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Rosemary pushed her plate away, satisfied, her eyes wandering over to the tuning fork sticking out of Lucas' jacket. As she reached for it, however, Lucas pressed his phone into her hands instead. The distraction was a success as her eyes widened, her tiny hands latching onto it immediately and paying no attention as Lucas stood, gently placing her down in his seat. He promised Henry he would try, and while it was easy to half-ass it and call it a day, Lucas knew he wouldn't be able to face his former mentor if he didn't give it his full effort. Even if the group in front of him gave him zero inspiration or any hope, he'd drag them all along if he had to.

He walked behind the chair and rested his free hand on it, waiting until he had everyone's attention. The various curiosity and disinterest from some did nothing to add to his confidence, but he wouldn't leave them wondering for any longer. "Before I begin, I'll make it clear that whatever is discussed today stays between the people in this room. Should I find that this information has somehow gotten out to anyone else, I'll know who it was, and that'll be the end of your time as Scion or Templar. I'll make sure of it," He decided to get that much out of the way as he pulled out the tuning fork, facing the group at large. "This was too important to be entrusted to any communication that wasn't in-person. And while my visions have been less than helpful, Scion Anani has ensured that I'm not left completely blind in this trying time."

He looked down at the instrument in his hand, taking in a deep breath. Despite his nerves clawing at him, he was determined to make it work. "With all of you here as witnesses, I will dive into the sin of Invoking a prophecy--to willingly call on a vision instead of waiting for Incepta to grant me one," He announced, knowing full well that few would understand the implication but it needed to be said. "Instead of looking to the future, however, we look back to the Prophecy of Anani."

No doubt there would be questions, but they would have to wait. Lucas squeezed his eyes shut before his nerves got the best of him, tightening his grip and banging the fork against the chair in front of him. A single A note rang, mana rippling through the air as it glowed, golden mana streaking around the room. The holy sigil appeared on his forehead once again, but the difference between this and any other vision was that when Lucas opened his eyes, what were once green were now a golden hue as he recited:

She of gold is Incepta
Her teachings illuminate the righteous way
Her temple guides humanity to prosperity

Her blood thrives through her chosen ones
They shall be called Scions and revered
They will be living proof of Her power

This power will flow through their veins
Once they pass their power will return to Gaia
The inheritor shall find themselves with Her symbol

For one thousand years will Her Scions shape Gaia
With their might they will bring countries to their knees
But beware: Power will always corrupt those that lust for it

This much was recognizable to anyone who had opened a book in the church as it was known to the public as the Primordial Prophecy, which was the very first prophecy that Scion Anani had received from the Goddess. Its words were recorded a thousand years ago and it was the very same prophecy that brought her under Incepta’s light when she had doubted the goddess. It was famous, it was well known, and to everyone present, this was all there was to it. However, they would find that Lucas had more to say:

Nine hundred ninety four years will pass
The Light of Incepta will rise on Gaian soil
Her birth will be accompanied by tears of a night sky

Born of William’s lineage with eyes of golden earth
Her heart will charm all who meet her
She will lead a fruitful life blessed with love

When Gaia cries for help she will come forth
She shall wield her Blessing as a blade of might
Her enemies will fall to their knees

She will guide her people to prosperity
Gaia will recognize her as their savior
And prosperity will follow anew

At this, Sonia outright stood up, shocked. She didn't get the chance to say anything just yet, however.

On golden shores Incepta waits
Her light shines through her love for her children
Her shadow is red of blood

An unknown daughter of darkness desires the fall
On the night of the red moon it begins
The mana of Gaia twists

Under the Estoran star will Incepta’s chosen connect
United Her blessing grows ever stronger
Together they drive the shadow away from Her golden shores

Beware Termina
Beware the red of blood

The golden mana fully dissipated, disappearing without a trace. The holy sigil similarly dimmed from Lucas' forehead and he closed his eyes, leaning heavily onto the chair. After a few seconds, however, he dropped down to one knee, clutching his chest as he gasped for air. The tuning fork also fell to the ground without making a single sound, his free hand clumsily grabbing it and stuffing it in his jacket. It had taken more out of him than he had expected. Still, he refused to stay down for long, pulling himself up and standing, even if he looked like a stiff breeze would knock him out.

"Right now, we're aimless," His voice was sharp despite looking like he was about to pass out at any moment. "While each one of us has differing opinions on what our next step should be, it's crucial to be fully informed first. And though it is ultimately up to the individual on their next course of action, we need to make a unified stand. It doesn't have to be text chains and friendship bracelets, but at least if we give off that impression, the enemy will think twice before their next attack."

He glanced over at Sonia for a moment before he continued. "And...the Light of Incepta is..." He paused, glancing down at Rosemary, who was fully engrossed in reading a book on his phone and gave no attention to the conversation at hand, letting out a giggle. The confirmation was enough to drop Sonia down to her seat, the woman in complete disbelief. Lucas understood her shock, at least. "I--We have to do this. For her."

Belle matched Sonia's disbelief. "But she's just a child," She couldn't help but remark.

Now that that much was out there, Lucas supposed he may as well tell it all. "Yeah...the enemy pressed 'fast-forward' on Incepta's timeline. Ro--The Light is supposed to challenge Termina in around ten years. But for whatever reason, the enemy is moving now. Any other questions?" He looked around the room.

A unified front from the Time Duo gave Lucas a little more confidence. Everyone had their own opinion and it was interesting to see the divide. Lucas wouldn't necessarily call anyone wrong--if he had proper proof that it was Kaudus that murdered Theodore, for example, he would've likely lead the charge himself--but the differing perspectives reminded him that the group was a lot more varied than he considered. There was some bias in this; the mind of royals was a stark contrast from those of humbler beginnings and it wasn't strange to see their priorities in different places. Except he wasn't sure what Daniela was trying to say. She was probably trying to relate to her blacksmith job or something.

But wow. Here Lucas thought Belle was the dumbest Scion, but apparently Justice decided to wrench the crown from her head and parade it around. It genuinely astonished him; never mind the fact that despite him initially ignoring Belle's words it was good to see where people stood, but to call this political theater was comical. Who, exactly, were they performing for? As far as he remembered, everyone chose to enter the conversation and it wasn't why he called everyone here. Not that he minded as, again, it was good to see where everyone's thoughts were. A few opinions surprised him and some decent points were shared. He was also relieved that most seemed to seek reason, even if he did feel Belle had a point.

