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1 day ago
Current Can I have some live poultry
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4 days ago
took a few tries there bud?
5 days ago
sounds like you're giving your job great reasons to fire you
5 days ago
is that the korean show? i keep meaning to watch that.
9 days ago
Watched Howl's Moving Castle for the first time, I can see why it's so popular!



Current RPs:

If you're interested in some short completed pieces of mine beyond my regular RP posts, feel free to rifle through my filing cabinet here.

About me:
  • Birth year 1998
  • Female
  • Canukistani
  • Timezone: Atlantic, GMT-4 (one hour ahead of EST)
  • Shitposter
  • So did the mod team just not read my bio or
  • Not usually looking for 1x1s but if you're really jonesing, my PMs are always open.
  • If you capitalize random words in the middle of a sentence, I will judge you harshly.
  • Add me on Discord, Obscene#1925

Most Recent Posts

Aaron didn’t miss Varis’ reaction. He was more interested in his creation than Aaron himself, but that tiny hint of a smile, however brief, did more to put a spring in Aaron’s step than any praise Professor Daun could heap upon him. That was probably the most approval he’d gotten from Varis in weeks, even if the Count never even spared him a glance.

The Professor’s feedback was valuable too, although to Aaron’s surprise, he had little critique to offer. It seemed he was on the right track, hesitant as he was to believe it. Realistically, Daun was probably just being nice, not wanting to criticize him in front of his master; after all, Aaron could point out a few issues with the illusion right off the bat, not least of which being the unnatural glow of the butterflies. But maybe realism was the next step. He’d be sure to get more detailed critique from the Professor next class.

Daun’s comment about birds earned him a ghost of a chuckle; had he thought about it beforehand, Aaron probably would have put himself in that category as well. Was it because of his association with the Noilas? Best to keep that quiet if so, given present company – his last foray with crows did not come to a pleasant end. But… why hadn’t he defaulted to a bird? Did the episode after Revel scar him that badly? He was fond of birds – crows, ravens, magpies especially – and had more experience with them than probably any other creature small enough to replicate, butterflies included. But the butterflies came out so naturally. Why?

Aaron spun his ring as he considered his options, carefully watching the butterfly in Daun’s hand. Ravens loitered on castle grounds at all hours, and he’d probably spent entire nights over the course of his life hanging out with them, feeding them, and watching their mischievous antics. If he had any artistic talent, he could probably reliably draw one from memory. Butterflies, on the other hand, weren’t even nocturnal; he’d probably only ever seen them in the castle gardens on the way to bed, late in the morning after a long night. But somehow they felt so familiar, those fluttering, golden wings pulling at something insistent in the back of Aaron’s mind. It was like grasping at the edges of a dream just after waking, the memory at once vivid and fading too fast to recall.

“That’s interesting that you ask that… I’m not really sure,” he admitted honestly, glancing over to the Professor. He could feel Varis’ eyes on him, no doubt unimpressed with his answer, but confessing ignorance was always the smarter choice than lying. He’d learned that the hard way. “When I was picturing forming the ball, I couldn’t really put a name to what I was making. But when the illusion materialized, it felt like just what I intended. I was never unsure or confused, but I couldn’t have told you what I was making, either.”

He trailed off, eyes still fixed on Daun’s butterfly as he mulled over the mystery. After a moment, though, he decided he’d best try again, and set his feet back into the circle, closing his eyes.

This time, Aaron could see a clearer picture of his end goal: a single, larger butterfly, no longer hidden from his mind’s eye in a chrysalis. The exact source of the image in his memory was still uncertain to him, but it seemed his magic remembered better than he did; before he knew it, he was drawing light into his hands once again, his magic molding it readily into shape. This time, the conjuring was far less dramatic. The ball of light stretched and pinched into a butterfly’s shape before his eyes, and his magic seemed to fill in the finer details for him, its figure and pattern growing more and more pronounced until a larger, more realistic, and notably less glowing butterfly sat in his palm.

“Ah,” Aaron breathed, stooping to get a closer look. He wasn’t sure if he’d made any species of butterfly that existed in life, but it looked pretty good to him; it was a little large, but passable, and had a little black body, antennae, and big, gold wings with black edges and eye-like markings in the centres. He held it out for Daun to view, noticing when he moved his hand that the image didn’t quite move in sync with him. All things considered, though, Aaron was happy; fine coordination would probably be a lesson for another night.

Despite her own best efforts and the sauna’s dogged attempts to relax her, Lienna was still on edge – enough that a movement in the corner of her eye and sudden splash of hot water made her yelp, startled, as she shrank back against the wall of the tub. Expecting some cloaked assailant ready to drag her from the Monastery to Goddess-knew-where, Lienna couldn’t decide whether to be relieved or angry when her frenzied search for her attacker revealed nothing but an all-too-nonchalant girl with a half-amused apology on her tongue. She couldn’t remember the girl’s name – even if the girl somehow had a nickname for her already – but the fronds of pink hair clinging to her forehead did ring a bell. She was one of the Deer, not a crazed and impossibly stealthy murderer abducting people from the holiest place in Fódlan.


The thought made Lienna scan the room one last time, revealing nothing, before slicking the water off her face, once more telling herself to relax. By the time she opened her eyes, the pink-haired girl was much closer, sliding right up next to her and whispering something in her ear. What? Attack her? Who was Ronnie? The girl’s words were relevant enough to her conversation with that pegasus woman to put her on edge again, but the tone with which she said them was way too casual for them to be talking about the same thing. A joke, then? Great, that meant her discomfort was visibly obvious to everyone. Awesome. But wouldn’t they be watching their backs too, if they heard what she had? Should she be spreading the word?

