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22 days ago
Current If I owe you a post, it's coming! Been a very busy week but finally settling down!
4 mos ago
The adult in me says sleep, the kid in me wants to play NieR. The kid's winning D:
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5 mos ago
youtube.com/watch?v=7RzA_Oom.. All of my yes. Love this theme <3
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6 mos ago
If you've not had a chance to watch "Your Name" yet, highly recommend!
6 mos ago
If I owe you a post expect replies tomorrow. Been up since 4 am today, barely keeping myself from drooling in a bucket! x_x

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Norman let out a chuckle as he loaded the next munitions, amused by Cecil's concerns. How peculiar that a Machina was worried about a living thing, but then Cecil always displayed an unusual level of empathy didn't he? These tests were as much a trial run for the barrier as it was an opportunity to watch Cecil in action. Partaking in combat was not his forte - a sharp mind and some tools did little against Magi or trained soldiers - so this was as close to a field test as the engineer could hope for. Rather than dissuade Cecil from backing out of these tests or console him and his concerns Norman loaded the ballista, pausing only when he requested some warning for the projectiles.

"I'm more than happy to if it helps. Though you do know of course that doesn't make this a legitimate test," Norman pointed out, resting his arm on the table as he leaned against it, "Your enemy won't stop and say, "Excuse me but I'm going to strike you now!" You won't have the luxury of knowing when an attack is coming, its impractical. But then I suppose we're not testing your reaction time but the feasibility of the shield. I digress then, I'll tell you when the shots are coming, let's resume shall we?" The next step up was a small rock, or at least small comparative to a boulder. Certainly denser than the hollow wooden round he'd just unleashed. This time he waited for the barrier to be erected and made certain it wouldn't flick out before releasing the latch and firing off the stone. As with the other munitions it hit the barrier and failed to penetrate, causing ripples to scatter from the point of impact and the stone fell harmlessly to the floor. "So it seems like you're able to defend against stone as well! Though that certainly registered on the barrier, I have to wonder how well it can take a metal or cast weight. Do you feel ready?"

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Nymira stared at her dagger intently as the blade's temperature fluctuated, ebbing and flowing like the waters upon the shore of a river. She could create the heat, that wasn't the issue, it was keeping it steady. With patience already thin she glanced to Kensen to ask for a suggestion and bit her tongue seeing Amuné touching Kensen's wing. Why was the child here pestering her instructor? Shouldn't she be training with Gage? And why was Ethan still sat upon the grass neither working or even attempting to practice magic? Was she the only one actually doing anything? Growling lowly she turned towards one of the wooden striking dummies and heated her blade, slicing at its neck and burying her weapon halfway before the blade abruptly cooled and became lodged in the dummy. Pulling at it and finding it stuck she cursed lowly and let it go, reaching up and placing her hand upon its head before setting it alight.

"Hey, don't burn down the dummies!" Taliya would kill them if they ruined the training grounds! Ethan was already nervous enough about angering the woman without them setting fire to everything. The Dimuran didn't look to care much as she simply glowered at him before moving to a new dummy, leaving her dagger nested in the neck of her victim. Looking to the flames and the princess fitfully, Ethan groaned before hastily approaching it and throwing a gust of wind at the flames in hopes of snuffing them out. Only they failed to do so and instead broke apart the charred head of the dummy, sending a piece flying and setting a nearby crate on fire instead. Yelping in panic he went to the container and - having no other ideas - began to kick at the crate to try and put it out. "N-Nymira! Help!"

What was that clown fussing about now? Ah, he'd spread her flames about like a fool instead of letting them die off on their own. Rolling her eyes the Dimuran made a sweeping motion and at once her fire died off, much to the relief of a very panicked Ethan. Taking a moment then to retrieve her dagger from the first dummy she wriggled it free by popping off the head of the mannequin, kicking it aside and moving to the second. "If you're through with playing with Amuné, there's something I wished to ask you Kensen," the Dimuran pressed as she examined her dagger. The edge was dulled and chipped from forcibly freeing it, damn it all. An easy fix but even minor annoyances were a headache right now, Amuné included. "If I heat the blade any more than I have I'll melt it, but I can't figure out how to maintain a steady heat. I'm tired of, what is it... Stumbling in the shadows. How do I do it?"

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Lionel had meant every word of it when he'd demanded the man to apologize. Perhaps he'd been a little overzealous in expecting the entire forest to be apologized to though: they'd drop dead long before the man every finished his task. So a few trees would suffice, and even with the skeptical looks and Adrianna questioning him he stood firm in his decision. These people had been headaches the entire trip - both literally and figuratively - so this was at least a small bit of payback. After the man had properly appeased the wrath of the woods, or rather Lionel, they were on the move again. Complaints were mercifully far and few between now that Adrianna was present; the members spoke among themselves now as opposed to questioning their leader every waking moment. Things were finally looking up!

And then Adrianna decided to try and play scout. From what Lionel knew of her she had very little in the means of combat ability - which was to say none - so letting her risk getting in a fight was tantamount to letting her get herself killed. He'd have chased after her too were he not in charge of the group behind him, and he weighed their collective lives over her own. Whatever concern he might have had was quickly washed away when Adrianna returned not long after and revealed the travelers were traders from Mutebo. So they had said anyways, not to be paranoid but you should take what people on the roads said with a grain of salt nowadays. When she mentioned they should expect him and the others he didn't know whether to laugh or dopeslap her, so he went with the former and smacked his own forehead.

"Well then here's to hoping they don't decide to kill us, or turn out to be hunters!" Lionel spared Adrianna further ridicule and instead motioned for the group to keep on: they were nearly there anyways. Once they did arrive in town he'd hand them over to whoever was waiting at the gates and be done with them from there, if he was so fortunate. Or since Adrianna was here now maybe he'd just let her take them the rest of the way and be done with it entirely. Taliya would probably love that.

