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Funnily enough, Thomas didn't seem to mind the suddenly drop in temperature, at least not as much as the others. Perhaps it was because it numbed the pain coming from his arm, occasionally wiping around the wound with his hand as blood continued to flow from it. It wasn't a horrendous amount though, and the bleeding got less and less over time, but he felt light headed enough so that he wasn't very talkative at all during the venture through the caves of the Abyss, though it's not as if this was anything new.

Mind you, he was also distracted still by that melody playing in his head. He wasn't even sure if Marianne was still playing it or not, it just continued to play. On and on. It was almost maddening. The boy only looked up occasionally to Runa while she spoke, not always paying attention to what she was saying in particular, but there was definitely some curiosity felt as he observed the group's new tour guide.

He perked up a little bit upon arriving at this new area, Thomas' interests clearly taken by this new, yet dilapidated landscape. It was certainly something other than caves, at least. What was more interesting even was the not-so-dilapidated collection of buildings off in the distance, but there wasn't much time to admire or ponder them before he and the rest of the group were guided into the stitched-together fort by their mysterious new companion. If companion was the right word.

Speaking of companions though, now that he was in the fort, Thomas took a moment to pull his Marianne card from out of his pocket. Though the music in his head had long since faded at this point, whether it had always been her doing or not, the boy still wanted to know what was going on.

"What's going on? What was that, what's coming?" He muttered to the figure depicted on the card in a rather monotone, and almost slightly accusatory, voice. He didn't expect an answer, and even if he received one perhaps now wasn't the best time for a conversation with Marianne with all these people around, but he asked anyway, pausing for a moment after before putting the card back in his pocket.
In Tower of Fable 12 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay

Thomas' time for respite and analysis was short, shorter than he'd hoped for. To return his volley of lasers at the pale wolf, three arrows came back his way. They were aimed precisely, and tore through the air as though hungry themselves for the boy's flesh. In a panicked and reflexive action Thomas raised his blade to cover what he could, but it wasn't quite enough to completely protect him.

One arrow that was headed straight for his chest was luckily halted by his raised sword, bouncing off against the blade and falling to the ground. Another whistled right past his face, grazing his cheek and almost taking off his ear as well, if it hadn't been for Thomas immediately jerking to the side from the pain as blood welled up from the cut. The final one luckily also missed its target, his abdomen, thanks to the boy's aforementioned jolt to the side. Instead it cut through his jacket, roughly just below his left elbow at the side, ripping through flesh and leaving a fairly deep gash before sailing away as well. At least it hadn't embedded itself in the boy's arm, but it still hurt like hell anyway. Especially for someone not especially used to this sort of thing yet.

With a contained cry of shock and pain Thomas dropped to the ground, the jetpack and everything else to do with Utena's card in his possession, whether he knew it or not, returning back to where they'd come from. Luckily it wasn't such a far drop to the ground, his scimitar clanging down next to him, but given what had just happened as well as the scale of the fight against Nephy and the strength of the abilities being used only increasing, Thomas knew before he'd even stood back up off the cold hard ground that he was done. At least for now.

His eyes widened though, as he clutched at the spot on his arm that the arrow had sliced, like a moment of realisation had suddenly hit him. Though it wasn't about the wound, no. It was the damage done to the jacket. The only thing he had to remind himself of home, of the family he'd had and had yet to have. Now, all of a sudden, Thomas' shock turned to rage. As though an attack on this seemingly arbitrary piece of clothing was an attack on his actual family. He let go of his arm, the boy's blood stained hand taking up his fallen blade instead. Now, as he looked to the battle raging on ahead, as he looked at Nephy, the prospect of joining back into the fray seemed more desirable. Almost appealing. But the Tower had other ideas, it seemed.

Something was changing. The violet-eyed boy's heartbeat acted almost like a metronome pulsating through his body, while within his mind was music. That sound, that delicate touch, it was unmistakable who it was, though the melody was unfamiliar. The air began to feel a lot heavier as the music went on and became clearer in his head, an ominous feeling filling the lagoon. By the time Marianne had begun to speak to him, Thomas was already sprinting over to Katie, spurred on by the tingling feeling along his back that felt like it was almost pushing him on. He'd noticed the girl sometime before while in the thick of it with Nephy, and given their interaction at the bar earlier it felt wisest to go to her first.

"Guys-!" Thomas turned his head to call out to Kanbaru and Akiko, still amidst their battle with the wild hound, but he stopped himself before he could say anything else. By the looks of things they weren't listening, nor were they going to stop just because he told them to; it was a waste of energy. Before he knew it, he had reached Katie anyway.

"Katie, something's coming! I don't know what, but we need to get out of here. I've tried to tell the others, but- wait, is she ok?" The boy burst out frantically, something which had, so far at least, been quite unorthodox for the young man. He spoke with concern as he noticed Riku in the other girl's arms, a bit surprised to see her there given he hadn't seen Nephy strike her; he'd been busy falling and whatnot. There was panic in his eyes as the music continued, panting while his fingers rubbing nervously against his pocket where he knew Marianne's card currently laid.

In Tower of Fable 26 days ago Forum: 1x1 Roleplay

He should've seen it coming, but Nephy's counter of Thomas' advance let the boy know first-hand just who he was dealing with. But that wasn't going to stop him, and there was no way he would let himself die just like that.

