CLOSED SIGNUPS Two Times, One Sword (Closed)

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The black hand print around his neck was like a permanent tattoo, consistently squeezing at Yori's throat, as if his torturer was still there, holding his hand in place.

"What's your name?" said Kimaru. Yori's eyes darted around as his head remained staring upward. He couldn't tell how long it had been, as he could only smell cigarette smoke. Yori wheezed, but said nothing. Kimaru breathed out through his nose and smoke came out if his nostrils like dragon fire. He stood up, strolled towards Yori, and placed both hands above his eyes. Yori could feel both of his eyes suddenly burn as black ink as covered his eyes and the areas immediately around them. He screamed again, louder this time than around the neck. Everything became pitch black, and he was on the cusp of being rendered mad.

"Your name." Kimaru growled.
"Justice." Yori said.
Yori was the word for justice, Kimaru knew. Not that the name mattered. The Goddess would know the real article from a fake without the man giving a concrete answer.
"What were you doing with Hiroki?"
"Karaoke night."
"Yes, I was there. Why were you with Hiroki?"
"There's an evil." said Yori. "A greater evil." Yori clarified. He wheezed and laughed at the same time. Kimaru shrugged, checked his energy was still being drained from him, and the black tattoos were still doing their work, shrugged and sat back down. Inches.
 
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Tone 6th

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"Ugh! Dude I'm tired of just guarding this motherfucker, let's just waste him!" a thug said to Kimaru.

"And risk being shot in the face?" Kimaru remarked.

The thug sighed "Come on man, let's at least like... rough him up more."

"No."

"Well how about this?" he pointed to Yori's sword. "Could fetch a good price. I mean looks a little old but the black market loves old school."

"Fine whatever, if it shuts you up."

The thug took Yori's sword and put it up online given the name "Old school sword."

-------
"Sir we have a hit on a sword that might have belong to Yori." an assistant handed a piece of paper to Hiroki's father.

"Wonderful, pinpoint the ISP Address and trace it. I want this taken care of today."

"Of course sir." the assistant left quickly.
 

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Hanako was in front of the television, trying to relax after she had finished her long hours coding in her room. She was still alone, as Reo had already put Izumi to sleep and went to bed early himself. This left Hanako to fend for herself for supper, which was four slices of peanut butter on toast. Reo and Hanako hadn't talked to each other meaningfully ever since Hanako had offered a more substantial income to the household. News from her destroyed future was much more sensational, reporting kill counts, corporate espionage, and the like, while news in this time was much more droll, but at least happy, and mind numbing. They had weather reports. The only weather she had known before being flung to the past was everyday torrential rain. She turned on the TV, opening her mind to vegetate in her hoodie and pajama pants, carefully turning down the volume.

BREAKING NEWS: Block-wide fire, windstorm, gunfire and car explosions. City block a warzone.

It wasn't far from where she lived. If they had simply been on the other side of the city bridge a couple of kilometers their way, then her family could've been in the crossfire. The theories of the reporters drowned out as Hanako's mind already filled in the holes to what the causes may be. Only a couple of people had that kind of power: Yori and Jiro. Everything could've worked if Yori had just left things the hell alone! She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to breathe through her nose. She had hoped that if she had stayed quiet, she could live a life of her own. Instead, Yori stepped on the hornet's nest. Trying to look for her? It didn't matter. Yori used his power like a mindless engine of destruction, as she once was. That pained her, but it was true. It was clear that this Yori lacked any concern for the citizens around him when he had fought. It was also clear that as long as Yori drew breath, Hanako would never take comfort in knowing the life she had finally took charge of would be safe.

Hanako knew that she had to find him first to put a stop to it, but didn't know where to begin. All she could do was turn of the TV and race back to the computer to sift through the underground online message boards for some association, any association. However, it didn't take long for her to find exactly what she needed. Yori had been an idiot. There was an auction for his sword circling about black market goods enthuiasts, with the claim that it had been somehow recovered from the recent city conflict. However, as she put the trace on the location in which the auction had been hosted for his sword, the memory played in her mind.
---
A young teenage Yori stood in an open area of PaxCorp underneath an artificial tree with arms crossed. He looked anxious and confused. His alarm had been turned off the night before, and Neza hadn't barged in to throw him out of bed for their rigorous training regimen. Instead he had only found a note left by Ayako to meet her at this location, as well as street clothes to wear. When Ayako approached him in her civilian appearance mode, Yori feet shifted into a defensive stance.