"Bunch of nobodies really, just a few folks trying to avoid losing their heads on a chopping block." It came out casually and with such little interest one might think Lionel was discussing the weather, not someone's life. "The woman at the back was a healer, she's accused of poisoning troops. Dumbest thing really, she near got sick eating a poison flower, she wouldn't know the first thing about killing someone. Intentionally anyways. The tree-hugger is a former guard from one of the cities, got in a fight with some of his mates and used unsanctioned magic, was going to be thrown in a cell. The older guy's some teacher in a school... I forget where, but he was using his magic to manipulate things. And the other one with the scruffy beard is some washed up Magi that's been on the run for a while apparently. Real useful bunch, don't you think?" Grinning to himself Lionel chanced a glance over his shoulder and saw all four glowering a him, giving them a wink before putting his hands up and shrugging his shoulders. "Taliya's not excluding anyone. 'Magic's not something you can put laws on, it ought to be as free as living' or something like that. Though depending on who you ask we aren't exactly living free either. Not since the Church started its little crusade."
"Fantastic! And, of course, your being the instructor means that the training regiment will be entirely up to your discretion," Aito said cheerfully, seemingly in a better mood rather quickly as Viral agreed to his proposal. And why shouldn't he be? They had just, by happenstance, found a purpose for Viral. It was one both born out of not only necessity - they needed troops to be trained - but out of a need to help Viral: they now had both. There was still a long ways to go before anyone was truly happy with things but at least this arrangement finally provided a starting point. "Full disclosure as well, we will have to inform Korian of our decision," the doctor pointed out before quickly adding, "But his say on the matter is nil, he'll have his troops trained by you one way or another. He'll simply have to swallow that pride of his and accept that you're the best fit for this."

Vegeta had to agree, and not just for Viral's ability to kill the beasts. In terms of fighting prowess, of experience, of simply the knowledge of how to train someone, Viral was better than most anyone else that came to mind. He'd taught himself and Yumi at one point after all - everything they knew had stemmed from that original training. There wasn't even a question of if Viral could do it: he absolutely could. Wanting to show some kind of support but being uncertain in how to do so - everything that had come out of his mouth came out plain wrong - Vegeta offered a smile and nod before direction a question to his father instead. "Um... I do have to wonder though. Korian is... Well to put it plainly he doesn't like Viral. Not that I doubt you can't convince him to allow Viral to train the troops but how exactly do you intend to do that?" Short of forcing the man to do so at gun point Vegeta couldn't fathom a scenario where Korian willingly let this happen. While he himself was hardly clean in regards of accusing Viral of things at least he had trust in the Beastman, where with the rebel leader there was none. So what did Aito plan for?

"I've already got something in mind for that, don't you worry. Just think about it: the rebels are fighting a two front war, even if there is a temporary armistice between the King and them. While the rebels do have plenty of troops they don't appear to be as well trained save a select few, and I'd bet that the Saiyans have stronger troops overall. So turning down any opportunity to have those fortunes changed is too good to pass up, grudges be damned. And that aside," Aito added with a sly grin to Viral, "For better or worse most everyone knows of your feats in battle. I know you'll argue until the sun sets that you've lost battles, but no one questions your tenacity or your ability. Even if the brass dislikes something, if the entire battalion is for something then orders are useless. In other words: we needn't even worry about Korian, only what the troops think. And I think they're more than happy to be trained by you."

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"Our old man gave a shit about someone other than himself? Sorry if I have a hard time believing that." The fact Yamate could give a damn about anything other than power and Saiyan superiority was almost impossible. Nothing the jerk had ever done would suggest he had the tiniest amount of remorse or sympathy for anything he'd done. Krom didn't sound like it either: the bastard was just putting blame on anyone else he could to try and make himself seem not as bad. If he really thought any of what was going on was a problem he would have left - they had. The whole discussion about a genetics program wasn't anything Takeshi would even pretend he understood. He'd been kept far away from the labs while on Kortal and no one would give him answers out of ignorance - willful or otherwise. Scoffing in annoyance he continued on with the circuit, voicing his opinion again as he neared Shu and Krom. "If Shu wants to be changed back then we can ask the doc or Sayomi, they'll know what to do. I don't care how hairy he is, I just want the little guy to feel better. And if that means losing some hair then we'll lose the hair." And if that also meant getting him out of training with some Elite jerkoff who had tried to capture and kill them too he was all for it.
"Hn, maybe you should just let him sleep if he's tired!" Had the little guy not slept at all last night? Takeshi had knocked out pretty quickly himself and he'd just sort of assumed Shu had done the same. Even sharing the same bed too... Was his brother still not sleeping right? That was on him too. Damn it just how bad was he screwing things up for Shu? Loathe as he was to admit it Krom actually looked to be working with his brother and trying to help him. First time for everything he supposed. He'd more expected the Elite to be a total ass and a slave driver but there he was trying to explain things to Shu, and not in a jerk way. Takeshi stopped shy however of giving the man some semblance of praise when he turned it around and questioned why they hadn't helped Shu. "Some of that's normal, you ass. Shu's always been hairier than me," he answered curtly before frowning, "He's a little hairier now, sure, but it's not like it's that bad." Like Viral most of what was wrong with Shu was all up in his head. How the hell was Takeshi supposed to know how to fix that crap anyway? Telling them to just get over it didn't magically fix anything and trying to goof around only helped for a little while. Damn it, why was that asshole bringing that stuff up now anyways?

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"Just because I have Ki doesn't make me better..." It was handy sure, and being a Saiyan imbued him with power that others had to work hard to achieve. Viral wasn't wrong: He had a strength Viral couldn't ever know. But then the opposite was true as well: Viral had power that Vegeta could only dream of possessing. It was why he felt his friend could be a superb mentor. He needed the training and openly admitted as much and to hear his request all but rejected outright was disappointing. "I was wrong to say that, you aren't the problem, you never have been!" Vegeta couldn't think of how to rebuke his own words other than to try and take them back. "I know I said them but... I spoke out of frustration. I'm the problem! My inability to help - to find a solution - I didn't want to accept it could be me. I didn't want to think I could be the issue. It was easier to put the blame on you rather than accept it." He still didn't want to accept it even after acknowledging he'd been in the wrong. How many other times had he been at fault? As head of Capsule Corp and rightful heir to the company no one would have ever openly questioned him, at least no one ever had. And with his parents' deaths perhaps it had all been out of sympathy - not for his actual ability, that they had let him lead. As if allowing that would somehow fix things. Well... In a way it had, having that sense of leadership, of competence, it had given him a new lease on life.

