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Kirigina retreated back to the easy role of listening as the dancer began to talk openly about their casual disruption of time and space. In a normal conversation she could have had the luxury of just sort of not really understanding how one goes about their normal life when a sneeze or casual mugging could propel them outside the boundaries of causality as she knew it. A humble reminder that a stronger sort of people existed in the world, who faced down existential uncertainty with that kind of nonchalance. "Haha," She laughed along. Ending up naked in front of your work group, crazy stuff, that. This wasn't a normal conversation, the chief artificer beside them was jotting down all sorts of things, examining Xanara's story and assuring her that this sort of thing was dealt with around here. Nope, Kirigina was the odd one out and before long she was just the odd one when Sira strode away.

The mechanic's face took on a quizzical twist as the dancer continued, as if she'd just been made to swallow something only mildly sour. "Ne, I do not know about that last part. You definitely don't need to be special to be a technician, they take everyone they can get their hands on." That didn't paint them in such a great light, did it? She gripped at her wrench. There was a little bit more to it than that, though not much. The machine took the citizens it needed to keep moving, but... "But that has worked out well for me," She shrugged her shoulders. "I think it would be rather sad to have to work at something where my fate was put out by things like talents and sparks before I ever got to try. At least I know why dancing makes me so nervous now."

Wait, was just taking the compliment the better play? She chuckled nervously at the end of her own attempt to keep things light. Her mind began to spin for a way to follow that up but a social creature the Kirigina was not. As the horror of being locked in a conversation between two people with nothing but ostensibly good intentions in common set in, Kress broke through, bringing his bloodstained new friend with him. The circle of cool peeps grew as the strange sudent finally put name to a now unforgettable face: Cormac Hollow. "Wow, so many mages in performing arts. More lively than the scholars I pictured going to work with... Um, in a good way, of course."
Heartening news. It would have been an awful tragedy had Kirigina been sent all this way only to find that the academic artificers of Arkus Academy preferred the study of theory over practice. Not an unreasonable commitment but one she was wholly unsuited for, wrench in hand and textbooks traded for calloused, blistering experience at the front of repair queues. A warm smile spread across the wrench witch's face as Kress went on, and she found herself nodding confidently at the concepts broached. Maybe she was proud to be keeping up with the theory after all, since while the steel constructions of her homeland were titanic representations of the Republic's progress in rebuilding... They were not usually so ornate. "Building sized heat exchangers composed entirely through runes. I cannot imagine how sharp the tolerances must be, or what kind of work went into creating, no, affixing that system to these old structures. Even if the yield were unsteady, the air is very clean here to think a forge might be nearby."

Before either could continue the instructor she'd just been thinking about flagging down approached them. Sleepy eyed fascination shifted from Kress to Sira, glancing back in time with their instructor giving the boy the same lingering glance she had. Artificers were not people people, so much was true across borders at least. Or he just had one of those familiar faces. "Ja," She responded automatically to being called an artificer, bowing her head but only listening to the teacher. The tour proceeded, prompting a long period of polite silence as instructors talked and pointed them around at the buildings. A workshop, a garden, all handy things to be so close to with reasonably unlimited access. Who could have envisioned a center of learning, the focal point where the future was weaved with an unsuspecting and uncaring generation of new hands, could afford to be so comfortable. But, just as soon as she warmed up to the idea of the academy they were done, turned from a tour into a group of meandering students deciding where first to go. That was a new feeling. Giddiness tipped the corners of her lips, "I cannot believe it," She admitted, nudging Kress... but as a growing trend, before she finished the thought they were face to face with more of their kind.

First a snow haired boy who introduced himself as Cormac Hollow and in the same breath declared himself to be possessed of some sort of pact with an Angel. Kirigina raised an eyebrow at that and immediately recognized the nose bleed from earlier in the day. Her hand flinched, the start of a protective reach for her new friend's shoulder in what was surely a trying time that stopped as a second person introduced themselves, and so easily, the first bloc split.

