lost siblings...and we’ve lived our lives more for someone else than ourselves….”
For a moment it seemed Luro was talking about more than the two of them, and as a fourth chair was sat down next to the third, with Ria taking a seat in it herself it became clear what he meant.
The woman raised a bottle to Jack and Luro but made no attempt to interrupt.

“...we’ve all shared similar pain yet there’s no words that make it better...that’s a level of cruelty even I haven’t reached yet,” Luro said shaking his head. “When I lost Lina...I wasn’t sure how to really live for myself...I’m still working it out now...but Cedric asked me to watch out for you. The last thing he asked of me, I’m honestly not sure how to even do that when I’m barely managing myself.”
Luro looked over at Jack.
“Still...ignoring a request from a brother isn’t good...and I was gonna do it anyway. So this is all I can do right now Jack.”
Luro popped the top of his bottle.
“I can’t give you words to dull the ache, I can’t and won’t compare my experience because we’re different people feeling different things...even though it’s still pain. This is all I can give you in this moment, a nice view, a bottle of rum and my attention. I’ll always be able to give you that. I may only be able to listen, might not be able to offer much words to help but...I’ll always find the time.”
Luro raised his bottle, Ria doing the same.
“To those who went before us...and those who come after,” Luro said with a bright grin. “Now drink and put your face properly back on Jack. If I can tell the others definitely can.”

Jack covered his confusion at seeing Ria by raising his drink, too, and giving her a nod. Her presence softened him; He’d always hold an inexplicable trust towards her.

Blinking back his tears, Jack looked back to the sea and took a long drink from his bottle. Luro was right. His mask was slipping.

So, he took a few moments to compose himself. Reconstruct the mask. After all, he’d already shared his feelings with Alicia. Already found his comfort in Adelaide. He hadn’t spoken to Runali yet… but they both needed their space. They’d find each other when the time was right.

And for what he planned to do next, he needed all his wits. All of his walls and guards up.

Jack drank and drank until the bottle came up empty. It hung loosely in his hand as he stared off, his thoughts miles out to sea. “I’m going back,” he confessed at last. It was clear it was meant for Luro only when he looked at the man. “I have to go back to Bonifaas, Luro. There’s… something left undone. I have to.”

Luro sat another bottle near him as he finished off his own, his eyes moving over to Jack at his admittance, he didn’t say anything at first, only offering a smile to him. With a chuckle he popped the top on his second one.
“You do what you have too Jack. I’m always around if you need a second,” Luro said grinning at him.
It faded into a small smile as he looked back out at the ocean.
“I had to take care of my affairs in a way I knew, you finish what you need to Jack. You got people waiting for you back here when you’re done.”
He didn’t ask what he had to do, he wasn’t going pry either. If Jack wanted to say it he let him, but he understood having to make amends your own way. The fact he shared it with him was enough to show he had enough thought not to break the Captain’s most sacred rule.
“I’ll have a drink and another great view ready if you ever want to tell the story after.”

“Thank you,” whispered Jack. He looked over his shoulder, and must have seen his cue as he got up out of his chair, hand twitching up to his ear. Then he grabbed Luro’s hand. In the big, calloused palm, he placed two earrings and a third stone – Cedric’s aetheriums.

“Keep them safe for me?” he asked as he curled Luro’s fingers over them. It took a moment’s hesitation before he patted Luro’s cheek and gave a small nod. “You’re the only brother I have left. I wouldn’t trust anyone else to keep our family safe. Okay?”

Luro offered a grin to the man but didn’t say anything further, though his brows arched as his hand was grabbed, they lowered realizing what was being put into them. He offered a small nod to Jack at keeping them safe, he’d insured no one would touch them, even if Imposter himself managed to get out.
At the words that followed Luro’s eyes widened, his body seem to tremble but he seemed to regain himself and offered a bright grin to Jack.
“I got it Jack!” Luro exclaimed pounding his chest. “I’ll keep them safe, you do what you gotta. Your Brother’s got this!”
Luro turned and watched Jack leave waving to him as he vanished into the distance, once he was gone he noticed Riai holding a handkerchief up to him.
Luro looked over at it and started to question why she was holding it out to him when he felt something wet trickle down his cheeks.
“Huh?”
Luro reached up and touched the tears that had suddenly appeared before taking the handkerchief from the Prophet.
“Why am I crying...that’s weird I’m not sad,” he said wiping his eyes.
“...let’s do our best...for our families….Luro,” Ria said glancing over at him.
Luro lowered the cloth and offered a smile to the horizon Jack had gone.
“Aye…let’s not lose anyone else.”
 
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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
  3. Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Primarily Prefer Female
  4. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
Post Bonifaas

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Location: Out at Sea
Time: Two Weeks after Sid’s Death


The ship was… quieter to say the least. The past few days had been in forced recovery. For once, there was no argument about it. Zilia didn’t have to tell them twice that they needed to take it easy.

The air was heavy around Lady Luck as it sailed farther and farther away from Bonifaas. Everyone, in their own way, took their time to mourn and pick up what remained. The captain had spent most of her time in her room, giving the crew their space and tending to Coral. Thanks to both Zilia and Jem, the ex doctor of the Stardusk, Coral was recovering, but her wings were still broken. And thanks to both of those doctors, Runali’s physical injuries were recovering. However the emotional injuries, she pushed to the side to focus on helping Coral.

The bird struggled off of her perch and onto Runali’s desk, chirping in mild frustration. “Alright, alright birdie. You don’t want to be cooped up anymore. I got it.” She hoisted herself onto her feet, sighing away the stiffness in her limbs. “Up you go.” With a bird in her arms, she made her way to the kitchen. And no surprise to her, she found Jack there.

Coral responded first with her own coos and chirps before she wiggled her way out of Runali’s arms and onto a counter to waddle her way towards where she’d normally collect her snacks.

Jack heard the captain’s coming long before she opened the door. He didn’t acknowledge her entry, at first, in the middle of disposing the last of the rum bottles that had consumed his kitchen for days on end. Nursing a heavy hangover, he winced at Coral’s noises and threw the bird a withering look.

The visitor’s stool perched in its usual spot. On the countertop next to it, a large crate took up almost the entirety of the space. It contained everything from Cedric’s room. What remained of his life.

When he’d finished shoving the empty bottles into a corner, Jack finally wandered over to Runali. He sat down opposite of her and lit a cigarillo. There was a pause as they took each other in; Jack surveying her physical condition as much as her subconscious tells to see how she was holding up.

“I’d like to stop by Norja. Home,” Jack said at length, “My mothers… we should hold a memorial. Something to say good-bye. We wouldn’t have to stay there long even though…”

Even though he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been home. Even though he hadn’t seen Ma Song or Tatiana in the same amount of time. Even though his heart longed, more than anything, to burrow in Zhi Ruo’s bed like he did when he was young and hurting and wanted to hide away from the world.

Jack left that thought unfinished and gestured to the crate instead. “I’ve been going through his things. Organizing, packing. Ma Zhi will want an altar for his memory.”

When Runali sat down, her eye followed the bird for a little longer, debating if she should help. But Coral seemed persistent in wanting to use her own single wing to get around. Her eye line followed Jack’s movements, and it stayed on the rum bottles for a little longer than necessary. It wasn’t until Jack spoke, did she lean back in her chair and look at him.

“We’ll stay as long as you need to.” There was a matter of fact tone to her voice. This was his brother, and he deserved the time he needed. “There’s nowhere that we need to be that would stop us from taking a trip to your home. To properly send Cedric off.” Her eye closed for a moment, replaying the less than ceremonious send off at Bonifaas. She could practically feel the cold as she shuddered a little. It was quickly pushed to the side and she leaned forward on her arms. “I’m sure it’ll take some time to get there but,” She nodded over towards the bottles. “Don’t think you want to get there as rough as Bonifaas left us. I don’t think the bottom of those bottles are gonna give much… solace.” She shrugged and looked over at Coral again as she made her way to a counter. Though her head tilted a bit as Coral rummaged through a cabinet. “Numbing it won’t stop it from… hurting as much.” Despite the words, she was a little more distracted by the bird as Coral sifted through a crate of teas, medicinal herbs and other perishables pulled from Cedric’s room.

Jack also fidgeted at the rummaging bird. There was a vague sense of warning trickling from his memory yet the why of it was lost on him. He shook his head and returned his attention to Runali.

“There’s nothing left in those bottles. I’m quitting cold as of today. Alicia already gave me the grief counseling -- I don’t need it from you, too.”

Regret flashed in his eyes. He sighed and put his head down on the table. “I know you mean well, I just… don’t want to hear it. I feel like everyone’s been walking on eggshells around me and I need that to stop. I need normalcy. Get back to my duties. At least until we return to Norja.” He lifted his head to rest on his arm so he could look at Runali, albeit at an awkward angle. “That’s what I need. I’m wondering, though, if that’s not the same for you.”

Jack hadn’t ventured far out of his kitchen in the last few days. He wondered if she’d already vented to Luro, or bottled up her feelings like she always did. And, to be honest with himself, focusing on someone else’s pain was a reprieve to dealing with his own.

Runali raised a hand, mocking the gesture of defeat when he spoke of her giving grief. She didn’t seem too phased by it, instead leaning back in her chair, fiddling with a bandage around her wrist. She remained quiet, offering a nod to what he needed. There was no way she could promise him that, as everyone was affected in their own way, but if he wanted to get to work, she wasn’t going to stop him.

Contemplation turned into a raised brow when he addressed her. “Me?” She echoed, letting go of the bandage. “What exactly do you expect me to say here? Everything I could say, you could guess I’m sure.” Runali shrugged. “I’m the captain, Jack. Feelings aside, I have to keep this ship afloat. Feelings not aside,” She shrugged again. “trust me, it’s nothing good.” It was stated like a fact with little emotion behind it. “And,” Runali hoisted herself up. Unlike Jack, she didn’t plan on drowning out her sorrows, but something to drink sounded better than nothing. “It’s only going to change with time. As every loss and failure has.” She tapped one of Luro’s hidden compartments, finding a bottle tucked away. “Thank youu, Luro.” She mumbled to no one in particular before taking a sip. She stared at the bottle for a moment and eventually sighed. “I can at least be glad we’re out of that hell hole. Freezing my toes off was already enough of a punishment.”

“Just because I can guess your feelings, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be spoken. Sometimes that’s the only way to process them.” Jack replied, then shrugged. “But then it never worked for me. So who am I to say anything?”

Jack heard the bird squawk and make a cough-like sound, and got up when Runali did to check on her. He pulled C.P. out with both hands, looking at her, then into the cabinet. “Uh… capitaine? We have a problem.”

With great care, he set C.P. on the back of his chair to sputter and ruffle her feathers, acting like she’d tasted something particularly bad. He then reached into the crate and retracted a fruit. It was unlike anything grown in nature; burnt red with a bumpy texture and swirl-like pattern. Clear peck marks marred the top of it. Jack and Runali watched as it slowly shriveled into a normal-looking fruit.

Jack looked at her, then at C.P. “I think she just ate the Mag-Mag Fruit that Cedric and I found that… one time.”

Runali’s hand was on Coral’s neck feathers as she tried to soothe her through her sputtering and squawking. “What type of rotten-” Both realization and heat hit her at the same time. Runali yanked her hand away at the sudden burn and her one eye widened as she watched Coral’s bandages drift into ash. “Hey, Jack…” Her voice held the surprised concern that her face had. “What… exactly… does that fruit do?”

“Magma.” Jack breathed. He sounded like he was reading from a textbook. He watched C.P. with growing disbelief. “It’s a Logia fruit that allows the user to make, control and transform into… magma.”

Coral’s rusty brown feathers began to glow brighter into a familiar orangish red that their flames were. But it continued to glow brighter and the air around the bird felt as if it was almost heavier. Realizing that the chair under Coral started to burn, with quick reflexes, Runali hoisted the bird into her hands. “Hot bird, hot bird, hot bird-” She tossed Coral from one hand to the other as armament coated them both.

While Coral definitely was surprised by the sudden changes, she didn’t look hurt. Most of her surprise came from being manhandled and not being in pain anymore. She opened both wings, flapping once, then twice, only to see a thick bright reddish orange liquid fall from her feathers and onto the table. It quickly melted through the wood and went right onto the chair. “Well that’s not good for the ship.”

Coral chirped in response and to show that more of her feathers began to look like magma melting off of her.

Once the hawk started transforming, Jack jumped for the armament glove he kept hanging on the kitchen door. His palm slammed against the wall -- and ice erupted forth, covering everything. It chilled the falling magma, keeping it from burning the ship.

Jack then rushed over and took C.P. from Runali, using hands of Armament and ice. He looked from the hawk to the captain. “Uh… oops?” He laughed nervously. They skipped apart as C.P. burped flames and Jack laughed again. The situation’s distress was delighting him.

“We should, uh,” He winced, feeling the magma heat on the parts of him not protected. “Get... Luro? Zilia? I might have accidentally frozen Alicia’s room.”

The moment Jack took Coral, Runali stuck her hands on the ice to cool them down. “I thought you hated the ice gloves.” She sighed out, staring at the now frozen kitchen. The mention of getting Luro or Zil made her perk up. “Wait, no. No, no we can deal with this, I’m sure.” She put a hand up for him to wait. “Zil’s been treating us nonstop since we left and I’m sure she’s knocked Luro unconscious for at least an hour anyway.” Alicia’s room was just going to be a problem for later, Runali decided. “This should be easy… all we gotta do- as two non powered people- is figure out how to get Coral to focus on staying a bird! And then controlling it. And y’know making sure she doesn’t destroy our ship in the process.”

Before the gears in her brain started truly turning for a plan, she looked over at Jack first in confusion and then with a short, contagious chuckle. “Are you laughing?” She couldn’t help but laugh as well. “Your kitchen is frozen over and Coral is melting and you’re laughing? Oh boy, how am I gonna tell Zil you’ve gone insane.” She took a step back from Coral as another drop of magma hit ice. “How am I gonna tell your mothers?” She continued laughing but moved a little closer to Coral. “...We’ve accomplished harder tasks, this should be fine!”

“These are Luro’s multi gloves. You know, the ones that utilize all the elements? Although you’re right… I don’t like ice,” Jack responded while making a face at what he’d done to his kitchen. The laughter didn’t completely leave, but he made a valiant effort to smother it and focus on the seriousness on hand. Barely.

“You’re right, you’re right. It’s just… the absurdity of this.” Jack cleared his throat, a couple snickers escaping.

Carefully, he set the melting Coral onto the ice-covered table and went to the corner of his kitchen where he kept fresh meat. He returned with a slab of raw, chilled red steak and waved it in front of Coral.

“You want this? You gotta stop being magma first,” he said to the bird.

“Oh right, he did have those huh. Hm.. more use to you than to me.” She pushed past the details, carefully examining Coral as she was placed down. Save for a few chirps, Coral was expecting herself. Both of her wings moved, despite one being broken only minutes before and despite her wings losing their form at the edges. She shuffled on her feet, mostly because the ice was uncomfortable to stand on. Realization dawned on Coral as she spread her wings fully.

Runali could see disaster before it began and ducked out of the way when magma flickered in different directions as Coral took off for a test flight around the kitchen. “Coral I know you’re excited about the wings, but you’ve gotta stop melting.” The hawk was still flying about until Jack pulled out food, then she promptly perched on a frozen edge of the counter. Her head tilted left, then right. And when she opened her mouth to make a sound, magma came out, this time startling her into slipping backwards onto the ice. Not being able to keep her footing on the ice, she continued flapping her magma wings to catch herself.

Runali could only watch in… defeated acceptance. “I imagine this is what having a kid is like. Except less magma and more yelling.” She had to admit, it was pretty funny watching Coral right herself up and shake herself into a solid form as if shaking water off of her.

“This would be a lot more scary if it was your kid,” Jack replied. “No offense,” he added to Coral as she vomited more magma.

He decided to cut up the meat real quick, to make it easier for C.P. to eat, and laid them out closer to her. Eventually, the urge to eat seemed to force the bird into a mostly solid state. Jack still noticed fire-like glows filtering through her feathers as she choked down the first sliver of meat. Also the smoke coming from her throat led Jack to believe she swallowed the raw steak well-done.

Seeing that things had calmed down, Jack inched back over to Runali. His eyes went down to her burns as he said, “So… did you see C.P. turning into Magma Bird today or was that just me?”
He smiled, but it was forced. The comment about kids heralded the return of his quiet detachment; his sorrow never long gone.

“Pets are basically kids anyway...” Runali sighed in relief as she slumped onto the iced table. The heat on her hands had finally cooled down, but the magma that remained still somehow kept her warm enough to be unbothered by ice. An element more dangerous than fire. The idea alone sparked intrigue, but she put that away for later. Her eyes followed Jack’s line of sight until she was looking at her hands again. She wiggled her fingers, making the judgement that it was nothing one of Zil’s balms couldn’t fix.

But she could hear the change of his voice and her shoulders sagged a bit more again. A small cloud escaped her lips as she sighed and it made her grateful that she didn’t feel as cold as it was in the kitchen. Her lips pressed a little tighter together when she thought about Bonifaas, but she shelved the thought and leaned back in the chair. “Wasn’t the emotion I was expecting to have today, but… it certainly is a welcomed one.” A small laugh followed as if trying to ease tension before it was built again. “...I’m sure he’d have found it amusing. An unexpected gift for a bird and all.” She watched Coral happily eat her steak and the smile that rested on her face was soft. “S’pose everyone’s got something to remember him by now.”

Jack blinked. “You’re right.” Somehow, her words brought him comfort, and his shoulders relaxed with the that little balm on his pain. “I’m not sure if he’d be alarmed or amused by this turn of events. Probably amused that I had to turn my kitchen into solid ice,” he chuckled.

Brushing C.P.’s back feathers, he sat down next to Runali again. His haki gloves switched to fire as he grabbed her rum bottle, warming up the glass to make it drinkable, and passed it over. “Thank you, Runali. For everything.”

He patted her arm with affection. A lot was packed into those simple words -- gratitude to more than just offering companionship in his time of need -- and it showed. Then he leaned back and pulled out a cigarillo. The first one she’d seen him smoke since Cedric got sick in Bonifaas.

“Also, I’m giving you five minutes before I get Zilia.”
 
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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
  3. Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Primarily Prefer Female
  4. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
Collab bet’w Ryver and Silent

Post Bonifaas


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Plus Adelaide & Er’is!


Location: Out at Sea
One Month after Cedric’s Death


Looking up at the night sky, Jack found the stars lacked all the comfort they gave him in his youth. Once upon a time they were a beautiful mystery. Constellations carried enigmatic stories, painting the black abyss with dazzling wonder and intrigue. Jack knew them all. Used to draw them out like muses and weave their stories down to earth. To Cedric, who’d once fall asleep listening to Jack’s whispered celestial tellings.

That’ll never happen again. Yet one more thing lost to him.

Tearing his gaze from the heavens, Jack swung out on the rope net and began climbing up to the crow’s nest, where Adelaide waited for him. She’d shown up over a week ago, two weeks before they were scheduled to finally arrive in Norja. After almost a month of waiting, Jack and his family would be able to pay their respects to Cedric, and lay their grief to rest. Comforted as he was by his lover’s presence, foreboding’s stone weight loaded his stomach the higher he went. It wasn’t until he neared the top that he realized why. This feels like a trap.

He cautiously peered over the wooden base. Only Adelaide could be seen, outlined by starlight and the oil lamp at her side. She sat on the railing with feet kicking over the long, long empty space between the nest and the deck. Jack wrestled with indecision before he finished his ascension and went to join her.

Adelaide turned so he could kiss her. He leaned against the railing instead of sitting on it, not in the mood to test fate that night. Something told him Runali would not be pleased if he bouldered through her ship from a great height.

When he pulled away, Jack knew his suspicion was true. Adelaide’s face was smoother than a river stone. Exasperation exploded from him as he hung his head.

“Why am I up here, Adelaide?”

Her shadow seemed to grow. Rising steadily from a tiny bump to a deer-faced god with most of his face hidden by shadow and cloth. Only that pointed chin and jagged lower teeth could be seen. Enough as it were for Jack to sense Er'is's amusement. But, the deer was not done with his introduction. Filling the air was a mix of harebell, white lily, statice and white cypress. It was the smell that had been perfuming Jack's kitchen since Adelaide arrived. Those flowers seemingly immortal thanks to this deity.

"Ah Jack-jack, I'm glad to meet you without knife in hand," Er'is chuckled while dropping a replica of that wreath on Jack's head. "It's been two moon cycles, so I'm glad you've finally moved on." That had to be the term humans used, right? Moving on? Er'is remembered Kadi mentioning the phrase during their many lengthy conversations.

Sliding away to make room for the third body in the crowded crow's nest, Er'is stepped over the edge and air walked over to Jack's other side. All it took was a sniff for him to deduce his level of welcome. "Why are you stuck? You have this wonderful wild flower for company and it's going to waste."

As he reached over to pat Jack with a bony hand, Jackie popped out of the air to act as a furry cushion between Jack's shoulder and Er'is's hand; her ability to calibrate with Jack's emotions had grown so much that she could predict the best way to comfort him. Chastising the demon in soft purrs, the protective fluff ball chose to continue perching on the almost threatened shoulder.

Chaos, on the other hand, stretched on the edge of the crow's nest. Tomorrow's breakfast sandwich, all wrapped up and newly stolen, was put into Adelaide's hand. Smugly, the cat-thief leaped and ended up draped over Adelaide's shoulders. There was no need to compete with her baby sister for Jack's attention.

"Ah, and it seems like you managed to persuade them to choose a side."

Jack’s jaw worked with the hard grinding of his teeth. Noticing this, and the vein protruding down his temple, Adelaide knew this conversation was off to a bad start. Before his anger could pop, she waved a hand, and blew away the flowers from the crow’s nest. The floral crown toppled off Jack’s head to land on her own. There was a twitch around his lips; he reached up to center the crown on her curls.

Just for a moment, no one else existed around them. Not the familiars. Not Er’is. Their silent communication blocked out everything.

Until Jack’s shoulders dropped. He hung his head over the banister, eyes closed. He made sure to move carefully so as to not send Jackie sliding off his shoulder and into the far down sea. “Er’is,” he muttered, “Cedric was my brother. I can’t just move on from… his loss.”

