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Ianthe

It really was a harp, wasn’t it? Ianthe hadn’t been sure whether the extra strings served any practical function or if they were purely decoration. Instead, it seemed to be a combination of the two. She still wasn’t sure why the bow had a harp fashioned into it, but she also would have been lying if she said it wasn’t damn pretty.

Perhaps it was a magical thing, the girl had slotted aldite into it, after all. That was good. Old-fashioned archery would likely match the miniboros just fine, but if the mission grew a little more severe…well, the more Ianthe considered that possibility, the more grateful she was to have prospective mages on her side, like Luna, and the foppish Blaike, and…the other one. The winded one with the good sense of danger.

“Guess you’ll be writing all the ballads, then, about our mighty triumphs over the…ah…rioting cabbages,” She said, and offered Luna a smile in return. “Ianthe. Uh—I mean—my name is Ianthe.”
Ianthe

Forests, were unfamiliar territory for Ianthe. Aside from the crops, Argo had been a fairly desolate place insofar as flora were concerned. And fauna. And people. Desolate of just about everything but bandits and fiends, really. But the unfamiliar beasts hanging in the guild hall hadn’t dissuaded her, and a few trees certainly weren’t going to, either.

She hadn’t fussed over the supplies too much. Potions and the like were standard, as Balder had mentioned, and while the aldite was a slight divergence from that, the stones were—practically speaking—entirely useless to her. Ianthe had seen magic only a few times, and most often it was wielded by whatever eleventh-rate mage the bandits could get their hands on, or by a traveling magician visiting the market towns. Neither had particularly impressed her, but then, being inept with the arcane herself, she wasn’t exactly a good litmus for what was and was not “good” magic. Regardless of all that, the closest thing she had to slots in her arms and armor were the countless chips and dents riddling them. So the tiny gemstones stayed in their bag. Maybe they’d fetch a few extra coin when this was all over.

She kept her sword sheathed as they walked, though her hand rested upon the hilt, and the shield strapped to her offhand was more important if they were going to be ambushed. There was something wrong to her about traveling with a naked blade, something almost feral, like an invitation to violence. Weapons put people on edge, that was half their job, in her mind, and it seemed like most of their group was wound up tightly enough as it was.

She’d watched the tinker boy cobble together a few grenades, and that was entertaining, if completely beyond her. The spear-wielding girl joined her and Avaddon at the front with Balder, and that was pleasant. She was confident, like the rest, but less…abrasively. And that weapon, Ianthe guessed, had seen its share of uses.

Behind them, among the parts of the party she and the others at Balder’s side were meant to protect, Ianthe couldn’t help but notice Luna looked…off. Nervous was the word, like the boy Edgar had seemed back at the hall. Now that they’d left the warmth of the city though, and the tinker no longer seemed as worked up, Luna was still the same, if not worse. Ianthe had made a point not to judge those who looked out of place, but it would have been beyond bad form to leave that sort of nervousness unaddressed.

It was too bad she had absolutely no idea how to go about addressing it.

Confident that the trio of Balder, Avaddon and Mitra could handle the front for the moment, Ianthe dropped back a few paces, beside Luna. She gave the girl a gentle nudge with her elbow, hoping not to spook her, and offered a reassuring thumbs-up. Or maybe it was more of an inquisitive thumbs-up. Or maybe it just seemed patronizing, and made her look like an asshole. Maybe it was an asshole thumbs-up.

Words, Ianthe. You’re a big girl. Use your words.

“Hey,” she offered. “Uhm…cool bow.”

Cool bow. Cool Bow. Cool Bow. Cool Bow. Cool Bow. Cool Bow. Cool Bow.

Kana blinked, and suddenly the assignments were through. People were starting to disperse, and as the crowd began to thin, so too did the invisible weight constricting her begin to lighten. Briefly, she allowed herself to believe that the hardest part was over, at least for the day.

"—Penny for your thoughts?"

“Wh—?” Kana nearly leapt at Wakako’s question, and her face flushed immediately. It shouldn’t have startled her, it wasn’t as though she’d forgotten the giant of a girl, nor that she’d said anything even remotely harsh. Perhaps she’d just expected that, though. People didn’t often call upon her with friendly intent, and she was usually right to be skittish whenever the name “Mutsuki” was mentioned.