Aito felt he definitely should have prepared this better. Mayhaps sitting down and talking things out wouldn't have been such a bad idea after all? Vegeta was too busy questioning himself now to have any semblance of discord with Viral, they should really try to get this back on track. Giving Vegeta a slight pat on the back he turned to Viral, gesturing back to his son behind him. "Ki or no ki, Vegeta doesn't know how to properly fight the creatures yet. And ki or no, you're still a better fighter, both technically and in terms of experience. In fact your expertise perhaps outweighs even that of most on Uuonoe. So when you ask why he'd possibly want you to train him I believe that is why."

"And... I have a proposal for you, Viral. These creatures aren't going away any time soon and we need more people who know how to fight them. Your energy makes you invaluable against fighting them, this much is true. But your knowledge could be even more valuable still. If you could mentor not only Vegeta but others as well we could drive back the beasts before it ever becomes a real problem. You spoke of purpose? Then how about this: Assist us in training everyone to prepare for the fights ahead. Not only your friends but the rebels as well - if you wish to. It can be mutually beneficial: you help us and we help you. I can only see good coming from an arrangement like this, but of course its your decision ultimately."
"Sir? Please... Just call me Norman. 'Sir' always felt too stiff for my liking." Norman's face contorted as he recalled an unpleasant memory before shaking it off and turning to his ballista. The rubber ball would be the first projectile and suffice to say hardly a good judge of the effectiveness of Cecil's shield: Amuné could be fired upon and be unharmed from this. But rather than rush into matters they should work their way up, both to find what eventually might break through and whether or not repeated blasts would weaken it. Common sense said yes but only testing would tell. "A very astute observation! Though its not as though this weapon fires terribly quickly, nor are the projectiles we're launching at you terribly large. In all regards we may as well be throwing them for all the damage it might do." Sensing there might be a slight unease Norman poignantly repeated the final word - twice for Cecil's sake, since in all likelihood he would emerge from today totally unscathed. Probably.

"Ah, so it turns on still! Good, good! We can rule out faulty wiring then, which means we're good to begin! Just stand still and er... Take it like a man, hm?" Much like the table on which Norman stored his ammunition the joke fell flat, only a single cough from one of the assistants breaking the awkward silence. Smiling despite himself the engineer then proceeded to load in the ball and take aim, firing for center mass where Cecil's plating should be heaviest - to shield his core and energy. With little more than a dull 'thwap' the ballista launched its munitions and the ball bounced harmlessly off the shield, not even registering it seemed as the field remained entirely undisturbed. "Well it seems that should a bird ever fly into your shield you're protected! Or if a child should lose their ball." But errant winged beasts and children's playthings were hardly the purpose of this shield. Taking then a ball formed from a fallen tree's trunk Norman carefully placed it in his weapon and aimed again, smiling as he casually fired it off the shield to the same result. "And random flying pieces of wood, we're off to a good start!"

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Training was never easy and training a new skill only added to the difficulty. Ethan had been there when he'd learned swordplay, when he'd learned magic - albeit incorrectly it seemed - and when he'd learned to hunt on his own. In retrospect perhaps training in how to read a map properly and use a compass would have been good. Would Kensen laugh if he asked for that? Or would he argue that it was a waste of time, and that magic was more important.

"Training sure stinks. You screw up loads, you see how well everyone else does and it makes you feel pretty crappy, you know? Makes it hard to focus on what you're doing," Ethan agreed, nodding his head knowingly, "Especially if your teacher is a jerk. My instructor in the town guard was kind of tough. Not unfair but uh... Well a lot like what Gage is probably like. But you know what? They usually know what they're talking about. And know what else? If you can stick with it you'll come out better than when you started! Which is kind of obvious... But you know what I mean!" Cedric always argued people learned best through adversity. You didn't question how to do something or try to reinvent things until you understood the basics, it's why Ethan himself never dabbled much in his own magic: he scarcely understood it. Kensen on the other hand clearly knew what he was doing, hence his willingness to follow the Dimuran no matter how tough he might be. And why Amuné should follow Gage for the same reason.

"It's probably not fair for me to say 'tough it out', but you really should keep going with it. Even if you don't have to fight it'd make hunting loads easier for you. And then you could catch something for Wyth for lunch!" Reaching over Ethan scratched beneath the moorcat's chin and chuckled as he nuzzled back, giving Amuné's head a gentle pat then. "If I can find some time I'll come say hi if you want. Maybe ask the guy to be a bit nicer? I mean he does seem kind of... Well like a jerk, but I'm sure he's not totally heartless. If we just talked with him I'm willing to bet he'd be more than happy to lighten up a little." Or they could go to Taliya and ask her, though he felt like doing that was only going to piss off Gage.

Hells this was infuriating! Between the failures of her ability to imbue her weapon and practicing under Kensen's gaze, Nymira found herself growing increasingly irritated. For mere seconds at a time she could manage but much longer and the flame began to quickly fade away. And it wasn't that she couldn't see the use of the ability either: a permanently heated blade meant easier and cleaner cuts, coupled with burns to inflict more damage. People were far less inclined to fight someone whose weapon was alight. That said she was just as content to use her magic as she had been, enchantments be damned. She was torn between the two and yet had conceded despite her reservations to learn. If this would earn her favor with Taliya - and in turn whoever led Mutebo itself, then she'd suffer through it. All of her other training had been far more rigorous besides, this just happened to be the most infuriating.

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Of course Taliya had sent someone after him. And of course it had to be Adrianna. Not that Lionel minded all that much - Adrianna was good for a laugh or two - but as far as being combat capable? The jury was still out on that one. If they did come under attack again that meant just one more person to watch over, though having a healer to keep him going certainly made it a little easier. Not that he'd welcome another fight - pain was painful after all - but it was of some peace of mind knowing he probably wouldn't die.