A desperate glance over to Clarissa told her no one would come to her rescue for the moment; she seemed much more interested in chatting up Veronica of all people than reining in her Housemates. Lienna had to admit some surprise that someone as seemingly decent as Clarissa would waste her breath on a piece of work like that at all. Maybe she was just playing politics – Veronica was some kind of foreign princess or something, wasn’t she? – or maybe Clarissa was just good at acting nice when she wanted something. Or maybe she was one of those infuriating people who just somehow got along with everyone, although given the number of times Lienna had seen her put the screws to her own House Leader, that probably wasn’t the case.

The pink-haired girl, however, fit the bill perfectly, gleefully occupying huge swaths of Lienna’s personal space, buck naked, with nary a blink at the sharp look she was given. She reminded Lienna of a puppy, all playful exuberance and thinking everyone was her friend. Of course, dogs liked her about as much as horses, pegasi, and any other livestock did – which was to say, not at all – so Pinky over here was even exceeding that comparison.

Resigned to a conversation with the girl, Lienna slid aside a bit, putting some respectable speaking distance between them. “Who’s ‘Ronnie’?” she asked in a sharp whisper, not sure if the girl was telling her the name of the killer prowling the Monastery or some mythical sauna monster. “And who are you again?”

The Goddess must have been suffering just as much from the stifling awkwardness in the sauna as Jorah was, because it could only have been by Her grace that the sauna started filling up before Kayden could even get a word out in response. First came Auberon, apparently blessed with a Crest power that notified him when his fellow House Leaders started waxing inappropriate, then Derec with a question so strange and innocent it was downright cute, and finally, a whole host of rowdy young strangers, bringing with them a pleasant background of voices and emotions to fill the small yet emotionally cavernous space. No longer obligated to focus on making conversation with the guy who nearly killed his friend or on the other boy’s nagging self-consciousness, Jorah was able to properly relax, his antsy Crest and puzzling mind finally calming down to match his body.

“What else is there to talk about?” he finally asked, raising an incredulous eyebrow at Derec. Was it just a thing that redheads were prudes, or were Derec and Clarissa separated at birth or something? Unless Faerghian peasant Derec was about to break out into a thrilling tale of exotic, faraway lands, Jorah could think of nothing more engaging to substitute. “Besides, it’s an earnest question; unfortunately, my travels never took me as far as Adrestia, and most of their trade comes over by land. I’ve never really had the chance to sample their ‘finer goods’, if you catch my drift.” He shot a mischievous grin in Derec’s direction, although he couldn’t help but laugh. “Unless you count Brigid as part of Adrestia, I guess – in that case, I’m quite the connoisseur!”

Jorah chuckled openly to himself at the thought, picturing the ocean of differences between the wild and free Brigidese she-sailors he used to chase all over the docks and shrill, stiff, supple-as-a-nettle Veronica, before Derec reminded him of Auberon’s proposal. “I don’t know; how badly do you want Saint Cethleann sizing up your nethers?” he shrugged, not too keen on the idea himself. He shook his head. “Better to do it the Almyran way; I hear they put mosaics of dancing girls on the walls of their bath houses, in various states of undress. Then again, those ‘dancing girls’ turn into female warriors half the time when Rai tells the story, and he couldn’t have been much older than twelve when he left the country – for all I know, the Almyran bastard was probably lying to me all along.”

Jorah’s wide grin fell a little flat; that was the point where Rai would usually butt in to defend his unimpeachable honour on the topic of honesty and nudity, but of course, such a retort never came. It was certainly a shame that Duke Gloucester pulled him out of the Academy, especially so suddenly. It was probably for the best, considering all the “fun” he missed at Luin, but Jorah still mourned the loss of his friend to the gilded cages of Gloucester. It was a wonder Duke Riegan didn’t pull him out, too, but Jorah wouldn’t lament that decision; Rai or no Rai, Luin or no Luin, he didn’t need to be clapped back in irons back in Derdriu again too. Even if it seemed like his father was less concerned about the fate of his only son and heir than Duke Gloucester was for a foreign orphan he’d adopted.

Jorah clued back into the conversation as the topic went back to women of flesh rather than ceramic, and once more, despite his lingering distaste for Kayden, he couldn’t help but offer his two cents.

“First off, no thanks; I’d take a romantic evening with one of the mares in the stables over a night with that viper,” he joked, referencing Veronica. “If I were you, I’d worry more about her coming for you than whatever poor unfortunate you set your eyes on. Secondly, it’s not like you can take any of the girls here home to Enbarr anyway. Even if they weren’t all wrapped up in diplomatic strings of their own, how well is the Empire going to take to a homewrecker for a queen?”

It wasn’t usually Jorah’s way to worry about such trivial matters as duty and propriety – and honestly, the civil war that would start if the Adrestian Crown Prince blew off his fiancée for some chick from the Officers’ Academy would probably be pretty fun to watch from a distance – but for Kayden to act like taking a lover at Garreg Mach for a year and then dumping her, marrying Veronica and going off to rule Adrestia was anything but using a girl and then tossing her aside was ludicrous, even by Jorah’s standards.

“That’s why you find a girl just as bogged down with obligations as you are for your fling,” he continued, concluding his reasoning out loud. “No broken hearts, no political nightmare, no pitchforks and torches; just some innocent, unattached fun before you go chain yourself down forever. Then who’s to say she’s not just using you, hm?” Jorah crossed his arms triumphantly, though the laugh bubbling out of his chest betrayed him. “At least, that’s what I used to tell the Gloucester girls before Rai and Clarissa came to kick my teeth in.”

