Superhero 102: Holiday Special! (IC Only Please)




((Happy holidays, everyone!

For those not in the know, this is a spin-off from the Superhero 102 thread.

Just like the other SH102 thread took place 2 days before the holiday break, this is the holiday special thread that covers Golden Eagle High school’s holiday break, most likely spanning around 2ish weeks between 1st and 2nd semester of the year. This isn’t replacing the other thread, simply covering the time skip the other thread went through. The rules of this thread are the same but the set up is slightly different:

-All RP rules are the same, no god-mode’ing, stay in character, good grammar/punctuation, all that jazz…

-*There is no definite time line here. That is, there could be a plot-line going on between Ian and Tonbogiri taking place several days into the break, and then I make a post chronicling Ian’s training that takes place a week into the break…in the same post. Because of this set up, a full write up from the point of waking up in the morning to the point you go to sleep at night will *NOT* happen here. Any point in time during the break is fair game to write at any point in the thread. However, I just ask you to make some type of separation to make it easier for the reader. A title card with a date, a simple break using symbols…something.

-**Character interaction is optional. This is about writing what your character is doing over their break time. If your character went on a trip, you can write what they did. If they spent it with another character, you can have the 2 characters interact like a regular RP or just say they did. Just work it out with the other players.

-***Continuity Limits. This is a tough one. Since SH102 and SH102HS! will be going on simultaneously, one must think through things a tad as to keep the continuity between the threads. Just don’t make any huge leaps in plot differences and we should be fine. And what happens in this thread does carry over to the other so be careful there too.

-****Have fun! RP interactions don’t need a grandiose revelation or direction! It could simply be a gift exchange and character reactions or a party scene. Go wild with character development!

Just be aware, this starts on a Monday in mid December and probably ends on a Wednesday early January (in-thread time). If something needs a date, you can ask me for help or anyone willing to shore up that information.

Thanks! And have fun everyone!))



[Sometime Early in the Holiday Break]

Dressed in his full training attire; his grey gi along with the loose matching cloth pants that shown its use by the frayed and worn edges, his brown hair tied up with the gifted blue headband he’d had for years to keep any stray strands from his eyes and his blood-red wood bokken that was carved for him when he was practically a toddler. The training ground, a section set off on the west side of the Talos Island sector where the Devouring Earth were spread out and kept to themselves. Founder’s Falls or Eden was also a nice place to get in some meditation and listen to the song of nature and the voice of the elements, but it was just not possible as the Devouring Earth creatures were far more aggravated by his presence there. It was just too dangerous.

Ian sat out of the snow on a rock near a pool bank, his legs folded and posture natural. A nearby rock formation let leak a slow trickle of melting snow into the frigid puddle as his consciousness focused on the dripping of the pool before him, the sun shining in the cloudless sky and the motionless air that waited excitedly to amplify the bitter cold of the winter’s day.

“So you started training here?” Lei questioned, “That's weird. Nothing like you, shrimp,” she laughed toward Ian who the ‘shrimp’ comment was directed to. “In fact, Inou-sensei is here today. Maybe he try and train you here.”

Ian did a double take. “What!? Ryjuta-sensei is here!? In Paragon city!?!?”

“Yeah. How else you think we get here,” Lei responded.
The young swordsman tried to meditate but the many echoing memories in his thoughts kept distracting him. While he listened for nature to say something interesting he pondered how long he could avoid Ryjuta so he could catch up on his meditation, how much his master would be impressed by his progress since their last meeting, if Lei and Hyun-ki would be around for the holidays, about Keity, if Aurora had tried calling him yet, what would James be doing for Christmas, if Jon would ever show up again…pretty much anything and everything but meditation.

If James didn’t know anything about Christmas, then I’ll have to get him something. But I wonder what…he’s a musician but I can’t think of anything he’d want. Slowly, the dripping of the waterfall picked up from a slow trickle to a steady stream that sent a fine mist into the air.

It’s the holidays…maybe Aurora’ll bring her dad to the school so I can meet him. I think I might still have a photo after his championship fight…an autograph wouldn’t be too grating… The air currents picked up ever so slightly, brushing against his ears and back that would have sent a chill through him had he not kept his focus off the cold.

I wonder what Keity’s doing…I wonder if she’s thinking about me. Gah! I haven’t thought of anything to get her for Christmas either! From the outside, the young swordsman’s meditation seemed quite productive and even to Ian it seemed to. But it wasn’t until the faint scent of smoke danced on the air just under his nose did he finally open his eyes with a sniff.

“….?” Now no longer in any sort of meditative state, Ian’s eyes searched out the smell carried to him by the air.

Several dozen yards behind him, a man stood with his back leaned against a dormant Bladegrass which was indistinguishable from a tree to those ignorant of the Devouring Earth. Despite having a man leaning on it, the Bladegrass seemed amiable to his presence. Meanwhile, the man seemed to be lost in thought with eyes closed, silently enjoying the flavor of the cigarette in his mouth.

“…Master Ryjuta!” Ian gasped and shot to his feet.

Finally noticed, the man stopped leaning on the non-tree and started walking toward Ian, first letting the spent cigarette in his mouth fall in the grass and putting it out under his heel. “How’s it going, idiot student of mine?” the middle aged swordmaster smiled in response.



[Christmas Eve]

Snow slowly fell in fat flakes, leaving a thick coating of wet powder on the streets of Lakeview, It was good for skiing or other winter activities, not for crimefighting.

Perched on the rooftop of a pawnshop, Tonbogiri frowned at the lack of traffic on the street. Not because that was suspicious, but because it was gods awful boring.

Her dark blue and purple costume kept her mostly hidden in the dark night, though her shadow cloak was less useful in falling elements like rain, and snow was just another type of rain.

Standing up, her cape snapped as the wind caught it, and a few passers by looked up, seeing the purple haired teenage girl leap off the roof before disappearing in a small circle of gravetic energy.

The more populated shopping district gave Tonbogiri plenty to watch over. Swells of people moved in and out of shops with an alacrity she found amusing. So much to do, and they left it all for the last minute. She tried to muster some disdain for the procrastinators of the world, but found she largely didn’t care what they were doing or why.

“Its Christmas Eve, and here you are, skulking on rooftops.”

Tonbogiri went tense and her eyes flared with Kheldian energy as she found three good spots to teleport to before she turned looked over her shoulder to see Pearlescent, local shopkeeper, Peacebringer, arch-nemesis, and (much to her dismay) newly established legal guardian floating off the rooftop, her own eyes glowing with the sparkling shine all peacebringers had.

Pearlescent was not dressed like a superhero. Just jeans and a thick winter jacket, which her hands were stuffed into. Tonbogiri didn’t like not seeing her hands, but figured that she wasn’t the type to blast a hole in an expensive piece of clothing for a surprise attack.

“I’m patrolling. Those creepy avenger of the night types skulk.”

“Hm.” Setting her feet down on the rooftop, the Kheldian glow faded from Pearlescent’s eyes and she walked up next to Tonbogiri, putting one foot on the rooftop’s ledge to look over it, seemingly ignoring the younger woman’s tense position.

“Been busy?” Pearlescent asked as she scanned the crowd, “Tonight, I mean.”

Truth was, it had been agonizingly slow: some tresspassers, four parking tickets, a lost dog, and a fight over the last ‘must have’ gadget at Cooke’s Electronics, “Busy enough.”

“You might want to consider turning in soon. Crime always drops considerably on Christmas.”

Tonbogiri scoffed and sneered, “Next thing I know you’ll tell me that Santa Claus won’t visit if I’m still awake.”

The pale haired peacebringer barely lifted the corners of her lips in the smile, “Well its true.”

Tonbogiri turned her sneer on full bore before she cast a withering glare at the other woman. It was too cliché to tell Pearlescent that she didn’t believe in Santa Claus—what teenager did? Or to slip up and say that ever since she was ten and asked for a mom and dad who loved her only to be disappointed that she’d given up on the holiday. No matter how well the cliché fit.

Tonbogiri was entirely to savvy to fall into the middle of a heartwarming ‘X-mas Speshul’.

So she settled for the aforementioned nasty glare before teleporting to an adjacent rooftop, hoping the Peacebringer would get the hint.

She watched Pearlescent from a new perch on a higher building across the street. The Peacebringer hugged herself tightly with her eyes closed, some strange expression haunting her face. Pity, maybe? Great. Pity from the city assigned watchdog. A few minutes of that, and Pearlescent flew off the rooftop, heading south, probably towards her shop.

Alone again, Tonbogiri gave the shopping district another once over before moving on into the residential areas. She stuck to the apartment complexes, a better chance of crime where more people congregated. That’s when she saw them. A small group of Warriors were standing close together in an alleyway. Focusing her attention on them, the teen noticed a shabbily dressed man in the middle of the group. A deal or a shakedown? It was hard to figure out from the building she was standing on.

Teleporting closer, Tonbogiri watched the Warriors point angrily at the man in the center of their circle and the man just shrugged. All the Warriors had their weapons out already and a few were caressing them lovingly, which was more creepy than threatening to her, but either way, the Warshade marked this incident down as a shakedown and leapt into action.

She opened with crowd control; a wide cone of gravity than knocked larger men down and disoriented them. She noted the one who had braced himself and didn’t fall, and it concerned her, but only briefly. Tonbogiri was the one with phenomenal cosmic powers after all.