He swallowed the catch in his throat. It was still hard to talk about Cedric. Besides with Adelaide, he tended to avoid mentioning his brother’s name. He’d had his talks with the crew and soon, he’d be under the full weight of his grief again, when he arrived home in Norja. Maybe. Maybe after we say goody-bye, I can move on. It was a lie and not a comforting one. Why would he ever want to forget Cedric, the boy he raised, the person he loved more than anyone?

It was easy to talk about Cedric only with Adelaide. She never asked how he was doing or looked at him like he was ready to break.

"That …" Er'is's comment about potatoes and stubbornness had been veto-ed by slightest shift of brown curls. The deer tilted his head and would have arched his brow if he had flesh. How amusing! This woman commanded attention with small movements. "Yes, animals waste far too much energy with excessive motion. That is why I favour plants. They are more efficient in what they use."

Vines and branches laden with fruit sprouted from the mast, crowding part of the crow's nest, and filled the air with the most appetising tropical smells - mango, litchi, logan, bananas, pawpaw. Er'is plucked a plump orange mango, proffering it to Jack as a peace offering. "Mayhaps this can stave your hunger. I see your muscles shrinking and your stomach barely filled. It's like the food you love don't please your tongue anymore."

He floated alongside Jack but never lowered himself when the man sat cushioned by vines. Again, he looked to Adelaide, exchanging words in their minds. Pretending to sigh, he coaxed the mango to split itself into elegant thirds, two halves and a seed. This he then offered to the wild flower. "Animals don't eat when they wish to die. I doubt Cedric would be pleased to see his big brother wasting away."

Shrugging in response to Adelaide's silent question. "Fulfilling a promise, nothing more."

The kittens joined Adelaide in a juicy feast. Their tongues flicking curiously over her sticky wrists and hands, meowing in amazement at how wonderful this tasted. Er'is reached out and started stroking Chaos's head, humming his ethereal song. It's melody far richer than what the best human singer could produce, multi-layered, rich. The two cats began yawning.

"How's that for getting him to relax?"

He’s sitting right here,” Jack grumbled, tearing a chunk out of the mango he’d reluctantly accepted.

Suddenly, he was exhausted. Truly tired of this spectre who never left and insisted on transforming his kitchen into a garden. Tired of taking care of familiars that weren’t his. Tired of grief. Why couldn’t everyone just leave him alone?

Of course, that wasn’t true. He’d gotten plenty of time to himself. But even then… what he saw in the dark and in the waves of the sea… it never felt like it–

“Jack.”

He flinched. Adelaide’s voice speared his downward spiral with clear and cutting precision. He peeked at her through a curtain of dreadlocks but even he knew it was a sullen act.

Her lips twisted up. She looked ready to chew him up and spit out his bones, but all she said was: “Time’s up.”

Minutes dragged by. If Er’is deemed to speak, Jack would certainly snap. He teetered between imputent rage and something far more dangerous that threatened to engulf him. Adelaide touched his shoulder. She was curious to see what way he would fall. In her eyes, Jack saw that she understood which would destroy him and which would land him on the healing path, but she didn’t care. She’d be there either way… for the better or the worse of them both.

I have to accept it… he’s gone…

A mute transformation took place. Jack hunched over, and in the softest voice asked “Er’is… I have a request. Take the ghost out of my eyes.”

Silence dragged on. Er'is's fingers cupped under Jack's chin, feeling the stubble that sprouted like mushrooms after the rain. "I was wondering who would return the gift. It's you, Jack-jack, not Captain Lev, not Amaiya Alicia." An amused smile curved up that fleshless face. "I guess you want to make it harder to find Cedric in the future."

As a bony hand crept towards Jack's eyes, the deer felt someone grip his wrist tightly. Suppressed emotion transferred throughout his bony arm, which caused the amusement to deepen. "Finding Cedric, yes," Er'is repeated in that inviting tone. "His existence scattered like fine dust. It was his soul and not his body that broke up."

That hand lowered from Jack's eyes. He wasn't done yet. There was another reason he felt Jack should consider lest he regretted his decision. "It is possible that you find the soul without the body or the body without the soul … or a third permutation, Jones be willing. Dear Papilloner having a cruel sense of humour at the best of times."

Pausing to hum, Jack and Adelaide could hear the words clearly despite Er'is not saying it. Et il plongé dans mer profonde et sombre. Épouse pour sauver de l'éternité l'mort. He repeated it out loud in Common. "He plunged into the deep, dark sea. A bride to save from death's eternity." Laughing, he continued. "Take it as you will. But remember, I'm not hinting you should physically stand before Jones on the Flying Dutchman."

Now the hand returned and hovered over Jack's eyes, pressuring him to ask last questions or make a prompt decision. Anything really, because he could deal with less angry outbursts for one day. That remark this morning about him being "chopped spinach" irked him for some reason. Neither wild flower nor "Kadi" could explain why. At least, not in a logical way. Aside from the logical conclusion - Jack-jack had a tongue that pierced through the thickest brain. Papillioner best hope he doesn't acquire this brother sooner.

Jack’s breath came out in short, shuddering gasps. Even Adelaide stared with the blankest face a god couldn’t even read. “Are you saying… Cedric can be saved?”

"I beg your pardon. What do you mean by saved?"

“Forget it.” Jack snapped. His emotions struggled in his eyes for a moment before he mentally shoved them down.

"I wasn't taunting you, Jack-jack. My answer depends on you providing the necessary details. There is Cedric's body heading to Trovale and there is his fragmented soul. Then, there is Jones. You don't always listen well and think logically when I talk to you." Suppressing the urge to exhale exaggeratedly, the demon tried again. "There are two things here: one - I need to know what of Cedric you want to save so I can explain how and two - you will need to consider if my gift will serve its purpose in the scenario before you return it. As always, I invite sensible questions and not - what did Kadi call it? Right, sarcasm. Wild flower, you may ask on his behalf if you think he's struggling."

There was a soft creak of bone against bone as Er'is shrugged. "I simply didn't want you to regret the decision, but I'll happily reclaim the gift." That hand now rested firmly against Jack's eyes. "Oui? Non?" By the way his head tilted towards Adelaide, it was clear he extended the courtesy to her as well.

Adelaide stared at Jack.

Jack sat still, blinded by Er’is hand.

He got up, letting the skeletal limb fall off his face, and made for the crow nest’s netting. “We’ll keep them,” he decided tersely, vanishing from the crow’s nest.

“You’ve cursed him, you know,” Adelaide said once Jack was gone. “He’ll never know rest now.”

And with that, she dissolved into wind, leaving the entity Er’is alone.
 
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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
  3. Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Primarily Prefer Female
  4. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
Pre Bonifaas

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Location: Out at Sea
Immediately Following Zilia's Chapter


Perhaps for the first time in a long time, Jack successfully did the most spy-like thing he could: he melted into the background.

From discovering Zilia, alive and whole (mostly) to returning to Lady Luck, hearing what's been happening while they fought their Replicas, listening to the outcome of their efforts, Jack listened and remained mute. The most he did was interact with his brother. Sid looked worse than he’d ever seen him, and it scared Jack, but he didn’t ask about it. It was a discussion for another time. Instead he firmly insisted Sid sit down, then leaned against a wall to support his ailing self. And he listened.

When seeing the doctor whole again… it was enough to make the tears come again. Jack had been ready to hug her after Luro. He knew he should’ve. He should have felt relieved.

Instead, he couldn’t even meet Zilia’s eye.

When it finally came to their “check-ups”, Jack rolled off the shadows and nudged Sid to the forefront. “He needs it. At the very least after this one.” He jabbed a thumb at Luro. It immediately unfolded into a stalling hand, stopping Zilia in case she wanted to rebuke. “I need… a moment, doctor. Come to me last.”

A brief hesitation followed before he pulled her into an one-armed hug. “I’m glad you’re alive.” He whispered. He kissed the top of her hood, and walked away. No eye contact. Not a smile to be seen.

Jack prowled the ship before he eventually returned to his kitchen. He watched the Vermillion Prophets leave, query and enemy in tow. Just seeing Yuli again left a vile taste in his mouth. Knowing that Maka lived, too… what was accomplished here? In the silence of his refuge, it came out. One sharp and biting moment, brief and inevitable.

Leaning on the counter, the events boiling in his mind, Jack swiped out viciously. Baskets of peeled vegetables flew against the wall, scattering their contents onto the floor. A wave of dizziness struck him at that moment.

“Oh no,” Jack gulped and keeled over. Knives clunked to the floor as he maintained his grip on the countertop. The kitchen tilted sickeningly. Bile rose up in his throat -- he swallowed it down, and moved himself into a seating position. He reached for the tiny furball currently rumbling in his pocket. Jackie mewed worriedly.

“Go...find Zilia. Please. Discreetly. Don’t --” Jack gulped again. “-- let your Master know.”

Sometime later, Jackie scampered back to the kitchen. Jack hadn’t moved, except there was a carrot in his hand that he nibbled at while he waited. His gaze remained riveted to the ceiling as he said, “Don’t say… anything. I can’t handle your anger right now. I’m still…”

His voice trailed off. The emotion tensing his jawline was reined back before he said more than he wanted to. He chewed the carrot. “Help. Please.”

There was plenty that Zilia wanted to say to Jack, for a moment she felt that familiar wall rise between them again, from his hug however she felt the wall was shorter but it’s presence seemed pronounced once again. Her eyes moved to him at his request and in any normal situation she would work on who she felt needed it most in order. However considering all that occured she couldn’t fault Jack for needing time, she swallowed her words and instead focused her attention on her patient.

“If I got angry everytime you all got in trouble I’d have wrinkles and greyer hair,” Zilia said. “I have a good idea what happened but tell me how you're generally feeling so I can fill in the blanks.”
Zilia didn’t press the matter any further, generally she’d comment in some sense on why they waited so long to treat her, going into diseases, amputations and what could happen but right now she just wanted to deal with the issue.
“Just once I wouldn’t mind treating a tiny papercut….and eventually I’d like to hear why I waited, but I’m in no rush too.”

Jack coughed out a laugh. “You might be on the wrong crew, doctor.”

With great effort, Jack finished his carrot and moved so he was laying on his stomach. There was a feeling of vulnerability in the act. Like when a dog showed its belly in submission. It also revealed his worst wounds: a jagged slash stretching shoulder to opposite hip and dried blood at the base of his scalp.

“I have a concussion,” he supplied to her, “Everything hurts. And I overused my haki in a new and exciting way… should be fun to see what the side effects are...”

“How are you?” Jack asked in a quiet voice, after several silent seconds.

A sigh escaped from Zilia as she offered a nod in agreement to his statement, but at this point the contract had been signed and she was invested in them.
“True but I can’t leave you all to another Doctor...I’m not that cruel.”
Zilia’s eyes twitched a bit at the wound and a heavy sigh escaped the doctor as she started digging in her bag, the fact she already had medicine prepared for this both relieved and upset her. Thankfully Luro got them all the time if that could be considered a good thing.
“Well you can still see, hear and speak so it’s not the worst. Let’s get you treated and make sure you can still do ‘Jack’ things, as luck would have it getting hit in the head sometimes messes up your motor skills and general functionality...something I explain to certain redhead each time it happens. Now say your first and last name just to be sure, then mine.”

After giving him medicine to numb some of the pain, specifically only some she wasted little time working on his wounds, she was incredibly thankful there wasn’t an immediate concern for infection, they did deal with a Raven, and it wasn’t just inflicting wounds with them, they made sure the job was finished even if you got away, that confirmed her earlier suspicion at least.

She didn’t respond immediately to the question, her hands still moving as she rubbed a cold and somewhat slimy green substance over the wound.
“Not sure how to put it into words, nervously calm I suppose,” she said after a moment. “I feel as if one of the weights on my heart has been removed, it’s surreal and hard to believe. A part of me thinks I’ll wake up among my books anytime now.”
She paused for a moment, her eyes narrowing slightly.
“To say my worries are gone would be a lie...but they are less and I can’t ask for more.”
Zilia continued moving her hand before digging in her bag looking for more of the medicine to help deal with the skull issue.

“What do you think they’ll do now? Yuli and Maka, I mean.”

Jack stayed still throughout the treatments, being a model patient. He was one of the few on the ship who followed her instructions to the letter; but had a knack for avoiding any post-treatment checkups.

Gingerly, Jack pushed himself up into a seating position. He leaned against the cupboards once more so Zilia could look at his head. The simple act sent waves of dizziness and he had to shut his eyes, humming soft and tuneless notes to distract himself. “I couldn’t have done what you did,” he whispered. “Let them go. Not after what they did.”

Zilia offered a shrug at what the two would do, she wasn’t entirely sure herself.
“Both want a place to belong, whether they make it or find it I’m not too sure. Yuli will stay by Maka’s side, what he’ll do who knows.”
She was done trying to figure out what Maka would do and where he would go, she spent years doing that, now she was just exhausted and done with it all.

She was glad Jack stayed still, since he didn’t resist as much as some, it was easy to get things handled in one sitting, and a few glances afterwards to check on his condition was generally enough without chaining him to a bed, like a certain redhead. Though she disliked how he always managed to ‘not be around’ when she wanted to actually follow up, leading to her doing a little extra right now.
She noticed the bit of erraticness from his movement just from sitting up and held in her sigh, this crew was going to turn her hair greyer.

At Jack’s comment of her actions her eyebrows lowered slightly, she didn’t respond for a moment, seeming to let the silence hang between them as her hands continued to move, but eventually she opened her mouth to speak.
“I didn’t think I could either, we human beings are full of surprises Jack,” Zilia said not hiding the sarcasm that escaped from her.
She shook her head putting aside the thought and continued.
“Staring at Maka in that forest I could have severed his head from his shoulders, would have felt damn good too...but it wouldn’t have solved anything. Maka is a child who from lack of love grew up with a god complex to supplement his loneliness, Yuli was a lonely woman who lost her way and clung to said child from a gesture of kindness anyone could have given her but didn’t.”

Saying it out loud caused Zilia’s expression to soften.
“Would have left a bad taste in my mouth to kill people like that. I’m not a executioner I’m a doctor something I forgot in that place; killing them would have just been egomaniacal blame shifting. If I wanted be that self-serving-”
Zilia trailed off dipping her finger back into the bowl applying more of the salve on his skull.
“I wouldn’t have become a doctor.”

Jack’s barked laugh turned into a hiss as she poked his skull. He relaxed, though, when it’s cooling effects kicked in.

“You’re a much better person than I, doctor.”

Sighing, he leaned back once she was done. Something about him seemed to have changed in their short conversation. The walls around him were crumbling once more. He opened his eyes so he could look at her, sincerity and seriousness weighing his gaze.

“Zilia, I need to extend my apologies. I didn’t agree with your decision back there. I let them get under my skin, cloud my emotions and judgement, and it was wrong of me.” His mouth twisted. “I still don’t agree… but that’s not on you. In a way, I let their actions blind me to you. I will not let that happen again.”

Ferocity colored his tone. Despite his rather formal words, the depth of their meaning was shown in every line of his face. He’d let the enemy get between him and his friend; it was simply unacceptable.

“If I am it’s not by much Jack.”
That was Zilia’s simple response to his comment, at the end of the day she lost herself in her own anger and thirst for revenge, it took her almost losing the crew and Isa to bring her back to her senses.
She paused in her treatment noticing the strange change in Jack, she met her gaze with his own folding her hands in her lap, understanding the words he was going to spoke carried something with them.

Her face remained blank at his words, though her eyelids lowered a bit a small nod escaping from her, she understood the feeling. When Isari got involved in it all she lost track of what little reasoning she had, she wasn’t proud of it.
Zilia stared at Jack for a long moment before reaching up and lightly knocking on his wound.
“Going to get wrinkles early like that Jack,” Zilia said digging into her bag. “I also understand and I accept your apology...though I owe all of you one more than you owe me one.”

Pulling out bandages she stared at bundle in her hand.
“I’m not going to get mad that someone cared enough of me to get upset...as for agreeing I’m fine with that. I don’t agree with many things you and Cedric do, I don’t agree with Luro’s penchant for getting hurt because ‘I’ll just fix it later’, I don’t like Alicia working herself to the bone when we could help more...and I certainly don’t like Captain’s carefreeness in going into danger. Kadi I’m fine with though I’m still slightly upset from the Undersea incident. The list continues but there are many things we won’t agree with concerning one another.”

Zilia unfurled the bandage and started wrapping it around Jack’s head to cover the now treated wound.
“The difference between us and others though is moments like this. You didn’t chase after them and I appreciate that. We can talk and share our feelings, find middle ground to stand on, compromise. I’m going to be me and you’re going to be you. I’ll be here to treat your wounds when you push yourself and you be there to see the things around us I may miss focused on you all. I won’t ask you to be anyone else, and I ask you not to ask me to be anyone else.”

Zilia finished wrapping the bandage and brushed off her hands before bringing a hand to her chest
“Isari always loved a quote from the first book we read together, ‘Be my eyes if I become blind, and I’ll be your voice when you lose yours’. If you become blind I’ll be your eyes, and if I lose my voice I know you’ll speak the words I need to hear.”
Zilia offered a small shrug.
“Just watch out for me, I’ll do the same for you, don’t need to overcomplicate it, in moments like this Luro’s simple logic works best. Let’s learn and be better next time.’

“Always,” Jack murmured.

He’d bent down so Zilia had an easier time wrapping his head, and when he straightened, he looked… settled. He worked through what he needed to.

Feeling his treatment was done, Jack attempted to stand — with sad results. The whole world tilted and he fell on his arse, grinning of all things.

“Right. Hah. Okay.” Jack smothered a giggle. The pain medication must’ve taken effect. “I can’t stand. And dinner needs to be made. Soooooo—“ Blindly, he reached for the countertop behind him and patted around. “You don’t look worse for wear. You get to cook!”

With flourish, he presented the first utensil he came across. It was a teaspoon.

Jack snickered. “You’ll need a bigger spoon.”

Zilia stared at the spoon in her hand then back at Jack before sighing and rolling her sleeves up.
“Well I’ve only ever fed Isa and Mari my food, but they did always clean their plates, never asked for seconds either, then immediately went and got milk as a post meal treat,” Zilia said smiling a little at the memory. “Now where do you keep the spices?”
 
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Fox of Hearts

Call me MsNoMer
Epilogue #1: Pirates are Vermin
Day After T'Raiz Fight

Shadows danced overhead as human bodies strung by their necks swung to the rhythm of the seas; looking ever so similar to cured meats displayed at a butcher's window. Sharp was the coppery scent of blood that rained from the ceiling, staining wood, clothes and hair. Two men, however, remained untouched as they sipped tea under a waterproof tarp. The younger of them, the Stardusk knew well.
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Jelle van Zaan, the crown prince of Op Die Fiet, set his porcelain cup back onto its saucer, and he tilted his head politely in reply. "Captain, I had a sniper's duel with Makachi and I can assure you he's stronger than he looked. It was a pity we didn't see more in that disastrous fight between T'Raiz and the Stardusk."
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"Sho's Kunal," Lebov spoke between shovelling more freshly extracted intestines into her blood red lips. She howled delightedly as more offal was tossed her way, pouncing on what appeared to be a human liver. Grunting happily, she chomped into it, sputtering bile and blood all over the floor. She closed her eyes and sighed contentedly. "Adenin tastes so much better on a plate than he did in bed," she mused.

"Eat up then," the pirate hunters' first mate encouraged as he shoved an arm deeper into Adenin's carved up abdomen. "I have no use for the insides once Adenin becomes my puppet." He paused long enough to rip out the entire gastric system - stomach, intestines and all - which he summarily tossed Lebov's way, seemingly amazed at how she could still eat. He had already disemboweled three Navy officers and fed their scraps to her. But, that wasn't his biggest concern. Pierce was clearly upset that the Stardusk had diverted the Navy's attention.

"As I was saying, Pierce," the puppeteer continued. "There are many ways to kill a cat. I called a retreat early so we can study our future prey." He smiled and panned a hand towards the bare, stripped down bodies of Navy officers and the remaining Vice Admiral lying face down on the floor. By the way his half-eaten brain darkened in the air, it was clear that Lebov had done her job. "With these new puppets, we can rot the organisation from within," he soothed. "Striking their weakest bases one by one. Revenge shall be yours in the end."
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Pierce's lips twisted into a begrudging smile as he tugged at the cuff of his well-pressed naval uniform. "Yes, and, once they've fallen into chaos, we shall hunt down and finish off Captain Lev and her crew."
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"If I may Captain," Jelle spoke again. "I say we send them a little parting gift."

Kellerway arched an eyebrow as several old wanted posters rolled his way. He unrolled them to study the faces of these undesirables. "What do you have in mind?" he asked delicately.

"Nolan, The Crimson Monarch. Kai, The Leviathan. Jemima, Mortus Quietus. Raymond, The Fallen Scholar," the prince recited from memory. "Let's send Lebov and a few others to hunt them. I'm sure Captain Lev would love getting their bloodied heads in a cloth bag. Them and one or two of their loved ones."

"Wonderful! How absolutely delightful!" Pierce roared with delight at the thought of there being four less pirates in the world. "And you? Don't you want to join in the fun?"

Jelle shook his head. "No, Captain. I have plans with Lady Templar Valerie. She, I'm sure, would be happy to let me steal Cedric's body. After all, wasn't that your other plan? You wanted a summoner capable of taming the sealed gods. I'm sure Professor Callum can do something about his dead state."
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"Naturally," assured the puppeteer. He smiled in amusement at being called a professor again. It had been years since he had abandoned that life, faking his death in the jungles of Jaipur. "Cedric would make a much better puppet than Adenin; though it wouldn't hurt to have spell-casters in my arsenal. After all, devil fruit users are common among the sea-faring vermin."

"Ah yes! Off you go then, my little prince. Fair winds be yours. And you, my dearest Lebov. Don't forget to play nice!" Kellerway's smirk deepened as he leaned forward. "Yes, play nice and save their heads for dear Captain Lev."

Lebov's eyes flashed a blood red as her features sharpened into something barely human. She showed off her jagged teeth as she tilted her head back and smiled. "I'll try to contain my hunger."

