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Cities have secrets. It was a simple fact that seemed to elude most people, but it was something that was very much abused by those with the necessary knowledge - be it thieves, thrill-seekers, bureaucrats or even the leaders of cities. Cities were almost like people in that regard - once you knew their secrets, they could be manipulated - and this was not a fact that was lost on the second member of the Elite Triumvirate, Yugaku Hayake. Her trips to cities were always very interesting, for she saw the secrets that most people took to their graves effortlessly. Within a few minutes of being within the city of Toran, she could tell all of its hidden nooks and crannies, and the secrets of those within it. Secrets were a beautiful thing, and though she saw them all, it was through a voyeur's eye--not an interrogator's. She looked over the sun-kissed streets with their spicy noodle stands, the Arena with its secrets of yore and glitter of promise, and the colourful flags fluttering gently along an invisible breeze. The festivities were well under way, and the new blood would be gathering any time now in order to start their Rites together. She smiled to herself, just briefly, before walking away from the central plaza.

A place in Toran that few knew about was the Peak of the Gods, an ancient track of gates that extended out over a grassy cline towards the sunset in the evenings. Those who knew of the location knew nothing of its significance, but Yugaku had long-since discovered the area's secrets. It had historically been used as a beacon for power, with each gate imparting a little power into those that walked through it, until the culmination was the infusion of enough power to commune with the "gods", but that was a truth from a time that had long since passed. If the Lord of the South still heard the prayers of those at the Peak of the Gods, he showed no inclination to answer them. That was, if anyone still knew enough to pray there.

Yugaku took a steady stroll through the first of the gates, admiring the architectural integrity as she lightly ran her hand across the old stone foundations that kept it standing. Despite being obviously ancient, it had weathered the test of time, and its features looked no different to how they had hundreds of years ago. The stone bases of the gates were thick cuboids, bridged together at the top with vermillion red tiles, and decorated with kanji that had lovingly been carved into the slates and painted over with red. Prayer beads were strewn across the gates, in some cases underneath them, and in some cases in front of them, or attached to the walls. Despite their age, the aura of reverence had not yet left, and walking through the gates gave Yugaku a feeling of serenity and hope. It was brief, but she managed to enjoy it while it lasted, and after ten minutes of walking, she had reached the end of the string of gates, and was overlooking the sun as it began to dip below the horizon, reflected across the water like a painting upon a canvas.

"If you still hear our prayers, O Suzaku, I ask that you listen well. The darkness that has been foreseen will be upon this new blood soon, and we three cannot protect them all. You know that our duties will keep us elsewhere. There will be casualties before the upcoming storm - give them your blessing, Lord of the South, and watch over them where we mortals cannot. I fear they will need your assistance soon enough." She began, looking out towards the sunset before it dipped below the waves for the day, and the time of prayer was no longer correct. It was cathartic to speak out loud the worries that she had felt for some time - while the other members of the Triumvirate might understand, there was little that any of them could do, and speaking to them about the upcoming darkness was hardly necessary - they had all come to the same conclusion, in some manner or another.

For now, she would wait by the shore before visiting Toran and returning to Lifan - she would check up on the new trainers before they challenged Anastasia, but beyond that there was little assistance that she could offer.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Payldue
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Cold and wet from the rain, Axel trudges along. The densely packed trees in the forest outside of Toran did little to stop the water from soaking him through. His clothes became heavy and made it harder to move stealthily. Careful not to disturb the foliage, Axel continues on his hunt. The Omutiel he had been tracking was close, and he couldn’t afford to spook it now as it was almost 5am and quite dark out still and he might not be able to find it again.

“I should have waited till morning to do this.” grumbles Axel to himself.

Having been traveling for 5 days since receiving the letter from his father, Axel was just outside of his destination but had decided to make a slight detour once he noticed the telltale signs of an Omutiel. Catching an Omutiel would fetch him a pretty penny as breeders greatly desired them for their benefits later on. The money, while not necessary for a minor lordling such as himself, would allow him to live in luxury slightly longer while completing his rites.

Axel had been expecting the letter for some time now, and as it happens, he had been almost home to Ward when he received it. His father demanded that he take a sabbatical from his work with the Byakko’s Fangs, the mercenary band he had been with since the war, to finally complete his Rites which were long overdue. Usually the Rites are begun when children reach adulthood, sometimes slightly earlier. In Axel’s case though, he had already begun work and had fought in a war, so he didn’t place much importance in the Rites, but he would not disobey his father.

Suddenly a rustle in the branches ahead of him caught his attention.

“Shit, it sensed me.” Axel thought.

“Chu, use your Kusarigama to chain it down now!” He shouted!

From the darkness came a whirling sound as Chu broke through the brush beside him in a charge towards the tree in front of him. Chu had been tailing in case Axel needed assistance during his hunt. With dexterity much greater than his own, Chu leapt and released the Kusarigama towards the treetop. A loud and frustrated “Caw” sounded as a now bound Omutiel fell to the forest floor. The chains had trapped its left wing to its body and it now could no longer fly. Giving Chu and Axel a glare, it succumbed to its binding and just stared at them both, refusing to struggle.

“Thanks for making it easier little guy. Don’t worry, I won’t be hurting you.” Axel announces. “I’m merely going to be giving you a new home. Who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy it more.”

Holding his left arm out, the stones on his arm band begin to glow. With a few practiced words, the stones flash brightly and then begin to dull. A new stone had been added to it and the Omutiel was no longer there. The new stones colors were a swirl of green and grey, complimenting the other 5 he had of varying designs and colors.

“Alright, finally time to head into town. I wonder where I can get a good meal?”
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Innue
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Selim had opted to take a less traditional route to Toran.

The mountains that divided the East from the West were really only practically accessible through Ward. However, that did not make it impossible to cross elsewhere on the range. Especially for someone who had time in Relin, and time in Gadot, the mountains, the elements, and their perils were no strangers to Selim. With his Kohitsuji and Crowire, it made the journey slow, but with very little risk. Crowire was easily capable of scouting for dangers ahead, while Selim's Kohitsuji's Psychic Aura helped ensure the path was sure.

Selim's choice of the crossing the mountain was to give him some alone time. He knew the likelyhood of encountering any other person out there would be slim to none. Plus, the added benefit was that some of the forested areas between the mountains were noted to be home to creatures that were tested against the harshest elements and had shown perseverance - a trait Selim deeply respected. His choice was rewarded with an encounter with a Veolu. Being from the desert side of the mountains, it was a creature he had not seen before.

