[New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

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[New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby Kjaere » Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:51 pm

Ilse Agard
(12/01/2013 3:53 PM)

The team gathers in a bar. Or a saloon. Or a tavern. Call it what you will, it's always the same, or very nearly always. It's a trope, and it's a good one. It works. It works because of what a tavern is. It's public, it's accessible, it's got semi-private tables where nobody past your table is really listening to what you say. And it's a gathering-place already. People meet up there. They get together to relax, to hang around, to talk shop in a casual environment. It's got all the hallmarks of a great place to put your group of protagonists together.

That's why writers have people gather in bars. And yeah, I did it, too. I arranged for the Arrow I'm being assigned for this job to meet me in a bar. And all of those reasons up there? Yeah, they don't apply.

I've arranged for a meeting in a bar because that's where I'm going to be: in a bar. Drinking. I'm a regular here, and I like the place. It's got a good bartender, good selection of booze, and I like the ambiance. Sure, some folks don't think it's a proper 'bar' unless it's a dark, smokey refuge of quiet conversation with a mean old bastard behind a beautiful expanse of hardwood. Me, I'm more than willing to accept that as 'a bar'. But that's not 'my bar'.

My bar is dark, sure, except where the bright lights shine. And it's quiet, except when the music's playing. Which it is. Cuz see, my bar? My bar's a titty bar.

God, I love getting drunk in a strip club.

And that's what I'm doing right now - sitting at the polished glass-and-stainless-steel bar, laughing and talking with Maurice, the fabulous black man wielding the booze. I'm already a little buzzed, but that's ok. I'm not going to get trashed tonight. If I was, I wouldn't be over here. I'd be over there, waving bills at one of the dancers, and all but daring the tourists to see how far they can get.

"Honey, are you sure you're ok? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind you being social for once, but usually, when you're over here, you got some issues goin' on." It's true - I've lived here for just over a year now, and since I found the Fuzzy Navel, I haven't gone to anyone but Maurice for my therapy needs. That stop over in Cleveland to meet with Dr. Oakley wasn't therapy, after all. It was a job interview.

"Maurice, honestly, I'm fine. I'm just meeting someone tonight." His mouth opens, with that light in his eyes, and I make a face, "For work, Maurice, for work."

"It ain't right, someone like you bein' alone. Whatever happened to that boyfriend of yours?"

"Michael?" Another face. "You remember Chanelle?"

"The girl you were dating before him? What about her?"

I sigh, and shrug, "She came over, still wanting to stay friends, and the three of us wound up getting trashed together."

"Oh, you didn't..."

"We did... and believe me, Maurice, having both of them there was amazing." Finishing off my drink, I consider ordering another. "I hear they're very happy." No... no, dammit, I'm working tonight.

"Oh, honey, that sucks..." That's Maurice. Always has my back. If only he wasn't pure Takei.

"Yeah, well, that's life. I swear, I think I'm off dating for a while. Candice and Maria said they know some guys who like to party, we may all get together tomorrow when their shifts end."

"Well, maybe you do need a break. But don't you get too wrapped up in that life. Ain't nothin' but losin' what makes you special there."

That gets a smirk, and now I do order another drink. Fuck it, I've got some time before I need to be up to form, right? When's this Arrow supposed to arrive again? "Maurice, my love, my sweet... that is something I guard against every fukkin' day."

Matsumo Futari
(12/04/2013 11:28 PM)

I have to admit I was excited when the call came in for my assignment. Months ago I thought the first chapter of my story had started but it still kind of felt like the prologue in some ways; I hadn’t even had my first real adventure. Don’t get me wrong I was content to train, to serve in the manner I was asked, but the idea of going out and actually <i>doing</i> something sent a thrill through me. Even if it wasn’t going to be saving the world just yet.

It all seemed to come together perfectly when I heard that I was to meet my Free Council counterpart at a bar. Where else could a group gather before a quest in this day and age? My story had finally begun to flow forward again. Sure my eagerness was a strain on my training for a few days but nothing terribly cumbersome. Unfortunately what I found when I arrived was not at all what I expected.

Everything seemed harmless enough at first. It wasn’t exactly what I had imagined but it wasn’t really that far off either; the neon letters above the door, the hulking bouncer at the door, they all fit. Maybe if I hadn’t been so focused on the mission I might have noticed something out of place, like how easily the bouncer let me in. Then again it’s not like I spend enough time in these kind of places to notice the subtleties. Or maybe I just couldn’t imagine what was waiting for me inside.

A short walk through a dark hallway later and I stepped into a world that left me paralyzed with shock. Immediately my eyes widen, drawn to the stage by the stark lighting. I couldn’t even blink for several seconds, helpless to do anything but watch on in horror. Nearby patrons might have thought I was captivated or mesmerized by the scene if any of them had been paying attention. I’d never seen anything like this before, or wanted to for that matter. I’d heard about such things, read about the geishas of old, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

I don’t know how long I stayed standing there dumbstruck before one of the other patrons bumped into me, jarring me free from the reverie. With a heated flush of crimson rising in my cheeks I reached up to pull the collar of my jacket high, covering as much of my face as possible. I’m not sure whether my very presence or the idea of being seen was more upsetting but I couldn’t just leave; I had gone there for a reason and I wasn’t going to be cowed so easily.

Shifting the shinai bag on my shoulder nervously I glanced around once more, averting my gaze from the stage as best I could, before heading over to the bar. Fortunately the thick crowd of people made it easier to keep my head down and my gaze straight ahead, though some of the remarks I received in passing only made my discomfort even worse. By the time I broke free of the throng again I had considered drawing my blade several times only to simply grit my teeth and bare it in an effort to have it over with quickly.

I nearly threw myself at the bar upon my arrival, a heavy breath escaping my lips. The steel and glass beneath my hands had somehow become a beacon of my salvation. Briefly my eyes slid shut, breathing growing deep as I collected and calmed myself. A few moments of meditation later and I was calmly shifting to sit on one of the nearby stools.

Reaching into the pocket of my jacket I withdrew the fax I had been given, unfolding it and laying it out on the bar, flattening it out with both hands. A brief glance is offered to the picture before I looked to my surroundings, scanning the area. After an initial sweep I stopped at the bartender, preparing to call him over before suddenly pausing to double-take back to one of the women at the bar. One final glance at the picture and I was certain: that’s my contact.

Standing up again I took a deep breath and brushed a stray strand of hair behind my ear before approaching. It wasn’t until I stood directly beside her that I spoke up. “Excuse me, Ms. Snow?” Once I had her attention I bowed my head, the faint blush quickly fading but still barely peeking out above my high collar. “I’m Tomoe Gozen, I believe you and I have some business to discuss?”

Ilse Agard
(12/05/2013 1:47 PM)

From where I'm sitting, the door in from the front's in easy view - that's the idea behind sitting here, after all. Oh, not direct view, no. Instead, it's in easy view by looking in the mirror along the wall behind the bar. So when a young asian woman walks in and looks utterly culture-shocked? It's easy to spot. Truthfully, I hadn't thought about that when I told people to send whoever they were assigning over here, but it's a great way to jar the Arrow just a little bit, don't you think?

So, when she starts making for the bar, still looking disheveled and out of sorts, I lean in a little and tell Maurice, "Pretty sure Sailor Moon there is looking for me. Work-related. Let's see if she spots me." He just rolls his eyes and goes back to fielding drink requests.

Sure enough, she does manage to spot me before I have to stand up and wave. Of course, I still stand when she speaks up, and offer my hand to her bow, smiling brightly.

"Nice to meet you, Tomoe. Please, call me Liz." Then, with a nod toward the bartender, I add, "And this is Maurice. I promise you, you're in perfectly safe hands with him. You want a drink before we talk shop, or should we just grab a booth?" Then, to Maurice, "Put it on my tab, I'll settle up before we leave."

Matsumo Futari
(12/05/2013 8:17 PM)

It was just a little easier to breathe after being greeted by that smile of hers, the faintest hints of my own tugging at the corners of my lips. She made everything feel so normal, even if our surroundings were anything but. I don’t know how the night would have proceeded without that simple gesture.

“The honor is mine Liz.” I reached out to take her hand in mine, bowing my head again, maybe to avert my gaze just a little. Even now I’m not really sure how to feel about the reaction I usually receive when people shake my hand. Somehow there always seems to be at least a hint of surprise when my grip proves firm, the rough calluses on my palm evident. It’s always the same story, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the meeting: whether they know I’m an Arrow or even if we’re meeting at the dojo. I know I should be proud, a part of me is, but...

My gaze returned to hers when she gestured towards the bartender, leaving me to release her hand, turn and bow once more. “An honor to meet you as well Maurice.” I had already started to shake my head following her question regarding a drink when she continued on regarding her tab, leaving me to tip my head slightly with a polite “Just a water, please.”

With the introductions complete I nodded slightly in the direction opposite the stage, making a slight motion with my free hand to indicate for her to lead the way .“Shall we then?” All the while I was still doing my best to avert my gaze from the rest of our surroundings despite being unable to ignore every other sense that was practically screaming at me by that point.

Ilse Agard
(12/06/2013 12:29 AM)

Maurice's reaction to the drink request is the one bartenders around the world tend to have: a nod, a smile, and a glass of water for the designated driver. "And you, Ma'am. You take good care of Lizzie here, she's a special lady." And with that, he's off to get an order down the bar, leaving me glaring after him, just a little. Hrmph. Special lady. This isn't a date, Maurice!