Xanara. I hope that is spelled phonetically. The lively looking girl who spoke with the artificer-instructor about some high concept things a few moments before. Kirigina had overheard the words causality and paradox and promptly checked herself out of overhearing a conversation so far out of her league. It made for an interesting assessment of the sunkissed woman though, spoke to an intelligence one might not have immediately associated with 'one of those dancing girls from the west.' No, even the witches of old had their dancing rituals around the fire. They dressed more modestly because they would have died wearing that skirt in the tundra, but nobody mistook them for prudes. Maybe she was a proud practitioner of ancient, traditional magics and here she was rubbing shoulders with a dusty mechanic from a line of spellcasters who bent to the call of progress.

"I am Tanya. Pleased to meet you." She said, correcting her failure to introduce herself while the tour had been going on. In one motion she shuffled her wrench into the crook of one arm, brushing an already clean hand across the fabric of her coat out of habit before extending it in greeting. "N-next week?" The conversation blew past the little hangup she stammered under her breath. "I am a Technician, which is to say both of those things when they are needed. Slight differences. Aha." She chuckled nervously. This Xanara was disarming in a natural sort of way. If only that did not frequently forecast danger in Kirigina's homeland, and on the witch's face a strange blend of social anxiety and ease among comrades played tug of war while she watched the closest thing she had to a friend spirited away over the dancer's shoulder. At least it wasn't the scythe mob.
"I fix these sorts of things." Kirigina followed the young woman's gesture, beaming at the Cresian vessel. "Well, Verholtan ones. Machines are deceptively simple once you know their language. Maybe like dancing, once you understand the swing of things it gets easier?"
"... Weird." Kirigina toyed with the edge of her hat, looking away from the front of the procession as the two of them wrote off the strange nosebleed sufferer. Given everything she'd seen so far it was indeed greatly comforting to be told that there were in fact healers - wonderful ones! - nearby for the certainty of magical mishap. Any second now someone would turn too fast or jostle the wrong way and poke their eye with a scythe tip. Or sneeze fire into someone's cotton. Or upset their extradimensional patron into gracing them with their incomprehensible creepingly chaotic presence. She just wanted to turn a wrench, and never fet so more clearly as the tour of the airfield had stopped with the chief artificer's brief in indication of the other vessels collected around them. That was the sum of the attention paid to her craft, and with it, they were marched off towards the academy.

What kind of mutant deer grew up white? Some product of the wild magic of this land, no doubt. The old witches would have prospered in such a place, the tundra was so inhospitable as to have shaped much of their craft into devices for survival and medication in their environs. Kirigina raised a hand to point at the animal, but it had already fled from the march of students. Her eyes flitted around from plant to plant, seeking its snowy face once more as the talk turned to undocumented creatures and untold dangers within the greenery's veil. "Was that some kind of deer monster?" She said, mumbling the thought aloud before they were safe. The rest of the tour was through constructions of stone and opulence, full of actual magic to be sure but not as magical as walking through a place of uncategorized life.

In the blink of an eye a student had come forward from the mass, engaging one of the guiding teachers in the middle of their tour. Her own initial shock gave way to a sense of relief, at least the instructors were approachable enough to present questions to. Unfortunately that was the one teacher at the academy she would have any questions for. Kirigina looked to Kress once again, gesturing to the many towers around them as she asked. "Comrade Kress, we've passed quite a few buildings but I do not see any stacks here." A long pause as she hoped continued looking would prove her wrong. "Do Cresian academies usually have a forge or do you, erm... industrialize differently?"
I think they meant a rule against open carrying your posse of grim reapers, but same answer.
This is merely the prelude for the shit talking to come.
Kirigina's discomfort only grew as the room they'd been corralled into was packed with more students every minute. The portholes gave a clear enough impression of when their landing would be complete but as she stood there in the jammed-in madness of the crowd she could only wish the end would come sooner. The gate flung open, their exit ramp unfolded, and a grassy airstrip shined up at them. For a second she was happy to distract herself with a musing on the Cresian preference, rather, the privilege of existing in a climate that permitted an unmetalled airstrip to possess manicured grass instead of packed dirt. She was the second, tied with about six other students abreast, to touch the grass after Kress. Not that she was a brave explorer, there was just nowhere else to go since the two had been deposited against the door and now the crowd behind them was unstoppable.