Clasping the bauble that held his relic, he let a bit of his magic bleed into the purple stained glass ring, which began to spin around before flooding the area with multiple arcs of purple light. They quickly surrounded the Veolu before it had time to process what was going on, enveloping it before it vanished with a snap. Now etched onto the back of his relic was an inscription for the Veolu in the tiniest of ornamental scripts. He gave a small smile to himself before marching onwards and over the final mountain giving him a view of Toran from above.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Tuujaimaa
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Kiyo had begun her journey from Lifan on foot, having attempted to simply get on her way with starting her Rites on her own terms--despite the fact that it was a familial obligation for her to be recognized as the heiress to the Reijin family, it was something she had simply always wanted to do. Much of her childhood had been spent poring over tomes depicting the lives and actions of the legendary heroes, describing the war they fought and what was at stake. It'd left her with a deep appreciation for the esoteric and powerful, and there was no better way to understand the nature of the world than to walk it as its greatest heroes once had. Before she could get particularly far, however, her parents had sent an armed escort with her--forgetting, conveniently, that she was almost thirty years old and had fought in a war--and she had been escorted to the high speed rail going to Ward. The journey to Ward was fairly uneventful, though she got her fair share of stares from passersby and other such travellers. Perhaps not because they recognised her, because few recognised the less notable members of the Great Families, but because she had an armed entourage--which was extremely rare, even amongst the nobility.

Upon arriving in Ward, Kiyo dismissed her armed entourage with as much fervor as she could muster. She thanked them for their service, but now that she was in the West their presence would only stir up discontent among the populace. Few would know who she was, and fewer still would care, so their presence was wildly unnecessary. She boarded another train down to Toran on her own, sitting peacefully in a cabin with a steaming pot of tea and some of Ward's regional cuisine--an "artisinal" beefburger, stacked with six different kinds of cheese and at least three sauces, none of which Kiyo could accurately identify. She stared at the burger, a little uneasily, before pushing it gently to the side and offering it to the next member of staff that passed by her on the train. She cradled her hands around the porcelain cup, letting its heat infuse into her palms, as she watched the countryside and the vast forests of Toran roll by alongside her.

When she departed the train, Kiyo smiled to herself and immediately begun to wander. It had been a long time since she had simply been free to do as she wished--not since the war, really--and she spend the first free afternoon she'd had in almost a decade wandering the nearby forest. There would be plenty of time for the formality and the due process later--she was from Lifan, through and through, due process was no stranger to her--but for now, she simply wanted to relax into having a good time. She strode through the forest gingerly at first, unused to the wildness of it all, but quickly found a rhythm. It was, in some ways, like riding a bike--it brought back memories of the war. She'd had enough time to come to terms with what had happened, and though the horrors of war were not something one could ever forget, she had not done or seen anything horrific enough that it had really stayed with her. She was thankful for her background in moments like these, lost in thought, that she had been spared from the worst of the conflict simply because of the name that she bore. She offered a silent prayer to Seiryu before walking into a tree, letting out a confused yelp that startled a nearby flock of birds.

It was there that she came across a Mythari, darting playfully through the air, and she reached out to it with her mind.

"Have you ever seen the magic of Shadebinding before, Mythari?"

It did not respond to her mentally, but it flitted slightly closer to her, curious and cautious, and precariously rubbed its nose against her outstretched left hand. With her right, she summoned forth the well of inky blackness deep within her and allowed the magic of the Pernicious Infusion to accumulate in her hand, almost like a tarry-black sea of pitch dancing gently around her fingers.

"It is a powerful magic of endings that few know. There is a lot of magic in this world that we don't know about, Mythari. Would you like to come and experience it with me?" Kiyo asked, withdrawing the magic back into herself as she finished. Though there was no direct verbal assent, the Mythari gave a beat of its wings and then nodded, the runes on its wings flourishing with brilliant energy. Kiyo nodded, taking a relic from a pocket in her robe, and holding it up to the creature. With a ray of brilliant white light the Mythari allowed itself to be bound by the relic and was then immediately summoned, following alongside her.

"Shall we take flight, and see if there anything exciting in the forest?" Kiyo asked the Mythari mentally, beginning to hover off of the air with her Windspeaking, and with a great surge upwards it noted its assent.

"Your magic of shadebinding is interesting. I would like you to show me more, when we have finished." Mythari responded as the two flew steadily over the forest, looking for anything interesting happening.

"Of course. When we retire to Toran, I shall show you everything I know. When night falls, there are rituals that I will be happy to show you." Kiyo replied, and the two resumed their search of the forest. After having not found anything for a solid hour, the pair decided to make residence in Toran. The two had chatted mentally about all things magical, Kiyo revealing the secrets of Shadebinding that her family had kept and Mythari speaking about the nature of magic in the wild. The pair sat with one another in the central square, waiting until nightfall proper so they could begin the nighttime excursion that Kiyo had promised.

Meanwhile, Kiyo had booked a room for the two of them in Toran's finest hotel. She, personally, had no desire to spend the night somewhere so opulent--but her family had a reputation to uphold, and had insisted that for Toran, at least, they make a display of giving Kiyo the greatest luxury.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Innue
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The battle between Selim's magic and the Olena had left him exhausted. He had infused the magic rituals into the bauble around his neck before leaving Gadot, thinking he had a healthy supply, but between the Veolu and the Olena, Selim did not much gas left in the tank. He was pleased to have both of the creatures on his team, but it made it near impossible he would have the resources to make it to Ward and still be able to add additional summons to his team.

However, fate would not be done taunting Selim. Nearly immediately after capturing his Olena, yet another ghost made an appearance. Unlike the darkness of the Olena, the Soelbe radiated a peaceful light. Selim had seen Soelbe a few times before in the desert. They were known for helping lost travelers out of the desert or leading them to an oasis. Selim paused for a moment to examine the situation. Low on magic he could tap into the fuel the capture, he would have no other choice but to do battle with it. He hated to do that, but it was an opportunity to get a strong type advantage for future gyms. Soelbe was the only natural possessor of both ghost and light magics, a rare type combination that made occasional appearances in some hybrids or adaptive creatures.

Selim called for his Crowire silently, covering the summoning light up with his Invocation magic to avoid alerting the creature, as well as mask his own presence. It was a simple enough trick that just needed to divert attention away from the staging long enough to give Selim a bit of a tactical advantage - as well as minimize risk to the Soelbe. It just needed to be weakened enough to capture, should his first few attempts fail. Based on his quick mental calculations, he had about 6 shots at capturing it.

Clutching the bauble, he called forth from the last bits of his restraining magic to arc light around the Soelbe to startle it. Like before, the arcs of light shot out from Selim's bauble and surrounded the creature. Up until the the last second before the Soelbe, vanished, Selim's fingers were intensely clasping the bauble to the point where some of the relief picture had started to dig into his skin. Thankfully, he did not have to do battle with the Soelbe and its name was added onto the back of the bauble.