Then I'm nodding back to Tomoe, and slipping into the crowd ahead of her. Of course, she's pointing away from the stage, and I take a path that goes right past it so I can catch the dancer's attention. "Candy!" A five gets waved a bit, to cover her approach, and I step up to speak into her ear as she leans waaaay over to take it. "Gotta meeting, then I gotta fly, babe. You guys don't wait for me, if I get free up tonight, I'll call to find out where the party is, hey?"

Then I'm bouncing back down again to grab Tomoe's hand, complete with a grin and a wink back toward the girl on-stage, and plunging through the crowd to find us a quiet booth near the back. "Sorry about that... Candy's good people, but she's a little on the slow side, you know? Probably just waaaay too overstimulated with the lights and the music and the coke and the meth to really focus for any kind of time."

Shrugging my way out of my jacket, I get nice and settled in at the booth before looking around again. "You hungry? We could move this to the diner down the road if you are... anyway... hi, I'm Snow, but I tend to go by 'Liz' or 'Lizzie' when there's cubes around, you know?"

I'm fumbling around a bit in my bag now, pulling out an e-cig that isn't, to be honest, unadulterated vaporized nicotine. Mmmm, THC, my old friend. How I've missed you. It's been... oh, god, at least an hour. What? I've got it in my e-cig, how the fuck long do you think I'm going between hits?

"Anyway, if we're gonna work together, I figure we should know a little about one another, right? Minimize the surprises? I'm a Voter of the Golden Key, and you're working for Arrow security, but I don't think they told me which Tower you'd be from. Anyway, full disclosure: I'm a little buzzed right now, but it won't affect the work. From what I've been told, this is something I'm gonna have to deal with manually - something about protections in place to prevent application of a remote fix. That jive with what you heard?"

Matsumo Futari
(12/06/2013 2:56 AM)

I didn’t hesitate to accept the bartender’s request with another bow of my head; that was, after all, the duty I had been assigned. Though after taking the glass I couldn’t help but glance back and forth between he and my colleague when I noticed the look she was giving him. Not that I lingered on in confusion long before she was forging on ahead.

Once I was back to wading through the crowd I ducked my head down again to simply follow along behind Lizzie. Of course even without raising my gaze I could still feel us approaching the stage; it was hard to miss the increase in light if not the growing excitement of the patrons. With every step I felt increasingly awkward until we suddenly stopped moving.

Without thinking I raised my gaze when she called out only to have my eyes attempt to bulge free at the sight of the dancer’s approach. After the initial moment of shock had passed I shifted to stare at the glass in my hand with newfound interest. Once again my cheeks were flushed with bright crimson, made all the worse for the fact that I could vaguely see her reflection in its surface. Either that or every noticeably round shape had gained a new association for a short while that night.

When I felt her hand on mine I nearly jumped out of my skin, eyes widening again and snapping up to meet hers as I was violently startled out of my reverie by the unexpected touch. We were already on the move again by the time I had regained my senses. Then came the barrage of her explanation, each phrase almost more disorienting than the last. It was hard to process any of what she had said before she was finished, leaving me uncertain how to respond as I numbly took my seat. “She seems... nice.” Of course the whole time my cheeks continued to shine brightly..

Fortunately I had a moment of reprieve to compose myself as my companion took the time to get comfortable. Briefly my eyes fluttered, nearly falling shutting as I took a deep, steadying breath. By the time the conversation started again I had settled myself down considerably, muscles unwinding as I met her gaze once more.

“Thank you kindly for the offer but I’ve already eaten.” Another tip of my head, corners of my lips twitching. “I had thought it best to eat earlier given that I wasn’t certain what timeframe we would be operating within following this meeting.” Finally I slid the case off my shoulder, moving to lay it on the seat beside me. “An honor.” I echoed my earlier sentiment when she reintroduced herself.

I confess my eyes may have been drawn to the plastic tube she produced. I would continue glancing at it occasionally as she was talking. At least until she mentioned her impaired state of mind: that brought my full attention back to her, a slight frown on my lips. It was difficult not to challenge her statement after having pursued a clean mind and body for so long, but it wasn’t something I could really argue with either. Not that I was eager to start a conflict so early into our first meeting either.

“I‘ll take your word for it.” I began by addressing her capacity to work, unzipping the top of my jacket so my face was no longer covered before folding my hands on the table before me. “Either protections or interference that makes remote problem-solving an issue, yes. The specific details as to why that option was not available wasn’t deemed necessary information during my briefing.”

“As far as personal details? I’m of the Lunargent Thorn.” I knew even then that I didn’t fit the image most other Paths associated with an Acanthus but so few seem to understand that we are as varied as the stories to be told. “I’ve trained in hand-to-hand fighting since I was able to walk and nearly every other form of individual combat in the last six months, though I tend to favor the katana.” I continued on, reciting my qualifications interchangeably with personal information.

Ilse Agard
(12/06/2013 3:59 AM)

"Really?" Now I'm grinning, "A Rosewood Arrow, hey?" Rosewood. Why rosewood? Duh, thorns. "That is very cool." And it is, you know? The Arrows are like, instruments to be wielded - weapons. Tools. But as much as the idea of that lifestyle kinda gives me the creeps... that's something they choose - something they find fulfillment in. And she's a thorn, so it's not like she's giving herself up to serve some authority figure. She's serving Fate, and Fate is what we make of it.

Trust me on that one.

So, really, she's acknowledging herself a servant of the consequences of her own actions. She's, you know... Doing What Must Be Done. And that's actually really cool. I mean, really cool.

"Sounds like you're quite the fighter. Me, I prefer a little distance when I work - you know, a good rifle with a good scope, or a radio remote to carefully-placed charges.." I shrug then, "But, yeah. Fighting the good fight, right? The tools you use are less important than staying in the game."

"Anyway." I gesture with the e-cig before switching it off again, "I'll be right as rain by the time we get there." Reaching into my own bag, I drop a manila file folder on the table. "We got some kinda boogeyman out by Lake Ponchartrain. Pops up, kidnaps a kid, or a dog, or a couple of co-eds, leaves a bloody and gruesome trail as it snacks, or whatever, then disappears again. Some of the rankers in the Ladder did a bit of work on tracking the thing down, came up with a general direction, and then.... nothing. No tracks, no resonance, no nothin'. They ran smack into a Wall of Blank, you might say."

"Now, since that just doesn't happen without magic, and they couldn't find any magic either, that means that whatever magic is there is working to conceal itself, too. You with me so far?"

Matsumo Futari
(12/09/2013 12:47 PM)

The unexpected compliment and the enthusiasm it was delivered with caught me completely off guard, leaving me with a slight blush returning to my cheeks. Immediately my gaze dropped as my hand rose to tuck my hair behind my ear again, the other reaching for a drink of water in an effort to hide my embarrassment. I wasn’t really sure where the rosewood association came from to be honest but that was lost in the wake of my reaction.

Fortunately our return to the subject of combat styles helped me recover my bearings some. Smiling slightly I finally looked back up at her, shaking my head slightly. “I’m not really that impressive. Combat mastery shares much in common with the Practices; there is always more to learn and those more skilled than you. I simply do my utmost to honor my Sensei and those I’ve trained with.”

“I can appreciate the advantages of a ranged approach as well. The breathing and control one needs to execute a precise shot is very meditative. Part of my training has also included firearms. Though in that realm I tend to favor archery, the yumi in particular. Being in the forefront just feels more natural and fulfilling to me.” A private thrill went through me then, causing me to take a breath and lean back into the chair. Knowing that every word was a step closer to our mission left my insides tingling with anticipation.

“In the end you’re right of course.” Another small smile, interrupted briefly by a drink of water. “The method one uses is less important than the will to do so. Ideals, principles, dreams, whatever the cause may be its importance is measured by our willingness to fight for it.”

But any frivolity faded when that the folder was produced. Even as I continued listening to her description my attention was riveted to the document, tensing slightly as it hit the table. Another breath followed, a wet of my lips before I finally glanced to her and motioned to the folder, wordlessly asking permission to investigate its contents so as not to interrupt her. Once given the affirmative I immediately reached over to retrieve it, continuing to nod along with her words.

I paused for a moment when she mentioned how the trail suddenly stopped though. My lips pursed slightly, brow furrowing. The folder was temporarily abandoned as I listened carefully to what she was saying, steepling my fingers and pressing them against my lips.

Her asking if I followed was met with a slow nod. “Is it possible that we’re dealing with something Abyssal here? I don’t have a lot of hands on experience with manifestations and their ilk but isn’t that exactly how they would show up during investigation? I don’t honestly know if the nothingness it embodies is really different from the absence of something.”

I lowered my hands to the table, clasping them atop the folder and shaking my head slightly to dismiss the thought. “The paradoxes of our antithesis are still somewhat beyond me I’m afraid. It just seemed a more straightforward answer than assuming the Veiling in place was enough to best the investigations of the Ladder.” I couldn’t keep my hands from clenching slightly as an unnerving chill ran down my spine. I’ve always hated drawing such correlations, however vague. Even voicing those thoughts aloud was upsetting.

Ilse Agard
(12/10/2013 12:32 AM)

"And modest, too," I'm shaking my head slowly as I take another drink. For a moment, I admit, I'm entertaining thoughts of just what I could do to see about encouraging that blush... maybe seeing how far down her neck the blush can extend... but no. No, that'd be wrong. She's clearly not here to party, and we have work to do. At least, for now. Later on? Well.... no. No, Liz, don't even go there. Be good. Be professional. Mmmmmph.

Being an adult sucks sometimes.

Sighing, I give a somewhat rueful smile, even if I'm not actually intending her to read much into it. "You're a rare one, Tomoe. I hope your superiors in the Arrows appreciate what you bring to the table."