Lucas rolled his eyes at Justice. "You're right, I should've researched you sooner; at least that way I would've known you were a complete moron and not waste my time in any future conversations," Lucas sighed. "Incepta forbid I decide to let a conversation play out to see the opinions of my fellow Scions. I should've researched and made educated guesses to what their opinions should have been instead of hearing it directly from them. Never mind the fact that if I asked you what my five policies were or which duchies I ruled, you'd be clueless. Just stop talking, you're robbing the flowers of valuable oxygen wasted on you."

That said, he didn't miss Reynold's little slip of the tongue, his own eyes narrowing at the other man. This is why Lucas never bothered being nice. He was well aware of the man's crime and knew that he'd get an icy welcome, at best, and foolishly thought if he gave him a proper introduction, it'd smooth things over a bit. He felt doing the polite thing would help and would give him a good idea on what to look for, and as always, he was proven that he should have stayed an asshole. Maybe Henry was onto something when he called him an idiot.

Once Sara placed the plate down in front of him, Rosemary perked up, thanking Sara as she walked away. Lucas was about to ask if she was hungry for actual food but was interrupted by Belle slamming her hand down so hard everything there shook in place. Rosemary shrunk back onto Lucas in fright, the man glaring at the princess in turn, but now she was the one paying no mind to him. If looks could kill, Belle's ire would have killed Edmund where he stood. "Need I remind you who it is you're speaking with?" She asked him darkly. "I've taken tongues for lesser insults and I'll have yours if you do not show the proper respect. You know not of what power truly is if that is your narrow definition."

The prince held back a sigh and held Rosemary with one hand while the other adjusted a fork and knife for the kid. Sonia scratched the back of her head, clearly wanting to be anywhere but here. "Let's not forget that royal titles go over Scion ones. Like Dame Sara said, we're all on the same side here," She said at the room at large, though she definitely gave Renault a look before she continued. "An immediate solution would work best, but we're currently wandering around in the dark, aimless. They have more information on us than we on them and it'll take some time to gain a leg."

Lucas took two and a half cookies from Rosemary and adjusted her so she was close enough to eat, the girl devouring the slice she was served. Did Sonia not feed her or something? "Chew slower or you'll choke," He told her, pulling a cup of water closer in anticipation. She giggled at him, but carried on slower, keeping her manners about her despite still sitting on his lap instead of a chair.

"I've already sent out my own network to gather intel based on what Dame Irina's report detailed. I expect results sooner than later," Belle stated, straightening up. "Do you truly believe it best to sit around twiddling our thumbs until they decide to attack again? Because to the eyes of all, it is we who have been deemed cowards for returning to our estates and quivering in fear, reducing our public appearances and jumping at unfamiliarity. As the Goddess' chosen, is not our duty to act on her behalf to those wicked enough to dare attack her children?"

Rosemary finished chewing and dabbed at her lips with a cloth before looking at Hollyhock with wide eyes. "This is delicious!" She declared, ignorant to the conversation and snatched the glass of water Lucas got her.

Belle looked less than pleased to find opposition to her words. It was clear she had expected more support; she had nodded fervently along with Maya's words, but she was immensely disappointed with the general response to their argument. She didn't miss how nonchalant Lucas had been about the majority being in his favor for once.

She straightened up at Renault's introduction, raising an inquisitive eyebrow. "A pleasure to see you again, Your Holiness. I believe I didn't have the pleasure of introducing myself as your ceremony was cut short: I am Princess Isabella Rosaria, Scion of Water and heiress to the Rosarian throne," Her quick response came, but she didn't let it dwell before immediately jumping back to the topic at hand. "Then do you truly believe inaction will get us anywhere? Because our lack of appearances has already spread doubt like wildfire on dry leaves--soon all will think of us as cowards unwilling to defend ourselves, content with cowering behind our knights and protection and unwilling to act. Why wait until they strike again and take another of us out? And even with a new Scion of Lightning, we are still one fewer after the loss of our Scion of Shadow. Surely the enemy must be aware of this!"

Sonia let out a long sigh, a product of her previous neutrality. She rose from her seat as well, giving Renault a bow. "Templar of Light Sonia, Your Holiness," Her mannerisms were much more formal than her tone, but she couldn't hold herself back any more as she took her seat again. "I find myself agreeing with my fellow Templars. The sly eagle doesn't kill at whim."

"The eagle won't have a perch if we roll over and do nothing," She shot back immediately.

Sonia visibly bristled, but it was more because she was finding Belle irritating as opposed to actually getting mad. She took a glance aat the silent Abram who found the sandwiches much more deserving of his attention. She scoffed. "You accuse people of cowardice but you're letting your emotions run you," She stated. "Then what happens? You get yourself into a huff and march right into their trap. I'd bet my good eye that that is exactly what they're counting on."

Meanwhile, Princess Rosemary had all but ignored the conversation at hand, her attention on something much more important: the return of Ionna's cookies. Her ponytail and dress looked comical as they bounced from the mad dash the little girl made to them. She took a second to read the message before her tiny hand grabbed a pair. "Sonia is the best in the world. Sonia has the coolest eye in the world," She stated quietly to no one in particular, already reaching for a third. "Sonia is super strong and punched a hole in the wall once and Daddy wasn't happy but he said it was okay. It was cool so I'm taking two cookies for that one." She swiftly returned to Lucas' side, nudging her way under his arm. Rather than let her struggle, he turned his chair and let her sit on his lap. The girl immediately got comfortable and proceeded to devour the sugar cookies.

Happy New Year
The Prophecy of Anani

March 12th, 1000

The Duchy of Lucania was much more modern than anything surrounding it. The bustling city looked and worked very much like a beehive, with a vast majority of people walking this way and that in what looked like chaos at first. However, a closer look would show that people knew exactly where to go despite the sheer amount of people there. At the center of its capital, Novarum, sat a majestic castle, a striking departure from the modern buildings surrounding it. While the city pulsed with life, the castle stood as a constant in all its grandeur. Visitors flocked to the castle, drawn in by its history and architecture. There were many guided tours that lead people through halls filled with suits of armor and tapestries depicting the history of Estora. From the upper floors of the castle's towers, it was easy to see the entire city waiting underneath them.