“My…” She mumbled, fingers fidgeting over her bag.

You think it’d be an absolute disgrace for this poor girl, the daughter of an actual hero, to be stuck rooming with someone like you. If—no, when—something terrible happens, what do you think that’ll do to her future reputation? Or her mom’s reputation? If you had even the tiniest shred of decency you’d offer to transfer to another room. Maybe you’d get lucky, like Shun, and get cordoned off alone.

So much for the hard part being over.

“I…think it’s very nice to meet you, and…I…think I already said that. I did. I’m sorry.”

Before she could rail on herself for that one, a sudden commotion pulled her attention away, as their upperclassman guide took a rather unceremonious fall. Shun, thankfully—and with notably impressive speed—was at her side offering help.

Kana took the opportunity to push onward, and returned her attentions to Wakako. No, she was not jumping ship just yet. She would swallow that awful thought and stick by this. For now.

“Maybe…uhm…would you like to get our rooms settled, first? It’d be a little quieter, and we could talk. If—sorry—if you want.”


@Naw
Ianthe

Names, those were nice. She’d missed the opportunity to offer hers, but she was happy enough to learn the others. Mitra, Avaddon, Blaike, and some Alexandrians too, by their names, Edgar and Luna. The other woman hadn’t introduced herself though, so at least she didn’t feel singled out.

She was apprehensive to hear that Blaike worked with Cid’dan Falreath. She had no idea who Cid’dan Falreath was until that moment, but the words “Royal Scientist” sat uncomfortably with her. What was a man who worked in the lap of luxury doing here, trudging amongst the common folk?

It didn’t seem like she was about to get any answers. Avaddon, loud as he was, had moved forward with the comraderies, and while at first she’d found his boisterous nature somewhat endearing, what he said settled as unpleasantly with her as Blaike’s profession. It wasn’t as though he’d said anything wrong, but it stirred within her a familiar distaste for the lifestyle he lauded. The adventurer’s life.

“Wandering,” he called it. It was an appropriate word. An aimless journey, fueled by hope and the lust for excitement, something which had sparked the imaginations of plenty of Argo’s youths. There was nothing wrong with adventuring, of course, it was as skillful and respectable a life as any, but so often she’d heard—as she was hearing now—how easy it was to conflate adventuring with heroism. Ianthe was confident that the warmth Avaddon spoke of was real, but she was not convinced that it came from the joy of helping others. Rather, she’d always believed it was the glory that warmed them, the challenge of a worthy foe and the thrill of conquering it, the fame and recognition, and of course, the coin.

She respected the Hunters Guild, but the Hunters Guild had never come to Argo. There was no profit in it, no glory.

Of course, she was one to talk. She’d never stepped foot outside of her hometown before coming here, never thought about the problems facing the world beyond her own borders. Even now, it would have been a bold-faced lie to say she was more concerned with Ferris Wood than being paid for defending it.

No, Ianthe had decided long ago that heroes weren’t real. Ideas could be heroic, intentions could be heroic, but in this world, people could only be close—the Hunters Guild, fantastical and genuine as it might have been, was the perfect example.

Proctor Grescott handed out the risk sheets, and she wondered for a moment if any of them were actually going to back down. Who would possibly come this far just to turn tail now? The boy, Edgar, who was quite unassuming compared to the Alexandrian scientist and the man from Fabul, was the first to turn in his sheet. Brave, that one. She hoped he held onto that.

Finally rising from her seat, bones a bit stiff and nowhere near as rested as she liked, Ianthe scribbled her name in a barely-legible scrawl of someone who had never made a serious commitment to literacy, and handed it back to Grescott. Then she collected her things and made her way to the door alongside Edgar.
Ianthe

Ianthe listened while the room began to fill, and pursed her lips. She knew it was best that they get started soon—after all, the sooner they did the job, the sooner they got paid—but part of her wouldn’t have mourned another hour or so to sit there with her eyes shut, legs propped up on the junker of a shield she’d brought, trying to eek out a few minutes of true rest. Gods knew she hadn’t gotten any the night before.