The dossier itself is filled with accounts of the incidents so far, and the efforts of local groups to track the perpetrator - or perpatraors.

She even asks good questions. Oh, she's going to be a joy to work with. Really, I hope she doesn't get too uncomfortable around the kinds of things I do for fun, but... well, she's an Arrow. I'm sure she's had to put up with all kinds of bullshit in the past. An over-indulgent wise-ass shouldn't be too much for her to handle, right? Right! But that good question deserves an answer, and unfortunately, the answer I have right now is mostly a shrug.

"I don't know. My experience with the Abyss has been more with its minions and acolytes than its spawn, to be honest." I shrug and take another drink. "It could be Abyssal. It could just be some non-standard magic. But it looks like the trackers took to searching the swamp with a bunch of different mage-sight options. It looks like there's a network of underground caves in there... thing is? There shouldn't be. Swamps don't have enough rock to have caves."

Let's see what she makes of that. I, of course, have been fully briefed, but you know, sometimes it's nice to let other people think about things, rather than just hitting them with massive infodumps - she might have a question nobody else has thought to ask.

No pressure.

Matsumo Futari
(12/10/2013 2:22 AM)

Honestly I completely forgot where we were in the conversation when she smiled at me like that and told me I was rare. After offering an awkward, half-hearted shrug I instinctively dropped one hand to my lap, the other reaching up to nervously fiddle with the zipper on the coat. I very nearly pulled it all the way up to seek refuge inside the high collar; not that it would have really done any good, the heat rapidly rising in my cheeks would have still been clearly visible. At least it might have offered some measure of comfort though.

I’m sure it was probably the dossier that helped me compose myself for the hundredth time that night. I sat there staring at it for a few long moments, chewing the inside of my lip apprehensively before finally reaching out and snatching it up. Immediately I flipped it open to begin devouring its contents only to have the mystery unfold just as Liz had been describing it to me. So far our strongest lead was the absence of one. Once more I felt that same unpleasant chill crawl down my spine.

I responded to her statement about the swamps not having enough rock for caves without even thinking, let alone looking up from the dossier. “Spatial distortion.” It took me a few long seconds to realise that I had spoken the words aloud but once I did I could feel my cheeks start to glow again. Slowly I peered up at her from the pages, setting the folder down in turn. “I mean, that seems like the most likely answer at least.”

I continued on to explain. “If the terrain had been affected by whatever or whomever is causing this then it’s unlikely it would be limited to the underground. Even if it had been done deliberately there would probably be an effect on the swamp above if the bedrock suddenly solidified. I don’t know a much about ecology but I would guess that at least flooding would be present just from the displacement of water. I can’t imagine what kind of effects that an incidental change like that would have.”

Finally I dropped my gaze back to the folder, absently examining one of the photographs from the scene before taking a deep breath and tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. “So I would say that the caves aren’t physically there. Most likely they’re being anchored there by a specific point. I guess a gateway could also be possible depending on how the caves were discovered.” Of course none of that answered whether or not the source was Abyssal but it didn’t sound like either of us had the knowledge or experience to determine that ahead of time. Not that there was any comfort to be had in that thought.

Ilse Agard
(12/10/2013 2:52 AM)

I am not going to react to her acting cute. I am not going to react to her acting cute. I am not...

Clearly, it's making her uncomfortable. And I'm not about making people do things they find uncomfortable. I don't make people do things. That'd be too much like...

No. Shut that line of thought down right there. Not like him. NOT.

I take a deep breath, and nod slowly. "That's more or less what the big brains think: either some sort of paranormal anchoring for extradimensional space that shows up as a cave to spacial sight, or an artificially-strengthened substructure that doesn't actually harden the accompanying sediment, just creates a big-ass air pocket. Like a force-field making a dome. Either way, they're not sure it's safe to just try to collapse the pocket with remote application of Arcana. That's where we come in: We go in, find out what we're dealing with, and bring it down however we need to, either Matter... or thermite. Which... well, I don't have any on me, but I've got some back at my place that I mixed in the sink. Should be safe to transport, we'll just want to keep it away from open flames and sparks until it's time to set it off."

"You have any trouble with boats?"

Matsumo Futari
(12/10/2013 4:37 AM)

I couldn’t help but feel relieved when the official briefing she had received matched my own thoughts on the matter. As she continued I nodded along with her, settling back into the booth to page through the folder as my muscles relaxed. The fact that they didn’t want to risk any kind of remote Arcana application made sense: with a potential spatial distortion or anomaly already present there’s no saying what might happen if they added another to the mix.

Her comment about mixing explosives in the sink didn’t even give me any pause. It wasn’t until she asked if I had any trouble with boats that I finally looked up at her, smiling slightly. “I’ll be fine. I’ve spent the majority of my life on one Naval base or another.”

One final glance is offered to the folder before it’s closed and set down. “So when did you want to get started? If you want I could give you a ride back to your place to gather any supplies you need before heading straight to the site.” I didn’t even notice how eager I sounded when I said that, too distracted by the blooming warmth in the pit of my stomach that sent pleasant shocks through me with shivers trickling down my spine to follow. Instinctively my hand dropped to rest on the bag laying in the booth beside me.

“Alternatively if there are still other preparations you need to make we can exchange contact information and arrange a later date and time to regroup.” Although my statement was offered in complete sincerity my tone had completely changed: all the previous excitement and anticipation had simply vanished, returning to normal.

“Though truth be told I think it best if we handle matters soon rather than later.” I added a moment later. “There’s no saying how many more victims will be claimed if we delay, nor what other effects continued exposure will have on the surrounding area.”

Ilse Agard
(12/10/2013 2:36 PM)

"Actually..." I draw it out, going ahead and letting her think I'm hesitating. I heard that eagerness there. She's almost bouncing to get out there and get into the thick of things, isn't she? I have to wonder if she throws herself into everything this hard. It'd be nice to not be the only one, you know?

Oops, I need to finish that thought, don't I?

"... I've rented out an airboat for tonight. You know, one of those little skiff-looking things with the giant fan on the back to push it? Also picked up a couple of short bodygloves and rented masks, tanks, and breathers. Because I think you're right: we really don't have time to waste on this."

Not, you know, that I'm SCUBA-qualified, but you know, I'll figure out how it all works. We'll be fine.

"So, yeah..." Now my tone turns openly teasing, but in a light, joking way that invites the other person to join in the joke, rather than mocking them, "Whaddaya say I go settle up the bar tab, meet you out front, and then you take me back to my place so I can show you fireworks and make the earth move?"

Matsumo Futari
(12/11/2013 2:00 AM)

I didn’t realise I was on the edge of my seat, every muscle tense with anticipation as I waited for her to finish the thought she had started. Every second that passed felt like torture; sometimes being aware of the flow of time doesn’t do anything to change our experience of it. It didn’t take long before I was even beginning to fidget nervously.

By the time she continued I was near ready to jump out of my skin. When I heard the word tonight though I finally let out the breath I had been holding, relaxing as a small smile pulled at the corners of my lips. Soon I was nodding along approvingly with the explanation of her preparations. Once she was finished I started getting ready to leave, feeling like everything that could be discussed ahead of time had been covered.

Of course I was in the process of finishing my water when she made her next remark. I’m certain the only reason I didn’t choke was fortune’s good favour, but I still made quite the effort. I was too occupied trying not to cough water everywhere at first to even notice my face glowing the brightest shade of red yet.

After setting the cup down and coughing into my hand for a while longer I still couldn’t meet her gaze. Instead I rose to my feet with all the grace I could manage under the circumstances and slung the bag over my shoulder. “Let’s get going then.” I offered softly, my voice still a little uncertain, before zipping the coat all the way up and heading for the exit.

I had started to calm down some by the time we stepped outside. Tilting my head back slightly I took a deep, cleansing breath before turning to face my companion, gaze dropping briefly only to return a moment later. “Have you ever ridden a motorcycle before?” Eager as I was for a change in subject it seemed like a pertinent question. Particularly as I approached the bike waiting nearby.

Even after a year I couldn’t help but caress the seat affectionately, my gaze tender as it swept over the intricate combination of fiberglass and metal. Though the times may have changed a samurai still needs a faithful mount and there was mine. She was a part of me, as much an extension of my very being as the katana on my back.

Grabbing the spare helmet I happened to have on the back I finally turned back to my compatriot, offering it to her with the fondness still briefly lingering in my smile. “Shall we?”

Ilse Agard
(12/11/2013 2:31 AM)

She starts to cough and sputter, and I give her a couple of helpful pats on the back while she gets herself under control. "Hey... hey, no dying at the start of the date! You'll make all the guys here jealous..."

Once I'm sure she's ok, though, I go ahead and head for the bar, "Meet you out front," and a short time and a large denomination later, I do just that, tugging my jacket tighter around my body as I go. Oh, it's not cold or anything, not really... but there's proper forms to follow, don't you know? And that's just one of them.

Then she's leading me over toward a motorcycle parked near the front door, and I am all smiles. "You ride? Damn, girl, you're just the complete package, aren't you?" My gaze is already turning toward the bike itself as we approach, "Oh, and she's gorgeous... I thought about getting something like this, after I... uhm... got out on my own, but I wasn't sure where I was going to wind up, so..."

The thought gets finished up with a shrug, as I reach out to just barely run my fingers along the fiberglass cowling below the windshield. Eyelids droop just a little bit as my lips curl into a knowing smile, and I say, in a voice clearly meant for just the two of us. "Bet you can go pretty fast, can'cha? You wanna show me what you can do? Leave it all out there on the pavement til there's nothing left but gasping for breath? You do, don't you?"