A small focus of gravity would hold him in place while she cleaned up his buddies. She dashed forward to form the gravity well on him when she remembered the wet snow. Her feet slid over the pavement, still towards her target, but the lack of control increased the danger. Still not a big deal. As soon as she trapped the guy with her powers, she would teleport over to the others to lose the momentum she was gaining.

The warrior had other plans though. Seeing his opponent rushing him, he readied his mace and plowed the heavy metal ball into Tonbogiri’s stomach as she got within range. Her costume’s kinetic gel hardened and absorbed some of the impact, but the Warshade went flying off of her feet, her own attack fizzling.

Though still in once piece, the world was spinning as she landed on the ground. She flopped once, getting her face full of snow and landing on her stomach. The mace wielding warrior tried to lurch forward, but the remainders of her gravity cone slowed him down.

Forcing herself to her knees, Tonbogiri was pretty sure this would be a great time to shift forms, if she could concentrate.

The scruffy looking bum the Warriors had been shaking down lurched forward, grabbing the standing Warrior by his collar and threw him into the wall, breaking the brick with the thug’s skull. Dropping his hold on the Warrior, the bum stumbled down the ally, weaving slightly as Tonbogiri finished standing up. As the world settled around her, she noticed that he couldn’t be sober, which explained why he was doing something so stupid like going near the other gang members after that lucky shot.

She quickly reevaluated when he punched one of the dazed Warriors and blood gushed out of the wounded man’s nose and he collapsed. The bum quickly subdued the Warriors with usually a single punch to each. Who was this guy?

Tonbogiri put up her fists crouched into a combat stance when the bum turned back to her. She finally got a good look at him. Long unkempt hair pushed under a knit cap to go with his scraggly beard. An eyepatch covered his left eye, and his jacket used to be pretty swank. He looked at Tonbogiri and tilted his head, “You okay?”

“That’s supposed to be my line.”

He shrugged, reaching into his jacket to pull out a bottle of liquor. Taking a long, messy pull from the bottle, Tonbogiri watched in a combination of fascination and disgust as the booze dribbled into his beard.

“Normally I’d just let’em take a couple of bucks and sock me a few times, but you seemed like a nice girl, just wouldn’t be right. Not right at all.”

“Right well…yeah. You…uh…have fun with that. Good night.”

She turned to look for a place to teleport too when her stomach suggested that was a terrible idea. As wonderful a piece of technology as her costume was, she still probably bruised some ribs, and a pulled some muscle or another. Wincing, Tonbogiri gritted her teeth. Looking at the unconscious Warriors, she rolled her eyes. Stepping into the mass, she pulled pieces of their life force out of them and used them to heal herself. The bum watched curiously, a whimsical look in his single blue eye.

“Energy augmented regeneration. Warshade trait.” The bum muttered as he began to poke around in the Warrior’s pockets. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from one of their pockets, and pulled out a bent cigarette, lighting it before he offered the pack to Tonbogiri.

Looking at the falling snow still floating down from the sky, Tonbogiri shrugged and took the offered pack, fishing out a mostly straight cigarette. The bum tossed her the lighter and he sat down on some empty milk crates.

They smoked in silence for several minutes. When a gust of wind caught her cape again, Tonbogiri finally asked, “This is lousy weather, what are you doing out here?”

He shrugged, “Weather don’t bother me. I got plenty of juice to stay warm with.”

It really wasn’t any business of hers if he wanted to drink himself to oblivion and freeze to death. Still, he saved her a serious, if temporary, beating. Maybe she could just offer him the ten spot in her wallet and they’d be even.

Still tilting his head, the bum asked, “What about you? Big holiday, lousy weather. What are you doing out here?”

“I’m Jewish.”


“No. I’m a superhero, crime doesn’t rest because it’s a holiday.”

The bum snickered, which devolved into a coughing fit. When it passed, he said, “Young lady, you are way to young to talk like that. Like one of them angsty avenger types. You ain’t an angsty avenger type, are ya?”

“Didn’t think so, but here I am.”

The bum nodded, “Maybe you’re just trying it out. I hear that’s what kids do. Try stuff. Anyway, I think you need a hug—not from me, I’m filthy. Takes care of angst right quick. I should know, I’m a Doctor.”


The bum opened his jacket and pointed to a patch. It was a label that said, “Custom Tailored for Dr. K. Onnoroc.”

“That you?”

“I guess. I woke up in the jacket, earliest thing I remember. Must be me.”

Tonbogiri crushed the butt of the cigarette on the heel of her boot, “A hug, huh?”

“What? Ain’t you got nobody to give you a hug?”

“Angsty avenger type, remember?”

“I guess so. What a bummer of a cycle. Well if you’ve got people to avenge, you’ve got people to avenge. Merry Festivus or whatever.” The bum doctor gave a wave as he shuffled off down the ally.

After the bum left, Tonbogiri put some arrest tags on the Warriors, teleporting them to the local police infirmary. She lingered in the ally for a few more minutes, debating with herself before teleporting away.

Sam Varden 50 MA/Reg Scrap
Doomtastic 50 SS/Inv Brute
Ceus 50 Eng/Kin Corr
Cinderstorm 50 Fire/Fire Blaster



[A few minutes after Ian first reunited with his teacher]

Walking back toward civilization by means of the main thoroughfare from Skyway City leading to the heart of the island sector, Ian strode in silence with the man he had trained under for so many years. A sense of awe gripped the young swordsman’s chest that only he’d understand. And who else really could? This master swordsman, this hero of the east, looked like any ordinary man. Sure, he was tall, his muscles rippled through his torso and his eyes were as sharp and fierce as the finest blade…but dressed in his black dress shirt with grey pin-stripes, his short brown leather overcoat that looked like it could weight 100lb and some plain stone grey slacks and dress shoes, it looked like he was some sort of business man or something not the unrivaled Sage Swordsman of the five Nihonto.

Finally breaking the silence, Ryjuta spoke up, turning his deep brown eyes that pierced right through Ian’s soul yet seemed to warmly embrace him as well. “Why were you out all alone, by the way? Didn’t Hyun-ki or Lei tell you I was here?”

Ian’s face burned pink for a moment before responding, “Sorry, I wanted to get in a bit of meditation before you showed up.”

The master swordsman chuckled. “Is that what you were doing…”

As the pair trekked on toward the tram or somewhere they could flag down a cab, Ian looked over the side of the bridge as his thoughts flooded his mind. His emerald gaze traced the towering statue of Talos in the distance, and he would have sworn if he focused his gaze further, he could see the outline of a huge colorful tent further off.

Out of the blue, Ian blurted out, “Sensei, I want to challenge you.”

“Hmm?” the dark haired swordmaster answered nonchalantly.

“Ryjuta-sensei, I greatly appreciate the guidance you gave me in my most darkest hour. When my path began to stray from the sword, you told me to embrace it rather than flee from it…” Looking upon his mentor, Ian wasn’t expecting tears but as they began to form on the edges of his eyes, Ian quickly turned away, aiming his eyes back to the open waters over the bridge. “…thank you. You gave me the will to hold my head up so…I want you to know I’ve taken all your teaching to heart and I’ll forever keep them.” Finally able to suppress his emotions and his tears, Ian moved forward and stepped in his teacher’s path with his chest pushed out with confidence. “So you know I speak the truth, I want to show that I have surpassed you. Please, master. A duel?”

Humbling himself, Ian bowed deeply before his sensei who simply smiled warmly and dug his hands in the pockets of his coat. “Heh, no need to get all poetic on me again…you won’t become a cool fighter like me with that attitude.” Ian straightened but frowned slightly.

“Sure, sure,” Ryjuta assured with a pat on the young swordsman’s shoulder as he pressed them on along the bridge. “But I’m kind of in a bind again. My swords got stolen so the only one left right now for a duel is the one I lent you.”

Ian blinked at the story but seemed unphased by the prospect of his swords being abducted. For a short instant, his thoughts went back to the time Ryjuta offered the nodachi to him. Thinking back on it again only assured the ridiculousness of the offer as the idea of killing himself with a huge blade like that is difficult to imagine. That he didn’t offer the shorter wakizashi must have meant he didn’t think Ian would have went through with it anyway.

“It’s back at school! I shall retrieve it for you, master!”

Ryjuta returned Ian’s enthusiasm by gripping the teen’s shoulders with an arm and giving him a light squeeze. “Alright then. You get my sword and I’ll wait for you out there again,” the swordmaster smirked and directed a glance out at the rocky area across the bay they had recently left.

“Yes, Ryjuta-sensei! Right away!” In his usual extreme speed sprint, Ian started taking off toward the tram station but a hand gripped him by the shoulder. To anyone else, it might have felt like an overly harsh, aggressive grip. But to Ian, it felt like the touch of a man who was ready to face down another man, no holding back.

“Ian…before you go.”

“Yes?” he blinked his green eyes in wonder.

“I’m glad you choose the better path. I’d hate to know the pain your mother would have went through without you.” The fierceness of the swordmaster melted, beaming an empathetic warmth through Ian right down to his soul. That warmth and those words and the thought that he finally achieved his master’s expectations…even if only a little…it made Ian feel more at peace than he’d felt in a long time. He couldn’t help but light up with an enthused grin. Without another word, Ian sprinted off to the tram for a quick stop to Lakeview. The hop in his step made him feel like he could walk on air…and smack his mentor in the face…or that he could float on his confidence and sting like a velaciraptor-bee hybrid. With nothing weighing his spirit down, Ian set his sight on Ryjuta’s defeat.