-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-=x=-​

Epilogue #2: "Do you fear... death?"

A soul fragment flickered as it drifted towards the bottom of the sea. It was snatched up in a net, and the spectral fisherman tossed it into a wooden tub. He was about to return to his assigned task when a brilliant light burst from behind. He exclaimed loudly, alerting the rest of the crew about their newest arrival.

Cedric gasped. His body spilling out of the tub like a hapless octopus. Try as he might, he couldn't seem to free himself from that wooden grip. He planted both feet on the ground, dug his hands past his hips and pushed and twerked. Losing his footing, he stumbled face first before a pair of familiar boots.

Davy Jones? He simply laid there with his mind reeling. How … Why? The last thing he remembered was waving goodbye to the crew as his body disintegrated. Runali was there, and she held his hand tightly till the end. Glancing at his right hand, he curled his fingers several times, thinking about how warm it felt to have her hand in his. If only it was truly possible for me to return … He thought forlornly.

As he laid there in the afterlife, far from the crew, he regretted taking his time with them for granted. He thought he had a few months left; his condition stable thanks to Zilia. They were supposed to celebrate Yulemas together. He was going to tell them … he wanted to thank them in his own way … And like that, tears fell unchecked down his cheeks.

Brushing them away, he rolled onto his side so that he faced Davy Jones again. It wasn't the most dignified position, but he couldn't do much with his butt jammed into a narrow tub. “M. Faucher, I apologise for not bringing you a present. I didn't know we would be celebrating Yulemas together,” he gurgled; his face choking into a wet smile as he tried clamping down his overflowing emotions.
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In Davy Jones’ domain, the pirate seemed more filled with life ironically enough. He sat on a barrel that didn’t look stable enough to have that much weight on it. He lacked a considerable amount of coral and sea moss growing on him compared to when he had met them on Lady Luck. Here, he looked like a man in his late prime ready to take on the world. Although now, sitting on this barrel, his eyes were scanning over a newspaper. If looked at closely, the words were in an unfamiliar and undecipherable language, but certain words could be made out, specifically words like ‘T’Raiz’ and ‘Castle Jensen’. “Not a man that would want gifts anyway.” His voice was gruff and sudden as if he had been interrupted from his morning reading.

“By all means, yer free to celebrate it with the other patrons that do.” Davy stood to his feet, handing the newspaper over to a passing soul, a woman with red hair. They exchanged looks, but she was gone before Cedric could make out any other features about her. He walked over to Cedric, raising a brow at his odd position. Jones didn’t plan on meeting him down there, so with a wave of his hand the smoke from his cigar circled Cedric, ushering him into a standing position and clearing off the excess on him. “Helluva way to go, that's for sure. But aye, T’raiz and that whole fiasco, nothin’ but trouble.” He waited and watched. It usually took the more unwilling to process their deaths. Crying, anger, exasperation, disbelief, he had seen it all. And since they had already introduced themselves once before, Jones stayed quiet a little longer, giving the man his moment to gather himself.

Cedric's hands flew to his freed bottom and he rubbed his sore skin. There were telltale signs of embarrassment in the way he kept his head turned to the side and the way his cheeks coloured lightly. Faking a cough, the deceased summoner faced the reaper once more. Courage morphing into bravado now that shame had been forgotten. His eyes managed to fix Jones with a piercing glare despite their teary film. He was annoyed he didn't think of this sooner. There was one way he could fulfil that promise to his capitaine! Merde! He was such an idiot.

"Merci for … well, saving me from embarrassment," he spoke while pretending to ignore the amused onlookers. Grasping his left wrist with his right hand, Sid's shoulders rounded forward. The tells were getting more obvious as he struggled to find a way to avoid offending Jones. Did it matter? an impish voice whispered in his head. It's not like your request is that outrageous…

Exhausting his courage, he gasped dramatically as he leaned back, drawing in an even bigger breath. Shouting suddenly, he said. "I want to … I, non! I shouldn't be dead! I promised to spend Yulemas with the Stard … sk."

Laughter rang around him, reddening his ears at the tips. Puffing his cheeks, Cedric glowered at Jone's boots. "I meant to say that I don't think I'm dead yet. We have one bargain left, yes?"

Jones knew everything in this domain. Thoughts, feelings, sometimes even the words new souls would say next. Though the latter was more because of the predictability of mortals. But his silence was courteous until Cedric addressed him again. Before he spoke, he waved his hand outward. It was a signal that made all the curious patrons of his ship shuffle back to their work to leave the two be.

"I don't meddle in the affairs of other gods and monsters unless they make it my problem.”He started. “You’re dead. You’ve been dead for a while. You could have been saddled on my ship months ago but you were a little too stubborn on makin’ your way to my ship. Good for me that I already had your soul headed my way. Who knows what other would have tried to snatch you up.” Even in his death Cedric was a peculiar one.

The acknowledgement of his signed hand, the bargain they made a year or so ago, made the signature reappear on Cedric’s skin. It had a dull glow but there was nothing to be felt. Still silent, Jones reached over to Cedric, pulling out a thin glowing green thread. One end was still connected to Cedric's chest. "Y'still have one last… I s'pose, wish I could grant for you. One last thing tyin' you to the land of the living. I can give it, free of charge depending on how significant the request is." Jones had a feeling he knew what Cedric would ask, but he let the man speak for himself. It would only work if Cedric was sure enough to say it out loud. "This time, no bargains. I've made my deal and you're on my ship, you simply must request your end of it." He clicked his tongue in thought. "Aye, well, unless your request is living. That does require a price."

Cedric blinked. "What do you mean awhile? I thought souls came immediately after death. W-wouldn't I have more memories if time had passed?" To him, this mattered more than the bargain. It felt only like moments ago - maybe an hour at most - since he said his goodbyes. Surely Jones was joking about how much time had lapsed. Stars above! How old was Jack now? Were they even alive? Returning when they were all dead would mean so little.

Davy wasn’t one for comforting the dead. It was a way of life and it was something that he had been for a long while. Death meant little to someone that had been dead and became a ‘god’ or whatever mortals were calling him these days. “I mean,” He blew cigar smoke towards Cedric, returning his last memories before he died and showing his soul wandering in the inbetweens of afterlife. “You died…” He had to think of the passage of time- something he obviously didn’t do a lot. “Eight months ago. Instead of falling straight to my ship as most do, you were full of unrest and sadness.” It was a vague explanation, but it was the best way he could explain it. “Yours and the summoners’ big stunt had you in more pieces than any normal person that comes here. Had to find all your pieces to actually get you here. You can thank the crew for that much.” Jones tapped his ship with his foot for emphasis and a few of the crew sitting on ledges as though they were fishing, gave him a salute. “I have no reason to lie to you. I got what I wanted outta this deal.” Jones gestured towards the signature on his hand. “Now, what exactly do you want?”

He pressed his lips together tightly to stop himself from asking more questions. Jones had asked him the same question again, and he felt it would be rude not to answer it. "Um, what sort of price are we talking about?" he asked cautiously. As he waited, he took advantage of the short pause to wave his thanks to those who helped pieced him together again.

Jones’ brow raised. “A part of being dead Cedric is knowin’ that all of the things you wish to say, you’re able to say it.” He got bored of standing in one spot and began walking around the deck of the ship. Before Cedric could contemplate staying still or following, that same smoke ushered him forward. “And a part of these deals that are made, is bein’ brave enough to stand in your own resolve and declare what you want. If you really want what I know you do, your worries wouldn’t lie in the price you’ll have to pay.” His gaze loomed down on Cedric, though his expression was plain. “You know that what you request is nothing simple. You can expect that the price won’t be simple either.”

There was relief in Sid’s purple eyes. He sensed no judgement, anger or disappointment coming from Jones. This conversation was business-like; not that different from those he had with the Thieves’ Guild, and that made him relax. Cedric exhaled softly. “Non, M. Faucher. I'm not one to shy away from paying for what I want. I was afraid that what I wished would be denied.” He stopped himself from delving too deeply into all the rejection and disappointment he had ever experienced. “I promised I would find a way back to the capitaine and the Stardusk. I intend to keep that promise.”

Holding out his hand confidently, Sid smiled. “We can shake on it. Unless you have more terms you need me to agree to.”

Despite his plain expression, Jones did raise a brow as Cedric finally requested his wish. He brought fingers to his lips and took a breath, imitating the long drag of a cigar. Even though there was nothing there, smoke bellowed out of him as he exhaled with long since dead lungs. "No one's ever truly ready to die." He started in an out loud thought. "Regrets, broken promises, last words they didn't get to say… everyone's got 'em. But very few get the choice of living again. Even fewer get deceived and puppeted by gods either."

Souls wandering the ship slowed in their tracks, turning their heads not to Cedric, but to Davy. It was as if they were all curious about the answer. Was this life worth giving back to the living? Or would Cedric join the rest of them, tending to a legendary ship for eternity? Jones however paid them no mind. "To be Monet's successor… to live and die for your crew rather than for yourself." He couldn’t help but chuckle. "Your captain really knows how to pick 'em. She's done something similar," He paused for that same cigar. "The whole livin' and dyin' for her crew situation. The last time she did it, the price was high. Losin' memories of loved ones. Of her past crewmate she saved." He leaned forward onto his knees. "But this is one life you're bargaining for. She bargained for two."

"You've more in common with that crew up there than you think." There was another pause as his expression grew serious. "Are you truly willing to part from something precious to you? Are you willing to live anew without something you hold dear? Y'see, it's never just about goin' back and continuin' where you left off." He shook his head. "S'about learning from mistakes. Embracing life and," He idly waved his hand. "You're a smart man, I think you get the idea." He straightened up once more and the string that connected the two, the visual aspect of their bargain, glowed a little brighter.

Cedric’s mouth fell open. Jone’s words were a punch in the stomach. This was the same condition Er’is gave him the night he tried summoning the deer-faced god in Trovale. Afterwards, as his health deteriorated rapidly, he continued ignoring Er’is’s hints that he needed to complete the summons if he wished to live. Sid knew he was a coward; he couldn't complete the ritual. Not when it required him to murder Jack. Panic gripped him tightly and he began to flail. Was his wish going to put his fére in danger again?

“I only agree to this if Jack is not harmed in any way.” He shouted. “I've taken far too much from him, and …” he froze when he remembered a second life debt. “And, Amaiya. No wish is worth causing more sorrow to those two. If it comes solely from me, I’ll surrender anything and everything.”

"You will live again." Davy Jones tapped his foot and the ship came to a halt. The souls on the ship all gave a respectful nod or salute before wandering towards other parts of the ship, leaving the two alone. Bargains were personal and they respected the process. The thread between them grew brighter and stronger until in a flash of light disappeared. "You will live again," He repeated. "And you will be back here as one of my own," He seemed to be studying Cedric, glancing into him rather than at him. "No time soon, fortunate for you. But now the other gods will know that you are not theirs to steal anymore." He rubbed his chin. "To give you, Cedric Langley, life, I am obligated to take something… you live for your family, a grand gesture in itself. And... I respect a family man. So I will not take that from you." He took a step closer to Cedric, tilting his head up a bit. "You've lacked a lot in… the sense of self. So, you're gonna have ta learn that on this new journey of life I'm sending ya back on." He stared into Cedric's eyes and then blew smoke into his face. “That’s somethin’ you’ll realize when you get back to the land of the living… Aye, but it also won’t be easy sending you back up so soon. You’ll have to be patient. We just got you back in one piece and throwing you back to the land of the living now would sooner kill ya then help. You’ll have to wait…” Again, time wasn’t his strong suit anymore. “A few years. Give or take. But that’s nothin’ when you’re down here.”

Cedric sank back to the floor and sat there with a wide-eyed stare. His mind jubilant not for his return, but for Jack’s safety. Jack, his fére, the one person to whom he owed his entire existence. But, even as thoughts of his brother filled his mind. Similar tender thoughts of a silver-haired swordswoman lurked beneath the surface. Everything was so overwhelming. So confusing. That he needed time to process it.

Sid buried his face in his hands and sat very still for a long while. His posture made it seem as like he was going to cry. But, instead of tears, when he pulled his hands away, there was an unfettered smile on his face. He had one more chance to make it up to Jack. To Amaiya. To do that, he had to stop being Adenin’s broken doll. And, he planned to. One step at a time.

Rising to his feet, Cedric stood before Jones. “I guess I have to make myself useful while I wait. So M. Fauscher, what will you have me do?”

He whistled for someone and a soul appeared before him. The soul was around Sid's age adorned in colorful clothes and dazzling jewels. His face was for the most part content but there was reluctance to it. In his hands was the prettiest violin Cedric would ever see and right on the side, similar to the signature on Cedric's hand there it was on the violin. "Ah, thank you friend." He took it from the soul and handed it to Cedric. "No worries, I'll make you another. I do love to hear you play." He grinned as the soul crossed his arms and nodded. The soul shared a quiet glance with Cedric. Although he didn't say a word, the look he gave explained just how precious the instrument was. And soon enough, the soul disappeared.

“For now, practice using this. It's a sturdy one, so it'll withstand nearly anything the living can throw at it. Most things, anyway. And when you play, I'll hear it.” He made another motion with his hand and the crew began to file back into their places, back to doing their jobs. Another walked over to Cedric and Jones, giving the latter a polite salute. “Show Cedric around. Give ‘em a lay o’ the land. Make ‘em comfortable and all that.” Jones nodded to Cedric, signalling their transaction was done. “The others here know their way around so it’s best to make friends. But if ya need me, just yell.” He gave a two fingered salute and turned away.

“Consider this a high favor, Langley. Not many can say they get to live more than once.”
 
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Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
With a Mizos cameo!
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Time: Around the 2 Years Later mark but not quite

Little Lev!

Or maybe I should be a little more respective and call you Captain, huh?

Apologies for not congratulating you sooner, but congrats on Worst Gen status! How time has passed! You’ll have to forgive me for keeping to myself these past few years, being a hot commodity keeps you moving.

Figure we should catch up considering it’s been around 10 or so years. And that spy of yours has been looking for me. Send him my compliments, he’s awful thorough.

But anyway, I suppose I owe you some answers since I took off, huh?

Your mentor as you know me,
-M.

Here’s the place. I'll only be here for two weeks. Don't keep me waiting.

////////////

The letter was worn from constant crumbling, but Runali had given the letter, torn, to Amaiya. It was quickly made clear that she’d be leaving on her own to meet this mentor. To their ‘why’s’, Runali didn’t grant them an explanation further than, “because I have to”. To their protests, she stood firm in her orders for them to stay. “Besides,” She started when the more worried of the group continued, “I’ve given you all the freedom to run off and do personal things. It’s only fair I get one too! At least this isn’t someone who’s been hunting me.” That seemed to be enough to end the conversation there.

Right before she left on her trip, she pulled Luro to the side and away from the others, letting him be the final one to see her off. Without a word, she gestured for his hand and carefully placed two things in it: A torn and folded piece of paper, no doubt the missing coordinates of the letter she gave Alicia, and her mother’s necklace.

“Four days. That’s all it should take.” There was the slightest bit of uncertainty in her one visible eye, but she pushed past it and closed his hand. “If I’m not back,” She tapped his hand. “Come find me… Just you. Coral will help if you need it, she knows where to go.”

There were a lot of things that probably needed to be said, or at the very least wanted. Zilia only backed off at the mention of personal time, at that point she knew the Captain wasn’t going to back down and as she had run off on her own without much explanation as well probably found it difficult to push it further.
Luro didn’t ask questions or press the matter, whether he was worried or not he didn’t show it, only offering a nod that Runali had to go before returning to his tinkering. He knew her enough to know once she made up her mind there was no easy way of talking her out of it, and this was a personal matter, he still remembered when she told them about her mentor in her hometown.
He disliked the idea of her being gone but he had no intention of stopping her, she respected his time he’d do the same.

When he was pulled aside he arched a brow but held his hand out as requested, his eyelids seemed to lower slightly as he stared back at Runali seeing the shift in her gaze, but once again he spoke no words only nodding to acknowledge the amount of days he needed to count.
He casually slipped the papers into his sleeve and offered a smile to Runali.
“Got it, have a safe trip and all that. I want souvenir’s when you get back.”
In his own way he was hoping things went well with her mentor, but judging by the missing pieces in his hand when he brought it back to his side, it was clear he was prepared to follow if she wasn’t back.

Taking a step forward he pulled Runali into a hug, he didn’t move away for a short moment pulling her in a little bit tighter as a small chuckle escaped from him.
“Just getting a few days worth in one sec...there we go,” he said before stepping away and releasing her. “Okay I’m good, do what ya gotta.”

She couldn’t help the small laugh at the idea of a safe trip. It was far from her intentions, but she gave a nod anyway. “Yes of course, I’ll find the best souvenir that money could buy- that I may steal. And if I don’t,” Runali paused, taking the moment to return and enjoy the hug. “Well… I’ll at least bring back drinks and a story to tell.”
There was a quiet beat as she made her way to the spare boat attached to the side of the ship. “I may have… left a few details outta that story I told you guys. About my mentor… again.” She awkwardly coughed as she admitted to lying by omission. “But, I promise this time I’ll tell you all the full story. Y’know, when I get back.” She waved it away and pulled the ropes so the boat fell into the ocean. She stood on the ledge, “4 days should be enough to make sure Z doesn’t get into trouble while I’m gone, yeah? She’ll go cross-eyed if she stays in her room too long but you know that. Oh, and if you don’t mind, make sure Alicia and Jack don’t overwork themselves either. Alicia’s got tea times, if she misses those she’s gonna stress herself out.” Before she hopped off the edge, she gave Luro a gentle face pat. “Don’t worry, I’ll be as safe as safe can be. Stardusk rules apply to me too.”


---

Day four rolled in slow and time ticked even slower. Knowingly, Coral had landed on Luro’s shoulder, her head on a vigilant swivel.

Zilia eyed Coral as she landed on Luro’s shoulder, she had noticed he had been oddly far more helpful these last few days than usual. It didn’t take much to see he was worried too but he kept himself busy with one thing or another, he believed in Runali after all but a part of him felt empty without her around. She knew that at least. Now though, now he had gone still only staring out at the ocean in silence, his hands in his sleeves and his face blank as his eyes peered out at the horizon, as if looking for something with Coral.

Luro had been unmoving, offering a glance to Coral as a way of acknowledgement, his rifle lay propped up against the side of the ship nearby, Runali would come back, he knew she would but there was this feeling in his stomach that wouldn’t leave him alone. He knew the moment the ‘time frame’ was up he’d head out without hesitation, Coral was ready to go as well.

When the sun started to set, Coral cooed in a way that meant ‘it was time to go’. There was an unspoken tension about the bird as she waited for Luro’s orders and had it not been for the shift in the wind and a low whistle, Coral surely would have flown off to get a headstart.

A familiar small boat drifted to a docked Lady and soon, as she promised, the captain was hoisting herself onto the ship. When Runali was fully on the ship, she staggered forward a bit, for once, allowing herself to feel the weight of her injuries, if only for a second.
She was obviously worse for wear than when she had left and with a rather haphazardly shorter hair cut than when she left. Every adventure had its fair share of scars for a story to tell, but there was one that looked noticeably worse than the others. Had she still had her eyepatch, she would have been able to cover most of the nasty wound across her blind eye.

The injuries were the only reason Coral hesitated, deciding to circle around and alert the rest of the crew, especially the doctor. “Less than grand of an entrance… and a little late but,” She looked up, giving a patented captain smile first to Luro then to the others that filed in. “y’know, coulda been worse.” She stilled the worried gazes with a hand and then a thumbs up before deciding to lean against Luro when she realized standing was becoming harder to do. But that didn’t stop her from giving a familiar playful grin to the doctor. “Before you yell at me doc, I’m absolutely sure something’s broken, and I want nothing more than to collapse. Spare your heart to the injured and have mercy.” Runali would tell them what happened, she owed them that much, but that could wait. She gestured to the other more obvious thing that the others would see. Her hair was much shorter and obviously haphazardly cut. Sometime after Bonifaas, she had cut it so it was at her shoulders, grimacing about how she didn’t want to look like the princess. And now, it was uneven and shorter on one side than the other. “Feel free to fix this… Poor cut or losing my head, you know how it goes.” She gave a pained laugh.

“Ah right, sorry Luro. There were no good souvenirs to get you, but I try to keep my promises, so there's drinks in the boat… but if you could carry me to the doc’s room first that’d be great.”


----

“Y’know, making me come to the decrepit part of a nondescript...place, is one thing… Making me search for you is just rude.” Runali walked through a dry, barren wasteland that held a low and dense fog. Something crunched under foot and when she looked down, her brow furrowed to see bones. Many of them were old and collapsed at a touch, they were all shapes and sizes making it hard to discern human from animal. Either way, it gave her a sickly feeling knowing that there were remnants of dead bodies strewn about and possible graves desecrated.

“Aw but that’s just a little bit o’ extra fun.” A dry crunch followed after the voice, no doubt as they jumped down from somewhere and stepped on a few bones along the way. “And a precautious thing. Don’t need anyone finding me that shouldn’t. You saw the letter. I’m very sought after.” Through the fog there was a figure draped in patterned fabrics and loose clothing underneath. There was a silver armor chest plate that kept most of it still. Heavy black boots made prints in the dirt and black gloved hands outstretched in greeting. “But, little Lev! My favorite little tiger.” As the figure got closer, instead of a face there was a porcelain mask with a thin painted red frown. Two eye slits were cut, but staring into them only revealed darkness, though every now and then there would be a catch of eyes there. In all, this was a person concealed with no wish to be revealed otherwise.

They walked forward, light on their toes just as Runali had always been, arms outstretched as if to greet Runali with a hug. However, as they got close, Runali ducked under their arms and distanced herself a few feet away. “Don’t tell me you’re still sore with me? It’s been years! You’re alright with just the one eye. You’ve survived this long!” Runali’s neutral expression turned to a frown and the figure clicked their tongue in disappointment. “Only business. I see.” They were dainty in the way they moved, reminiscent of how light on her toes Runali was, but they moved to face her and rested hands on their hips. “I don’t see why you’re so sour. I’ve never lied to you… I’m not the one that painted those happy memories of a so-called ‘mentor’ you portrayed me as.”