What? I'm talking to the bike.

Then my attention flicks to the helmet being offered to me, and I snap it up, grinning eagerly again. Pulling it down over my head, I give Tomoe just the biggest set of puppy eyes I can. "We're gonna go fast, right?"

Matsumo Futari
(12/11/2013 3:56 AM)

Unfortunately most of what she said following my question was lost on me; I was too absorbed in my own admiration. Somewhere in the back of my mind I at least caught enough to understand that her answer was an affirmative of some sort and that was enough for me.

At least until her hand joined mine on the bike, her voice lowering suggestively. Immediately I fell still, body tensing as I listened intently. With each word that left her lips my body started to tremble slightly, heart beating frantically. My gaze never once left the bike but I was chewing on the inside of my lip beneath the coat the whole time. By the time she finished I was nearly shaking, my breathing ragged.

Offering her the helmet was the only thing I could do to break the trance I was in, though I was still panting slightly even then. The small smile offered was as much our of affection of my bike as the eagerness she was exuding. Though my answer to her question was simple. “Our mission is urgent, isn’t it?”

Finally I swung around to straddle the bike, bag sliding off my shoulder as I did. Gently I set the blade down in the custom cradle mounted on the side, twisting around to strap it into place. It was strong enough to stay secure at high speeds while still able to be retrieved at a moments notice; I had one of the local Arrows to thank for the whole set-up.

Sitting up straight for a moment I flipped open a pouch at my belt, withdrawing an incense stick from within. After lighting it with a match from my jacket pocket I gripped it along the length of my middle and ring finger, steepling my hands together. Finally my eyes fell shut as I began to chant quietly in the High Tongue, praying for the guidance of my ancestors.

A few seconds later and I clapped my hands together, blowing gently to extinguish the glowing ember. Wordlessly I reached back and grabbed my helmet, tugging it on before nodding to Liz and jerking my head back to indicate she should get on. Once more I ran my hands affectionately over the handlebars as I slowly leant forward. “You might want to hold on tight.” I didn’t even pause to think about what I was saying before tearing out of the parking lot.

Ilse Agard
(12/11/2013 11:23 AM)

"That it is..."

That said, I still wait a moment before taking any action. I'm not just letting her climb on, I'm also waiting to let her conduct her small ritual. Whether it's a matter of personal spirituality or conscious invocation of her abilities, one thing I'm not dumb enough to do is interrupt an Acanthus communing with Fate.

Once she's done, though, I do climb aboard, settling onto the bitch-seat easily enough. Once I'm there, though, and comfortable in the blind spot between her mirrors? The helmet comes off to get tied back down to where it'd been when we came out - obviously, she got out here without a passenger, didn't she? It won't come loose, I'm sure.

Then I go ahead and slip my arms around her waist as she's saying to hold on. Tight, huh? Ok, then. Instead of just using her as a way to steady myself atop the bike, I go ahead and wrap my arms tight, laying my cheek against her back.

Will that make giving directions difficult? Naaah. I'll just let her drive very very fast for a little bit, then tell her to come back to the first side-street she passed when we left the parking lot, and go down three blocks.

What? This is my bar for a reason: It's local.

* * * * *

Finally, we do get to the apartments I'm in - technically, it's a one-bedroom, but the whole thing's kind of a sprawling mess of a workshop. What should be the living room has most of the power tools, as well as some not-insignificant soundproofing, while the bedroom has a bunch of cabinets and racks of storage space.

What? I live here, I don't sleep here. There's a closet, and a bathroom, and a little kitchenette. I can come home, get cleaned up, eat, and then get to work on stuff before going back out for the night, you know?

"Welcome to my little corner of hell." One of the things that may or may not catch Tomoe's eye is that other than the tools and workspaces themselves... there's really no personal touches to the place at all. Nothing on the walls, no little plaques or mottos, no pictures of friends, or family. Nothing like that at all. I just... don't do that sort of thing. Got nothing behind me I want to remember, and the things ahead? Well, you can't put those on a wall, now can you?

"Hang out for a few, I'll grab the stuff and we can get going." Tomoe gets a bright smile flashed toward her as I head for the bedroom. "I'll take the heavy stuff with me - your bike isn't exactly set up for carrying a pair of heavy tanks, let alone tanks and explosives."

When I do come back out, she gets a bundle tossed her way of... rubberized latex? Oh, now isn't that kinky. "Hang onto that. You'll want it once we're out on the boat."

Fetishware? No. Bodyglove. I may not have a lot of experience with surfing and diving, but I'm not an idiot. It's also warm enough down here in the swamp that I wasn't going to put anyone through a full-length wetsuit. It's half-arms and legs - keeps the trunk insulated while preventing overheating.

Matsumo Futari
(12/15/2013 12:22 PM)

I didn’t even notice her take off the helmet at first; I was too distracted. Everything became her arms around me, cheek resting between my shoulders and chest pressed against my back. All the layers of cloth and leather separating us seemed to simply fade away.

My heart was already racing, pounding frantically in my chest before we’d even really gone anywhere. Instinctively my hand torqued the throttle, urging the bike to match the pace my mind was moving at. Inside of a minute we were at top speed flying through the streets of New Orleans, weaving through traffic in a manner most would call miraculous.

The directions from my passenger were simply lost on me. By now my body trembled beneath hers, though it was easily hidden beneath the vibrations of the bike. Everything outside of the moment was forgotten; It was just her, me, the bike and the world flying past us. I knew we would reach our destination eventually, all I had to do was drive and my ancestors would guide my path.

I didn’t realise until later how far out of the way the trip had taken us. By the time we arrived at the apartment complex it had taken a fair bit longer than it would have if we had just gone there directly at a more reserved speed. Then again there’s something to be said for the journey itself; What is a story if not a series of journeys after all?

After removing my riding boots I stepped into the apartment proper. I was only barely beginning to calm down from the ride as I cast a cursory glance around, heart still beating loudly in my ears, breathing shallow. Her dedication to her craft was immediately evident and honestly rather impressive; I was rather glad to learn the true calibre of my compatriot, particularly after the brief moment of doubt I had experienced earlier. Before I knew it there was a small smile on my lips.

Both the joy and some of my earlier exhilaration faded when she welcomed me properly though, causing me to turn back to her and drop my head into a bow. “Thank you for having me.” By the time I looked back up again she was already continuing on, leaving me nodding along with her.

The revelation that my bike wasn’t equipped to carry the heavy equipment necessary for some missions, this one in particular, left me frowning. In that moment I silently resolved to redouble my studies into the Space Arcanum to prevent such an issue from recurring. In the meantime I would need make alternative arrangements for such situations as these. Unless I could acquire the assistance of one of the Arrows again...

I was still standing exactly where she had left me when she returned again. Though in her absence my gaze had grown distant as I became distracted by my musings. My hands actually snapped out to catch the bundle before my awareness had returned, leaving me to glance down at it curiously after I felt the rubber texture against my hands. It only took a few seconds to piece it together and nod slightly, returning my gaze to Liz.

“Do we have any idea where in the lake we might find an entrance to the spatial distortion? You mentioned trails being left behind but I can’t imagine those would have lingered deep into the surrounding marshes, let alone the lake proper.” I shifted the bag that was on my shoulder once more, moving the bundle to cradle it in my other arm.

“Even assuming the wall of non-response is actually correlated to the location and not the source of the attacks itself, that still leaves a rather large area to search. If it’s the latter then the area potentially becomes exponentially larger.” I pause for a moment, tilting my head slightly to the side. “Unless of course there’s a geographic correlation to the attacks?”

Ilse Agard
(12/17/2013 2:41 PM)

Seeing that frown just makes me smile wider, "Oh, don't you worry about it, babe. There's plenty for you to carry some stuff, too. Truth be told, I don't think I'd manage it easily at all without you. But I wasn't going to throw a backpack of thermite at you, you know?" She gets a wink, and a little shake of the head. "I'll carry the SCUBA gear, you carry the other stuff, we'll get there just fine."

"Where? Well... yeah, I think so. I think we're looking mostly on the south-east end, near the city. But that's based almost entirely on the lack of any reports of this sort of activity from any of the farther outlying Parishes. I'm hoping that between us, we can sniff out potential clues once we're in the area. I'm largely focused on the nature of the inanimate in my own studies, so... if there's a sizeable chunk of boggy mud missing nearby? I should be able to at least spot that it's missing." I hope. Honestly, actually finding the thing is the weak point in my plan, but hey, I'm not the Arrow here, right? I can't be expected to cover every little bit on my own!

After another moment, I shrug and offer up another, more rueful smile. "Truth be told, I think I need to admit to you that, well... this may be some kind of test for one or both of us. Hunting down scary monsters in the swamps isn't exactly my normal line of work, you know? But the folks in charge definitely plunked this one down in my lap, same as they had you sent to me to work on it. So, you know... we may be completely fucked here."

Turning and going back into the other room for a moment, I emerge once again with a pack that I hand over to her, and a long black padded duffel, not entirely unlike the one she came into the bar with. "But you know, I've never minded getting completely fucked before, so why start now, right? C'mon. Maybe we'll get lucky and I'll have time to introduce you n' Candy properly n'stuff..."

And then I'm headed back outside, to a waiting Harley-Davidson, and strapping the air tanks to the top of the saddleboxes. "By the way? Loved the ride. We should do that again sometime..."

Matsumo Futari
(12/19/2013 2:21 AM)

My gaze returned to hers when she told me not to worry, head tilting to the side slightly in confusion. As she continued on I realised she must have noticed my reaction and I couldn’t help but blush a little, ducking my head slightly. Somehow though she had me smiling softly with her comment about the thermite, nodding wordlessly when she asked me to grab the rest of the equipment before moving to do so.