Of course, those in the know were aware that the Novarum Castle was for show. It had been many years since any royal lived there as it was much too central. It did, however, provide a connection to the Scions and Templars' destination: the Lucania Castle located a good distance away from the city. Within Novarum's Castle was a bullet train not unlike the one they took from Stern Hill, albeit both train and tunnel looked much newer. They wouldn't stop directly at Lucas' home, either; they would make a stop at one of the towers of the wall that protected the manor. Only after they passed security were they granted access within. The sheen that covered the entirety of the manor like a dome was the tell-tale sign of a protection barrier, but it did not bar them as they were able to walk through it with ease. The actual castle was humble but still extravagant, the gardens enjoying the temperate climate that protected them. Said gardens were perfectly manicured and hosted an impressive variety of flowers and trees, the pool sporting many petals and flower lilies that floated peacefully.

Once inside, they were greeted with the familiar face of Duchess Patricia Bachmeier. Unlike her previous greens, she now wore a gorgeous red dress, albeit her eyes were as sharp as always. She greeted each pair personally and lead them to a meeting room. It looked grand, with an entire wall of floor length windows giving them a gorgeous view of the gardens. The halls were devoid of servants despite the spread of food and drink at the table, and Patricia did not follow them into the room. However, on entry, each Scion and Templar could feel themselves pass another barrier, and they would notice that the room was isolated; not a sound escaped nor would they hear anything from the outside.

Lucas sat at the head of the table, dressed in a jacket and tie, though he was focused more on the tuning fork in his hand than the people coming in. He only tore his attention away from it once Princess Belle lost her patience and slammed her hand on the table, irritated.

"You didn't hear a word I said, did you?" She snapped at him.

"Nope," He replied, sitting up a touch. "What do you want now?"

She looked at Sonia seated across from her, hoping for some support. The woman offered a half-hearted shrug--she would have had to admit she wasn't really listening to the princess, either. In her defense, however, Rosemary was going on a tangent on how the water lilies in the pool were some of the most beautiful things she had ever seen and they just had to get one just like it in Veradis and how she couldn't go another day without her own pool and would her father be okay with it?

"It is disingenuous to not listen to a guest," Sonia offered something resembling support.

Rosemary stopped her rant and pulled on the sleeve of Sonia's templar uniform. "What's--what's--this-en-jen-us?" She asked.

Princess Belle replied before Sonia could. "It means that yet again the second Prince of Estora has inexplicitly decided that he is too good for anyone despite being an arrogant--" She managed to stop herself as Sonia caught her eye with a dark look. "--jerk." She ended, somewhat annoyed that she had to hold herself back.

Rosemary ran over to Lucas, giggling. "She said you're a jerk," She informed him as if it was the funniest thing she had ever heard.

"Better a jerk than an annoying pain in the butt," He shrugged, watching Belle fume. "I'm not supporting your inane idea to go to war without proper proof that Kaudus was behind everything."

"Is it so inane to defend ourselves against a force looking to harm us?!" She asked angrily.

"Provoking a war without a proper casus belli will have our neighbors interfere in Kaudus' defense. Lanvaldear was already concerned about our bloody history with them, you of all people should know that," He informed her cooly.


"Kisses your butt and throws themselves at your feet due to being the living symbol of peace. You've made that clear to every single person you've met," He cut her off. "Norðri and Janub have also voiced their concerns, and as powerful as we are, a potential war against four countries won't end without a decent amount of bloodshed."

Rosemary burst into laughter, clinging to Lucas' chair as she doubled over. "They kiss your butt! That's so weird!" She howled as Belle and Lucas glared at one another.

feat. Sir Tyler Morris (@Scribe of Thoth)

Lucas had taken the Duchess’ arrival as a means to leave. He did pat Rosemary’s head before he left, but he didn’t linger; those giant golden eyes would’ve pleaded with him to stay and he wasn’t strong enough to ignore whatever drunken emotion would’ve popped up looking at her. So he gave a half-hearted farewell to the other Scions and left, fully intent on going to bed.

Except a gorgeous pair of blue eyes and a fine ass had distracted him.

It never took much coaxing to get his way with anyone. In fact, he’d argue he had more people coming onto him than vice versa. It was typically an annoyance as there were some nights he just wanted to drink and wasn’t interested in someone sloppily jamming their tongue in his mouth. But he had no desire to spend the night alone and let his lust lead the way. He got Blue Eyes to come to his room, and after a round of drinks, then another, then some more, Lucas had Blue Eyes in his bed, his lips attacking the other’s collarbone as he fumbled with the dress shirt.

His instinct to just pop it off was met with a protest. “H-Hey! Don’t go ripping off the buttons!”

Lucas stopped and raised his head, giving an incredulous look. “I’ll get you another one,” He offered a token non-apology.

“That’s not the point.”

“Are you actually going to argue over this? I’m losing wood,” The prince outright asked, sitting up. “I’ll find someone else if you’re going to get pissy.”

There was a little hesitation, but ultimately, degeneracy won as Lucas’ tie was pulled on, and he returned to his previous notion–with the buttons of the shirt going flying out of pettiness–his lips now descending onto the newly exposed canvas.

Sin works hard, but the Goddess works harder, and it wasn’t long before Tyler entered the room. Sensing nothing amiss at first, he traipsed into the living room with the intent to collapse on the couch and offered barely a glance toward the bedroom.

“I’m back. You in here?” he called. The alcohol sitting out implied he definitely was, unless the prince decided to go for a drunken stroll around the castle once he’d dulled the stresses of the night with drink. Though that begged the question, why the two glasses? They’d both clearly been drunk from, so it probably wasn’t intended to be left out for Tyler - not that he thought Lucas would be that considerate anyway - but one had to be in quite the hurry to get smashed to drink from two cups at once.

Or he’d barged into the wrong room, which was a worrying indictment of palatial security and would probably prevent him from sleeping tonight.

At the sound of Tyler’s voice, Blue Eyes looked to the door. “Who is that?”

Lucas didn’t stop, too preoccupied as his muddled brain cells barely took in the question. “What?”

“I heard someone in the living room, I think.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” Lucas replied, more focused on his current task.

Blue Eyes looked at Lucas. “Is it your Templar?”

The prince immediately stopped, his lust evaporating out of the window into the cold. He looked back towards the bedroom door, trying to listen, and unfortunately, he now heard what sounded like someone walking around. Fuck, he forgot about Tyler. Granted, he wasn’t expecting him to come to his room. Did he want to talk about something?