"Rest? And waste this beautiful day sitting around? I think not!" came Lionel's reply, a cheeky grin sent Adrianna's way. Resting wasn't an option no matter how much he might need it or how his wards might complain. The sooner they reached Mutebo the better and unless someone suddenly dropped dead they didn't stop for anything. Though from the way their company was hounding him about taking a breather you'd think someone was on the verge of dying. He was the one who'd just fought! Growing irritated from one of the woman's constant remarks Lionel gave her a quip about keeping her mouth shut or she'd attract all sorts of beasts to them... Only in far more rude terms. Thinking himself a knight defending some maidens honor perhaps one of the men then began to argue with him in turn, something the healer tried to tune out entirely. And he was successful in doing so right up until the man grabbed his shirt to stop him in his tracks. Letting out a sigh Lionel turned to face the man, smiling as he came so close his spit was speckling the boy's face.

"Are you done? Feel better? Got that out of your system?" Unsurprisingly a patronizing attitude did little to diffuse the situation. "Listen, if I leave you here you die, got that? So suck it up and keep moving, the traveling won't kill her but hunters just might. If you're so concerned with her safety then shut up and keep moving, alright? Unless you're just trying to posture to get into her pants?" That seemed to have struck a nerve. Lionel smiled and leaned aside when the man threw a punch, grabbing his arm and wrenching it as he swept the legs out from under him. Holding him on the ground he rolled his eyes as the man struggled, twisting his arm slightly to make him stop. "I've got a real simple job for you okay: Listen to what I say. Can you do that for me?" The man muttered a reluctant yes and thus was released, though Lionel was far from done with him. After helping the man to his feet he turned the man and pointed towards the trees before giving an order. "See those trees? I want you to walk over to every single one and apologize for wasting the oxygen they've worked oh so hard to make for us." Asked if he was joking the boy gave a deadpan stare and pointed again, sending the man off with no small degree of loathing, a stream of curse words spewing from his mouth. "A hug might help too! Trees like hugs!"
Like we were supposed to know they were assholes. Takeshi bit back his retort and focused on what was in front of him: the empty training room. Not much to keep his mind occupied and mouth shut but he was putting all his effort into it - more than the actual training itself. For a guy who was telling him to keep quiet Krom couldn't do that to save his life, the jerk always seemed to have something he just had to get out. Seeing Krom then making a move towards Shu left the older boy certain the Elite was going to do something to try and get at him. Instead the little Saiyan got a simple nudge of the foot and with a start Shu woke up... From a nap. The little guy was napping?! Here he was running around with an obscene amount of weight while his younger brother was off in Lala Land. He nearly opened his mouth to bark at Shu but again thought better of it - mostly because he was stammering incoherently. Somewhere along the line he'd tripped up on his own feet and was pinwheeling his arms frantically to little avail, tumbling forward and doing a somersault before coming to a rest on his back. Jackass, Krom should leave Shu alone! And Shu should be meditating! Come to think of it did Shu even know how? Takeshi assumed Aito had taught him but he certainly wasn't doing it right just now. Rolling his eyes and getting back to his feet he started to run again, but not before leaving Shu with a small shout of encouragement. "Fall asleep again and I'll drag you along with me!"

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"Viral, I didn't say we were through. And you say that as though we're sending you off on your own. We're fighting as a team, regardless of who might be better suited for the battles to come." Perhaps he'd made a slight oversight in all of this. Aito had hoped Vegeta and Viral could reach some understanding while together but he'd had to step in and speak. Having done so - in perhaps too curt a manner, Viral was now ready to leave and Vegeta looked to be struggling to keep it together. Perhaps June had a point: going into matters by the seat of his pants - censorship there, her language was a little more colorful - that didn't always yield the best results. Would it be shameful then to admit this had been to some degree planned?

"I'd brought both of you two here to speak with one another and that's what we're going to do. I have absolutely zero intention of anyone leaving this room until you can both have some semblance of a discussion. And I am not hearing otherwise." There was time for sympathy and consolation but now was not that time, these two needed this and putting it off for anything was out of the question. Both Vegeta and Viral were no doubt done with this matter but they would both have to endure a little longer until some common ground could be found. "Viral, we can't change the past as you well know, we can't undo what has been. But I do know that we can move forward and make amends, and it's up to you to decide how that's done," Aito continued, and then to Vegeta he added, "It is your responsibility as well to work on this. I'm here in whatever capacity you two need me but this is ultimately a matter for you both to resolve. Together, am I clear?"

"Crystal." What was he supposed to do though? No words were just going to suddenly rectify the situation. Nothing he'd created had worked and he'd never been a great orator - he'd had people for that. As his stomach did flips he turned to face Viral again, having to avert his gaze shamefully as he couldn't look his friend in the face. He couldn't say anything and yet Aito demanded something, but what? "Viral I was wrong, on every single account. And I want to try and make things right but... I don't know how. But I want to set things right." Viral wanted a purpose? He could find something. Aito had suggested battling the beasts but that didn't feel right, it labeled Viral as a weapon and nothing more. Why had Aito suggested that anyway? Viral had more or less said that was all he'd been made out to be and by no small measure seemed displeased about it. Had he suggested such a thing on purpose?