For me, forum RP scratches a very different itch than tabletop. Players enter tabletop games content with the idea that random chance will play a big role in their journey; in forum rp, the journey is up to the players and GM to plan out and design themselves.

To that end, character death and injury is usually planned out well in advance and serves a specific purpose in the story, rather than being unexpected like it would be in tabletop. To use someone else's example, your MMA fighter wouldn't get injured and leave you figuring out where to take his story next, but rather you would probably have suggested the injury yourself because you want to take your MMA fighter through that lifestyle change and explore how it affects him.

If I were GMing, that's how I'd handle it, though I think you'll find this issue breaks pretty cleanly on tabletop vs non-tabletop people lines, lol.
April 11th—Afternoon

Emi giggled quietly at Linda’s enthusiastic acceptance of her offer, both in satisfaction that her on-the-fly excuse had worked and at the idea of being a taste-tester. “Of course!” she beamed at Mizuame, extending her cane to make her way to the counter. “Makoto-kun always did think I was good at that. One of the advantages of blindness, I suppose!”

She giggled once more as she hopped onto a bar stool opposite the ovens, propping her elbows up on the counter between her and the bakers. She didn’t actually know if the whole “heightened senses” thing about blindness was true, but she always thought it was a fun idea. She didn’t think she really had any heightened senses - well, aside from the one Euryphaessa gave her, but that was unrelated - but then again, she’d never not been blind, so for all she knew she could be a superhero when it came to taste and smell. Why not go with it, right?

She set her folder aside and simply listened for a moment, propping her chin up on her wrist. The nervous-sounding boy seemed to be coming out of his shell a little bit, and by the sound of his remarks, he was familiar with cooking himself. A knot formed in Emi’s throat as she listened to him and Maeda talk about eggs and heat and whatever else; she couldn’t help but notice that his meek tone of voice, paired with his relative expertise, reminded her a lot of Makoto. Come to think of it, the two of them shared many a moment like this before, Makoto talking the intricacies of cooking and her listening intently as the smells of his baking filled the room. It was bittersweet, to say the least. If only she had stopped to savour it back then, rather than reminiscing on it now.

A sudden bang on the counter made Emi jump, startling her out of her melancholy. Maeda’s following battle cry revealed the noise to be nothing more than an expression of enthusiasm, fortunately, but the ingredients he listed off sounded incomplete.

“Don’t you need baking powder, too? So they fluff up?” she asked, tapping her jaw. “Or are you making American pancakes? I hear they don’t really rise at all.”

Lienna didn’t pay much attention to where she went after she stormed out. She didn’t want to hole up in her dorm, where she felt less and less truly alone by the day, and neither did she have the patience for the cathedral, even though it might have been the only place on campus she had any hope of being left alone. She just wanted away, turning this way and that, through courtyards and alleys, until she was in a part of the monastery she no longer recognized, and thoroughly turned around. No matter; let whatever snake her fiancé hired weave his way through the buildings too. He probably needed some exercise anyway.

Any hope that the walk might calm her down was dashed as every step remained just as hateful as the last, Derec’s stupid words echoing in her head over and over again. Our problem is that we’ve only ever had to think of ourselves. Where on earth did he get the idea that they were even remotely the same? And where did he get off calling her selfish?! Selfish! Years of freezing, working her fingers to the bone, sleeping in shifts to keep the ghost of her grandmother from haunting the rest of Hima, years of villagers conveniently looking the other way, years of missing meals so Oma could eat, only to have her throw the food on the fire to kill an imaginary demon or some other of a million stupid imaginary Saints-damned things—but oh, she was selfish. She had to think of herself, obviously – no one else did – but to dare say that was her only concern until the highborn saviours of the Rose Unit came down with flights of angels to lift her out of her torment, to give her someone to rely on – give her a break! If anything, hadn’t she earned a little selfishness by now? Hadn’t she paid her dues? She did her duty, and then some; she owed absolutely nothing to anybody. She, Lienna Orhneaht, she alone dragged herself out of Hima, she crafted a new life for herself, no one else. No one ever bothered to help her before, and she didn’t need some naive idealistic “fellow peasant” to tell her she needed anybody now.

But no matter how many times she repeated it, no matter how many times she reminded herself that she’d earned this long-awaited chance to put herself first, Lienna didn’t feel any better. In the moments when the anger ebbed away, and all those quiet moments when she was left alone to her thoughts, all she could think of was the painful set of her Oma’s dying expression; her hands, thin and delicate as icicles, clutching the blanket with all her frail might; how her grandmother’s final, ragged breath was the sound of her own salvation. It was twisted and wrong, she knew it; deep down she knew it. But she still pushed it away, saying there was no crime in moving on, even if she never really believed it.

But there was no going back.

~ /// ~

The grounds were virtually empty at this time, as most people had either gathered in the cafeteria for food or were visiting Lady Arianthe at the Cathedral. There were a few people simply hanging around and the occasional guard on their patrol, but almost everyone couldn’t help but notice the fuming Lienna. None dared approach her, simply casting curious glances before returning to their business.

The only exception to this was one pegasus trotting his way through the grounds with his rider holding his reins. The blue haired woman openly stared at Lienna, albeit she wasn’t nearly as cowardly as the rest. Smiling to herself, she jumped onto the pegasus, kicking its sides with her heels and leaning back as said winged beast took to the sky. She flew in a few circles, observing her, though eventually she would land right behind her, letting out a whistle to catch her attention.

“The Rose Unit is supposed to have class at the training grounds,” Chionne stated, her statement contrasting her expression of amusement. “Is there any particular reason you aren’t there, young lady?”

