Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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Letter Bee Filipino RPer

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Windstormugly and The Jest's Contributions

In dawn, the light of morning reached the city from across the sea, rays slowly creeping across the piers of Leviathan Port, its bay guarded by two enormous forts whose guns were always pointed outwards as a gesture of strength. With its vast rows of warehouses and machinery to move the shipments of trade, the port alone could be a city worthy of its name.

Just beyond the port, the spires of Ishtar School glow in the morning's light, close to the prison and morgues of the city. Across the city, almost equidistant and angled from its center, the towers of Marduk Academy mirror the splendor of its sister establishment, orphanages and artificing workshops around. Both of them are reputable bastions of learning in the city of magic and the rest of the world, While a multitude of smaller schools litter Iliad, those two stand out even beyond their headmasters.

The city of magic stands alone, though its historic isolation is less felt by its populace today. But walls still surround it on three sides, towards the west, their continuous enemy, the Hermannreich is still active even as the hills and forests to the north and south provide some measure of additional protection.

While there is a countryside outside the walls, with farms and livestock which feed Iliad City, a lack of other civilization gives the impression that it is alone in the world.

Iliad is like the rest of the world in miniature, one moment, it seems you are in an urban city center with apartments stacked in neat skyscrapers rising towards the sky, then one goes to the area next to it and observes single floor houses with backyard gardens arrayed in cul de sacs secluded by groves of trees. Magic can be felt all around for those who know to see, lifetimes spent pouring wonders into the city. Sadly magic does little to stem the ills of segregation and discrimination, your heritage and political influence, be it through money, might or magic a leap ahead of hard work even here.

Throughout the old city of magic, reaching higher and higher towards the sky the further into its center you travel, a few things nevertheless differ from the world at large. The heritage of the illuminated poet has shaped the path of his descendants and their fellow citizens, the pursuit of artistry, be it from magical craft or other expressions, Iliad is a beautiful city to wander.

Likewise, the philosophical and theological implications of knowing that there is a God who has actively gifted the world shape the people. Both countless places of worship towards the One Deity, and places of learning to understand the world are never more than a street away.

Like the city nation it is, Illiad has those that rule it, and where else would the power in a magical city built by and for descendants be but in the old houses of Illuminated Blood, akin to nobles. While commerce and world politics has seen new houses rise and fall, those with magic will endure. Estates appearing more often closer to the heart of Illiad. One who lives in the city will learn to know them on sight, by name and repute.

Those with bloodlines connected to the Illuminated Poet himself - The houses of Enlightened Blood - As if they are rewarded for carrying the burden they inherited, stands at the top of the city's hierarchy and are treated like the closest thing to Royalty. Though only a few hold official positions of power, most descendants, otherwise known as the Enlightened, take an indirect approach to being at the top of the food chain, such as owning essential businesses or advising those with official power from the shadows.

Like most on top, these particularly powerful families among the Enlightened tend to ensure their stay at the proverbial summit by kicking off anyone else closing in on it, making them both praised for their nobility, and scorned because of it.

It is still a rarity even among those with magic to see someone not of Enlightened Blood take a position of power, and such is done with skill and cunning, and not always through playing by the rules.

Which brings us again to the two academies: The Marduk Academy for the Mystic Arts, its headmaster an Enlightened one, Gilgamesha Ascot, and The Ishtar School for Creative Minds, heading a non-enlightened magic user known simply as "Nergal".

Like the stark contrast between the metropolis and its countryside, the cityscape and the suburbia, or the magically gifted and the non-magical in nature, the differences between these two schools is of night and day, almost literally.

For a myriad of reasons, reasons of ideology, of class and status, of the magic either school teaches. And by their differing view on the looming threats that the world places upon them. From enemies like the Hermannreich, to shadowy urban legends of those looking to slaughter and kill the Enlightened for the very thing they are burdened with. These two schools could not be more at odds with each other than they are. Theirs is a great rivalry of Light and Darkness, of the orderly and imperial, the chaotic and free. One that has lasted for many years and only now, with looming threats on the horizon has finally begun to reach a boiling point.

---

To the northernmost section of the city, as if above the rivalry of the two academies to the east and west, lay the one place where they could settle their score. An oval-shaped coliseum of marble, supported by a foundation of ebony and ivory, laced with strands of silver which wrapped around the whole stadium and unraveled near the top, looking like a vortex of silver from a bird's eye view. The crowds of hundreds of thousands cheer as they sit around the massive interior, ground level where its many events take place being 62 acres in size. Too large to see from the back rows? Giant monitors are planted above the audience section in the four cardinal directions to assist with this. Those events that happen within this stadium are usually so grand, that even those in the very back can see some of it more often than not.

Today was no exception.

The audience was restless as the sound of their voices, their cheers, and their yells came in endless waves from all directions around the stadium both inside and out, not a hint of silence to be had unless you're either within the stadium's catacombs or the commentator's box atop the north side of the stadium, and even in those you can hear the excitement as a ghostly echo.

On the ground level, many were gathered all over the area, and while there did seem to be some mingling between them, the divide was very clear. Staring at it from the north side looking south, where the horizontal length of this stadium was more clear than the vertical width, there were three very clear groups that filled the area:

To the east - the left side from this perspective - were a group of people dressed in uniforms of whites, cyans, yellows, and magentas, - bright colors to represent the school of Marduk.

To the west - the right side from this perspective - were a group of people dressed in uniforms of blacks, reds, greens, and darker shades of blue - colors to represent the school of Ishtar.

In the middle area of the field, dressed in myriads of colors with no particular uniform, were the staff of the stadium setting things up for the opening ceremony, while simultaneously making sure the bulk of the other two didn't come to blows with each other. There were of course some mingling of the three groups making the proverbial border between them blur, but so far, no hostility was in sight, any potential fights before hand, the staff were breaking up before it could be noticed, with magic if need be.

Eventually a giant platform was set up at the dead center of the arena, a golden rectangle in the form of a pedestal with three golden pillars upon it, two of equal to the left and right, with two small golden bowls atop them, and larger pillar in the center with a much larger golden bowl atop it. The students of Ishtar and Marduk were instructed - and in some cases forced - to return their respective areas of seats on opposite sides of the stadium as the staff dispersed, their job now finished.

The crowd all around began to grow loud in unison, for they knew what this meant. from the top of the twisted spires of the stadium shot out blasts of fireworks of a myriad of different colors across the sky, and loud orchestral music began to play as a multitude of dancers from both sides of the field moved to the stadium's field. The western group of dancers were motionless in the dark, as if waiting, but the eastern dancers began their dance to the melody of the orchestra, reminiscent of ballet, as if to represent a sense of nobility and order as a certain female singer of Marduk sang. Any civilian of Illiad would immediately recognize the lyrics, for they are the overture of light within the Epic of Making, the Motto of Marduk.

"In the white light, a hand reaches through.
A double-edged blade breaks your heart in two.
Waking dreams fade away,
Embrace the brand new day.
Sing with me a song of Birthrights and Love,
The light scatters to the sky above.
Dawn breaks through the gloom, white as a bone.
Lost in thoughts, all alone.
"



As the song played and the dancers danced, a single student carrying a torch lit by her own magic walked to the eastern-most bowl, placing the torch inside the container and watching as the flames filled it up, with sparks lighting up the underside and lighting a trail of gasoline towards the center bowl, whose eastern half lit up in flames.

As the instrumentals reached their end, and the dancers called themselves back to a stand still, the beating of bongo drums could be heard to replace the violins, and in place of a orchestral song of orderly sophistication was a song of chaotic passion and heat as the dancers on the west side began to move now. If Marduk's dancers were more akin to ballet, Ishtar was exotic to symbolize fluidity and freedom, as if to become the fire to oppose Marduk's water.

Like Marduk, this was a song that also had its own lyrics, and like Marduk, they would be easily recognized, sung by not just any singer, but one of its more famous idols.

The Bolero of Darkness within the Epic of Making, the Motto of Ishtar.

"Embrace the Dark, you call a home.
Gaze upon an empty white throne.
A legacy of lies, a familiar disguise.
Sing with me a song of Conquest and fate.
The black pillar cracks beneath its weight.
Night breaks through the day, hard as a stone.
Lost in thoughts, all alone.
"



Near the end of the song a fire-using student ran over towards the bowl, performing front flips before diving headfirst into the Ishtar bowl, combusting its interior as the torch did in Marduk's. The boy stood in the bowl, and raised up both fists, both as a sign of victory and a sign of being ok, despite being in the middle of an inferno.

"Show off..." some of the audience and most of the Marduk students whispered, while most others cheered him on.

As he hopped out of the bowl, the dance and song reaching its end, the Ishtar flame made its way to the center bowl and merged with Marduk flames, the fusion exploding into a flash of multi-colored lights shooting up into the sky.

The crowds cheered, the ceremony was over, and the rainbow flames of the center bowl marked the beginning… Of the Iliad Grand Flyte Games.

Up in the Skybox, a man dressed up in an ironed black suit, a rather large chin to complement the slick brown hair on his head, sat down and flipped a switch on the computer, generating a live video and audio stream for tv and radio broadcasts across the world.



"We now turn you to my partner at Ringside, Jordan Solomon, as the Opening Ceremony concludes, and the first roll of the slot of games is about to be underway. How's it lookin down there, Sol?" Al asked. The TV would then switch scenes from the skybox to the ground floor of the arena as a well-built middle-aged man in a Teal suit, with brown slick back hair in contrast to a rather bushy beard and blue eyes looks towards the camera nervously, as people in the background behind him started to fight once again, albeit in smaller quantities in comparison.

"Well let's just say I wish I was in there with you two, Al. The opening ceremony just ended and a couple of hot heads from the two schools decided to try and fight each other again. The staff are breaking up the fighting once more and things are calming down for the roll is about to begin, but it's definitely lookin' like both schools are out for each other's blood. ...It looks like the slots for the first game is about to begin." Jordan "Sol" Solomon said in response as he looked behind him during the pause. The Camera turns over to a giant monitor showing a 4-part wheel. The four parts have four marks on it: a wing for Flight, a sun for Light, a moon for Night, and a pen for Write. Atop the wheel is an arrow that seemed to serve as both the stopper for the wheel and the winning area. The screen shows the number 5 and starts counting down, and as it did, the cheering crowd began to countdown along with it. When the countdown ended, the wheel began to spin, the arrow on top eventually causing it to slow down to a stop.

And the arrow points to....

The Pen.

The audience cheered loudly as the pen came off the wheel and became a giant logo that covered the screen.

"There you have it, folks, the The first competition of this year's Grand Flyte Games will be the Write. The crowd seems to be really excited, as are the students seemingly getting fired up for the Orpheus Duel. The Staff is now prepping up, I'm being told the competition will be ready to begin in about 30 minutes. Back to you, Al."