I nodded again when she confirmed a more specific location. “A general direction should be more than sufficient. I don’t think we’ll have too much of a problem.” In truth I could have divined the location, but asking questions without attempting to find the answers on your own can have dangerous consequences. Especially when I fully expected to ask many more that night.

Her rueful smile and the comment to follow had me tilting my head again. This time though my confusion persisted, leaving me to nod along slowly until she had finished the thought and I finally understood what she was saying. Before I had the chance to respond though she was already leaving the room again and when she returned she resumed right where she left off.

The conclusion she settled on was already enough to make my face start to turn bright red even before she mentioned her friend. When she suggested introducing us I started coughing and sputtering, the red glow growing brighter as I struggled not to drop the things I had been handed while also trying to hide my face. I’m still not entire certain how I managed to choke on air, but the effect she was having on me was already starting to become familiar.

It wasn’t until we were on our way back outside that I regained enough composure to find my earlier train of thought. I glanced over at her briefly but dropped my gaze back to the stairs, unable to focus on her. “Everything we do is a test.” I began softly, my voice still uncertain after I had been so thoroughly disarmed.

“Every decision we make, every path that we choose is a trial. They measure our strength of character, our ideals: Will we grow from what we have been, what we were before this moment? Will we take the next step towards the perfect version of ourselves? Our actions are our answers to these questions and through them we shape ourselves and our stories.”

Finally I glanced up to see her reaction, smiling shyly until I noticed the bike she was standing beside and my expression faltered. Slowly my gaze travelled along its length, brow furrowing as I considered the bike thoughtfully. I was so distracted that I didn’t even notice her comment about the ride, though that didn’t stop the shiver from crawling down my spine, cheeks flushing slightly from the memory.

“She’s... nice.” I managed after several long seconds, tearing my gaze away briefly to look at Liz only to glance back at the bike again. “Isn’t she a little... slow... though?” No sooner had the words left my lips then my eyes widened in horror, frantically darting back up to my compatriot.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure she’s fantastic for long-distance and off-road travel.” I added frantically, trying to lessen the blow only to glance back at the bike, voice growing quiet once more. “It’s just that... well...” I shifted the bags on my shoulder nervously, unsure what to say. I still couldn’t believe I had just said that out loud. Everyone has their own preferences and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just... a cruiser, really?

Ilse Agard
(12/19/2013 2:41 AM)

By now, I've gotten a pretty good idea of just what kind of reaction my new business partner is going to have to the various things I'm likely to say. And that's why my smile only gets even wider when she questions my choice of motorcycle. After all, wasn't I the one whispering sweet nothings to her own machine? Mmmm, I do like them fast, no denying it. But fast isn't the only thing.

"Yeah, RJ here might not be as quick as that sweet young thing you treated me to earlier," I shrug a bit, that wide grin turning sly and knowing, "But trust me, honey, when you wrap your legs around him and get him rumbling... oh my." I actually go so far as to fan myself, just a little bit. "There's something to be said for a boy with a good... solid... power-stroke, even if he takes his time getting you there."

I hesitate for just a moment. Just long enough to let her start to turn absolutely beet red before turning the screw just that little bit more. "Or maybe especially if he takes his time..."

Eyes sparkling, I hold up my keys. "You can try him, if you want... I promise, I'll treat your girl nice and gentle."

Go on. React. I dare you.

Matsumo Futari
(12/19/2013 11:50 AM)

Somehow I still didn’t understand the meaning behind that growing smile of hers despite my increasing familiarity. At first I simply tilted my head to the side, expression curious. Soon the realisation dawned on me as her lips twisted just so, eyes sparkling with mischief and implication to leave me swallowing hard in anticipation for what was to come. I didn’t have to wait long either.

Her initial comment made my eyes go wide, the earlier red so very quick to return. With each word to pass her lips my breathing grew just a little bit more shallow, heart pounding a little bit louder in my chest. Every time she paused the implication was left to hang thick in the air and I on them in turn. Little did I know that I was playing right into her hands.

I actually leant forward slightly in that brief pause, near to panting, cheeks completely flushed. When she continued on the tip of my tongue wet my upper lip slightly as I swallowed hard. Every muscle was so tense I was nearly shaking, the pit of my stomach lurching and constricting. I couldn’t decide if I had forgotten to breathe or if there was something caught in my throat.

By the time she held up her keys I felt like I was ready to explode. For an instant the sparkling metal became my entire world, my intent gaze riveted in place. I didn’t even notice the hand at my side flinch and start to drift upwards. Again my tongue wet my lip with another accompanying swallow. The world around us stopped for the long moments we lingered there.

Eventually though the extra weight on my shoulders became apparent reminding me of the task ahead. I tried to shake my head to clear my thoughts, then did so again after briefly glancing up at her to finish the job. One final swallow before clearing my throat. “I’m afraid I’ll have to decline. I couldn’t bear to go anywhere without her, nor leave her in another’s care. I appreciate the offer though.” Despite my apparent composure I still cast another glanced at the keys and then the bike before returning back to her once more.

Ilse Agard
(12/20/2013 5:18 AM)

"Ok, I admit: that was mean of me." Now the smile is bright and wide, not at all sly or wicked, and I twirl my keys as I swing a leg over my bike.

Then it fades. "Anyway... if everything is a test? Well... let's just say I'm ready for class to be over already." I shrug then, and tap a cig out of the pack. "Already had enough years of fucking testing, you know?" But the tone of my voice is more... tired, really, not really biting at all. It's a strange, somewhat mercurial change from the grinning imp of a moment ago. "Life's a bitch, right? C'mon." I start the engine with a stomp that manages to be weary and still somewhat vicious. "We've got work to do."

Brusque? Yeah. Completely at odds with what she's seen of me? Oh, definitely. But you know, I put up with a lot of long years of living up to someone else's expectations, of being tested about everything. I'm done with that.

So why did it bother me when she said it, but not when I said we were being tested? I dunno. I'm not thinking about that right now. Right now I'm just reacting, just throwing myself into the next thing. If anything, right now I'm actively not-thinking about it. Or about why. Or about any of this shit. So just shut the fuck up, self, ok? Christ. Tempted to stop at the bar for a drink, but it'll turn into half a dozen and we've got shit we need to get on.

Besides, Tomoe doesn't need to see me sink into that. Don't wanna scare off the Acanthus when she starts to get an idea of whatever pit of hell my ultimate fate is tied to, now do we? I need to be able to work with people, even if they decide to cut bait on any social interaction outside of the Mission.

Matsumo Futari
(12/23/2013 8:09 AM)

I didn’t really understand what she meant when she claimed she was being mean. My head tilted to the side in confusion even as the glow quickly began to fade from my cheeks. Before I could ask what she was referencing though her tone suddenly shifted, the mood and air growing somber.

Silence hung in the air for a long while after she had finished. My gaze dropped to the ground as I fidgeted with the bags on my shoulder, her words echoing around in my head. It wasn’t hard to hear the way my words had resonated with her, the nerve I had accidentally struck. Several times I glanced back up at her, lips parting slightly as I struggled to offer an answer only for me to remain silent. In the end all I could do was nod and head on over for my own bike.

The thoughts continued to plague me the whole ride over; One which proved unusually long. I don’t know if I had ever driven quite so leisurely or have done so since. I just couldn’t stop seeing the stark contrast written on her face, hearing the exhaustion in her voice. At some point when I was stopped at a red light I heard my bike rumbling with concern beneath me, leaving me to stroke the shield reassuringly.

I was actually the second one to arrive on the scene which I’m sure must have seemed more than a little strange. Especially since I had opened up the throttle when I spotted her parked on the last bit of solid ground, leaving me to speed towards her only to come skidding to a halt shortly after. I could barely get myself off the bike and the helmet off my head fast enough, fumbling with the straps briefly in the process.

Once I was free I rushed over to her and dropped into a full bow, hands at my sides, head at waist level; it wasn’t a gesture of respect but one of deepest condolences. I straightened back up a moment later, barely giving my eyes time to focus on her or my hair to settle from the movement before frantically apologizing. “I’m terribly sorry for what I said earlier.”

“I spoke completely out of turn. Such things were not my place to say. Please forgive me for the indiscretion.” Finally I paused to breathe, gaze lowering as I started to settle back down, hand moving to timidly tuck my hair back into place.

My voice was actually even quieter than usual when I continued a few seconds later. “I hope this won’t interfere with us working together.” My gaze briefly flicked back to hers with those words, uncertainty in the back of my eyes.
Last edited by Kjaere on Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby Kjaere » Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:52 pm

Ilse Agard
(12/23/2013 7:37 PM)

Where we do finally come to a stop is a small spit of land jutting out into the lake. Or at least, it feels like it does - mostly, that's because of the small dock right at the point. A flatboat is waiting there, beneath the swaying light of a hanging coleman lamp. On the dock, a fairly normal-looking young man of the Louisiana swamper variety is seated on a cooler, smoking a cigarette and amusing himself with a tablet. As the bikes roll up, he turns to watch out approach, but his attention's pretty much completely overlooked in the first few moments.

Why? Because Tomoe's rushing over as I dismount, and bowing. And it's not a little bow, either, I mean, that's a significant 'I'm so sorry I fucked up' move - and it's easy to recognize, too, because it's accompanied by an 'I'm so sorry I fucked up' apology.