Lienna jumped at the whistle, realizing too late that her cheeks were damp with tears. She didn’t turn toward the voice behind her, instead hastily wiping her face before straightening up. She didn’t recognize the voice; whoever was talking to her wasn’t one of her professors, which made her care a lot less about a bit of chastisement. How did she even know who she was or where she was supposed to be, anyway?

Whatever; it didn’t matter. Lienna didn’t give the stranger the time of day, simply folding her hands and resuming her walk as if she didn’t hear her.

Clucking her tongue in mock disappointment, Chionne brought the pegasus forward to properly block Lienna’s path. Looking the girl up and down, her gaze lingered on her head for a moment before she met her eyes. “You’ll end up receiving disciplinary action if you choose to avoid your classes,” She informed her, though her voice was more informative than anything else. “Why aren’t you at the arena?”

Lienna jumped when a white beast materialized in front of her, stopping in her tracks and stumbling back a few steps from the flurry of fur and feathers. The thing was a horse with wings, and it seemed just as startled as she was, making noises and pulling at its reins at the sight of the white-haired girl before it.

It took a second of her heart thundering in her ears for Lienna to remember that this was probably a pegasus; she vaguely remembered folk tales about the pegasus knights of the Holy Army, but of course she’d never seen one of the beasts in person. Apparently they were just as big and flighty as normal horses, if not more so; she took a few extra steps away from the monstrous thing as it grew ever more uneasy, wary that it might trample her if it decided to bolt.

Whatever thin thread of patience she had for being badgered (and not to mention, startled) quickly snapped, and she glared sharply at the woman. “Do you even know my name?” she spat, turning on her heel to walk in the other direction. The nerve of this woman; Lienna didn’t care if she was a teacher or a guard or what, how did she even know she was ordering around the right person? She’d never seen this flying menace in her life.

Chionne had to prioritize calming down the poor pegasus first and foremost—for whatever reason, it didn’t like this girl at all. She ended up having to get off, stroking its mane and shushing it. While it wasn’t nearly as fidgety as before, it was still highly wary of Lienna, going so far as to take several steps away. Letting out a sigh, she figured she could leave it be for the moment, deciding one problem was a little more important than the other.

It took a few long strides, but once again, she placed herself in front of the girl. “I don’t think you carry enough clout to pull that line,” Chionne couldn’t help but point out. “Even if you’re the Queen herself, when you’re here at Garreg Mach, everyone’s treated the same. It’s the entire point of the Church—’we’re all equal under Her love’ or whatever they spew at the Cathedral every Sunday.”

Deciding to try another approach, Chionne placed her hands on her hips. “You don’t look too happy, so I’m going to assume something happened. Was it Michail?” She asked. “He’s an idiot, but he usually means well. Though I can’t say I agree with his teaching methods. The whole ‘throw them into the lake to teach them how to swim’ thing sometimes backfires.”

Lienna rolled her eyes. Was everyone around here so far up the nobles’ asses that they couldn’t imagine anything outside of a highborn pissing contest? “If you know my name, then use it; I’m not your servant,” she spat condescendingly, resenting having to explain such a simple childhood concept to someone who dripped in smug self-assuredness, “and if you don’t know my name, then this is definitely none of your Saints-damned business. Goodbye.”

She turned once again and tried to leave, much less than disinterested in the woman’s attempt at “relating” to her.

“Well, that’s what I get for trying to be amicable,” Chionne quietly chastised herself. Letting out a sigh, she returned to her steed, giving it a soothing pat. “What has you so bothered all of a sudden?” She asked him, narrowing her eyes.

The pegasus remained steady. She was a little surprised, though she supposed he wouldn’t be easy until he was far away from the student. Before she would leave, however, she figured she may as well offer a token warning. “I don’t recommend walking around alone, there's been something strange happening. People feel like they’re being watched and then suddenly go missing. We’re looking into it, but if you care about your own well being, you should head back to class or at least stay in your room.”

While resolute to end their conversation there, that last remark stopped Lienna in her tracks. “What?” she gasped, not much louder than a whisper. Fear, stronger than it had any right to be, seized her heart; every moment she felt eyes on her since arriving smashed back to the forefront of her mind, and although she insisted to herself that it was only paranoia from the knowledge of her fiancé’s chaperone, the icy hand around her heart never loosened its grip.

She slowly turned back to the pegasus woman, although she kept her distance, wary of the pegasus and the ominous warning both. “That’s impossible,” she insisted, more to herself than anyone. Her brow furrowed with unease, and her fingers wound themselves tightly in the hem of her sash, unnoticed by Lienna. “How could that happen?”

Chionne stopped stroking the pegasus’ mane and turned to her, frowning at the sudden change. “Has word not gotten out yet?” She wondered out loud, though she figured it was too late to take back. “Granted, no one from the academy has gone missing yet, but it’s been happening in town, so it’s not a stretch to think that people here could be in danger.”

Lienna searched a pillar nearby for answers, and coming up with none, she crossed her arms resolutely, shaking her head. “No, Garreg Mach must be better protected than that,” she insisted, although she didn't feel too sure in her words. That one lunatic had made it all the way into the middle of the monastery before being caught, hadn't he? But surely they'd increased security since then – the entire Knights of Seiros couldn't all be morons. Monastery or not, with all the valuables doubtlessly hidden in the cathedral and elsewhere, Garreg Mach must have been a fortress. Unless…

“When did that start? Maybe we brought back someone bad from Luin,” she reasoned. If they deserved the credit they got, then anyone wanting to do harm to the monastery or anyone in it surely couldn't get past the Knights; they would have to be welcomed inside. Right?