“What name do you go by now?” Runali furrowed her brow again at the sound of crunching bones.

“Hmmmm…” Their head tilted in thought. “I liked the name Aster. You can call me that.”

“You know… I came here, wondering what I’d say to you when we finally met again. And after all these years…” Runali pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “I just don’t like you. And since my family is no longer indebted to you, I don’t have to pretend that I do.” She sighed again, this time in some form of mock relief. “It’s actually very freeing.”

Aster scoffed. “After everything I’ve done for you? What? You think you’re going to kill me or something? Pirating has made you a lot more brutal than I thought! And here I thought I’d be the one to do that… A shame really, had I stayed a little longer I could have made you into the perfect little weapon. You would have certainly been cut out for a life like mine.”

The entire time Aster spoke, Runali was meticulously putting on her gloves. For a moment, her fingers trailed over the stitching on one and she smiled. When they stopped talking, Runali looked up with a raised brow. “Oh, are you done? Great. So here’s what’s going to happen. I’m on day… three of four before I’m due back to my crew. If I’m not back by then, my fiance won’t be too happy, and I’m sure it’ll be worse for a lot of people if he shows up. So! Before I fight you, tell me just one thing.” Runali fiddled with one chakram on her hip and tilted her head a bit. “Is there anyone that would care if you died?”

Though Aster’s face was not visible, they way their shoulders squared and how their stance straightened showed they weren’t too keen on those words. And for the faintest moment, Runali could only guess that there was a moment of genuine surprise that kept Aster in place before they adjusted their stance to fight. “You’ve forgotten our lessons I see. Guess I’ll have to put you back in your place and teach you some manners.”

And then the two clashed. They were nearly matched in speed and defense. Armament met Armament, Runali’s chakram met hidden dual blades that Aster carried. Both were nimble and dodged the others' blows.
“S’pose it’s a bad time to congratulate you on the wedding?” Runali rolled her one eye, ducking under another blade swing while Aster continued. “You’re all grown up, making a name for yourself, and-” They were cut off when they were suddenly kicked off their feet.

“Do you pretend to be so familiar with me because you have no one else to do this with, or do you go around lying to everyone?” The only response she got in return was a ‘hm’ before Aster was back on their feet and the two were at each other’s throats again. The fog made disappearing and reappearing much easier, but the scattered remains of bones made both of them less hidden than they wanted with how noisy it was- Runali realized it's probably why Aster made her come all this way.

"You really think you can best me? I taught you everything you know."

Aster had Runali pinned at that point but she couldn't help but grin. "I was hoping you'd say that." And with a cockiness that was usually reserved for more internal reactions, her hands lit in flames and sent Aster flying back. "I've lived a few lives… You've only known me for one." Now with flames as her weapon, Aster was left on the defensive. Runali sent an onslaught of attacks first with fire, then her chakram, and when she could get close enough, armament fists. Even with the upper hand, Aster still managed to stay agile- though not without a surprising amount of damage, damage that Aster was not prepared for. Their clothes were torn and in places skin would have shown, tight black clothing continued to cover them.

It wasn't until Runali managed to crack the mask that Aster began to feel the tides of the fight truly shift. Runali's eye patch had long since been cut off, but in a last ditch effort they slashed across her face once more creating a nasty slash across the eye she had already lost. Had Runali not stumbled back, she would have nearly lost the eye completely. "Careful you only have one of those left." Their taunts were made with heavy breaths, no doubt from their own wounds wearing them down, but they stood their ground.

--

With a blood streaked face, both her own and Aster’s, Runali managed to pin them down, a chakram embedded into their shoulder and the other at their throat. She had a terrifyingly calm expression as the one near their neck pressed a little closer.

"Well... you had your fun… Kill me then."

Runali pressed a foot on their chest to silence them and leaned down with the same calm as before. "I never said I was going to kill you. No, that'd be too easy. Besides, I'm not the Pirate King, or Empress as my first mate calls it. Not yet. I want you to be around to know about it." The chakram was pulled back and she twirled it in her hand. "You ever heard of the expression, 'an eye for an eye'?" Before Aster could answer, an armamented chakram cut through the mask and across the hooded face of the person. She yanked the other chakram out of their shoulder and stepped back as they rolled to their stomach and curled up in pain. "There. Now it's literal."

The captain picked up part of the mask, the top half and hooked it onto her belt with her chakram. "Killing you would be rude anyway. Can't kill someone who saved my family." She began to walk off, ignoring the pain from all of her own injuries, especially her eye and whatever ribs that were broken making it hard for her to breathe. "My crew on the other hand, I'd recommend you stay away from them. They aren't very kind to those who injure their captain."

"I'm- hah… I'm impressed little Lev. Have to say, you…" Their voice trailed off in their struggle to lift themselves. "Wear that Pirate Empress title proudly… I'm gonna cherish the day I get to kill you."

Runali kept walking, hearing the soft thud of Aster collapsing on the ground. She heaved a sigh, wincing at how hard it was and slowly trudged her way back to where she docked her boat, leaving Aster's words to linger in the air.

--

She collapsed in her boat, after tossing a handful of supplies and bottles of rum inside. She could only stare at the night sky as the single sail opened and she set off.
It was hard to say whether she blacked out or not, but when she blinked a familiar smoky jet black hawk hovered over her.

"You could have killed them."

"Could've. Didn't. Oh well. What do you want bird… I'm one foot into unconsciousness and three bottles away from numbing all of my pain."

"You'll die if you let this boat steer itself."

Runali could feel herself getting heavier and heavier. She downed one of the bottles and shut her eyes. "...Then tell Jones to steer the boat."
 
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Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
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Snippets of Sea. A random day, a random time ... 2 Year Mark
Location: Out at Sea


Letters from Mia and the late Lina were neatly placed on one side of the captain’s desk, old letters she kept with her personal things. A handful more were scattered around in a semi neat pile next to them. There was one signed from the Court Captains that had remnants of confetti in it, another from the Red Pirates captain, one from the Prophets and a few others. But there was one laid out in front of Runali, worn from the obvious constant handling. The Jaipuran elephant stamp had been smoothed out.

Runali looked up at her door and then at Coral who was comfortably perched by her side. “Do you mind?” The bird opened her eyes and with a quick hop, flew over and pushed the door closed before landing right back where she was.
“Thanks.” Ru gave her a gentle pat and turned her attention back on the sprawled papers.

She had gotten the letter sometime after losing Cedric, but she couldn’t bring herself to… deal with it. Not after everything that had happened.

Runali lifted it again to read it.

For Ru Captain Runali Lev,

It’s about time I told you this story. It’s a little late, my apologies, but it’s better now than never. Especially now that you have years under your belt. I also apologize for not telling you to your face, but after the latest incident in the papers, I figured you’d be a bit too busy to make a quick trip home. I’ll try to make it brief.

I haven’t actually told you the full truth about my life as a pirate. With reason of course.
The pirate crew I was once in was more than just… some average pirate crew. Now, before you yell and go spooking your crew, know that I’m telling you this because you deserve to know. And it’s for your safety. Not because I need the world to know. If you haven’t seen the old wanted poster that I added already then yes, I was the doctor of the Sea Terrors. Most of them are gone considering we’re all supposed to be dead.

Again, try not to yell and startle your crew.

Before you get excited, I also wanted to tell you the real story of that crew. The stories told about how Olanis had it all are… somewhat true. He did. Fame, fortune, and a crew strong enough to be in ‘Pirate Lord’ status. We were strong, but many were, which was why there was none who claimed that title. But Olanis killed whoever was in his way, including his own crew. I guess that’s not uncommon for pirates though.

The stories I’ve told you, about my crew dying at sea, those were the real stories. Olanis cared about two things: Power and Fortune. And he’d do anything to get it. It… being the famed Compass. The truth is, we never found it that day in the northern ice. There was no key to a treasure for gods. What we found was infinitely worse.
I never got a good look but I swear what we found were sirens… not treasures. One moment we were traversing through ice and storms then the next moment I watched the crew crumble with greed fighting over nothing. The only reason I think I hadn’t been affected was thanks to, well, admittedly being more interested in maps detailing the next warm place to be rather than the icy hellscape we were in.

It happened suddenly. One moment we were sailing and then the next I witnessed the crew turn against each other, all yelling about how they'd be the ones to keep the treasure for themselves. A hypnotic greed took over. Olanis was amongst the insanity and laid waste to most of us. It wasn’t until there were only six of us left did the stupor die down. And yet… despite realizing the Compass was some sort of curse, Olanis forced us to press on.

But I'm not telling you this to scare you, though I would hope you'd steer clear. I'm telling you this because at the end of our path, the Compass wasn't there. It was never there. What lied in waiting for the six of us that remained, a captain, a first mate, a doctor, a navigator, a cook, and a shipwright- was Davy Jones. I… do not remember what he put us through but I remember being the last survivor. And the words he spoke to me have echoed with me till this very day.

'Lev. That will be a name that gives me trouble. But it'll be so much more trouble to others.'

And he spared me. After all these years, well....I have... long since realized he wasn't talking about me.

---


The letter was folded once more, Runali opting from reading the rest. She wasn’t sure how to feel about it, but it did make a lot of unfortunate events make more sense. It felt like a curse to bear and it felt like the last thing she should have done was drag her crew through it too. Not like she would have known. But she had gotten this far- and could have only gotten this far with them- so she tried not to stress too much. Instead, her emotions were put into constantly creasing and folding the letter and wanted poster until she finally placed it with the others.

She'd tell her crew.
Maybe not at that exact moment.

But they deserved to know.

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The story of the StarDusk pirates has been a tale told for years, centuries even. The world has witnessed them go from a band of misfits to a pirate crew to be reckoned with. There have been tales of highs and rumors of their lows. The very name strikes fear in many and admiration in others.

And there's certainly no surprise by it!

Despite their size, the StarDusk crew have stories of immeasurable feats; a doctor that could cure any ailment, a swordswoman who could rival monsters from the underworld- or with the help of a rumored undead navigator, the Undersea. Not to mention a ghost of a chef who'd likely kill you before you could say his name and a wickedly skilled marksman that already had his own scary stories told in the dark with many more now attached to the StarDusk name. There wasn't just one name to fear, there was an entire crew.

But the first name that always followed StarDusk Pirates was the captain herself, Captain Runali Lev. A spunky woman turned into the reputable Second of the Worst Generation of pirates. What she lacked in fleets of pirate ships, she had in allies. Strength was their visible growth, learning from each other and the world they encountered, but their impact grew with their allyship. Runali Lev amassed hundred of allies that pledged to sail under her flag should she need them. And frankly, that was pretty close to having several fleets anyway.

Her crew’s exploits garnered more and more attention with each passing day. However not all of that attention was bad. StarDusk did what they wanted when they wanted, whether that was destroying a corrupt kingdom or pillaging to find a country's hidden treasures. Many times, it even included staking claim to islands, warning other pirates to think twice before doing something they'd regret. This alone garnered an ironic peace and safety to many homes.

The rise to that second spot in the matter of two years was both a surprise and well deserved. To the world, they had gained that position through bloody battles and terrorizing the Navy, and well, that was mostly true. But to the StarDusk, besting the Red Pirates was no big war. In fact, it was both crews watching as Runali childishly putting William Carabis, the Red Pirates captain, into a headlock until he caved and admitted 'defeat'. Still, it was odd that the StarDusk rose above them despite their more noticeable pillaging and destruction.

Outranking the Novas came as a surprise to everyone, even if the Novas had been under the radar for a year or so. But StarDusk quickly learned that the Novas… They weren’t dangerous because they were pirates- grant it some are. It was sometime between Luro’s growing connections and the crew's small favors done for them that the StarDusk realized that the Nova’s technological advancements could single handedly stop many if they chose to. And because they refused to give the Navy control of their work, they were ridiculed as outlaws and deemed pirates to be taken down. The Novas… were never truly pirates as much as they were inventors and scholars… and on occasions criminals.

But! That's not why you're here, no! Out of all of the rambling and rumors, you're here for a good story. So, get comfortable because I'm gonna tell you my favorite StarDusk story. And then you'll see why I know that they're set apart from the rest.


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Time: 2 Full Years later
Location: An island off map, hidden from everyone that doesn’t get invited… Skull Island

The sounds of music and joyous cheer filled the air. Celebratory banners and stalls of free food and drink were sprawled far and wide. Everywhere screamed touristy and worth sightseeing, even the places farther out that reigned untouched by humans and were left to nature. However, this was no tourist island StarDusk was on.

Many years ago, Captain Alcinoe of the Cutthroat Pirates, told Runali vaguely about a celebration that happened infrequently and secretively. A celebration that while mainly targeted towards the Worst Generation, amassed hundreds of pirates to join in on the fun. Dotted along every banner and every stall on the island, there was a Sterling crown that decorated them: the mark of the Pirate Lord- the one who organized this gathering.

The island itself looked rather dreary from afar but it was an expansive mix of nature and livable space. The very centerpiece of it all happened to be an enormous mountain ominously shaped like a skull on its side. And according to Jack's intel, it was rumored that it was, and that it belonged to a beast or a god that roamed no more. The real story was that maybe one day it would return. Whatever it would didn't truly matter as the uproarious celebration swept the StarDusk in the moment they docked their ship in between the Cutthroats and the Court’s.

The island became an entire parlay as enemies became friends for just a week. Though, ones that didn't, still respected the truce and kept to themselves. For those that had energy to spare, there were places to spar and other competitive areas. And for the opposite, there were places to cool down and relax.

"Oh this will be fun."

The moment the StarDusk stepped foot on the island they were roped into a mass of different things: gossip and knowledge exchanges, drinking contests, casual hangouts, and whatever else they wanted to do. They were allowed to be as merry as they wanted to be, hidden away from ridicule and navy law. This truly could have been the biggest party the world would never see...

And as they began to disperse...
They'd see Saffron and Oz, first mate and weapons specialist of the Cutthroats, leaning on each other, one idly playing with the others' goggles and not with weapons. Kadi in particular would find the majority of the other Cutthroats, ironically a fan favorite. And even Sandy, the Cutthroats enormous crocodile bathed in a cool pond.

They'd see the Court's Ceilia and Sergei, one tugging the other along to watch her try on some outfits or go find a particular regional drink. The Junkers from the Nova ship skated around, playing a game with some other nondescript pirates (some apart of the Worst Gen, some just random invites) while Seliria kept an eye on them… and then kept an eye on Caleb who tried and failed to make conversation with random pirates.
To Runali's surprise, she saw the demoted captain of the Tankerd pirates, Abram and the new captain Samuel Fitz. The latter seemed chipper to see the crew while the former begrudgingly but respectfully nodded in their direction. There were even pirates that dawned the Sterling insignia indicating they were crew of the Pirate Lord.

"Huh… where's all the captains…"
The moment Runali wondered it out loud, she was swept off to a more sectioned off area where the Worst Gen captains rested, sharing drinks and stories. She wasn’t used to leaving her crew to the wind so suddenly, but after some reassurance, she figured it'd be okay, just for a little bit at least. But the concern was pushed to the side rather quickly when she found herself with the other captains, laughing away.

"William, you mean to tell me you let Lev put you in a headlock! That scary shtick of yours ain't doin' anything for anyone!" Captain Alcinoe howled in laughter. William could only roll his eyes as the older woman clapped his back.

"Oh, Robin!"
"Madame Robin!" Twin captains leaned jovially forward, one taking Robin's hand while the other clasped their own together, "How are the kids?"
"Did the Junkers like their gifts?"

The second captain of the Novas happily conversed while Alton looked on in his usual calm manner. It wasn’t till Runali spoke to him directly did he actually speak.
“You owe me a fight still.”
“Hm... S’pose I do. But I dunno." He took a swig from a fruity smelling drink. "Heard you guys fought demons. Sounds like you’re too tough for me.” There was a moment's pause before both of them chuckled to each other, clinking mugs in solidarity.

"Say, where's the Pirate Lord anyway? I wanted me and my crew to meet 'em."

This grabbed all of the captains' attention. Alcinoe was the first one to speak up with a chuckle. "She'll be around eventually."

Pierre and Paris spoke in laughing unison. "She likes to make an entrance!"
"She tries to pretend she doesn't."
"But we're kings of putting on a show, and we know exactly what she's doing."

Robin had a smug look as she took Alton's drink, finishing it off. "Might be too busy with her first mate... So the rumors say~"

"No way!"
"So it's true?!"
The twin captains and Robin roped each other in gossip, suitable for school teenagers.

The sun was high in the sky and there was plenty of time in the day... in the week actually. They'd see the Pirate Lord eventually, but for now it was time to have fun.

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Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
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Luros_Banner.jpg



Location: Skull Island


An arm immediately went around Runali’s shoulder once she was no longer with the other Captain’s, a bright grin from a fellow eyepatch wearer met her as her other hand held a half drunken bottle of rum, only unfinished due to laying eyes on the Stardusk Captain.
“Runali Lev, my-” Mia took a quick look around. “Favorite in-law.”
Mia the Captain of the Lupus Noctis offered a laugh before removing her arm giving the woman a pat on the back.
For the strangest of reasons though by not much surprise, Luro had come to consider Mia family, and the woman had little reason not to return such feelings. She apparently was going to play some part in their future wedding after a night of drinking between the two, Luro however forgot what that would be at this point and Mia being Mia decided to leave it a surprise.
“It’s good to see you again Runali!”
“Mia.”
Mia jumped a bit as a shadow soon covered the both of them, she turned to see Luro staring down at the two, his mouth turning up slightly as he crossed his arms, the smirk on his lips spelled a certain kind of trouble the other Captain was accustomed too.
“...what was that about a favorite in-law…”
Mia reached up and adjusted her eyepatch before folding her hands behind her back, she gave a small nod at this and managed to put her face back on offering a smile to Luro.
“It’s a Captain thing Luro, a Captain thing…”
“Really?”
“Really it’s just a top dog kind of a thing, you’re still my favorite person.”
Luro offered a nod at this and grinned at the two of them as Mia seemed to visibly relax, her words weren’t a lie but she was extra grateful for Luro’s trust. It helped end situations like that very quickly, especially when he didn’t question the particulars of favorite person and favorite in-law.
“Now Runali,” Mia said holding up the half empty bottle. “You’re having at least one with me before I let you go.”
“Can I join? This isn’t a Captain thing right?” Luro questioned.
“Of course Luro, Captain thing or not I’ll never turn down sharing a drink with you.”
Mia offered a small smile at this before motioning towards an area a little ways off from the celebration.
“Unless Runali’s busy then it’ll just be us, and we’ll talk about all kinds of fun things with in-jokes she’ll never get and only we’ll laugh about.”
“Leading to a sense of exclusion!”
“Yes Luro leading to a sense of exclusion, but since I care about her the offer’s out there.”

For once, Runali’s immediate reaction to being grabbed wasn’t to brace for attacks. Instead, she slowed her step to match the other’s. And when she realized it was Mia, Runali grinned. “Oh hey! You’re here too! Wait, I’m the favorite? Ha!” Excitement shined in her eye until there was a sudden shadow engulfing them. Unlike Mia, Runali was cheery as ever seeing Luro. She waved in greeting. The way Mia shuffled back did catch Runali’s attention but she decided to leave it be and tease her about it later.

“Well we’ve got all week, I can’t say no to drinks!” Looking between Luro and Mia, she took a step forward towards the few empty tables that Mia pointed towards. “Certainly not to family either. Who knows when we’ll all be together again. And I hear that drinks are plenty here and I wanted to try the good ones”

A small smile found its way into the woman’s face at the mention of family but whatever feeling overtook her she hid back under her normal mask. Clapping her hands together she offered a chuckle and motioned to a spot still around the party but separate from the large gatherings, enough so they’d have a spot to themselves.

“Ooooh I know some good ones. We did a lot of trial and error...which is why it’s presently only me, some of the crew are uh...recovering. I’d advised not trying Misery Barnacle.”
Mia ran off to grab drinks quickly downing the one in her hand as she did so, she was back in no time and set drinks on the table before taking a seat herself.
“Now since we’re here…” Mia said setting a stack of cards on the table. “May as well talk and play right? We’re at a party of pirates, gambling is a necessity.”
“What’re we gambling?” Luro asked, sliding a bottle to Runali.
“I got ideas unless you want to put something out there, straight up coin is even fine with me. At the end of the day I’ll win so what’s wagered means little to me.”
Mia grinned at this and set the cards down near Runali.
“We’ll let Luro cut the cards last."

“Noted. Give the Misery Barnacle to Luro for testing.” Runali eyed the cards, but her hand reflexively went up when the bottle was pushed her way. “Mmm, could gamble my fancy new jewels I… found from that last treasure hunt. But I like ‘em too much, so nah.” She tapped her eyepatch. “Need my eye patches. I’ve gotten into color coordinating them sometimes, that’s fun… Well, Tashigi wouldn’t mind us gambling our coins, we have plenty of it. I usually gamble chores and money with Jack anyway.” Runali shuffled the cards in thought, but stopped when she realized what Mia had said. “Hey, wait what makes you think you’ll win?” She pointed the bottle in her direction. “What’re you thinking of gambling anyway?”

Luro seemed to grin at the opportunity as Mia smiled partially expecting that answer.
“Coins for Stardusk it is,” Mia said before one eye moved up to Runali.
At her question of winning the woman offered a smile and held up both of her hands.
“There’s only been one person who’s beaten me in cards,” Mia said. “That person is presently not here so I’m pretty confidant.”
“Ah Lina,” Luro said. “Wait didn’t she say you cheated?”
“It’s only cheating if you’re caught Luro.”
Luro stared at the Captain of the Lupus who arched a brow at him as it was her turn to shuffle the cards.
“What? I said you’d do them last as a sign of good faith. I don’t do that for my crew, mainly cause they haven’t learned.”
Mia raised the cards and shuffled them in a large grand flourish from one hand to the other, creating a waterfall of cards before setting them down and sliding them towards Luro.
Luro blinked before reaching over and slipping a finger under her eyepatch pulled a card out without lifting the piece of cloth.
Mia glanced over at the card, then Runali then Luro.
“You’re not gonna ask how I got that in there?” The woman questioned with a smile.
Luro set the card in the deck and started shuffling with surprising versatility, as Mia looked back at Runali.