Well, she wanted to get away too. An unsteady gait carried her down the ramp, legs adjusting with difficulty to the sloped surface and the speed she was being pushed at. She did her best to stay close to the first human she'd spoken to in a couple days, and even if they hadn't started out right next to each other she felt it would have been hard to lose track of that much rich blue. Standing at the edge of a crowd made it all so much easier to deal with, and after a glance over her shoulder and a deep shudder she felt pity for those stuck in the center of maelstrom as they all waited to be talked at.

They were all so very colorful, there wasn't even a uniform for the staff here... At least those who didn't belong to the security group. Well, in her homeland, eccentricity was a privilege afforded to the genius. At an academy of this prestige, it went without saying that she was being addressed by some of the brightest minds in the world. It was a little disappointing to not feel more awed. One of the redheads introduced herself as an artificer, and Kirigina's eyes flickered up to find what would undoubtedly be one of her instructors. A rune adorned her face, her attire was sensible, very witchy. Kirigina nodded in approval. She had no idea what there was to even learn in the world of artificery for her, perhaps the precepts of airship design rather than base maintenance, but if there was to be a mentor in her life it was definitely going to be this woman. Her choice had been made for her several days ago.

The wrench girl finally looked around as the academy staff indicated the other airships that sat the lot that morning. Prototypes, production models, craft that she knew only by their reporting names within the Verholt military. Things of mastercrafted bronze and steel that graced the skies of her homeland on occasion, but also creations that the Cresians tended to themselves while in foreign territory. Her free hand's digits flexed unconsciously, clawing up as her mind anticipated the privilege of delving into the metal beasts laid out before them. Her distraction from all the magic around her didn't last long, as a voice, alluring though it was, intruded upon the sanctuary of her mind. Kirigina flinched and looked around, caught halfway to swatting at her ear as the unusual sensation of a voice that seemed to come from the very corners of her mind beckoned her. That was an intelligent way of getting one's words to an entire crowd! Just... Unnerving. She would oblige the siren's call, whenever the crowd started following.

And that wasn't the end of it. A voice whispered to her. Her name. Hadn't she... "Huh? What's what?" She looked to Kress, then to where the boy was staring off at. Immediately her face tightened in a grimace at the sight of a host of demons casually wandering out in the open. Maybe, just maybe, they were here to learn the merits of agriculture, so tooled as they were. She was a witch, and a witch was wont to know when they were looking at some really cursed stuff. Flaunting the imagery of death was tasteless if it was in vanity, cruel if that was the sheer measure of power expected of students of Arkus. All the hope she felt looking out at the inanimate bits of technology on the grass washed out of her as she was once again confronted by how dreadfully out of place she was in all this. But, she was standing next to Kress' enthusiasm. She didn't know a whole lot but he hadn't turned his nose up at her and was apparently really loving the variety in the crowd... Manage the same, she commanded herself. It was worse to look out of place than to be out of place.

"Uh... wow! That is wizards for you, at least I hope those are... leashed. There aren't many ghosts on airships, at least the ones that still fly, I have no clue what that is... and what's that?" Her head turned, somehow, away from the grizzly reapers to the student sputtering out blood and screaming at their instructors. Tanya shot an uncomfortable look to Kress. "Is that, er, allowed?" That was beyond out of line. Forget being the nail which sticks out, that was rebar jutting errantly from concrete. But, new country.
A cut of black and red swept into her peripheral vision, an instinctive recognition of an officer's peaked hat precipitating a sudden straightening of Kirigina's normally slumped shoulders. Her ears still strained for the call of 'officer on deck' even as she realized immediately from the woman's hollow, but not angry tone that the two of them had done no wrong. Furthermore, the security officer immediately recognized the youth in front of her and called to him with that vaguely familiar name. Probably someone at least a little famous, she decided. Yet another reminder that she was being shipped to a prestigious academy for people who actually knew magic.