"Thanks Sol, and good luck out there you trooper, I do not envy you one bit." Al said as the camera turns to him, smiling and containing a giggle at the potential harm that could befall his partner.

"I do though, I'd like to go down there and kick some [BEEP]-ing Ishtar [BEEP]." Madame said with a smile of her own, cracking her knuckles as she did, once again making Al give her a slight look of composed worry.

"*Ahem* You heard it here folks. The Write competition will begin in about 30 minutes, and of course we here in Illiad City Arcanum will be broadcasting the whole thing as it happens. For now though, we'll be right back after these messages." Al said. The camera fades out of the sky box to a view of the stadium itself for about 5 seconds, a footer at the bottom of the screen showing the Pen logo and the word "Write" before it fades to black and cuts to commercials.

Letter Bee’s Portion

Participate in the Competition or I cut off Jacob from the Inheritance, William remembered his mother saying as a last-ditch attempt to have him join Marduk’s side in the Tournament. It worked - Gilgamesha Ascot had counted on her son’s desire to reconcile their family in order to get him to fight for her cause one last time before William picked his own path - Not that William was going to wait for her assent.

He looked at the bandmates he had for the ‘Write’ Competition - Nika, Lizzie, the two Magical Girls and perhaps one other student - who were outnumbered by the Ishtar students who had chosen to participate on the opposing side. A sigh, Wiliam had expected to be the underdog before, but as his own faction, not a part of his mother’s. Didn’t she see how her part in the rivalry between Ishtar and Marduk was leeching off promising students from the latter?

Then the boy grit his teeth, and said to Nika and Lizzie, “We are going to need to use a loophole in the rules - Nothing says that all of us have to sing - The rest of us can work on setting the stage and increasing our song quality. I dislike how mother insists on ‘cheating without actually breaking the rules’, and I’ll be open with it - She’s become corrupted by vengeance.”

A pause, as he handed a packet of acorns and a bar of high-calorie food to Lizzie and said, “I need you to grow oak trees around our stage to focus the sound from both bands to the audience - Call it sportsmanship.” Then to Nika, “As for you, I need you to ward off our opponents’ own attempts to prevent our song from being heard - I know Nergal told them to cheat.” Then to the two Darvon sisters, William handed them a note saying, “Here are the lyrics of the song I want you to sing. Use any tone and melody you want as long as you leave the words themselves unaltered.”

He then turned to the one remaining student, assuming she had not just vanished, “As for you, I need someone to guard me while I observe, copy, and forge into an item every enchantment that our allies and opponents are using. But if you don’t want to do that, I can’t fault you - After all, I have ulterior motives..."
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Landaus Five-One
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Landaus Five-One The Sadist Insaneous One

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Sarah was inspired by the Opening Ceremony and the Write Competition’s Battle of Bands, which was the first one of the day. There was one slight annoyance, which was the dangerous rivalry between the two schools and the other was the fact her parents weren’t here. It was clear as day the Ishtar Academy did field much more students for this event over the Marduk Academy. ”This is going to be fun… wish my parents were here to see me compete. Even though they probably wouldn’t watch since they had much more pressing issues to deal with.” Sarah thought to herself, a look of excitement with sadness intermixed. It irked her a bit much by whom destroyed her family.

She was annoyed mostly with how Marduk cheats compared to Ishtar's blatant cheating. Marduk's way is bending the rules enough to get a win out whatever they do, which turned her stomach a bit. The Ideology, which she was taught by her parents was against cheating at all costs because it isn't a way to get ahead in life. However, this ideology was split specifically by her aunt and her parents in specifically what to do with the challenges of staying rich and famous. She sighed directly at the fact, she knows the woman Louise wouldn't be watching the Games between the two Academies. However, she would take the patient approach in getting the vengeance she requires on the one who killed her parents. ”I do wonder what plan William has about this competition. Because I wouldn't want to cheat at it since it goes against what my parents taught me... It wouldn't sit right with my sister or me.” Sarah thought to herself, looking at everyone else, especially William.

Sarah couldn’t help but hear what William was saying and somewhat feel like Rosella and her will be the primary ones singing. However, she does enjoy singing its one of her favorite things anyways but at least he was against what his mother wanted. She couldn’t help but slightly clap at hearing what William exactly said since she wouldn’t have to break her family’s oath to get ahead. They never cheated in anything they’ve done and that’s why her family is very old comparability to other families. ”That is wonderful news to hear you say exactly. I cannot wait what me and my little sister’s roles will be in this exactly.” Sarah said, with a smile.

When William spoke to directly Rosella and her specifically, which made her look directly at the Lyrics that she was handed. His directions were definitely quite informative and exactly what she wanted to hear in question. Even though she knows how nervous her little sister is in singing but she does play well off of her, because her sister is primarily an introvert. ”These lyrics are definitely wonderful to say the least. I have to guess, they are directly aimed at your mother. The words on the note will stay the same because altering them would be a disservice, don’t you agree sister?” Sarah asked, Rosella an important question. Even though she would probably be a bit distracted with how large this event is and a bit terrifying it is. However, with what her sister had said made her smile and always knew she would want her to take the lead first. It is how Rosella is anyways, she has a wonderful singing voice only if she had more confidence in herself.




In terms of Rosella, which was a bit terrifying and nerve racking to be here but she didn’t want to be separated from her older sister Sarah. Sarah is all she has left after what Sarah went through specifically. ”O-Oh god… I hope I don’t embarrass myself in front of everyone… specifically for this event...” Rosella thought to herself, with a specific out of her element type look on her face. She did notice the competition in question, which was much bigger compared to the one’s on her side. It did help her confidence a bit that her sister was next to her, if she wasn’t here she would be a definitely a small fish in a large ocean.

She was trying to keep her wits about herself and wasn’t really interested in the entire rivalry between the two schools. Even though she was apart of Marduk, its mostly because of the fact she took her family’s ideology and will a bit more to heart than Sarah with a religious slant. However, she did notice her sister was definitely annoyed and still not fully herself because of that nonsense of wanting revenge. ”S-Sister.. please… don’t try to do anything stupid… Not like the woman who tore our family apart would be here anyway.” Rosella thought to herself, with a deep caring to have her sweet happy sister back. Instead of the one wanting vengeance on Louise, since that isn’t the way of the Matriarch’s Will.

Rosella was taken a bit back from what William had said to everyone, which gave her a sigh of relief in question. She wouldn’t want to cheat either since it would be against the Darvon Family, how they rose to the top being one of the richest families in Iliad. However, she was in wholeheartedly agreement with what her sister had said specifically. Even though the thought of singing with her sister for Marduk Academy was a bit terrifying since she always wasn’t that great to sing in front of crowds. ”B-Better to show our all without the corruption of what this school has became.” Rosella said, with nervousness in her voice but honest.

Rosella specifically heard what William had to say specifically about their roles and she looked at the Lyrics in question with her sister Sarah. These lyrics were definitely a reminisce of what her sister was going through but felt more alike it was aimed at someone else. The directions that William gave were very informative and gave out a small sigh. It took what her sister had said to realize it was directed at William’s mother, which she was taken aback to be a bit nervous. ”I-I agree sister… these words on this note would be hurt if we did alter them… our Family loves every little single lyric, rhyme and everything to stay the same as they are. You should start the song in question sister, I will be in harmony with you.” Rosella said, agreeing with what Sarah had said. Because these lyrics would be crying if the words were altered by ulterior means.

@Letter Bee
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by LilSwifty
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LilSwifty Danish Pastry

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Elizabeth watched the ceremony attentively. Already a lot of things were happening... She stood quietly, her eyes darting around at the large number of people everywhere. Battle of the Bands? Lizzie could damn sing... but in front of all these people. No chance.
Eventually, her gaze met William's. The boy she had met earlier. He seemed annoyed at something. She stood looking at her feet for the rest of the ceremony, jumping suddenly as William addressed her. She took the food but left the acorns.

"I'll... See what I can do. Don't worry I don't need the acorns,"
She said, smiling slightly, sprouting a small oak sapling in her palms.

Quickly, she got to work, making her way to the stage and eating the food that William had handed her. This wouldn't take too much energy.
As she reached the stage she began to sprout large oak trees from the ground, 6 being planted by the end and all standing around 50ft tall.
They were arranged in a sort of triangular pattern, in order to amplify the sound outwards and into the audience, sort of like a funnel.
She looked around and admired her work.

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by The Jest
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Illiad City Arcanum - Ishtar Division Waiting Area

"Participate in the Competition or I cut off Jacob from the Inheritance"

He heard those words. He wasn't there, he wasn't anywhere near those two when they came into contact, when she forced upon William that Ultimatum, but he heard them regardless. It is amazing how easily one can eavesdrop with the right informant and a good web of intelligence gathering. Fists clenched when he heard those words from the informant who listened in, and there were only two words that sprung to mind, only two words he could think of in response.

"That...BITCH!"

It wasn't the cutting of his inheritance that enraged him - what inheritance? What else was left to inherit when everything they owned burned so long ago, and the only thing left she could give she has more reason to give to William anyways - no, what really pissed off the the boy, what really ruffled the messy black hair on his head, was that she, this monster, used him to manipulate William into doing what she wanted. How DARE she use his name to pull him along like a goddamn marionette!?

She may be his mother physically, and biologically, but on that day where half the entire family was gone in but an instant, Gilgamesha may as well have burned along with them as far as he was concerned. Whatever this tyranical witch was, it was not the same Gilgamesha who loved and cared for them. The iron grip she now has was not the same as the stern but fair hand she had when their father was still alive. That bitch was not his mother!

---

Even now, as he sits in the large waiting room on Ishtar's side of the Arena, it was difficult to calm himself down. Staring at the floor, his white and blue sneakers, his typical blue jeans, with those deep sapphire eyes, he couldn't help but feel this silent rage build up within himself. He thought he escaped these feelings when Nemsi, his foster father, mediated and calmed all the feelings and trauma he felt. But in an instant, the wrath and the sorrow crawled right back into his subconscious. Taking a deep breath, he hummed a little tune to calm him down, a muffled melody of simplicity and, for him, a soothing tone. As if in response, he could feel as if spiders were crawling over him, and in his mind's eye, they consumed him in a cocoon of web, silent and isolated from the world. Course, in reality, none of that was happening, but regardless, the thought was cooling him down, quelling his temper, and allowing him to regain himself.

Moving his left hand to slick back his raven black hair, straightened out his black vest sweater - complete with a cyan tie - and a blue denim jacket, taking a scarf out of the pocket of said jacket and wrapping it around his neck. When he was finally back to form, he took a look around.

---

While it's called a "Waiting Room", you wouldn't be too far off if you confused it for the fancy lobby of a luxury hotel. Clocking in at 1500 square feet It was quite massive in respect to where it is in the arena, filled with soft couches, tables, and large flat-screen televisions on the north, south, east and west side of the room, set naturally to the GFG events, and otherwise set to whatever the contestants within felt like watching. On the tables are healthy snacks to keep the energy of the contestants in tact and some glasses of water to compliment that. To the north side are the locker rooms, to the east side is the path way to the arena, and to the opposite side is the Contestants' entrance into the Arcanum, and by extension the exit out of it. There was even a small closed off area right by the exit with gym equipment for a little last-minute training.