No sooner had Nephy taken a hold on him to thrust him into Kanbaru's oncoming attack, Thomas' free hand darted straight to his pocket. He swiftly drew out a card, one he hadn't made any use of yet, but one he'd inspected in his spare time after the events of the previous floor. With no time to spare, Thomas swiftly raised the card to his eyes, giving it an intense stare. He'd seen the others draw from the abilities of the Serei on the cards, almost like they were borrowing their attributes. If he'd managed to summon one before, he could manage that, right?

"Fuse!" The boy cried, a bright light instantly emanating from the card as something transferred from it to him. When the light cleared, a metal attachment appeared attached to his back and shoulders. And, similar to the girl on the card, from that attachment sprouted numerous wing-like mechanisms, jet black in colour with streams and emblems of orange on them. Though there was probably much more to be found and utilised with this form, Thomas already had what he needed. For the wings were, in fact, a jetpack. And if there was anything the boy needed at this moment, it was mobility.

As Nephy prepared her strike Thomas launched off the ground, the mechanism working to his will as it blasted him out of harm's way. And that was when he set his sights on Kanbaru.

"Kanbaru!" He called out the girl's name to catch her attention, time too short for him to warn her with anything more than that. Unlike with his weapons he didn't seem to have as natural an affinity with controlling the power that he'd borrowed, but his immediate handle on it was good enough so that, with one sweeping movement as Nephy's slash came barrelling towards Kanbaru, the boy grabbed onto his teammate's arm and lifted her straight up into the air. Well, lifted is a bit of a tame description to use. It was more a throw than anything, but still not too indiscriminate an action, just keeping her in the air long enough for the immediate danger to dissipate.

However flight wasn't all the mechanism offered, something Thomas would soon realise as Nephy turned her attention from one target to the next. Whether it was through his own will or just the accidental knock of a button, both options as likely as each other, in the seconds of reprieve that the violet eyed boy gave himself after his manoeuvre two beams of light streamed out from the jetpack, to his bewilderment, bolting straight in Nephy's general direction.

"What the hell..." Thomas muttered to himself as he lowered himself closer towards the ground, hovering with his blade at the ready just in case.

Montag simply observed Carol as she stalked around him, an animated predator waiting to strike her stoic and unyielding prey. He didn't pay much heed to her sharp words, while he set the plate in his hand on a shelf to the side, and instead set his sights on her intriguing snake tattoo. It seemed to dance around in fleeting movements on her neck, though the detective couldn't tell whether that was just a trick of the eye or if there was something more to these marks. Whether it seemed to move or not though, it felt to Eduard as though the tattoo gazed at him, like some parasitic entity waiting for its next victim.

And that's when Montag also became aware of the other sets of eyes on him, from outside of the tightly spaced room he found himself in with Carol. He felt almost a sense of relief. Some help in getting her out of the way without too much of a fuss was exactly what he needed at this point. But, as though fate was amusing itself with the young man's struggle, it didn't take Eduard long to notice their own marks dotted on their respective bodies. They all depicted the same image as Carol's: a snake coiled around a dagger's hilt. The snakes seemed to bare their fangs at the undercover waiter, all shimmering and moving in a similar manner.

"If you're looking for a cop, then I'm afraid you've got the wrong guy. Probably just have one of those faces." Montag replied, cool as ever, though he was almost taken aback by Carol's musing. He was almost certain that he'd never met, or even seen, this woman in his life. That being said, despite his fairly sharp memory, many of the names and faces that he'd seen, or even been acquainted with, during his time with the police blurred since he'd left it. Almost like it had all been a dream, where the right thought or trigger could cause you to remember, but otherwise it was just bits and pieces. It was something he wouldn't properly dwell on for too long.

All of a sudden, Carol was behind him with a practiced agility that any hardened cop or criminal would associate with danger. Eduard stood completely still though, unmoved and seemingly unfazed, staring off in front of him as if she'd never moved. Even as she leaned into his ear to speak directly to him, getting so intimately close that he felt her warm breath run down the side of his face, he didn't even twitch.

And then, Carol stopped speaking. Despite the sounds of hustle and bustle going on in the kitchen, and even distantly outside, the world seemed completely silent to Montag in those moments, where nothing was said. It was in those moments, that he bowed his head slightly, directing his eyeline to the floor enough so that his body was still mostly in his peripheral vision, and his hands slipped down casually into his pockets. His right hand descended ever so slightly lower, feeling out the pistol holstered to his leg and taking a light, but firm grip on it. Countless thoughts and outcomes of possible actions raced through his head like a bullet as his index finger edged closer and closer to the trigger, and-

He felt Carol's hand push him forward from his back, completely interrupting his train of mind. He snapped back into first gear, abruptly releasing his grip on the pistol and bringing his right hand up by an inch, away from it. The push forced him forward only by a pace, but the message was clear. Unless he made things needlessly chaotic, he wasn't going to win this one. Not yet at least.