However, Selim now had a new challenge - figuring out how to get some more funds. Normally he'd be a good enough craftsman he could make something to sell, but he had no raw materials to work with or the funds really to procure anything of decent quality. That meant he had only one fallback - bodyguard. So, a bit dusty from his journey, Selim marched to the center of the town, managed to find some scrap materials to set up a sign next to himself that said 'Bodyguard for Hire'.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Fallenreaper
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▀▄▀▄▀▄ Mαʅʅσɾყ ▄▀▄▀▄▀

Time, IC Day: Late Morning, Day 1
Location: Toran, within the city




Mallory reached for her shoes the organizer. She slipped off her meu slippers then placed her feet into her shoes, tapping the toes against the wooden floor twice to ensure they were secure. The girl smiled when she thought about the Toran’s age-old superstition about tracking ‘bad luck’ into the house from your shoes. For years, it was still a tradition in some homes to remove them and wear slippers inside. Others no longer practiced it.

She just figured her mom enjoyed she could limit the mud to one room without being weird, unlike back in Lifan. Depression washed over Mallory at remembering her old life. The move had brought a lot of changes in the last few years, from adjusting to a new culture and home to now her voyage ahead of her.

The fear of leaving her family behind while confronting the unknown left her chest tight with her anxiety.

Abruptly a huge white shape pressed its cold body against her. The chill raced up Mallory’s skin as her eyes glanced to the side. There stood her mother’s Fureishund named Pupsicle. It turned out her mother preferred cute names during her teenage years.

The dog-like Natrelmon was almost two foot shorter than herself, with see-through ice coating the head, belly, back, and legs like armor. He leaned against her with what he thought to be a comforting gesture while his droopy muzzle panted out an icy mist. Mallory had to admit he was adorable. She also was surprised he didn’t jab her with the long, sharp icicles protruding from the back of his legs.

Gently Mallory scratched Pupsicle underneath his right floppy ear. His tail gave a hard smack against her hip when it wagged, nearly knocking her down from his excitement.

“Owww,” She complained causing Pupsicle to whine in apology.

The girl knew her mother kept the natrelmon out of his relic purely because they were close, the Fureishund being her mother’s starter during her own Rites. There wasn’t a single memory Mallory didn’t have as a child which didn’t include this monster of a natrelmon being around. Though like some well trained Natrelmon, Pupsicle put his trainer’s desires first.

After few more scratches behind the ear, Mallory decided to bid him farewell, “I’m going to miss you too boy. Keep mom safe and company until I get back, deal?”

Pupsicle just gave her a doggish grin before he trotted off toward the kitchen. Her eyes followed him until he disappeared from sight, the clanking of dishes slowly stopped. Deep inside, Mallory knew her mother had been busy distracting herself. It gave the tamer enough time to leave without seeing her mother's sorrow being masked with false happiness.

She paused long enough to rub some warmth into her side, hip and leg where Pupsicle had pressed against her. Hoping outside wasn’t too cool, Mallory glanced to check she still had her bag. Another memory filled her as she let out a soft chuckle and headed out.

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Mallory rushed down the stone steps and turned into the flowing crowds. Her unusual height allowed her to see over most of the people's heads. The activity was normal because she lived just outside one of the busiest areas in Toran: the marketplace. A few people, with the assistance of their various natrelmon, decorated the streets. Paper lanterns hung on strings and lucky tags were placed on the doors. Her peripheral vision spotted a small team of men practicing their routine. They used poles to wave a paper Seiryu, the legendary natrelmon, in the air as gracefully as they could.

She thought they did a fairly good job imitating a living breathing natrelmon, but it could never match the real thing.

Her eyes were peeled for Xander while her senses were immediately assaulted by the street vendors smells. They were busy preparing for tonight, from various spicy and rice noodles to skewered meat being charred. Her favorite was the deep-fried wheat snacks, coated with a light dusting of sugar. Her mouth began to water while she moved closer.

A clanking of a cart caused her to jerk to the side and turn down a semi-dark alleyway between two buildings, closing in on the busy scene at the other end. Behind her, the crowd parting for an old man and his Bovent.

Once in the alley, her finger tapped her bracelet and summoned out Gwisin. A dark, cloaked natrelmon with red stains oozed from the relic. A crown of spikes protruded from his shoulders to the back of his head, adding to his intimidating presence. Gwisin was only an inch taller than herself as he began to to follow her.

Unlike most people, she felt comfort in the darkness. When they exited out, Mallory’s eyes squinted and she raised a hand to shade them.

A voice caused her to stop abruptly.

“Yeah, kiddo. Heading to start your Rites?”

Her right leg literally stopped in midair, her head twisted toward the origins of voice. Her father, a fellow with the same height and willowy built stood behind a wooden stand. His pale blue eyes were warm in pride while his smile wrinkled his aged face, his front covered with an apron. Near the stand’s base laid Ajax, her father’s Panzer, basking in the few rays of direct sunlight. The panther-like natrelmon lazily glanced in Mallory’s direction before giving her the cold shoulder despite being a grass and light type.

“Actually,” Mallory started to form her thoughts into words, pausing a moment to calm her racing heart.

“I was heading to the wilds. I need to capture some natrelmon before I start, but I need to find Xander first. You haven’t seen him, have you?”

Though it sounded better in her head, her tongue tried to tangle itself and try to skip a few words. It forced her to slow down as she was speaking.

Her father nodded, then shrugged, “Nope, I’m sorry but I haven’t seen him. Have you eaten today or did you rush out of the house before your mom got you to wait another year?”

Mallory’s silence spoke louder than her words ever could. It screamed an obvious yes causing her father to sigh, then moved to a boiling stock pot. It shimmered over a small flame burning on top of cut stone. A small Emleaf sat nearby and watched it eagerly.

Mallory wasn’t surprised the little natrelmon might’ve been the source of the flames.

He stirred the chicken broth. She caught the scent of chicken, scallions, vegetables and various herbs she knew by heart after watching him for years. While both her parents could cook, Mallory’s only talent in cook was burning water. Not even her books could explain how that was possible.

After a few moments, her father scooped out two small bowls then placed them on the stand. He also passed her two sets of chopsticks to slurp the chicken and rice noodle soup. In addtion, he added two long strips of deep-fried dough.

“One of each is for you, the rest is for Xander. I’m pretty sure that boy will smell it and come right to you.”

“Thanks,” Mallory smiled as she hesitated in collecting her free meals.

“This is my way of wishing you good luck on your trip. While your mother might be overprotective, I’m pride you’re taking this first step.”

Careful not to spill the soup or the dough sticks, she leaned across the counter to hug her father. The old man tightly wrapped his arms about her and returned the embrace. Mallory retreated back as she juggled the food in her hands before seeking out Xander. In the back of her mind, she knew if he didn’t show up soon she had the okay eat it all herself. She couldn't let it go to waste after all.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by The 42nd Gecko
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Süne didn't visit proper civilization all that often. In a way, he was thankful for how Snowstep separated him from the town. Few would brush up close against the chilling mist that drifted off a Frallion. Not that sparse flows of people so early in the morning were truly a crowd. But it was still more than Süne's entire roving tribe. But so far from home, he needed somewhere else to resupply, and so to Toran he came.