"Do you know what day it is?" she asked.
Yori's eyes darted away from human PaxCorp associates around him. Their eyes lingered longer than they should have on him, or rather, his cybernetic parts, as they walked past.
"It's your 16th birthday."
Neza remembered how the puzzled look on Yori's face reassembled itself with a flush of embarassment for not considering the 'obvious' circumstances that morning.
"I see." Yori replied.

He couldn't be blamed for not knowing. PaxCorp agents weren't supposed to know their birthdays, though learning about the 'frivolous' concept of birthday was inescapable. Ayako had understood the concept of birthday to a normal child was meant to be exciting, but Yori had no such luxury for the years up to this one. However, Ayako's internal chronometer had started a new counter when Yori was grown and removed from the vat.

Ayako led Yori to the Research and Development wing of PaxCorp, whose access was normally restricted. In the hallways, the researchers and scientists didn't stare at Yori, but had friendly smiles on their faces. Ayako had arranged that all those who had taken part in the creation of Yori had the chance to see him again, and she guessed that Yori vaguely remembered the faces of his parents that were on the other side of the glass. They each introduced themselves, and shook his hand, congratulating him on how much he had exceeded their wildest expectations. Yori smiled back, overwhelmed by the praise of his extended family. Ayako and Yori walked into a closed room alone.

Yori had pointed on the desk and asked what was on it. Ayako told him it was a cupcake, and that it was his. He looked at it from different directions and asked how it was possible. She told him everyone here had chipped in, and not to focus on the details. She put a candle in it and told him to make a wish to keep secret to him, and blow it out. Yori, still visibly confused, blew it out easily. He then took a piece timidly and placed it in his mouth. He was holding back tears as he sat in silence, steadily taking pieces and eating them, savoring the rare sweet taste.

"There is one more thing." said Ayako. She pulled a wrapped wide box from a locked file cabinet drawer. Once again, Yori had to be instructed, this time in tearing the wrapping paper and opening the box. Yori lifted what was inside slowly with both hands, standing up slowly as he unsheathed the sword inside from the scabbard. Ayako took noticed that how Yori analyzed the blade's edge and spun it around to guage its weight.
"It is a completely new alloy." Ayako had said proudly.
"Who made this? I thought the researchers here were mainly biomechanics."
"They are. I alone invented the alloy. I alone crafted the sword."
Yori stood in astonishment. "That must've took -"
"A very long time, yes." finished Ayako. "Paxton's resources were available on the condition that PaxCorp gained ownership of the alloy patent, though I would retain sole credit for the invention. The sword you hold now, however, is one of a kind; the blueprint wasn't part of the deal. It is my greatest masterwork. It's now yours."
Yori knelt down and let go of the sword and walked towards Ayako. She didn't move as Yori's arms were wrapped around her tightly.
---

Hanako cradled her forehead and combed back her hair between her fingers. She remembered how bitter she had been when Yori had adandoned her to join the police force, but Yori never relinquished the sword she made when fighting for them. He even turned it against her, but again, he wielded no other sword. Yori had lost sight of the sword's value, and by extension, the value of his uncompromising principles. He had to die.
She walked towards Reo's bedroom and opened the door. Reo stirred, but Hanako sat on the bed farthest from him.

"Hanako?" said Reo "What's wrong?"
Breathing in and out slowly, sagging her shoulders, she replied, "I have to leave for a while. It's a family matter."
Reo sat up fully, alarmed, with his back on the headboard.
"I will never abandon you." Hanako assured. She leaned in and kissed Reo on the cheek. "I can't imagine how difficult it must be to have trusted, to still trust, me. However, I want you to know that, with you and Izumi, I've finally found the happiness I've been missing all my life."