“That would’ve been convenient,” Chionne couldn’t help but lament. “Then the targets and motive would be clear. I believe the first person went missing on the first day—she was a milk maid that had come to work at the cafeteria. When she didn’t show up, we discovered that she had last been seen confiding in a bishop that she felt she had been watched. Four more have disappeared since then, from different professions, but all from town.”

Shaking her head, she let out a sigh. “The Officers Academy is likely the safest place considering the importance of their attendees and how close it is to the church. But again, it’s better to err on the side of caution,” She reiterated her warning.

Lienna felt the blood drain from her face as her flimsy, desperate theory was disproved, and she couldn't help but look around, searching the shadows for any sign of life. That horrible feeling of eyes on her clawed at the back of her psyche, but she forced herself not to panic; it was nerves, nothing more. Still, she felt distinctly uneasy, especially as she noticed how exposed the courtyard was – and how many alleys, doorways, and corridors lined its edges.

Suddenly much keener on following the pegasus woman’s advice, Lienna scoured the courtyard again, then the tips of the buildings beyond it, trying to find her bearings. Fortunately, the cathedral rose high above everything else, and its spires were always visible to the north. If she got there, she could find her way back to the Officers’ Academy again.

“Thanks,” she muttered absently, though her focus never left her destination; forgetting the woman, she only made a wide berth around the pegasus as she set a course for the cathedral.

“Do you want an escort?” Chionne asked.

Lienna slowed, considering the woman’s offer, but that foreboding sense of unease wasn’t quick to leave her at the idea. On a flying beast that was eerily quiet, a bird’s eye view of the monastery… it would be pretty easy to snatch people and fly off into the darkness, wouldn’t it?

“I’m fine,” she murmured, not quite turning around. She left it at that, taking up a quick pace toward the cathedral – wherever possible, with her back to the walls.

That was the first time this year that Lienna felt relieved at the sight of the cathedral, though she used it only as her landmark to get back to the arena; if she got too close, the dizzying heights would give her something entirely new to worry about. Her anger was long gone, but she would have preferred it over its replacement: A nagging uneasiness that picked at the edges of her mind like fingers at a scab. She felt like a teenager in Hima again, jumping at birds, seeing shapes in shadows and figures in the trees; Oma’s turn for the worse had brought with it a whole host of new fears and anxieties of its own, and Lienna was disturbed that the feelings she thought she’d discarded so long ago were crashing back into her life.

She didn’t go back to her dorm; the thought of being alone there was a little too daunting for the moment. Fortunately, it wasn’t far from the cathedral back to the arena, though when she arrived, she found only the nurse woman, Kaira, who pointed her toward the “sauna”. After Lienna’s brief look of confusion, Kaira explained that it was a public bath and steam house of sorts. The description reminded Lienna of a sheltered hot spring; there were none in Hima, but a day’s walk to the west had one frequented by the elderly for its rumoured healing properties. She had no idea if that was true, but the few times she’d gone, she remembered enjoying it; for a young girl raised in near-perpetual winter, the almost overwhelming heat of the hot spring had been a luxury she treasured for years after, revisiting the memory anytime she needed to banish the cold from her mind.

With how she was feeling, the comfort of a small, warm, sheltered place sounded like just the reprieve she needed. With some difficulty she found the place and slipped gratefully inside, more than happy for the close walls and the dense, wet heat that started working at her tension before she even saw the water. The place smelled nothing like a hot spring – no, this was pleasant – and the scent was somehow cool in her lungs, however that worked. She changed and showered quickly, noticing for the first time how dusty she was just from practicing magic in the sand, and wrapped a towel around herself to pass into the next area.

She heard snippets of conversation through the wood slat walls, and turned the corner to find the bathing room sparsely populated. However, it was lush with plants she’d never seen before, the air heady with steam and pleasant, unfamiliar scents. Lienna slipped into the bath as far from the other occupants as she could manage – noting with distaste that the Princess was there, although Clarissa seemed to have engaged her already. But they were far from her concern as the water slipped over her skin, wrapping her in sweet smells and almost unbearable warmth. It almost burned, but she soaked up the heat voraciously, as if she could store it away for the inevitable cold times ahead.

She sunk down to her chin and closed her eyes, senses momentarily overtaken by the bliss of it all. This was even nicer than the warm baths she could take at Count Francis’ castle, and at the time she thought that was the pinnacle of luxury. If not for the promise of home and fortune back in Gautier, she wasn’t sure she’d ever leave.

But her peace didn’t last too long, and irritatingly soon, those unwelcome fears crept back into Lienna’s mind. Uneasy once again, she pulled her knees up to her chest, just barely cresting the water, and opened her eyes to scan the room. The steam and scents almost stung this close to the water, but she was suddenly acutely aware that any frond of any of the room’s foreign plants could conceal something, that there was only one way in and out of the sauna and that there’d be no escaping if someone came and blocked the exit—

Dammit, Lienna caught herself, glaring daggers at her reflection in the water. Come on, you’re not a child anymore.

April 11th—Afternoon

Emi offered a reassuring smile in Maeda’s direction, but quickly returned her attention to Mizuame, nodding along as she listed off her new members and committing the names to memory as best she could. Hinari and Mori, both first-years most likely. She made a mental note to look up their class numbers and any other information that might be relevant should she need to track them down again, just in case she didn’t get all she wanted accomplished before she left.

Now just to figure out exactly what she wanted to accomplish.