As it turns out, the Arcanum holds about three waiting rooms on the east, west, and south sides of the stadium. The ones to the east and west were similar in size, and similar period, both rooms holding the same 'luxury' accomodations, compared to the waiting room on the south side that was smaller and merely had the basic accomodations one would expect from a waiting room for competitors, like a locker room.

It's no secret to anyone in this city how the two schools were of vital importance both for its magic users and its decendants of the Illuminated Poet; their headmasters may as well have been the de'facto leaders of the city. Thus, it's also no secret how people of the city treats them compared to how they treat a normal individual. If the Descendants of the Poet are essentially the blood nobility, the noble-class of Illiad's Society, then those who enter and are good students of these two particular schools are the "high-class" members just below them in the heirarchy, and if the fact that they managed to reserve an annual olympic event for themselves without legal repercussion didn't make that clear, the clear difference between their waiting room and the waiting room of anyone not affiliated with them did. A rather ironic fact, seeing as how most years you only see a few students of each school participate but lots of non-affiliated participants joining the games.

In regard to the two school waiting rooms comparing to each other, there was very little different between them; making one school's waiting room better or worse than the other would be favoring one school over the other, and by extension, inciting the wrath of the other school for doing so. Thus, the only real contrast between the two waiting rooms were in their decorations, with Marduk's waiting room looking a little more glossier and modern, and Ishtar's waiting room having a darker and gothic approach on decor.

---

As Jacob looked around, contemplating whether or not the two schools deserve this much catering to - this was his first time participating in a Grand Flyte Game and so he's never actually seen a stadium waiting room like this before - his eyes turned towards the Arena entrance and the...interesting group that was gathered around there.

That's right, the Write Competition's the first one in action, which means that must be the musical band that's gonna be playing out there in a few minutes. Most of the band members weren't of much worth to him, looking like a bunch of edgey teenagers that wanted to show off their own angst, but there were three of them that did catch his eye.

The one right in the middle, slapping her cheeks to, he presumes, psych herself up, probably looked like the edgiest one of them all, her long green hair in a giant ponytail, the top of her head having ruby red hair - seems the rest of her hair was dyed green - and mostly covered with what appeared to be a green hood with a hole cut in for the pony tail. The rest of her attire was just asymetrical and hard to look at it if you had some kind of OCD problem, with her left arm and leg having their red-and-black sleeve and sock seemingly torn up completely and the right side only having holes, and not looking right amidst the normal black skirt and blue sweater vest, nor with the pair of fingerless gloves and black leather boots. It did fit rather well with the general motif she gave off with that guitar strapped to her back though, one that outright looked like a bladed axe with strings attached to it. But what really identified her amongst the crowd were those eyes; heterochromia with left eye as red as her hair, and the right eye being outright inhuman with its purple coloring and the slit pupil you'd see commonly on a cat or a lizard.

To the right of her, was another person that stuck out like a sore thumb, but whereas the middle girl's eye was the only thing that seemed inhuman, this one only looked human in shape, and otherwise, you would not be blamed for mistaking her for some kind of demon or monster, what with the large horns, the glowing orange eyes, and that nightly blue skin. Yet her conservative noble-like attire suggests sophistication regardless of this, bar none making her stand out most of all in combination. @Smike

To the left of her was someone who looked like she belonged with this band attire-wise, albeit not to the same extreme. Her hair white as snow, her skin and blue eyes matching that, while her black lipstick matched the attire she wore the long-sleeved blue shirt over a black vest, equipped with spiked bracelets, the torn-up jeans with that spiked belt and another pair of black boots to just complete the set, yet overall seemed much more down-to-earth compared to everyone else. @Nyxira

At least two of them Jacob knew all too well about, as would everyone else in the audience as soon as they pop out. The green haired Rockstar was Helena Nankos while the horned lady was Dahlia Sangrey. Both of them are practically celebrities in the music industry, idols of rock/metal and classical respectively, and fellow students of Ishtar like himself on top of that. Their headmaster selected a musical competition as the game of the Write Category specifically because of these two being on his side. Just one of them has a large chance of winning over the crowd, and they're collaborating with each other, and with other fellow musicians of Ishtar.

The third one he doesn't necessarily know perse, but has caught his eye nonetheless. Vellaxir "Vell" Hebel, a relatively new face in Ishtar compared to the others. He's less fascinated in what she can do in a musical competition, and more focused on her other, more notable feats of skill. Not that he's actually seen them for himself but if there's one thing his guardian taught him, it's to always analyze whatever catches the eye, gather as much info as they can...He couldn't gather much on this one though, and that in itself is what made her a person of interest for him.




A deep breath, a few slaps on the cheek, and a smile. That was all Helena needed to psyche herself up for what's to come in a few minutes. Spinning the belt strapping her partner to her back as a way to spin it to the front, she took her pick and played a few notes to some last minute testing, turning knobs at the end if any of them felt out of tune. Helena was far from a perfectionist, ask any student in Ishtar and they'd call her a slacker who liked to just get things over and done with. Getting a B on a project? That's Awesome! Getting a D- on a test? Close enough! But when it came to music, when it came to rocking it out in the spotlight of a concert hall, she made an exception. Music was the one thing in her life she put effort into, to a point where she trained her magic by using music as her medium. She could not afford to screw up with all the ears listening to her and her companions. As long as she could please a crowd with her musical prowess, that was all she cared about, and the one thing she ever made an effort doing.

An energetic hop in the air, she turned as she jumped to face her companions in the battle of the bands.

"I can't believe we're the opening act of the entire bloody games! This is so EXCITING! ...Ok, let's do this just as we practiced. I got the guitar 1, Dahly got violin, you guys got drums and guitars two and three. That leaves you, New girl! The spotlight's on you taking the vocals tonight. We're counting on you to liven things up for them. Don't worry about the pressure though, Me and Dahly's got your back! Whatever we don't got, I'm sure Marduk's crew can substitute for us!" Helena said, referring to Vell as she calls her the New girl. As soon as she finished, one of the other students raised a hand.

"Umm, wait, what do you mean they'll 'substitute'? I thought the whole point of this was to blow them out the water, what the hell can they add that we don't have?" He said to her, with Helena responding by giving him a raised eyebrow and an unamused frown.

"Some humility, for starters." She said in response. The student fist-pumped in response to that. He must have thought she meant that they were gonna give them a slice of humble pie in defeat. She was going to open her mouth to correct him, but decided not to, waste of time and energy.

"Drummer-boy has a point though. It's fine that you want to have fun with this, but the Headmaster chose this competition expecting you all to win, and to do whatever it takes to win...whatever it takes." Said the blue-eyed boy Jacob Ascot, the traitorous son of Marduk's headmistress, walking towards them with a girl beside him, looking like his personal assistant. @Windstormugly He was relatively new much like Vell, although being at this school for slightly longer. He never really shown an interest in the Headmaster's goals, instead, it seems he has ambitions of his own whatever they may be. She sighed and waved away towards Jacob as if waving a fly from her face.

"Well, you can tell him that that's not our style, little bro." She said in response with a coy smile on her face. Of course they weren't actually brother and sister, but it's partly to mock his short-stature compared to herself, and it seems to always rile him up if only a little. The other band members took a look at her as if she just said something insulting to the Headmaster himself, and not because of her insult to Jacob.

"I thought I told you not to call me that... More importantly, whether or not it's your style to cheat is irrelevant to Headmaster Nergal. His direct orders is to do what has to be done. He chose this cause he believes you can win, we can't-"

"Then he should let us win by our own merit, not because we screw the other side the hardest. If we're doing this thing, we're doing it fair and square, that's what the audience out there wants from us, and we're gonna provide it. Besides, since when did you care about Nergal's direct orders?"

"I don't. My concern is making sure Mo-...making sure Headmistress Gilgamesha doesn't get those pages."

"Uh, huh... Look - and I'm saying this not just to Jake here, but to you guys as well - I get it. This isn't just fun and games like all the other years, something really important to our school - hell, something really important to this whole city - is on the line here. I know our school has to win these games, if only to make sure Marduk doesn't use those to turn this city into Hermannreich Part Deux. But right now, we are musicians, our loyalty should be to the audience who are coming to this looking for a rocking time, because that's what making music is about in the end, that's what concerts like this are for. Try your best out there, of course, show-off your best stuff to put on a good show, amplify our sound, absolutely. But if we win this by sabotage or by ruining the music on their side, then there's no point to that. We have to ease the mind of the audience from this whole mess with our songs, and that's the only thing we should worry about, that they're happy, that they're satisfied with our music, cause that's what playing for an audience is all about. If you guys feel we need to play dirty to keep 'Fuhrer' Ascot from turning this city upside down, I understand, there's plenty of chances to pull that crap in other games, but not here. We don't need to cheat to do what we have to, and we certainly don't need the Headmaster telling us how to do what we do best! Besides, if you ask me, cheating and playing dirty when we got such a Rocking band as we do, if anything, would only serve to DQ us and give them the win faster. If we're doing this, we're doing it right. Are you with me? ...THEN LET'S ROCK THIS JOINT!" Helena explained, giving them a kind smile as she spoke, before reverting to her energy and fist pumping in the air as she finishes. Readying her guitar once more, she looked to the others to see if they're ready for this much as she was.

Jacob could only Sigh.

"Don't say I didn't warn you... Keep watch of them." He said, first in a mutter towards the band, then towards his "shadow". @Windstormugly
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Nimbus
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In one hand, Nika Pešek holds a mid-size pouch that rings with the sound of jangling metal.

In her other, she clasps a stand, the pole tucked underneath her arm and a flat panel covered in dials, sliders and switches marked with symbols raised on one end.

In her mind, she holds just under a fortnight’s worth of research into music theory and composition.

And upon her face, she bears her smile of calm determination.

With these things, she will conquer the obstacle before her.

Nika nods to William. “I can divide my focus. Should hardly be impossible to notice the odd motion and slow it down if we need. Much as it hopefully it won’t come to that, I would hardly be surprised.” After all, we’ll be giving them a shock; their team is skilled, professional – they won’t expect us to match them. She has, of course, put some research into their competitors, too. One responds to shock by instinct – and we all know what Ishtar’s instinct will likely be. Beyond that, little can be known. Impersonal fact-finding can only extend so far, after all.

Despite this, Nika Pešek exudes confidence as the team from Marduk stride out into the light of the arena. This is, after all, but one more obstacle, of which she has faced many and always succeeded. No matter that this is the last, that she is so close as to almost hear her tender, comforting and oh so painfully familiar voice whispering in her ear. She will overcome it, as she has done all the others.