He also needed somewhere to store all his paintings! His journey south to Toran had been long, but quite fruitful. Swallest, Soelbe, Yosoku and Leadro, Weddelbek, Omu, Amar, and Albion, his arrows of capture had caught them all. Only the Albion had evaded a single arrow, but even that small and nimble creature couldn't avoid the third. And well, once the creature was in his employ, he could have it sit still as long as he liked for a portrait. He had stored all his paintings as well as he could for the journey, but their number made keeping them safe quite a chore now.

Süne now looked for a bank or perhaps art gallery? He didn't really want to display his art to the world until he had finished his quest, but he wasn't sure how much it costed to have his paintings stored as securely as a bank would. But maybe the art gallery would also have those who specifically knew how to take care of paintings. A conundrum, surely. He'd probably have to talk to some people to figure it out.

~~

After storing away his paintings, ultimately at a bank, which apparently had a system in place for securely and safely shipping artifacts to a few other major cities. Süne wasn't sure how long he'd stay in the Toran area, so catching up later with his paintings in another area was something he was willing to pay a premium for.

However, on that note, he figured he might want to actually take the Rites a little more seriously. The logistical requirements of capturing and/or painting every Natrelmon might involve a little more money than he had expected. He had heard that the Arenas awarded an infusion of funds if defeated, though that might be simply a rumor. Still, it wouldn't hurt at the least, unless there was a door charge to prevent frivolous challenges. But they'd tell him about that before challenging, right?

Still, perhaps it would be a bit rude to challenge so early in the morning, with the sun barely peeking above the horizon. Süne decided to scour the wilds one more time before challenging the Toran Arena.

~~

Süne had managed to hunt down a Sakura-re, a beautiful blossom natrelmon, who probably wouldn't have all that great of a time in the Toran Arena, renowned for its fire Types. Süne took some time to chose his natrelmon for the Arena challenge. Albion was for certain, it resisted fire, was among his strongest, and would teach him much of the ways of magic with Dragon's strange natural connections to it. Leadro was a tough choice, but at least it was neutral defensively, and had access to Water for offense. Eletta was brought along, despite being utterly useless, to hopefully learn something from watching the others fight. Süne wasn't sure how a slab of ice did that, but apparently it could. Finally, Süne decided to bring Sakura-re anyway. He was aware it would probably have an awful time, if brought out to battle, but apparently Natrelmon could learn greatly from fighting battles they were ill-suited for. And Süne definitely wanted to have an opportunity to paint its later forms.

Süne, four arrows in his quiver, the rest left with Frallion outside, left tied to a nearby lamp, went to challenge the Toran Arena.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Raijinslayer
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Xander


The light of Ielle had only just begun to peek over the horizon as a small fleet of Xanite boats slid across the water into the Toranese docks, already alight with activity as fishermen, sailors, and dockhands prepared to start another day of hard labor. Among them all, however, were a group of young men and woman chatting excitedly with one another, backs laden with heavy packs full of traveling equipment. these were the current generation of Tamers, ready to take on the Rites and seek fame and fortune, or at the very least, new experiences to help them all grow into proper members of society. The Toranese looked over the groups with smiles and fond farewells, even wishing a few of them luck on their coming journey. One such youth, however, hung back to watch the others move into the city proper.

"Hmph. Not like you to hesitate."

Xander jumped at the voice behind him, turning to see his father walking up with a slew of nets slung over his shoulder, rubbing at his neck with a free hand as a yawn bellowed out from his large frame. Xander coughed into a closed hand as he regained composure, shifting his bag a bit before turning to his father with a grin to try and reassure him.

"Ah, it's just a bit of nerves, that's all." He took a step back, unsure of what else he could say. Of what else he even should say. The silence that hung between the two was almost palpable. You need to say something. This is awkward. Just blurt it out, even if it's stupid.

"So, uh. . . guess this is good-bye, huh? Kind of wild, ya know, me going out into the world by myself. Hopefully, I don't manage to set the whole continent on fire."

"Heh, I wouldn't put that past you, all things considered." A beat. His father keeps rubbing his neck as he looks out across the ocean. "Look. . . be careful out there, okay son? I know that things have been. . . tense between us for a while but I don't want you to think I don't care for you. That I don't worry." He was looking at Xander now, grey eyes boring into purple as the young man felt a hand on his shoulder before he was pulled into a hug. Xander's eyes widened at first, and he remained frozen for half a second, before easing into the rare display of affection and hugging the large man back.

"Geeze, when did you become such a softy, huh? Talk about embarrassing."

A chuckle, deep and throaty, was all he got in response as his father released him, rustling his hair with a playfulness that Xander couldn't remember seeing for quite some time. The two bid farewell to each other, grabbing each other's forearms in a proper Xanite goodbye before heading off on their separate ways. While Xander didn't quite know what to make of his father's sudden display of emotion. . . he had to admit, it definitely helped him be a bit less afraid of what was to come next. With a wide grin on his face, Xander fished out his relic from his pack, twirling it around with a practiced flourish before he bolted towards the city gates. Before he could even think about facing the first Arena challenge, he had some friends to make.



The city of Toran had gone from a quiet ghost town to a bustling metro as Ielle rose higher and higher in the sky, and it wasn't until well into the morning that Xander came back to the city, covered in scuff marks and bruises, but positively gleaming with exuberant pride and cheerfulness. The reasons for his cheerfulness were quite plain to see, as he was positively surrounded by a bevy of Natrelmon. Most immediately noticeable of them all was the one he was riding on, a grumpy-looking Grianos that seemed less than pleased to have some brat riding along it's back, followed by a rather bored Bovent lazily chewing cud. A Loutilla sat on the Bovent's back, it's purple-red petals fluttering nervously as it kept peaking over the Bovent's head at the Grianos, only to dive back down whenever the rocky lizard seemed to glance their way. While to most, these kind of Natrelmon weren't terribly uncommon for the area, the ones on either side of the young trainer's "mount" drew a bit more attention. Strolling along with the Grianos was a Doshe, it's steel carapace shining brightly in the sun's light as it proudly scuttled with its trainer. From time to time the Doshe would give a slight hiss towards anyone that got to close, though that was often cut short by a curt word from Xander as he didn't want it to become happen with the young steel type.

The other strange sight was the Mythari gliding just a bit overheard the group, dipping down every so often to trot along the ground next to Xander and chastise the Doshe when it tried to spook a passerby when Xander was distracted. A rather magnificent specimen, the muted colors along its body still shone gloriously in the light of Ielle, with small bits of crackling electricity dancing off them every so often. A curious blemish on the creature's body, however, was a rather prominent line of scar tissue that traced one of the wings on its left side, as well as a similar line of markings that traced themselves upon its legs as well. It was during one of its rare trots along the ground that it gave a glance at the scowling Grianos.