Letting out a small sigh, Montag took up the plate once more before speaking, "My job is to serve. That's all. Don't put yourself in my way, and I won't put myself in yours, whoever you are. Now, if you don't mind, I'm getting a new dish of steak. This one's gone cold." And with that, he walked out of the laundry room, doing his best to ignore the eyes that continued to stare at him, until he was lost again in a mirage of smoke, steam and flame.

Barring everything else that had just happened, at least now he knew the direct way up to Marie. The next thing now was to get up there, preferably without being noticed by Carol and the other tattoo-bearers. He walked through the busy aisles of the kitchen again, trying to mix in with the crowd while calculating his every move to make sure he didn't make himself noticeable. Apart from that, the next thing that was on his mind was the guarded staircase, which he was gradually getting himself closer and closer to. He peeked over and around heads and shoulders to get a premature view of it, and the guards that stood before it. Eduard moved with a slight sense of haste. If Carol and her associates were the real threat here, then at this point he knew there wasn't much time left. The stakes were high and the clocks were most certainly ticking.

Even Thomas had to admit that he felt slightly disappointed. Now that the enemy had seemingly been dealt with now, the crabs that had survived that last fiery onslaught now rushing to feast on their fallen brethren, it felt a bit pointless having rushed all this way for nothing.

"What... what was that? Who?"

Gulping in deep breaths of air after that drawn out sprint, he only really half listened to Riku as she began to warn him of another presence in the area, only blurting out confused responses. In any case, by the time he felt in a fit state to pay all of his attention to her and what exactly she'd said, a more direct threat had already revealed itself.

A pale figure landed in front of the group, a short distance away from Thomas and Riku but right by Kanbaru, Ami and Akiko, three of the main participants in the short-lived previous battle. Along with strikingly pale skin and a scar drawn down along one eye, the woman in question possessed distinct wolf-like qualities: sharp claws and fangs that looked primed to tear and slice at flesh, as well as prominent lupine ears and an unkempt tail. What stuck out most to Thomas, though, was the glint of derangement in her eyes, matched with the most unnerving of smiles. The boy took a sharp, startled intake of breath as that look turned to him and Riku as well, a slight shiver going down his spine. He couldn't break his wide eyes from hers, not purely of fear but almost of curiosity. It's like he could almost see his own demise by her hand in those predatorial irises. That was until she looked away again, to address the whole of the group once more.

The mention of her name made Nephy seem slightly less animalistic, but did nothing to lessen her intimidation factor to Thomas, especially once the consumption of souls was thrown into the mix. What that entailed and what that might result in were things that he was much happier not knowing though, at least from a first-hand experience.

"Danger..." Was all the boy muttered to himself as Nephy prepared herself for the oncoming battle, a hand gripping the hilt of her sheathed blade while she gave a final confident threat. It was at that moment that he felt an electric tingle from the hilt of his own weapon; something that immediately caught his attention, violet eyes glancing down to the glaive. Except it wasn't a glaive. With a momentary flash of light, it had taken a completely new shape entirely. Thomas now gripped the hilt of a sword, or more specifically a scimitar. It was a completely different weapon, though from its colours and intricacies it was clear where its origins laid. A less hefty weapon, it felt lighter in the boy's hand, and for who looked to be a nimble opponent was probably more useful. Strangely, it was almost as if the weapon he possessed had a life of its own, adapting to the situation. Either way whatever he'd done, if anything at all, had been unconscious to him.

With the, for now, inexplicable event came a return in Thomas' sense of spirit. The same energy that had pushed him to slay the snake on the last floor pushed him once more. He narrowed his eyes to focus on a point on the arm Nephy was using to draw her sword with before making an unannounced sudden dash towards her, keeping himself low while he sprinted forward. Once he got close enough he made a sweeping slash upwards at that arm, a risky move to be sure though Thomas hardly concerned himself with that for now. Just like with the glaive though, the blade felt oddly natural for the young man to handle, something almost as curious as the weapon's existence itself.

"It's ok, really."

While Riku gathered her thoughts Thomas took a moment to shake himself off, water sprinkling off of him and his clothing. If not just uncomfortable, the extra weight of water soaking through his clothes would probably prove difficult to handle, especially with his level of strength and stamina. He was only human after all, unlike some other people in the group- he had begun to learn.

He was taken aback by the princess' sudden vocal outburst, just staring at her in bewilderment for a moment as she rushed ahead into battle, before getting his ass in gear and catching up to her. That proved more difficult than expected though for the boy though, his companion was fast. Very fast, well, at least for him. Thomas could definitely feel a stich or two coming on and biting at his sides as he attempted to stay neck and neck with the princess, keeping a desperately firm grasp on his glaive lest it slip from his hand to the ground and slice off his leg in the process.

Though it was more than enough to focus on keeping up the pace, he turned to Riku as he spoke to him directly to introduce herself, trying his best not to give away any physical strain in his facial expression. And, though his expression didn't change much, there was a real sincerity, and an attempt to seem reassuring, in the look and nod he initially responded with. It was the first time he properly noticed the changes in the girl's appearance as well. A bushy but elegant tail ran swiftly behind her, swaying around while they ran together, was probably the most obvious difference from before. A pair of furry ears sat atop her head as well, and Thomas could've sworn he'd seen a small pair of fangs flashing out from between her lips as the princess had spoken to him. The change was a mystery to him, but something told him that somewhat domineering Serei from the night before had some hand in it.