Her heart thunders in her chest.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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William Ascot

When preparations for the competition began and there was literally no evidence of cheating from either side, William was pleasantly surprised - That meant more time to copy enchantments and forge items. Already, his ‘Soul Forge’ spell was activated and he was using his other powers to conjure up metal and additional pieces of wood.and bone for his next sword - Revelation. Revelation will then be empowered by the next series of spells he saw and copied with his Enchantment-Copying Eyes, and if those spells do not fit the name ‘Revelation’, he’d just name his sword something else.

A glance at Helena and William felt a surge of admiration - It seemed she was the reason there was no cheating, at least for now. Good. Now to wait for everyone else to draw Magical Artifacts - He was already discreetly copying the Darvon Sisters' Magitech and the powers those manifested. Hopefully, they didn't notice, but he can always pay them back anyway.

William briefly paused as his thoughts were diverted to another direction… He needed a source of information for his goals - Without information, his dreams of independent action would be stillborn. Thankfully, Jacob was not the only one with connections, even though William will admit that he was worse at playing the game of espionage. Scratch that, he was a newbie.

I hope you’re doing Okay, Jacob, were his thoughts as he looked to see if his brother was a spectator...

@Nimbus@The Jest@LilSwifty@Landaus Five-One@Smike@Nyxira
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Nyxira
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The "New Girl", as she had been so dubbed, finally forewent the silence she had maintained up until that point, running a hand casually through the long portion of her hair, white with tips as silver in colour as her pale eyes, quite unlike the short shaved black of the opposite side. "Wow~." She drawled, her tone and expression equal parts sly and brimming with amusement. The look and sound of someone who always gave off the impression of knowing something nobody else knew. "I wasn't expecting a speech like that. You lot sure talk a lot, don't you?"

In an oddly fluid line of movement, she shifted into a leisurely stretch before rising to her feet from where she had previously been sitting and crossing her arms over her chest with one finger held to her blue-grey painted lips. "You celebrities are really trusting the vocals entirely to someone you don't even know, though, huh? Pretty ballsy stuff~" Vell took a second then to scan the group briefly, that roguish gaze analyzing. It was a bit early to have a solid idea of how each one of them worked, yet, but they at least looked like they would play hard. Even if their motivations were scattered and weak, and their apparent leader apparently lacking in either confidence or a backbone.

Either one would be a problem, if it weren't for one thing.

She gave Jacob another seemingly unimpressed once-over, then turned away and began to walk toward the waiting room exit with an airy wave of her hand. "As for all this talk of cheating, while I do love a good trick, I'd say we don't need it. After all, we've got professionals, a big band, and some good looking baby blues on our side. And to top it all off, if there's one thing I'm good at..." Here she paused, hand on the door, to shoot them all a wily grin over her shoulder as she continued.
"...It's puttin' on a show~"

@The Jest@Smike
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by RabidChoco
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RabidChoco A Heart Full of Neutrality

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"Relax, you can trust us," the last member of Marduk's band told William. "Okay, I can't speak for the others, but I wanted to do this before they put the Epic at stake." The blond coughed, flubbing a dismissive sigh. "Before they told us we were up against her." Conrad Hiss coughed again to get the feeling of rawness out of his throat, turning back to his pretense of checking the others' instruments. "Yeah, still clear for now, Will. Egh, I've still got my doubts, but you at least look like you know what you're doing." He straightened up, unpacking a keyboard and glancing over his shoulder at the scion of Ascot.

Truth be told, Conrad was terrified. When he first signed up for this, he had had no idea of the potential stakes or the competition. And as for his last minute teammate, he was still making up his mind about William.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Smike
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At no point in her life had Dahlia ever expressed interest in music as a career. She had enjoyed plonking out little melodies on the grand piano in the hall and singing along as she did so but playing as a job? That would just make it work. But she had shown aptitude in it and in the Sangrey family that meant she had locked herself in. Around the same time her skin had turned blue and her feet morphed into hooves had started to grow from her scalp the little pseudo-demon was surrounded by the best instructors money could buy. Hours upon hours spent with vocalists, violinists, pianists, past and present professionals being paid hundreds of dollars per hour to turn Dahlia's hobby into her new way of life. Time not spent in school or other lessons was dedicated to practicing scales and studying music theory, writing and rewriting compositions that would never see the light of day.

Dozens of hours had blurred into hundreds and then thousands, Dahlia being molded into a master without her asking or consenting to process. There was no point in complaining about it. Her elders were as eldritch and immovable as the scarcely understood power that had marked her with golden eyes and heavy horns, she may as well have asked the rivers to unflood or a volcano to revert its eruption. It was better to accept it and move on as best she could, performing in concert halls and at events across Iliad. She sang with a smile, another crown jewel in the Sangrey's collection of cultured, intelligent future leaders.

So the Games were hardly even a change in schedule. Nergal had more or less demanded she be part of the team and so she was, armed with her bow and the ability to warp probability as needed. "Oh yes, very exciting. The same way jamming my tail in a socket would be." The spade tipped appendage had curled itself around leg, Dahlia's dry snark hiding the tension she always felt when her family's pride was on the line. "I should have asked you about outfits Helena, you're more familiar with this kind of show."

She had worn what she usually did performing. A cloak the same dark cobalt as her skin with a black dress covering to just above the hooves nervously kicking at the stage and arm length gloves, a veil with her horns poking through hiding all of her face from the audience. Save for her eyes of course. The gold was just bright enough to be seen through the material, dim lighthouse bulbs almost hidden by heavy fog. It was dramatic in the extreme but by design, playing up the inherent exotic mysteriousness of her "condition" and hiding the injuries and changes that would result from using her more powerful abilities for too long.

"If that's really how you think we should play it then I guess we have no choice."

A lie of course, lip service to an order she'd ignored at the first sign of trouble. If the amateurs across from them did better than expected there wasn't a chance Dahlia wouldn't cheat. A cruel though combined with a note or two from her violin could cause strings to snap and voices to crack awkwardly, instruments becoming untuned in a heartbeat. There was more riding on this than a couple of pages. She had family in the crowd who would be displeased in the extreme if she embarrassed them in front of the horde watching.

Despite Helena's naive adherence to the art it was nice to have another professional on her side. One of them really should have been handling vocals as well, hopefully the bundle of spikes and studs masquerading as a student knew what she was doing. "If you end up needing a break Vell give me a signal and I can sub in for you." The offer was out there for her to take up or reject as she saw fit. All Dahlia could now was wait for the start.

@Nyxira @The Jest
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Nimbus
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“Worry not,” Nika tells Conrad as they ascend the platform, smile sitting easily above her rapidly beating heart. She breathes, calming herself. “Whatever our teachers tell us, you do not win with the advantages you have.”

She unfolds her own stand, planting the base on the stage (adhesive patches sticking to the surface) and adjusting the panel, then looses the drawstring around her pouch. With one hand, she grasps the fabric furthermost from the entrance and tosses the contents upwards with a clatter and glints of light; with the other, she presses a button to begin the opening sequence.

Nika feels the familiar rush of energy as the programmed spell takes effect. Thus do the balls of magnesium halt in mid-air, rapidly heat and burst into flame, the resulting brilliant white light instantly drawing the crowd’s gaze.

Conventional wisdom coming into this event forecasts an Ishtar sweep; the academy has more experienced musicians on its side, even besides Ishtar’s long-standing advantage in Write from its freer philosophy of education. Their rival academy cannot fight on their terms. The counter, then? An immediate upset – doing something unexpected and striking, making the certain uncertain. Experience, after all, has a frame of reference; break that and what remains is doubt.

Nika smiles still, the magic continuing to flow from her – the marbles vibrate under her metal manipulation, issuing forth a deep, constant monotone that echoes in the stadium even as its issuers spread with predetermined direction to form a perfect rectangle, a shining backdrop to the team’s stage. In the instant that they reach their goal they pulse, the monotone rising two octaves and separating to a chord – a chord of the very same notes that will begin the performance.

This song was Ishtar’s. It is now Marduk’s.

Breathing, Nika turns again to Conrad, gaze grey and sharp as flint. “You win with how you use them.” She looks to William, hands moving to their positions on her controls. “Ready.”
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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William Ascot

William nodded to acknowledge Nika’s words as he kept on forging his new weapon for future fights - It seemed that things were going well. Another glance at the Ishtar team as he waited for them to begin their own countermoves, but more focus was given to the sword he was crafting, a sword of great power which ought to give him enough strength to forge his own group, his own destiny. For he knew this: That the person, the Descendant, who was profiting from the extermination of their own kind must be found. The main problem is that he didn’t know the first steps to finding said Descendant and was a novice to espionage unlike Jacob, so he was just going to have to wait for a lead or get the help of someone who knew the fine art of info-gathering…

Rialto ‘Alto’ Ganze

Rialto ‘Alto’ Ganze did not trust Jacob Ascot. Not because of his lineage - He was a friend of the boy’s father a long time ago, same for the boy’s now-deceased eldest brother, after all. No, the reason Alto didn’t trust Jacob was because the boy was the type to develop his own ‘third option’, or considering what he heard about the other surviving Ascot sibling, probably a ‘fourth’. The blond clearly knew that Jacob shared no interest in the prospect of ‘Other Worlds with Other Gods’, or even the prospect of a ‘Multiversal Overgod’ who was not the same individual as The One Deity.

Why? Because personal motive and tragedy trumped all intellectual curiosity for the boy - Not that he wasn’t one to talk, as he was no sociopath. No, he merely refrained from developing close bonds with anyone, anyone except Professor Nergal and one or two other folk, in order to prevent them from being hurt.

That, and his obsession with finding alternatives to this universe and the ‘Monotheist Model’ - Monolatrism, the belief that other gods existed but one’s own was better - Was his personal desire. He also knew that should the intellectual floodgates open, various ‘True’ Polytheists and Pagans would come out of the woodwork, allowing for some variety in thought. The fact that the only way to find out said alternatives was also the most sane way to save Iliad City and its population was a happy coincidence.

He observed William Ascot as the latter forged a sword in the middle of the musical event, copying the enchantments everyone in the area used into said blade. The boy was clearly powerful, but he sensed that such power was not handled subtly enough - Someone will kill or cripple the young man if he didn’t learn a lesson in humility soon.

Noticing William’s current sword, Reconciliation, Alto was… Seized by the thought of taking that blade for himself. Getting up, he said a technical truth, “I’m going to the bathroom.”

He then walked out of Jacob’s sight and towards the bathroom, entered it, and shut the door. A flash of light later, and every spider and spiderweb inside was disintegrated.

It was clear that Mr. Ganze had his own plans...