No need to be so grumpy, Gigi. Just because you got caught by Xander is no reason to act so rude to everyone. The projected thoughts were done so in a way where the whole group could hear and while Xander frowned at his Mythari for its unneeded provocation, the 'Gigi' took to answering the response by attempting to bite at the Mythari, who quickly evaded the attempt with a chuckle before escaping back into the air. Geeze, she's a testy one, isn't she Xander?

"I'd be irritated too if someone kept poking my buttons the whole way to town. Cut it out, Mythi, and I mean it!" A telepathic chuckle was all he got in response, causing the trainer to let out a sigh as he dropped his face into his hands. Mythi had never been this way before it had evolved, and it was proving to be a real pain in the young trainer's ass the way he liked to provoke others the way he did. With another resigned sigh, Xander gave Gigi a pat on her back as he rode in a vain attempt to calm her down. "Easy there, girl. I know that Mythi can be a bit of a jerk, but he means well. . . I think. besides, I promise you things won't be so bad with us, so can you at least give us a chance?" The only response was a low growl that didn't stop until Xander ceased patting her. He couldn't help but sigh for his third time in under a minute, wondering what it'd take to get Gigi to respect him as her trainer. Lili and Buck, the Loutila and Bovent he'd captured earlier that day as well, both were much more willing to co-operate with him than the surly Grianos despite not knowing him for any stretch of time. Guess it was just his first real challenge as a tamer.

It would be this strange group of man and mon that Mallory would come upon in her search, though she'd find herself set upon first as Mythi swooped down from the air to snag the food out of her hand, sending her a telepathic message to the extent of "this is mine now" as it flew up high up into the air. Meanwhile, Doshe had also noticed Mallory and scuttle up to her, circling around her legs in an excited manner not to dissimilar to that of a young Eishound.

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Time, IC Day: Late Morning, Day 1
Location: Toran, within the city




Mallory finally edged toward the entrance to the wilds. Gwisin decided to slink into invisibility earlier and floated in front of her, his presence comforting but slightly cold. Unlike Bool, she often kept her ghost/dark/poison type under a watchful eye. He tended to enjoy pranking individuals he didn’t particularly like. Mythi happened to be one of them since the natrelmon had grown an attitude of late, especially after he evolved. While she found it annoying, she hoped that Xander would eventually crack down and enforce manners into his starter.

Her eyes finally spotted her friend with his fresh batch of mons. She held in her sigh when she saw Xander riding his Grianos, the large reptile with a fin on its spine, and patting it lovingly. It wasn’t hard to see it was upset. Her eyes noticed the two other natrelmon following him, Bovent and the lotus-shaped Loutila. In front of the pair, Doshe scamped toward her.

’Where was Myt-’ Before Mallory could finish her thought, a flash of greyscale caught her attention. Her head jerked in time to spot the Mythari swoop in for the food. She frowned, annoyed with the greedy behavior.

Before Mythi could steal the bowls, Gwisin stepped in. He had been walking in front of her the whole time and dropped his invisibility immediately. A loud, harsh rattling erupted from the cloaked mon’s throat in an attempt to spook Mythi away.

Meanwhile, if the little annoyance continued he would find his claws pass right through the bowls and even Mallory’s arms. The reason was simple. She had cast a prestidigitation spell when Gwisin distracted the greedy monster. While her arms appeared never to have moved, she actually tucked them close to her body. That’s when Zeke circled her and created a perfect wall to block Mythi from the food.

“Mythi, keep in mind I am the one that has the healing magic. If I don’t eat, I can’t heal. Would you like to see how well you’ll do when I can’t heal you?” Mallory asked firmly, loud enough to be heard through the large insect. She hoped the threat might be enough to keep her from being flown at again.

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Kiyo was sat on one of the many benches in Toran's central square. The Toranese had a custom of painting works of art onto public infrastructure in order to preserve their rich oral traditions in a way that everyone would be allowed to view and appreciate. Kiyo had studied the works as part of her upbringing, and was--truth be told--quite happy to get to experience them in reality rather than simply poring over yet another tome. Not that she didn't enjoy books--she very much enjoyed a light reading--but there was something so visceral and beautiful about witnessing the authentic articles when Ielle's rays were shining at just the right angle. Kiyo studied the bench she'd chosen quite vigorously, the whole thing painted to look like an Atrire emerging from its egg. From her studies, she knew that this was just one part of the greater whole--a citywide tribute to the Lord of the South, Suzaku. She'd read that when all of the city was viewed from the correct angle at the correct time of day, a silhouette of the vermillion lord would become visible for just a second. Unfortunately, the best place to view it from had largely been lost to the annals of time. Some places made oblique references to a "point of prayer, where Ielle kisses the horizon" but despite her best study of the maps Kiyo had never been able to so much as chance where such a location might lie. She supposed it might have been easier in person, but she decided that she was first going to challenge the Toran arena and see who else had decided to venture on their Rites this year.

It didn't take Kiyo more than a few moments of wandering to find a most curious sight: a young man, presumably of Ilsverian origin (or somewhere close, perhaps Gadot), sitting with a sign that said "bodyguard for hire". Kiyo wondered if he might be someone she could acquire to keep her parents from nagging her endlessly, but the state of him seemed to imply that he was down on his luck (financially, at least). Kiyo knew from experience (and from yet more books) that the type of individual that showed up in Toran around this time of year and looked like Selim did were typically on their Rites. Figuring that the worst she could do was ask, Kiyo walked over to Selim and gave him a brief bow in the traditional Lifanite style before introducing herself:

"Hello! I am Kiyo, and I could potentially have some use for a bodyguard--but before I commit to any such ventures, I would like to determine whether or not you have the strength to act in such a position. Would you like to battle, as a test of strength?"

She offered, perhaps a little too formally, but politely enough to not sound insincere.
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It had been hours since Selim had taken up post in the square. He had tried to catch the attention of anyone that looked well enough off they would even be interested in hiring someone like him. However, Toran did not have a culture that made his venture very successful - the Toranese did not have that same insecurities as some of the Orani or Lifanites who had this obsessive need to compete with each other in status. Having a bodyguard meant you were important.

And then there was Kiyo.

Before she even spoke, Selim knew exactly who she was. The Reijin were one of the Five Noble Houses and there were only so many from those houses within the appropriate age demographic to be completing the Rites, so that narrowed the list down to essentially a few parties. Most of the Noble Houses, despite their prominence, were not as prolific as one might think. However, if you spent any time working in the upper echelon of Atren's nobility, you would know exactly who to identify Kiyo as.

"It is a bit of providence to have my first interested client be Reijin Kiyo," Selim responded, bowing slightly. "I am Selim Raess Dar. While I assure you my credentials for such work are appropriate, I do understand as a craftsman the need to test the product. What are your rules of engagement for this test of strength? As a competitor in the Clash of Iron, I am versed in a variety of weaponarts as well as unarmed combat."