Something bothered her first, though. She wasn’t sure why, but Emi felt a little insulted to hear Mizuame call Makoto by his first name. It shouldn’t have been unreasonable; it wasn’t like there was anything going on between them if Mizuame was so seemingly unaffected by his disappearance, and they probably worked on club matters together a lot last year. Emi supposed it might have been a little tasteless, but she could just as easily be accused of the same thing. But wouldn’t a little formality be polite considering everyone thought Makoto was dead? Did common courtesy just go out the window once someone was no longer around to hear it? Jeez, first with Ito jabbing at Nakano about the fires, then the student council carrying on as if they weren’t missing a vital member… that lump in her throat started to grow again, and she had to quickly blink away a few tears threatening to form. It never got any easier, did it?

No, no, she had to focus. The whole reason she was here was for her friends, after all. But what to do next? She couldn’t ask any of the questions she wanted to with Mizuame and Maeda around; besides, if she came right out with it and she was wrong, there’d be no closing that can of worms. Oh God, she’d probably be referred to the school therapist, marked as crazy and sent to some institution where she could never hope to find her friends! Could she hint at the issue? Would they even know what she was talking about? If they just Awakened, they probably had no idea what was going on; besides, until now Emi thought there weren’t any other Persona users in the world. The terms she and her friends used would probably be gibberish to anyone else. William seemed to use them, but did these boys even see them? She hadn’t even ever dreamed of the Velvet Room before now, and she’d been Awake for over a year!

Agh, this was so frustrating! She was the Navigator, of all people she was supposed to be the one who knew what she was walking into! She couldn’t even go into the mirror and hope to meet them on the other side; besides the fact she’d probably get herself killed all alone, the mirror still wouldn’t let her pass. Dammit, she was so useless alone!

A weird wave of tension, not unlike what had drawn her over in the first place, pulled Emi out of her frustrated reverie. Was Maeda trying to do something with his pastries again? No, that soft, boyish voice was absolutely dripping with awkwardness. That had to be it. One of the suspicious new students—she couldn’t tell which one—was growing more and more nervous by the second. It was downright odd; not only were there those distracting vibes that screamed “Persona”, but she also wasn’t used to sensing feelings as well. Did a Persona amplify them somehow? It was worth puzzling out in the future, but for the moment, bigger things took priority.

Clearing her throat, Emi finally offered a short bow in the general direction of the new students, forcing a smile. “Pleased to meet you, Mori-kun, Hinari-kun. My name is Ueno Emiha, Student Council Treasurer. Once more, I apologize for interrupting. I suppose I should explain what I’m talking about.”

Hugging her folder to her chest, she took a deep breath, letting her expression get a little more sincere. “I wasn’t personally a member of the Cooking Club—for obvious reasons—but I did have a pretty close connection with it last year. A close friend of mine, Chousuke Makoto, was an active member of this club. Cooking was his passion, and he worked very hard to keep the Cooking Club afloat with Mizuame-san here. Unfortunately, he was one of the students who went missing in those fires last year.”

Emi was silent for a moment, a wave of emotions washing over her, before she straightened from her rather somber posture, heaving a deep breath and forcing some energy back into her voice. “Anyway, for the sake of his memory, I won’t let the Cooking Club lose funding while I’m Treasurer, so there’s no need to panic. But regardless, I’d like to thank you both for joining; I’d be very sad to see this club die for lack of members as well.”

Getting an idea, she turned to Mizuame, her fake energy quickly becoming real as she finally got a glimpse of a way she might be able to make things work. “But, with that said, I have high expectations for the club, Mizuame-san! I hope you won’t mind if I check in on you guys from time to time to see how you’re doing?”

Ah, finally! If she had an excuse to drop in on the Cooking Club, she could keep an eye on the potential Persona-bearing students without drawing too much suspicion! Ah, it was as if Makoto pointed out the obvious solution for her at long last, just like he used to. Their Magician working his magic from the other side!

Saint’s taint, when did it get so hard to breathe?!

Seriously, the prospect of dodging attacks didn’t seem that daunting when he first heard it. Sure, Jorah wasn’t known for his monastic dedication to combat training or anything, but his number of physically demanding hobbies kept him in more than good enough shape for a few flips and dodges, and maybe even a bit of style along the way. Easy peasy—or so he thought.

But unlike his painfully boring morning of plinking at stationary targets and gossiping like a handmaiden with the lady to his left, Jorah knew something was off after the first few dodges. In what felt like no time at all, he was panting; by the time he’d usually expect to start getting tired of flipping and rolling, he was desperately gasping for air. What was that about? It would have been embarrassing were many of the other students not stuck in the same shitty boat, but it still didn’t make any sense to him. He’d been climbing trees and balconies since he was a kid, jumping piers and dancing with sailors almost as long, and hells, he’d even volunteered the occasional few hours of labour loading ships at the docks—albeit usually having to withdraw before he got the chance to stow away on one of them. Point being, he was a quick, endurant young man—so why did dodging a few hits feel like cartwheeling up a mountain? He heard one student grumble about “mountain air” in passing, but he didn’t know what that had to do with anything; if anything, he would have thought that an escape from the hot, humid air of Derdriu would have made breathing a little easier. But it must have had something to do with it, because there was no way in the seven hells he was that out of shape after only two weeks.

And if he was, he blamed that week-long carriage ride getting here.

Whatever the reason, by the end of the onslaught Jorah was sore, beat, and seriously wondering why on earth an archer needed to know how to avoid a hit from a lance. Seriously, if enemy soldiers ever got close enough to catch him with a jab, didn’t his army have bigger problems? Seemed like it might be a better use of time to rehearse his shameful begging for his life, but apparently there was no helping it.

Any other grumblings floating around in his head were put to rest as soon as Kaira recommended a visit to the sauna, which Jorah was both thrilled to learn existed and disappointed to find out they weren’t co-ed. He’d have to figure out a way to get around that sometime—a sneaky midnight visit with Kaira, perhaps, if she was feeling particularly rebellious and knew the schedule for the nighttime guards—but at the moment, even a perfectly innocent soak sounded like manna from heaven for his burning lungs and aching bones.