“Stay here,” He murmured, hands buttoning up his shirt as he slid off the bed. His bad shoulder hit the wall and he barely contained a yell of pain, choosing to walk it off and walk out of the room and into the living room.

“I’m here,” He said, scratching his head as he tried to force himself to focus. “Uh…’sup?”

Tyler had definitely heard talking. Then someone hitting the wall. He had definitely gotten into the wrong room someho- oh. There was Lucas. Weirdo. Then again, he was probably drunk. Tyler’s eyes narrowed suspiciously at his Scion.

“Nothing…?” he responded as he finally dropped onto the couch, “I see you continued the party without me.” He gave a loose gesture toward the emptied cups.

Lucas’ eyes followed the gesture, his brain fighting through the sludge of the whiskey he downed to make sense of the situation. He stood rigid, though he realized it didn’t make sense to hide that he was wasted when he had left the evidence there. Wait, why was he acting like nothing was wrong? The ridiculousness of it actually got him to relax a touch. He was fine. But what was Tyler doing here?

“I didn’t think you were interested,” He raised an eyebrow, swaying towards the wall and ending up leaning against it. “It’s been a long night.”

“You guessed right.” Tyler was going to be on edge for the next month at this rate, and he certainly wasn’t going to go another round with Captain Dickless tipsy. “Looks like you figured that out late though.” It was almost sweet. The prince must’ve poured him a drink, realized the ridiculousness of it, and promptly chugged it like a thirsty frat boy.

Tyler arched a brow as he noticed Lucas swaying. “Do you need to sit down?”

Lucas watched Tyler, a little confused. Well, shit, he was comfortable just waltzing into someone else’s room. That was going to make for some discomfort, especially as their previous conversation came into mind. Yeah, after the attack, he wasn’t going to know what privacy was anymore, huh? The thought soured his mood, but he couldn’t do much about it. At his question, Lucas shrugged with an “Eh,” as a response. He still didn’t say what he actually wanted.

“If you don’t want to drink, you want to talk?” He asked. “Or…what?”

Tyler wrinkled his nose in mild confusion. Mother above, this guy was an awkward drunk. Did he want to talk? Not particularly; they’d done enough talking for the night already.

“I kinda just wanna go to bed. Why, do you need to talk about something?”

The prince stared at Tyler, the gears of his mind whirring at his words. If he wanted to go to bed, what was he doing here? No, he needed to say that outside. He was thinking too much and going around in circles and the fact that it took him this long was embarrassing.

“No, I was planning on…bed, too,” He caught himself, though something in the back of his head wondered why his brain was trying when stringing together thoughts was nearly impossible since he couldn’t figure out what Tyler wanted. Unless he was coming onto him and he was so drunk he couldn’t see the signs? Lucas openly looked Tyler up and down. “...Are you coming on to me?” He ended up asking.

And there went the rest of Tyler’s patience. This guy really was a weirdo. He scowled at the insinuation and leaned back into the couch. “Yeah, you’re drunk. Go to bed.”

Alright, it was a stretch, but he needed to be sure. He waved off Tyler’s words and turned towards the bedroom, only for Blue Eyes to walk out, looking around the living room. He froze when he spotted Tyler, giving Lucas an uneasy look.

Lucas himself dismissed his look with a wave. “I guess he’s sleeping on the couch. It’s fine, c’mon,” He said.

Tyler stared incredulously as another figure emerged from the bedroom. His first instinct was to draw his weapon and run the assassin through, but Lucas stopped him with his comment. That certainly explained the two cups. And the awkwardness. He had a number of questions, first of which being ’why’, but getting this random guy out of their room would probably do wonders for his piece of mind.

“How did you even do that? Is this some courtesan or are you gonna get some poor servant fired for poor conduct?” Tyler barely acknowledged the other person in the room, as he had the strangest notion that he would never see him again in his life no matter how fondly his special little night with the prince turned out.

Blue Eyes opened his mouth but Lucas took a hold of his hand. “Three steps: a touch, a piercing gaze,” He demonstrated as he spoke, much to the embarrassment of the other man, and then he looked like he wanted to die once Lucas slammed his hand onto the wall next to him, trapping him. “And then a question: are we doing this or not?”

“I don’t think he was asking how that way,” Blue Eyes mumbled, hiding his flushed face.

“Then the answer is any idiot would be dying to get in bed with royalty. Not to mention I’m single and good looking,” He shrugged before peering at Blue Eyes, trying to see if Tyler was right. “I don’t think he’s a servant, but I’m not sure who he is,” He explained with a shrug, only to be met with a glare. “Listen, if it wasn’t for your ass, I wouldn’t have brought you here. You should be happy all those days in the gym are paying off.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m not joking.”

“So he’s a security risk,” Tyler surmised, rolling his eyes at the display. He doubted this guy was particularly malicious, but whatever would get him out of their room faster. “I’m not particularly keen on listening to you two play snake in the butt from the next room over, so can I trouble you to take a rain check?” He leveled his question more toward the stranger than Lucas.

“Yes, right. Sorry,” Blue Eyes muttered, managing to dodge Lucas’ attempt to grab him in a display of dexterity–although out-maneuvering the drunk prince wasn’t too difficult.

Lucas covered his mouth as he let out a groan, his annoyance bubbling again. He waited until he heard the door close to ask, “What happened to that whole thing in the bathroom where you said you weren’t going to do…this–” He waved his arms around. “–and be up my ass all the time? Or do you get off on cockblocking?”

Tyler shook his head as the man left. “Listening to you fuck in the bed next to mine is pointedly not in my job description, nor is it something I ever intend to do.” Honestly, he didn’t know whether to be more exasperated with Lucas or the idiot who took him up on his offer after the night they’d just had. Theodore had behaved so well, Tyler almost forgot Scions were not, in fact, Incepta’s perfect little darlings at all times.

“The gaze of the Goddess is upon you now, act like it,” he exclaimed, the hypocrisy of the statement entirely lost on him.

The mention of the second bed tickled his mind a little, but it was put aside once Tyler decided to scold Lucas like he was some sort of troublemaker in school or something. Lucas leveled his Templar with a flat look, unhappy with the judgment. “Phoebus 12:15: Her eyes are on me when I wake, Her eyes are on me when I work, Her eyes are on me when I fall asleep–you need to brush up on your scripture, the Goddess is always watching,” It was an immature play at being annoying, but bringing Incepta into the conversation annoyed him greatly. “Not to mention your Templar training should have come with etiquette classes–royalty supersedes my Scion title, I’m Prince Lucas first and foremost, and everything that comes with that isn’t changing just ‘cause the Goddess thought it’d be hysterical to give me a broken gift.”