Cold cut through her as those glassy red eyes fell on her, though she answered immediately. "Ja!" And Kirigina fell silent, letting that rest as her only answer for a few seconds before thinking it would be best to elaborate. "Cresia's vessels are very comfy." She could not yet say anything of the land other than it looked okay enough from above. All she did was nod as Kress handed them over to Mett's escort, and no sooner than they had agreed to be lead did the reverberating voice of the airship captain begin to transmit through the ship. Kirigina held tight to her wrench. The rest of her stuff was far out of her hands, belonging to a luggage team that was hopefully way more gentle than the customs people at Verholt's aerodromes.

She stared attentively at their high contrast security officer, waiting to be lead off to the gate.
Kirigina smiled back, meeting his beaming and his extended hand with a nervous chuckle and a timid, brief wrap of her fingers around his. "Tanya Kirigina, good day to you." Her laughter continued as he made to explain himself, and she raised a palm to wave down his apology. "Faux pas? Ne, I belong here more than in a magic school but I am told Arkus is quite equipped to teach wrench witches too." Briefly her mind wandered back to the observation deck and the brief time she'd spent on theirs. Noisy, crowded, but in all the wrong ways. Aside from the voices there was only the sensation of helplessly sliding through the air. She shivered, despite heavy garb and the sweltering engine heat of the compartment. Her arm crooked to carry her wrench clutched tighter at her shoulder. For that, the artificer was quite happy to distract herself with indulging curiosity.

"It is the logo of where I used to... still do? Work. A shipyard, we build airships some times, fix them most of the time." Kirigina paused in thought. The meaning of that symbol?... Well, it was known more or less to everyone who wore it, but in that general, vague, passed down way of things. To sum it up off the cuff, it felt wrong to chance perverting and diminishing the thought that originally went into the simplified crest they took for granted when they put their hats on.

"Well... It's supposed to be the people's fist, first raised in revolution and now, uh, grasping the machinery of the future. The Olyagovsk-Foevch plant was one of the first to go up, so back then," And still today though it sounded too confrontational to her to put it like that, "It was still like they were taking back what they'd been denied. Oh, suppose I should say first it is a shipyard of Verholt. I have never left before, it is strange to be the foreigner." Even for someone who spent all of their days locked in a ventilated steel tower. She shuffled her wrench in her grasp, sort of holding it up after Kress had called attention to it. "And thankee, every ship tech in Verholt carries one of these. The symbol is nice but as you say this is what really makes a technician look the part. At least home, here the tools are all different, it's very interesting."

Something slightly tugged at her attention. The name he'd given sounded familiar in very, very distant way. Alstein. Was that a common name in Cresia or something? That'd be a little rude to ask, plenty of people were sensitive about their names after all. "Is that answer sufficient-" For an instant she hesitating, tossing her word around in her head as her country's mannerisms suddenly felt a little conspicuous. "-Kress?" Just sputtering a name out alone. This was a wild and free place.
The crushed tip of her hat cut an arc through the air as Kirigina's head tilted aside, a curiously worried look dragging her face as she wondered if the blue boy was speaking a different language for a moment. The witch's hand retreated from him, clutching the brim of her falling hat before she nodded an affirmative. A force of habit, that justified all things. A cultured greeting she was not yet familiar with, or something she had dearly misheard. As she was inwardly thanking her luck to encounter someone both possessed of social grace and forgiving of her foreign ways he pulled out a pocketwatch. Her eyes drifted down to the device, and discovered that it was no such thing.

Kirigina flinched backwards reflexively as magelight erupted from the device into an ultimately harmless (probably) display of the local conditions. Even symbols for weather conditions seemed to appear, but before her eyes could adjust to its luminescence it was gone, snapped shut and stowed away without an ounce of flourish for an artifice that was surely more valuable than the village she was raised in. "Ah, that's a nice watch." Poetic praise carrying a respect for the hundreds of years of history, craft, and pedigree all wound into the time piece. Another slight nod for the time he reported. Sleepy eyes shot left to the door, then back to him. "Thank you comrade wizard," she had been in the middle of saying as he smacked her with his words. Late for your shift. A shrill ring pierced through the girl's senses, ushered in on the bomb blast of his line of questioning. Stone eyes went hard, locking with him with all the intensity of a death mask as the witch seemed to shrivel within her comfy wrapped up attire. By them an engine blustered, flames roaring within an iron cage. The spell broke with a blink and a sudden relaxation of Kirigina's whitened knuckles.