"Viral..." He didn't want to be forgotten. Perhaps more than simply being a tool it seemed like Viral's greatest issue was being forgotten. Understandably so, for at one point he'd been Aito's pride and - most likely though he couldn't recall it - the two of them had been quite close. "We're all going to need to shore up our strengths to fight these creatures, and... I'm woefully behind on my training. I'd uh..." Hell he was never good at speaking and that didn't change even now. Finding his face growing red both in frustration and embarrassment Vegeta averted his gaze again, taking a deep breath before meeting Viral's gaze. "I would be honored if you could train with me. I need someone to show me how to be a better fighter and I can think of no better mentor."
"What he does ain't up to me. And Shu and I can't spend time with every single person, we're only two kids." Krom wasn't wrong though, Takeshi acknowledged bitterly, they'd certainly had time to pay him a visit. When not traveling on a mission they spent the majority of their time goofing off or training, both of which could easily be set aside to spend time with someone. Would Kiton even want their company though? He'd been so long without any and it wasn't as though they were close - not that they ever had an opportunity to even get close - but Takeshi couldn't see the guy wanting them to visit. Then again being alone all the time could be really lousy and it probably didn't much matter who came by after a while. Just like how Viral had been. Hearing Krom talk about the Beastman pissed Takeshi off - as if he had any idea or right to speak like that, but he bit his tongue and pressed on with training. Oh he'd use his emotions to fuel action alright: a swift boot to Krom's ass was action wasn't it? If Shu weren't present there'd be a slew of cusses and slurs thrown the Elite's way. There was one little thing to get off his chest though. "Maybe you should shut up too old man, don't want to bother Shu, making him think we're ignoring people," smiling as he spoke, Takeshi scoffed before facing forward and continuing to run, "And worry about yourself pops, it's not like you've got lots of room to talk here. Hush and be a good little teacher."

----------

What was he supposed to say? For all of his education and his pedigree Vegeta was left feeling as hapless as a freshman student on their first day of university. Where did he go from here? Aito offering no words of wisdom meant he was on his own and, frankly speaking, he was lost. For a man who prided himself on his combat ability wouldn't lauding his endurance be seen as a good thing? Vegeta struggled for an answer until Viral made a poignant remark: he was being watched like some wild, unruly animal. When he'd been at risk for sudden transformations that perhaps had been warranted but he'd improved since then - considerably so, so why then was he scrutinized the same way? They didn't think him incompetent or incapable and yet they almost didn't seem to trust him. Did he fear vindication or that Viral might seek revenge? No, that had never occurred to him once. So why then?

"It's... Been for your own good..." Vegeta had since stopped in his tracks and now looked to the floor, his features contorted into a mask of confusion. Even his own words sounded false to him. For his own good? That was the best he could come up with? Why couldn't he just make this right? Everything else was always so simple but Viral... He'd never been able to get Viral right. Why? Why couldn't he figure out someone he'd known all his life? He was Aito's son, grandson of Trunks, great-grandson of Bulma, he had the lineage of geniuses and yet he was as thick as Takeshi when it came to Viral. How could nothing he has tried work? Looking at the Beastman confused a trembling smile found its way on his face as he let out an uneasy laugh, his mind coming to perhaps the least accurate conclusion of a lifetime.

"It's you... That's the problem, it has to be!" It was a sensible conclusion in whatever plane of thought Vegeta's addled mind had found itself in. He couldn't have failed, he'd never failed, not when his father died, not when they had reunited, he'd even managed to keep Viral under control all those years. No, the fault couldn't be him, it had to be the Beastman. "I've done everything I should have, everything that I could think of... It's not me, it's you. Something's wrong with you and... And..." Just what was he saying? Was he trying to absolve himself of his very clear neglect and wrongdoings by pining it on someone else? On the victim no less? Laughing again as he felt tears in his eyes he rubbed at them with the heels of his hands, looking up at Viral in defeat. "I did all I could, don't you get it? I... I can't do anymore, I don't know what to do anymore. I can't help you."

"I think that's enough of that! I've never really enjoyed tense moments like this," Aito interrupted with an clasp of his hands. Vegeta had tried to speak his mind but it hadn't quite been as... Succinct, as the doctor as hoped. Perhaps he could help out. "Viral? You truly believe yourself to be without purpose? You were created to protect, right? But we're no longer on Earth, so how are you to protect that?" It was a rhetorical question and Aito had no intention of letting the Beastman answer. "It's a shame there aren't so... Oh, phantasmal beasts invading our dimension that only your solar energy could easily dispatch. I speak of course in hyperbole, and of you. You do still have a purpose, you're arguably one of the greatest allies we have in this impending battle of ours. And I believe it is time you are treated as such, not as a patient that cannot be trusted on their own. Don't you agree?"
What was that jerk criticizing now? His posture? Who the hell cared if he was hunched over! Growling an insult under his breath he lifted the weights and straightened himself out as he continued to run along. If the guy was going to bust his ass over every little thing fine, better him than Shu he supposed. And it would make things all the more satisfying when he got a chance to finally fight Krom. "You mean Kiton? I didn't forget him you jackass, just been too busy," the Saiyan grunted, stumbling slightly as the weights shifted and he fought to keep balance. The load hadn't seemed too pressing when he'd begun but once in motion it was beginning to hit Takeshi just how heavy the gear was. Bringing up Viral struck a nerve and he nearly stopped in his tracks to scream at Krom, instead letting out a load, frustrated groan and pushing himself harder instead. He couldn't be mouthing off and shouting if he wanted Shu to get better, no matter how pissed he got it would only hurt his brother. The hell was he supposed to do with this heat though? Glaring at the Elite, Takeshi huffed before slamming his foot down behind him and taking off as quickly as he could manage, trying to focus on his training instead of letting his anger boil over. The jerk did help remind him though that maybe they should go and see Kiton later, the guy was definitely going to be lonely sitting all by himself. Not that he expected him and Shu to be great company but hey, it had to beat having none right?

----------

"N-No, that's not what I'm saying Viral, not at all! I'm applauding your tenacity! No one else could endure what you have!" Were he flexible enough Vegeta's foot would be planted firmly between his teeth right now. Just when he thought for a second he might be breaking ground his efforts blew up in his face. He had to keep trying though, now was the best and perhaps only chance to finally clear the air between them. What the Beastman said next made his heart catch in his throat, his arm raising only on instinct to block the swipe from Viral. It was the first time since this all began, since ever that Viral had been vocal about his inner struggles. Rather, the first time he'd said it in so many words. There was no way he was seriously proposing being with the Saiyans was a better alternative... Was he? Was mindless, hate fueled warfare really an alternative to what he had now?