[Early Holiday Break with Ian Retrieving his Master's Sword]

It didn’t take Ian long to get back to the school and the weapons repository where he had checked in his master’s sword. He occasionally visited the sword to assure it was still there and safe, but the several months he had kept the blade, he never used it or even unsheathed it. But something compelled him to examine it.

He stood alone in one of the reinforced chambers, inside the heavy blast doors, with only a few heavy blast cannons and several complicated-looking shoulder turrets, all of which had their own section of the room and their accessories organized along with them. The sword he sought was set on its own shelf in a sword stand. As he picked it up, it’s size (as tall as he was at least with a hilt nearly 2 feet long!) and weight always surprised him. Ian rested a hand on it at first, running his hand along the sheath and the thick leather strap used to carry it. Running his hand all the way to the handle, he finally picked it up with his other hand and gripped the large blade to pull it from its resting place.

Besides the lion guardian on the tip of the thick handle, the design of the sword was plain with only two Japanese symbols carved in near the base of the blade that he couldn’t figure how to translate. But if you could ever witness it wielded, it was a sight anything but plain.

At first, he simply examined it…then he began to listen to it and resonate with it.
It was a sensation he couldn’t understand…it was like they felt one and the same…
Speaking a similar language and with similar spirits and behaviors…

With a gasp, Ian shook himself out of what he thought was some kind of self induced trance and sealed the sword in its sheath again before scooping it up and checking it out of the weapon’s bunker for good.


It was pretty easy to teleport back to Talos using the GET Net, and in a flash, he was nearly back at his master’s side. He was expecting to see Ryjuta meditating, watching the heavens build up lightning for their child of the elements, with swirling torrents of water beating at the shore to meet the sage. Ian’s expectations were dashed when he found the man sitting on a rock like a make-shift stool and smoking another cigarette on a plain hill. No wind. No storm or waves.

“Ah! Tadayoshi Hizen!” Ryjuta shouted to his sword with a smile as he picked up Ian’s footsteps in the grass. Putting out his cigarette under his shiny leather shoe, the swordmaster stood and joined his approaching student who graciously offered the sword out with both hands.

“I still question the tradition of the name you use for it,” Ian bowed and smiled.

“Heh, well I didn’t name it. The original owner and the man that forged it did,” Ryjuta smiled back. “I guess if it were created for me, I'd name it myself like you did yours...I could named it Stallion Overcompensating

Ian’s cheeks flushed at the joke, an obvious jab at his naming of his old katana. After returning the sword, Ian drew his own bokken from his belt. “Shall we begin?”

Ryjuta shook his head. “Oi, so hasty.” He slung the sword over his shoulder to loosely strap it on his back and massaged the long handle in his hand for a moment. He turned to put a few paces between them. “Ah, feels like an old pair of comfy boxers,” the aging swordsman laughed as the wind about them picked up.

Anxiously gripping his wooden sword with one hand, Ian narrowed his gaze on his teacher. “As magnificent as you may be in only your boxers, can we please get on with this?”

This got a chuckled from his master. He resorted to no stance or didn’t draw his sword. “Come.”

Like a tiger prepped to pounce, Ian wildly lunged forward, his bokken swinging across to strike at the wholly open stance. The swordmaster answered this by simply tapping the bottom of his sheath with his foot and leaning forward at the waist.

To anyone unprepared, they wouldn’t be expecting the large sword to come launching out as quick as a rocket out of the holder like some kind of insane deadly boomerang. But this was the way Ian’s master unsheathed such a long sword. He was unphased by the sword turning end over end right at him and let his shoulder fall to let the blade narrowly pass. The resulting whirlwind that literally threw out rocks and bent trees over like a hurricane’s hiccup also mysteriously passed by Ian with but a slight movement of his shaggy brown hair.

Taking advantage of the swordless swordmaster, Ian struck quickly but his bokken collided harshly with…wood.

“So you’re really going to fight me with your training sword?” Ryjuta asked, turning away from Ian’s strike so that the attack bounced off the sheath he had strapped to his back. Using part of the momentum of Ian’s attack, the older swordsman leapt to his sword, yanking it out of its spin in the air and swung it around with both hands.

“I shall,” Ian replied, ducking under the wildly strong swing which whipped up another whirlwind but this time, more searing than the first. The air literally sliced a groove several inches into the face of a rock formation several yards away. “I don’t want to harm unintentionally again!” Strongly pronouncing his goals, he moved into the wake of the attack and let loose a flurry of sword strike on his master. A gyaku inuzuma giri variant, he struck from the left, knocking his master’s defense up then coming down with a series of hits in the opening.

“Harm unintentionally?” the swordmaster laughed as he deflected the first strike and resorted to gripping the flat of his blade to quickly maneuver his sword to block the others of his swift opponent. “You’re still going on about that!?” Countering with a knee to Ian’s ribs, the young swordsman barely managed to block it with a guarding shin yet the force of the blow repelled Ian a short ways back. “Foolish boy!”

The long nodachi swung down and a harsh howl of wind followed. Ian dodged to the left and kept his guard as Ryjuta’s sword slice through the ground like a bladed gavel, kicking up a geyser of powered rock from the carved valley.

“I am not foolish!” Ian shouted his eyes narrowed and fierce. His blood pumped hot now and struck so fast, it wasn’t possible for Ryjuta to deflect…so he caught it. Or rather, caught Ian’s sword arm by the wrist. But as he leaned to grasp him, Ian swung hard with his free hand and landing a mighty punch right across his master’s cheek.

The teacher pulled away from his student. “…and I’m not a boy.” Ian growled as he watched his master rubbing his face.

Ryjuta lifted his blade on his shoulder, resting the flat of his blade on his shoulder. “Ow…that hurt,” he sarcastically said but truthfully admitted as a bruise might start to form later.

Putting a pause in their duel, the swordmaster nodded in acknowledgment. “Okay…man. Then tell me. You still refuse to use a sword?” Relaxing his muscles, Ian set the tip of his bokken to the grass and remained silent. “You regret what you’ve done…is it fear?”

Ian’s head sank. “Yes.” The two spoke on another level, their fighting spirits still dueling. They could feel each other’s emotions through the silent moments. “I…fear not the sword or what I must do…it’s…”

Ryjuta’s face soften. “You fear yourself?”

“Of my other self.” The master quirked a brow to his pupil. “The other side of me…I don’t know what I might do…” Ian sighed as he tried to convey his meaning.

“Foolish boy,” the master smirked warmly and walked to his student and rested a hand on his shoulder. “Only the absurd fear what they don’t know or understand. No one can help a man who flees his own shadow.” Ian blinked then looked up to the hard gaze of his master with a smile. This advice sounded familiar to what Aurora and Keity were talking to him about. “Worst yet is you forget that you are you. You fear what you might do with your own hands yet you have the power to close that hand into a fist or open it to a palm.”

After a long moment of letting that information sink in, Ryjuta let loose his student’s shoulder and walked away a few paces to resume their duel. “You’ll never beat me if you’re beating yourself. Remember that, as a swordsman, you must embrace and control your fear.”

“Right…embrace,” Ian smiled and returned to a ready stance with his bokken gripped tightly in both hands.

“Now, continue?”

“Of course.”



[Early Holiday Break, Mid-day]

Their battle raged through the upper west section of the Talos sector on the boarder of the war walls. Teacher and student locked blades and exchanged blows for nearly an hour with neither showing sign of slowing. However, for the apprentice, he was giving his all, dipping into the maxim of his strength and stamina, relying on his heightened reflexes and focusing his inner spirit to maintain lightning reactions so each and every melee strike was aimed at greatest opportunity yet this wasn’t particularly the case for the master.

Although he too was using greatly all of his skill with the sword to defend and attack, this is not all the legendary Sage of the Sword could do nor was it all he taught his pupil. After any suppressed thoughts or emotions were made known, they could fight properly with the confidence of their skills. But now, as the battle pressed past an hour, Ryjuta felt it time to hold nothing back. And if his student was smart, he wouldn’t either.

Deflecting two strikes from Ian using the body of his mighty nodachi with one hand holding the handle and the other palming the flat side edge, Ryjuta took a leap back from his opponent onto a pile of boulders.

“Trying to get the high ground?” Ian chortled as he replaced his bokken in his belt.

Ryjuta, on the other hand, remained silent and shut his eyes. Resting his great sword on his shoulder, the swordmaster brought his free hand up in prayer/focus. “Don’t get cocky, kid. I haven’t even started yet,” the teacher taunted his student who was happy to oblige.

Ian charged the rock formation, his hand still at his sheathed weapon. When in range, the young swordsman drew the sword and swung with one motion. “Sting of the wasp!” The blow cracked the hard rock and crumbled the formation. Ryjuta quickly leapt several yards away just before the impact on the rocks he was standing on which soon came thudding to the soft grass and earth.

Still persisting the attack, Ian continued his charge with his bokken strongly gripped in his hands. “Don’t you know what technique this is?” Ryjuta smirked as his pupil came speeding toward him.

Of course Ian knew. It was the entire reason the master could manage such a ridiculously sized and massed sword. The Reppuuto-ryu or Violent Wind Sword Style, clearly made his heavy sword as light as air, or at least it seemed that way. It was a technique he never got a chance to use nor perfect. Besides, Ian’s bokken was already quite light…it was, in fact, that lack of mass that seemed to be the weapon’s detriment.