The city was a lot of things. It smelled like industry, which was to say it smelled like the shit of an iron horse, but it was also burdensomely crowded and unrelentingly loud at every hour. She’d only just managed to find a room last night, with a hard bed and a window that wouldn’t shut, which let the sounds of city nightlife flood in until sunrise. Argo didn’t have a lot of things, but it did have silence, and she’d taken that for granted hard.

The Guild Hall had a homey quality to it at least. It looked handmade, sturdy. Ianthe recognized the heads of a few of the fiends she’d met at the border, and was pleased that the sights of the unfamiliar ones didn’t daunt her. There was, of course, a difference between bravery and stupidity, and it was a line drawn in the ever-important sand of self-confidence and self-assessment. Did she wish she’d come to this better equipped? Sure. The shield was, as she’d noted, a hunk of junk, a poorly-cut slab of metal with leather straps and shoddily-soldered grips. The sword wasn’t much better, but it was sharp and she kept it well cared-for. It would have been stupid to go into something like this, as she was, alone, and while she’d done her fair share of stupidly bold things as a youth, age and injury had tempered her well. Well enough to be thankful that there’d be a group of them going out.

Cracking an eye, she spotted a few noteworthy fellows. Big spears and frilly clothes were quick to catch the eye, but Ianthe knew the value of a humble appearance. It was easy to discount someone just because they looked like they didn’t belong. Ianthe wasn’t about to make that mistake.


Name
Ianthe

Race
Human

Age
22

Class
Fighter

Place of Origin
Alexandria

Personality
-More like PaciFIST
-Honor or gtfo
-Talk is cheap, but medicants are expensive
-Respect and provide for your peasantry so I know it’s real
-I want to like you, but I don’t have to like you to tank for you
-Sword and Bored
-If I hear the words “proper lineage” or “unfit for knighthood” one more time I am going to snap
-The strong who don’t protect the weak are weak themselves
-Motivate don’t dictate
-Just a small town girl
-Don’t have to worry about having big shoes to fill if your family can’t afford shoes

Backstory
Growing up along Alexandria’s border, Ianthe learned early what it was like being invisible. Argo was a small village of only a dozen or so families, most of which were farmers. Ianthe’s parents maintained meager if consistent crops, and made their living at the markets of bigger towns. The Alexandrian regency only ever remembered them when the levies were due, and the soldiers came knocking, equal parts expectant and disdainful of the place and its people. They didn’t care whether the harvests were barren or bounteous, they didn’t care if the bandits had come through and left them empty, the payment could be coin, it could be property, it could be conscription, so long as the crown received its due.

The bandits who trolled the edge of the Free Cities, fearing no retaliation, had fallen into a routine with Argo. They came, they took, and if they felt generous, they left enough for the levies. The fiends had no mind for negotiation, and though they came more rarely, their attacks never went without casualty. When it became clear that no help was coming, no matter how desperate Argo’s pleas, most of the families resigned themselves to their fate.

Not Ianthe.

They didn’t have weapons, really. Farm tools and slabs of wood bound with rope were just about all she had to work with, at first. She was tough, weathered even as a girl, and put up enough of a fight against the smaller bands to drive them off. She gathered scraps of armor and shoddy old swords this way, which came in handy, because meeting fiends with nothing but an old scythe and hammer wasn’t going to cut it. Hell, the bandits’ rusty swords and roughshod armor only just had her scraping by.

Iron and steel sated the taxmen just fine, and the viscera of fiends pulled interest at the markets, which meant that Argo was, for the first time, making a profit.

As Ianthe grew older, the bandits grew indignant and sparse, the fiends only grew fiercer, and the international relations grew tense, but by gods were the levies as steady as the day she was born. People had begun noticing Argo’s greater contributions to the markets, and eventually word began to spread of Ianthe and the few villagers who had taken up Argo’s defense alongside her, too stubborn to just roll over and let fate befall them. Merchants tried to hire her on for protection, mercenary bands offered her more money than Argo had paid since she was a child, even the regency came asking after her enlistment, citing her duty to the crown, and to the people of Alexandria. It was the Hunters Guild that intrigued her.