It wasn’t until he was peeling off his sweat-and-sand covered uniform in the changing room that Jorah realized just how much dust he’d picked up in the arena, and an exploratory finger-comb revealed a fair amount of sand stuck in his hair as well. Sighing, he took a moment to unwind his many braids, and let his long, straw-coloured hair fall down his back as he wiped his face clean of its usual paint, which was already starting to run.

Wrapping a towel around his waist was almost an afterthought, and it was quickly discarded when Jorah sank gratefully into the bath, dunking under the water to loosen some of the sand in his hair before settling comfortably on the bench. The steaming water was almost too hot for him, burning his face and pricking at his skin, but he savoured the feeling, letting the heat seep into his muscles and cook out the pain and stiffness in his joints. He didn’t bother noticing his company until he was well and truly settled, and only even opened his eyes when he was quite comfortable leaning his neck on the edge of the tub. Looked like he didn’t miss much; it was just Prince Suicide and some other student in the bath house so far. He briefly wondered whether Auberon make an appearance, or if a communal soak was too risqué for a proper young nobleman of Faerghus. Did Faerghus even have bath houses? Hot springs, maybe? Surely they had some way to escape the cold; otherwise they'd probably all just kill themselves.

In the meantime, Jorah wasn’t super enthusiastic about striking up a conversation with Kayden—especially since every damn time he looked at the Prince he could only see the moment he put Clarissa’s life in danger just to show off, something so stupid even he himself had never done it—but the other boy didn’t seem too keen on talking (unless his Crest allowed him to breathe underwater) and judging by the vague yet insistent vibe of nagging embarrassment in the room, letting silence hang was probably just going to make everything more awkward for everybody. It actually took a second for Jorah to realize that, unless Kayden was an exceptional actor (which he wasn’t), or the mostly-submerged boy was entirely emotionless (which Jorah doubted), that niggling insecurity was coming from the red-eyed boy himself. He supposed it matched the weird underwater seating, but it still earned the boy a strange look nonetheless; his tension almost felt like it was coming from another room, and it was weirdly difficult to pinpoint, as if he was throwing his voice.

Jorah would have to get a handle on this vibe weirdness soon enough. Something kind of similar happened with Kaira, too; maybe the whole monastery had some kind of weird emotion obfuscation spell on it or something.

Anyway, it ended up being Kayden who broke the silence, indirectly reminding Jorah that the nervous kid was the new Eagle student he kept forgetting and also bringing up a subject that was too juicy to ignore, whatever his distaste for the Prince.

“Oh, yeah, quite a prize you got there,” Jorah commented tastelessly, unable to resist a jab. “Pretty to look at, for sure, but she’d do a lot better with her mouth shut, don’t you think?” He chuckled quietly, trying to wind his wet hair into some semblance of a bun. “Are Adrestian women all that bitchy, or is it just the highborn ones?”

April 11th—Afternoon

Emi didn’t really hear much of the responses she got until a few seconds after they were said, her mind still reeling from the shock to her senses. But the feeling didn’t fade, like she hoped it would; instead, it grew sharper, pinpointing the locations of each potential Persona user—if that was indeed what she was feeling—and differentiating them from the other two people in the room. There could be no doubt: something was special about those two. Whether or not it was Personae was something she supposed she’d have to figure out herself.

She blinked a few times when the occupants’ words finally reached her, realizing only then how much silence had stretched between the five of them while she was trying to work out up from down. Behind the doorway, she fumbled for the sign on the wall: Cooking Club. Right, right, that explained the smell of pastries, and she did recall Mizuame’s voice.

Clearing her throat, she moved to stand properly in the doorway, shaking her head. “Oh, no, pardon the intrusion Mizuame-san,” she managed awkwardly, clutching her folder to her chest. Goodness, no wonder it looked like she was here to collect on Student Council matters. “Club forms aren’t due till the end of the week—although if you need an extension, please see Kinoshita-kun, the new secretary—I just wanted to make sure no one was hurt in here.”

She offered what she hoped was a reassuring smile in Mizuame’s general direction, but stayed in place in the doorway. Dammit, she couldn’t just leave with those other two oozing Persona vibes! But what was she going to do, join the club to figure them out? No… wait, she didn’t have to!

“But before I go,” she added quickly, “Mizuame-san, would you be so kind as to introduce me to your new members? I’d hate to take up too much of your time, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I have a bit of a… soft spot for this club.” She gave Mizuame another smile, turning to face the direction of the two mystery students. That much was true, at least; poor Mizuame sounded a little freaked out about the club’s prospects, but after all the love Makoto put into the Cooking Club, Emi had no plans to let them lose funding anytime soon. Of course, her intentions weren’t quite pure, but she knew that Makoto wouldn’t mind her using his connections to aid in her search for him and the rest of their friends.

The bell signaling the end of training took its sweet time, but Jorah was grateful to finally hear it; dogged professors and poor company aside, there were only so many ways to shoot a stationary target before the exercise got pointless. By the end of it, he was looking up wistfully at birds flying overhead, wondering how much trouble he’d get into if he shot one of them down instead of the targets.

The news that their next task was debriefing and not breaking for lunch was disheartening, but the blow was softened by the spread of food laid out before them as they found their seats. After having to skip breakfast just to drag himself out of bed in time for training, Jorah was sure his classmates could hear his stomach growl. He wasted no time digging in, assembling a small pile of danishes as well as a few things he didn’t recognize, including what looked like a knot of bread dough with salt and cheese on top that he made a mental note to ask about later. He’d have thrown his feet up on the table if they weren’t seated on benches - hm, maybe that was on purpose.

There were a few blissful minutes of silence at the Golden Deer table before the conversation began, punctuated by the soft crunching of crispy pastries and the rapidly escalating drama at the Blue Lion table. Jorah would have been happy to listen and enjoy - man, sounded like Auberon was a little less proper than he let on when one of his housemates disappointed him - but Clarissa soon put an end to that. She introduced their meeting like a member of the Roundtable listing the issues on the docket for the day, and Jorah had to smirk; her father would have been proud to hear her talk like that, even if it made her sound about twenty years older than she was.

His smirk didn’t stay long, though. It did morph into a warm smile as Clarissa regaled the adventures of their youth, then a confident grin as she - perhaps unwisely - stroked his ego further by lauding his combat prowess. But it faded into a contemplative frown as she got to what must have been the point of her bit: his shortcomings. Jorah wasn’t a man who couldn’t take criticism, not by a long shot - hells, he was usually the one doling it out to himself, often to the laughter of tavern folk and wenches. But that was precisely the problem. He didn’t disagree with a single point Clarissa made; in fact, he’d suggest she skipped over a few important shortcomings that would similarly affect his ability to lead and command to any effect in the real world. He knew his flaws better than anyone, he’d be the first to admit it.

The problem was that his father didn’t seem to know them. Sure, the man could never be faulted for being too kind, that was certain; after all, Jorah could scarcely call his father’s smile to mind, but he could probably draw his scowl from memory. But no matter how the Duke lectured him on his wrongdoings, the man never seemed to see the point. Jorah wasn’t a leader. He never would be. Clarissa hit every nail on the head: the research, the meetings, negotiation, diplomacy, it was all as unnatural and foreign to him as flight to a fish. But Duke Riegan couldn’t accept that. That was the whole reason he was even here. His father had it in his mind that all of his son’s shortcomings, everything holding him back from being an excellent Duke and leader someday, were just the result of laziness and childishness. As if Jorah had a strong leader hidden away inside him that he hid from his father out of spite.

Jorah hid his scowl with another bite of his bread twist, seething as he chewed. The animus at the next table was probably no help, but it was hard not to feel resentful. Clarissa knew perfectly well why none of the things she mentioned meshed with him. She knew - or at least, she should have known - that leadership wasn’t something he was capable of. His father should have known too, but Jorah had long given up on getting through to him. Sure, adventure called and the responsibility sounded much too heavy for his preference, but it wasn’t just his flights of fancy that drew him away. Goddess above, he almost died in Luin because he froze when he should have been aware. He was lucky he didn’t get anyone else killed. He had no mind or patience for strategy, no cunning for negotiation, no brain for matters of economy or finance, nothing. Not to mention that no matter what his father fantasized, his Crest was more curse than blessing - the very same gift that could have made him a skilled negotiator was probably going to get him killed the next time he wasn’t so lucky. But Duke Riegan would push him into those situations again and again, vainly hoping they’d make a responsible nobleman out of him, heedless of the potential cost. He had a perfectly good, smart daughter to train up instead, but no, he couldn’t just accept that Delia was better suited for the Duke’s chair than Jorah was. She had all the qualities he lacked, more like Clarissa than him, but their father’s damned pride wouldn’t let him see that.

Jorah was largely deaf to most of what was said after that, staring daggers at his danishes until Imogen mentioned his name. Her antics lightened the mood, at least, and her energy pulled at him like a puppy eager to play, and very difficult to ignore. He had to chuckle - if a little coldly - at her mention of the Prince. So the others noticed that, eh? Good, he hoped the Prince noticed it too. Jorah offered Imogen an innocent shrug; he’d accept her advice, but go against it anyway. If the Prince had the nerve to put Clarissa or any of his housemates in danger again, he planned to finish what he wanted to start in Luin and take Princey out of the fight himself.

Imogen finished up, and it took a second for Jorah to realize that the expectant gazes around the table probably meant that he was up next. Hm. He suddenly realized that he had no idea what any of them did all day. Welp…

“Ah, right,” he said quickly, buying a little time by clearing his throat and sitting up in his seat. “Uh… I’ll… second what Imogen said,'' he suggested, finding a thread at last. He looked at Clarissa. “She had a point; your healing is valuable, but - yes I know it’s me saying this and that’s funny but - don’t go off being reckless. See, if you’re reckless, then I can’t be reckless, and that just isn’t going to fly.” He gave Clarissa a wink, although he did decide to be serious for one second. “I’d also say make sure to worry about your housemates first. If someone from another house wants to go and get themselves killed, don’t put yourself in danger to stop them.”

Glancing around the table, his eyes landed back on Imogen. “Imogen, uh… your… enthusiasm is great, but you don’t need to decapitate everyone to take them out. You can hurt more people with one punch each than fourteen on the same dead guy, right?” Goddess in heaven this was weird. See? This was why he didn’t want to do this. Jorah vainly hoped someone would see this disaster and transfer leadership of the Golden Deer over to Clarissa, but something told him the donation his father made to make this happen wouldn’t go down that easily.

Finally, he tried his hand at Isolde. “Isolde, I’d go with the other two here. You’re brave enough to volunteer to rush into battle, and even fight while you’re there, but a stiff wind won’t take down everything. Your technique is good but if you’re not fighting with some gumption, you’re gonna die.”

He gave a less-than-proud smile to the group and quickly returned to his food, hoping they could all put that embarrassing display behind them. Maybe word of it would reach his father and he’d realize this was a lost cause, who knew - Jorah was just eager to get out of this awful “leader” skin suit and get back to doing something he was actually good at.

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