@Nimbus@The Jest@LilSwifty@Landaus Five-One@Smike@Nyxira@RabidChoco
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Awesomoman64
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Seth Murdock




”No cheating at all?” An eerily cheery voice came from just off stage after several of the Ishtar students agreed upon playing fair. “Not even a scheme or a clever deceit? I’m having a hard time believing we all belong to the same school.” A boy wearing a freshly cleaned suit, who also had green hair but in a more sickly shade, stepped out of the shadows. Strapped to him was a brass alto saxophone that he was carefully adjusting the reed on as he approached the group. Those who had classes dealing with the more dark arts would recognize this student as Seth Murdock; a very odd character, but an adept Necromancer.

”Very well, I guess I’ll also resign to playing fair. Though it seems like a waste of our talents.” Seth remarked with a playful smirk. He honestly didn’t mind not cheating on his end. There wasn’t much he could really do unless he got his hands on one of the Marduk instruments and gave them a quick coating of poison. But he was also aware most of the Ishtar students mastered in espionage, while Marduk was equally skilled in buffing themselves. Without the sabotage from Ishtar, Marduk would undoubtedly have an advantage. Then again, everyone knows Ishtar plays dirty. Perhaps by playing fair, Marduk will think they have a different plan yet to be revealed. They’ll get paranoid and start slipping up. A delicate mind game to play, but one that might actually work.

”Now then, do we have all our bandmates here? Or do I need to conjure up a few substitutes.”
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by MK2
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Galan was late. He wasn’t used to oversleeping, and he kicked himself for it. It didn’t matter that training with his father went well past the time it usually did; His family name held a certain standard that needed to be met. So when he rushed down the stairs after getting ready only to find that his family was gone, he understood the message his father was giving him without a word spoken. He’d be walking to the Colosseum. He ran instead. The Colosseum was a ways away from his house, but Galan knew the way well. Training with his father often took him all over the city and more than once he’d found himself passing the massive building at any and all hours of the day.

It was almost muscle memory to Galan as he sprinted, cutting a corner on third avenue. Taking the back alley on twenty fifth street. Cutting through the courtyard of an apartment on Walker Boulevard. Even with all the shortcuts, Galan felt himself being bogged down by the sheer amount of people moving back and forth. The city was livelier than usual today.

“The games have really brought people out of the woodwork..” Galan thought to himself as he continued his sprint toward the Colosseum. It took him almost an hour before he was outside the building, looking up at the imposing walls of the structure. Was he too late? His phone would have his answer. Looking down he’d check. Only the same message Dahlia sent him earlier was in his text messages.

"Hey Galan remember how I told you if I saw you at one of my recitals I'd castrate you? It's the other way round for this one. Show up and I'll buy you lunch, don't and there's gonna be a new gelding in the Sangrey stables." He sighed with relief. He was safe from her ire… for now.

“K, I’m here. Good luck.” He’d reply before putting his phone away.

When he put his phone back in his pocket he became aware of just how sweaty he was: his forehead and upper body were drenched, dripping down over him like a waterfall had been installed atop his head. In hindsight, Flannel probably wasn’t the smartest choice. He was wearing a Red Flannel shirt that was now caked with sweat stains on his chest and lower back, blue jeans and generic low top sneakers with a Sports cap to cover his messy head of hair.. As normal an outfit as he could manage to find on short notice. Taking a moment, he’d wipe the sweat away from his eyes before walking inside to try and find a seat with the Ishtar students.

It took him another five minutes to find a seat with a good enough view of the stage. They were all already up there, but luckily enough for him; they hadn’t started playing yet. He’d be able to say he watched the entire show, and answer any questions of the spectacle the Ishtar band no doubt had planned. With a small smirk on his face, he’d cross his arms and wait for the show to begin.

@smike
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by The Jest
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Illiad City Arcanum

Vell was the first to speak, and boy did her words cut like a knife. Not that Helena minded though, simply scratching the back of her head with her free hand and giving a quick chuckle, sticking her tongue out as she gave off a goofy smile. She was right though, she and Dahlia were the only ones that were professionals at this, it was pretty risky to give rookies the chance to come into this and potentially screw things up for them. But Helena was a girl of fair chances, and she didn't pick the people she did in jest. For instance...

"And to top it all off, if there's one thing I'm good at, ...It's puttin' on a show~" the show woman said with a confident grin.

That confidence, that capability of putting on a good show, is precisely why Helena picked her for this band.

She then heard Dahlia's snarky comment before mentioning about outfits.

"No need to worry about that, Dahl. You look great as you are!" She said, going in for a hug to Dahlia, oddly keeping herself like this for an awkward few seconds as her head was to the left of Dahlia's. The very perceptive may notice Helena's lips making tiny movements as she did - enough movement to surmise speech, but not enough to be intelligible enough to read. After those seconds were up, she pulled away and gave Dahlia a big energetic smile of confidence, as if assuring her that everything's going to be alright. She then turned to the green-haired saxophone-playing Seth, smiling back at at his wit. This one was brought into the band at nearing last minute but did so at Helena's request. Helena only barely dabbled in the particularly darker arts of the school, so she barely knew this Necromancer. It was by sheer circumstance and coincidence she happened to stumble across him playing on his saxophone and, without much word, essentially pulled him into this...to the dismay of other band members for more reasons than one.

”Now then, do we have all our band mates here? Or do I need to conjure up a few substitutes.”

"Nah, I think we have more than enough people here for this. Although the thought of purposely leaving out a few and propping up zombies as they're needed's a tempting thought... it'd make for a good spectacle."

"HEY!" Almost all of them said in unison, leading to a rather mischievous chuckle on Helena's part.

"I'm just kidding around, guys. Hehehe... Oh, and Seth, remember what we practiced, start us off small solo, then wait for the right openings, and as soon as you see one, don't hesitate, just go for it!" Helena said putting her hands up towards the other band members who took offense to her idea, before looking over to Seth again and fist-pumping at "just go for it" for emphasis.

The song they chose to play wasn't originally designed with a Saxophone in mind, nor was it rehearsed with one in mind until Seth came along. This, of course, was the main reason for the band's dismay on the matter. However, Helena saw the potential Seth had when she heard him play, and saw how it could work with the song at hand. It's like adding a secret ingredient to a pre-made recipe: Unnecessary, experimental, and potentially dangerous to the recipe, but has the potential to make it even better if it works. She personally trained with Seth during the last few days before the competition in order to look for the precise timing of when they could throw in is saxophone, considering when the saxophone would best be heard in the song, and when it could compliment, not contrast, with the music being played. She must have played this song hundreds of times in the past 72 hours to pinpoint the openings, and when she finally found those openings and did one last rehearsal, it was...sublime.

As she walked over towards the Ishtar stage, she spotted the Marduk folk on the other side, clearly setting things up.

"We got some interesting competition...Well, well, well, Looks like Big Bro's in this too. I thought Jake said Willie was home-schooled?"

"The Head-Bitch probably forced him to come here or something, desperate times and all that."

"Or maybe he's come here by his own choice, I suppose it could happen. Could make things a touch annoying though. Who else do we got here...? A few ladies... Huh, didn't take Willie to be ladies' man type."

"Focus, Helena!"

"I don't like the looks of those guys one bit...A bunch of schemers, the whole lot of them."

"Hey, Pot, need a megaphone? I don't think Kettle can hear you calling it black from here. ...They're pressured to win this as much as we are and worse still is that they got a headmistress who'd probably punish them brutally if they fail, even when it's something like this. They got a lot riding on this, and who knows what else that crazy lady'll make em lose on top of that if they fail here. No doubt they've been forced to play some shady cards just as we're ordered to, that's how important things are right now..." Helena said. Perfectly timed after saying that, as if on cue, one of the Marduk's students created balls of super-heated Magnesium, causing the crowd to cheer in excitement.

"Hot damn... We got a fight on our hands after all." Alice said with a smile, putting on sunglasses as she stared at the magnesium orbs.

"Great, so we can't cheat, but they can bring out those fucking things to cheat Us!?"

"I wouldn't go so far as to call that cheating, not yet anyways... They're just bringing in some visual effects to get the crowd jumping, not too different to what Vell's been wanting to do, though if shiny balls of light's all they can do, I think you got this in the bag, Vell." Helena said as she continued to look at what's going on behind the curtain, pointing at Vell and giving her a thumbs up before popping her head out the curtains and looking at her band mates again, some of them clearly worried over what Marduk could pull. With a sigh, she hopped over to them.

"Don't worry mates, I got your back. I want this to be fair to us as much as it is to them. I've already have ideas of how to make sure of that." Helena told them with a wink in her eyes, sparkling with a starry confidence. With that she walked down to a platform beneath the stage, upon which were most of their instruments that they didn't have on hand themselves. Hopping on it and unstrapping her own instrument from her back, wrapped in tape like a mummy before a simple pull from Helena explosively unwrapped it, revealing a rather... sinister-looking guitar.



Not a concert with Helena where you don't see her with this in hand; it was her pride and joy...and the blade on it was real and sharpened, making it also her weapon of choice. With a throw of the tape, she wrapped it around her neck as a strap, holding the tail with one hand, and from her sleeve pulling out a thin amethyst jewel in the shape of a rounded arrow head with her other hand, raising it up to the sky.

"Now get up here, and LET'S ROCK THIS JOINT!" She said, a big grin on her face as her slit eye gleamed with a purple.

As soon as the rest of the band got up to the platform with her, and got their instruments ready, she stomped a button on the floor, raising the platform that they were on, the circular door on the ceiling above opening up to the stage outside as fog smoke from fog makers could be seen creeping in.




Jacob simply continued to stare out towards the stadium from the curtain as the band took their position underneath their stage. as he waited for the event to get started. More accurately, he stared towards the Marduk side of the stadium on the opposite end, at his brother as he and his 'friends' - though he hesitates to call them that - prepared themselves for this battle of the bands. For a time, he never knew William to be a musically-inclined individual, far as he knew no one else in his family was, and even Gilgamesha was a musician she certainly wasn't the type to teach it to them as things stand. Maybe he learned from his Aunt? ...Or maybe he's not here to actually play and just be a magical aid to the actual band members, seeing as instead of an instrument he seems to bring out a sword.

"Oh dear..." was all he could say with a sigh. He hasn't seen much of his brother since their departure, but he does remember his brother's magic, and recognizes the sword he made that was now in his hands, and by that sword, he could predict rather easily what he intends to do with it. In all honesty, it wasn't the fact that William's endangering Jake's classmates by attempting to use that ability that worries him, nor is it the possibility of him or his friends actually defeating Ishtar's band. No, what really worries him is the fact that he's having that sword revealed and to be used in the middle of an entire crowd of people, particularly in front of every Ishtar Student watching him as well. Sure, Helena and her group probably have no idea what that sword is or what it could do, but Ishtar students will always try to spot an advantage and exploit it, and so revealing a hand too early could spell doom for a Marduk student in the long run.

For Example...

"I'm going to the bathroom."