Reo didn't have a chance to reply as Hanako had already left the room and closed the door behind her. She changed into street clothes as the tracer was finishing its process and giving her a coordinate. From the kitchen, she retreived a large black garbage bag and cut head and arm holes into it. Though crude, with an additional cut bag to act as a mask, it would provide a needed disguise and camoflage for the dark when she got there. The location turned out to be a warehouse of some kind. Not surprising. She retreived the pneumatic nail gun from the garage and a belt of nails, since the large kitchen knife had limited killing potential.
 
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Tone 6th

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An Ieyoshi squad car parked across the street from where the ISP was traced.

"Central this Touma, we've found the place. Looks like an old fishing warehouse... yup...4th street... okay approaching."

The car opened and the head of Ieyoshi security stepped out "Two of you around back, I'll take the roof." he ordered the other officers.

The man jumped onto a box then up to the roof and looked into the dirty saltwater crusted window. "I have eyes on Yori... looks like he's guarded.

 

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The black ink that had been injected directly into Yori's eyes with thumbs jammed in his eye sockets did not subside with time, and neither did the crushing stranglehold around his neck. The ink over his body stabbed his nerves and had squeezed his lungs, perpetually drowning him from the inside.

"I can make the pain go away." whispered Kimaru in Yori's ear. There was a moment's stay from the pain as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Yori turned his head, though blind, towards the source of the sound. It had been the only sound he had heard in a long time. "The name."
"Ayako."
It wasn't the name Kimaru expected, but Yori was broken.
"Where is she now?"
Yori shook his head, clenching his eyes tight.
"You don't know, or won't say?" said Kimaru coldly.
"I don't know."
"I see." Kimaru replied, taking the hand blocking the pain off his shoulder. Kimaru heard a single disgruntled laugh escape Yori's lips.
"Something funny?" said Kimaru.
"If you manage to get her attention, you'll wish you hadn't."
---

"Charges set." whispered one of the men into the two-way radio to Touma.
"Understood." Touma said back on the rooftop.
Neza had parked farther away from the warehouse and sprinted through the remaining blocks up the warehouse in her garbage bag camoflage. It was then she had heard an explosion and the sounds of gunfire.
 

Tone 6th

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Once the charges went off Touma busted through the roof window landing between Yori and Kimaru. "Yori Paxton you are being rescued by the Ieyoshi family, I'll have you out in a second." the older man drew his sword.

Kimaru back flipped a few times to get distance between him and the samurai. Gun fire came from the other room, both sides taking a few casualties.

"I don't know who you are but you're under arrest for torture, kidnapping, and unlawful imprisonment. On your knees, and hands above your head!" Touma ordered.

Kimaru narrowed his eyes at the old man before darting at him, aiming to grab his face.

The samurai let out a sigh before catching the attackers grab. He took Kimaru down to the ground, pinning his arm "Awlays want to do it the hard way." he got out a set of cuffs. Kimaru summoned an inky tendril and it slapped Touma into the wall.

The assassin took out his combat knife and stood over the officer "Ieyoshi garbage..." he said before coming down with the knife.

"Not so fast kid!" Touma kicked out Kimarus feet and sprang up to catch the kid with a knee strike to the gut. He got back over him and started to cuff him again. "Striking an officer is only going to put you away longer."

*BANG!* A gun shot went off and Touma had to quickly draw his sword to cut the bullet in two. "You ruined everything you old fuck!" the boss of the group yelled.



"Ah Kivees Sharu I should have known this was your doing. It's over, we've got you surrounded."

"Old fool I can see right through your bluff, all your men are dead!" Kivees laughed and fired a few more rounds at Touma, moving forward as he did so. He shot the cuffs off of Kimaru "Get up you idiot our plan is out the window because of you."

"Stop!" Touma shouted.

"I don't think so!" Kivees tossed a smoke bomb and escaped with Kimaru.

"Damn them." the samraui went to cut Yori down and lined out of the building.
 

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Hanako saw two groups of people exit the scene from the flaming wreckage, but only their silhouettes. If she had been the Ayako that she once was, she'd have the built in night and binocular vision to look for Yori among them, but all she could do was make a split-second choice, and let the adrenaline push her forward past the body she had retrained partly by briefly working in the Reo's mechanic shop.