“Hmmm well this is a great place for information. I was going to share stuff anyway but how about...I share some juicy tidbits in exchange for any hand I lose, and if I fully lose the game, even just second place, I’ll give Runali a rare eyepatch if she’s first, and Luro some drink not available around these parts if he’s first.”
“So we both get something if your third,” Luro said as he made the cards float in the air before landing back in the deck.
“I assure you Luro...I won’t be third,” Mia said.
Luro reached over and pulled another card out of her eyepatch, the woman’s brows arched.
“...you’re really not going to ask how I’m doing that? Not even a little. It involves whales.”
Luro spread the cards out evenly among the three of them picking up his hand as Mia lifted hers, he knew she wouldn’t give a straight answer and it’d lead into some wild story...which only made him want to ask more.

“She’s a pirate Luro, of course she cheated.” She watched the cards in Mia’s hand and leaned back in her seat. There was another comment about it that she started to say, but her brow raised when Luro took a card from under her eye patch. Runali had to stifle her laughter. “Luro, you can’t just go reaching under a lady’s eyepatch like that! There’s manners involved. You’ve gotta-” Laughter stopped her from finishing the dramatics she tried to play. It eventually stilled when she took a drink. “Certainly you’re not getting caught on purpose, are you Mia?”

“Y’know, not really in need of much in the way of information.” She paused the moment she said that. “Well, perhaps Jack and Alicia might… they keep up with the life threatening stuff.” Before she could get too distracted, she waved her hand in front of her to dispel the thoughts. “Sounds like a fun wager! I’m not opposed to it.” Looking at Luro, she shrugged. “Doesn’t seem like he is either, so let’s…” Yet another card was pulled from her eyepatch and this time she tilted her head, still finding it funny. “Hah, might be wise to call your loss now unless you’re hiding more cards on you. Though, it would not be a surprise. But,” Unlike the other two, she left her cards flat on the table, quickly thumbing through them to see before leaving them under her hand. “How about you tell us that story, after the game? Not counted towards your loss of course. That one’s just a freebie.”

Luro seemed to offer a nod at this, he had honestly considered it himself but at the Captain’s inquiry Mia offered a small shrug.
“Get caught on purpose, never,” Mia said adjusting her eyepatch.
At the mention of not needing information a small chuckle escaped Mia, her smile growing a little as Luro nodded, informing he didn’t mind the wager himself.
At the idea of life threatening information the woman waved a hand arching a brow as Runali laid her cards down on the table.
“Haha I’ll leave the life and death stuff to your people. I’m talking gossip, juicy info...things about your fiance he’s probably forgotten or hasn’t shared,” Mia said raising her eye back to Runali.
Luro looked over at Mia at this before his eyes raised to the sky for a moment, giving a small nod he lowered his eyes to the two again.

“I do feel like I forgot to tell Captain stuff.”
“You did, there’s easily eight things off the top of my head,” Mia said, fanning her cards before they pulled together forming one card. “Also those were my only two cards...probably.”
Luro offered a firm nod at this believing Mia, though if he did remember he’d just end up telling Runali himself, Mia seemed to understand that thus she added something else on top of it.
“Of course I’ll add that story after the game, I’ll even give you a freebie now, once Luro decides what he wants to wager, this is a three person game after all. Can’t have your fiance pay for your losses Luro,”
“Hmmmmm that makes sense. I know what I’ll wager,” Luro said. “It won’t be money.”
“Ohhh I look forward to it, all right then. Let’s see….”
“Did you know Luro helped finalize a treaty between two warring nations recently? If not-”
Mia tapped the table.
“I’d make sure that hand is bigger than mine.”
“...I did that?” Luro asked looking at his own cards.
“After we emptied the rum stock in that nobles house, you know the one we snuck into dressed as Jesters.”
“...the same day?”
Mia tapped the table again with a smile before setting her cards down, total to fifteen. Luro’s was thirteen when he laid them down.

“Ah,” Was all Runali offered when she caught on to Mia’s bargain. But hearing it was about Luro, only made her chuckle. “No offense Luro, but is it really gossip if he forgot it?” The second half of that made her consider the options. She was still on board with it either way. It wasn’t like she knew where to begin to ask Luro about any of his old adventures, so not like freebies hurt. And since he didn’t seem to mind the snooping, she counted her cards again. It didn’t stop her from being curious about what he’d wager.

“A treaty between nations isn’t… the wildest thing I’ve heard about you Luro. But, can’t say I’m not impressed.” She looked over at him, her head tilting slightly as she pictured him in a jester costume. Then she did the same thing to Mia before setting her cards down as well. “I could see it though. You’ve certainly got a way with nobility that’s memorable.” She tapped her set of cards, first counting fifteen before pushing a card from under another and counting seventeen. “What was that about eight things to tell?”

“That is...surprisingly valid,” Mia said. “On both Luro’s general antics and gossip.”
When she was looked from Luro to Mia the latter posed a bit only to return to normal once the conversation continued, a small laugh escaping the woman as she nodded in agreement at Runali’s observation.
Everytime the two of them met nobles it was always a delight in some form or fashion.
Her eyes moved to Runali’s cards, and she arched a brow before the last one was moved out.
Mia brought a hand to her chin, a surprising glint in her eyes as Luro applauded with a grin at Runali’s hand.
“Hahaha that’s why you’re my favorite,” Mia said with a shrug.
Luro’s head turned towards her.
“Favorite In-law, I clearly mean In-law Luro,” Mia said holding up a hand. “Alright fine fine Runali.”
Mia grabbed the cards, setting them to the side and dealt new cards out.
“The name Vayers stand out to you? It’s an old government official so maybe not.”
Luro gave a shake of his head not recognizing the name himself.
“Well he was a Baron, died some time ago. Reasonably terrible man but he knew how to make deals, had influence all that kind of good stuff and well...he amassed quite the fortune. A bit of gossip came my way at where it may be.”
Mia’s voice had dropped a bit as she shared this information causing Luro’s brows to arch a bit.
“So this is ‘gossip’,” Luro said taking his cards. “Like that one time we hid in a pigsty.”
Mia offered a small nod at this and offered a shrug.
“I mean I’ve had a few drinks and lost so I’m sharing a ‘story’....a story with a map I’ll pass along when we’re not near other treasure hungry pirates.”
“It’s not cursed is it?” Luro asked arching a brow. “It’s fine if it is but last time it-”
“I doubt it,” Mia said holding up a hand. “It is guarded though so you know...be prepared for a fight. Rumor says some of Baron’s old men are still there guarding it...though that was fifty years ago so you know…they’re either dead or close to it at this point. Just think of it as date night and go out together, bring back gold and a story.”

Mia held her hands up at this waving them before grabbing her own cards as Luro downed his drink and held his free hand up, as he did a bottle was tossed in his direction which he caught and sat down on the table.
“I like this place Captain,” Luro said with a grin.
“All right pay up Luro, I paid so you gotta,” Mia said motioning to him.
“Oh right, let me get it.”
Luro reached down before setting a cloth on the table, Mia stared at it, then back at Luro, then back at Runali before returning to Luro.
“Luro that’s the cloth around your waist.”
“Yeah. It’s my old one, not my new one.”
“I mean...I don’t really care but what happens if you lose again.”
Luro tilted his head at this.
“Then I put another piece of clothing on the table.”
Mia stared at the man who said those words so casually, she looked down at her hand then back up at him.
“You can change the wager.”
“Isn’t that rude, once you wager something it’s rude to take it back. Sides’ I don’t got anything else on me. I’m not giving my gun.”
“I mean yeah that’s true but it’s not Pirate code it’s just bad manners. Why not money?”
“If I go back on a wager it’ll make Captain look bad,” Luro said his brows lowering a bit. “Also you just said not to have the Captain pay for me, my money is Stardusks’.”
Mia brought a hand to her face and gave a small shake of her head.
“All right, fine then. When you end up in a state of nature don’t blame me. I got seven more things to share and you got I’m guessing six articles left, better start winning Makachi.”

"Careful Mia, don't hurt the poor giant's feelings with your favoritism." She looked through her new cards, but paused at the new gossip. There were only a handful of things that got Ru's attention as quickly as treasure, and on that list was of course stealing treasure from government officials- especially ones that didn't need it. "Oooh, whaddya say Luro? Up for a date night after our trip here?" With a more contained excitement, she gently tapped both hands on the table. She paused and snapped her fingers when Luro asked if it was cursed. That was a good question, but only being guarded by a bunch of guys was nothing. They could clean house and be back before the sun went up. Or down depending on when they got there.

"This is the nicest place we've ever been to and it's filled with some of the worst pirates out there. Including us, of course." Runali retorted with a grin, but raised her bottle in agreement. Her attention turned towards her cards, making sure she had enough until she saw Luro's 'wager' hit the table. Her brow raised, listening to just why Luro was deciding to raise his own stakes in the game. For a moment she could only stare at Luro and then, her cards fanned out to hide the growing smile on her face. "Hey, if that's how Luro wants to play... then by all means let him play. I'm certainly not gonna stop him- y'know, because he doesn't want to be rude of course." The chuckle that followed was because of Mia and she let out a low whistle. "It's all about the fun of the game after all." She placed her cards down, only twelve this time, before she took a drink. Runali had to admit, when one bottle emptied and all she had to do was raise a hand for another, it was one of the greater parts about this secluded island.

“Thankfully he should forget about it in five minutes, lucky me,” Mia said grinning.
“Forget what?” Luro said looking over at Mia.
“Never change Luro.”
With a shrug he looked over at his Captain before he offered a grin to Runali giving a firm nod, any outing with her would be fun, bringing back stuff was just a nice extra.
“Of course Captain! Let’s get Jack to make sandwiches for the trip.”

Mia tapped the side of her head, a small sigh escaping from her at Runali being okay with the wager but ended up shrugging as a chuckle escaped from her. She considered herself easygoing and even she had a hard time keeping up with Luro sometimes, yet Runali did it so flawlessly, it was hard not to smile at it.
“Last thing I want to be is a bore, especially at a party so fine,” Mia said throwing her hand down. “Wager accepted.”
Mia grinned at her fourteen and Luro put down his eleven.

The game continued and Mia kept her word each time she lost, the conversation continued as she shared light gossip and general going on’s. She went on about many things, talking about a few of Stardusks’ adventures she heard of, trying to get more of what happened here and there. She also spoke about what she’d gotten up to, especially with Luro.

“Then he rode in on a tiger! I don’t even know where he got one! The Navy officials were so confused! Oh and the Admiral, the look on his face when it pounced on him! Hahahaha, oh man...so yeah that’s why he’s called ‘No-face’ behind his back. Tiger got a good chomp outta him.”
She spoke of Lily and Mary before moving onto the Prophets.
“Still can’t believe that group’s risen up in the world so much...hard not to hear their names among the best mercenaries for hire…I remember when they were still taking orders from us and catching cats in trees.”
“They were catching cats before they were mercenaries?”
Mia moved on not answering Luro’s question more interested in the next topic.

At this point they were nearing the end of the game, by now Luro’s boots, sash, waist cloth, earrings and shirt were on the table, leaving the Carpenter staring at his cards shirtless.

He had somehow lost every hand from the game’s beginning, and the two captains were now tied, the next hand would settle everything.
Luro tilted his head to the side before discarding a card and drawing another one.
Mia looked over at Luro, her eyes moving along his scar ridden torso as her brow arched. She motioned to him causing Luro to raise his head.
“You okay showing your fancy scars? Don’t you normally hide them?”
“I don’t really hide them,” Luro said smiling at Mia. “I just don’t show them off.”
Mia arched a brow at this as Luro messed with his cards a bit, the woman’s eye widened for a minute before narrowing. She offered a small bow of her head causing Luro to look back at her.
“Sorry...that was rude of me. Those are your resolutions, right? To protect the orphans and Lina. I spoke without thinking.”
Luro stared at Mia for a moment but smiled before sliding a bottle towards her causing her to raise her head.
“S’fine Mia,” Luro said. “I told Captain years ago scars are trophies, story for each one, proof ya didn’t let DJ take you yet. I mean I was Imposter then but I meant it at least. Some of them are sentimental so I don’t show them off...but plenty of them are times I just kinda messed up so some got funny stories. I really don’t mind.”
Luro waved a hand at this and motioned to the scar over Runali’s eye.
“Sides’ scars make you look mysterious, look at Captain. Don’t ya wanna learn more about her, just everything until the end of time.”
Luro motioned to Runali with both hands at this causing Mia to laugh.
“I won’t deny wanting to learn more about my sister-in-law but I think you’re the only one wanting to go that far Luro.”
“Really?” Luro said looking over at Runali then back at Mia. “Nah it has to be everyone, Captain’s interesting so it makes sense. Like her thinking face. Her actual thinking face, not the other thinking face.”
“...okay I’m going to need an explanation for this.”
“Ya gotta watch the furrow of her brow, that’s important,” Luro said going into an explanation. “Do your best to put aside how you want to stare at her face until the sun sets and beyond and focus on the features themselves.”

“Sounds difficult but continue,” Mia said nodding. “How do you do it by the way?”
“Well it’s not easy, I mean look at the Captain, why wouldn’t you not want to but the key is to know you can always do it later, and even if you can’t there are other things to appreciate.”
“This is good stuff keep going, what other things,” Mia said grinning.
“Okay so the way she opens doors…”

For every story, Runali had reactions ranging from “that sounds impossible” to “I’m surprised you made it out alive” and of course the occasional “I wish I was there to see it”. For every Stardusk adventure, Runali added her input, filling in the gaps Mia didn’t have and then proceeded to let Luro add all the extra flourish as he usually did. If Mia wanted the full story, Runali told her it was best to seek out the doctor, opting out of talking about the chronicle and just saying that she had a better memory than her and Luro- which wasn’t wrong. At one point, she teased Luro for losing as badly as he was, while sliding a handful of coins towards Mia as she won the round.

Her head rested in her hand as she looked between Mia and Luro when they discussed scars. It made her realize she hadn’t seen his scars all that often, so she looked at the ones she could see from where she was sitting. That was, until Luro mentioned her eye scar. She subconsciously ran a thumb across the part below her eyepatch, mumbling, “Don’t really think it makes me look mysterious. I don’t think I have a face for…” She was going to say ‘mystery’ but her voice trailed off as Luro kept going. And the more he spoke, the more Runali felt a mix of surprise at his attention to detail and embarrassment that he was so casual about it. Even she didn’t notice that much stuff about her. But she couldn’t deny it was a little heartwarming, until it became too much and she downed the rest of her bottle and interrupted. “The only reason I couldn’t possibly do the same is because you’re already as bright as the sun itself, Luro.” She put a hand over his face to get him to stop smiling at her if only for a moment and then proceeded to wave Mia ‘away’ as she enabled him. “As much as I’d love to listen to you, and you know I could listen to you for hours, you should probably focus on keeping your pants.” She shuffled the cards in her hand and added, “In front of all these pirates especially.”

“Alright Mia, last round. More info or,” She stacked some more gold coins in front of her and gestured towards it. “More gold.” She placed her cards down, her final hand only at fifteen this time.

Mia smiled and pretended to avert her gaze raising her arm at the smile adorning Luro’s face at Runali’s comment. She wanted to say who helped him shine but stayed quiet, it was an unspoken fact anyway. Getting to tease Runali was enough for her anyway, though as the cards were laid out Mia looked back at her hand, her eyebrows lowering a little as she looked at her own cards.
“You’re a skilled opponent Runali. I’ve never lost this game to anyone on my crew...and now that’s expanding.”
Mia tossed down sixteen with a wide grin, before reaching forward and pulling the gold towards her.
“Wooo, that was a close one. You had me worried for a second there. Good match there sis.”
“Booo,” Luro said tossing down his thirteen. “Guess you win then.”
Luro stood up and grabbed his pants, Mia immediately raised her hand realizing what he was doing.
“Whoa hold on there Luro, you’re wearing something under there right?”
“Well no, not today.”
Mia blinked, before looking back at the gathered pirates, some of which were looking in this direction then back at Luro.
“Why don’t you have undergarments on?”
“I lost a bet to fish, a cat one.”
“I would love to hear that story later but I can’t let you shame your ancestors.”
“I lost though.”

Mia stared at Luro for a moment, then back at Runali then back at Luro before her eye narrowed. It took her a moment but she realized something.
“...was this on purpose?” Mia said tapping the table.
“Huh?”
“Don’t huh me I know you can think...well sometimes. Is this one of those times, was this a long con Makachi?”
Luro’s held tilted and he offered a shrug leading Mia to look back at her cards. There was only one way for Luro to ‘win’ this card game considering he lost every hand. Closing her eye Mia lowered her head into her gathered gold and heaved a heavy sigh. The man in front of her had basically no shame, he’d remove his pants without hesitation, she knew him enough to understand that fact.
“Damn it…” she said pushing the gold back to the center of the table.
Reaching forward she grabbed her cards and turned them face down.
“I concede the game…” Mia said leaning back in her chair and slumping slightly. “...this is why you’re not the favorite in-law…”
“Still favorite person though,” Luro said pulling his pants fully back up.
“...yeah,” Mia said sitting up. “Lina would never forgive me if I let that happen...funny as it would have been. I’ll already have to answer for plenty when I meet her on Jones ship...I don’t need this hanging over my head too.”

Luro grinned before putting his arms up.
“We won Captain, we both get prizes now!”
Mia watched as the people lost interest returning to their own affairs, noting some of the disappointed looks she looked back at Runali as Luro put his clothes back on.
“Cheating Runali. Not the fun kind either,” Mia said before grinning to show she was kidding. “Deal’s a deal though, information and two prizes. I’ll have the rum sent and I’ll bring the eyepatch myself. It’s in my quarters.”
She reached up adjusting her own.
“Ya lucky I’m a connoisseur, it’ll go well with your new outfit, it’s just the right kind of fancy.”

Even when she knew Luro had no shame, it still came as a shock every time she was reminded of it. And yet, instead of saying anything she put her head in one hand, laughing amidst a sigh. “Day one of this place and y’know, this isn’t the worst thing that could happen. And if other pirates start staring at you, at least I’ll know why.” Realizing she was trying to rationalize an incredulous situation (to most) made her shake her head and look between the other two. The look of acceptance slowly turned into a growing grin as she watched Mia put together what Luro was doing. And it only grew when she conceded. “Aw Mia, cheer up. You still got your streak against your crew.”

She couldn’t help but roll her one eye at Luro before laughing and pushing the rest of his clothes to him. “Please keep those on. People are staring.” As if to prove her point, she nodded over to a few pirates that were scurrying off. “And while I don’t mind the looks, it’s the intentions that I’m not too much a fan of.” Before too much thought was put into it, Runali waved a hand and pulled her gold back into the pouch it was in. “Mia, Captain,” There was an obvious tease to her voice. “There was no cheating involved! Luro was honoring his wager just as you said. You still won your fair share of gold. I just so happened to be… lucky.” When Luro had his clothes back on, she leaned on him, switching her empty bottle for his and raised it towards Mia. “Perfect, I have to look the part when I take the Pirate Lord spot.” A few pirates with Sterling symbols on them looked up at that. Runali wasn’t one to hide her intentions. If someone didn’t know, that was more of a surprise. Most had amused looks, others were a little more confused, but none of them said anything as they went back to whatever they were doing. “Thank you for the game though, it’s been fun! I’ve learned that putting you two together is nothin’ but trouble and it’d be fun to witness.”

Mia let out a laugh at Runali’s proclamation, she enjoyed many things about this Captain but moments like this made her glad she met Stardusk. In the Devil’s den and she says she’s going to own the place, it was hard not to enjoy. The whole matter helped her move past her recent lost relatively fast.
“Goodness...I wouldn’t doubt when you meet Jones in the afterlife you look at him and tell him ‘I’m taking your ship’ you’ll mean it too,” Mia said wiping a tear from her eye. “Aye aye guess it just stays with my crew then.”
She slid her bottle to Luro knowing he wasn’t going to move so long as Runali was nearby, and after moving her winnings into her pouch, she set a note on the table before pushing it towards the two.
“Final batch of information. I’d take it myself but my First Mate eats everything in sight. Should be worth a proper amount or ya can keep it for yourself, up to you.”
Standing up Mia held her hand up, having a bottle land it before waving to the two.
“I’ll take my leave here, have a good one you two, I have to make sure my crew isn’t getting into too much trouble.”

With that Mia walked away and Luro looked at the note, opening it slightly he realized why Mia didn’t openly proclaim what it was. On the note were locations to a Devil Fruit, coordinates and general location.
“Oh...that’s worth a lot right? Far more than we just lost,” Luro said before smiling a little. “Haha Mia’s still a softie...I had a feeling she was gonna give us this anyway.”
Sor could easily find a buyer for double the price the fruit is worth, even after taking a small commision for himself.
“Whaddya wanna do Captain?”

Just for a moment, there was a spark of an idea that showed in her one eye. Taking over Davy Jones’ ship, now that was an idea. But oddly enough, some looming feeling told her not to. Whether she listened to it or not was hard to say.

As Mia took her leave, Runali waved. “Bye, Mia! It’s been fun. We’ll see you around, I’m sure!” The mention of Devil Fruits and the possibility for another treasure hunt made her lean in and look over the note as well. “Treasure from a noble and now this. We’ve got so many plans for after this trip already. Perfect!” She left the note with Luro since he had so many secret places to stash things. Grant it… that was harder to comprehend now that she had seen him nearly bare. She was expecting a lot more pockets, but she also didn’t look hard enough.

At some point she finally stood on her own two feet and gestured for Luro to follow. “Oh, oh! There’s a million stalls around here, I wanted to check them all out. I think there was one that sold food from my home, I want to see if it’s the real deal or not. Oh and there’s spars going on, I wanted to see if anyone we knew signed up! And,” She began prattling off everything that caught her one eye all while tugging him along by the hand. And every now and then, something else would catch her eye and she’d stop to put it on the list of things to check out.

Luro grinned and with a nod put the note into his sleeve, though he dug around in it for a moment before pulling it back out, adjusting his shirt then putting it back in again.
“Free drinks, future adventures-” Luro paused and watched as two pirates fell over a table fighting each other.
Judging by the smile on their faces and the others paying no mind to the scuffle, it clearly wasn’t an issue.
“And you can fight whoever you want, this place really is great Captain!”