Between the two, I'm caught just about completely flat-footed. Really, what the hell is she apologizing for? The universe being a fucked-up place? No... speaking out of turn. Speak-... and she's worried that being blunt will hurt our working relationship?

One hand comes up to touch her cheek, and I'm smiling again - but this time it's a gentle, easy smile without a hint of teasing or smugness. "You didn't say anything wrong, or out of turn. Life being a shitty place to live isn't your fault, you know."

Poor kid - she might've chosen the Arrows, but really, did she know what she was giving up when she made that choice? Did she know she'd be abasing herself to near-strangers for the sin of agreeing with them?

"They assigned you to me, right? So until the mission's over, you're mine? Loyal and obedient in all things, and all that?

Matsumo Futari
(12/25/2013 6:52 AM)

I couldn’t help but flinch slightly as I felt the first brush of her fingers against my cheek, body going rigid as my muscles tensed briefly. In part I simply didn’t expect such a tender response to my confession but to some extent I wasn’t used to being touched either. I’ve never really had much physical contact with anyone aside from my mother.

It only took a moment before I relaxed again though, listening carefully to the words being offered in a tone just as gentle as the touch that was leaving a soft warmth in its wake. Not that my previous remorse and discomfort had been completely swept away mind you; My gaze still remained down the whole while. At first I was left chewing on the inside of my lip when she asked her question.

“Sort of.” I began hesitantly, resuming tucking my hair back after having frozen in place. “I was assigned to protect you and assist in the mission as I was able.” Finally I managed to tentatively raise my gaze, voice growing in strength as I spoke of my duties. “I’ll do everything in my power to complete both objectives.”

“But as for loyalty and obedience? Those are... rather different matters.” I glanced down for a moment, uncertainty clouding my features briefly. “‘Service is Mastery’; We are known by that phrase and it certainly does hold true.” I took a steadying breath then before looking back up at her. “But to serve does not mean to obey, nor does it entail loyalty.”

“Those things are not so easily offered. Obedience requires loyalty, and loyalty in turn requires belief and faith born from the very depths of our heart. Something that means so much, that is so fundamental to our very selves cannot be easily given. Nor should it be, lest it lose all meaning.” I took a deep breath then, only to turn bright red after suddenly realising that I had just finished doing exactly what I had been apologizing for moments ago.

Immediately I dropped into another bow. “I’m so sorry. I did it again. I shouldn’t be talking like this. Please disregard everything I’ve just said; I’m still new to the Order. I’m certain one of the more senior members would be able to provide a more suitable answer befitting its members.” The words all came out in a rush, leaving me to try and catch my breath in their wake.

Ilse Agard
(12/25/2013 7:27 AM)

"No." My other hand comes up now, taking her head gently between both as I step up on tip-toe to place an extremely light kiss above her hairline. "You're perfect. How could I ever disregard such perfect truth? Don't be 'obedient'... not to me, not to anyone. Be you. Be loyal if people earn it. Be honest, be direct... it suits you."

"But the one thing I'm going to ask of you..." I make sure to look her square in the eye now, so she can see that I'm completely serious, "... is to relax. I'm not going to judge you unkindly for being who you are. No matter who that is. So you go ahead and keep saying things you think you shouldn't, if it means being true to you. I promise, I won't tell on you. Your secrets are safe here. Ok?"

Matsumo Futari
(12/25/2013 8:41 AM)

That single word struck me like a bolt of lightning, leaving me frozen in place, wide-eyed and blinking in a mix of confusion and surprise. All I could do was watch on as she took my face gently in her hands, tongue flicking out to nervously wet my lips as she leaned in towards me. I swear I could have fainted when I felt her kiss in my hair, a little shiver running down my spine.

The words that followed had me blushing once more, shaking my head slightly in her grip only to fall still again as she continued on. I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of everything that followed; I hadn’t said anything that struck me as profound. Soon my uncertainty left me at a loss, unable to offer more than a slight nod when she finished offering advice.

I dropped my gaze instinctively when she made eye contact only for it to return with her request, brow furrowing, confusion evident on my features now. This time as she continued though I understood what she was saying. Without even realising it some of the tension from before started to fade. By the time she was finished I nodded again, this time with a great deal more understanding, even if I wasn’t sure I could grant her request.

I swallowed then, gaze dropping as her words continued to sink in. “I’m really not that special...” I whispered softly, glancing back up to gauge her reaction before lowering it once more. “But I don’t think life is a terrible place to live, as you said earlier.”

A deep, steadying breath and another glance before I continued. “Terrible things happen, to be certain, but how they affect us is our decision. Will we allow the negative experience to rule us or will it become our strength as we grow from it? Will we perpetuate those experiences or create something positive in spite of them?”

One final breath before I turned my attention to her fully, tightening my grip around the strap of my bag as I struggled to heed her words. “Life is a series of trials, as I said, but how we experience those trials is up to each and every one of us. Life, or more appropriately Fate, provides the map, the blueprints. We decide what we will build from them.”

"At least..." I added after a moment, my voice growing soft once more, as a small, uncertain smile tugged at my lips. "That's what I believe."

Ilse Agard
(12/28/2013 3:20 PM)

I laugh quietly, "Everyone's special, Tomoe. The things that make you you could come together in a thousand ways - and they do. But they come together this way only once. Ever. The world's full of people who'll try to sell you short, try to think less of you than of themselves. You can't stop them, it's only human nature... but you don't have to help them. Be proud of who you are: it's gotten you this far."

Then a shrug, and an easy smile, "You might be right. Maybe life doesn't suck all the time. Maybe it just sucks sometimes, so we appreciate when it doesn't. And when we're too distracted to care. But like you said: we decide what we make of our lives... as long as we don't let other people make all our decisions. C'mon, lemme introduce you to our taxi for tonight's excursion."

That said, she gets a light pat on the back of her shoulder as I turn to walk toward the dock. "Jimmy! Sorry to keep you waiting, man. Thanks for doing this on short notice. This is Tomoe. Tomoe, Jimmy. He's our ride tonight."

The poor guy's only starting to manage to offer my companion his hand and a 'Hi, nice to meet you' by the time I'm pushing right past to step onto the boat. "You remember about where I said we were gonna be headed, right? And Jim, you know I love you, but we're gonna have some sensitive gear up with us in the front of the boat, so we're gonna need you to give us plenty of room, kay?"

After all, it's gonna be dark, the boat itself isn't lit to avoid giving anything away... we just give him the flimsiest of excuses, and he's not gonna ask any questions about how we're scanning for hidden underwater caves not fifteen feet from his face without him seeing a goddamned thing. 'Sensitive equipment'. We'll huddle over the explosive pack and mutter or something, if we have to.

"Uhhh.. buh... yeah, yeah sure." He gives Tomoe a sheepish smile as introductions become 'time to get to work' and immediately heads for the pilot's seat. Still, he's definitely keeping more of an eye on Tomoe than on me. Good for her.

Matsumo Futari
(01/11/2014 10:49 PM)

The hesitant smile at the corners of my lips took hold with those first few words, remaining fixed there through the explanation that followed. So much of what she said resonated with my own beliefs, the truths I held deep within my heart. Hearing them from her sent a comforting warmth washing over me, leaving my shoulders to slump slightly as I began to relax.

There were minor points I disagreed with of course. Somehow arguing the finer points of human nature and pride just didn’t seem all that important at the time. Not in the wake of finding such a kindred spirit.

My smile grew further as she reconsidered her earlier stance. Soon I was nodding along in agreement. Even as she spoke I could feel the guiding hand of Fate, watch how it changed her, how she decided to change from it. It was likely only a single step on a long road but it was still a magnificent thing to behold. I have never grown tired of seeing how our stories and journeys intertwine and affect one another.

Before I could press matters further however she turned our attention back to the mission at hand. Nodding once I fell into step behind her, shifting the bags on my shoulder. When the introductions were made I had just enough time to step out and bow my head before my companion was already pressing ahead. Rather than interrupt however I waited for her to finish before saying anything.

“It’s an honor to meet you.” I finally managed, bowing my head again only to receive a brief smile before he rushed to his seat.

Shrugging slightly I finalled stepped onto the boat myself, moving toward the front and sinking down to my knees before settling back to sit on my calves. The bags were slowly removed and set down on my left before I reached over to unzip the same pocket as before, retrieving another stick of incense from within.

Once more my hands rose to my face in prayer, incense hidden between as my eyes fell shut. “Appreciation isn’t something that comes freely.” I offered quietly even as I remained rooted in place, muscles relaxing as my breathing deepened.

“Be aware of every moment, of everything that came before and shall come after. Reverence in all things to come and to have gone.” My hands lowered to fold in my lap, cupping the stick of incense as my meditations began. With every second that passed the world started to drift away even as the clarity grew in my minds eye.

“Only in knowing the weight something carries shall we know its value. Yet knowing its value means little if we do not carry it with us always.” My tone began to shift slightly, growing more self-certain and resonant as I fell deeper into my trance. It was always easier to speak in earnest when I could feel the presence of my ancestors gathering around me. Though as their voices and hearts intertwine with mine I suppose I cannot claim they are solely my own.

Ilse Agard
(01/14/2014 3:20 AM)

Tomoe begins her meditations, and Jimmy begins his. Well, his preparations, at least: getting the boat ready. And me, I'm just sitting down and relaxing.

And then, we're off.

The boat skims across the top of the water, bouncing slightly as it crosses the waves. For a few minutes, I'm just waiting, just relaxing and letting us get to the rough area of the extremely large lake that we're going to be focusing on tonight. After about ten minutes of travel, though, I stand up - the boat's fairly stable despite the shallow draft, after all, and there's a railing and everything.