“I know of it,” Ian smiled back with a blindingly fast strike that Ryjuta parried with ease, one handedly in fact. “Do you know of this one?” Ian called back just as his master swiftly countered with a speedy one-handed lateral slash. With intimate knowledge of attack and defense, Ian swung at the encroaching sword with a two handed grip.

To Ryjuta’s surprise, his blade came bouncing back with such force, he had no choice but to be pulled back with it or lose his sword. Ian was under a similar effect as the deflection forced himself off the ground and flying in reverse to his attack.

“What manner of sword technique was that?” the master quirked as he reoriented himself.

“I call it Divine Avalanche.”

Ryjuta answered with a raised brow. “There was no voice of the earth in that attack,” he replied critically.

Rolling to a crouch, Ian held his sword tightly. “I developed it from Hyun-ki’s Finger Sword Guard.” The master couldn’t help but smile which Ian returned with one of his own.

“Well, enough of the formalities. Tadayoshi wants to breath.” The swordmaster rose the longsword’s tip to the sky before bringing it sweeping diagonally in Ian’s direction.

“Hayabusa Teikaitsuken!”

The screech of the air and the searing edge of the wind caused Ian to wince as he hit the dirt. Although the master’s sword was long and reaching, the actual blade only reached a bit past 2 yards, but the razor edged blade seemed to slice deep into trees, boulders and straight through the landmass they dueled on. But it didn’t end with dissecting the environment clean-through but summoned up a squall that swirled up the pieces that it seemed a miracle Ian didn’t get knocked and pulled in as well.

The several seconds the wind roared, Ian clenched his eyes shut, finally opening them when everything became still again. “I thought you didn’t like calling your attacks like that,” Ian laughed and pushed himself up into a defensive posture.

“Yeah…but I guess your style rubbed off and won me over,” he smirked to his pupil before effortlessly and elegantly slashing at the air once more.



As the duel continued, it escalated from a concerned conversation of swords, to a test of skill and finally an all out war. It was difficult to even call it a match between swordsmen as a regular fighter would have been left in the dust of an avalanche of collapsing rock and washed away by a cold tsunami of water gushing over the shore.

No longer was this confined to the upper west coast of the sector. Ryjuta had forced Ian off land with, what could only be summarized as a localized hurricane. As the land mass near the warwall was enveloped in a cyclone of razor sharp air-currents, Ian let the resulting bursts of air carry him up and out of danger and landing on a boat whose crew were at awe by the resulting storm.

Ryjuta gave chase, right over the water’s shifting surface. “You won’t get away! Not like that,” the master called with a smile, his broad nodachi scraping the sea and his feet tapping the water as if it were solid. As warning, he swept along the sea which unsettled the frigid waters and rocked the boat Ian rode on.

Ian looked rather desperately toward the shore of the mainland then back at the passengers as they gasped and shouted at the suddenly rocky sea. He had to think quickly as his master would reach the boat any moment now…

“Why would you put these bystanders between us? This is suppose to be an honorable battle,” Ryjuta groaned angrily as he leapt aboard the boat himself. The passengers looked nervously at the sword-wielding intruder like he was ready to murder them all at any second. “Eh?...sorry,” Ryjuta tried to plea with them when he saw their faces and eyes looking to him. “I’m leaving…no worries…” He rested his sword on his shoulder as his glare scoured to find his pupil. “Ian?” A shift in the wind, from southeast to east, caught the master’s leather coat. It spoke to him, whispering in his ear. “He didn’t…” Ryjuta growled as he quickly moved to the rail of the boat to find Ian snuck off on a life raft with the wind helping to carry him closer to shore.

“That little…!” Again, running along the sea’s surface, he chased the young swordsman who seemed to be in full retreat. “What’s the meaning of this!?” A vertical slice tore Ian’s raft in half and split the sea, resulting in a rush of misty air bursting upward. Ian took his chance and leapt to shore.

“Why are you doing this! Face me!! Show me what you’ve learned!!” He ripped the air with his blade with Ian only narrowly escaping the razor wind with an acrobatic backflip followed by a full double somersault and finally landing crouched on the shore.

“I am!” Ian growled, finally turning to face his opponent. But he couldn’t say he had no plan of attack. Long-range, Ryjuta had complete control and mid-range was a death trap. Even close-range, he could only manage a mild foothold with the only hope of survival is disarming his opponent.

A screech of wind answered Ian’s anger followed by another hurricane of searing wind that forced Ian into retreat again. “That doesn’t look like facing…that looks like your bony rear end running.”

Now heading east, Ian leapt and weaved over and around the rock formations around the main island, using them to shield him which didn’t work out very well. Like a comb through hair, Ryjuta’s blade called upon the wind to extend his skilled and surgical slices to cut through those boulders like a razor through grass.

Running out of shore, Ian started to round the island and head south but was quickly met with a long nodachi. The young swordsman narrowly deflected it using his divine avalanche which forced the duelist apart and Ian right back to the edge of shore. The follow up storm of sharp wind forced Ian back into the water, as to be expected.

The reason he ran here was because if forced off shore, there were platforms of rocks scattered throughout the water and if forced further out, the archipelago of Circe and Scylla were there to continue their fight.

Ian landed on a rock, his guard acute as he waited for his master to follow. Ryjuta looked upon his student, a look of distress finally crossed his face. His master slowly approached which caused Ian’s heart to race anxiously. “Ian…is there something you haven’t told me?”

Ian grit his teeth defensively.

“…I see…” As if the silence told it all, Ryjuta unstrapped his sheath and returned his Tadayoshi to its resting place. “This duel is over.”

“Wait!!...Why!?!” Ian angrily demanded.

“You aren’t ready. If you will not use everything you have, you will forever be limited by your own ideals and prejudice.”

“NO!” Ian roared. “I’m not done!! We’re not done!!!”

Apparently, the master hadn’t needed his all to force Ian into submission but decided to show how far he could go by ending it now. Resting his Tadayoshi on his hip, Ryjuta performed an impossibly fast iaijutsu as he drew his blade and sliced the air once more. Ian couldn’t even see the shockwave slice laterally across the water’s surface, slicing all the rocks Ian retreated to and crumbling them into the sea. Ian tried to escape but the familiar sound of an angry sea filled his ears.


The master swept across the sea shore which forced up a tower of water several stories tall. Ian looked on at his inevitable defeat, not in fear but in anger. The name he heard his master call was obviously a pun and not an attack. That the fight turned to a mere joke for his master filled him with anger and it didn’t help that he was forced into submission using the same teachings he had so desperately practiced.

“STOP FOOLING WITH MEEE!!” Ian roared as the tsunami crushed him and washed him out to sea.


After a minute or two, Ryjuta calmly walked the water's face out to the crash site of the wave, a whirlpool being the result of the chaotic forces. Standing over his student, a look of sadness and regret overtook Ryjuta at the sight of Ian helplessly caught in the swirling current. What happened to becoming closer to nature and its elements? Look at him now, struggling for his life rather than accepting the sea’s embrace. It all made sense now...and nearly brought the swordmaster to tears.

Ian coughed and splashed and struggled. He couldn’t even find his bokken as it was washed away in the wave. From his defeated position, his eyes glared daggers of anger at the look his sensei gave him. He didn’t see sadness in Ryjuta’s eyes, he saw disappointment and pity. Just like all the other students at school that looked down on him before. It was infuriating. Ryjuta was suppose to be his mentor but now he genuinely mocked him!? Where was the honor? Was it all a farce?

“What is the matter with you?” the master pleaded but on Ian’s ears it sounded condescending. “Can you not hear the sea crying? The earth wracks in pain…can you not feel it?”

“SHUT UP!!” Ian cried, barely able to keep his head above the drowning current. “I looked up to –cough- -cough-!...looked up to you…and you brush my challenge aside…-cough-…why?”

“I didn’t, Ian…but something-”

“Then face me!” He was like a bottle rocket. Ian launched out of the water and reached for Ryjuta’s throat. It came to a surprise to the master, not because of the speed but because Ian still had the strength to fight. To deflect Ian’s grope, Ryjuta used his sword sheath, only to have it crushed in half by Ian’s angry grip. The swordmaster tried to leap away but a strong bellowing roar rocked the air around him which caused him to freeze before he got too far.

“I AM strong!” Ian kicked off the air which sent him flying like a bullet, his claws bared and his yellow and green eyes full of fury. Ryjuta tried to stave him off with another razor wind strike but to the master’s surprise once more, it passed through the raging charging boy harmlessly. “I AM!” he roared again as his claws came upon his master.

A spray of blood silenced the wind and the now calm lapping sea washed away the red stain of this honorable duel that was sullied by wrath.



[Later the same day, early during the Holiday Break]

It was dark again, like the last time this happened. But this time, the beast seemed placated in the darkness, its breathing heavy and consistent. So he just watched. Watched out of fear and a hint of curiosity. What had happened? Why was it sleeping and what does it take to wake it?...

Echoes of his name touched his ears, faint at first and after he heard it a few more time, he recognized it instantly. “…Mom?”

He opened his eyes slowly and as the light soaked into them, he understood the situation. “…uuhg, Mom?...what…happened?” the question weakly passed through the young swordsman’s lips. As his consciousness grew, he was finally aware of the bed he lay in, the florescent lighting of the infirmary and his sandy-brown haired mother smiling down on him.