Luro made sure to follow after Runali grinning as his eyes moved to the distant stalls.
“I don’t think they’ll measure up to Mom’s food, but I do kinda miss it. Oh are those drinks from the South Sea. I know that village!”
Luro grinned at this before his gaze moved to where the sparring was taking place.
“Ohhh I think Z went that way, we could probably catch her there at least. I wanna punch someone too.”
Luro laughed as they ran through the stall, picking things up as he passed them noticing a few things that reminded him of Brass Cape.
“Oh that looks good, let’s bring some back to everyone!”
 
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Mizos

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Zilia's Banner Finished.jpg




Before Skull island

Zilia’s pen moved across the pages of the Chronicle as memories poured through her mind, she always took moments like this to reflect on all Stardusk had done. In two years so much had happened, and she could see the change in her cremates, she smiled a little whenever she looked back at the ‘old versions’ on the previous pages. In a way that was why she made this chronicle, not only for her Mentor and herself but it allowed her to see the change in her friends more closely.

She was surprised by how much even Luro had grown, he had never stopped trying to be better and it paid off. Now he was hunting down some group called the “Flying Mantles’, considered to be the Top Marksmen/women in the world, she was still piecing together the whole story but apparently Luro wanted a rematch with one of them, and the cost was beating the others.
“Even though he ‘technically' won’,” she said to herself smiling a little.
Seeing Luro with a bit of ambition was a new thing, he always just followed the others, so seeing him do something that didn’t involve them and was more for himself was a welcome change, and it went without saying he had their full support.
That was just one of the many changes in him and the others, she genuinely looked forward to what would follow from here on, her only hope was that it was good.

Leaving her room she moved down to the lower deck of the ship to find Luro, around this time he always checked the generator that flew the ship, after changes he made before and forgetting to check it thanks to a number of things, the ship ended up doing loops in the air at one time, she was glad he was now quadruple checking it.
Luro looked essentially the same even after all this years, and she couldn't deny she was the same though her hair was a little longer. She had also grown exactly one inch and made adjustments accordingly. Putting aside her own accomplishments there was one strange change with Luro, his partner in crime was no longer constantly strapped to his back, a sight she had to grow accustomed to, with that being said she wasn’t terribly far.
“Luro could I see your rifle for a second?”
“Sure Z.”
She knew Luro was aware she was there, he was generally aware where everyone was on the ship, the only exception was Alicia when she was deep in meditation, and even then he had a general idea.
Luro held his hand out to the side and grabbed at nothingness, at least it seemed like it as the ‘nothing’ he grabbed ended up being his rifle, the gun materializing from what seemed like nothingness, as if it ‘popped into existence’ due to his will.
That was something she still had to get used to, and as she took the gun in her hands she gave a small nod as she traced her thumb along it.

The rifle was far simpler than his older one but that was because somewhere along the line he made further modifications, everything was now within the gun itself. There were still ornaments here and there, enough to differentiate it from a normal rifle but it was far less flashy than his other one, he apparently made the changes after his ‘technical’ victory. There were a few people who found out the hard way that only he could fire it now, cleaning the chunks off the ship was an annoying part of her day back then.
“Was your Guardian of me off?” Luro asked not turning around.
“Yes,” she said before holding the rifle whose name she still didn’t know back towards him. “I had him shoot earlier and it felt off, I realize why now so thank you.”
Luro turned and offered a bright grin to Zilia offering a nod at helping, holding his hand outwards the rifle it vanished once again the weight leaving Zilia’s hands before he turned back towards the generator.
“Looking forward to our vacation Z?”
“…there’s no such thing as vacation for us Luro,” Zilia said sighing. “We always end up in trouble somehow.”
“Oh come on Z, it’ll be Parlay for everyone and Seliria will probably be there too.”
Zilia closed her eyes at this before crossing her arms.
“It…would be good to see Seliria again.
Luro grinned seeing the doctor’s guard drop before he turned and gave her pat on the back, though she didn’t stumble as usual.
“All right then let’s have some fun!”


At Skull Island

Zilia actually froze when they landed surprised by what laid out before them, Luro had to nudge her forward towards the festivities just to get her moving. She expected some manner of celebration but this was on a scale she didn’t expect. She noticed that most of the crew had gone off to do their own things, a small sigh escaping from her as she walked after Luro.
Keeping an eye on him was part of her job, at least that was excuse she gave herself as the two walked around speaking with the other Worst Generation.

Luro lingered a bit with the Cutthroats to speak with Oz about some technical matters she didn’t understand; while he did that she spent a bit of time with Saffron who she ended up getting along with, partially because of her skill at information gathering. Though she had yet to meet them herself, during her formal first meeting the woman already knew a fair share about her, which made introductions easier.
Their meeting with the court was short but it was probably the most normal conversation they had that day, which was a surprise.

Moving on Luro gave his normal greeting to Rin Goodwin, which was some manner of tackle or cornering as always. This time he apparently slammed his hands onto the table he was standing near and leaned towards him to a point their noses were touching.
His greetings were far less murderous since they had risen above them, apparently he had let go of his desire to kill him, harm was another matter, but there was a friendliness in his greetings that didn’t exist before.
He gave Stella a small nod and Zilia chuckled at how much attention he gave Rin before they moved on.
She immediately made her way to Seliria as Luro went to speak with Caleb, the two stepping a bit further away knowing the two carpenter’s were going to be speaking gibberish for the next few minutes.

“How are you feeling are you okay? There’s no pain any-” Zilia started but was stopped by a light chop from the woman
“I’m fine,” Seliria said. “You cured my disease already, there’s no after effects as I’ve said dozen of times. I’ll tell you if there are.”
“Sorry. I’m still learning about it so I don’t know if it can ‘come back’ or not.”

“Nah I’m pretty sure it’s gone,” Seliria said opening and closing her hand. “I know how it feels to have it ravage my body…as if it was a part of me. I don’t feel even the smallest trace of it.”
Seliria stared at her hand for a moment her eyes narrowing before she glanced at Zilia.
“Thanks to the damage it did to my body I’m nowhere near my prime anymore, but I’m not so weak I need some brat worried about me. I could spar with Sakura with how I feel now so stop fretting.”
The woman’s lips curved up ever so slightly, though as if catching it immediately forced them back into a thin line. Zilia smiled a little at the sight, Seliria smiled a lot more now, or at least bits of a smile creeped out every now and then, perhaps not having death hang over her constantly loosened her up a biy.
“I had a feeling Stardusk would show up, you guys got here earlier than I though.”
Zilia laughed a little as Seliria arched a brow at her and crossed her arms.
“It’s still strange not hearing you say ‘you lot’ now.”
“Ya rose up to second through your own determination and grit. While I don’t really care about the rankings or titles I don’t ignore hard work.”
With that said Seliria motioned to Zilia with her finger.
“Don’t even think about stopping though, you all can still be better. You’re still a far way away from proper strength, just cause you’re not fledglings anymore doesn’t mean you stop running. Rise higher, be greedier.”
“Of course,” Zilia said smiling at Seliria. “I won’t let your training go to waste.”
“Good.”

Somewhere along the line Luro and Zilia separated, something the doctor hesitated over but given the chance to relax was something hard to pass up, Seliria offering to buy her drink ended up putting her over the edge.

Zilia’s part

Zilia's Banner Finished.jpg

Zilia wandered into the sparring grounds her eyes moving to the many people going at each other, Luro had apparently passed through here earlier, scorch marks mixed with frozen structures proof he got into a few scuffles.
She sighed glad no one was killed and walked into the arena.
There she saw a young man knock out one of his opponents and pump his fist in the air.
He stood in nothing but a pair of pants, his medium length black hair tied into a ponytail.
Flexing his muscular figure a bit he turned towards the gathered crowd, which consisted of those who either didn’t have confidence fighting or just finished their own. They surrounded the mini space on all sides with a judge view the event from a scaffolding outside the arena.
“Who else wants to challenge me!” The young man said. “The unstoppable Tianis!”
The recent fighter stumbled out of the circle as the fighters around them looked at each other.
“Come on, come on! That can’t be all right?! Put down another wager, step forward. I’ll put all my winnings on the line!”
Tianis looked at those gathered and lowered his arms with a sigh.
“If you desire an opponent.”
Tianis turned as Zilia stepped into the ring.
“I’ll fight you.”
With a laugh Tianis applauded and beckoned Zilia closer before shaking off his arms then doing the same for his entire body.
“All right that’s more like it. You look a little scrawny but I like your bravery.”
“What’s the rules?” Zilia said adjusting her gloves.
Tianis eyebrows twitched slightly as she ignored the trash talk but he answered her question.
“First one knocked out or pushed out of the ring wins, no powers including Armament. Observation is fine though.”
“Easy enough,” Zilia said. "Thank you."
She spread her legs shoulder width apart and lowered her form slightly, she brought her hands outwards from herself to chest level, the right sticking out a bit further than the left before focusing her attention on him.
“Ready.”

The horn blowed beginning the brawl and Tianis stepped forward.
“You just signed your own-”
The fight was over before it begun.
In one moment Tianis had closed the distance and in the next he was in the air, the man barely had time to register his feet had been swept out from under him. A flurry of blows hit his chest knocking the wind out of him before a final one hit his skull sending him into the ground hard, his head bouncing off it before his body went still.
Zilia raised her body up and offered a small bow to the twitching unconscious man at her feet.
The people around didn’t cheer or yell at first, all they could do was just stare at what happened, some not even realizing what had just happened.

“T-the winner is the mystery woman!” the judge exclaimed which caused the cheers to follow after.
Zilia started to leave and collect her winnings but stopped as a presence suddenly appeared behind her, she turned to see a woman standing in the ring as Tianis body was being dragged out, her body tensed a bit as the woman had managed to close that distance before she noticed.
Zilia’s eyebrows arched as she turned fully to face the woman, she was dressed in what looked like battle robes if she had to compare them, there was a bit of dirt and grime on the outfit, though since it was fully brown it didn’t stand out fully.
Her top had short sleeves revealing a bit of muscle tone in her arms, her pants were slightly baggy with a tattered ribbon tied around her waist.
Long blonde hair was tied into a high ponytail with a red ribbon, disheveled slightly but still clearly taken care of.
Her shoes seemed more like slippers than anything but Zilia recognized that style, she knew monks in the north who wore similar footwear.

“May I spar with you,” the woman said slamming her fist into her hand.
She offered a small bow which Zilia responded in turn.
“My name is Aria, I’m a traveling fighter.”
“My name is Zilia and I would love a match with you.”
Having come to an accord and the judge fine with more entertainment he initiated the start of the fight but both women didn’t move.
Zilia got into stance but Aria remained standing, arms at her side watching Zilia.
A few of the onlookers questioned if the woman was taking the fight serious when blows soon followed, the distance between the two vanishing in a blink.
Aria blocked Zilia’s punch, and Zilia had raised her leg stopping the woman’s sweep.
Seeing this Aria’s eyes widened and she jumped back.
“That form…you’ve fought in the tower haven't you? Aria questioned.
Zilia smiled offering a nod.
“I thought I recognized that approach, you’ve been there too.”
“Did you reach the top?”
“Come and find out.”
Aria’s smile turned into a grin and the two women approached each other once again.

The crowd cheered as they watched the two fighters go after one another, the two matching the other blow for blow, and while the crowd cheered they slowly fell silent, even the judge who was offering commentary found himself speechless as the fight continued.
The fighter’s movement had long since stopped looking like a brawl, the two’s weavings, leaps and fluid footwork had started to seem more like a dance than a spar. The circling of their hands, the precise movement of their bodies both matched and opposed the other, each approach met with resistance and response and at some point their movements had become all but a blur.
If one was pushed to the edge of the ring they would merely slide over and move back towards the center of the ring.

Aria felt a feeling well up inside of her, a warmth she had yet to feel since she had gotten here. This was a true martial artist, one like her Mentor and that pushed her even further. She could tell through Zilia’s focus alone, and the small smile adorning her face she was also enjoying it.
However she intended on resolving the fight, she moved her left foot forward and tripped up Zilia, the doctor stumbling back as Aria grinned and stepped in.
Just as she was about to deliver the blow however Zilia’s moved into her attack, slipping past her extended fist, having easily regained her footing.
Aria’s eyes widened as Zilia put four fingers against her chest before immediately closing it into a fist, the force threw Aria backwards and she had to place her feet back on the ground to slow herself.
She came to a firm stop and raised her fists again only to pause as Zilia pointed down. Following her finger she noticed her feet were outside the ring.
“The winner is the mystery woman!”
The crowd’s voices could have reached the heavens with the noise that followed, Aria blinked a few times but ultimately laughed and applauded along with the crowd.
Zilia walked up to her and bowed to her, Aria returning the gesture.
“My mentor told me to keep my guard up during my step-in, he’d be quite upset if he saw that display just now. It seems I still have much to learn,” Aria said laughing a little.
“Don’t be too down, you’re a good fighter. One slip up and I would have been the one outside the ring.”
“Haha I could tell you were holding back, no need to comfort me.”
“I was…but not much and that means plenty,” Zilia said. “Still that form of yours…it reminds me of a friend of mine.”
“Oh what’s their name.”
“Kaim.”
Aria stared at Zilia the latter arching her brows as Aria’s eyes widened.
“That’s my mentor! He taught me how to survive out in the wilds and how to fight better!”
Zilia leaned back a little but ultimately ended up laughing as she pointed at Aria.
“That makes so much sense! I thought that sidestep felt familiar, he taught me a few things too and yes he’s very partial to the step-in guard.”
“Right?!”
“Where’d you meet Kaim?” Zilia asked motioning ahead as the two walked away together.
“Oh that’s the weird thing. So I used to be a noble…”

Luro

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“I challenge you!”
Luro stared at the youth standing in front of him as he jutted a finger towards him.
“Huh?”
The young man who was dressed in what seemed to be Brass Cape attire smirked at him, his short brown hair hidden under a simple cap; his vest was undone along with part of his button up shirt giving him a somewhat slovenly look, one Luro could respect. He had a rifle strapped to his back clearly made of Brass Cape materials, with gold lining most of the rifle causing it to shine every time the sun bounced off it.
“You’re one of the Flying Mantles right?”
Luro stared at the man for a moment before bringing a hand to his face.
“I told her not to tell anyone…” he said before lowering his hand. “Kind of. She doesn’t really consider herself one of them so it’s compli-”
“I challenge you to a marksman duel. If I manage to beat you then I’ll become of the top marksman in the world!”
Luro eyes met the young man's before he brought his hands to his hips, shaking his head.
“Is this how Alicia feels, being challenged all the time? This is…hmmm. It’s nice but…I kinda wanna find the Captain.”
“Do you accept my challenge?!”
“Oh you’re still here Binne.”
“Binne? My name’s not-“
“Listen Binne,” Luro said. “I don’t really care about the title so you can have it if ya want.”
Luro said this with a small shrug before pointing at him.
“However I’m not one to turn down duels though, especially from a fellow marksman so how do you want to do this?”

Binne seemed confused at first but clapped his hands deciding to move on, he had gotten what he wanted so the reason mattered very little to him. The man motioned to the area around them, there were numerous targets set up meant to test marksman with the woods lying just behind them, where the sand at their feet turned to soil. There were a few spectators but most just seemed to be taking in the scenery and drinking.
“We’ll fight here, go ahead and get your rifle I’ll wait,” Binne said.
“Nah don’t need her.”
Luro responded and walked over to a few discarded rifles, left there for anyone that either lost theirs or didn’t bring one. Finding the oldest looking one he inspected the beat up gun, before walking back over to Binne.
“This’ll work. Let’s go.”
Binne eyed the worn out rifle, then looked back at Luro before chuckling and offering a shrug.
“Your loss, all right for now we'll match shots. Just hit the target’s I hit.”

Twenty targets later Binne was trembling in silent anger as he counted the targets once again, twenty for him and twenty for Luro. The first few made sense but as he eyed Luro’s worn out rifle then looked at his own custom one the math didn’t add up.
“How? This makes no sense,” Binne said. “That thing’s a piece of junk.”
“That’s rude,” Luro said. “This rifle’s easily better than yours.”
“…what?” Binne said turning fully to face Luro.
The redhead ignored the glare form the man and held up his own rifle.
“She’s got a few scratches and some dirt on her but that’s a good thing. She’s worn out because she was trusted to hit what she needed to hit. Think about it, gun’s that are really shiny and have little to no marks much less fingerprints are generally bad ones, clearly not used often."
Luro grinned and motioned to Binne’s rifle.
“Yours is shiny for no reason. I won’t get on a lass for wanting to look pretty, but does she ‘want’ all that stuff on her.”
“Want? She’s my gun what are you on about?”

Luro’s smile shrunk a little and his shoulders lowered a bit, though the onlookers had been modernly entertained by the showing, they noticed a bit of joy leave the giant, it was clear what interest had dissolved even to those looking from a distance.
“Oh…you’re one of the boring ones,” Luro said rubbing the side of his head. “That’s unfortunate…we’ll I’ll be going then.”
“Wait we’re not done it’s a tie! Let's go again!”
Luro kept his back to Binne but rubbed the back of his head turning towards to the man, he really just wanted to find Runali, but feeling bad for the man’s shiny partner he raised a finger.
“Then let’s have one last competition, each of us will choose a target. Whoever hit’s at the farthest range wins, you choose a target then I'll choose my own, then you do the same on your turn.”

The game made sense, one person set a challenge and the other set a higher challenge, in a way it was a fancy bragging match. Choosing something at a shorter distance on your turn meant a lack of confidence and a higher chance for the other person to win when they picked their own object the following term, which subsequently meant they could just choose something further than the last longest distance at the forced pick.
“That's more like it” Binne said offering a nod to his competition. “Let's see...ah that works.”
Binne pointed at the forest, past the targets they were shooting at, roughly eighty yards out.
“That apple stem,”
Luro rested the rifle on his shoulder as he looked at a fresh apple hanging from one of the branches, he offered a nod and took his rifle off his shoulder and fired. The apple fell from its perch shortly after, applause and a few whistles came from the onlookers and Binne’s eyes twitched but he offered clapped his hands as well.
“So what are you hitting-“
Luro held up a finger and ran towards the forest, Binne watched the man run over to the forest then returned with the apple, rubbing it on his outfit he motioned for Binne to continue. Shaking his head slightly he started again.
“So what are you-”
Binne stopped as Luro crunched loudly into the apple, his eyes narrowing as Luro loudly chewed in front of him waiting for him to finish.
“…what are you-”
Crunch
Binne stared at Luro whose brows only arched, he opened his mouth only to close it as Luro continued to chew, he waited for the man to swallow his food only for Luro to stare at him still waiting for him to finish.
“What are-“
Crunch
Binne knocked the apple out of Luro’s hand before pointing at him.
“What are you shooting at?!”
Luro watched the apple roll a few feet away and pouted a little, rubbing his hand on his outfit he pointed at Binne.
“Huh?” Binne said also pointing at himself.
“You can be my target. Go as far as you want and move as much as you want.”
“…really?”
“Yep,” Luro said picking up the apple and brushing dirt off it. “I won’t hit you anywhere that’ll kill you. Promise. So go as far as you want.”

Binne arched a brow at the man but somehow staring at his smiling expression lit a fire under him, he wanted to shatter this man’s confidence so he agreed. Turning he sprinted into the forest passing where the apple had been shot and moved deep into the woods.
He told Luro once he passed where he had shot the apple he could shoot whenever he wanted.
He expected a shot immediately before he reached the depth of the woods but none came, by now he had run for a few minutes and couldn’t see the grounds anymore.
He kept up his pace glancing over his shoulder with a smile, he turned his attention forward as he moved between the tree’s, just as he reached a small stream, leaping over it, he felt something pierce his shoulder.
His eyes widened as he fell and tumbled along the ground, he grit his teeth at the pain and looked over at his shoulder, his eyes widening at the red enveloping his shirt.
“He….hit me…”
He was easily double the distance the original shot, if not for the bullet in his shoulder he won't have believed it.

A few minutes later Binne climbed out of the woods, there were doctors waiting for him at Luro’s suggestion, and they already moving to get the bullet out. Binne stared up at Luro who still stood in the same spot the old rifle resting on his shoulder. The onlookers after they had picked their jaws back up had confirmed that Luro hadn’t moved an inch, he had raised the rifle and fired before resting it back on his shoulder, waiting in silence afterwards.
“How…ow…how did you see me?” Binne questioned as the doctors continued treating his wound.
“I didn’t. You were too far away to see,” Luro said.
“What then how did you hit me!”
“Cause I didn’t shoot with my eyes,” Luro said turning and walking away from the man. “Some target’s ya can’t hit with your eyes alone.”
Luro gently set the gun back into the stack.
“I’ll duel you again anytime Binne! I gotta go find my Captain. Let's have a drink later!”
“That’s not my name and you’re damn right I’ll challenge you again one day!”
Luro offered a wave to the man and vanished down the hill.



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The warm autumn breeze carried with it a myriad of scents that tickled Imposter’s nose as she climbed the orange tinted hill towards her destination. Granted she knew that everything here was fake no matter how real it seemed, the warmth of the wind that tickled her skin, the auburn sky above, even the cliffside she was walking up. All was a manifestation of one person, that very person standing at the edge of the cliff staring off into the horizon. A sea of violet stretching out far into the distance, three different colored suns close to vanishing below it.
“What brings you here Imposter?”
The woman’s voice gave her pause, she instinctively stood a few feet away from her causing Ashia to turn and face her. Hands still folded behind her back she offered a smile to her.
In a place separated from what would be 'normality' she stood without a care in the world.

Imposter returned the smile but there was an unspoken understanding between them.
“I’ve come to ask you a question,” Imposter said.
Ashia offered a nod before her eyes moved along her form.
“I expected as much…though you still wear the guise of his sister?”
“Yeah…at first it was just too mess with him but I’m actually very comfortable in it now.”
Ashia offered a small shrug at this and Imposter spoke up again.
“Anyway my question, why-”
“Do you want pie?”
“…huh?”
“Pie, I’m the mood for pie. Should I make some?”
“I don’t really want pie.”
“Shame. Anyway continue sorry for interrupting.”
“Right. So question-”
“Why not though? I mean it’s delicious.”
“Just not in the mood.”
“…I’m disappointed in you on many levels.”
Imposter squeezed the bridge of her nose as Ashia shook her head somewhat solemnly.
“Look…you know why I’m here. I know you know why I’m here. Can we just move past the part where we mess with each other.”
“No.”
Ashia response was firm as she motioned to Imposter.
“I want to mess with you.”
Imposter eyes narrowed a bit at the woman who smiled back at her.