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It was a bit of a stretch to say that Kiyo was used to being recognised, but Lifanite culture was certainly one of showmanship, and more importantly, oneupsmanship. The Great Houses were constantly competing with one another for prestige and visibility, and Kiyo's parents were very good at it--the Reijin were currently, by her own estimation, inferior only to the Song family in terms of influence and power. Kiyo was very much not her parents' child in these matters, however, preferring the solitude of the library to the extravagant parties and get-togethers of the great nobility. Kiyo's younger sister Kasumi was much more suited to those matters--she'd always been the social butterfly of the family and had that knack for reading people that Kiyo only seemed to possess in text. Still, as eldest, it was her responsibility to lead the family and usher in a new era of prosperity.

Kiyo replied to Selim with a start, having lost herself in thought for a second.

"Ordinarily I would offer a test of hand-to-hand combat as befitting of someone who has competed in the Clash of Iron--but given that we are presumably both on our Rites, it would do us good to improve the skills of our Natrelmon. While I would prefer to test your strength individually, it seems that the two of us fighting with our Natrelmon as supports is the best option. I would prefer that we not use weapons, however, if that pleases you?" Kiyo replied, nodding her assent to the fight and reaching out to Mythari with her mind, telling it to prepare itself for battle. It would get to see some magic in use, and the delight in its mind was obvious across the telepathic connection.

Kiyo clapped her hands loudly, twice in succession, and shouted the Lifanite word for "battle"--though it would be translated to everyone who heard it. This was universally recognised at the cry for people to get out of the way in open-area spaces, as a fight was about to commence. Many cities prepared for the multitude of battles by infusing their stonework and other infrastructure with magical wards that would prevent them from being damaged by the potentially destructive effects of magic--both from trainers and Natrelmon.

"Shall we begin?" She asked, taking a deep breath as she did so and gathering her focus. Selim would certainly recognise her practiced movements as those of a Windspeaker, and with a flourish of her hands Kiyo outstretched her left arm, palm open, towards Selim. Mythari would stand by next to her, runes glittering as it adapted to her magic of Shadebinding with its Adaptive Lexicon, gaining the Ghost and Dark types for the battle.
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Mythi lwt out a rebellious hiss as Gwisin appeared before him, backing away slightly into the air beford falling back to the ground, growling at the ghost type for getting in his way. Before the Mythari coukd try anything, however, Xander cast out his Relic to loop around the Natrelmon's neck, reeling them back into the relic with a flick of his wrist.

"Geeze Mythi, why can't you behave? Uou know I hate to put you in this thing." The Xanite let out a sigh as he placed the rod back in it's holster, knowing he'd likely have to deal with the mon's sassing later for that. But he put that out of his mind for now, hopping off Gigi to jog over to Gwisin and Mallory.

"Hey Mals! Long time no see, amiright? And is this spooky fellow Gwisin?!?! You got so big buddy." He gave the chained mon a slight tap on the chest in greeting beford turn to Zeke with a click of his tongue. "Oi-oi. Come on Zeke, that's enough of that. Give Mals some space already."

The Doshe made an irritated clicking sound before scuttling over to it's tamer, tho it's grumpy demeanor settled as Xander pet its shell to soothe it, a strange set of rattling coming from the creature as it let it's contentment be known.

"So, how have you been since we last talked? Looks like your taking the Rites as well, ya?"

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"As you wish," Selim waved deferentially before setting his spear up against a wall off to the side. It would only serve as a burden for him if he kept it on his body during battle without actually using, plus he was not sure if he got into a desperate situation in battle that he would be able to resist the instinct to use it. As he walked back to the center, he summoned his Soelbe to the battlefield. Given the clear indication she was a Windspeaker and had a flying Natrelmon meant he had fewer choices to select from on his end. His Kohitsuji would struggle to deal with two possibly aerial fighters. With Soelbe, the pressure he would normally be able to put on a trainer could be done by the ghost.

Selim then took a spot about twenty feet in front of Kiyo, meeting her stance with one of his own. Selim also lead with his left for his stance, but chose a loosely closed hand for his lead, which could transition to a palm for deflection or striking a blow with a fist within a moment. His face clearly expressed his irritation that she was a Windspeaker. Selim found them quite annoying to deal with, especially given the domains of magic he had funneled his experience into.

"Whenever you are ready," Selim stated, his Soelbe hovering next to him.
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Kiyo nodded as Selim got into position, and began to walk forwards gently, being followed apace by her aerial Mythari. Kiyo had the benefit of both Mythari's natural telepathy as well as her own, and so the two could communicate instantly with no need for the delay of verbal commands. Telepaths were, generally speaking, exceedingly rare--Kiyo did not expect to be facing one, and was sure that she inherently had an advantage in speed over her combatant. Kiyo could tell, even with her limited experience, that Selim was a competent melee combatant--the way he had hefted his spear around reminded her of her comrades in the war. Orani who saw past the showmanship of sabers tended to prefer the work of a spear thanks to its versatility, and Kiyo had spoken to many such combatants at the various salons and balls and gatherings she'd been made to attend over the years. He showed that same confidence and easy skill, which made her thankful that she'd elected to test his strength without it.

Reliance on a singular mode of combat was, typically, poor form--especially amongst those who listed bodyguard as their profession.

As the movement continued, after Kiyo took two steps and the Mythari followed, the Mythari's shadow split from its body and moved at an equal pace to Mythari. Kiyo was particularly wary of the Globes of Ielle and Indolu that Soelbe had access to, and was certain to keep them in her vision--though not too closely thanks to their ability to blind--as she advanced towards Selim. Kiyo was a fan of patience in battles like these, but given that the Natrelmon were playing more of a supporting role, Kiyo was quite comfortable to allow Mythari to hold its own with mental guidance from her. Kiyo's true power was only really manifested in melee range, so her primary focus was ensuring that she could get there without Selim managing to pull something that she did not expect. Given that she knew nothing of his magical competencies, beyond assuming that he had them, Kiyo made sure to be as wary as possible. If left uninterrupted, she would travel as far as about seven feet away from Selim before reassessing the situation--and keeping vigilant eyes out for anything that could be used against her.

Fortunately, her telepathic connection with Mythari was very strong--and she instructed Mythari to report any changes on the field to her. Between the two of them, and Mythari's shadow, Kiyo's awareness of the battlefield was significant. It would be challenging to surprise her, but she remained wary as a matter of course.
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Upon Kiyo's first motion, Selim directed Soelbe to move her Globe of Ielle forward as their lead 'chess piece'. It would directly go on a path to meet Kiyo and Mythari. Soelbe moved forward as well, making sure to keep the Globe in the lead floating about five feet off the ground. Selim, as well as the Globe of Indolu waited in back to see the response from the approach. Selim could not be certain what other skills Kiyo might have, but she had to have some tricks up her sleeve given she was moving head on towards someone who fought in the Clash of Iron, and done well, even with Windspeaking's proclivity towards close range combat. His skill with Invocation could sense Kiyo's Frostweaving skills, as well as an additional school of magic that was under a veil of secrecy. It was not that unusual, as anything aside from the core Disciplines was this way. It meant Kiyo had knowledge, and some relative skill in some esoteric magic art.