“Ian, thank goodness you’re awake!” Sandra Kelly exclaimed and hugged her son tightly.

“Ow ow ow OW!”

“Sorry,” she blushed as she remembered the physicians had stitched and bandaged Ian up until he regained consciousness. “I was worried your teacher had really hurt you. How are you doing?”

“…alright…where is he? Where’s sensei?” Ian asked as he sat up in the bed. The pain he felt burned across his chest and midsection which caused him to look down to see a blood-stained bandage wrapped around nearly his whole torso.

“Right here,” said a familiar voice from the door. “Glad to see you’re up already. That was a pretty mean cut you got.” Ian’s eyes lit up at the sight of his master but quickly dimmed when he remembered all the things he had done and said. “Cheer up, idiot student of mine, it’s the holidays. No need to be all gloomy.”

Ian didn’t respond. “Honey, what’s wrong?” Sandra asked, sweeping her lab coat aside to sit on the hospital bed next to Ian. It was a mixture of various things, really. Not just with his master, but his friends being gone and just bad memories that continued to plague him. His mind was just a muddy mess at that time. “If you really want to, we can fly out somewhere for the holidays. Anywhere you want. Colorado, Hawaii, France, New Zealand…there’s a great new resort in Costa Rica I wanted to see..How about that? Would that make you feel better?”

His heart jumped in his throat at the mention of France, but when he thought about it all, that wasn’t for him. “You don’t have to do anything like that for me,” Ian answered, “If you didn’t want to vacation this year, mom, I wouldn’t want to force you into it.” Sandra was ready to pout at this answer when Ian continued. “Besides, I said I was going to train some over the break. Can’t do that while tanning in Tahiti.” Ian grinned slyly but was quickly swatted in the back of the head by his mother.

“Don’t try to put on a tough mask for me. You know you’re supposed to tell me anything on your mind, right?” She asked with a concerned brow to which Ian stared back intently. While he stared back at her, it reminded him just how beautiful she was and that he’d eventually like to marry someone as loving and lovely as her in the future.

“Anything that’s on my mind?” Ian asked again with a smile. “Can I get an advance on my allowance, then? I’ll make sure to test your newest prototype for you.” Thinking back to his shopping with his friends several days ago, he remembered he wouldn’t have enough to get his mother that gift he had his eye on.

“Done,” Sandra nodded. The woman stood and walked over to the phone and dialed a special extension which connected her to one of the on-site doctors. “Yes, I’d like to schedule a Radiant Healing Bath for the patient of this room…Ian Kelly, yes he’s awake…what time? I’ll ask.” She turned to ask if he wanted to get a quick heal at 3:45 or squeeze him in right now but the moment Sandra turned her head, Ian was gone, along with his clothes and his teacher.

“That’s it…I’m putting a collar and leash on that boy,” she grumbled before pulling out her cell phone in preparation of blowing up Ian’s with messages.


“You really outta be more considerate of your mother,” Ryjuta prodded Ian, poking the young swordsman in the chest to aggravate his wound. “You don’t want to give a pretty lady like that worry wrinkles, would you?”

“Ow…no, but she should know the routine by nOW!...Anyway…ow…I’m pretty sure I’ll get healed by someone…ow…soon or eventually…ow.” After Ian put on his torn and stained clothes, the master and his student were outside the K-Tech building of Steel Canyon soon enough, walking to the tram station to get back to Lakeview. At the first call, he sent a return text saying he’d be fine, he'd take it easy and not to worry about him. Then he put his phone on vibrate and proceeded to ignore any more calls. “Don’t worry about her. I’m coming back later anyway.”

“You don’t know anything about how women think, do you?” Ryjuta sighed, now giving up poking Ian’s wound as it seemed to have no effect anymore.

“Forget about that. What about my training?” Ian asked excitedly.

“Oh yeah…I can’t.”

Ian gave ample pause for his master to continue, his heart racing faster and faster with each second. “…Why not?”

“Don’t you remember what happened at the end of our duel?”

“I apologize for my words, sensei. Please forgive me, they leapt from my tongue without thought. I didn’t-” Ian quickly apologized and plead with his mentor, bowing as profusely as the depths of his regret.

“No, no. It wasn’t what you said,” Ryjuta interrupted and pulled his student along. The aged swordmaster hated formalities, especially in public. The only reason he even taught Ian Bushido, the etiquette and all, was so he’d revere all the warriors before him that crafted the fighting styles he was learning. Ian latched onto every lesson like that…it showed how naive he could be. “No, it was what you *did* that concerns me.” He stared at his student who, of course, looked back at him blankly. “The changes you went through. Your voice, your eyes…you were like a different person. Was that the ‘other self’ you spoke of?”

Ian’s eyes grew wide. Had he transformed a bit? He knew he got mad, but how much. “Yes…I’ve been having some trouble with my emotions and its sort of put me off balance.”

“And that’s the reason your connection with the elements is completely diminished?” They were outside the tram station when Ryjuta asked. Ian stopped and stared at his feet. “You had to have felt it, right?”

In truth, Ian just thought the techniques his master had taught him just got really rusty from not practicing them. That the changes might be the cause was only a passing suspicion. “I just need practice, master. Please train me some more, I’m sure I’ll-”

“I have something else in mind for you.” Ian’s pleading eyes brightened a bit at this. “I want you to explore this other side of yourself. Meet him…understand him…only then will you be able to bring balance to yourself. Then we’ll talk about further training. Okay?”

Ian nodded profusely. “Yes, Ryjuta-sensei. I will begin immediately!”

“Alright,” the master smiled as he proceeded up the ramp. Ian started to follow when Ryjuta put out a hand to halt him. “Oh, and go back to your mom. You can start *after* she lets you. Okay?” Ian smiled. His master was so wise!




[Holiday – 1st Day of the Break]

Despite a mostly sleepless night (for largely positive reasons) Keity woke up early as was her custom, but with a smile. Her body’s need/crave for exercise forced her out of bed early without the need for an alarm-clock. After getting ready she used her Junior PIT Trustee status to get into the Pit a little earlier than it officially opened. She was too excited to remember that she had her Trustee status revoked two days ago due to an incident, but still had her key so she went about her duties. She helped get the Pit ready for the day, by stocking the first-aid kits, and putting out the towels, and making sure supplies were stocked and things in their place etc. Once she had her official duties out of the way she warmed up with a run around the Pit’s indoor track, before starting her floor routine.

The fencer’s routine was an intricate kata that was partly yoga, palates, acrobatics, tai chi, other martial arts, all mixed together with a fluid dance like grace. With her MP3 player kicking out beats to her earbuds, she executed her kata vigorously for most of an hour. The fencer was more energetic than usual, and occasionally despite the exertion a smile would cross her face.

When finished she laid on the floor catching her breathe and enjoying the empty quiet magnitude of the Pit, and still smiling about last night. She did some follow up stretches, tossed her towel into the bin, and was headed back out just as other Pit Trustees were showing up to start equipment diagnostics that Keity couldn’t do.

Back in her room she showered and got ready for the day. She dressed….festively by slipping on a Santa’s Helper dress in rich stretch scarlet velvet, complete with faux-fur trimmings, a thick black corset like belt, and a few bell accents. The dress was shorter than she ordinarily felt comfortable wearing, but she had the fur edging extended a little to compensate when she had the dress fitted. After adding a few light touches of make-up, she donned the hat, and adjusted it just so, then checked herself in the mirror. Red was one of Keity’s colors, which just worked wonders for her so she was suitably pleased by ensemble. She turned with a flourish and grabbed her ‘sack’ of presents that she had prepared for the last several weeks, and headed out.

Jingling down the hall she headed to the first floor and the student mailboxes, where she proceeded to distribute cards, gifts and tokens of appreciation and friendship to her friends and acquaintances. Then off to the boy’s dorm to repeat the process at their mailboxes. She made one exception and jaunted/jingled up the stairs to hand deliver a package but was disappointed when her knock went unanswered, so slid the card under the door. Then it was off to the Administration building where she dropped off some more tokens and thanks at the faculty mailboxes. With her satchel of gifts substantially lightened, she then went to the cafeteria to attend to the needs of her stomach.

She distributed a finale batch of presents and holiday well wishes to the cafeteria staff, then got started on her typical healthy breakfast. There were very few students in the cafeteria this early so she ate quietly while trying to read though some of the spring courses syllabuses but she was way too excited to really concentrate, so after eating she returned to her room to finish her packing for the holiday.

Heroes: Lady Halifax, Miss Kia, WhiteLotus, Agent Immolate, Lady Empathy, Sylence Fyredancer, Maiden of Fire
Villains: Innocent-Ella, Aegis-Sprite, Midnight Dragonfly



[Holiday - 1st Day of the Break]

After the night before, Ian’s thoughts must have been too distracted to set any type of alarm. He simply pulled off his shirt and pants and threw them in the general direction of the laundry hamper (which, even without looking, always seemed to neatly hit the mark) before collapsing on his bed. After reverting back to his ‘ocean of thought’ mindset from what he dubbed the ‘river of thought’, Ian realized he *needed* to be training.

Jumping out of bed the next morning with a start, Ian grabbed his towel and rushed off to the showers. After his morning grooming, he was in his training attire, his grey gi and matching pants with frayed edges. Tying his blue headband and tucking his bokken under his belt, Ian rushed off to a quiet place in the courtyard.