There was no such thing as hierarchy among Imposter’s or at the least she didn’t believe there was, hierarchy was a sign of order and she herself was a being of chaos. Thus there was no one ‘above’ another in her system.
Strength however was recognized and acknowledged, and that is what gave her pause.
This woman was stronger than her, considerably so. She could kill her right now and there was nothing she could do to stop it, and that wasn’t a defeatist mindset, it was a harsh reality she faced the moment they first met face to face.
It was an understanding who was the predator and who was the prey.

Ashia had separated herself from the other Imposter’s, she had given herself a name, bound herself to something, all Imposter’s knew what that meant. To mortals her naming herself ‘Ashia’ may be a flight of fancy but to most of them it was essentially a proclamation. Imposter felt no fear but this woman’s choices was the closest thing to ‘terrifying’ as one could get with them.
“What do you need Imposter?”
Ashia moved the conversation along apparently wanting to continue with what she was doing.
“Why did you meet Luro?”
The question caused Ashia’s hand to come around to her chin.
“What do you mean?” She questioned.
“I mean…you appeared before Luro years ago, introduced yourself then vanished again and haven’t been back since.”
Imposter said this offering a shrug to the woman.
“He asks about you ya know,” she said.
Ashia brought a hand to her face allowing a blush to cover her cheeks, the act caused Imposter’s eyes to twitch.
“We both know you hate him so let’s not go down that road.”
“I do not hate Luro,” Ashia said stretching her arms above her head. “Luro after all will help me, especially considering our deal.”
“…I don’t follow.”
“No you don’t,” Ashia said smiling at Imposter. “Because you all can’t see what I see. Would you like to know what I see?”
“…sure.”
“Oh well now I’m not gonna tell you out of principle.”
Imposter sighed crossing her arms causing Ashia to wave a hand at her.
“I’m kidding, there’s just no point. I already have what I need so there’s nothing you can do to stop it. That’s what you really wanted right?”
Imposter eyebrows twitched but she kept any further emotion from showing on her face.
“I’ve already won. There’s no stopping it now,” Ashia said turning back towards the horizon.
“…you’re not worried about Jones?”
“No his chance passed years ago.”
“Fair enough that old man is past his-”

Imposter froze up as her head was removed from her shoulders, she reached up touching her neck seeing her head was still attached but her blood had run cold, her palms sweaty as she found it hard to breathe for a moment.
She looked up to see Ashia glancing back at her, Imposter swallowed the feeling that tried to surface within her at the warning given.
“Do not insult him, he has earned his place unlike some of you,” Ashia said. “Your lack of respect is why you all are still bound. Also your focus that Jones is the only obstacle."
Ashia turned her attention forward.
“There is only one who can truly stop me…and they haven't been born yet, and I’ll be done by time they are,” Ashia said. “I will reshape the very threads of fate this time. You all can watch hanging by your invisible wires; your reasoning trapped in threads weaved by your own ignorance.”
Ashia turned around offering Imposter a grin.
“Basically you dumb, me smart.”

Imposter scoffed before a laugh escaped from her as she took a few steps closer to Ashia.
“I’m going to enjoy watching you fall off that pedestal you put yourself on. I figured we’d all knew what happened to the prideful at this point.”
Imposter returned her grin to her but it faded only seeing Ashia’s smile widened, the woman walked towards her as the two sun's behind them vanished
“Oh silly other me, it’s not pride.”
Ashia pat her on the shoulder as she passed her.
“I told you. I've already won.”
Imposter watched the woman leave and let out a breathe she didn't ralize she was holding, it felt strange coming from her but that Ashia woman was going to be trouble, she could feel it. While this thought circulated her thought something occured to her.
"Hey she didn't answer my question!"
The fact Ashia's laugh echoed further down the way only irritated her further.
 

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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
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  2. One post per week
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Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Primarily Prefer Female
  4. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
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Jack followed his captain as a spectre in the crowd. Seeing Runali separated and carted away from the celebrations twisted up his paranoia – though, logically speaking, he knew nothing would come of it. Not here, where the Pirate Lord’s wrath was imminent to anyone who broke the rules. And why lie to himself? He wanted to see where all the Worst Gen captains had gone.

No sooner than Runali and her escort turned into an alleyway, Jack’s stalkery came to an abrupt and annoying end.

JaaaAaaAck Kunal!” A warbly and horrible rendition of his name introduced Cecilia Pennyworth’s tackle. Jack clamped down his instinct to dodge her and stumbled as she collided drunkenly with him. The perfume of merlot wine perforated around her, indicating she’d been well into the celebrations, and a sloshing glass of crystal red liquid showed she wasn’t done.

“Well, well. If it isn’t Stardusk’s number one fan,” he said with dripping sardonicism, completely lost on her.

“Jack! My faaaavorite chef. Chefy-chef. It’s been too long!” Her whole body trilled with her slurred her words as she rubbed against him.

Cringing and uncomfortable, Jack writhed in her hold as Cecilia went on, oblivious, with her commentary on how much she missed Stardusk, how were they doing, answering her own questions with her knowledge of their latest escapades (and surprising recall, given her drunken state). He gained enough wiggle room to push her away, which he thought was gentle, but sent her careening into Sergei – the Court’s navigator who appeared out of nowhere. Jack eyed him suspiciously before turning a smile mask back toward giggling Cecilia.

“It’s good to see you both again. I see you haven’t lost your enthusiasm for our crew.”

“Never! Your guys’ stories are the stuff of legends now! Legends! Soon we’ll be performing your actions and deeds, won’t we, Sergei? It’s only a matter of time before I convince the captains!” Singing the last word, she threw her hands up – and subsequently the wine – just in time for a warm breeze to waft over them, sending droplets conveniently away from them and onto passerbys.

Cecilia’s eyes widened. Her bare fingers flexed, reaching for more of the wind, but it’d disappeared. “Is that…?”

“If you’d excuse me. Perhaps we can talk later,” Jack interrupted, bowing to them, before turning around and following the wind’s direction.

Cecilia’s hands lowered, a smile slurring across her face. “Ah. What love… c’mon, Sergei, my S-E-R-geeeei. I need more wine – oh, is that Zilia!? ZiiiiiLiA!

*******​

Jack ended up on a rooftop that overlooked the center of the celebratory thoroughfare. Drunken shouts, cheering, and the occasional brawl all dimmed to an indecipherable din. He smiled slightly, enjoying the spectator’s view, but didn’t pay attention long. The wind picked up, playing with his hair and clothes, whispering, “Long time, no see.

Jack chuckled. Reaching out with a haki-covered hand, he closed his fingers around the air, and from it pulled out Adelaide Summer. He swung her around and they naturally fell into a slow dance.

“Missed me that much?” smirked Jack. “It’s only been a week since we returned from our honeymoon.”

Her smirk mirrored his own. “Please. You don’t think I’d miss the meeting of the Worst Generations, do you?”

“I see. You came prepared.” Jack’s eyes took in her ensemble. It was rather pirate-esque, more than her usual look. A sky blue vest and orange-hued sash layered over creamy off-shoulder blouse and billowy pants. That sash and headscarf were trimmed by goldtone charms – all of which sported the Stardusk symbol. She was passing herself off as one of them.

Not much of a stretch. Runali practically gave her honorary status, Jack mused.

Adelaide’s eyes agreed.

“You can’t tell anyone you’re not part of the crew,” Jack continued more seriously, “and no killing here. We don’t need the Pirate Lord and all the rest after our blood.”

“No fun,” Adelaide pretended to pout. Jack scoffed and pulled her closer. Their bodies meshed together, familiar, warm and comforting.

“Think of it as a challenge.”

“Oh?” her eyes trailed downwards from his eyes to his lips. “Why don’t you show me?”

*******​

An hour later, Adelaide left him alone on the rooftop. He wasn’t sure where she went but had the uneasy good guess it had to deal with Luro. They were two peas in a pod, to his eyes.

It was well enough. He wanted to do some reconnaissance anyways.

Returning to the streets, Jack wandered, drank a few glasses of rum – enough for it be smelled on his breath – and lit a cigarillo until he came across what he was looking for. Outside a tavern, a group of Sterling pirates gathered a gambling table. They didn’t know he’d snuck up until he dropped a heavy bag of gold in the middle of their meager pot.

“Mind dealing me in?” Jack slurred and grinned as he seated himself, curious to see what he could learn of their crew.

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SilentxChaos

Vivid Imaginings
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
  3. Slow As Molasses
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Primarily Prefer Female
  4. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, magical, modern, medieval, horror, dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, adventure, action, anime
Collab bet’w Mizos and Silent


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Location: Skull Island


In the heat of the evening’s festivities, Luro caught a familiar scent and light breeze. It was the only warning he got before the total weight of Adelaide’s corporeal body dropped onto his shoulders like a sack of potatoes.

“Hello, my djal!” Her breathless voice caressed his ear. She clung to the front of his robe, righting herself so she could straddle his shoulders and rest her chin atop his head. From there she could survey what he was doing. “It doesn’t look like your fun’s started yet.”

Luro’s nose twitched and a small smile formed on his face, he shifted his footing a bit before he felt Adelaide’s weight on him, with a grin he held a hand up to the woman.
“Hey Ali! Good to see ya again,” Luro said before focusing his attention forward.
He made sure to stay still until Adelaide was comfortable, accustomed to such things thanks to Runali and a slew of other faces that made his smile a little wider.
At the wind woman’s observation Luro rested his hands on his hips eyeing the forest straight ahead of him.
“It was supposed to start a few minutes-“
“Hellllo! All those gathered!”
Luro brows marched as a man jumped out of the forest, he soared through the air flipping a few times, and landing slid a bit forward arms outstretched. There was silence at his sudden dramatic entrance causing his gaze to move to the uninterested faces, save Luro who applauded with a grin.
“Fancy.”

The man cleared his throat apparently fine with not everyone appreciating his entrance.
“A pleasure to see you all again and welcome to the new faces. I am Mobis, the head of this particular game,” the man said with a small bow.
He was dressed in a simple outfit, a pair of black pants with accompanying shoes, a simple white dress up shirt slightly unbuttoned, ruffles along his wrist-cuffs.
An old worn out tricorne hat rested on his head, short blond hair poking out of it.
The only thing considered ‘fancy’ about him was the single monocle on his right eye.
Green eyes perused the faces for a moment as he offered a smile, when they landed on Luro and Adelaide however he paused, blinking a few times.
Adjusting his monocle he shrugged offering a nod to them as well.

“To those new to this game, let me explain the rules. It’s very simple, within this forest are Zoan’s in their animal form. Your duty is to catch them. Think of it as tag, merely touching them is enough for them to concede but they will run if they see you.”
Mobis motioned to the spots with mini wooden gates nearby, wooden signs in the center of the ‘pen’s.
“They’ll go into the one who captured them respective stall and stay there. The one with the most caught will be given the grand prize.”
Mobis held up a finger at this.
“There are rules however, the first and most important is no killing. We’re all here on Parlay and a death would ruin festivities, you don’t wanna deal with the Pirate Lord right?”
A few among the people gulped and Mobis nodded.
“Those who want to make an enemy of her go right ahead and ignore this rule, anything short of that is fair game though, we have doctors nearby.”

Mobis moved on holding up more fingers as he explained each rule.
Rule two was no powers in the first ten minutes, to make it fair for those who didn’t have them.
After that a horn would blow and it would be permitted. Observation was included in that and he had the horn blown so people would know what it sounded like.

Rule three was leaving the forest was akin to giving up, once you were in the forest you couldn’t leave till the game was over. A horn would blow to signal the end of the game, Mobis gave an example of the horn after explaining this, similar to the first to show their difference.

It was rule four however that made Luro pause.
“Rule four you may separate from your teammate but if they leave the forest and we see, and I assure you we will see you’re disqualified as well.”
Luro raised a hand and Mobis pointed at him.
“Yes red-haired giant.”
“What do you mean team member?”
Mobis blinked at this and looked at Adelaide then back at him.
“This event is a game of duo’s, you can’t participate alone. Game’s about to start so get ready with your partner.”
He motioned to Adelaide causing Luro to bring a finger to his forehead.
“Hmmm guess I forgot….hey Ali you wanna help me? I’ll split the reward with you. It’s treasure and blackmail on some high official guy. I don’t really care which I get I just wanna hunt somethin’.”

Mobis raised a hand at this to ask for attention.
“It’d be good for the other new blood to know too. The prize changes each year but it’s generally heaps of treasure, at the very least enough to fill a brigand and blackmail. Can’t go givin’ names for obvious reasons but I assure you it’s handy information,” Mobis said before a smirk found its way onto his face. “We’re pirates so it’s nice to have an official or two in your pocket ready to ‘ignore’ some of your crimes. Most of the old blood like having that ‘avoid jail or hanging’ card in their back pocket, makes the competition more fierce.”
Mobis offered a shrug at this.
“Course we’re open-minded. Some have just asked for a favor and we’ve given it if they don’t want the blackmail, most do though.”

Taking cues from Luro, Adelaide clapped at Mobis’s appearance, nonplussed by the looks the pirates gave them. The game and its rules certainly caught her attention. She tracked Mobis with a wide, unblinking gaze as her hands plunged into the bag that was always on her person, and then began fiddling with Luro’s hair. By the time the game master finished his spiel, Luro had a new adornment of tiny pink begonias, white calla lilies and yellow lilies weaving through his red locks.

Adelaide dismounted from his shoulder by swinging her legs over to one side, pitching forward, and falling into a graceful handstand on the ground. Like a natural performer, she folded into a backbend and then righted herself. She took in her handiwork on Luro’s hair with a bland smile.

“I’m always up for a hunt,” she replied in accordance.

Now in full view of him, Luro could notice her bright-hued, pirate-like ensemble with the Stardusk symbol hanging off as charms from her headscarf and sash.

She played with the whip at her hip as her eyes slid over their opponents. Excitement and bloodlust permeated from her, causing a few pirates to shift away when they met her gaze, even though they wouldn't be her targets. “This will be fun.”

Mobis gave a nod glad all was well though his eyes twitched a little seeing some of the groups back away, he really hoped those two wouldn’t be trouble.
“All right and final rule is don’t ignore the other rules, always gotta add that on sadly,” Mobis said before motioning to the group.
“All right let me introduce the duo groups!”
Mobis went through each person introducing the heads, leaving their partners to introduce themselves if they wanted, some did and some didn’t. Luro’s eyes moved to each person as Mobis named them and their group name. It made sense why he didn’t introduce the partners, he put all the leaders on the same terms, at the very least if they knew about each other. Their partners however would be their extra trump card. A few people stood out to Luro as the man continued.

“Over here we have the Black Skull’s with their leader Aronis.”
The leader of the group was a man dressed as one would expect of a typical pirate, just enough flourish to stand out he gave his long brown coat a small dust off, resting his gloved hand on his hip as a smirk adorned his somewhat chiseled features. He removed his hat and offered a bow, his short brown hair slicked back as he put it back on his head.
His partner was a simple looking youth with long black hair tied in a high ponytail, his eyes were shut but he seemed wholly aware of the people around him, he adjusted his tricorne hat as a greeting but remained silent, Luro questioned why the young man was shirtless but didn’t think past it. There was as probably expected a Black Skull on his back.

“Annnd over here we have the Reeds with their leader Kilan!”
Kilan held a hand up in greeting offering a smile, though it faded as his hand lowered seeing a few of the glares.
Kilan’s partner, a woman dressed in a brown cloak hiding her features, gave him a small pat on the shoulder causing him to smile.
His clothing was clearly from a different area, or at least modified to look like it. The outfit reminded him of Kaim’s a bit, a white short sleeve short with ornaments attached to them, and red baggy pants, though looking down at his own pants they weren’t much different.
He had medium length blond hair and amber eyes, adjusting his fingerless gloves he grinned ready for the competition to start.

“Annnnnd here we have the Dreamers leader Nurai.”
A tall woman adjusted her belt only to look up at being introduced, clearly not paying full attention. She was also clearly a pirate though she seemed more partial to her appearance. She wore a black vest over her ruffled shirt, accompanied by maroon breeches and high brown boots.

Luro wasn’t sure what to call her hat, it was a large one with a wide brim and feather sticking out of it, the name of it escaped him. The woman offered a smile and nod to the other competitors before going back to fiddling with her belt, her partner a woman dressed in similar somewhat regal garb sighed and bringing a hand to her face shook her head.
“Last but not least we have Luro and his team….uh...wait did you give a name, I don’t think you did.”
“Snapdragon!” Luro exclaimed.
“Ahhh the flower, they mean Grace correct.”
“And Deception.”
Mobis gave a nod at this before holding his hand up, bringing it down the horn for the game to start blew.
“Begin!”
The groups dashed into the forest as Luro walked towards it rewrapping some of the bandages around his arm as he kept a casual gait.
“...a-aren’t you going to run?” Mobis questioned.
“Running scares the prey and alerts the other animals. If their Zoan’s they’ll notice the other animals acting strange and be on guard, they’ll run where it seems safest, which is where we’ll be.”
“Ah you’ve clearly hunted animals before.”
“Them too,” Luro said smiling.
Mobis smiled at this before moving his hands to his hips.
“Well for your patience and showing of actual thought, which thank you by the way as we do want to put on a show, I’ll tell you something extra. The rules are important, so be careful about following them.”
With that Mobis raised a hand and walked off leading Luro to look at Adelaide as they headed into the forest.
“So Ali since we’re here….are you gonna explain what you and Jack did on this honeymoon thing? He won’t tell me, I even tried to poking thing and it didn’t work. Z said not to ask but he’s keeping it a big secret.”

Adelaide’s imperceivable smile caught Luro’s team name. She gave him the smallest nod of acknowledgement before clocking each team one last time as they disappeared into the forest. Many banked to the west, where the setting sun and glow from the pirate town lit the trees. To the east, darkness was settling fast. Adelaide pointed them in that direction.

An airy laugh met Luro’s curiosity. “Djal, some secrets are too juicy to spill. You want to consume them all for yourself.” She winked at him and let her words hang as they crossed the forest’s threshold.

Beneath the dense canopy existed a world of black and gray hues. The remaining light in the sky painted everything dim with few other colors coming through. Adelaide paused to let her eyes adjust then looked at the leaf-strewn ground. She took her shoes off and handed them to Luro. “Store these, would you?”

Toes curling into the cool damp dirt, Adelaide closed her eyes and drew a long, appreciative breath, allowing the scents, noises and air caress her like a welcoming home. When she opened them, she headed toward the nearest tree.

“Ten minutes, and we can make this game over if we wanted to. In the meantime, I’ll follow your infamous nose from up here.” Adelaide said as she scaled the tree and disappeared among its branches, calling to mind the image of a squirrel. From the forest floor and up, she never made a sound.

“I can still hear you from up here. A pity our first hunt together has restrictions.” She paused, then added, “Well besides that one time.”

Luro pouted a bit at not getting the secrets from Adelaide either but smiled and seemed to let go just as fast, taking her shoes with a nod he watched as she scaled the tree. By time eyes were back on him the shoes were gone, since there were no bulges in his outfit there was no guarantee where they were but the giant did have them somewhere on him.
“Hahaha we should give everyone a chance, sides’ it’s more fun when you’re down a bit and come back anyway.”

Luro grinned thinking back to the last time the two of them were on the ‘prowl’ and crossed his arms grinning into the wilderness.
“Oh yeah that was fun, they still talk about it there, though it’s in hushed whispers n stuff,” Luro said before walking forward.
It didn’t take long for him to come to a stop, he sniffed the air for a moment before a chuckle escaped from him and he pointed ahead.
“Ohhhh good direction Ali! I already smell one...it’s that...yeah that Viper in that tree.”
Luro pointed at a snake on a nearby branch, upon closer inspection it did indeed look different from the other animals, it just seemed…’off’ compared to the ones around it.
“All right let’s-”
Luro cut himself off mid step before leaning backwards as a whistle filled the area, a gunshot following, the bullet narrowly missing him.
In that same moment a blur grabbed the snake, only landing in a nearby tree for a moment. Luro noticed it was the Black Skull pirate, though his hat was off revealing a pair of ears on his head, his beady black eyes moved up to brush above before his body trembled and he kept moving, perhaps sensing the danger nearby.
In the span of a few seconds the snake was there then gone, and Aronis grinned raising his smoking gun.
Luro’s smiled at the man raised a hand, while Aronis thought it was Luro showing he wasn’t going to fight it was actually him not wanting Adelaide to reveal herself. She was by all means his trump card, and he seemed keen on not revealing his hand over getting shot at.
“Oh nice dodge, we’ll be taking that snake thank you,” Aronis said tipping his hat.
The man laughed and vanished into the wood as quick as he came and Luro lowered his hand.
“Oh it got way more fun.”
“I got you now bastard!”

A voice came out of the brush, the owner stumbling a bit as Kilan ran out into the open, noticing it was Luro he stopped and kept his distance, at the redhead’s smile he seemed to relax. He didn't see any weapon on the man so perhaps being near someone unarmed was enough for him to relax
“I heard ‘his’ gunshot, nearly missed my head in the process…” Kilan said. “Oh you’re the Snapdragon leader….where’s your...oh no did they get your partner too?”
Luro tilted his head at this, he could still pick up the two’s scents but decided not to follow them, he could tell there were already traps laid out, they clearly wanted to be chased.
“No one really ‘get’s’ Ali, she’s nearby,” Luro said. “What happened to your partner?”
“Those bastard Black Skull’s shot my partner in the leg, I recognized the sound of his gun. It’s custom, made to whistle when it fires right? We fell for it and looked instead of dodging. She pushed me out of the way and is now being treated at the meeting place.”