"I'm... I'm Thomas. It's nice to meet you t-" Thomas was interrupted mid-introduction, a sudden flicker in the corner of his eye catching his attention. His vision, which before had been filled with movement both from his teammates and his adversaries, suddenly seemed to clear for no explainable reason. Well, no explainable reason other than the appearance of a distant figure in the place of what he was sure had once been one of those giant crabs.

Not bothering to finish his slightly incomplete introduction, Thomas quickly turned back to the girl running along beside him, aware that they were now approaching a few crabs of their own to deal with.

"Riku, did you see tha-?" Another interruption came, this time in the form of a late, and seemingly pretty pissed, Ami. Her fairly distracting presence made things more challenging for the boy as he tried to alert the wolf princess to the other new appearance, while the latecomer went on a small tirade as she made a barbecue of the monstrous crabs that had been just ahead of them.
Montag was quick to take in his surroundings. A keen and experienced eye like his own only needed a few innocuous glances to pinpoint where exactly he needed to go. The question now, though, was how to get past those two guards at the staircase.

Before he could begin to put that next piece of the puzzle together however, his inner monologue was suddenly interrupted by an intrusive tap to the shoulder from behind. A smooth voice that would wring out uncontrollable temptation from most men, but one that was laced with poison in its tone, addressed him teasingly from behind. He didn't turn around to face her though, not just yet. As usual, he played it cool, remaining calm even as his mind was kicking into high gear. Eduard could tell from her voice though, and the fact that she hadn't immediately reported him to some higher-up, that she was no more welcome inside this villa than he was. Apart from that though she was a total mystery, and so for that reason he remained cautious. He had to admit though, he hadn't done himself any favours by walking straight towards the laundry room, of all rooms.

Plate in hand still, the undercover detective slowly, but surely, turned himself to face this newest obstacle. A slender, fairly tall, and all around classically attractive woman was what faced him, with slight feline features that were a perfect match to her voice. 'Carol' was the name that appeared on her nametag, but the young man very much doubted that that was anywhere close to her real identity, especially once he spotted that tattoo on her neck. The snake and dagger etched into her skin pierced his vision, and suddenly the venom to the woman's voice made sense.

"Hey, take it easy, it's only my first day. It's only natural for me to get at least a little lost, especially in an environment like this. And besides..." Montag's eyes sharpened slightly, and if 'Carol' looked especially carefully, she'd probably see a very discreet curl of his lips edging into a slight smile. He could feel her advancing closer towards him, almost as though she were trying to push him further into the closet, away from prying eyes. That didn't deter him though, and he made no outward acknowledgement to it. "I doubt you're the type Mr. Arnault would be pleased to see, or to hear about. Or is that tattoo just a fashion choice?"

A glance over her shoulder, and Eduard also noticed a few inconspicuous individuals dressed similarly to the one man he'd come across before. Was this them? The people that would set the chain of events leading to Marie's death in motion? Were they the trigger themselves? Or was it just bad luck? Before he had time to really mull, he attention was brought back to 'Carol' when her hand jittered at her side. Though she was good at hiding it like himself, Montag observed, nerves couldn't help but show themselves in some capacity.

What was becoming increasingly clear, however, was that this woman probably had the power to make or break the whole operation at this point, depending on how Eduard could handle her and how she might react. It was risky, but if he played his cards right, and with a bit of luck, she could be the key to finally reach Marie. And he wanted to hurry, especially when it seemed like each time the detective looked out to the garden again, another coated man would stand amongst the others to grow what would eventually probably become an intimidating and dangerous force.

Thomas had been fairly discreet with his return to the group once he'd woken up. A boy of few words already, the fact that he was still tiredly rubbing his eyes as he made his way down the stairs to his companions probably showed that he wasn't exactly in the state to talk anyway. Though he had slept, his mind had remained abuzz with thoughts from the previous evening, ones that he decided to put to the side for now. It was worth having them in his mind, but it wasn't worth having them distract him from the inevitably taxing task ahead of him and the others, if the previous floor had shown him anything.

Unfortunately for Thomas though, he had been the last one down, and so the memo of the possible acquisition of new gear or where the hell they were all off to next went completely over his head. In fact, he was still half asleep when he felt the comforting, wooden floor of the Dangeki suddenly disappear from under his feet. The slight, panicked breath that he'd managed in the moments of being transported to the dark waters of the next floor was violently forced out of his body by uncompromising pressure. It crushed his lungs and squeezed at his torso like dog with a chew toy, his ears ringing so loudly and piercingly that he could barely focus on the immense pain he was experiencing. His head felt like it was about to pop off, and under the water his eyes naturally shut to protect themselves, sealing him away in complete darkness. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was torture. Like a prelude to death.

And then, almost as suddenly as he'd been transported all feelings of pain and suffocation stopped. His body felt light, and though the boy was still underwater he felt air return to his lungs freely, his nose naturally beginning to circulate air again. His eyes gradually opened and, whether it was the water or whatever the Tower was bestowing him with, Thomas found he was able to use his vision as normal with no discomfort whatsoever, blinking as his jacket and shirt flowed around him freely in the water.