He wasn’t really sure what his point was, but he wasn’t fond of Tyler’s entire holier-than-thou shtick. “It’s not your fault that you’re stuck with me, especially since Theodore was a goody-two-shoes, but I’m not letting this change how I live my life. You either play along or fuck off.”

Tyler was half-tempted to spit some scripture back, especially since he doubtlessly held the moral high ground in this discussion, but then the prince transitioned into complaining, so Tyler let it go. “Got a little cuck chair all ready in the corner for me, huh? I thought you wanted me gone,” he mused as he stood from the couch. The discussion was going nowhere and he could save it for another time, frankly.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask for you to keep your pants on in my immediate presence. I’m not sleeping on a couch after I got beat up for you.”

The very last person Lucas would invite to his room in the evening would be his church-mandated babysitter, especially since Tyler would probably start talking about ‘how to be proper’ and ‘Incepta is watching’ or whatever other bullshit he had in mind. He wanted to tell him to get out so he could sleep until his last sentence. It was very likely unrelated to what Princess Belle and Scion Balder said, but it still pulled at the same string: what happened tonight was his fault.

“That’s not on me,” Lucas immediately replied, angry. “I didn’t cause this to happen–I didn’t go asking for a fucking tin man who decided to take the only thing I was supposed to be good for and throw it out the window. You don’t get to blame me for that, either.”

This again. Lucas really was fucking difficult. Tyler sighed wearily as he made his way to the bedroom, whether he had to shove the prince aside to do so or not.

“You don’t have to be the cause to acknowledge the fact that I did all of that on your behalf,” he grumbled, “I’m not even asking for gratitude, just the bare minimum courtesy to value the fact that I’m sore over getting your dick wet.” The fact that he even had to explain this was telling. Sure, an assassin could break in and finish the job while Tyler broke his back on the couch, but at least Prince Lucas would have proof he didn’t die a virgin! If he remembered a single speech Fyodor ever gave him, he’d have surely quoted it by now. Something about being an embarrassment, surely.

The urge to continue fighting was strong, but the desire to finish the conversation and just sleep was stronger. No, that was a lie, he wanted another drink. It wasn’t that Tyler was necessarily wrong, but admitting that at this point would be a loss Lucas didn’t want to take. It made more sense in his head. Through the cloudiness of the alcohol enticing him to have more, however, was a strong thought that he had ignored; a crystal clear clarity shimmered over him.

So he strolled back to the coffee table, snatched the whiskey once again, then threw himself onto the couch. “Have at it, then,” He said, pouring himself another cup. “Bed’s going to be a little messy, but you can still sleep on it.”

Oh, now Tyler was supposed to sleep in the fuck bed? He almost called the prince’s new favorite toy back to request a change of sheets, but he supposed Lucas really wouldn’t have a way to stop him from sleeping in the other one. Until he got in the bedroom, that is.

One fucking bed. Veradian hospitality must be slipping.

“You’re kidding,” he scoffed, “What was your plan here? Get the deed done real fast and hope I didn’t smell anything off when I got here?”

“I thought we had separate rooms,” Lucas admitted, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “So my plan was to have fun, but I didn’t consider that Prince Rowan likely threw the Scions and Templars here together due to the other rooms being taken by all the other royals and nobles. Something something ‘the pious take the humble option’ or whatever.”

Tyler sighed again. It was a more acceptable answer than the alternative. “Dare I ask if there’s any strange fluids already strewn about?” he asked as he pulled the disheveled blankets back on one side of the bed. At least it looked clean.

“We only made out, Father Tyler, I promise by Scion Rosaria herself that no debauchery occurred!”

The templar didn’t bother with a response, and instead began stripping off the needless layers of dress clothes he still had on. Doubtlessly Lucas would have a comment, but hiding in the bathroom just to take a jacket off was too needlessly prudish even for Father Tyler, blessed be his name.

“I hope you don’t snore,” he muttered.

Lucas spent a minute scrolling through his phone as he drank, searching his name. As he figured, there were a multitude of news outlets already posting about the attack. There were a majority of journalists already yelling about how this just so happened to have taken place on Lucas’ coronation as a Scion. Wonderful. Once polished off his last glass, Lucas abandoned the cup and strolled into the bedroom, ignoring Tyler as he took off his own jacket. The bump he felt as he folded it reminded him of the fork–well, that was a problem for Tomorrow Lucas, Today Lucas just wanted to sleep now.

“Think I used to talk in my sleep as a kid,” He mumbled back, opening the dresser. He was relieved to find spare clothes already there, grabbing the pajamas before freeing himself of his tie. Lucas wasn’t about to undress and have Tyler make a comment about his back, so he decided to go to the bathroom, changing fully into the pajamas given. They were an atrocious yellow but the material was breathable, at least.

He left the fork in his jacket pocket and placed everything in the empty drawer space. He doubted the tuning fork would get any attention, but he didn’t exactly have a safe place to put it yet. Or did he? He didn’t even test if his magic was back. But a quick attempt told him that, no, he was shit out of luck. If it didn’t come back in the morning, he’d worry about it then.

Lucas got into bed, but yet another thing occurred to him. “Don’t hog the blanket or I’ll kick you off,” He warned.

The palace staff managed to prepare spare clothes for them but couldn’t fold out a damn futon? Tyler shook his head yet again and made for the same drawer Lucas did to pull out a pair of pants. He left the garishly colored shirt in place in favor of his own mildly-sweaty undershirt, but anything that would avoid him sleeping in his underwear next to Lucas was preferable in his eyes.

Thankfully, he managed to change before Lucas stepped back out of the bathroom. “I was gonna say the same to you, and you already know my kicks are meaner.” Tyler took his place on the opposite side of the bed with a grimace and put his manasaber pointedly on the nightstand within easy reach. Theo was, as he always was, no trouble to share a bed with. Lucas, on the contrary, had been trouble in just about every facet of his existence so far and Tyler expected nothing less while he was unconscious.