Jacob couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. To say that out of the blue when there was barely anyone else with them and going to a public restroom that has more than one space, and it's not as if anyone waiting for either of them, considering this current event has nothing to do with them. To top it off, he shuts the door but doesn't factor in the fact that the flash of light he used would slip through the cracks of the door. Alto may have been an honor student, but it's clear he's still an amateur in Jake's mind when it comes to Espionage.

He turned over to a girl standing next to him.

"If anyone asks, I went to the bathroom... and will likely be in there for a while." He said to her. Without waiting for a response from her he decided to walk over and open the door to the bathroom as well, taking a look inside.




The cheer of the crowd was deafening as a giant hologram of a Bard popped out of the center and the Marduk band came out ready to go. The Bard in question was essentially a giant humanoid light armor and silk pants over coats of warm colors and a light-green cloak over all of that as it floated in the middle of the arena with a small harp in one hand, as if waiting for the music to start playing.

Up in the sky box, Alfred Crowley fixed up his hair, getting ready for the cameras that would be turning on and showing him and Madame on the TV screen. As soon as the signal was shown to him that they were live, and broke up his professional ivory-white smile towards the camera.

"And we're back my lovely viewers as the Orpheus duel is about ready to take place, and boy do we have a treat for you today. Coming up as Ishtar's representatives for this Write competition are the world-famous Rock and classical stars, Helena Blackgram and Dahlia Sangrey, alongside a band they hand-picked themselves." Alfred said, with a smile to the camera.

"Dahlia AND Helena in the same band? Holy [Censor], Ishtar's not [censor]-ing around! Just one of those two idols could probably hold their own in something like this, and Headmaster Nergal managed to get both of them in the same band? Those Marduk kids are [CENSORED]!"

"Err... Yes... well... -Ahem- I wouldn't count out the Marduk band just yet, it seems they're showing off they got style of their own from the flares one of them just summoned up." Alfred said in response of Madame's clearly biased view as they viewed the Magnesium orbs Nika threw out. He then looked back towards the Camera.

"Now, let's discuss the rules of this game for those at home. The Orpheus Duel is a battle of musical bands playing simultaneously against each other with the quality of their music and the style of the band itself being judged the giant hologram of Orpheus the Bard. The music is heard by Orpheus, who transfers the sound waves into the harp he then plays, which then is transferred into a magical spectacle of visual art. The two songs are filtered out and divided but the visual art of the music is a combined moving picture that keeps going as the songs continue. If there's any screw-ups, or if one song is being heard louder and with more quality on the opposing side, it will be shown as visual distortions in the imagery. The object of the game is to keep the songs going and of consistent quality as possible. The two groups can make their own music louder and sharper using their magic, but they are not to directly effect the players on the opposite sides. No poison, no harm, and certainly no deaths, and any attempts to attack or manipulate Orpheus himself will lead to disqualification. Orpheus will then judge the music and the one with the most consistent show of musical prowess wins." Alfred explains to the audience at home, the screen showing cartoon examples of how it works as he explains it. As soon as it cuts back to Alfred however...

"Oi, Al. Looks like the stars are finally about to come on stage." Madame said. As if on cue, the Ishtar stage was getting filled with fog from dry ice, as the fog machines activated. Even from above in the skybox, the fog prevented the floor of the Ishtar stage from being seen and so it wasn't noticed when that floor opened up, and raised the Ishtar Band on the platform they placed themselves on. Helena was stuck in position with a pick raised above her head, and as soon as they were seen, the crowd roared as loud as a giant thunder, cheering on both teams.

Helena took a deep breath, giving a large happy smile, and opened her eyes. One of them, her right eye, glowing a deep violet, the same color as the aura of mana around her pick. Throwing the pick down at the cords of her axe-shaped guitar, A loud sound of the guitar's chord could be heard and a shockwave of purple energy exploded outward. Nothing so violent that it could throw even the people close to her off the ground, rather, it would feel like a sudden breeze blowing over everyone in the arena, over as soon as it began, but the only thing it seemed to do was give a rush of more energy towards anyone who felt it, the band of Marduk included. With one note, she got the audience pumped all over again. The sound was detected by Orpheus, who pulled a string on his harp creating a purple cloud momentarily that faded just as soon as it showed up. As if it was a test demonstrating how Orpheus worked.

It's pretty clear what this was to anyone who was the competitive type: An intimidation tactic, she was showing off her magic to show the Marduk band what exactly they were up against, smirking at them with a confident look upon her face. Helena's magical abilities were all about her music, as she could merge her magic into every note she makes.

This was her magic: Symphonic Enchantment, otherwise known as "Siren Magic"

They probably thought she was doing this to make them run away before the competition began. Not too far from the truth; she really wanted to see if they did or not, to see if they had the determination to go through with this despite who they were up against, and by extension, see if they're worthy, fun, and entertaining opposition. If they all stood their ground, her smirk would open up, bearing a fang. It was proof enough they had what it took to go face to face with them, and that's all Helena needed to be satisfied, it was all she needed to know that this was going to be good enough for both bands, for both schools, to rock this joint! She then slowly walked over to the Microphone as the note she played still echoed across the stadium before slowly fading, as did the cheering.

"Hello Iliad!" She gleefully said, in an instant, the cheers roared once more before fading again.

"I think it's time for a little story to start these games off... It's definitely story time!" she said in a almost comically low pitch, as if a child was trying to sound mysterious. Even so, it was enough to make them start cheering yet again. With a turn of her head to her band, she gave them a quick nod, the cue for the show to begin, and for everyone in Ishtar's band to do what they did best.



As the Ishtar band slowly began their song, Orpheus began his own work of visualizing the melody in play. A purple cloud formed above the Ishtar side of the stadium as Orpheus plays his soundless harp to generate the cloud. As soon as the melody began to intensify, the cloud took the shape of a giant book, opening up and exploding out multi-colored lights like stars in a night sky. This giant book, evidently, a storybook, is the foundation upon which the imagery by everyone's music springs from.

Helena's guitar, in particular, made a flock of tiny humanoid-shaped lights, glowing as purple as their moth-like wings, flying about Ishtar's half of the stadium like a flock of butterflies flying about.




As the Orpheus Duel began, a security guard standing on the catwalk of the stadium's open roof, just above the top most audience bleachers in the back, spectated the events happening before his eyes as the two magical bands began their songs. He seemed like an odd one to be sure, his shoulder-length turquoise hair all budded up and hidden beneath a security cap, hazel eyes darkened by the shade of said cap, the metallic black plating on his left hand - of course, that could just be a prosthetic hand.

As he placed a cigarette in his mouth and lit it up, he listened to the static on his walkie-talkie and stared towards the magical spectacle happening at the stadium's center.

"We're in position, boss!" a voice said from the miniature radio which he then grabbed a hold of.

"Wait for the Bishop's signal. Bishop, commence on my mark." The guard said into it. He then release the button he was holding on the radio and it became a blurred static once more. After which, he leaned on the railing, continuing to smoke his cigarette as he watches the show.
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Landaus Five-One The Sadist Insaneous One

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In the back of Sarah’s mind, she was thinking multiple different things but someone interrupted her thoughts. It was William in particular, he directed them to also sing the song with Nika, in question. A bit odd, but it was William’s direction to help them win, so she smiled directly at Nika. ”Hopefully this will go smoothly… I can’t wait to sing with you Nika for our school.” Sarah said, nicely and kindly towards Nika. It was obvious she didn’t want to lose but they were basically facing the best of the best from Ishtar. However, in the back of her mind, this was a big uphill battle that the school needs a win no matter the odds. If one step closer to getting back at the woman who killed her parents for power.

Rosella was paying attention to the instructions by William, a bit more than her sister. Since she felt like Sarah is still consumed by vengeance. If her parents were still alive, they would probably tell Sarah to forgive and forget the woman who tried the unthinkable. However, when her sister spoke up about the sudden change of who’s going to sing the song. ”I-I hope we are able to do that we must for Marduk, Nika. Everyone is counting on us to do just that. Conrad, please have some more belief in our goals. But doubts is always among everyone.” Rosella said, smiling kindly but still nervous. Its just how she spoke she had doubts but the most of her doubts were on her sister’s place to forgive and forget than keeping to Vengeance.

Out of everything, it took her a little off guard in hearing her sister speak that way. ”...Rosie… Looks like we need to keep on trying than to do what we must. Have a bit more faith in our cause, same goes to you Conrad. I am ready William. Let’s hope we will make an impression on the crowd.” Sarah said, with a reassuring tone in her voice. Its better to keep spirits up, however, the start of the battle of bands would soon start and they would need to get ready for it. In the back of her mind, she should be focusing on the now than what might happen in the future. It is for the best, for the team and everyone cheering on Marduk.

Rosella heard her sister’s response and nodded about being ready, they’ve been singing together for along time. Ever since they were children basically, even though her sister is more outgoing than she is. ”I-I’m as ready as I will ever be William, to show the world that the light is in everyone. No one is different no matter whom says otherwise.” Rosella said, with a smile. It was obvious she was a bit too idealistic for her own good. However, its always good to be a bit idealistic in the end, much better than the alternative.

@Letter Bee@Nimbus@RabidChoco
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Letter Bee Filipino RPer

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William Ascot

As William continued to forge his new sword, he waited for the Darvon Sisters to sing the song he had personally picked for them - He needed his mother, and to a lesser extent, Jacob, to hear it. He also saw Helena’s guitar-ax but decided not to scan it for magical powers he can copy - He liked Helena too much to actually act against her more than necessary. Either way, once the song began, he’d hum to himself while working, all the while he brought forging supplies - Metal, wood, and leather which he had bought beforehand. His backpack was heavy enough to necessitate the use of his ‘Blacksmith’s Endurance’ power, after all.

Soon, his new sword would be completed, a blade which would complement his existing weapon using the powers of the Darvon Sisters’ ‘Magical Girl’ forms, which came from Magitech - His eyes would not have been able to see and copy their magic if not for the fact that those partly came from Magitech, as he had mentioned to himself before, and it was clear that he was seeing a glimpse of the true power of said Magitech now.

Either way, once they began singing, he’d not only begin copying but would prepare ideas for special effects using Reconcilliation’s counter-elemental abilities...

Rialto ‘Alto’ Ganze

Alto had not expected Jacob to follow him - He must be going senile, overconfident, or both. Choosing to be up-front, Nergal’s second-in-command among the Faculty - He only looked like a teenager, after all, but was not really one - chose to confront the younger Ascot kid directly, saying, “All right kid, it seems I’ve got your attention.”

His ‘Metahuman Power’, Laurel of Victory, was already acting overtime to try and spin his blunder into an actual plan, but he focused it on a new course of action, with his next words to Jacob being, “My name is Alto Ganze, I’m actually 53, and I’ve studied under both Marduk and Ishtar back when it was allowed decades ago. I knew your father, your older brother, and the previous headmaster of Marduk, Professor Utnapishtim - He who forged 75 of your mother’s Artifact Blades. And I must say, age must be coming up to me when even those credentials hadn’t saved me from such a juvenile mistake.”