That early, the courtyard was abandoned. Great! Perfect for meditation. Taking a seat between a pair of bare trees on the far edge of the courtyard, Ian first brought his mind and body to a peaceful state so that his spirit could commune with the nature around him. In his lotus seated position, he continued to meditate with his eyes closed, blocking out the random student or security walking along the snow-plowed paved path. Although blocking outside distraction, Ian took in every aspect of nature around him. The cool air, the winter-splitting beams of sunlight peeking over the campus perimeter wall, the evergreen bushes whose leaves let fall some of the collected snow…it was a sensation he felt familiar with, to commune with nature, but there was a spark of uncertainty for some reason.

“Ian? Hey! How’s it goin’ man?” came a greeting from behind him however Ian remained focused. “What’s up? You’re up early.” It said again after a pause. For whatever reason, Ian wanted to ignore the voice but caved in and opened one eye. It was Darren.

“So what are you doing? That whole enlightenment nirvana stuff?” The teen continued to ask with a curious glance.

Again, Ian thought about simply staying silent but his curiosity got the better of him. Looking him over with a critical eye, Ian wondered what Darren was even doing up so early. He was just wearing a dark blue beanie over his sandy brown curls and a thick black coat over his boots and jeans…he wasn’t dressed for anything special.

Gah! He distracted me… Ian groaned before ending his silence with a sigh. “No…I mean yes…kind of.” As if to pretend not to be distracted, Ian closed his eyes again to continue his meditative state. “You always want to mind your chakra centers so the mind and spirit become more perceptive and the body may heal but my training requires more. Nature and the elements take commune for the relationship to be fully realized. We’re all children of nature and we may return to it through our relationship with its elements or when our remains finally turn to dust and we’re thrust back into nature’s cycle…”

As he spoke, Darren simply stared at the meditating swordsman, his eyes and face blank but obviously he wasn’t sure what the speech meant. Opening one eye again, Ian sighed when he felt his friend’s confusion.

“Right…” Darren pretended to relate but quickly changed the subject. “Anyway, I saw you with Keity last night…well?”

So that’s what you wanted, Ian thought as he rolled his eyes and closed them once more in an effort to focus.

“Aww, come on! You can tell your buddy,” Darren laughed and leaned down to give Ian’s shoulders a shake.

“We…nothing, okay?” Ian forced an answer, his face showing small signs of red.

“Aaaaahh! I knew it!” the junior laughed and jabbed Ian in the shoulder. “Hey look, man,” he said and started pulling a card from his jacket pocket. “Keity’s giving out her presents already so I’m guessing she’ll probably be leaving tomorrow or whatever. If you’re gonna get on her good side, better get her something before she goes.”

Ian leapt to his feet suddenly. “Right! She’s leaving *today*! But I thought I had more time!” The next instant, Ian was kicking up snow as he rushed to the girl’s dorms, shouting a “Thanks!” over his shoulder.




Keity was practically vibrating with excitement, between the happenings of the previous night, and the prospect of going back to France for the holiday. She semi-frantically readied her suitcases, which were already ninety percent packed, then tidied up her room a bit taking care of some of the mundane details. She took a quick glance at her clock and knew that Pierce would be there very soon to pick her up. Pierce was exceedingly punctual.

Piece was considerably more than a butler. Steward of the household was a closer fit but didn’t do the man justice, to Keity he was more like family. Keity’s dad was away or busy so often that Pierce was kind of her surrogate father, and numerous times legal guardian in her father’s absence.

She took a last look around the room, and played some mental juggling games as she checked things off all of her checklists then started collecting her luggage, and heading for the door.

She nearly jumped out of her skin when she opened her door, and saw Ian there, hand poised to knock. Resettling her heart and slipping the baton back up her sleeve, she smiled broadly, her eyes sparkled and her skin blushed enthusiastically “Good morning” she jingled self-consciously as she resisted the urge to pounce on him with a hug.

Ian stood dumbfounded for what he thought was minutes, glad that he managed to catch the fencer before her departure or perhaps eying her festive attire...but for his track of mind, the moment lasted just long enough to open his mouth to reply. "Good morning...that's a nice little dress there." He emphasized the 'little' part in his head which caused him to smirk a little but he kept that to himself.

“Thank you” Keity curtsied at the compliment causing another round of jingles.

"But I'm glad I caught you before you left."

“Well then you have impeccable timing” she grinned “I looked for you at your room, earlier but you weren’t there” she added a cute pout to punctuate this which Ian breathed a short laugh to.

"I don't suppose you stopped by the guys' showers. I might have been there," he said out loud but it was sort of an audible thought as he recounted where he could have been besides outside meditating.

“Oh, yeah! There were a lot of towel less and helpful guys there, but no Ian” she pouted again but this time blushed as well at her own crude humor. Well it was crude for her but it got Ian to concede to smile and laugh a bit.

Okay, now what? Thinking quickly, he responded with a naturally short pause. "Can I help you carry those?" his eyes finally leaving her athletic contours and moving on to the luggage she had collected at the door.

Keity nodded enthusiastically, at the offer, and turned over some of the luggage for him to roll for her. Her hand softly if not warmly brushed his as she turned over the luggage. Splitting the load, she left herself to carry a long hard-case that was big enough to hold her swords, and a very light garment bag. Ian quickly scooped up any other bags she had waiting and followed her downstairs.


Heroes: Lady Halifax, Miss Kia, WhiteLotus, Agent Immolate, Lady Empathy, Sylence Fyredancer, Maiden of Fire
Villains: Innocent-Ella, Aegis-Sprite, Midnight Dragonfly



At the curbside pickup, Pierce stepped out of the Mercedes precisely on time and glanced around the snowy grounds. He was dressed casually yet respectably under a seasonal overcoat in slacks and a traditional high-necked sweater. He was somewhere in his late forties, and although mostly healthy, he did have a small paunch which could be considered normal for his age. His receding hair was conservatively short and prematurely gray, but his most distinguishing feature was his placid blue eyes. Those eyes shone with affection as young Keity appeared on the walkway. His eyebrow cinched slightly upward when he saw that she had a companion...a male one, but not in a critical manner, but more in a curious way. He waved a friendly wave as Keity flew from Ian’s side and ran jingling to him and gave him a crushing hug, and kiss on the cheek, before turning back to Ian.

“Pierce this is my friend Ian Kelly, Ian this is Pierce” she said as way of introduction, stumbling slightly on ‘friend’ her dark eyes full of hope flashed over Ian, as she bit her lip lightly.

While being introduced, Ian blinked at discovering the man's name. "Nice to meet you, sir," he greeted while shifting Keity's weighty suit case to his left arm which carried a duffel bag and her carry-on sack yet the shift in weight caused no imbalance or strain as he lifted and held them all with one arm. He then extended a firm hand in greeting. "I was just helping your daughter with her bags. I hope you don't mind me seeing her off," he added with a slight bow of his head.

“I am pleased to meet you as well Master Kelly, and no….no I don't mind at all” Pierce whose accent was a muddled European warmly returned the handshake, and then turned to Keity “Using your charms to recruit help young lady” he asked with a mock parental tone.

Keity gently elbowed Pierce in the arm, which seemed to be her standard response to teasing “He’s not my father.” She explained for Ian “Pierce is a…close friend of the family.” He was too close of a friend to introduce him as an employee, and ‘Uncle Pierce’ wasn’t appropriate either as he was more of a surrogate father figure.

As the two exchanged talk, Ian remained silent out of respect and kept a smile on his face as he maneuvered Keity's bags to the rear of the car. “Forgive me,” Pierce chuckled good-naturedly “…no I do not have the good fortune of being this jewel’s father” he humbly admitted.

"Ah, I see. My apologies," he forced a grin past his reddened cheeks. Suddenly, he felt less anxious.

“No apologies necessary. Here allow me to take those” Pierce indicated the baggage “so that you two can make your goodbyes properly” he added with a sly wink at Keity, who blushed, but smiled back none the less. He ‘popped’ the boot of the car and moved to unburdened Keity first. She relinquished the garment bag, but held onto the hard case which she placed gingerly in the backseat. While Pierce moved to assist Ian with his load which was ready near the car. Although the man requested no assistance, Ian did anyway, if only because he felt he could do it faster. But they both loaded everything anyway into the very large but rapidly filled boot.

“Thank you, young sir” Pierce closed the boot, and looked at his watch before turning back to the two teens. “We do have some time Keity” There was a hint of hidden sadness behind his blue eyes as he said this, but Keity missed it “I’ll just dash inside to see if the Head Master is available while you two…chat.” He smiled again at the pair, but forgone the wink as he strolled off to the administration building, his heart already feeling heavier.

Keity didn’t bother to analyze the uncharacteristic gift of time that Pierce granted her, but watched him for a moment before turning back to Ian, where her face glowed from the effort to suppress smiling goofily at him.

Ian crossed his arms on the hood of the car and smiled back. "And just what charms was he talking about, young lady?" Ian questioned with a crooked smirk. "Last I knew, you were pretty tom-boyish for that kind of stuff to work." Not that he meant any of that but he wanted nothing else more than for her to reach in to take a swat at him.

“Well I don’t go beating up people up at home, so they still think I’m a lady. Only people here provoke me” she smiled, while reaching out to give him a playful shove. Ian moved against the push but let the hand pass between him and his arm. In a single motion, he was behind her with her arm hooked in his and a knuckle lightly pressed on the valley between her shoulder blades. During his smooth maneuver he felt Keity’s arm reflexively the twist in the proper way to counter the hold, that he himself taught her a year ago, but apparently she decided to just go with it and trust him.