Selim, of course, had magic of his own should he find it necessary. He knew he had a disadvantage not in just offensive power, but sheer number of accessible spells. However, Selim had two strategies in mind. Ideally, he'd end the battle quickly with a trick, however, he had a long term strategy where Soelbe and him had an advantage if they could build up to it. All of it depended on the battle pressure Kiyo exerted and how well they could resist it.
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Kiyo continued her slow walk as she saw the Soelbe moving its globe of Ielle towards the path of her and her Mythari. Its light was small, currently, only around 3 and a half feet in radius, and Kiyo was confident that her manoeuvrability would allow her to negate the worst of its effects. Given that Selim had uttered no command for the Soelbe to move its globe--and knowing that the Natrelmon was not going to move the globe on its own--Kiyo had no choice but to consider the idea that Selim also possessed the gift of Telepathy. Soelbe was a unique Natrelmon, being the only one attuned to both Ghost and Light magic, but it possessed no inherently telepathic qualities--and Kiyo was unwilling to accept that a Natrelmon would move its globes in a battle without some directive from the trainer, especially in a way that seemed so deliberate.

Kiyo elected to continue along her path, however, fully aware that Selim had a stratagem in mind with this placement and that she would have to be lightning fast to avoid it. She made a note to herself after taking another step to adjust her course slightly leftward in order to ensure that the distance the globe had to reach her was increased enough for her movement capacity to outpace it. With those facts in mind, after her first step, she picked up the pace--at this point around 12 feet away from Selim--and accelerated to what could be considered a gentle jog. She'd be able to reach Selim within two or three seconds at this pace, and her outstretched hand closed into a fist, tingling with wind magic, as she used Soaring Gusts directly beneath Selim, creating a pocket of visible wind five feet in radius with its center one foot to the right of Selim. He would be incentivised by this placement to dodge left, as the two seconds of time would only be enough for him to dart right if he did so immediately and with no hesitation--which would allow Kiyo to use her existing momentum to catch up to him in due course.

Meanwhile, Mythari and its shadow both elected to cut off Selim's right at Kiyo's mental directive by diverging their paths from Kiyo's in that direction--Mythari itself took a leftbound arc in order to cut Selim's path off, while the Nightfall shadow took a rightbound arc, the two paths eventually converging on Soelbe's current location in much the shape of a thin oval. Neither elected to use any moves yet, but the two were effectively performing a pincer movement within a pincer movement in order to ensure that Kiyo's advantages could be pressed as quickly as possible. They would react more to Soelbe than to Selim, given the strategy of the Light-type, but as always awaited Kiyo's instructions before deviating from their current task.

Kiyo, of course, kept up her vigilant scanning of the battlefield. She was prepared for even the slightest of reactions from Selim or his Soelbe.
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Cori


The croon of a Crowire was what Cori woke to just before sunrise. She smiled to herself, her eyes brimming with excitement. Today was the day she would start her own journey. She couldn't wait. With a spryness she didn't usually posses this early in the morning the girl forced herself up from her bed. She practically danced across the floor as she made her way over to her dresser and changed into the outfit she had picked out. A light jacket and loose fitting jacket, a dark shirt, and a pair of timeworn jeans.

Once she was dressed, she made her way downstairs to greet her parents. Her mother--Delilah, smiled warmly from her place in front of the stove, effortlessly flipping pancakes.

"Good morning, dear." Her father's voice pulled her attention to the man. He smiled at her, folding his newspaper in on itself and setting it on the table. After a moment, he gestured for her to sit down at the table. When she did, he took one of her hands in his, and squeezed. "Are you excited?"

"Of course!" Cori chirped, a smile lighting up her face.

Her father chuckled as her mother sat three plates of pancakes on the table. Hesitantly, Cori glanced at the fourth--the empty chair at the kitchen table. Her heart tightened slightly in her chest.

"He'd be so proud of you, sweetheart." Her mother's voice cooed across from her.

Cori nodded silently.

~~An Hour Later~~


Cori waved to her parents just before she boarded the train. Nysilis' nose wiggled as she took in the air of the train car they had entered. Mythin's tail flicked from one side to the other, and he crawled his way up onto her head to get a better look around.

Cori took a deep breath, gripping the straps of her pack tightly. She glanced around for a seat momentarily before finally deciding on one a little further away from other passengers. They had a long journey ahead of them, and she knew she would probably fall asleep at some point during the ride.

~~Seven Hours Later~~


Evening had fallen just before Cori arrived in Toran. The train ride had been largely uneventful, though she did notice Nysilis getting a few looks when she curled up in Cori's lap. She didn't particularly mind, though. The doors opened, and the girl disembarked, craddling Nysilis carefully in her arms. Mythin was still happily resting atop her head.

Slowly, Cori made her way toward the Toran square, taking in as many sights as she could before she got there. She'd have to find a place to sleep for the night, she knew. Then tomorrow, her search for a farm would begin. She was ecstatic, to say the least.
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Lillian


That was when she saw it.
It was one of the largest animals she had ever seen. But it looked so small with its body crushed beneath the trunk of a tree. It was completely exhausted, and badly wounded, pinned half in and half out of gushing water, its claws sunk deep in the bark of a tree, holding on with the last of its strength. It was seconds from drowning. The animal had jet-black fur and a long black tail, and its bright yellow eye were staring straight at her.


The train whistle blew, and it was pure luck that Lillian had heard it. Had she not just finished the chapter in her book, she would probably have missed it and ended up on her way back to Ward. That would have been a problem. She closed her book and stowed in her satchel and stood. She stretched out her back and legs. The ride may have taken a few hours, but due to a very welcome distraction, it seemed to take only a short while.

After a moment, her car door slid open. She peeked out around the corridor, someone was opening the doors to the other cars as if to usher them along. Lillian scowled, picked up her pack, and exited.

Toran.
Lillian had been back here since the family vacation. It was quite a contrast to Ward. That alone made her feel energized. Enough so that she felt like exploring.
One step off the train made her regret everything, however, and she had to fight the urge to get back on the train. People. Everywhere. Why did she choose to come to the center of this city again? Ugh. She immediately walked out of the station and headed toward the outskirts.

It didn't take long for her to reach the forest. She remember most of the way, but once Lillian got closer to the edge, she got a little disoriented. Still, she found her way. How beautiful. The morning light shimmered through the leaves which left a dappled trail of light across the ground. She smiled and looked at her pack. They probably wanted some exercise. A pale blue light followed by a bright purple light preceded her Reishund and Omu. Her faithful furred friend began to bound about, stretching out his limbs. His white fur bounced as he began sniffing the trees. Omu, on the other hand immediately perched atop Lillian's head and looked down at her, squawking. They were a bit too excited.