"You don't mean that! You're free, free to do whatever you wish, to do what you choose! You would never have that choice with the Saiyans! No one does under them!" Not Takeshi, not Shu, not the twins or Kabocha or Yumi, and certainly not Viral. Blocking another punch Vegeta winced as claws raked against his cheek and left three gouges along it, stepping back and quickly wiping at the blood that began to spill. "They didn't give you those collars because you had choice, Viral. They gave you them to make you a mindless soldier! Is that really any better than this? Being with us?!" It was an alternative that Vegeta absolutely refused to accept. The fact that Viral even suggested they had provided so poorly for him made his stomach churn uncomfortably and his blood boil - but not out of anger. Had they failed him so badly that he truly meant that? Had he failed that badly? Negligence didn't even begin to cover his conduct and he'd tried to make amends, though in retrospect he'd done so while expending the least amount of time possible. As if Viral was just a side project, not a living being.

"Come on Viral... Take that back, what you said. You know you're better off with us than them," Vegeta argued weakly as a smile wavered upon his lips. Slowly approaching with hands extended as though asking for something he continued, "You're more than a babysitter, you're part of this group! You always have been! And I was wrong to try and send you off, I knew it then and I know it now but I could never admit it to myself. I was wrong and I realize it, your place is here with us! And as for your purpose... Your purpose is to fight with us, with all of us. Isn't that enough? To be fighting with friends for the greater good? What more do you possibly need?"
Two Days Later...


Taliya had been serious about putting them all to the test as two days of intensive training could attest. Ethan had been wowed by Kensen's knowledge of wind magics - magic which, while his own, he was admittedly a novice - and the variety of applications it could have. Much of it was out of his reach and would remain so for a long while but the possibilities had inspired him to push through training. Kensen's other student however didn't quite share the level of enthusiasm as Ethan did. The style of fighting seemed so... Unconventional to Nymira. And the fact Kensen was able to take flight meant much of his style couldn't hope to be applied to the Dimuran princess either and she'd have to compensate for such. It was fair to say her kin was a capable fighter as she'd seen him first hand, but it felt insulting that his abilities should overshadow hers. But in her agreement with Taliya she would be trained, and she did so, albeit while biting back numerous critiques of her instructor. In all likelihood anything she might say would be overshadowed by Ethan's idiocy and enthusiasm, a waste of her breath at best.

Nymira's training consisted of two parts: refining her flames and trying to imbue her weaponry with magic. Her 'enchanted smithing' as it was called - a term she'd never heard until recently, was only uncommon among Dimuran as a number of subjects within Adelon reportedly shared the same magic. Yet few could claim they had any magic suitable for combat as well and the natural process was to try and combine the two. After attempting and failing to create a vortex of flames as Kensen was able to she'd devoted most of her time to bolstering her blades with flame. She had done it before albeit temporarily and the fires were never too hot, lest she melt her own weapon. Trying to set the blade alight with a powerful flame and do so without reducing it to liquid was much more difficult than she'd anticipated. Her first attempt ended with a partially deformed dagger, her second fairing little better as she caused the heated blade to fold in on itself. It wasn't until the second day of training and after a dozen attempts she'd finally managed to ignite a proper flame on her weapon. Firing a fireball or releasing a stream of fire was fairly simplistic: you channeled the energy required and released it. But to retain her weapon's durability, the intensity of her flame AND focus on a fight? The princess was finding herself coming up infuriatingly short on her exercises.

Ethan was handling his training considerably better than Nymira - perhaps in part because he never considered himself exceptional to begin with - and took to his lessons with a fervor. Kensen had been respectful yet quick to point out that all of the training Ethan had received up until that point had been effectively moot; Cedric's earth based magic called for a forceful, static and rigid style of casting. Wind magic conversely was fluid, fast and meant to confuse the enemy with erratic and quick movements. Gusts of wind, while a viable attack, were hardly the best application of wind spells. Short, controlled bursts were better suited as quick strikes while arcs of pressurized air were a highly effective weapon against opponents at a distance. With no weapon to his name unlike Nymira he couldn't quite hope to imbue anything, not that he'd even know how, which had given Kensen and Ethan an idea. With his non-lethal mentality it would be difficult to willingly teach any fatal moves, and so a compromise had been reached: learn spells which could harm but not kill. And so Ethan had begun to learn to augment strikes with short bursts of air, in essence creating an area of effect with punches and kicks. One slight problem remained however: while serviceable with a blade the wind magi was dreadfully poor with hand-to-hand combat. It would take a lot of training for him to even hope to use it in combat.

As Nymira carried on with her training Ethan had to take a breather, ducking away to join Amuné and Wyth at the edge of the training grounds. Flashing a weary smile he turned and collapsed backwards into the grass as a breathless laugh escaped his lips. "He's... One heck of a teacher..." the magi commented, lifting his head and looking at his practice dummies. Their burlap hides were well worn and ripped in places where his control faltered and the wind had torn clean through. "But he's fair... Doesn't give me too much grief when I mess up." Aside from the reminders that he'd kill someone with his current level of skill, or to be more exact the lack thereof. The style was like night and day in contrast to that of Cedric's and yet it felt much more natural, his magic clearly more suited for this. Wiping sweat on his sleeve Ethan turned to Amuné, smiling as he ripped up a few pieces of grass and playfully dropped the blades upon her head. "How's your training going? Is Gage still... Well... Gage?"

--------------------


That should conclude the installation process and the trial period. Cecil was capable of activating the barrier on command and, should the demacite shard burn out, he could use his own battery as an auxiliary source until the shard could be replaced. Which shouldn't be for a good while assuming his calculations were accurate, which they usually were. The installation had been painless and quick which left only the actual testing of the device. Pending Cecil's ability to use the barrier and erect it on time the practical tests could be as painless, or painful, as he wanted them to be. Norman of course took no pleasure in subjecting the Machina to anything which might cause harm but there was no other means of testing a shield other than throwing attacks at it. And on the off chance Cecil was injured somehow? They were right near the shop, repairs wouldn't be terribly hard to do!