With her arm hooked, Ian could have gripped it tighter to put her in a lock but he simply kept her turned like she was. So she couldn't see the despair in his eyes or understand the misery in the sigh he breathed on the back of her neck. "So you're going to train, right?" his suddenly dry throat rasped. "...and get stronger?"

The fencer also knew the maneuver to break/escape this hold, but since it was Ian and since he was only goofing around, she wasn’t going to perform that escape in such a short dress. So she leaned back into him, as much as he would allow; her long hair fell over their entangled arms, and down his chest, while the fur trim of her Santa hat brushed aside his bangs. “Hmm you really don’t know what a holiday means do you? I could find you a tutor that could help you with your vocabulary and stuff” she jibed; he was close enough to feel the warmth of her smile. She continued more seriously “You know me, I am always training and practicing, a holiday isn’t going to change that.”

"Good. Then I won't feel so bad beating you up next time we spar because I'm going get so strong, you won't even recognize me," he jokingly taunted as he applied some pressure on her spine when she pushed back against him, but she slipped her arm free, and turned to lean lightly against the car. "But do enjoy your holiday...try to have fun despite knowing I'll be here waiting to whop ya," he ended with a grin.

“Whopping me, is a pretty good reputation enhancer around here. You do it enough then I think you get an automatic Golden Dragon invitation” She turned back to face him, stepping smoothly away from the car and gently handling his bokken to move it so that it wouldn’t poke her as she wrapped her arms around him and placed her chin on his shoulder.

He leaned in, and let his fingers dance on the small of her back. "Heh, I guess they weren't counting the ones from the beginning," he joked but didn't laugh. Instead, he ran his nose from the fur lining about her shoulders and along the side of her neck. In a whisper, he added, "but I'd turn down their offer." He let his lips brush Keity's sensitive skin before giving in to the urge to nibble at her neck.

Keity shifted her arms up to his shoulders and then draped them around his neck as he started nibbling her neck. Her reply slipped into incoherent babble and French “You better eh…mmm…merveilleux” She bit her lip to not let a tiny excited whimper escape her throat, but after a long second she pulled her neck away and released a heavy sigh. “Be careful there mister, I do have a flight to catch” she scolded in a breathy whisper, all the while blushing warmly.

"s-sorry," Ian replied in a low rumble as he pulled his head back and his eyes diverted away.

Her dark eyes drank him in, for several moments as she hugged him tighter, now beginning to fear the moment when Pierce would return and she’d have to let him go,. “I slipped a card for you under your door, so make sure Danny doesn’t take it” ‘Or read it’ she thought.

"There wasn't a picture in it, was there?" he interrupted with a smirk. "When'd you get a chance to do that?" He asked jokingly, of course.

“Noooo” she answer reddening again, and pressing her arms together to give him a small squeeze. Since she couldn’t swat or shove him from her current position. A knee would have worked, but that was a bit out of bounds. “You’ll have to wait for your present though.” She added with a smile, her color and temperature beginning to return to normal. Her dark eyes pierced his emerald eyes, and started inventing new words and descriptions for green. In truth she hadn’t gotten anything for him yet. Since he was gone from her life until two days ago, things were happening so fast. She momentarily wondered if she was dreaming. Was she still unconscious in the hospital from Katie’s ambush?

"Aww, now the suspense will kill me," he sighed with a pout but soon reverted to a smile. "Well, when you get back, maybe we can go out somewhere? Just us?" Probably a longshot to ask yesterday but he felt far more confident of the outcome this time.

Keity’s head was nodding, before her lips could utter “Yes, yes I’d like that” just proving again that she should never play poker. She was much happier with his asking this time then with the clumsy scene down by the guardhouse when he asked her to go on the mission, and even happier that Danny wasn’t here to ruin the moment. She smiled broadly staring at him trying to remember every detail of the moment. Her hand came up and gingerly adjusted a few stands of his hair and how they fell over his headband or fell right back the way they were, but still added to her memory of the moment.

Now she would have to introduce him to her father, she couldn’t play games about mission vs. date this time, so he would have to meet her father before they go out. This sent her subconscious into a panicked frenzy. The internal frenzy didn’t show outwardly except for her color paling a touch, but with all the blushing she has been doing it simply evened out her skin.

To her gentle readjustments of his hair, Ian smirked and gave his head a little shake. "What are you doing?" he laughed in wonder but brushed it off as Keity not caring for his hairstyle. Oh well, he'd fix it when the time called for it. "Well, you'd better head out before you decide to stay." He smiled as he leaned in closer for a kiss. Keity nodded slowly, as she moved her lips to his.

A few moments later, Pierce reappeared from the administration building. He set his eyes in another direction when he saw the embraced pair, and strolled slowly and casually back to the car. While wondering why there was a large tarp covering the side of the boy’s dormitory. Pierce opened the car door as unobtrusively as possible, but the sound alerted Keity to his return. She blushed again and for a moment buried her face against Ian’s chest, before pulling away.

“I got to go” she said weakly and planted a kiss on his cheek, before reluctantly stepping away. As her arms dropped away, her fingers hooked his, and she walked with him to the passenger side of the car, where she gave him a last hug and another kiss on the cheek, before slipping into the car. “Will you miss me?” she asked her dark brown eyes staring up into his.

"Maybe," he answered cryptically with a not so cryptic smirk. "But I'd rather think about plans for when you get back."

The ‘maybe’ caused the start of a tiny crease in Keity’s brow, but the ‘plans’ sounded nice and dispelled the ‘maybe’s’ effects.

“It was a pleasure meeting you Mister Kelly” Pierce said sincerely, from the opposite side of the car.

"Likewise," Ian looked up grinned as he opened the door for Keity before closing it behind her. "Merry Christmas!" He contemplated waving but simply watched the vehicle pull out with a rather awkward smile on his face as he wondered about the transition of their friendship.

As the car rolled forward Keity found strength in soon that she would be able to tell her mom all about Ian. She still talked to her mom occasionally, but it felt more real, more connected when she was at her mom’s grave and talking with her. She already pictured sitting in the mausoleum with a warm blanket and a thermos of coffee for hours telling her mom everything. She remembered her mom’s smile and laugh, and how her eyebrows synched together when she didn’t like something, and could picture her mom’s reaction to any news that she’d deliver. As much as leaving Ian and her friends behind sucked, at least she would be back at the estate in France and could visit her mom.

The Mercedes stopped at the gate briefly where Keity hopped out and signed for her weapons; which she placed in the hard-case in the backseat, before giving the school a last forlorn look and slipping back into the car.

Heroes: Lady Halifax, Miss Kia, WhiteLotus, Agent Immolate, Lady Empathy, Sylence Fyredancer, Maiden of Fire
Villains: Innocent-Ella, Aegis-Sprite, Midnight Dragonfly



[Holiday - Also Day 1]

For the longest, Spirit had read and been captivated by the action octavos of his home world. Chronicling the day to day missions and adventures of the heroes and guardians of the realm of Paragon or the ever present rogues struggling to survive the dog-eat-dog world of Lord Recluse’s country…the stories and illustrations inspired his imagination even now that he was actually *IN* the imagined world he read about!

Even better now, he was living his own adventures just like the ones he read about! He wondered if there was anyone reading his adventure, inspiring others with his hardships…

“Excuse me? You’re the one, right?” uttered a timid voice behind the satyr. He had been reclining for a while in the quite central area of Crimson Acres Park of the Lakeview sector. Even though it wasn’t really cold that afternoon, the park was still barren of people. Fine for him, he’d just try to mentally prepare for his mission…if you can call daydreaming preparation.

Spirit jolted out of his daydream and turned. He sat up on the park bench he was seated on then quickly changed his mind and stood up his full height. Spirit seemed to tower over the short little wrinkled balding man. Yup, he looked like a contact. Gray and black suit whose pant legs seemed too short, scuffed unshined loafers, a wrinkled blue-striped tie under his plaid wool scarf, pale skin and an unkempt mustache under his thick round glasses…Completely unremarkable and ordinary. Perfect contact material, the satyr would say.

“Mr. Kerrigan?” Spirit tried on his booming heroic voice but accidentally started with a higher pitched crack which didn't help his hero image. I mean, how could it? His rounded snout, his curved horns, gray fur of varying shades covering his body, and he didn’t wear tights or a cape, just a baggy pair of red-tinted jeans and a yellow button shirt that he left unbuttoned…Uncle Bartholomew never got around to fitting him for a costume. Truth be told, Bart hoped Spirit would understand how dangerous being a hero in Paragon was, give up and just relax into citizen status…No Spirit had to prove himself he was proper hero material.

“Yes, so you’re…Spirit-Home?” the old man asked, finally approaching the horned stranger.

“No,” Spirit answered with a shake of his head. “My name is Spirit and Dire Horn.”

“D-dire horn spirit?”

“No it-”

“Dire Storm?”

“Huh!? No-”

“Horny Spirit?”


“Spirit Dire?”

“Almost, but-”

“Spirit Horn?”

“Fine, just go with that,” the satyr huffed. “Anyway, you reported a theft or something?” Spirit dismissed the whole name issue to get on with the interesting part.

“Ah, yes right. Recently one of our trucks that had been shipping special cargo turned up missing….I think,” the old man revealed and opened up a brief case he had been holding. “According to our reports, the driver who was listed didn’t show up that day but the truck got delivered anyway and on time.”