Ianthe, admittedly, was not very adventurous. She had a small life in a small home, and had spent most of her years focused on protecting it. The Hunters Guild, however, was genuine in a way that she admired: it wasn’t about debt, or civic duty, it was just about keeping people safe. She understood that, she respected that, but she couldn’t reconcile leaving home for it. Not until the borders shut, suddenly and almost inexplicably, and the levies increased. It seemed as though Alexandria had entered into some sort of national emergency, perhaps even all of Atles.

It was then she realized that Argo had overestimated its profits. With the borders shut, that meant the Free City markets and bandits were gone, which left only the distant Alexandrian markets, whose competition had only grown fiercer. They could bring crops, but they couldn’t match prices. Soon they would be back where they started, penniless and at the mercy of the regency.

So, Ianthe made a difficult choice. She left Argo in the care of the men and women who had protected it with her, and set off for the Hunters Guild. She hopes the steady work, and maybe a bit of luck, will be enough to keep her home above water until Atles settles down.

If it settles down.

Kana had a knot in her stomach the size of an anchor.

The big girl who stepped forward had a familiar name. Not overtly familiar, but there was a time when it had seemed beneficial for Kana to know some of the more famous heroes, at least by name, and Tanegashima seemed too unique to be a coincidence.

It ought to have excited her. It was exciting after all. Getting to share a room with the daughter of a famous hero, getting to see firsthand what that sort of parental-guidance could create, what a hero was supposed to be like. The Tanegashima girl looked like a testament to hard work and diligence, was that her own mother’s doing? With how…rowdy some of the other students had seemed from the brief time she’d been around them, it seemed as though Kana had struck oil insofar as roommates went.

She still felt like she was about to be sick.

The look on Aia’s face was more familiar to her than her roommate’s name. The furrowed brows, the confusion, the feeling of that can’t be right, can it? Was it her mother’s name they knew, or her alias? Sometimes people didn’t ask questions, they just jumped to—admittedly correct—conclusions. Aia, however, took an extra step.

I was wrong, Kana thought. Lie. Definitely lie. She gave you an out. Say you’re from Kagoshima, that’s still kind-of true.

“Uhm…”

Yeah, okay. Or just stand there like some mute freak. Cool.

Blessedly, or at least so for the moment, someone else interjected. A girl that Kana could describe instinctually as “pretty,” and then more thoughtfully as…“blue.” She seemed to recognize the Tanegashima girl—Wakako, she’d heard Aia say—and the Tanegashima girl only.

It was enough of an opportunity for Kana to shuffle over to Wakako and politely bow her head. “Hello. It’s…very nice to meet you.”

There was a rather significant difference in height between them, and while it seemed a bit crass, Kana found herself, almost on reflex, standing with Wakako between her and the cat-eared upperclassmen, as if she might suddenly—hopefully—become invisible.


@Naw


Smith's Rest | Hangar
January 16th, 2677


She had not yet gotten used to looking at Blur. It wasn’t the sight of the mech that unsettled her, nor the looming size—despite that it was, comparatively, among New Anchorage’s smaller models. It was the very act of looking.

Being in the cockpit was a singular experience for Eli. It was unifying. Calming, yet, bittersweet. For a brief, precious time, it brought harmony to a dissonance within her that was harsh, and ever-present, and yet it was something she had only come to recognize since she’d become a pilot. It had simultaneously revealed and treated a crippling flaw in her psyche, and though she didn’t pretend to understand Polaris Shifts as the settlement’s doctors did, she knew herself well enough to see that she was beginning to lean on her synchronization like a crutch.

That feeling of unity, that relief. It was the closest she’d ever come to feeling…real.

Looking at Blur was like looking into a strange, arcane mirror. Was it showing her who she was, really, or what she wished to be? How long would it be until she lost sight of which side of that mirror she was on. Until she didn’t know whether she was the watcher, or the reflection?

Eli blinked.

Why had she come here?

"You know I didn't mean to zap you-"

Right. Moore.

Saying that she trusted him was a…generous stretch. He was a mess, with next to no experience—not that she was one to judge—and he was, more often than not, entirely incompetent both in and out of the cockpit. But he was also well-meaning, and genuine, and she had seen first-hand his potential as a pilot.

And he was a fellow native. That was most important. He had a personal stake in the well-being of New Anchorage, and if she couldn’t yet trust him to do what was best for his home simply for the sake of it, she could trust him to care for sake of his daughter.