He did not have high hopes for the night.
The Snuggery

Once Lucas and Theobald had been served, Rosemary returned to Dominika. With all the grace of a lady-in-waiting older than she was, Rosemary poured out enough tea before she placed down the pot, offering it to the Metal Scion with her little pinky aloft. At the mention of Messy Marie and Petey and the Pumpkin, however, the façade of the proper princess cracked as her inner child shined through an excitement that had ignored the trauma of the night's events. She ended up turning on her heel and bolting towards the stepladder next to the shelves, unfolding it in front of the farthest one before hastily climbing up. Despite her rush, she knew exactly what she was looking for, and by the time the conversation ended, she returned with an armful of books.

She placed them down respectfully, laying them all out on the table for all to see. As opposed to the typical standard copies the Scions had likely seen in their lives, the age of Rosemary's books indicated that they were originals. Despite their age, however, they were clearly lovingly cared for, and the princess was delicate in her handling of them. The watercolor art shifted in colors from one story to the next, the characters simplistic and pleasing to the eyes.

Rosemary climbed onto the empty seat and sat on her legs, reaching over and tapping each book. "These were my great-grandpa's books when he was little," She explained as she tenderly opened the copy of William's Prayer in front of her. "He used to say this one was his favorite 'cause this is how the Goddess gave the world Scions and the pictures are really nice 'cause the painter that made the book did it 'cause my great-grandpa didn't have books with pictures and they only had words and he really liked the painting. He used to read them to me before I learned to read but now Sonia reads them to me before I go to sleep."

She barely took a breath as she talked, more interested in the portrayal of Incepta visiting Phoebus and Cynthia. While the characters were painted with outlines, Incepta was painted in entirely golden colors and was partially out of frame, likely out of respect. Rosemary lightly tapped the picture. "She kinda looks like the lady in my dreams. But I can't see her face...and the one in my dreams was crying," Rosemary frowned, but she didn't linger as she pushed the book aside and opened up another one. "This one isn't popular like the other ones--The Prince and the Pauper, this one's about a prince that has someone that looks just like him and they switch places but it's silly because the real Prince can't just go outside like the story, 'cause every time I wanna go outside Sonia always goes with me and there's guards. So silly."

She leaned over to her side and tapped Lucas' shoulder. "Which one is your favorite?"

The grumpy Lucas didn't look at her, a sour look on his face partially hidden by his cup. "Favorite what?"

"Your favorite story."

"The Redemption of Anani."

Rosemary pushed his shoulder, annoyed. "No, like a real story! Like Messy Marie or Petey and the Pumpkin."

That got Lucas to roll his eyes, though he controlled his expression as he turned his head to look at Rosemary. "I just said my favorite. They just never made a children's version of it," He explained calmly.

"Okay, then what is your favorite chil-duh-ren's- story?" She asked, mocking his emphasis.

Lucas stared at Rosemary for a moment before his eyes briefly scanned the books on the table. "...William's Prayer," He muttered, returning to his cup.

Satisfied, Rosemary threw her arms up in victory before focusing back on the book mentioned. "How old were you when got the si...si-gil," Her last word was slow and she had a little trouble getting it out, though she aimed the question at her fellow Scions.

"Twenty-four since it was just a week ago,"" Lucas replied, surprising Rosemary.

Encouraged by his response, Rosemary tapped her cheek. "Mine came when I was a baby!"

“My father gave this to me on his deathbed for safekeeping. But it was always meant for Theodore–Now it belongs to you.”

Even people that lived under a rock knew that Theodore Estora was destined for greatness. The son of a duke yearned for more and dedicated his life to the betterment of people's lives. He was talented, he was charismatic, he was adored by everyone who met him. Even in private he was sincere and kind-hearted, a stark contrast from the majority of nobles whose masks were only loosely tied to their faces. When he became Scion after King Reginald passed, many had seen it as a natural progression. And it was; he immediately used his elevated status to do good and even began steps towards the unthinkable task of peace talks with a country that had warred with the Estoran Foundation for centuries. So it wasn't really surprising to learn that there were things Theodore was literally destined for, that there was something important enough that Henry had a thousand-year-old artifact meant just for him.

And now apparently Lucas had to deal with it.

As much as he knew that Henry would not have given something so precious to him if there wasn't a level of absolute trust, Lucas couldn't handle it at the moment. He wasn't going to toss the thing out the window or casually stuff it into a potted plant, but he was not ringing this thing right this second. Aside from his gut telling him that once he did there was no going back, it was just too much. He didn't want to be a Scion, he didn't want someone following him around all the time, and he didn't want to have to deal with some crazy robot man after his life. Now that the dust had settled, what was supposed to be a comforting return to a place he considered his childhood home was now filled with dread and anxiety and he didn't want that. Not here. Veradis Castle was supposed to be his sanctuary, he went so far as to avoid fucking it up with his presence all these years and tonight threatened the peaceful memories he wanted to preserve.

Lucas didn't even remember walking into his assigned room, but now that he was here, he figured he may as well change his pants--he didn't want to disturb Rosemary further with the sight of blood. He wasn't a fan of any of the shirts provided, so he stuck with the blue dress shirt he had under his jacket and a pair of black slacks. As he made to leave, he noticed the stocked mini-bar, noticing a particular brand of whiskey he had favored. A drink to calm the nerves wouldn't be the worst thing. If he showed up all jittery and jumpy, Rosemary would worry. Showing up blasted would probably achieve the same effect, but getting a buzz would be fine. Probably. Maybe. Despite his hesitance, down the hatch the alcohol went, and he left the room significantly calmer.

Or at least, he was fine until he heard that obnoxious 'clicking' of a pair of heels that he had personally tossed out a window once due to their incessant noise. Of course the Princess of Rosaria would pick the noisiest pair of heels to wear. She was rubbing her arm, expression unconcentrated as she walked, though once she spotted him, she put on that stupid scowl she always had on whenever he was the one she was looking at. Mercifully, she continued to walk right past him. Unfortunately, he was now in a fighting mood.

"The snuggery too childish for Her Royal Highness' taste?" Lucas asked.

Belle's footsteps came to a stop. He heard her let out a long sigh, but sure enough, those stupid click-clacking heels of hers stomped over to him. It was a genuine delight to know that just speaking was enough to illicit a reaction out of her. She placed her hands on her hips, her dress clinging to her in all the right places. Belle had earned her nickname, but like always, that beauty evaporated once she spoke: "Must you antagonize tonight as well? Don't you feel you've done enough?"

That said, Lucas was genuinely shocked at her words. "What the fuck do I have to do with the attack?"

"It was your debut. Clearly, it's a sign of things to come," She snapped.