Then he looked directly at Jacob, “Your brother is a highly skilled smith - It took a lot of analysis to guess the powers of his first sword, the one strapped to his back.” Tilting his head to the right, “It’s a Counter-Elemental blade, isn’t it? A blade which, when confronted by one Element, counters with that Element’s opposite. Such a blade in our hands can defeat most of Marduk’s students easily.”

A pause as Alto continued, “As a Marduk Alumni from 15 years ago, I can cross enemy lines and buy it from your brother when the next intermission starts, and it’ll all be perfectly legal, even if frowned upon. I won’t deny it - I crave that sword for my own.”

He took a deep breath, “But I won’t, if it will foster your goodwill. The question is, do I have your goodwill?”

@Nimbus@The Jest@Landaus Five-One@Smike@Nyxira@Rabidporcupine@Awesomoman64@MK2
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Four years ago

Usually no one managed to follow her when she decided it was time to move on. The way she could be in one place one hour and thousands of miles away the next made conventional tracking impossible, the ability to change everything from the shape of her eyes to her gender usually a death sentence for any would be hunter’s mission. The only times someone had managed to find her again was when she left behind clues so that someone could seek out advice from the wise sage or kill the warlord who had slaughtered their family or what have you. If it fit the character she was portraying she didn’t mind a human or two running into her.

But this was off-script. Everyone that had even the slightest chance of tracking Liberty, the Hermanreich based insurgent to Lynx the Iliad based mechanic and tinkerer, had been left burning, bleeding or straight up melting on the floor of a safehouse four years ago. So how the fuck had they found her?

Leaks. There was a spy embedded in the cops somewhere, someone that had snitched on the refugee who had been forced to disclose her past as a rebel in the Reich. That was the most likely answer and it was better than the alternative. The rank and file Reichfolk looking for her would be one thing but their Custodian masters were of an entirely different magnitude.

This assassin at the very least was human. Lynx knew he was slinking around in the trees behind her, the scent of sweat not entirely masked by the plain antiperspirant he wore. Lynx kept her eyes straight ahead, looking gormlessly out at the little hamlet below the hilltop as she waited for him to make his move. The faster they got this done the better. Each second spent waiting was a thousand times more agonizing than whatever damage he could possibly have inflicted, the woman out of time forcing herself to stand still and wait.

The sound of air being displaced was just as tortuously slow as the sound of the branch snapping, Custodian carefully counting the moments before impact. Judging by how far back he had been she had about three assuming he was jumping directly at her. Maybe he’d hit the ground first and tuck into some fancy roll, come up swinging his knife into her kidney or wrap a garrote around her throat and drag her down. The spec ops ninja types sometimes got too into their own mythos for their own good.

Two seconds now and it was still 50/50 which route he’d take. Lynx didn’t particularly care either way. Either he’d break his teeth slamming into the unbreakable mass of alien biology or he’d touch down on the grass and find his blood staining it. He’d been taken apart like a chicken on the chopping block, body dismantled the professional precision of a stone cold killer.

One second left. It was a shame how boring fights were. Once upon a time when mankind had been nothing but primordial sludge on a backwater rock she had been weaving between asteroids and hurling her opponents into active stars. Custodians were essentially minor gods and fought like it, wielding incredible powers and wondrous technology that could have destroyed the universe if wielded incorrectly. Now she waited for two-bit thugs to get within arms reach so she could shatter their skulls.

Zero seconds. The spectral blade her attacker was summoning, cold as death and smelling just as foul, swung right over her head and was followed by his body as Lynx ducked the attack. To his credit the assassin managed to land on his feet and resume the offensive, lashing out with truly incredible speed.

Incredible for a human that was. For Lynx he may as well have been a slightly speedier snail, his being caught and tugged so that he was sent flailing back over her shoulder. The game was on now and Lynx felt no need to conceal her speed. She rotated her back to watch him tumble, flexible spine allow her hips to stay in place as she got a good look at the black-clad murderer. She could see the dim surprise giving way to shock and then pain as his body collided with tightly packed earth, watching the drops of blood spray from his mouth as the impact made him cut his tongue on his own teeth.

One of those miniscule flecks was on a collision course with her duster until she intervened, the shock wave generated by a 500 mile per hour clap enough to dissipate it totally. A life spent cruising just below Mach 1 was mostly somewhere between “very unpleasant” and “outright unbearable” but it also had its uses.

His sleeve was sliding as he bounced, Lynx getting a good look at the black bird tattooed on his wrist as he staggered upright. A cowardly man would have ran, as would a smart one. This guy was neither apparently, slashing at Lynx’s face with his magic dagger in an attempt to earn his paycheck.

She pulled her punch by a factor of maybe ninety percent, the jab putting a nasty gash on his forehead instead of turning it into mulch. It wasn’t sporting to just go all out. Humans were fragile and ungainly, prone to collapsing with hardly any pressure applied. Even when they were trying to kill her Lynx still felt bad for them and so gave them as much of a fair chance as she could.

His accuracy wasn’t improved by the heavy blow he had just taken, wild slice hitting nothing but empty air as she shifted slightly to her left.. He had tried and failed, letting him struggle any more would just be cruel. The Custodian flattened her fingers into a knifehand, twisting her heels and hip in a spin. For a fraction of a second she was moving at her full speed and it was glorious, body moving as fast as her mind could process. Her hand came round past his neck, nails slicing through skin and muscle as easily as an obsidian blade through paper.

There was no blood. Just a desperate gurgle of a man trying to breathe and finding his air being sucked out through the neat slice in his windpipe. He stood and staggered helplessly as she dug her phone out of a pocket, number already dialed before his brain realized he was dead. His knees buckled before the call had gone out, lifeless eyes staring up at the sky when the operator picked up.

“Hey, I’m gonna need the police and a coroner here. I was attacked and it didn’t turn out too well for them.”

Thankfully the police interview wasn’t as long as it could have been. They asked her side of the story and cross checked with their records, the detective on scene agreeing with her assessment that her past was trying to catch up with her. There wasn’t much else to do besides haul the body off to the meat locker and let her go.

This wasn’t going to be the last time she would have to handle an attack. If Hermanreich knew she was here then they weren't going to stop just because one hired blade got himself killed. They would try and try again, practicing the definition of insanity until they ran out of bodies or she suffocated under their weight.

The next attempt was at least a little less wildly unbalanced. Instead of sending one woefully unprepared man they had sent six. Lynx could hear their footsteps while she napped in the tree she had claimed as her own, cat’s eye opening as they got closer. They were too in sync to be simple hikers, too much purpose in their steps for them to not be on a mission.

They broke apart as if they could hear her thoughts, the six spreading out to comb the area for their prey. Lynx was already creeping through the treetops with bow in hand, the natural stealth of her namesake coming easily to her. It was like stalking the loyalists of her homeworld or the wolves she had killed to prove her strength after first touching down on Historia: keep moving and keep quiet.

These were no wolves. The Reich had sent six deer to try and kill a wildcat and if she wanted to she could have all their necks broken in just under two seconds. But she was feeling vindictive after having both her nap and her hunting trip interrupted. They weren’t scared yet and she was going to change that. But patience was required. As against her nature as it was she would have to wait for the short lived and slow moving creatures to fan out a bit more if she wanted to do this properly. It would be no fair to just sprint through and kill them all in an instant.

The first one to go down was the rival archer, an arrow punching through the base of his skull so that he was sent slumping to the forest floor. One of his friends would stumble onto him sooner or later.

Bare feet dropped from branch to ground, the two seconds of travel more than enough to fire again. This time the wound wasn’t immediately lethal, a shriek echoing through the forest from the wretch with the punctured leg. If he was smart he’d leave the arrow in and if he wasn’t he’d bleed out in minutes.

Each ragged scream stretched on for an eternity, drawing attention that would allow her to creep round and round. The remaining four had definitely heard, twigs crunching underfoot as they rushed back towards their comrade. Number three went down with a dagger to the heart, number was strangled from behind with her bow. By the time the fifth made it his final ally had already expired, a hand clutching the bloody barb he had tugged out of himself.

Lynx couldn’t hear what the last man standing was saying if anything, her whole body submerged in the river a few feet behind him. But she could watch him stumble backwards in horror, body coiling like a spring and launching upwards. She broke the surface in a spray of water, teeth latching onto his arm before he could scream.

Kicking his legs out and dragging him back into the river was child’s play and executing the death roll almost more so, limb torn from its socket by the sudden violence. After that it was a simple matter of sitting on her victim until he drowned before clambering onto dry land and digging a phone out of a hunter’s pocket.

The second interview went pretty much the same as the first with the addition of an offer of protection. As kind as it was Lynx turned it down, valuing her privacy more than she did her safety. That might have been a mistake.

Technically she wasn’t supposed to be poking around the factory but it wasn’t like anyone was going to stop her. Judging by the state of the place it had been abandoned for decades, the great forges had long gone dormant and all its melted slag shipped out or left to rust. No guards to dodge, no cameras to fiddle with and hopefully a bit of circuitry or valuable metal to strip away for use in some side project or repair.

The plan fell by the wayside in under a minute. Only a few stolen cogs had been piled into her toolbox when she got bored, hands slipping to the revolvers at her sides. With hardly any conscious thought they were pulled free of their holsters. Wife and Mother were comforting just to hold, Lynx feeling every curve and bump of their molded grips through thick hide gloves.

Two cylinders containing six blasts of pure plasma, the ultra hot essence of the universe weaponized and contained by a pound each of ultralight metal forged in the stars and designed to withstand anything anyone could throw at it. Each time they fired it spat out forty thousand degrees worth of destruction and were always ready to do it again save for the occasional few seconds needed to cool off.

They were works of art as much as they were weapons, products of engineering and science that put to shame anything in Iliad and likely the rest of Historia. And this was their damaged state!

Wife’s hammer was half-cocked, the click of its rotating cylinder a simple pleasure that Lynx would never get tired of. Her thumb backed off so that it could spin back to its usual place, cylinder turning one way while the rest of it went the other. The twins each twirled around a trigger finger backwards and then forwards, stuck in states of reversal and counter-reversal as their owner amused herself. Mother was tossed up and out of her hand, Lynx watching enthralled as the solid circle slowed to a crawl. For each rotation it made Wife completed ten, Lynx watching each circle move at its own.

The sound of engines and the accompanying smells of hot rubber and old coolant leaked in through broken windows just as her guns switched hands. The Custodian took count without missing a beat, watching her rotations as she sized up the newcomers. Two cars disgorging fifteen people in total, the heavy thuds of their boots and the way that the loose gravel under them was turned to dust telling her that they came loaded to bear.

Yep, she could really smell it now. Gunpowder and small amounts of TNT, standard stuff for an assault team. They had magic of course but for the moment she couldn’t pick up any specifics, just aware of its presence due to the chlorine-like scent.