"Haha, no. No." Once again she held the brim of her hat, tipping the red streaked crest of her office down for show. "I worried we might all be late to Arkus, but by your clock we will enter landing approach maneuvers soon." She turned away and stooped to pick up her fallen wrench, cradling the overlarge instrument in a practiced carry when she came back around. "You are a student too, yes?" They didn't make officers so young and fancy... did they? Cresia could do anything, after all.
It had been a journey fraught with delay, of over seventy two hours of uninterrupted flight connected between several airships. From her station at the iron works to the Sakigorki Aerodrome of the capital and then into Cresian airspace, her new hosts had made a great show of their country to the foreign students. Perhaps, maybe, by necessity they had been taken all the way to Emersa to board the final airship, the one set out for Arkus Academy itself. Foreign students all of colors and different bearings thronged them there, but capacity was seemingly no issue for a Cresian vessel. There formed a clear divide, between the haggard foreigners plucked from their faraway islands and distant factories and the fresh faced youths of the Cresian heartlands, taking to the sky as easily as if it were their morning commute.

For Tatjana Kirigina's part, being a technician for airships didn't directly translate to any particular comfort with living on them for days at a time. Indeed, having a witch on your ship was an omen of the worst kind. Not for any kind of superstition, actually, just the simple fact that having a problem solver aboard meant there was a problem with your boat somewhere. Proofing voyages were necessary shakedowns of the Republic's military capabilities. They also invited the opportunity to pancake yourself onto hard permafrost while conducting altitude stressing, many called them the closest thing to a combat deployment one could enjoy in the postbellum. This airship in particular, was the worst she had ever sat down on. Too quiet, too smooth. It was as if the damned Cresian bucket had lost power at all times, so smoothly did it slide through the skies. So she found herself in engineering, where the engine noise was unmistakable and the warm glow of boiler faces lit the routine cycling of the ship's crew from station to station. Where the smell of soot and oil overpowered the homely scent of cleaners and perfumes that lined the public facing sides of the airship. All she had had to do was promise to keep that wrench away from anything that worked, and she'd found her place to sleep for the first time in a while.

Kirigina's wrench stood propped up against her while she sat propped against the bulkhead, nestled between two vertical spans of piping that had stayed mostly inert and cool during her slumber. Probably demand water lines or something. Only on a passenger ship would you find pipes large enough to hide a small child in dedicated to comforts. The bundle of a tattered overcoat and tipped down witch's hat probably went unnoticed by most after she'd first settled in, a softly shifting mass of rough fabrics that ever so often betrayed its humanity with a rough snore and a slight turn. The finest aircrew for the finest students labored with beauty, geniuses of their craft worked wonders out of an airship that was equal parts bold statement of Cresia's technological supremacy and humbling offer of the nation's highest comforts for a brighter, international future. Tatjana Kirigina snored so loudly she stirred herself, shivering out of a deep sleep as the vessel barreled towards its final destination. The brim of the bundle's hat rose up, baring a glimmering sliver of bleary eyes below, shifting side to side as they sought a clock on any of the engine room's walls.

Were they there yet? The shapes of the room blended together in her vision. Blinking rapidly, she settled on the overwhelmingly blue form of someone else caught up in the makeshift observer's gallery. Perfect. She rolled forward, wrench clanging onto the metal floor with an ear rending noise that she paid absolutely no mind to. She reached a hand out to the idle person, thinking to grab them by the shoulder and ask the time before an awakening fragment of lucidity spotted the obviously fine make of their fabrics. Aristocracy given form, she had seldom seen the glimmer of textiles such as the blue person's on even general-officers' attire. "Ah," A verbal, guttural realization of decorum, she looked at her hand to make sure it wasn't coated in oil before tapping him on the shoulder blade. "Uhh... do you have the time?"

@ERode
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