"If we're confident the shield is ready then we can begin the projectile tests. Cecil, could you stand at the far end of the room please?" The scenario he'd had in mind was quite simple: load a simple, miniature ballista with increasingly heavy objects to find whether the barrier had a breaking point or not. In theory everything they had to fire shouldn't penetrate the shield, nothing shy of a greataxe or warhammer should have enough force to do so. Testing spells against the shield wouldn't be possible without some of Taliya's people to help and at the moment none were available for the experiments.

"Just to be sure we're clear we're going to fire an array of increasingly dense objects at your shield to test its durability. We'll start with a rubber ball and work our way up to an iron cast, which I suspect only the latter may have a chance of penetrating your defenses," Norman commented, furrowing his brow then as he examined the slew of items prepared, "Probably... Ah! But you don't need to worry, I won't be firing any of these directly at you! Just in the general vicinity. And it's not as though the majority of these can even cause you damage." To prove his point Norman used the rubber ball and bounced it off of an assistant's head, annoying them but causing no actual harm. His expertise in near all things mechanical was only rivaled by his eccentricity when he became excited, a trait that the people of Mutebo had quickly come to notice. If he asked anyone for assistance on a project they were typically quick to turn him down, but those of the shop were contracted with Taliya and, by extension, Norman. Simply put they had no choice.

--------------------


Being late was as synonymous with Lionel as Taliya and a hard drink. But even Lionel wasn't usually this late to report back. His job hadn't been far and it had been easy enough in nature: help guide back a few stray magi to Mutebo for safety. The people they were bringing in had no records and weren't wanted by the Church so there should be no complications but something was clearly holding them up. With Gage and Kensen both working with new recruits and she herself having to manage everything Taliya had no choice but to go outside of her group for help. She needed a person who knew the area well, who knew Lionel, and could hold their own if anything should happen. The list of people she'd trust to travel on their own was woefully short but someone needed to go. Luckily she'd just the person in mind, and she was owed a favor so she knew they were good for it.

As expected Adrianna had been absolutely ecstatic about having to go and assist Lionel. It was no secret that the two of them got along terribly but Taliya could care less, a job needed to be done and preferences be damned. Adrianna had traveled alone for a long time and knew the lay of the kingdom well, sending her only seemed natural. The job was simple enough: find Lionel and the magi and help them get home safely. Had the boy gotten distracted by something? It wasn't wholly unlike Lionel to meander and go chase a girl or get caught up in something non-work related. All the chastising and smacking in the world didn't change that.

"I'm having second thoughts, I should have sent you." Gage was in between assignments and juggling his teaching duties, sending him off to find Lionel was out of the question. But he'd been with her longer than most people and she knew he was reliable, magic or no. He made a short remark about being stretched thin to which Taliya scoffed at. It meant he was good and his services many, a compliment that fell utterly flat to the rough man. Leaning back in her chair and drinking from her flask Taliya peered out the window and watched a handful of her people at work, frowning as she sealed her drink. "If the Church finds him we're fucked, you know that right? He volunteered for the job but I'm beginning to think it was a mistake. Dumbass is going to get himself in trouble."

"I doubt we're lucky enough for him to get caught. Little shit'll come back home with more people than we bargained for, and probably be in debt to boot," Gage remarked with a snarl. Too many people to keep track of and he was glad that duty fell on Taliya's shoulders, not his. Slinging his weapon over his shoulder he paused at the door and looked back to the leader, drowning herself again in a flask of mead. "Keep drinking like that and you're going to be no use to anyone, Tali," he grumbled before leaving her be. He'd be the first called to help Lionel if anything serious happened but for now they'd leave it to that Adrian kid. Wasn't much of a fighter but he had healing magic at least, better than nothing.

--------------------


Well that had been fun. On the bright side the men sent after these people were quite thoroughly dead - as most people with holes blown in them tended to be. There were going to be some words exchanged when they finally did reach Mutebo: nothing at all about this job had mentioned there might be Church hunters after this group. They at least got the better end of that scuffle of theirs. Save for the now limp arm hanging at his side the clients remained totally unharmed and he himself was alive if a bit beaten.

"Seriously what did they do...? Sleep with the bishop's wife or something?" A grunt somewhere between exertion and pain as Lionel popped his arm back into its socket and he began to apply healing magic to himself, using up the fumes he had left. The look on the faces of his wards told him he looked exactly as awful as he felt. Shame, not half an hour ago he'd been doing quite well sweet talking a pretty redhead in the group, now she looked like she might hurl seeing him. "It's not that bad, honest! Most of the blood isn't even mine." Why he'd thought that might be of any consolation was anyone's guess. Watching one of the women faint he let out a long winded sigh as the others began shouting at him, claiming he was a danger to them and too reckless.

"I'm not the one that lied about their position now am I?" Lionel pressed, smiling angrily as he sat on a stump and began to try cleaning himself, "Any more surprises and you all are taking the walk to Mutebo on your own. I didn't sign up to fight groups of hunters." They hadn't been any big name hunters either but there had been 5 in all, and raw power advantages meant very little when it was 5 on one. The fact he'd gotten out with some cuts and a dislocated shoulder was quite miraculous actually and he'd be able to undo it all once he got a little more energy, for now he'd have to put up with the dull throbs of pain. Maybe he hadn't signed up for that but he had agreed to help out in exchange for using Taliya's resources for his own ends, fair was fair after all.