Lucas couldn't help but just stare incredulously. "You're not hot enough to be that fucking stupid, just so you're aware," He informed her.

Her face turned red as she bristled with anger. Apparently he struck a nerve. "You--You are insufferable," She hissed.

He shrugged and waved her off. "Good to see you finally up to speed with the rest of the world," He commented as he continued on his way. Honestly, he hadn't planned on having yet another spat with the Rosarian princess, but she had a special way of saying dumb shit that pissed him off. She really acted like the attack was his fault! As angry as he was, however, there was a slight panic underneath it. If she knew about the tin man coming after him, she'd have a field day over it. Everyone would.

Whatever semblance of a good mood Lucas had was gone with that line of thinking, and by the time Lucas arrived at the princess' snuggery, his mood was foul. Rosemary stood next to the table, likely having offered tea, and the Scions of Fire, Earth and...he wanted to say the quiet chick was Metal. He wasn't a fan of Justice and he was pretty sure he saw the tall guy beat a woman on their way in, which left the chick as the only unknown.

"The one with a massive chip on his shoulder, the woman beater, and..." He gestured to Justice and Balder respectively before looking at...whatever the fuck this girl's name was. "A woman. Do be sure to behave." He walked around Rosemary and tapped one of the empty cups, watching as the little girl moved to pour him tea.

Every limb Lucas had felt stiff, like he had never stretched them before. His movements were on the sluggish side but he refused to let himself lag behind and have that banshee Dame Sonia or the ice witch Dame Irina come bark at him to hurry up. The conversation with Tyler had done wonders for his mental exhaustion, and he was determined to undertake his instruction and make himself somewhat useful. Duchess Bachmeier was as stern as ever, but she was about the same as a majority of the Bachmeiers. Once he had collected bandages to cover the spots where he was getting bruised–including one he had missed on left cheek, probably from where his face collided with Tyler’s armor repeatedly–he felt like he shouldn’t waste the opportunity he was presented with. Veradis Castle was home to him once and boasted a magnificent library. The Estora library bore him nothing in regards to his condition, so he was hoping he would have better luck here.

It was strange how a foreign castle felt more like home than his own did. Then again, a majority of his youth was spent here. That and he took every chance he could to stay outside of Estora Castle he could get. He needed no direction and went on his way, ignoring the looks he got from Templars as he went in a direction no others went. The palace was absolutely swarmed with palace knights; he assumed everyone was called to duty. Despite the night’s events, Lucas felt it was overkill; attacking some noble’s manor was one thing, but attacking Veradis Castle was just stupid and he doubted that the terrorists would do as much. Tonight’s attack was carefully calculated and relied on logic and tactic. They won their prize if Ulysse’s death and Nadine’s disappearance said anything, going any further would unravel their win.

He scratched the spot above the bandage on his face before he spotted Elijah. He wondered if he could get away with strong-arming the Archbishop into letting him leave. The one thing Veradis Castle didn’t have was his bed, and he wanted to sleep in it. His tracks already altered and he approached the man, only stopping when he realized he was talking to someone else.

Archbishop Elijah was in deep conversation with Henry Bachmeier, Rosemary’s grandfather. He looked the same as ever; his eyes were sharp and focused, his stature domineering whoever he interacted with, yet he was attentive to every word Elijah spoke. Not that Lucas thought Elijah would waste his time since Henry wouldn’t subject himself to a conversation he had no interest in.

Interrupting was in poor taste, but Lucas couldn’t help himself. He approached the pair and gave a respected bow. “Archbishop, Dowager Prince, I hope you’ll forgive the intrusion,” Lucas stated once his head was raised.

The archbishop gave Lucas a gentle smile. “Not at all. I am glad to see you here,” Elijah said. “I wanted to offer any comfort I could to the holy ones, but I fear the night’s events may have taken their toll and rest would be paramount to anything said. Will you not be resting, Your Highness?”

“I will, I just hoped to get some reading for the night,” Lucas’ initial desire to leave had evaporated in Henry’s presence, his eyes flickering to the man.

Elijah seemed to catch Lucas’ gaze and he looked to Henry. “If you’ll excuse me, then. Dame Sonia was kind enough to take over palace security, but I must offer her my support while Dame Irina debriefs the Templars.” He bowed to the pair and took his leave.

Lucas didn’t give Elijah much attention once he was out of sight, but now that they were alone, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to say. It was like the buildup to the moment had culminated in a quiet nervousness as he looked up at Henry, suddenly feeling like he was a child again.

For a moment, Henry paid him no mind; instead, as the archbishop departed, he whipped out a smartphone and tapped at it, seemingly engrossed in whatever he was seeing. After a moment, he pocketed it, turning a critical eye to Lucas.

“First my father’s funeral, and now this; does it always take a disaster for you to come visit?” he chided, raising a skeptical brow. His tone was matter-of-fact, but the Dowager’s hard-driving sense of humour was familiar to Lucas.

“Ah, but where are my manners?” Henry continued, motioning for Lucas to join him in a pair of plush leather chairs. “It is no longer Prince, but Scion, I hear. Still imitating your cousin, I see.”

The faintest hint of regret flashed over the older man’s face, but only for an instant; his features were schooled politely neutral by the time he sat in his seat. Once settled, Henry looked at Lucas frankly. “So, what do you want?”

An apology was on the tip of his tongue, but if Lucas was being honest, it would be an empty one. Besides, Henry would give him a tongue lashing if he did. True, he had distanced himself from Veradis after the death of Prince Aaron, and any legitimate reason he could have would just come off as hollow. He took his seat, taking care not to press his bloodied leg pant against the leather.

“That would be the fate of the Estoran Star,” He couldn’t really hold himself back after Henry brought up Theodore, but it was true. Theodore's shadow was large and Lucas didn't think it was possible to step out of it. But he didn’t linger on it as he decided to get straight to it; he couldn’t bullshit his own mentor. “I need something that’ll give me some insight into previous Scions. Ever since I inherited this magic, everything has gone to shit.”

“Doing your homework at long last?” Henry feigned shock. “I never thought I’d know the day when Lucas Estora sought out a religious education.”

Henry made himself comfortable, examining some speck on the armrest before continuing. “Considering you only formally became the Scion of Time this afternoon, I daresay you’ve set the speed record for things going to shit,” he suggested casually, before fixing Lucas with a piercing look. “But you’re not talking about the attack tonight.”