"Time to get ready, Tomoe..."

That's all the warning she gets before my shirt's draped over her head. That's right, I'm stripping down, right here on the boat. Jimmy's patently refusing to notice - he's had to put up with me before, after all - and it's not like we're going to find changing rooms out in the middle of the lake. The boots are already off, and my pants are following quickly behind the shirt.

Have I mentioned that I love the way nylon and polyproplene feel together? The suit's not a full-on diving suit. Rather, it's more of a boogie-board suit, just like the one I'd tossed my companion earlier. Of course, hers has the pink accents, mine's got day-glo green.

Once I'm dressed - and I don't put my boots back on, if we have to go underwater, we've got flippers, and if we don't, we'll deal with it then - I move up toward the front end of the boat. "Bring the case up here when you're ready, and we'll get started."

Sure, it's the explosives, but Jimmy doesn't know that.

As for me, I'm already starting to get myself centered. There's a great big nothing out there where there should be something. All I have to do to find it is find where everything else isn't. Simple, no?

Matsumo Futari
(01/22/2014 12:04 PM)

I was confused when there had been no response following my words. There was only the sound of the engine, the fan and then the boat moving over the water. My head tilted to the side just slightly. It didn’t occur to me at the time that my sentiments regarding our earlier conversation sounded like part of my meditations. Rather than pressing the matter however I simply settled back into my meditations in silence.

I couldn’t help but find the gentle bobbing of the boat soothing as we skimmed across the water’s surface. Before long I had been completely fallen into my trance: everything else melted away to leave my mind open to the world around us. There was something familiar about being out over the water again even if the sounds and smells weren’t the same.

The sudden sound of Liz’s voice cut through everything, her words leaving me nodding slightly. I still didn’t move from my position immediately however. Instead when the shirt was thrown at me my hand snapped out reflexively to grab it in the same motion as earlier. Finally my eyes opened as I brought the object in front of me only to suddenly realise what I was holding..

Frantically I glanced up at Liz, eyes going wide and then dropping back to the cloth held in my hand. I could feel my face flushing with embarrassment. The notion of changing into the diving suit hadn’t occurred to me earlier. With every passing second however I became more aware of the situation we found ourselves in and my horror continued to grow in turn.

When the pants flew in my direction I was too shocked to move. The fabric fell over my head and shoulders as I stared blankly at the shirt now clutched tightly in my hands. Numbly I rose to my feet, closing my eyes to look a look around. There was nowhere to hide, not for miles and miles around. I had no idea what I was going to do.

I don’t know how long I stood there frozen in time before finally crouching down and hurriedly retrieving a plaque from my bag. Next came a marker from my coat pocket as I began to frantically scrawl my prayer on the wood. Snatching up the bundle from the boat beside me I ducked as far out of sight as I could manage until I was lingering dangerously close to the fan.

Pressing my back against the metal behind me I slipped the rope threaded through the plaque around my wrist before taking a deep breath and closing my eyes as I attempted to clear my mind again. For a while every attempt was foiled as the embarrassment of what I was about to do kept creeping back. Eventually though I crouched down, undoing the bindings on the bundle before clapping my hands together in reverence.

Another clap followed, the sound lingering in the air a moment before I suddenly launched to my feet, tearing the wood from my wrist and hurtling it into the air above me. Once the plaque reached its apex it seemed to hang there as the world around me slowed to a crawl. In a flurry of motion I pulled off my jacket and shirt underneath, my skin barely exposed before I was tugging the diving suit on. My boots, socks and pants followed similarly. By the time the gentle sound of the wood hitting the surface of the water signified the end of the effect I was panting hard, holding my chest and silently praying that it had worked.

Timidly I poked my head out. After furtively glancing around I followed suit, swallowing hard as I tried to calm my nerves. It was hard to act natural when my heart was beating so loudly in my ears. Fortunately my training with Father and the Arrows had left me comfortable in a diving suit. Rather enough so that my blush was faint at least.

Wordlessly I retrieved the other two bags from where I had left them, exchanging them for a pile of my neatly folded clothes before proceeding to the front of the boat. Once there I knelt down beside my compatriot, taking a deep breath as I struggled for the center I had found not so long ago.

Ilse Agard
(01/22/2014 1:50 PM)

"Tomoe..." My voice is quiet as she kneels down with me, and warm, "You do know that whatever you've got, I've seen them before, right? I mean, even if you were one of those Japanese dickgirls... well, ok, that was a trannie, but the point is... relax. I promise you, nobody is going to grope you on this boat."

I can't make promises for Jimmy when he's not working, but I don't think he'd do it off the boat, either. He's a nice kid. Kinda shy at times, but knows his work. I'm hoping Tomoe's the same way.

And speaking of Jimmy, we do need to keep up appearances. So now isn't the time to ask her about whipping out the Speedy Gonzales magic in front of a sleeper.

Deep breath, then another, my head aimed at the now-opened satchel of plastique even with my eyes closed. "Ok... so we're looking for a cave or a void or something, down in the muck. I'm not feeling any gaps in the material... any spatial anomalies? God, I always feel like I should be tacking on 'Mr. Spock' at the end of that."

Oops, was that last bit out loud?

Matsumo Futari
(01/29/2014 8:43 AM)

Her voice pierced through the calm that had already proven tenuous that night, sending ripples across the still waters of my minds eye. I didn’t look up when my name was called, though the more she spoke of anatomy the further the crimson blush crawled up my neck and across my cheeks. By the time she was finished I couldn’t even form words let alone try to explain, left to quickly shake my head in a small motion.

I managed to even out in my breathing in the silence that followed though, muscles going slack once more as my eyelids fluttered slightly. While the brief reprieve was enough to resume my meditations I still couldn’t reach the same depths I had achieved earlier. At least I could feel the presence of my ancestors around me, the energy of their hands on my shoulders, and that was enough.

Fortunately when she spoke again her words didn’t throw me off center. Instead I simply reached into the bag beside me, retrieving a handful of cherry blossom petals. Where my earlier motions had slipped between time, now they began to drag across it, almost leaving an after-image in their wake.

Leaning forward I delicately scattered the petals across the water, raising and turning my hand until the remainder were taken away by the wind. Another handful, this one for my immediate surroundings as my head tipped back. My hand drew inward then, capturing one of the fluttering petals as the other dipped beneath the surface of the water, cupping a handful and raising it to chest level. Finally I placed the lone petal gently on the water in my palm, completing the connection between my minds eye and our surroundings.

In the span of a heartbeat my awareness had spread out to encompass the surrounding area. As it brushed along the bottom of the lake however my muscles tightened, body tensing; from the reports we had been given I had expected to find an anomaly but not with such relative ease. The revelation posed as many questions as it answered, though it did lend some credence to my companion’s earlier thoughts regarding being tested.

After a moment I nodded slowly, eyes slowly opening to scan over the water. My voice was quiet when I spoke, still carrying some of the echoing resonance from earlier. “I’ve found what we’re looking for. There’s a cave along the bottom of the lake at Green 32, 2 minutes, 31 seconds East Longitude.” The bag at my side returned to my shoulder as I rose to my feet, finally turning to look at Liz.

“I can’t really discern much beyond its presence from here. We’re going to need to go down there to investigate further. I suspect anything we do from this point will need to be done once we’re in there.” I barely seemed to notice the presence of our pilot, let alone take heed, as my focus became completely absorbed by the mission. Fortunately I at least had the presence of mind to not say anything completely overt, but my lack of subtlety has unfortunately lead to a few uncomfortable encounters with the Guardians.
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby DEM » Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:01 am

"I agree." I'm tugging the oxygen tanks out as I speak, and hand one of them over, mask looped around the top nozzle. "Ever gone diving before?"

Because you know, I haven't. But I understand how these things work, how they're supposed to be used... it's not really something I have to focus on, either - I just know. Which is handy, really.

And no, I didn't miss out on that blush. But right now I'm giving her a break, and fishing out the short-paddle fins I brought. One pair's getting slid over toward my companion, while the other is getting slipped on over my feet. "It'll be dark down there. These masks have lights on them, but the water's not exactly pristine. I don't know that the lights will pierce terribly far."

Not that we need them to. A matter mage and a space mage - we can each navigate in the dark. Which... we're about to need, I think.
Last edited by DEM on Sat Mar 15, 2014 2:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby Kjaere » Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:24 pm

Even as I received the diving equipment from Liz I began slipping it into place with practiced ease. The experience of those moments seemed a distant thing; my mind was still stretched out to the area around us and I found myself grasping for the imminent future that lingered just ahead. I could feel the present slipping away, my mind drifting along threads of the Tapestry. Following such moments I’ve often wondered if it’s not for our capacity to easily lose ourselves within such ebb and flow that leaves those of the Path of Thorns so focused on the present.

The oxygen tank was already secured in place by the time she asked if I had gone diving before. I fell still then, slowly looking up at her and offering a soft smile. “A few times. It was one of the training programs I volunteered for shortly after I moved here.” I cast a brief glance at our pilot, my awareness of the immediate surroundings apparently waxing and waning.

I sat down on the edge of the boat as the fins were slid over to me, reaching over to begin slipping them on. The mention of the conditions beneath the surface however left me glancing up at my companion, brow furrowed in thought. While I wasn’t strictly concerned about our ability to see, there were other things that warranted consideration.

After a moment I tilted my head to the side. “Do you have any rope by chance?”