Kivees could hear the rustling of Hanako's garbage bag suit, as they entered another abandoned warehouse a few streets down the road.

"Someone's still on our trail." said Kivees. "Prove to me you're still useful, or die."

Kivees and Kimaru disappeared into the shadows of the warehouse. Hanako gently pushed the warehouse door open, and slowly stepped inside. Kimaru narrowed his eyes. It was a worthless vigilante; he could plainly see the nail gun outside of the garbage bag suit. Kimaru reached for a clip on his belt to re-load his pistol. In a split-instant, Hanako reached for the light power switch behind her and flipped it without even looking at it, drawing the nail gun at the same time. The switch turned on the dim lights of the warehouse, illuminating where Kimaru was immediately. Hanako unloaded a clip of nails at Kimaru, who dodged them just in time to re-load his gun and to weave behind a pillar.

Kimaru heard more nails being fired, but nowhere near where he was, barely embedding themselves in the pillars. Kimaru fired back at the vigilante, but the vigilante moved in advance to where his shots were placed. Shooting at lights to make the warehouse dark again, he reacted to the other footsteps that resonated on the concrete, but where he expected someone as he rounded a corner, there was no one. The was when, to his surprise, he realized that a series of nails were bent on two pillars, to be used as kick off supports. He heard the sound of the nail gun re-loading with another cartridge from above.

Inky tendrils burst from Kimaru, which broke the beams above. He started to use the nails himself with the tendrils to throw himself midair in different directions. He fired once the vigilante was in the open, off guard, but Kimaru's new aerial speed. The mere bulk of the nail gun blocked a fatal bullet, but it was toasted, though he was also out of bullets. He pulled out his short blade in time to clash with the vigilante's large kitchen knife. The beams collapsed and they both landed on their feet on the ground of the warehouse.

"I won't lose to trash." said Kimaru, assuming a stance.
"Says the man who practices derivative Pax style." retorted Hanako.
"How the hell --"

Hanako charged. Kimaru's ink shot up at her as spikes as fast as scorpion stings. It cut through her garbage bags and her skin as she attempted to cut at them with her knife. It got stuck in one, and was absorbed. Hanako realized to her horror that the floor that was darkest had been covered by the ink since her opponent had been there, and now the ink was moving on it's own, rebounding off the floor and back at her.

Die. Kimaru thought dismissively. At every possible angle, spears of ink shot at her and she was stabbed in several places. Kimaru knew that it would quickly act as poison as the ink traveled through her veins. Instead, she yelled in a rage and the ink shot back out. All that remained were the cuts. A bright light shone through one of the Hankao's clenched hands, as she formed a blade through a straight cut in the air with her other hand. It was thin and had the color of a pale stone.

"The Moon Blade." said Kimaru in disbelief. "You're Neza."
From the shadows, Kivees walked out and clapped.
"Who are you? Another of Yori's lackies?"
"Oh, heavens no." said Kivees. "We're your fans."
"Fans?" Hanako said in disbelief.
The ink on the floor receded back to Kimaru, who sheathed his blade back.
"You will forgive Kimaru for his failure to keep Yori captured. I'm Kivees. Shall we talk?"
Hanako didn't understand why Kivees was so cordial now, as if the fight never happened.There was also a strange way about Kivees that Hanako couldn't pin on. Her instincts screamed that he was much more powerful than Kimaru. For now, she would listen. The Moon Blade dissipated.
---

Hiroki arrived at the medical facility underneath the modernized Ieyoshi manor as soon as he heard the news of Yori's return. Touma was outside the door of the intensive care room Yori was being kept in. He wished he could've asked how he was, as if everything was fine, but the look on Touma's face told him that it clearly wasn't.

"Report." said Hiroki.
"Yori's stabilized, but the doctors don't know the extent he will heal from his injuries."
"Cause?" said Hiroki. He replied quickly as to not betray his own emotions.
"Torture. It was too late by the time we got him. I take full responsibility for the failure."
"It wasn't you that let him get captured." muttered Hiroki. "Thank you for bringing him home. I'd like to see him."
"In his condition..."
"I know."