Voices now, droning whispers that she couldn’t have missed if she tried. They were stacking up against the bay doors in preparation to storm the place under the assumption that she would be caught off guard and thus easy to kill. Their assumption was of course based on the idea that she was human and that ‘s where it fell apart.

This was the third attempt on her life in about as many months and Lynx was getting tired of it. Each time they tried she had played nice, giving the assassins a fighting chance and how did they repay her? They sent more into the meat grinder. Neither side really won, she was still bored and they just ended up dead. The well of charitability had just about run dry and Lynx was done trying to dredge up the last drops.

The sound of the doors being blown open synched up with Mother’s final toss upward, Lynx turning around with Wife lodged in its holster to watch the individual shards of burning wood float lazily towards her face. The fifteen casualties streamed in guns blazing, the first blast of buckshot ricocheting off her skull the instant before some high powered rifle round deformed against the seemingly solid jelly of her eye.

The only reaction the slow motion shower of lead got was her drawing her own weapon. Wife was pulled right back out faster than any of the goons could have realized, two shots of pure plasma connecting with two chests. Lynx could track the balls of pale green power, watch as they turned skin and bone to sludge and sent sprays of rapidly evaporating blood outwards.

The hammer was fanned and four more targets were turned partly to paste before Wife needed a break. Too overheated to fire but still ready to dish out more damaged Lynx lightly tossed it at gunman number seven’s throat. One pound of metal moving at an easy ninety miles an hour resulted in a satisfying crack and both the corpse and the gun bounced when they hit the ground.

The remaining eight were just now catching up to how outmatched they were, their expressions changing from grim determination to varying degrees of shock and confusion. Lynx let them keep wasting their ammo and energy trying to lay suppressing fire or dive for cover. She had planned on getting her clothes ruined today anyway, it didn't matter to her whether it was due to oil stains or bullet holes.

Mother had just hit the floor judging by the echo from behind her, Custodian waiting for it to bounce before kicking her heel up. Sure enough her gun was sent back up over her head, coming down into ready hands. Another cylinder’s worth of energy emptied in a second flat, another six brought down. That left her with two.

The right neurons finally fired in the right sequences to trigger their realization that whatever guns they had had brought would not be enough. One was pulling the pin on a grenade to blow her to bits while the other was tapping into their well of mana to shred her with spells.

Well, points for trying anyway.

The grenade was slapped out of the air to explode somewhere off to the left, its thrower turning to run. He was on his first and a half step before when his comrade tried to succeed where he failed, Lynx catching the foot long ice spike and lobbing it back in a one handed hammer toss. The runner was two steps away when the mage’s skull cracked and three when Lynx looked back at him.

And that was as far as he made it before she got to him, close fist being rammed up through his back and into his heart at six hundred miles per hour. She could hear bone shattering and flesh being ripped apart with slow squelches, felt the blood pumping muscle compact and then shred under her knuckles.

Her arm tugged itself free of the wound and Lynx let the body slump to the ground in a heap. The other was still alive for the time being, trying to drag himself away before she could get to him. There was not a chance of that happening. Her lightest jog outpaced his desperate crawling, bloody hand entangling itself in his hair. “Just let me go, I’ll tell them you died! I’ll do anything, please just don’t hurt me!”

Desperate blubbering didn’t do anything to affect her now. If she wanted someone dead then no amount of begging was going to change that and this poor wreck had really pissed her off. So she just let him whimper and whine all he liked while she got a good grip, free hand pressing under his chin. A sudden twist and he was silenced, neck broken at the speed of sound.

This time she had to sit through a warning when the police brought her to the station, she had been trespassing after all. But a few dollars in fines wasn’t that bad of a punishment under the circumstances. She was still a free citizen with all the rights and protections that entailed.

Not much apparently. It was hardly three days after the factory fiasco when she came home to find her flat broken into and her charge kidnapped. Lilith had at least put up a fight if the puddle of cooking oil and the smell of boiled human flesh was anything to go by.

On the adjacent wall to the puddle written in black paint that still seemed fresh were a series of coordinates. It was easy for Lynx to make sense of the series of numbers, and follow them to their source. She traveled for an hour through the city before she could use her speed, the assassins no doubt had a flair for the dramatic making her go out of her way like this. She skidded to a stop when she neared her destination, slowing back down to the tortuous pace the rest of the world moved in the name of keeping some secrets at least. Whoever this was knew where she lived, and who she cared about (in theory) while she knew nothing about them. If they forced her hand they’d be getting a good look at her speed but until then it was going to be kept under wraps.

she found herself walking up to a cliffside overlooking the ocean. She would have expected more men, but instead there was one. He stood toward the end of the cliff in what seemed to be his Sunday's best. He wore a finely tailored black suit that seemed recently pressed, black gloves covering his hands, and an intricate looking ravens mask covering his face.What to do about him? Under normal circumstances she would have simply drilled a hole straight through his skull,but something was off here. The sheer amount of magic emanating off him almost made her gag, his form practically reeking his peculiarly rancid brand of it. And where are his vitals? She smelled no sweat on his brow and heard no beat of his pulse, her eyes narrowed as she sized up the hostage taker.

On her knees in front of him was Lilith, her hands bound and her mouth gagged. She was alive for the time, one eye bruised black and the other unable to see anything through the curtain of blood that dripped down from the cuts on her forehead. Lynx could smell her fear and hear the rapid pounding of her heart, but was mildly impressed that the kid was able to hide all that behind a mask of hatred. Even now she was staring daggers at the birdbrain with his hand on her neck.

“You’re the one who’s caused me all this trouble… I know right about now you might be thinking of making a move, I'd advise against it. If you care about the girl.” His grip on Lilith’s neck tightened as he mentioned her.

“What are you Liberty? No normal person could survive one Blackbird... Let alone twenty two.”

“I’m pissed, that’s what I am.” Her voice hung on the edge between open rage and cold calmness, an act to hide her true feelings of apathy and annoyance. “Maybe your “Blackbirds” just aren’t as good as you thought.”

“Oh I disagree, Some of the men I sent have been training since childhood, my best of the best, not easily replaced.” The man said, no hint of emotion in his voice as he regarded the woman, he seemed to chew on her words for a while before continuing.

“I’m quite.. “Pissed” as well Liberty. Seems the Reich has played us both for easy marks, and now we’re both in.. precarious situations.We could keep this dance we’re doing going forever…”

He paused for a moment before continuing.

“My attacks will get more aggressive, and sure you’ll kill more of my men, but I’ll blow up your home.. Kill the kid, make you a nuisance to the government here on iliad. If for no other reason than.. Death seems to follow your every step… That’s costly, a war between you and I. And one I don’t think I'd win… Even if I could run you out of the city. It’d destroy my organization as well.”

He paused for a long moment.. Letting her chew on what he was saying.

“Sorry about that. Chalk it up to luck or just natural skill.” In truth it was hard to tell the difference between a novice conscript and an elite assassin. Humans just moved too slow for her to care. Whether it was a rival warband, a Hermanreich patrol, or a dozen trained hitmen she would tear them apart without a scratch. The Crow was obviously unaware of this, still acting like they were on the same plane. Whatever criminal organization he was running she had built and toppled bigger dozens of times.

“Blow up my house and I’ll find every stockpile of weapons, every safehouse and hiding spot for your dirty money, and torch them. If you make me a nuisance for the government you’re just going to bring the hammer down on yourself. And if you kill the kid? I’m going to find you, the real you mind, not this body double or hologram or whatever it is, and I’m going to gut you.”

Her face was totally deadpan, devoid of any bluster or bullshitting. “It’s going to be slow and you’re definitely going to be resuscitated a few times but by the end of it you’ll learn why the Reich doesn’t waste its own agents sending them after me. You don’t have enough bodies to run me out, no one does.”

Her position on the matter was made clear, Lynx retrieving a cigar from a pocket. Lilith was looking at her, the hitch in her breathing making clear her shock. The girl knew that her mentor had a checkered past but they had never gone into specifics. This was a side she had never witnessed before. Ah well, there was time for therapy later.

Her knife was retrieved from its belt sheath, butt end of the cigar sliced open and lit with a match struck on her boot heel. “Counteroffer: You let go of the girl and head home to your kids or your mistress or whatever and next time someone comes to you with a contract for Liberty or Lynx you tell them where to stick it.” She paused to look over the besuited specter, a long drag pulling smoke into her mouth before ejecting it through her nose.

“In return you won’t have to wonder if I’m looking at you through a sniper scope or currently rigging a bomb in your basement. Because believe me, you turn this deal down and I’m going to be on the warpath.”

The man paused for a long moment, saying nothing, only looking at the woman smoking a cigar nonchalantly in front of him. Before long, he betrayed his emotionless candor by chuckling despite himself.

“It seems.. You and I are of one mind. Twenty two bodies are quite enough. And the person who put the contract on Liberty? I’m going to be paying them a visit, to.. Thank them for their patronage.. And for thinking that Blackbird can be their cannon fodder. How did you put it? ‘It’s going to be slow.’ and any future contracts? I’ll give them the same treatment. Call it.. Professional courtesy.”

He continued to chuckle, as he grabbed Lilith by the arm and pulled her to her feet, he’d pat the girl on the head and adjust her hair before cutting her loose with a spectral knife that seemed to manifest directly from his palm. With one light pat forward he’d send the girl, still gagged toward Lynx.

“As far as i’m concerned we’re square. I'd really rather never see your face again, so your deal suits me just fine.”

He paused for another long moment as Lilith ran toward the woman.

“You should try and check that ego of yours Lynx.. One day you’re going to meet someone you can’t defeat.. Pride goes before the fall.. Our business is concluded. Be seeing you.”

As quick as he said the words, the man who was once dressed in a fine suit turned into a black blob, living shadow. The only thing that retained its shape being his Ravens mask. In another moment he was gone, the only thing left behind being the mask.

Lynx wrapped her arms around Lilith in a tight hug, rocking with the poor girl as she sniffled. “I thought they were going to kill me.” She whispered, voice hollow and dry. What had been pretty much mundane to her guardian had been terrifying for her. She had been through a truly awful experience and Lynx wasn’t cruel enough to show her true feelings on the matter.

“I know, I know. They’re not coming back, I promise. Let’s get you something to eat.”

Walking at Lilith’s pace meant the trip back into town took a few hours, Lynx spending a good part of that time turning the mask she had picked up in her hands. Time would tell if the Crow would keep up his end of the deal but she couldn’t worry about that right now. Lilith was tugging at her arm, looking at her through the eye she had managed to clear of its dried blood.

“Lynx, can we stop for ice cream?”

A reasonable request under the circumstances. “Yeah kid, I got you covered.”

Already she was trying to get back into the swing of things, abusing her status as a wounded hero to try and wring treats of Lynx’s wallet. Humans were physically delicate but some of them were emotional tanks.

It was always interesting to see who rose up and who backed down when presented with danger.
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