Now that he was used to the adaptations though, not that there was much to get used to anyway, he set his sights above to the light spilling through the rippling water's surface. Wherever he was and whatever was around him, he'd probably be ok as long as he found the others. And find them, he did. Well, sort of.

As he got closer to the surface, legs kicking him upwards in tandem with his arms propelling him towards shallower waters than he'd initially been in, the light that had so clearly pierced through to his violet eyes before was suddenly blotted out by something. A small, shadowy form that quickly grew and blotted out the light like some kind of solar eclipse. He pressed on though, unaware of what exactly it was until he realised that, whatever it was, it was hurtling down straight towards him at an alarming speed. At that point though, it was already too late, and the boy barely had time to register the obvious human-like features of the object descending upon him before, all of a sudden, a thud gave way to his vision suddenly darkening once again.

Thomas wasn't quite unconscious, but after his head was pushed back against the rocks below he was certainly dazed enough so that he couldn't immediately surmise the situation. On the other side of the hard rock grazing part of his face his whole head was squished against and underneath something soft, something that he was sure could probably envelope much more of his face and head if he'd been pinned in a different position. In fact, despite the water, it felt warming and comforting, his cheeks tinging with the slightest pinkish heat before the weight on his head abruptly shifted, before lifting entirely. A murky voice called out to him, dream-like through the surface of the water, before splashing hands that cut through the water in desperation finally found a hold on the collar of his jacket and pulled him up and out of the water.

Perhaps it was the sensation of being out of the water into open air of the Lagoon, or perhaps it was Thomas' subsequent realisation of just exactly who and what had crushed him moments previously, but he seemed to wake up very quickly as soon as he'd gathered his bearings. And, as well as that, the boy's cheeks suddenly adopted a far redder tone. He kept mostly calm, it would've been unlike him to get too flustered and jerky even in a situation like this, but there was certainly an element of nervousness and awkwardness to add to his already timid nature. He backed out of Riku's grip quickly, stepping back a few paces in the relatively shallow water whilst ridding himself of some of the water soaking his hair and clothes by shaking like a wet dog a couple of times.

"I-I'm fine... Thanks for your help." He tried to refrain from going into too much detail about what had just unfolded, just in case Riku wasn't fully sure herself either. Whether he wanted to say more after that or not, though, was not an option readily provided for him. From what now seemed like at least somewhat cathartic surroundings, a monstrous creature burst from the water. A giant crab. Certainly not what Thomas had expected, and he had to admit that it was a step down from the intimidation factor of the giant snakes from Victoire's Floor, but that certainly did not mean he would underestimate it. Gigantic claws snapped at the usual suspects as they got close in to attack the beast, but for now Thomas was a safe distance to not be in the way while he was still... recovering.

"We... we should probably go help them." He finally suggested, a small sense of excitement swelling up within him as his glaive naturally materialised in his grasp at his non-verbal command. With that, though, he looked to the girl next to him to see if she'd respond with the same sentiment.

Thomas took a sharp inhale of breath as he felt a set of eyes upon him, and a new presence he hadn't noticed before taking a seat at his side. His concentration broken, he turned to see a somewhat familiar face, though one that wasn't as distinct in his memories as the ones who he'd accompanied in Victoire's Floor.

He didn't respond to her initial question, answering with a slightly bewildered expression that she had even approached him in the first place, followed by a crumbling look of confusion and even a little upset. Katie's words echoed within his mind, blending in with his own inner monologue that had been telling him the same thing now since his battle with one of the thorny wolves, no longer than an hour previously at this point. He looked as though he wanted to say something for a moment, but the words didn't seem to come at that moment. Instead, he asked something easier, something he knew his mind would allow him to say.

"How do you get used to it though?" Thomas finally mustered up those words, still staring somewhat blankly at the counter. "I saw someone die today, and then... not a minute later she just got up. But she was dead, she'd been killed, and then out of nowhere..." He turned to Katie again with those brilliant violet eyes, filled with uncertainty as he trailed off towards the end of his sentence. "How long have you and the others been up here? How long does it take to become used to something like... like that?"

It was a realistic set of questions. Not many were used to the notion of death, let alone those suddenly thrust into the Tower's floors. The boy turned to Katie as if she had all the answers to those questions, the key to the root of his disturbance. And she did answer, mouth moving in the motion of words spoken; but no noise came from them. Her lips moved but words did not reach Thomas' ear. She continued talking, as if the conversation was normal for her. But at some point, Katie's expression became confused and her lips mouthed, "Are you even listening?" These too would not reach Thomas. All the boy could hear in the Dangeki was the melody of music that wasn't present before. Or at least, if it was, he clearly hadn't noticed it until just now. Regardless, the source of it came from inside the bar and rest area ever still.

Somewhere among the darkest corner of the Dangeki, there in lay the music that filled the air, a sound only Thomas could hear. Locating it was no mystery, not when the music seemed intent on drawing his attention. Hidden in a corner everyone else seemed to ignore or forget, lay a modest piano that continued to play upon it its melody. Seated behind the keys was its player, one almost familiar to Thomas. She almost resembled one of his own Serei cards; perhaps she was, having caught his attention with eye contact and smirking softly for him to come closer. The music persisted as she worked, lost in her work but still staring through Thomas as a figment only he could see. The lights dimmed between them, shadow surrounding both girl and both until only they were the focal points of this hidden world.