The commotion from Reishund seemed to cause some distress with the nearby wildlife. A small flash of purple was all it took to get Lillian's attention. She followed it around a bush and gasped in awe of what she found. A beautiful Kujaku, stood before her. Omu was at a loss herself. She was rather taken by her fellow feathered avian. Reishund was too excited to care, his tongue flopped out the side of his mouth as he raced over to see what it was. It was a bird thing. He looked up at Lillian then back at the bird and barked.
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Time, IC Day: Late Morning, Day 1
Location: Toran, within the city




Gwisin just puffed out his chest and bent down at the winged lizard. His red eyes narrowed in his deep hood while his arms placed themselves on his hips, increasing his intimation. Mallory was in no position to force her mon back down since Zeke was blocking her view. However, she had more confidence in him to behave himself than she did in Mythi.

Hearing Xander recall and scold his natrelmon, Mallory sighed then commented, “Natrelmon’s behavior reflect pretty heavily on their trainers.”

She didn’t point out that the poorer the behavior, the worst the trainer. However, insulting him wouldn’t get results. This much she knew of him.

While Xander called back Zeke and patted Gwisin, she moved closer.

“Well, if you actually went to the magic school, I would’ve seen you more. I’m honestly surprised you haven’t sent anyone off a cliff yet by accident,” Mallory stated as she pushed the bowl of rice noodles, veggies and broth into his hands.

“Don’t burn yourself,” she added, passing over one of the fried bread on a stick.

She looked for a local bench then flopped down. Gwisin looked at her curiously, his eyes looked at the chunk of floating meat and seemed eager to do...something with it. She assumed he wanted to eat it, but she wasn't sure ghosts ate. Deciding to reward the good behavior anyways, Mallory’s chopsticks pinched one meat piece then passed it over to him. She didn’t look to see what he exactly did with it for fear of losing her appetite.

“Father finally talked mother into allowing me to take the Rites in exchange for working in the stand for a month,” she took a bite of her food then continued.

“I caught Gwisin as an Olena when a few kids dared me to investigate the abandoned tunnel in the west section of the city. Bool, my Flabara, a few days later. Been training with my parents' Natrelmon ever since. What about you?”

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▲▼▲▼▲▼▲▼ Mezhas ▼▲▼▲▼▲▼▲

Blurry figures moved across Mezhas vision, moving all around the small space they occupied. Everything was blindingly bright, so the splotches of pastel blues and greens that surrounded her almost blended into the world around them. Their voices, the sounds of their instruments, and some kind of clattering mixed together into indistinct ambience. She could feel a shaking sensation as the world flew by before her eyes, like she was flying. Something with a strange flexibility to it was pressed to her face, and she felt a prick on her arm. Blackness dropped over her vision like blinds.

She woke up in a bright room laying in a bed, and opened her mouth, but no sound came out. In an instant, she was wide awake and had many questions. Was she okay? Where were her parents? In a haze, her hands suddenly felt warm and wet. She could hear panicked shouting, and a strong voice. Something firmly held her arms down, and she felt another prick on her arm. The room went dark again.

▲▼▲▼▲▼ Toran, Present Day ▼▲▼▲▼▲

Mezhas wasn't quite fond of cities, and often considered treks into them a necessary evil. Her disdain towards cities could be fairly easily understood if one knew her circumstances. Being mute, she couldn't easily communicate with anyone she met, though at least the scars on her neck made it obvious to those she encountered why she didn't speak to them. She also couldn't let her gift be revealed, so Urst couldn't carry her around like he usually did. The only one of her companions she could consider summoning was Fulnit, but two foot long fire-spitting pupa don't make for good social lubrication either.

A sigh escaped her lips as she walked. She was mistaken for a young boy everywhere she went, and didn't have the energy - or ability - to correct anyone. This only served to further cement her desire to finish her errands and escape back to her campsite in the forest. She got along much better with natrelmon than she did with humans, and she dearly missed having the company of Kaisl, whom she'd gotten to know quite well.

▲▼▲▼ Toran Forest, One Week Ago ▼▲▼▲

Mezhas lounged in Ursts arms, making her way around the woods. She considered it a nice stretch of her legs from the errands earlier, and the faint crimson glow from Urst's black-rimmed eyes indicated to her that he felt the same. Moreso than Nomstel, Urst was easy to read. Then again, Urst was the first natrelmon she'd bound, so it was Natural that he was the one she knew best.

「Mezhas.」Urt's voice snapped her out of her thoughts, her eyes turning to the distance. The last time they'd come across something it was an Orkora, so she'd tempered her disappointment. She was floored when she caught a glimpse of purple in the clearing ahead. Urst let her down on the ground, and she slowly picked forward to peer at the creature in the distance.

「Is that... a Kujaku?」She asked Usrt, looking back at the tibearius. She was going off a vague description the doctor had given her, and resolved to study the less common natrelmon more. Beautiful blues and greens mingled in it's feathers, and unfamiliar symbols adorned it. Mezhas was, frankly, unsure if she would be able to capture this beast, and looked at her Relic, William, with uncertainty. She settled on no, and pursed her lips. While she didn't like the idea, she settled on using her gift.

Mezhas carefully made her way towards the creature, the flesh under her fingernails blackening as dark energies began to swirl at her fingertips. Her eyes, rimmed by a blood-red glow focused on the Kujaku, and she whispered an apology in her mind. The Kujaku's head turned abruptly to look directly at her, and she briefly froze. Only long enough for silence to reign for a heartbeat, and be broken by torrents of cloudy red mist to surge from the ground and envelop the creature, black chains whipping around it.

Mezhas grit her teeth, feeling severely guilty over what she was doing, the sinking into the Kujaku, which thrashed violently in it's binds. It was over moments after it had started, the Kujaku going limp as the chains holding it faded away. Urst joined Mezhas at the Kujaku's side, the girl gently petting her new companion.「I am sorry for what I've done.」She gave the Kujaku a telepathic apology, then held her Relic - a Weddlebek plushie - out.

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Mezhas broke free of her thoughts, shaking her head. She'd ended up wandering while daydreaming, she'd ended up close to Central Square. She mostly avoided the more central areas of the city, she didn't get along well with crowds. After getting her bearings, she groaned, about to start heading back for camp. Something caught her attention in the square, though.

She slowly picked her way down the street, stopping at the threshold of Central Square. Two other trainers had squared up, and Mezhas was pleased to find she'd arrived in time to see the first exchange. She hadn't had to really fight anything up to now, so seeing what she'd be up against was likely for the best. Especially if other powerful natrelmon like Kaisl were out there.
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