Hiroki stepped inside where Yori was. Yori was sweating profusely inside a sealed cylindrical chamber. Attached to his body were electrodes, and bruised badly. His muscles were diminished and his breathing sounded raspy through the oxygen mask. Hiroki looked at the chart instead to confirm the major injuries of his muscles, lungs, and throat, but also that he had been deafened, and was, at least for now, blinded. Touma didn't say how many good men he had lost to save Yori. Hiroki didn't want to think about whether or not it was worth it, but the question persisted anyway. Hiroki couldn't stand to see Yori like this.
 
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As Hiroki was watching over he felt a huge presence enter the room. "Its a pity seeing him like this, I though this future would give him peace." Amaterasu rested a hand on Hirokis shoulder.

"Lady Amaterasu!" Hiroki bowed. "I'm so sorry... this is my fault. I was supposed to be his welcome party and instead I almost get him killed." he sighed.

"The blame doesn't belong with anyone but the wretches who dare attack my warrior. I'll see to it that he makes a full recovery. I want you and your family to find out who did this."

(Place holder)
 

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Hanako, Kimaru and Kivees walked out of the warehouse a couple more blocks until they reached a black car.

"I like this one." says Kivees, pointing at the car. Without being told, Kimaru walked up to the car, the black tendril of ink coiling down his arm. It slipped through the frame easily and unlocked the car from the inside. Next he sat in the driver's seat. He patted his shirt pocket for his box of cigarettes, but they had been lost when their temporary holding was raided. He sighed. The ink slipped through the wheel keyhole, while Kimaru fully relaxed his arms, his head tilted back, silently groaning having to wait, before the engine revved and roared to life.
Kivees opened the back door for her, gesturing Hanako inside.

"Hop in."
Hanako looked around before getting into the car. The car-jacking had been frivilous, but that wasn't enough to conclude the true nature of Kivees. Kimaru was likely seen only as a pawn to him, one to be exercised constantly to prove useful. She entered the back seat and put on her seatbelt. Kivees shut the door behind him and lounged on the door with one arm behind his head as the car went, studying Hanako closely, bemused. Hanako, meanwhile, seemed tense.
"What's on your mind?" said Kivees, as though he were an old friend. Hanako glared at him for an instant before a manual blink, relaxing her muscles. Just prior, she had been fighting the driver of this car to the death while he watched in the shadows. She wanted to end the unfinished business with Yori once and for all, and instead she was in a car of Neza's 'fans', but she wasn't Neza, not anymore.
"You captured Yori instead of killing him." Hanako stated. "Was that to lure me?"
"Lure?" said Kivees incredulously. "It was a greeting. Hi, hello." Kivees waved and laughed uneasily. "He was needed for other things, but the important thing is that you're here."
"Why's that?" snapped Hanako. He had called himself one of her fans, but was that all? What was she to them? She could only suspect that this was the beginning of same cycle she wanted to break from, to be a pawn in someone else's game. Paxton, Gin, Kivees - men with an agenda of their own.
"Goodness me." said Kivees. "You expect demands, and why wouldn't you, with your history? I assure you, I have no demand."
"Then why?" Hanako pressed. "Why call me important? How do you even know me?"
"I only know what has been revealed to me." said Kivees. "Your importance doesn't stem from the brutish notion of utility. That's all I can say. I don't wish to impose a single thing on you. Earnestly, I want to help you."
"Help." Hanako repeated. If they were behind the recent act of terror in the city block, she could do without.
"Ask." Kivees proposed.
Hanako thought of a simple task. "Get me Yori's sword?"
"Kimaru," said Kivees. "the sword?"
"Some else wanted to auction it." Kimaru said curtly. "Don't know where it is now."
"That's how I knew." said Hanako. "I traced through the auction site to find the location where Yori was being kept hostage."
Kivees breathed through his nose and massaged his forehead with a gloved hand.
"It's fine." said Hanako. "Since the window was open for a while, I thought a recall order would be easy. If it was at the site where you kept Yori, I doubt it's there anymore."
"It's embarrassing. That's likely how the Ieyoshis found out where we were." said Kivees. "Are you sure it's fine? Why did you want it?"
"I heard the sword was powerful." Hanako lied. She had wanted it because it was arguably the greatest product of her intellect. She had wanted it earlier, when Yori had betrayed her when he had defected from PaxCorp.
"It was improperly balanced." said Kimaru from the front seat.
Specifically balanced, mentally corrected Hanako, for Yori's cybernetic strength, unique center of mass due to his insides being partly machine, and fighting style.
"Yori's supposed to be a legend," said Kimaru. "and he couldn't even defend himself. I'm not saying it's all the blade's fault, but it certainly didn't help him any."
"I wouldn't underestimate him." said Hanako.
"After fighting him once, and especially after torturing him, he's certainly not a threat."
"You're a fool." replied Hanako.
Kivees laughed. "See, Kimaru? I'm not the only one that thinks so."
 