Lucas maintained eye contact, knowing that there was no use in waffling about. “No, although I’m sure the press will have a field day on how my debut will herald terrible luck for the next thirteen years or whatever bullshit they can think of,” That much they agreed on. He stopped, still guarded, but as he remembered telling Tyler, he knew it was better not to be alone in his struggle.

“My mana has been haphazard; publicly, I have been Scion for a week, but it’s been two. That first week was filled with seizures and attacks that have put me to my knees, and my holy sigil didn’t show up until seven days later,” He confessed in full, letting everything out. “And even after its appearance, things have been strange. I have a complete handle on my magic, but my visions result in a variety of physical ailments that have never been present on any of my predecessors. And said visions are incomplete, or hazy, or haphazard, none of which is right.”

He finally lowered his gaze, his heart thumping against his chest as his hand gripped the arm of the chair nervously. “And this morning, I foresaw a moment of camaraderie…with Theodore in my place.”

Henry listened quietly, growing visibly less enthused as Lucas went on. When he finished, the older man simply stared for a moment, examining each detail of the Prince in deep thought. Finally, he pressed into the armrest of his chair, muttering, “Nemo audiat.”

A blue ripple raced across every surface in the room, dampening all sound considerably. “And you thought it was wise to blurt all of that out in the middle of the library?” Henry asked condescendingly, rolling his eyes.

The prince stared at Henry, though he muttered, “I kept my voice down.”

“You used to keep your voice down when you chatted with your cousin past bedtime, too,” Henry shot back sarcastically, looking visibly agitated. It was a strange sight; the Dowager was always so composed, it was utterly foreign to see him not fully in control of his emotions. He looked away for a moment, apparently gathering his thoughts. “You weren’t lying; everything really is going to shit.”

Lucas was more than surprised at this sudden display; he was pretty sure he had never seen Henry like this. Even his cooing over his granddaughter was controlled, but this–if he didn’t know any better, he would think there was something that made the older man nervous. Henry Bachmeier, nervous! And unfortunately, that made Lucas’ anxiety creep up on him all over again.

“What do you mean by ‘everything’?” He asked, straightening up in his seat. “Because of the attack?”

“The attack is only a symptom,” Henry shook his head, waving off Lucas’ concern. “I mean everything. For one, this is all unfolding much sooner than it was supposed to.”

Henry didn’t elaborate, instead retrieving his phone as it buzzed repeatedly in his pocket. He scoffed at whatever the message was, tapping out a quick response before pocketing it again. He looked back up at Lucas, his gaze seemingly boring straight through the young Prince, before he conceded to whatever inward argument he seemed to be having with himself, and sighed.

“There’s a lot to catch you up on, Scion Lucas,” Henry stated flatly, standing up. “But there’s no time, not now. For now, you’ll have to settle for this.”

Henry murmured a spell, and a golden light pulsed under the fabric of his suit jacket, like a single glowing heartbeat. Reaching into that spot, Henry seemingly rooted around for a moment before pulling a long, silver object from his jacket: a tuning fork.

He motioned for Lucas to come closer, holding the tuning fork out for inspection. “My father gave this to me on his deathbed for safekeeping. But it was always meant for Theodore,” Henry explained. For all the tenderness the mention of an heirloom should have invoked, his tone was deathly serious. “Now, it belongs to you.”

There was a split second where Lucas absolutely hated how Henry referred to him. But he couldn’t dwell on that thought as his confusion wouldn’t get resolved, especially once Henry stood. Lucas stepped forward, biting his tongue to prevent himself from asking anything since it likely wouldn’t get answered anyway. The display of magic came as a surprise, but what was really the icing on top of the upside down cake was what Henry pulled out.

A tuning fork.

There was nothing different about it from the others Lucas had seen, even if it was a little bigger than a standard one. There was no hiding the mix of confusion and disbelief, though Lucas immediately looked up at Henry as he mentioned who it was meant for. He felt his chest tighten at the mention of Prince Aaron, but he didn’t understand anything.

“What is this for?” Lucas had to ask. “I haven’t played the piano since Theo died.”

Henry’s eyes burned, the older man clearly incensed, but he composed himself. This is how you’re going to make sense of this debacle,” he hissed, “It was entrusted to William Bachmeier by Scion Anani herself, and now it’s yours.”

Henry took Lucas’ wrist, pressing the fork into his hand. He poked a finger into his chest, giving him a dangerous glare. “Keep it safe. Guard it with your life. If I hear you’ve lost it or let it get stolen, I will kill you with my bare hands.”

It didn’t seem like he was being sarcastic.

The glare was enough to silence any other question Lucas could have had. Granted, it was a tuning fork, so ringing it was likely the solution. But he almost wanted to call bullshit; now that he had it in his hand, the thing looked brand new. What kind of preservation techniques did the Bachmeiers have?! How could Anani have given this to William a thousand years ago if it looked like any old tuning fork he could get from a music shop? He almost wanted to ask if Henry was fucking with him, but he knew better.

His fingers gripped the tuning fork tightly and Lucas nodded at Henry. “Yes, sir,” He replied quietly. “I understand.”

Henry searched Lucas’ eyes for a moment longer, and apparently satisfied with what he saw, he removed his finger from the Prince’s sternum, moving instead to grasp him firmly by the shoulder. “May you walk in the light of the Goddess,” Henry blessed him like a father, every word utterly sincere.

With that, he dismissed the spell on the room, and the clamour of servants and guards was conspicuously audible from the hallway once more. Henry looked tired as his phone buzzed again, the Dowager snapping back to his usual temperament as he eyed the screen with haughty contempt.

“I have to go; and so do you,” Henry concluded, releasing Lucas’ shoulder at last. With that, he moved to exit the library, pausing only to add over his shoulder, “And try to visit sometime when everything isn’t going to shit.”

Lucas’ eyes never left Henry even as he walked away, and he caught himself reaching out to him. Part of him wanted Henry to stay longer, to stay with him. But ultimately, he put his hand down, knowing that he had no real justification for it. He was entrusted with something clearly important and was determined not to let Henry down. Of course, once Henry left Lucas alone, it was like everything came crashing down on him at once. The stress was giving him a headache, his anxiety gripped his chest and made it hard to breathe, and his exhaustion threatened to come back in full force. It was too much for one night.

Lucas placed the tuning fork in the pocket of his jacket, deciding that he had everything he needed from the library. He took in a deep breath and composed himself before departing.
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