I paused for a moment awaiting her answer before realizing I should probably explain. Suddenly self-conscious my gaze flitted down briefly before returning to her face once more. “Admittedly there are some moderate dangers being attached to someone while swimming, but given current conditions getting separated could be even more dangerous.” With my meagre explanation offered my eyes dropped back down as I finished with the fins.
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby DEM » Sun Mar 02, 2014 12:29 am

"Rope..." The moment she says it, I get it. "Good idea - like when you're rock climbing..." Then I cock my head a little. "Really? Like, you took classes out here, or you were teaching them?"

After all, if she's teaching things, hell, that's handy, you know? "And between us, I think we can make sure the line doesn't foul." Matter mage, space mage, we can do that. It's kinda exactly what we do, you know?

"Jimmy!" I'm already turning toward the back of the boat, "You have rope, right? Something light, to tie up to a dock with?" I don't wait for his nod - I know where he keeps it, after all. "We're gonna borrow about fifteen feet of it. Lemme know how much I owe you, hey?"

Then, rope-in-hand, it's back toward the bow. "Ok, let's get ourselves set up... uhmm..." I find I'm looking at the rope in one of those 'I know what this is, but...' ways. "You any good with knots? The last time I tried shibari I almost managed to keep my shoes from falling off..."
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby Kjaere » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:30 pm

I couldn’t help but offer a small smile when she said the rope was a good idea, nodding eagerly as she followed my train of thought. It wasn’t until her comment to follow that I realised how unnecessary my concerns regarding those particular dangers were; it was still hard for me to consider the aspects of reality I wasn’t well versed in.

“I-” I was just opening my mouth to answer her question, the first small sound barely escaping, when she was already turning around and calling out to our pilot. Rather than interrupting I simply ducked my head down slightly and waited for her to return, busying myself with checking over my suit and equipment one last time.

When I heard her voice beside me I looked back up, adjusting the straps for the tank and bag over my shoulder. My gaze followed hers down to the rope in her hand, glancing back up at face in confusion only to catch the uncertainty there. No sooner had I started to answer her question with a nod then she was continuing on to mention shibari, immediately setting my face bright red.

Of course it only took a moment before I realised the implications that my reaction would have, which only made it all the worse. Within a matter of seconds my face was glowing; I thought I could feel the blood rushing to my face, throbbing in time with the beat of my heart. In a flash my awareness of the world around us, of what would come and had already gone, had completely vanished.

The silence lingered briefly before I was attempting to stammer out an explanation. “It’s not what you think. I mean, it’s not-- I just heard-- It’s not like I--” Unfortunately every word that left my mouth just seemed to make matters worse until I finally gave up, falling silent and lowering my head. Wordlessly I crouched down and retrieved one end of the rope, standing up and moving a little closer to carefully slide it around her waist.

I was nearly finished securing it in place by the time I found my voice again, though it was barely more than a whisper and I still couldn’t bring myself to meet her gaze. “I took classes out here. I’ve pretty much lived on or around the water all my life so I was familiar with a lot of the basics already, just not the specifics of diving.”

Sitting down on the edge of the boat I retrieved the other end of the rope and slipped it around my waist, fastening it into place as I had done for her. After I was done I sat there for a moment and took a deep breath to collect myself before finally raising my eyes to meet hers. “Are you ready to begin?”
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby DEM » Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:29 pm

The fact that she turns beet red when I mention knotwork doesn't surprise me at all - let's face it, at this point I wouldn't be at all surprised if she blushed and got all self-conscious at the mention of The Smurfs. For all her obvious repression, this girl's got a filthy freakin' mind. But I'm not going to rub it in, and that might surprise her, in turn. After all, I was kinda overboard back before we got on the boat.

Irony there, in a completely unintended pun.

So instead, I just nod a little and go very still as she goes to tie the rope around my waist. "Yeah, me too... well, kinda. I mean, Portland's on the water, but I didn't ever actually set foot on a boat 'til I got out here. You certified as an instructor, too, or just for diving?"

See, not everything has to be about sex. Though there's a muffdiving joke in there someplace...

Shut up.

Then she's asking if I'm ready, and I nod with a little smile. "Yeah..." Raising my voice, I don't look away from her, or stop smiling, as I call over my shoulder, "If we're not back by nightfall Jimmy, don't call the cops."

Mind you, it's only a little after midnight now... but we'll be back well before dawn, let alone dusk. And we'll be able to find our way back to the boat - like I said, space mage, matter mage... hard to get us lost, right?
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby Kjaere » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:58 pm

Honestly I was far too caught up in my own embarrassment to notice that my companion wasn’t making matters any worse, though doubtless there was a part of me that was relieved.

I shook my head when she asked if I was certified as an instructor. “Always a student.” I’ve always appreciated the wisdom in those words, even more so after joining the Arrows, though the other half of the quote has never quite settled with me.

Her quip about our return received a small smile before I motioned for her to join me. Closing my eyes again I took another deep breath, fixing my mask and mouthpiece into place before glancing to her one more time. With a firm nod I kicked off the boat, sending it rocking even as I flipped back into the water.

The instant I was swallowed beneath the waves pulses of sensation washed over me. First came the chill that sent shivers down my spine despite the suit’s insulation, followed closely by the invigorating warmth as my body adjusted to being in the water again. This was certainly my favorite place in the world to be, aside from the back of my motorcycle.

I couldn’t help but swim around, darting this way and that, savoring the experience. It wasn’t until I felt the tension on the rope that I remembered my surroundings. Had we been on land I might have looked like a dog suddenly reaching the end of its leash, though the water didn’t altogether negate the experience. Slowly I swam back using the rope for guidance before looking at my companion sheepishly.

With a small jerk of my head I motioned towards the co-ordinates I had listed off earlier before beginning to swim in their direction.
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby DEM » Fri Mar 14, 2014 3:28 pm

She gets to dart around like a fish a good deal more than she might have expected. After all, I've had my matter-sense working, and water is simply a form of matter. She's a great, big, hole in that matter, and it lets me keep track of her, and even move with her. Of course, I'm not nearly as experienced diving like this (read: not at all), so she's faster and more graceful than I am.

This will not be the last time I feel like that.

Really, it's an experience that's going to repeat itself many times, though of course right now I have no idea of that. Right now, I'm just grinning like an idiot at the way she's behaving in the water. It's a lot like how she was on the bike. Whenever she stops focusing on being 'proper'... well, then she stops being and starts living.

It makes me want to find a way to really shatter that limiting, suffocating shell she insists on hiding in.

Finally, though, we do need to get going, so there's just the slightest tug on the rope that brings her back to me. I nod when she does, and set off behind her.

* * * * *

It doesn't take too terribly long to reach the location she's felt - and it's not exactly subtle, either: when we reach the 'cave', well... it's a door.

No, actually, it's a pair of double-doors. Even though from everything I can tell, there's water there, and even up this close, the area just feels 'empty' to my little space-mage, there's a pair of double-doors there. With small spotlights on either side that slowly warm to life as we approach, like the lights over someone's garage. This is... freaky.

What's more freaky is that as we get to within about fifteen feet... the water ends. Well, it doesn't so much 'end' as 'it's not where we are'. Instead, we go from swimming one moment to standing the next - as if we've always been standing, and we just walked up to the doors.

After a moment's consideration, I take the mouthpiece out, and open my mouth.


"Well. That's fucking odd."
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Re: [New Orleans: Fallen Worlds] And Then There Were Two

Postby Kjaere » Sun Mar 16, 2014 1:05 am

As the door emerged from the gloom of water beyond our vision my body fell still, leaving me to float in place as I stared in astonishment. Even sensing the anomaly earlier had failed to prepare me for what lay in store for us. I had learned about folding or connecting space during my training but to see something like that up close was another matter entirely. After those few moments of consideration however I set off again, my pace faster than before to match the beat of my heart.

The glow of the lights set my skin tingling, tension gripping my muscles even as I swam closer.

It’s not until we arrived at the edge of the emptiness that I fell to a stop again. Reaching out I tentatively ran my hand over the edge of the water, mesmerized as I felt the tips of my fingers emerge into air on the other side. My eyes shone behind the mask as I glanced over to Liz before diving through.

Only to find myself suddenly standing before the doors.

For a moment I stood there blinking, disoriented by the sudden change in orientation. After a moment though I stepped forward, reaching out again to touch the doors with the same fascination I had tested the fold in space.

The voice behind me caused me to jump slightly, tearing my hand away from the metal and whirling around to face its source. Recognition came a moment after my hand had started reaching for my sword, leaving me to exhale and relax again.

With the perceived threat having passed my earlier excitement returned in full. My eyes shone brightly as the mask was moved to my forehead, words tumbling out of my mouth as soon as the mouthpiece was free. “Isn’t it interesting?”

Turning back to touch the metal again my fingertips began to lightly trace over its surface as I spoke. “I mean, it’s one thing to understand how Space itself is an illusion created to allow our minds to comprehend reality, but to experience it in a way that challenges our perceptions in such a direct manner is absolutely fascinating. Even advanced workings of the Arcanum tend to be more overtly magical or subtle so as not to challenge the way we perceive reality.”

“Of course I know that’s a necessity in order to maintain the Veil.” I added quickly as an afterthought, glancing back at Liz for a moment before returning to the door. “But this is something altogether different. It doesn’t need to play by our rules. It’s a rare opportunity to see beyond the Lie in ways that only the Masters have truly experienced.”

Finally taking a moment to breathe I looked back to Liz only to realize I had been carrying on this whole time. Suddenly I was staring back at the door, flush creeping up my neck again. Slowly my hand began to lower, fingers tracing over the handle before slowly wrapping around it. When I looked back to Liz again the light had already started to return to my eyes, a smile playing at the corners of my lips.

“Ready to see what’s on the other side?”
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