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Kimaru scowled "You're telling me there was something more to that weak husk of human skin! That was supposed to be the legendary hero! I tore him to shreds, so fuck your hero!" he screamed, almost sending the car into a tailspin.

"Kimaru that is enough you damn idiot! We are in there presence of our Lady Neza!" Keeves shouted. "Do you have any idea what the master will do to us if she's damaged!"

Kimaru huffed and kept driving.

"Fuck! If this is what your little gang has to offer then I'm out." Hanako shouted. "Let me out, I'm done with this!" she drew a small dagger.

"But lady Neza please, we are almost-" Keevse put up his hands.

"OUT. NOW!"

"Kimaru pull over."

The driver did as told and let the woman out. "We will be in touch if you change you mind." Keeves said before driving off.

"Gotta get home." Hanako said and started to run.
 

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"You have her?" said Keeves.
Kimaru snorted. "Yeah." His driving was much more even now that Neza was out of the car.
"What the hell's your problem?"
Kimaru tapped on the steering wheel and shrugged with his hands. "You're right. I snapped."
Kivees didn't expect the admission so soon. He leaned back in his seat and reflected on what had happened. "Well, my own performance was lacking. I was supposed to close the deal. Instead, I was stupidly chummy and turned against you for no reason, making us look incompetent though pointless infighting. If anyone's the fool, it's me."
"We knew coming into this she'd be stubborn."
"At the end of our exchange, I referred to her like a good to be delivered. I fucked up."
"We're almost at the hideout." replied Kimaru.
They sat in silence for the rest of the trip, turning into an underground parking lot underneath a tall city skyscraper. Kivees looked passively out the window as they went further down another ramp to a gated area with discreetly armed guards that looked like average security. Underlings usually had to flash a card with the cult symbol to pass, but Kimaru's stuck out arm was enough to open. Kimaru found a place to park.

Kivees sighed deeply.

"We'll talk to the master together." said Kimaru. "Just allow me some time just to sit in the car first."

But Kivees was already out of the car and walking into the darkness. Kimaru slouched back again, allowing his arms to loosen up. His thoughts turned to the Neza that he had seen. He remembered how she wore a garbage bag armed with a nail gun and a kitchen knife, like a housewife recruited as militia. Even when she barked at Kivees to get out of the car, her face was desperate, soft. Kimaru straighted up at the blasphemous thought, and heard the passenger door open beside him.

It was Kivees with a carton of cigarettes, presumably from the vending machine. Kivees opened the carton and popped one out for Kimaru to take. Kimaru took it hesitantly and Kivees lit it up with his lighter before taking one of his own. They lowered their windows to let the smoke out. Kivees held the cigarette with an arched wrist between his two fingers like a philosopher, staring blankly into the darkness he came from, while Kimaru puffed steadily, needily, between his thumb and two fingers, having breathed smoke from his nose like a dragon before correcting himself and blowing smoke from his mouth in a steady stream into the cold air outside. They said nothing; they didn't need to say anything. Both had feelings they simply needed to burn away in the car. Kimaru, his unrestrained temper; Kivees, his wallowing self-pity and doubt.
 
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