“Well that’s good, right?” Spirit commented as the old man recounted his story.

“It would be if we knew who the driver actually was…or in other’s cases, who the driver wasn’t.” The contact stared up at the satyr with a solemn scowl after his cryptically confusing answer while Spirit eyed the man bewilderedly.

“Uh, what are you talking about?” the ram shrugged.

“Past sources tell us this was most likely a hijacking and while none of the shipped belongings showed up missing in our databases, we’re heavily looking into the possibility of forgeries being planted…specifically, fakes of a set of three swords we were moving into Paragon.” As the man spoke, Spirit crossed his arms and tried hard to concentrate. He nodded every now and then and scratched under his chin in an effort to aid his focus but for the life of him, still couldn’t put it all together.

“Uh, okay. Well, did you call the police?” the satyr asked quizzically.

“We’re a private security contractor, we’re always in contact with the police,” Kerrigan replied and handed Spirit a paper from his brief case. “The PPD has red tape and paperwork to go through before they can fully investigate and can’t act on hunches. That’s where you come in.” The paper had a picture of a muscle-bound bald guy with tanned skin. From his seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the action octavos, Spirit quickly deduced the picture was of a member of the Warriors. “When our legacy crafted weaponry comes up missing, Golden Jason of the Warriors is always the one behind it. He’s usually not so crafty to use forgeries so our sources might not be on mark.”

“Alright, you can count on me! I’ll bring this Jason guy to justice without fail!” Spirit proclaimed and started leaping off to who knows where.

“Wait, I just need you to spy on him…” Kerrigan tried to finish but Spirit was long gone by then.



[Home, still first day of the break]

Pierce and Keity made a few other stops on the way home at Keity’s request, but without much fuss they arrived at the residence in Founders Falls. The doorman greeted them professionally and genially and helped them with their baggage and other packages. Pierce was quiet the whole ride up in the lift to the penthouse, while in contrast Keity could barely contain her excitement, for the impending trip and since she was minutes away from seeing her cat.

Once inside the apartment, Keity abandoned her bags and raced off to her room to see her kitty. Pierce watched with sad eyes for a moment his heart heavier and heavier, with what he needed to discuss with her, and soon would not be able to postpone.

Keity jingled to her bedroom, the sudden motion and noise of her arrival set her cat ‘Princess Kia’ who had been sleeping peacefully on high alert. The cat jumped up and got ready to run and hide, but soon recognized her owner, and jumped down from the bed to go rub at her ankles. Keity knelt down to receive the cat, scooped her up into her arms, and as always marveled at the cats luxurious softness of her white fur. The cat’s whole body rumbled in a purr in Keity’s arms momentarily reminding her of Ian.

After a while of fussing over the cat, Keity got up to collect her bags from the hall Princess Kia dutifully following her the whole way, was at times dangerously under foot, but the fencer was sure-footed enough to not trip or hurt the kitty. There were a number of things that she needed to unpack from school, and other things to pack for her holiday.

Pierce hearing her move about knew he couldn’t postpone things any longer and went to Keity’s room to deliver the news.

Keity had one of the suitcases up and open on the bed, and was removing items from it, while simultaneously Princess Kia was trying to nest into the suitcase and attack anything that Keity moved. She smiled at Pierce as he stood in the doorway, but her smile faltered when she saw his somber demeanor.

“What is it?” she asked hesitantly.

“Keity please sit” he waved her over to the bed, where she sat but again scooped up Kia.

“Keity, I don’t know how to tell you this” Pierce began heavily “but to just come out and say it. Your father canceled the holiday in France.”

Keity’s mouth fell open, and hung there, as she stopped petting the Princess. “What? Why?”

“He decided at your step-mother’s request, to holiday elsewhere”

“Where are we?...Where?”

“Tahiti, they arrived in the south seas yesterday”

“Tahiti?” Keity’s brain slowed and speed up at the same time and didn’t properly function at all. The hurt and disappointment, in her heart sent a tremble though her body, while her mind tried to distract her, from the news by telling her that everything she had packed was for the wrong season. “He promised that I…my mom” her eyes started to glisten; it’s been two years since she had visited her mother’s grave.

“I am so deeply sorry Keity. I did my best to convince him otherwise”

Pierce often found himself in a very unenviable position, which his employer Keity’s father, did not seem to place a great deal of emphasis in his life on his daughter. Keity and her step-mother were barely on speaking terms, and it was left to Pierce to look after the young girl’s interest and welfare. Being an employee of the family, there were some issues he could only push so far on Keity’s behalf.

If her dad took the private jet she could fly commercial to France. Tickets would be an issue this late, but it was better than not going. “You could take me to France. Couldn’t you?” she asked unable to hide the plea in her voice.

“Keity…Your father…He took your passport with him” It was difficult for him to say the words, and almost unbearable for him to see the effect they had on this young girl.

Tears flowed from Keity’s eyes, and her shoulders trembled. She couldn’t go to France, she couldn’t even go to Tahiti to confront her father, and with her ‘ghosting’ abilities she couldn’t even call him. She tipped over onto her side, and curled up as tears soaked into her pillow, the Princess sensing her owners discomfort adjusted herself appropriately curled up with her.

Pierce’s own eyes moistened, and his shoulders shook in anger, as he watched the girl’s despair.

“I am deeply sorry Keity. He left a note for you under the tree along with your present” and with that Pierce withdrew from the room. He stood in the hallway for a moment and fantasized about the day he would quit once Keity was 18, before heading down to the kitchen.

Heroes: Lady Halifax, Miss Kia, WhiteLotus, Agent Immolate, Lady Empathy, Sylence Fyredancer, Maiden of Fire
Villains: Innocent-Ella, Aegis-Sprite, Midnight Dragonfly



[Christmas morning, Swann Penthouse]

Keity sat on the floor beside the professionally decorated tree in her pajamas and her robe. The Princess was nearby tentatively investigating with some of the tree’s low hanging ornaments. Keity stared at the open box sitting on her lap. She was emotionally numb, and well past crying. She shifted her gaze from the box to note. She didn’t need to read it again. It was unfortunately scorched into her brain.

Dearest Katherine,

We wish you a wonderfully joyous holiday. I am sorry to cancel our holiday plans to visit France, but Monica insisted that we spend time together as a couple somewhere warm, and promises to bring you back something special to make it up to you. Pierce and the other servants will be there to take care of you and we’ll call you on Christmas, enjoy your present, I am told it’s the latest thing.

All my and Monica’s love,
There were so many things wrong in the short note. Her father was the only person in the world that called her Katherine. It wasn’t her name. Her name was and is and had always been ‘Katie’, spelled Keity. The handwriting not even the signature wasn’t even her father’s. It was written and signed by his executive assistant. May be he took the time to dictate it to her.

Keity and her stepmom Monica were barely on civil terms, bring back something special? What does that even mean? She hated it when he called Pierce a servant and treated him like one as well. ‘We’ll call you on Christmas’ that was rich; she couldn’t use phones due to her ghosting. It was possible that her father’s executive assistant didn’t know about her ability when she wrote the note; her father hated to be reminded that Keity was special or different or anything other than normal. Their relationship was strained before her being transferred to Golden Eagle, now … ?

The last thing was the present itself. She looked back at the box and the shiny customized gold plated iPhone that was in it. There were even several diamonds inset into the face to shape Keity’s initials.

Her ghosting caused enough problems with a standard buttoned phone (for texting only); a touchscreen was completely useless to her.

She finally made a decision, got up, shuffled down the hall to her room, discarding the box on the hall table along the way. She took a quick shower, dried her hair, dressed in warm street clothes and pinned her hair up with some Chinese hair-sticks, donned her coat, and slung the long hard-case across her back, and made to leave.

Jocelyn, the housekeeper caught her in the hall. Keity handed her the box with the present. “Please take this, and donate it” she pressed the box in her hands, and tried a brave smile. She then turned and headed out the door

“Jes” said Jocelyn “Dinner is five” and went about her duties. She didn’t speak very good English.


Keity hiked briskly though the streets. A track problem at Founder’s Falls tram station made her rethink how she was going to get out of the zone. It being Christmas she hadn’t seen any cabs to flag down and she couldn’t call one. She decided to just go on foot and started jogging towards the bridge to Talos Island, but didn’t mind, it felt good to have her blood moving.

She finally arrived at her destination, the boardwalk area of Talos. She found the small temple easily, it was attached to an old dojo that was boarded up and covered in graffiti after closing years ago. But the faithful local Buddhist lovingly maintained the temple / shrine attached to it. With her heart pounding and her nose red from cold, she stepped in to the shrine, and knelt before the small alter of candles and offerings to meditate.

Soon she lost track of time, which is good because it took her ages to clear her mind. As her senses expanded, and she knew she was alone, she finally reached up and plucked the hair-sticks from her hair. She turned the sticks in her hands several times studying them. They didn’t look like anything special, just fairly ordinary black lacquered sticks with a few hand-painted flowers on them, but they were special, very special.

Pressing her thumb down sharply the lacquer cracked and the stick split open to reveal, and also ordinary looking piece of incense. Keity carefully withdrew it, and setting it into one of the special holders lit it. A tiny smoldering flame took place, twinkling with its small light, but the tiny flame gave off no warmth…in this dimension.

Keity continued to meditate and expand her senses as the incense burned away.

Until…“Hello Xiǎoguