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Karin craned her head at Ayame once the youkai started complaining to get out of doing some actual work. If at first her look was unimpressed, she soon grew amused. “I hate inefficiency? Damn, you should be telling Sakura-sensei all about how organized I am…” she snorted, shaking her head. Not that she’d be visiting her former high school any time soon, but the comment struck her as too funny not to comment.

“And, do you seriously think I don’t know how much you can read for fun? Now stop being a lazy fox, and get to it,” she huffed. Thus, Karin did not provide a summary...but Fumi and Akio did. “She’d have figured it out,” Karin said with a roll of her eyes, but wasn’t too put off either. It did, in fact, get them on the way sooner, and she was kind of itching for some action, just a bit.

On the way out, Karin took her blunt-edged sword out of her workroom locker. Soon, she and Ayame, and Akio and Fumi were at the apartment building. It was eerily quiet, and at first glance, both the outside of the building and the interior seemed normal.

“I don’t like this,” Karin muttered, nervous tension running through her body. Was this designed to try and lull them into a false sense of security? Either they relaxed, and got jumped, or didn’t, and wasted energy being extra vigilant all the time, after which they’d be attacked the moment they lost focus or were too tired to keep it up. Exhaling slowly, the adolescent brought herself to a state somewhere in the middle; neither entirely casual, nor too keyed up.


Attire: No cloak
Time: 11:00 am
Location: The Entrance Hall
Mention(s): @Helo Callum, @Inertia Auguste
Interaction(s): @Heartfillia Crystal
Wulfric had honestly not put forth any more thought to the peasant girl, who was fleeing Callum’s table after her spectacular fall. But events unfolded…very strangely, to say the least. Father getting enraged and calling the guards on her was expected, he supposed, though far from necessary. The girl seemed to have been on her way out anyhow. Next thing he knew, Callum was picking up an onion from the floor, and proceeded to bite into it.

Why the fuck.

Yes, he could surmise it was to distract the king, so the old man would not direct his full attention to that fatally clumsy commoner. But just what did his brother think his actions actually achieved?

What is it today, ‘saving peasants’ day? Feeling a headache build up, Wulfric massaged his temple as discreetly as possible.

I need another goddamn coffee. There was a small part of him which was tempted to stroll up to Callum’s table, and steal whatever was left of his brother’s beverage. That was the least his sibling could do for being the source of his troubles. Gaze drawn towards him, he saw that his brother was now looking at everyone and everything else except him.

Guilt… Wulfric lightly scoffed to himself. An ever unreliable emotion. He was willing to bet that Callum didn’t regret the spectacle he’d made of himself, nor would he choose another course of action given the chance. Frankly, Wulfric had not even expected Callum to curb his tendency to provoke the king as part of their agreement.

Technically, Callum’s actions still went against what he had said he would (try to) do. But Wulfric wasn’t especially angry, really. Just a tiring mix of exasperated, frustrated, bitter, and perplexed. Pushing all of that aside, he decided to speak to his youngest brother after this event.

If there was one potential positive of the stunt Callum had pulled, it was that Ariella Edwards was drawn to him. The two then started up what appeared to be a mutually engaging conversation. Wulfric couldn’t help but wonder, She goes for that? Prince or not, most people were appalled by, disgusted at, and detracted from someone going out of their way to be purposefully revolting, chewing open-mouthed.

Issuing a long, quiet breath, Wulfric redirected his focus to the crowds, to see if anyone else was lining up for him.

There was someone; lady Crystal, frozen in place as if she were cornered prey, her eyes flitting nervously from him to Auguste. Peripherally, Wulfric saw Auguste dealing with a fleeing Zarai. (Why had Zarai run away anyhow?)

Thus, it was left to him to deal with the frightful Lady Damien. He had not missed her squeak nor the following embarrassment colouring her cheeks. Yet another consequence of his father’s blundering outburst.

Wulfric affected his best facsimile of a kind smile, a gesture which he had perfected through years of observing and mimicking Auguste’s. It was not merely a copy, however, as he had adapted it to better suit his usual expressions and demeanor. His version was barely an up-tick of his lips, but he softened his gaze, and lightly crinkled his eyes. It helped to think of a precise moment when he’d felt genuine fondness. For example…

A very young, energic hound, as it ran a circle or three around him, then pushed its snout into his hand.

The prince stood up, and bowed. “Welcome, Lady Crystal.” Then, because she was still standing a fair distance away, and because he was unsure if his words would suffice to encourage her, he approached. He kept up his smile, and took care in his movements, so as not to spook her.

Once close enough, he nodded another greeting. “If I may escort you?” he asked quietly. With his left arm, he flourished invitingly to his table. Quirking his eyebrow up in a silent inquiry, he made a much smaller gesture with his right, offering his other arm to her. Aware his invitation may put her on the spot, the very least he could do was ensure that his offer to physically escort her to the table was one she would not feel pressured to accept.

And if she still ran away after all this, at the very least no one would be able to say that he had not been gallant.
Wulfric & Saiya

The group of women closest to the door could see into the room and gaze upon the princes, something that excited many of them as they eagerly waited to be let in. Some were even almost jumping up and down with excitement, especially as they watched Layla leave Wulfric. Saiya was currently at the front of the group and she simply observed everything around her, watching Layla leave and wondering when they would be let in. For the first few minutes she waited patiently, but after being made to stand there and just stare at the empty chair in front of Wulfric, she decided to take a chance. Before she could be stopped, she slipped into the room and confidently began to head in Wulfric’s direction. There were some gasps of shock and confusion, but she was in front of the crown prince before anyone could stop her. This was something she found interesting and concerning.

“Apologies for the sudden intrusion, Your Royal Highness, but it did not seem like they were about to allow the next group in any time soon and I found that quite inefficient as there were hundreds of women waiting to meet you. So I decided to take initiative in order to not waste any of your valuable time.” Saiya said as she dipped low into a curtsy. As she stood back up straight, her eyes met Wulfric’s and she gave him a warm smile. “I am Lady Saiya Ansari, adopted daughter of the Grand Vizier.” She introduced herself before glancing at the chair. “May I take a seat?”

Wulfric had taken a few moments to think what the possible reasons for Layla’s short distraction during their conversation might have been. During his own moment of inattention, there was a disturbance in the crowds. Wulfric zeroed in on the cause of it, and saw Lady Saiya make her way up to him. No one thought to stop her, or to advise her to wait her turn – just as no one had thought to disarm that foreign warrior who’d entered as well armed as if he were aiming to battle. Really, it was enough to give anyone a complex about security.

As the prince tracked her with his gaze, he saw what his brother had meant when he’d said her movements betrayed her proficiency. Though her gait was more akin to a dancer’s, one would be a fool to believe that that was all she was. It was quite subtle, but yes, he could see her as a fighter. Granted, he might not have noticed that in her short walk towards him had Auguste not pointed it out. She did not carry any weapons openly, but that did not foreclose the possibility of her having any that were hidden. Wulfric was neither bothered nor concerned, but it was one more mark in favour of him getting into the habit of always being armed.

Regardless of his thoughts, he offered Saiya one of his patented smiles, and briefly stood up to give her a crisp bow. “Well, I do appreciate efficiency,” he said, amusement creeping in, though the statement was truthful. Adjusting his tone to one that was more appropriate for a polite conversation with a stranger, he added, “Knowing when to take initiative is admirable, too.” He glanced at the sour or scandalized expressions of those gathered behind her before returning his gaze to the lady in front of him. “Especially when you do so despite being surrounded by such a…competitive bunch, shall we say.” He chose a neutral phrase, because he was certain Saiya wouldn’t enjoy it if he likened the women there to rabid dogs. Unkind, and unfair to some of them? Admittedly. Nonetheless, it was an accurate comparison. Yet one which was to be kept in the strict privacy of his mind.

At her introduction, and following question, Wulfric nodded. “Welcome, Lady Saiya, and please do take a seat.” He had not known she was adopted by the Vizier, but merely made note of the information without reacting to it in any way. “We did not have the chance to converse yesterday, but my brother did in fact mention you to me. It seems you’ve left an impression.” The light tantalization in his sentence was purposeful, and he watched how she responded to that tid-bit.

After a brief glance over her shoulder at the annoyed crowd of women, Saiya took a seat and gave Wulfric her full attention. “I do suppose I may have painted a bit of a target on my back.” She said with a soft, amused laugh. She had little worry over that, however, as she had a feeling that many of those women back there were truly little threat to her. She smoothed her skirt out as she listened to him speak, a slight moment of surprise hitting her as he mentioned the impression she left with Auguste. “It’s good to know our little dance left an impression.” She met his gaze with a coy grin.

“And now you have a chance to deepen that impression,” Wulfric smirked.

“You know, this little event is quite interesting and unusual. Is this something that you do often?” There was a curious tone to her words.

“If by ‘this’ you mean meet and greet events, or those whose aim is for my brothers and I to consider potential marriage prospects…Then there are indeed many,” he replied neutrally, though he was curious why she was. “However, one exactly like this one? There has not been one before.” Tilting his head, he decided to prompt, “Why? Is it truly so unusual compared to social events you hold in Genasea?”

“If there were merely noblewomen here to meet with you I would say it wasn’t quite unusual, however…” Saiya paused as she briefly glanced over at the young woman rushing away from the youngest prince, dropping onions as she went. Her brow furrowed in a bit of confusion for a moment, finding the scene odd and slightly humorous. “It seems the invitation is also extended to the common folk and that is what I find unusual.” Her attention turned back to Wulfric, a genuine smile on her lips now. “It is also admirable as I find it wise to get to know those you are to care for as a ruler. Doing so helps to keep the peace and makes for an admired and loved king.” She explained, fully aware that who she spoke with was the crowned prince.

A clatter interrupted their conversation, and Wulfric turned his head much as Saiya had. Apparently, the girl with heterochromia was suffering from an affliction much worse; clumsiness. Clearly, she was a peasant. However, the dress she had somehow managed to procure was passable. Which was the only reason Edin hadn’t thrown her out initially. After this blunder of hers, though…

Ah, and there the girl went dropping onions now. No doubt Callum found this charming.

Having seen enough, the prince returned his regard to Saiya. “This was announced in the newspaper, after all,” he commented. He raised a brow at her following comments and demeanour. If she believed the inclusion of peasants was intentional, she had obviously not been there to see how the king had dismissed out of hand two such lessers. Alternatively, she had, and was giving her critique with exceptional subtleness.

Either way, her opinions on rulership were certainly closer to those Zarai or Auguste (…and probably Callum) would espouse. And she wished to gauge his. “It makes for good publicity, at the very least.” Privately, he thought that his father had a way of turning what could be ‘good’ into…something less so.

“But I do believe there are better ways of caring,” Wulfric didn’t bother hiding that he had issues with that phrasing. Certainly, a ruler had to care for their nation and its people, but if caring was all that one was…It brought with it a host of issues. Such as having one’s authority diminished, having that kindness (or leniency) taken advantage of, or being entirely helpless when faced with difficult, harsh decisions.

“Too, I doubt I will learn of people’s desires within this one hour something I do not already know.” He took in the group of hopefuls, so full of dreams and fantasies. Some had ambitions more plausible, others quite possibly realistic goals. Individual differences aside, they were all united in one thing: There was something they wished to gain. Wulfric mused that if not that, it was fear of losing what they had which was the driving force behind human behavior. Then, there were those driven to desperation because they believed they had nothing to gain nor anything to lose. The latter group…in some ways, those could be the most dangerous. For their sheer unpredictability, if nothing else.

Quite soon, he was once again meeting Saiya’s eyes. “Though, as one of my teachers used to say: Every day is a day to learn…and one can learn even – or especially – from the most unexpected of sources.” Half smiling, he deigned to offer a slight concession to her point.

There was one particular thing that Wulfric said which really stuck out to Saiya. It was good publicity, at least. So, appearances were important to him, this wasn’t anything to fault him over as appearances should be important…to a point. In the short time of speaking with him she had worked out a few things. First, he certainly was different from his father and seemed to take after his mother. She could see positives and negatives in this, but it wasn’t anything alarming to her. At very least, he would likely be a better king than Edin. What kind of kingdom would Edin leave him, though? Just from the brief observation she’d made of Wulfric’s father, if he remained king for much longer, Wulfric may be left with a kingdom on the verge of rebellion. Would he be able to quell that ire? Either way, one thing she’d learned from her own father is that no matter what kind of ruler you are, there will always be people that disagree with you and think they could do better.

Her second observation, Wulfric would go for the best match that would boost the appearance of his kingdom. Love was rarely in the cards for nobles and royals and it seemed the crown prince had accepted this. She had a feeling he would observe all of the top matches of this season and would choose the match that would best compliment the way he wished to rule. Wulfric was truly playing a game of chess and he was good at it. It was something she could admire, but it also made her sad that it was something he seemed to feel he had to do. Either way, she didn’t sense any ill intent from him towards Alidasht. He was simply playing the game he was born into.

“There certainly are many ways of caring and all have their merits and downfalls. You may not learn anything from them with this event, but they in turn may learn something from you.” Saiya’s voice was soft, kind, and was full of a genuine friendliness as she spoke these words. “You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, Wulfric. While we’ve only spoken for a few minutes now, you’ve managed to make quite an impression on me. I get the sense you’re going to do well as king one day.” She knew she was being bold by using only his name and no titles, but she felt it appropriate for the moment. He seemed to be a bit different from his brother Auguste, but there was something about him that Saiya found charming. Like with Auguste, she hoped they would have more opportunities to talk over the season.

Wulfric inclined his head when Saiya spoke of merits and demerits, as it was reasonable. He thought it somewhat strange when she said that others may learn something from him rather than of him. But it was in line with what he had sensed of her preferences; namely, that she appreciated a personal, one-on-one approach. He raised a brow at her using his given name, but didn’t rebuke her. Nor did he care a whit what she or anyone else thought about what he would be like as a ruler. In fact, he tended to be dismissive of such evaluations at best.

In the back of his mind, an uncharitable thought of Just who does she think–? susurrated, but he suppressed it. She was, in fact, a member of the royal family. Besides, he could recognize a compliment for what it was, and accept it as such. So, he gave a dignified nod, and simply said, “Thank you.” Unlike Hendrix, he felt like rather than trying to earn his favour, she was acknowledging him as a future ally. For that, he could muster some genuine appreciation. Thus, he reciprocated with, “You also strike me as very sensible.” His smile held barely any warmth, but it was enough to lend credence to his words.

“Well, I’m sure there’s many others here that wish to have your attention and swoon over you, so I shall let them have their moment. Thank you for this, Your Highness. I truly enjoyed myself and hope we get to have more conversations in the future.” She said as she began to get up, dipping into a low curtsy, and giving him one more smile before leaving his table.

“It was enjoyable for me as well.” Unexpectedly, he had been engaged, no matter that it was a brief chat. “I am sure we will have the chance to converse in the future,” Wulfric replied. He supposed he would not mind speaking with her again. Perhaps, he was impressed, if reluctantly so. He gave a respectful nod in her direction as she stood up. Then, his table was once again vacated.

By the time the duo arrived to Icelit HQ, two pairs of senpais and two pairs of kohais had finalized getting into Sato’s van, and were departing. Katherine parked her bike, removed her helmet, and offered Ayame her free hand. She didn’t mind escorting the fox, especially not when she knew ‘her ladyship’ might hold them up for even longer otherwise. And they were late. Karin said nothing about that, however.

“Huh, right, so it’s today the new hires are coming in.” Which meant Karin and Ayame would finally no longer be the freshest meat around. Now they’d be the senpais to someone. If only by a month and a half.

The adolescent led them both in, and stopped by their locker to store their helmets. Then, she walked to the office proper, and got Ayame settled in a chair. “Morning,” she greeted Akane and Higasha, who were apparently late too. Thankfully, even the latest arrivals were there just in time to catch Fumi explaining that “there was an incident at Umeda Park.”

Karin perched on the table while she listened. “Which apartment?” she asked with a glance towards Sakamori. But she got her answer when Akane passed her the mission papers. When done, Karin handed them to her partner. “Read,” she instructed the fox.

@Vertigo @PKMNB0Y @VitaVitaAR@RolePlayerRoxas
The metal of the knight’s boots clinked across the rooftops for a few steps, but as Jacqueline released her esper form, the sound changed to a light clicking sound. She was now a relatively unassuming business woman, suit and low-heeled shoes replacing her armor.

Even though she felt physically much better, she always felt strange about changing forms after going through the wringer in her esper state. It was deeply mind-fuckery to know she’d been injured in all those various ways, sometimes even feel the phantom pain of it, yet be perfectly fine as far as her body was concerned. But Mika had only ever met her like this, and there was no point in prolonging the change besides.

Jacqueline slowly walked closer to the kneeling child. Again? she wondered, but didn’t ask. Instead, she just quietly said, “Hey.” She stopped to stand by Mika’s side, and gazed at Su’s remains. They hadn’t known each other for long, but Jacqueline still felt melancholy about her death. It was…a terrible shame.

As careful as Jacqueline was, Mika was startled by her voice. She was eyeing her mother’s remains. There wasn’t much left. The cars tshe had been smashed between melded together. All that remained of Su was an arm that stuck out of the wreck.

Her fingers curled around Su’s hand. It was covered in crimson, but so was everyone else at this point. Not Jacqueline, as she had just reverted back to her normal form. Mika opened her other hand, and a cloud of spectral fireflies lit up the area.

“Jack-oh-line?” Her lower lip quivered.

The agent looked down at the child. “Yes,” she answered, meeting the girl’s eyes, solemn expression in place. Then she glanced at Su’s arm. “Can you get that out or do you need help?” she asked.

The question caused Mika to freeze in place. “Get…That out?” she looked back at the arm she was holding onto. Few people would refer to their mother as “that,” but she figured out what was being asked of her. Mika coiled her fingers around her mother’s elbow and pulled. “Is this going to hurt her? She feels stuck.” Though once Mika had spoken, the arm popped free. It still had the sleeve of her uniform on it. It was still in one piece. A miracle, considering what happened.

Once the arm was carefully extracted, Jacqueline stripped her suit’s jacket, and put the clothing item on the ground. “Let’s wrap it up for now,” she suggested.

If she heard Jacqueline, she didn’t make any attempt to acknowledge her. She stood there, eyeing the stump where the rest of her mother should have been. There was no expression on her face. Just the dry tears on her cheeks and eyes that had lost their luster.

Mentally sighing, Jacqueline picked herself up from her crouch, leaving the jacket on the floor. She looked at Mika, really taking her in. Cautiously, like approaching a spooked animal - even though this, a traumatized child, was so much worse - she extended her arms, then put her hands on the child’s shoulders. “Mika,” she called out to her, squeezing her shoulders once. “Are you still with me?”

With a squeak, Mika’s eyes returned to Jacqueline. “Uh-”

With soft but insistent pressure, Jacqueline led Mika where she wanted, coaxing her to put the body piece on the discarded garment. The agent gently urged the girl, taking the smaller hands into her own. “Can you let go?” she murmured. But she grimaced almost as soon as she said it, because she realized that had quite the double meaning, and maybe Su’s child wasn’t ready to ‘let go’ yet – in either sense of the words.

Her grip on her mother’s arm was firm, and it only got tighter once Jacqueline reached for her. But Mika was looking straight at Jacqueline now. It wasn’t clear if it was resignation or inner strength, but her grip loosened up on Su’s arm. Mika’s eyes drifted back to the arm as it slid into the agent’s hands. She wasn’t even half way through wrapping it up before Mika seized her arm.

“What’s going to happen to her?”

Jacqueline paused her work to look up. “We bury her. Or turn her remains to ashes, and put it in an urn. We hold a funeral to say our final goodbyes, and pay our respect to her. Then remember her. Pray for her, if you like.”

Mika’s grip loosened up, and she allowed Jacqueline to finish wrapping up the arm. “And then-” She sniffed. “What’s going to happen to me?”

Jacqueline busied herself with neatly bundling up the arm. She tied off the jacket sleeves around the macabre package, then stood up, keeping ahold of her finished work. “Well. If you want a normal life - as normal as you can get - then you’ll have to have someone adopt you. If you want to work as an esper…That, uh, an esper is basically a magical person, you probably noticed you’re a bit different now?” Mika nodded.

Knowing she was breezing past the issue of Mika’s adoption, Jacqueline sheepishly carded her free hand through her hair. “So…if you want to get rid of monsters, like we did today with that large one you helped us with…You could come work for the government like we do, I suppose.”

“Fighting monsters was okay, I guess.” She squatted down beside the car and gave it a push. “But mom died doing that. My first mom-” The words stuck in her throat. “She, she didn’t have anything to do with monsters and some gang people got her.” She traced circles in the blood. “I don’t think having a mom is for me. I don’t know if I should be fighting monsters though.”

Jacqueline huffed wryly. “No, what you should be doing is being taken care of, going to school, playing and having fun, being with friends…That kind of thing.” The agent pursed her lips. “Mother or otherwise, you do need someone willing to look after you. You’re not wrong that safety can be an issue, maybe-”

She trailed off, paused for a moment, then continued. “Maybe something like a safehouse…or you and them stay at one of our agencies…or we look into getting you as far away as possible from all of this. But it’s never a sure thing, and if you do ever decide to do esper stuff, whether on your own or with us, there’ll always be a target on your back.” Jacqueline shrugged roughy. “Sorry I don’t have any good news, kid.”

“A safe house?” Mika balled her hands and stood up. “I don’t think a safehouse is going to protect anyone if this happens again.”

“No, it won’t,” Jacqueline confirmed, smiling tightly.

The glow of the fireflies wasn’t very bright, but even from that alone it was easy to see how utterly devastated the city was. The roof was covered in craters from the hail, and it wasn’t hard to picture all the buildings and vehicles with shattered windows. Let alone anyone unfortunate to be caught outside. Who knew how high the final death toll would end up being.

“Bad things happened to me outside this city too. I don’t think I can hide from them.” Mika changed back into her normal self. Though unlike Jacqueline, she did not look rejuvenated afterwards. While changing back could shield an esper from physical pain and sickness, the mind was shared between forms. The tears were gone, but the thousand yard stare remained. “Last time we spoke, I said I wanted you and Su to be my mommy. But I don’t think that’s a good idea now.”

Jacqueline did sigh this time. “It never would have been a good idea, simply because I’m not a family person, and can’t - won’t - be your or anyone else’s parent. If you want a teacher, friend, coworker…That, I can do.”

“I know.”

The agent looked at the ruined city, and didn’t find it strange at all that belief in safety would be difficult, if not impossible, right now. “Yeah, bad things can happen anywhere, anytime. Some are lucky enough not to see any of it, ever. Some of us do what we can to prevent it.” She faced Mika. “Your mother died to protect you, and the city. She wouldn’t have wanted to leave you alone, but she took that risk, because she knew that if she didn’t, no one else would do it in her stead.”

“I know.”

After a brief pause, Jacqueline added something approaching an apology, or maybe just an explanation. “She was killed because one of our enemies saw that she was strong, and clever…She was a danger to him, and stood in his way, so he took her out in that one moment when she was looking out for the rest of us.”

“I know, okay? Most people think I’m annoying. Mom was different. I know that.” Mika huffed. “What I don’t know is what I’m going to do. Something’s broken. None of it works. This doesn’t work.” She stumbled forward. “I don’t wanna hurt anyone. I don’t wanna be an ex- spare-o-ment.” With shaky legs, Mika marched up to Jacqueline and extended her arms. “Let me hold mom.”

Jacqueline handed over the wrapped arm. Once Mika took a hold of it, the agent carefully extended a hand, and gently let it rest on the child’s head. She was ready to withdraw her hand in case the girl didn’t want it, but Mika wasn’t making any motion to pull away. Jacqueline said nothing else, because she’d exhausted the list of things that seemed like they were the thing to be said.

Mika hugged the arm against her chest. “Thank you.” Her eyes fell to the floor. “I want to be by myself, for a bit.”

“Alright.” Jacqueline’s hand smoothed down Mika’s hair, came to rest on her shoulder, and after one last pat, she walked away. “I’ll be over there,” she motioned vaguely to the other side of the roof. It was far away enough that each could be considered to be by themselves, and Jacqueline faced away from Mika, giving the child the desired privacy.
Try an int. check in the causal and/or advanced sections, might gain some additional interest.
I think it makes more sense for each of us to polish our own idea first, and then see if there's ways to make connections if we want to. At least, that's the way I intend to do it, esp. cause I'd like to get a better feel for the tone/plotline that I'd like to go for, first.
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