He was meddling with one of the mechanics, a man she didn’t quite recognize, who didn’t seem to appreciate his ‘assistance.’ As she drew closer though, it sounded like they were amicable, perhaps even friends. That was good, she didn’t have to feel as embarrassed for him if the man already knew what to expect.

“Moore,” she said stiffly, nodding towards the hangar's thoroughfare. “Can we have a word?”


Dean Yukimura's speech seemed to strike a chord with some of the students, who were undaunted by the challenge, and perhaps even emboldened to meet it. Others still looked entirely unfazed, and while most of them were assumedly upper-classmen, it was clear that even a few of the first-years had hardly heard a word the man had said.

Kana had heard every word, and she was harrowed. As the Dean's eyes swept through the assembly, lingering upon the faces of the first-years, she could have sworn their eyes met. She could have sworn they met, and that she saw utter disgust in them. In that moment she felt unbelievably cold, and mortally terrified.

It's like he knows you don't belong here. You're not brave. You're not tenacious. And being humble is not the same as being pathetic.

Her eyes fell to her lap, to the bag, where her fingers were wound up so tightly they were starting to ache. What was she thinking? Ishin expected greatness. Ishin expected perfection. Her father had known she wasn't cut out for this, he'd known coming here would be a mistake. You can't pull blood from a stone. That was what he'd said. Sitting here now, she felt like a stone about to shake itself apart, and she was certain there'd be no blood in the rubble.

"Soar Skyward."

You're better off six feet deep.

Do not start crying again.

"—That's the class I’m in!"

Kana jolted, scooting back in her seat as Shun stood up to leave. Class? What class? The freshman class? She looked around, and found that the auditorium had practically emptied of all but the first-years, and already most of them were splitting up to either side of the room.

Oh god. Oh no. She'd missed something important.

"…And you, Kana-san?"

Kana turned to Nadeshiko, finding no comfort in the girl's monochrome face, despite the rather gentle look she wore. "Ah…uhm…"

Say you aren't sure. Say you weren't paying attention because you were about to vomit. She's being polite. She's nice. She's not gonna care that it only took you an hour to fuck up.

"…Yes. I mean—ah—I am. I am also in that class."

She bowed her head again, like it was a reflex, or a tick, and got up quickly, nearly bumping Shun and losing hold of her bag in the process. She mumbled an apology anyway, standing aside so that the both of them could get out, before making her way to the right-most group of students. Lingering at the back, she listened to group mumbling amongst themselves, trying to parse out exactly what she'd walked into. When she heard the words "1A" she sighed with relief. Somehow, she'd stumbled into where she was meant to be. That didn't stop the shaking, though. Even clutching the bag close, her fingers continued to shake, and her knees felt like…well…she'd have said "jelly," but a quick glance at Nadeshiko had her worrying if that would be offensive.

Weak, she decided instead. They felt weak.

Fitting.


Kana wouldn’t pretend like she understood the boy’s explanation. But that was alright; family matters were…personal. Sometimes extremely so, and least of all places was it hers to judge. Not only that, but the way he spoke, with that distinctive twang in his voice, had her revisiting a few of his words in her head. His accent, coupled with his looks, reminded her of Kagoshima. More exactly, of the Okinawan sailors she’d meet at the fish markets every now and again. She had half a mind to ask him about it, but then, he seemed to be fidgeting with his own confidence, and she doubted she could muster up enough herself to ask anyway.

Nadeshiko introduced herself, and while Kana was thankful to have the conversation refocused, she might have preferred if things had just fizzled out from there. Did she have to introduce herself now as well? It seemed the polite thing to do, but then again the Okinawan boy hadn’t. The Okinawan boy had also brought a pineapple with him to the auditorium, though, so perhaps she shouldn’t have been taking social cues from him.

“I’m Kana,” she said, and then, unable to stop herself, she added: “Higamura Kana. It's nice to meet you.”

She sat there, surprisingly composed, screaming internally.

That’s not your name. That’s not even kind-of your name. These are the first people you’ve met in years that don’t want to spit on you, or throw you out, and you’ve lied to them. Great. Awesome. That’s going to pan out fantastically. You idiot freak.

Kana bowed her head politely. “I’m looking forward to…ah...learning…with you both.”
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