Kilan closed his hand into a fist as his body trembled, leading Luro to look in the direction where they’d come from, he offered a nod seeing Kilan was telling the truth, the scent of blood came from that way as well. Turning back around he looked where the Zoan had gone.
“Can you change into a Zoan in the first 10 minutes?” Luro asked.
“No, that's against the rules, you have to stay in your human form. Those two are cheating.”
“Boo...I was going to wait another minute before cheating.”
“It’s been two minutes since we started…”

Luro shrugged at this and Kilan sighed before motioning to the two of them.
“Well that is allowed...it’s not openly shared but you can break the rules so long as you don’t get caught. The judges mainly watch the exits of the forest, while some eyes are in the forest you can by all means cheat if you’re good enough. It’s your risk though, the previous players have an idea where the eyes are so it’s easier for them, at least that’s what I was told by the person whose place we ended up taking.”
“Ahh...that’s what Mobis meant by ‘be careful’, so it’s fine so long as you’re not seen,” Luro said bringing a hand to his chin. “Thanks for the tip.”
“Oh uh...yeah no problem. We may be competing but you guys seemed nice and you got screwed over by those bastards too. At this point I’m fine so long as they don’t win.”
Luro picked a stick up off the ground before drawing a circle in the dirt, as he did he started drawing little trees here and there.
“Ali we don’t gotta be nice anymore,” he said out loud causing Kilan to arch a brow and look around. “I’m drawing a circle of the forest.”
“What is...are you talking to the wind or something?”
“Yep.”
“I-I see.”
“Observation counts as cheating too right?”
“Yeah but it’s hard to track so most judges only look for obvious signs. I mean it’s not like someone could see this whole forest with their Observation...that’d be on a whole other level.”
Luro stared at Kilan for a moment and smiled.
“Yep, that’d be basically impossible for most here.”

Adelaide’s amused laugh kissed Luro’s cheek on the warm wind. The air around him, in fact, grew warmer with her presence and staved off the night’s chill. To Kilan, he felt a shiver and heard incomprehensible whispers on the winds that began swishing through the treetops.

The feeling of Adelaide pressed closer to Luro, like she was looking at his circle over his shoulder. She hadn’t thought much of the ten-minute rule, either, but knowing their adversaries were also rotten cheaters was good enough reason to do the same. She kept close to Luro but pieces of her awareness considered Kilan too. The man presented himself too easily. They could take him out, eliminate his team entirely… but would that be fun?

She considered this while whispering to Luro, “What are you planning? I see your fingers itching with ideas.

Kilan quickly looked around at the sudden whispers and rubbed the back of his neck, he started to wonder if something else was in these woods. He looked over at Luro only to see the redhead reasonably calm still messing with his circle, he seemed far more content than he was, a chuckle escaping him as he glanced at his shoulder than back at his drawing.
Kilan was staring to wonder if this guy was really okay when he spoke once again to nothing.
“A fun way to bring this all together…but for now let’s pretend we don’t know. I want to check something,” Luro said.

Luro looked over at Kilan causing him to jump.
“You said your partner was out right? Is she allowed to yell information to you?”
“Huh…uh yeah. It’s not against the rules.”
“Good,” Luro said. “I’m going to give you information for information then.”
Kilan arched a brow at this and Luro pointed at the woods.
“I’ll tell you where two Zoan are if you do me a favor later.”
“Really?! Of course! What do you need?”
“I want you to go to her and find out what she’s seen on the outside, you’ll share that with us. I’d say…when we reach the 10 minute mark speak with. Do this and I’ll make sure Black Skull doesn’t win. Meet me in this spot again shortly after the horn blows.”
Kilan crossed his arms, his eyes narrowing for a moment but after a small nod he looked back at Luro.
“I can do that.”
“Also the Zoan’s know about our team’s right?”

Kilan offered a nod explaining they were informed of the teams from the beginning and even watched some of the group’s form, so there should be no confusion, the signs in the pens were also simple and easy to understand.
Luro thanked him at the end of his explanation and directed him where two Zoan’s had gone, Kilan thanked him and ran off, once he was fully out of sight Luro looked back down at his drawing.
“So this is where all the Zoan’s are,” Luro said.

He made numerous circles in the mini forest outlining where he picked up their traces, there were a little over ten left even with those three taken.
“We should be able to gather them long before the ten minute horn blows,” Luro said bringing a hand to his chin. “…the fun part comes after that though. I think I might know what they have planned going off their weird movements…but I need to confirm it first.”
Luro grinned a bit at this.
“Kilan will help with that,”

Luro drew person-shaped circles showing the remaining teammates.
“A lot of the teams are being eliminated too before the 10 minute mark. Ali if you could find the location of the Reed’s that will help. I want to find them and see what they’re up to. I got the Black Skull scents, but I don’t know theirs.”
Luro said all this before taking his foot and rubbing out the circle.
“We’ll end up back here anyway for Kilan so if we separate I’ll be here,” Luro said bringing smiling. “Not that you’d have trouble findin’ me anyway though.”
Luro held his hand out and gripped the air, as he did his rifle seem to materialize out of nothing causing Luro to grin as he felt the familiar weight.
“Let’s get hunting Ali.”


No further commentary needed. The temperature spiked around Luro, showing Adelaide’s unfettered enthusiasm, before she left him to the night’s chill. Her scent, however, was everywhere. Free from being in one physical form, Adelaide herself stretched effortlessly across the forest. Her awareness waxed and waned, and soon Luro began receiving trickles of information. The scents of Zoans, teams and the few watchers inside the forest grew stronger to him (as Adelaide’s own remained everpresent). Snippets of conversation floated around with the fireflies coming to life among the foliage, though this was a side effect of Adelaide’s spying.

More than once Luro heard voices get cut off abruptly into short, desperate gasps, like they were suffocating. And then he’d discover the said bodies: untouched, unconscious, but breathing. Merely suffocated until they blacked out. Some were of the pirate teams; and one or two Zoans.

Near the 10 minute mark, a new scent would catch Luro’s attention. It was accompanied by Adelaide’s voice.

The Dreamers. They’re twitchy. I think they know we’re in the lead.

Luro grinned seeing Adelaide already at work and ran off himself, thanks to her he was able to fill in some of the gaps at what was happening, they had guessed it but there were plenty of people cheating in the competition, some not in the fun way.
He purposefully avoided the Black Skull and Dreamers targeting the other teams, with Adelaide’s help it didn’t take too much effort to take them out, the Watchers finding their bodies and dragging them out in the process.
A group pulled a gun on Luro from behind, not noticing the redhead’s smile before a shadow loomed over their backs, the group falling unconscious immediately after as both Luro and the form vanished.
He came in contact with a few Zoan’s in the process, grinning as he placed a hand on them watching as they grumbled but headed back to the meeting area.

Thanks to Adelaide he was able to find the Dreamers mid hunt, arms crossed he peered around a tree to the leader who was staring at a Zoan she had captured, placing a bag of gold in his hand, the Zoan smiled and pointed in a direction before heading back to the meeting place, the Dreamers going in that direction.
With a grin Luro leaned off the tree as the 10 minute horn blew indicating powers were now allowed, rubbing his hands together he headed back to meet Kilan.
“If my guess is right this is about to get even more fun Ali.”
Kilan stumbled out of the brush again breathing heavily to see Luro leaning against a nearby tree, his rifle had vanished once again and he raised his hand offering a wave to the man.
“T-this is bad!” Kilan said. “I talked to my partner as you said…and something doesn’t add up. The Black Skulls and Dreamers are basically tied and what’s worse…the two Zoans you helped me catch didn’t go to our pen!”

Luro leaned off the tree at this and nodded.
“Makes sense.”
“Huh?” Kilan said.
“The Zoans are on an honor system, unless a judge see’s you catch one they can just claim someone else did, and the Zoans know where the judges are being part of the game…or at the very least can smell them nearby.”
Luro laughed a little at this.
“It makes sense they’d pay them off or just threaten them before or during the game.”
Some of the conversations Adelaide had floated his way had been just that, some of the other teams had tried bribing the Zoans but they declined already getting a larger paycheck or having a whistling gun shoved in their face moments before.”

Kilan hearing this narrowed his eyes before his fist slammed into a nearby tree, ruffling the leaves slightly.
“Those bastards…well it’s to be expected of pirates I guess,” Kilan said sighing. “This was supposed to be a friendly competition.”
“Some people gotta win no matter what,” Luro responded smiling at the man. “Also yeah it’s proper for pirates to cheat n stuff, but there’s a difference between cheating and being afraid of losing. I’m not mad at them for getting an edge, I’d do the same.”

Luro held up a finger at this.
“The Dreamers and Skulls are afraid of a proper challenge, you however Kilan…you’ve been running around playing fairly, you don’t mind playing with limitations cause your confidant in yourself. If you lose it’s on your terms, I play with limitations too so I like you for that.”
A small blush fell on the man’s cheeks and he rubbed the back of his head at the sudden compliment.
“Ah thank you…wait no we have to do something! Maybe we can knock them out.”
“Won’t work, yeah we could but they’d probably still win, no rule saying being knocked out doesn’t mean your score isn’t counted, and it’s their word against ours.”

“So we do nothing and they win,” Kilan said his shoulders drooping.
“No Ali and I will take it from here, you should leave the forest.”
Kilan’s eyes widened at this and Luro held his hand out causing his rifle to manifest once more, the act caused Kilan to take a step back.
“I know I’m asking you to quit but trust me, you don’t wanna be in here for what’s going to happen. Go to your friend, we’ll make sure the Black Skulls and Dreamers don’t win…unless you have an idea.”
Kilan stared at Luro then looked around the forest as if searching for his ‘trump card’, ultimately he left the matter alone, he couldn’t deny he had no way of dealing with those two minus ‘hitting them really hard’.
“All right….fine,” Kilan said. “I meant what I said, as long as that bastard doesn’t win I’m fine with whatever result.”
“Good,” Luro said. “Just watch from somewhere high up.”

Once Kilan was gone Luro drew a circle into the ground.
“You may already see what I’m going for Ali…as we took out everyone but those two and Kilan who just willingly surrendered…there’s one way to keep all their Zoans from counting.”
Luro grinned at this.
“Manipulating within Stardusk isn’t looked well upon.”
A pair of sharp canines formed in the redhead’s mouth as something pulsated around his body for a moment, some dark that somehow chilled the air around him further.
“Outside of it is fair game though.”
A toothy grin formed on his face though he blinked a few times and shook his head as his teeth returned to normal, and he shook off whatever ‘that’ was.
“Ali if you could lead them into this part of the forest…we can end this. We have to get them there without knocking them out, they need to be conscious. We need them there before the game ends and there’s only one Zoan yet, so I leave it to you, sorry to give you the hard job.”
Luro circled a quarter of the forest, the part nearest to the meeting place.
“We’re putting them in their own pen. I”ll handle the gates once you get them there. After that…uh…get a good look from a fair distance.”

Rippling sensations pressed around Luro at his subtle change. They seemed to be… agreeable. Adelaide synchronizing with him. Even as words of caution floated nearby, perhaps unwarranted when she felt him return to normal.

Jack forbade me to kill on this island. If that applies to me, it applies to you too, djal.” Part of her head reformed at the corner of his vision so she could kiss his cheek. “Good luck.

And then Adelaide and her winds dissipated. Not even her floral fragrance remained.

The screaming started moments later.

Pirates crashed through the trees. Chasing them were gales as cold as a tundra and vistages of ghostly beings, shrieking. Unholy terrors that appeared impervious to attacks – and those with haki were too preoccupied by flight to notice deft dodges. But they were sliced and hurt whenever a “spirit” got to close, the wounds seemingly appearing from nowhere. Theatrics meant to herd them unknowingly to one location.

Luro eyelids lowered slightly at Adelaide's words and he offered a small nod, smiling a little at the sign of affection. He took a deep breath in as Adelaide left and let it out, taking a moment to calm the swirling emotions.
She was right he couldn’t risk losing track of his current state.
He slapped his cheeks with both hands to ‘wake himself up’ before turning and grinning as he heard the screams.
The Skulls and Dreamers stumbled through the forest, Aronis fired back at the horrid creatures only to give up seeing it wasn’t doing anything, his companion had by now passed him, multiple marks on his exposed flesh and rips in his pants at trying to meet one head on.

“My outfit!” Nurai said pulling on her now ripped clothing. “You’re going to pay for this!”
“How is a ghost going to pay for your outfit, just run!” Her partner screamed.
Noticing they were running towards the exit of the forest the group turned away from it but ultimately didn’t get far as something in their instincts made them skid to a stop.

All the animals immediately fled the area as if recognizing the danger, each one either leaving the forest or moving away from whatever was threatening them, or warning in a sense.
Aronis knew when he felt bloodlust, and it’s potency was enough to make him freeze up, he could almost feel invisible hands around his throat.
The group was about to join the animals in retreat when earthen walls shot up, multiple ones rising up around them until they were trapped on all sides, with only the ‘top’ open.
“W-what?!” Aronis exclaimed before punching at the wall of soil, he groaned and pulled his now stinging hand back shaking it off.

Though they seemed like barriers made of of dirt, rocks lied under it making it hard to break through, even using his Armament didn’t do anything, and he didn’t dare risk shooting it in this enclosed space since it was clearly solid.
“Climb up and get a look at what’s happening,” Aronis said to his companion.
The Zoan nodded and started to climb the wall since the top was still exposed but once Luro was sure Adelaide was no longer within it, the dirt moved towards itself and cut the top off, blocking the sky and subsequently their only light as the only exit was closed off.
“What’s going on?!” Nurai said looking around. “We’re trapped! Who’s doing this?!”

A light suddenly appeared within the darkness and the four looked at the source to see a young child standing between them, he held up a lantern with a blue flame within it, the only light within their makeshift jail.
The group’s eyes widened seeing the young boy dressed in simple clothes, a tunic and a pair of shorts with brown boots. His short red hair was reminiscent of a certain someone as was his facial features.
“A child...when did he-” Nurai said before the boy held up a finger stopping her from talking.
The boy opened his ‘lantern’ and the blue flame poured out of it, within seconds miniature blue spheres of flames surrounded the group, flowing all the way up to the top of their makeshift prison.
Though his voice was boylike, there was a weight behind his words that sent a chill down the spines of those nearby.
“Hello this is your god speaking!”
The fires flared and the boy grinned, teeth reminiscent of a shark’s filling his mouth, as his eyes formed into slits revealing his true face.
“You might wanna start praying.”

The explosion almost threw back the onlookers outside the ‘arena’, Mobis had to ground himself as he watched a quarter of the forest be consumed by bright blue flames. His eyes widening as the tree’s down to their stumps were disintegrated by the searing flames. Kilan watched the scene with wide eyes, the searing heat passing over him and his partner even as they watched from atop a nearby hill. The flames rose high up into the sky before fading away into embers which lightly rained down on those present.
When the smoke cleared pieces of the earth fell back into itself revealing the Skulls and Dreamers who stood unharmed.
The group looked around and immediately started patting themselves, Nurai fell onto her rear shivering and Aronis cackled throwing his arms out.
“Hah! Some god! You missed!”
“Disqualified!”
“Huh?”
Aronis blinked at the sudden proclamation before fully looking around, Nurai doing the same. The forest no longer existed where they were save the stumps around them. Aronis could only stare in shock realizing they were now out of bounds.
“I’m not sure how but you’re outside the forest! So disqualification,” Mobis said pointing to the two. “Which means the winners...are Team Snapdragon!”
Luro grinned and walked out the forest at this, Nurai stumbled back pointing at Luro as he stepped into the light.
“A-ah! It’s the grown up version! It’s the adult version of god!”
“Now what are you on about,” Luro said grinning at the woman.
Her eyes widened seeing the sharpened teeth in his mouth.
“I’m clearly human.”
Nurai stood up and ran off down the hill screaming with her cohort, Aronis only able to watch with his eye twitching.
“We were...tricked…” he mumbled. “Wait that’s not fair! That shouldn’t count.”
“There’s no rules saying you can’t ‘move’ the arena, and I count that as outside the forest,” Mobis said. “You lost.”

Luro laughed a little as his ‘appearance’ returned to normal not wanting anyone else to see, Adelaide’s shoes were in his left hand at this point.
“Hehe I knew it. Oh right the soil and roots weren’t damaged, so if you continue to take care of her and she continues to get proper nutrients those stumps will grow back into trees,” Luro said. “By the way Skull guy, why did you stand still? All the animals ran away when they felt ‘that’, you should listen to your instincts you know.”
Aronis grit his teeth but could only clench his fists and glare at the redhead.
“A strange victory but one nonetheless! Come and pick your prizes you two.”
“You did a lot of heavy lifting Ali so you can pick which one you want first,” Luro said holding the shoes out. “That was fun.”

The sound clapping resonated all around them as winds whipped around, congealing in front of Luro until Adelaide stood there in her whole human form. “Where do you pick up all these neat tricks? You’ll have to tell me some day. Maybe I’ll give a hint to what happened on my honeymoon.”

Slipping her shoes back on, she paused long enough to reach up and straighten one of the calla lilies tucked behind Luro’s ear. I was right to chose these for you, Luro. She smiled behind the thought.

She wasn’t sure about the “heavylifting”, but she wasn’t about to turn down a gift. “I’ll take your blackmail. Information’s richer than currency nowadays.”

That last line, Luro might recognize, having heard it from Jack more than once.

Everyone save Mobis and Luro jumped a bit as Adelaide reformed, Kilan who had rejoined them started putting pieces together as they rejoined the group about what happened in the forest, having left their ‘watching spot’ from above.
At Adelaide’s offer Luro raised his hands to his head but stopped remembering the flowers were there and brought them to his face instead. He closed his eyes taking a moment to contemplate what she said, that was a really tempting offer and he really wanted to know.
“Hmmmm….that’s kinda tempting....”
He was interrupted from his thoughts by one of the flowers being straightened pulling him back to the situation at hand, her comment on information bringing a small smile to his face.
Somehow he had a feeling she may choose that one but it was up in the air with Adelaide.
Mobis happily handed over a sealed envelope to Adelaide and with a wave of his hand, multiple judges started carrying chests filled with treasure to Lady Luck at Luro’s direction.

“Well I offer my congratulations to you two, this has been a fascinating-”
“W-w-w-w-w-w.”
Mobis cut himself off as Kilan’s partner pointed at Adelaide, her jaw dropping as she tried to form words.
“W?” Luro said tilting his head.
“Windy she-devil.”
“What?!”
Kilan looked over at Adelaide before his eyes moved over to Luro as he pointed at him with a trembling hand.
“...wait...what was your name again. Djal Lu something right?”
“Nah that’s just what Ali calls me, formal name’s Luro Makchi.”
“Lu-” Kilan couldn't even finish his sentence. “You’re worst gen! S-second! The Stardusk Pirates!”
“It’s an honor to meet you,” Kilan’s partner said lowering her head, Kilan doing the same.
Aronis eyes seemed to widen realizing the same thing, he instinctively touched his neck and averted his gaze.
“You...look different from your wanted posture sir,” Kilan said raising his head.
“Luro’s fine but yeah it’s not very flattering. No need to bow though.”
“W-we’re big fans. Stardusk gave us hope when we were first starting out. You guys always managed to do the impossible,” Kilan said. “We never thought we’d actually meet you though…”

Adelaide twiddled her fingers at Kilan and his partner as she accepted the envelope from Mobis. Considering she’d donned the Stardusk sigil only yesterday, never truly caring to be part of the crew itself, lent endless amusement at hearing her mock pirate moniker being associated with them. It appeared that being an “honorary member”, as Runali dubbed her, helped her cheat her way onto this island more than she could have anticipated.
Breaking the seal on the envelope, Adelaide flipped through the contents quickly. Once done, she tucked them neatly back inside and then slipped them into Luro’s robe. “For safe-keeping,” she said with a smile and a pat on his chest.

“You really do know how to show a girl a good time. I guess we’re even now for that time you ruined my fun with Jack.”

Luro offered a grin and a firm nod confirming that he’d keep an eye on it.
At the mention of ruined fun however Luro laughed a little and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Nice to hear Ali, I don’t think Jack’s let it go yet…maybe I should take him hunting too.”
His eyes moved over to Kilan and his partner before he pointed at them.
“Mind if I ask why you guys were in the competition?”
Kilan though hesitant at first shared the two’s story, Luro offering a nod hearing they wanted the money to improve their ship and general standing.

“S’true...you can only pillage and steal so much, especially in competition with other pirates in the area…”
Luro looked over at the gold and smiled a little as Kilan’s partner stared at Adelaide, still trying to process the presence she was currently standing in.
“Mobis person, can you put a quarter of that on their ship.”
“Sure consider it done,” Mobis said, adjusting his monocle.
Kilan almost fell to his knees at the offer, his partner failing to remain standing as Mobis directed some of the men to the other ship, after getting Kilan to share it’s location.
Luro looked over at Adelaide and pointed down the hill.
“All right first rounds on me Ali, or at the very least I’ll treat ya to something. Jack’ll get mad if I have all this money and don’t share it with my sister, especially when she helped earn it.”
Luro paused for a moment looking at her insignia.
“We’ll put aside that some of it’s yours too being a Stardusk.”
“Why?”

Luro stopped walking as Kilan stared at the two.
“Not that I don’t appreciate it but...that kind of money…we can’t pay that back, especially anytime soon.”
“Think of it as an investment,” Luro said. “That’s what Sor calls it I think. I want you guys to rise up in power and get better, then come work for the Captain, she’s aiming for the top spot after all so more allies the better right?”
Luro motioned to the two offering a grin to them.
“I’ll take a look at your ship later too. Give ya the old Makachi treatment.”
“T-thank you very much!” the two said bowing their heads again.
“Keep up the good work,” Luro said raising a hand to them. “I wanna hear all kinds of stuff about you guys.”
Luro headed back towards the main festivities pointing at one of the stalls to see what Adelaide wanted.
 
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Capt. Blu

Fake it til You Make it
Original poster
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per week
  2. One post per week
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
  3. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. No Preferences
Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Scifi, Anime, Steampunk, Heroes and Villains
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Time: Day 3 of Skull Island: Evening
Location: Skull Island

“She’s on her way!”
“She was with crew 8 today, I think.”
“Captain’s coming through!”
“Finally, I haven’t seen her in ages!”
“Not like there’s much