"Not that any of you care but we're going to be waiting a bit, I'm about to pass out. And unless one of you wants to fight the next group we're staying put." The thunderous silence either meant they were fighting over who got to play hero or that none of them wanted to even try. He was guessing the latter. Smiling to himself Lionel wiped traces of blood out on the grass before going to the discarded packs of the group, fishing through one of the bags for an apple to snack on. A woman complained he wasn't being kind enough and they would speak to Taliya later, to which he simply smiled and tossed the apple in the air. "Go ahead, she's not going to do anything," he laughed, catching the apple and taking a bite, "Mmm... Complain all ya want though! By the way, where'd you get this apple? It's good!"
With the support of Haku and the gentle pushes on his part T'charrl was ready to go back into the winds. Yusef did not expect his son to master the training in a day and indeed even the lowest level of the exercises was proving trying. Perhaps it was a lot to ask of anyone in a single month - to be able to do something their people as a whole regularly avoided. But they were capable of the feat as many had done it before: Yusef was not the first to learn how, he'd learned from those before him. Were he clever enough to come up with this on his own... "You've made three attempts T'charrl, the first which nearly resulted in injury, the third which has shown progress already. Are you finished? No, not even close," the general spoke as he entered the chasm as well, casting his gaze into the darkness before them, "But you've already taken a large step forward, and starting is always the most difficult part. Unless you don't feel up to it we could try once or twice more, then we can stop for the day. It is hard training, I won't deny that." But nothing worthwhile came easily and T'charrl had a large mountain to overcome before he and Haku left again. "Try one last time, then we can stop for the afternoon. Besides you'll still need to meet with King Nema as well, perhaps its best you go before you end up in pain. Would make meditation difficult I imagine!"

"You're doing great T'charrl, it does seem r-really hard too," Haku agreed with a nod, "You just need to k-keep working at it! If I can m-make rank as a soldier then a-anything is possible!" Not that he'd had a choice about being a soldier but that was a technicality T'charrl didn't need to know. Besides their entire purpose coming to Kaesstra, visiting aside, was so that T'charrl could get some much overdue help with his powers. There was no way they were going to give up so easily and leave without making some progress, Haku refused to let his friend settle for failure. Grabbing T'charrl's claw and pulling his friend a few steps forward he gave a reassuring smile, standing this time at T'charrl's side. "When we go b-back you're going to surprise everyone with how w-well you did here! And they're going to see just how h-hard you worked. They'll practically be b-b-begging you t-to train them!" Nothing less than success, Haku would be in this chasm day in and day out if he needed to for T'charrl to succeed. Not that he'd ever say so openly but this was as much a trial for himself as it was for his friend. He still didn't belong in this group and he hadn't done anything to pull his weight, he needed this. If he could show he was useful in some small way then he wouldn't be treated like a small time fighter to just be thrown aside, he wasn't going to have a repeat of his time on Kortal.

----------

If Krom thought he was completely absolved of guilt than he was an idiot. Sure he didn't run the experiments on Shu or Viral, and he hadn't been the one to give the orders either, but that didn't matter. He'd been complicit in it all and was the reason Viral was ever put in that situation. Takeshi knew it was his fault too that Shu was ever harmed - he'd known all along it was his fault for chasing Viral - he didn't need a bastard like Krom reminding him of that. The Elite was fast wearing his already minute patience thin and so Takeshi started the training, opting to put his anger and frustration into something constructive for a change. There'd be chances later to make Krom pay, and his father, and Korian and anyone else he deemed responsible. But right now he had to get his own crap in shape and show he actually cared about Shu; throwing the match at the tournament had seemed like a redeeming moment and yet it was only the beginning to earning Shu's trust back. Sneering at Krom one last time the older boy toed the floor with his boot before starting to jog along the perimeter, quickly at first until the full weight of his gear pressed on him. Krom hadn't been joking when he said this was going to be more difficult! Gritting his teeth he strained slightly to keep his legs up and his back straight, glaring at the aforementioned Saiyan out of the corner of his eye as he ran. He was expecting him to freak out and upset Shu wasn't he? To throw a fit and instigate a fight that would only make things worse? Well screw him and screw his shitty expectations, he was going to make damn sure Shu got better - and that all started with him getting his own act together.

----------

Of course he'd been trying to help Viral! Vegeta couldn't have managed the international corporation that was Capsule Corp and juggle Viral's handling, he'd barely been able to handle the former! Some of the buyers had been less than ideal but somewhere else - anywhere else, would have been better than where Viral was. At least... That was the idea, right? The truth of the matter was Vegeta had done very little vetting for the potential buyers and had inadvertently almost agreed to a deal with the RRA: one of the groups Viral had been created for to fight against. Why hadn't he thought to ask Viral? Why had he decided to try and make the choice all on his own?

Because you didn't care.


But he'd cared! He'd cared enough to try and Viral another home, a place where Viral could actually live a life instead of being confined constantly. During the inner monologue with himself Viral had gone back on the offensive and, bogged down with his thoughts, Vegeta had been slow to react. Narrowly blocking the first punch thrown he gasped as another rocked his gut and lifted him slightly off of his feet, taking a kick to the same spot that sent him hurtling backwards. Flipping and righting himself he managed to get his feet on the ground and his heels dug in to stop his slid, mere inches from the wall when he came to a halt.

You didn't want the hassle of taking care of him. You just wanted him gone.


Like hell! They were effectively brothers, he could never do something so callous! And yet he had, hadn't he? Because of his own ineptitude and inability to ask for help Viral had nearly paid dearly. Because of his indifference the man before him was bitter, distrusting and furious with the world. All because of him. Vegeta raised his fists again and took a low, shaky breath as he sprinted back towards Viral, his movements hardly as planned as his mind was abuzz with conflicting thoughts. His moves were slower, woefully so, as he cocked back an arm and threw a jab at the Beastman. Everything that had transpired up until now - all of the injuries, the kidnappings, the resentment, it was all because of him. As if Viral hadn't felt terrible enough for what he'd done to Aito it had been pushed further by the negligence on his behalf. It was no small wonder Yumi was frustrated with him all the time. Missing his punch he took another blow to the jaw that split his lip, spitting blood aside as he threw another at Viral.

"And yet you're still here, despite everything..." Despite all of his efforts, inadvertently or otherwise, to tear down Viral he was still here. Some might argue the Beastman was a shell of his former self and yet he still pressed on without any apologies or condolences, and even in his efforts to help Vegeta had never once addressed what the real problem was: himself. What an idiot he'd been.
Well yes, but he could also simply just stand in front of someone and effectively shield them all the same.
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