Thomas had returned Katie's look of confusion at first, but at a certain point he felt he couldn't respond to her anymore, feeling more and more distant from her and the rest of the Dangeki as the elegantly played music filled his ears. It drew him off of his seat, almost as though the notes themselves were putting the boy in a trance, and pulled him towards the dark, well-polished wooden beast that emitted those dreamy tones. And, for the first time since he'd arrived at the Tower, Thomas didn't question the piano's sudden appearance. He wasn't concerned with the 'why' or 'how' for once, simply approaching closer and closer whilst Katie and the rest of the bar seemed to disappear around him.

Once he was close enough, his eyes gazed through the open lid of the piano, long metallic strings and wooden hammers strung together in a gorgeous symphonic mechanism of steel and wood, culminating in those ivory keys at the performer's fingers.

As for the performer herself, her abnormal eyes interlocking with his only drew him in closer, a smirk from her indicating she knew exactly what was going on. Eventually, even the wooden floorboards below Thomas' feet had disappeared, and he was left standing next to the mysterious girl on a bed of darkness that crept up the walls and ceiling, completely engulfing his field of view. All except that girl and the piano, her music the only thing that seemed completely real to him in this world at that moment. His fingers brushed along his pocket, where his Serei cards laid, thoughtfully waiting for whatever climax was coming.

"It's not polite to keep a girl waiting," the player finally said. As the first to speak, she couldn't help but give an airy but exasperated sigh. "Does someone like you really belong in this Tower? I can't imagine why you were plucked in here but who am I to judge? Well....I suppose I'm qualified to~" The card in Thomas' hand flashed and thankfully he wasn't completely clueless. One of them chilled his fingers, an icy grip settling along flesh and that was the Serei who spoke to him. There wasn't a need to check. "Oh, you know who I am. Everyone knows. Like that girl over there does." She flicked her mismatched gaze over to Riku and her wolf Serei for although the room was dimmed, it was still there, as if someone just turned down the lights to focus on them.

"You're not the brightest around here Thomas. Why ask pointless questions about death when you could have just asked me instead?" Her fingers idly continued their tune, bringing up a slightly faster pace to their crescendo, before dimming back down to a slower speed. "You know who I am. Everyone knows who I am."

Instinctively, Thomas almost snatched his hand away as soon as he felt the unforgiving chill of the Serei card spread to his fingers, but something compelled him to hold on, his whole hand beginning to clasp around it in an almost protective fashion.

He stayed silent as she spoke, her words resonating over the music, entering his inner-most thoughts. Sometimes it even seemed like he was even thinking those words himself. Everyone knows her. Everyone knows who she is. The boy turned his head back towards Riku for a few fleeting seconds as the girl indicated to her. She knows who she is.

Thomas turned back to the girl. The music at this point, despite its crescendo and tempo pushing forward through phrase after phrase with effortless musicality, took almost a back seat. His eyes slowly closed, the vivid violet colour disappearing as the music decrescendoed back into almost nothing. And then suddenly, within the tiniest corner of his mind: Death.

"I know who you are." Thomas affirmed, his eyes blinking open, looking back down to the girl seated at the piano.

"Mrhn. You're half right. Most people make that mistake; if you know who I am, why don't you use my name? Are you sure you've done this kind of thing before?" Marianne slowed her playing if only to focus on Thomas entirely now. "That's not my card description, is it. I'm just the carrier of Death. I suppose, in terms you can understand, Death is my grandfather." She was very loose in her wording, though it was more likely just to have Thomas wrap his mind around the concept. "But for all extents and purposes, it really doesn't matter. Call me Death if you like, but I prefer my more worldly name~" Her fingers stopped, removing her hands from the piano. However, the music continued to play, each key indenting on their own now.

"This is our first time meeting, isn't it. Well, however real you can consider this. Every Serei is just data. A copy of the original thing. I'm not even really here right now if you want to be pedantic," she spoke with a low hum. "Isn't it funny you got stuck with my card when you're so hung up over a girl dying. Did you fancy her? She's right there you know. Better to make your move on her now before someone else swoops in and snatches her heart."

Thomas said nothing at first, wanting to give the girl the chance to say everything she wanted to say. He kept his eyes on her and her fingers, dexterously weighting each key with a precise and trained technique, while his hand slowly emerged back out from his pocket, the cold Serei card nestled safely between his thumb and index finger. It showed, as he'd assumed, the girl sat before him, as well as her name and title inscribed on a golden plate: Angel of Death, Marianne.

"Marianne..." Thomas whispered to no one in particular as he read the name, his eyes and face remaining mostly blank as he simply tried to process each new piece of information that came his way. As if on cue, Marianne's hands lifted from the piano and a ghostly force carried on in her stead, playing with the same precision and intense musicality that she had previously.

He looked back to Riku as she was mentioned once again by the Serei, this time in a way that bewildered him slightly, his eyes snapping back to her as soon as the idea of attraction was brought up, almost looking panicked. After all, it wasn't his fault that he'd been thrown in as the only guy amongst a group of girls!

"No, it's not that! Just..." He mellowed out a bit, after what he, but not most others with a more boisterous personality, would've described as a sudden outburst. "Just I've never seen anything like that before. Or anything else I've seen here. In the first place, I've got no more of a clue than you do of why I'm really here. Plus, however you look at it, death is death. Maybe I'm just not as used to it as the others are..."

"Death is indeed death. It's neither biased nor predicted. It just happens." Marianne shrugged and her eyes flitted away from little red riding hood. "Those who die in the Tower simply die. Very rarely do individuals cheat me. But that girl has more than a few unsaid secrets about her. Death surrounds her like a shroud~" She leaned forward, interlacing her fingers together and resting her chin on her palm. "Were it up to me I'd happily drag that girl's soul under for cheating me for so long, but as I said, that's not by my authority. I suppose whatever mandates my grandfather put in is heavy on her. Oh well~" She brushed aside the implication the princess had met her demise more than once, time and time again. If Thomas wanted more on that, he could ask Riku herself.

Without warning the flow of the song changed, morphing slower and slower until an entirely new melody was played. Marianne only lifted an eye in indication but paid no major mind to it. "You're luckier than most, seeing death so young. And the more you see it, the easier it becomes. I can vouch for that," she mused. "Though, there's a few individuals in your little group who would love to cheat me now that I think of it. And none by their own volition."

The strangeness of the conversation was something that didn't go unnoticed by Thomas, but the talk of death became something that felt somehow natural to listen to in a surprisingly short amount of time. Perhaps hanging around the Angel of Death herself was having an affect on him. And the more Marianne spoke about her, the more Thomas realised there was something curious about Riku, beyond what was already beyond what met the eye. He looked to the red-clad warrior one final time, a desire for understanding dancing in his eyes, that curiosity plagued with a want for empathy.

His attention was brought back as the music gradually shifted onwards to another piece entirely, a looming and feeling emanating from the melody that the piano produced. His eyes went to Marianne as her thoughts seemingly shifted to the boy's other companions.

"I'm not sure I see it becoming easier for me, but maybe I'm just being naive..." He remained calm and honest, but within Thomas' mind a much darker thought, one that remained unspoken, manifested within his mind. Did that mean that, if the time ever came, his own Serei would be the one to harvest the souls of his own comrades? Even his own? It was an idea he didn't want to dwell on, especially when he'd barely even met the girl minutes ago, but it left a sense of dread lingering within him, one reflected by the dark music that continued to play along as an ominous background to what was otherwise silence.

Marianne left those thoughts to himself; he could think what he wanted because it was infinitely more fun that way. Instead, her own thoughts turned to other things, other topics in conversation. "Did you know everyone has a song?" she asked near out of the blue. "Reapers and those who work with death tend to hear it once or twice, but I hear them more fluently than others. The piece before...well, I'm sure you can guess whose heart it resonates with. But this, well, this is something new. I can hear this tune from many of your companions." Throughout the conversation Marianne's features didn't much change and even now her smirk only dipped just a bit. "Companions is the right term. I'd hardly call them friends if I were you. They're far too dangerous for a cute boy like yourself to be hanging around, especially when such a melody drips from their souls."

The change of conversation was a nice change of pace for Thomas, and though the back of his mind was still plagued with the dark thoughts and images he had conjured only seconds before, in the moment his mind was occupied with the idea of the music connected to the souls of him and his teammates. The boy's features grew more into a look of concern though, as Marianne's own expression changed ever so slightly while explaining her thoughts on the matter.

"Dangerous? But they're my teammates, they've all helped me. From what I've seen so far, in this Tower nothing matters more than companionship." Thomas didn't even react to Marianne's complimentary description of him, taken aback completely by just about everything else that had come out of her mouth. "Should... should I not trust them? Is that what you're saying?" He took a step closer to the Serei, a look of uncertainty taking over his expression.

"I don't know, should you? If you can't make decisions for yourself, maybe you're not ready for my card," said the Angel of Death with another shrug. "I'm not here to hold your hand. Nor am I here to be your friend. But you have my card, so if you don't use it then you must have only yourself to blame, right?" She moved, this time turning to play the melody herself by her own hands. "What you do is up to you. You tell me if this is a song worth trusting in. I just wouldn't wear my heart so readily on the sleeve around some of your so called friends," she said without a beat. "I'm sure you can make the right answer by ear alone. You look like a smart boy if nothing else, Thomas."

Thomas looked back down to the card itself, undecided about how to feel about what he was hearing. Did Serei have the capacity to lie, to bend the truth, to manipulate? And even if they did, what reason would the Angel of Death herself have to lie to someone like him? But either way, she did have a point. He barely knew these people, their intentions, their personal lives. And though that was no reason to treat them coldly, it did create a good argument to take caution.

As if to drive her point into him even more, Marianne's delicate fingers took to the keys of the piano once more, that dark and unnerving melody engineered by her own hands now. Thomas' eyes were immediately drawn to her playing again, before once more back to the card depicting the girl before him, which he then slipped carefully back into his pocket.

"Well, thanks for the advice Marianne, I'll keep it in mind..." Thomas turned to leave, but had only taken two paces when he suddenly rushed back towards the girl and her music. "Wait!", he called back to her as he came back around the piano, this time sitting down directly next to Marianne on the piano stool she'd been occupying solely until this point. "First, I've got two questions I wanna ask you."

"Oh my~" Marianne raised an eye at his sudden quickness, plopping beside her smoothly onto the shared piano bench. "Well, as your Serei, I'm obliged to answer to the best of my ability. You should make it quick though. The longer we talk, the longer you stay spaced out. The others might catch on you're mumbling to yourself~"

"I-I am?!" Thomas expressed some embarrassment at the realisation of the unusual position his physical body had been left in. Following that embarrassment, his cheeks developed a warm and pinkish hue, something he hoped didn't also carry into the 'real' world. But he also knew that he didn't have time to stay flustered either. There was precious little time that he had left in this space and he intended to use it.

"W-well, first of all, I want to know what my song is, if I can at least. And secondly, if you're the one who claims those souls of those who die, I want to know if you've claimed the souls of anyone with the same eyes as me." As though to emphasise his words his eyes widened, their unique colour shining through even the deepest darkness of the shadows around them, staring straight into Marianne's with a definite, though probably unintentional, intensity.

Marianne paused in her playing and for once the room went dead silent. No music and no breathing passed between them as the Angel of Death turned to her ward. A crooked expression etched itself to her face as she peered closer to Thomas, looking right through him. "To hear one's song is to court death. Everyone has a melody, everyone has a swan song. I didn't think you'd want to hear your own death so quickly Thomas. Do you really want to know how your song ends." She left that open in the air for him to even process before she answered his second question in quick succession. "No. I've collected many with violet eyes, but none with your eyes. Not yet anyway. Everyone has a song to end and a time to come. Everyone dies. It's all the same to me, Thomas."

The boy could feel his heart beat just a little faster as the subject of his own death was brought into question, and lips parted to reveal a slightly gaping mouth. In fairness, it was quite a disturbing topic, and that was before Marianne's unnerving delivery of the reality of the situation and his request. Not a word of what followed concerned it, the idea of it being pushed to the back of his mind with the other unpleasant thoughts that had been too difficult for Thomas to process immediately from the conversation, and Thomas took a few seconds before continuing on with what he had to ask next. And his heart only beat faster as he heard what Marianne had to reply with. It was almost unbelievable, so much so that he wasn't truly sure of what to feel. Overjoyed? Excited? Sad? Nervous? It didn't feel as though there was a right or wrong answer the more he thought about it, but nonetheless he didn't let it affect him outwardly, although he couldn't help but look at least a little shocked. After all, he hadn't really expected anything.

For now though, with his questions answered and their first meeting all but finished, Thomas took one last look at the vast sea of ivory keys before him, before turning his eyes back to Marianne. It sounded mundane in his head, but there was something quite interesting about seeing her for the first time without music playing in the background, whether it was from her own doing or not. He simply stared at her for a couple of seconds, taking in the silence of the room, before offering her a smile and a nod.

"Thanks, Marianne. I'll see you later." And with that, he stood up from the stool and walked back the way he came, bracing himself for what would come next with new perspective and with new purpose.

But Marianne was already gone and out of sight. So was her piano and even her space. Instead, Thomas was right back at his bar stool as if he'd never left.

Thomas stayed frozen on the floor, the look of bewilderment on his face growing to one of utter confusion and disbelief as the girl in red rose up from what had previously seemed to be a permanent slumber. He opened his mouth to question what exactly had just happened, and also why no one else seemed to look as completely dumbfounded as he was at this unexplained resurrection, but no words came out. Only a croak escaped past his dry lips before his exhaustion took over once again, and he flopped back against the hard stone floor.

His glaive had since dematerialised once again, perhaps as a sign to him that his intentions of chasing down Victoire probably wouldn't come to fruition at this point. And quickly he realised that he wouldn't have had a choice in the matter even if he'd wanted to go in pursuit, another bright light consumed his vision, his whole body in fact. A light so intense, in fact, that even when he squeezed his eyes shut and covered them with his sleeve, it was still all he could register. Strangely to him though, it felt quite comforting. For within that comfort there was familiarity, though maybe a familiarity he didn't quite recognise yet.

There was definitely a feeling of recognised familiarity when Thomas opened his eyes again though, feeling returning to his body along with his other senses, almost as if he'd momentarily nodded off and then forced himself awake again. He lifted his head from what he quickly realised was a bar counter, and shifted around on what he also realised was a bar stool, before gathering his bearings.

"Back here again, huh..." He muttered quietly to himself, observing the other as they all got own with their own business. It seemed like everyone had something they wanted to do before the next challenge ahead of them. The violet-eyed boy paid particular attention to Riku as she, similarly to Thomas himself not long before, summoned her first Serei. And there was still the elephant in the room of her yet-to-be-explained revival, but he was already beginning to get over it. This was the Tower after all, pretty much everything and everyone here came with their own set of questions that he would ask himself.

He was glad he hadn't been sitting too close to Riku at the counter though, as the presence of her newly summoned ally took over the whole room, or at the very least the girl the canine woman now had sat on her lap. Thomas simply stayed sat where he was, making occasional glances here and there but mostly keeping to himself, fiddling idly with his jacket.

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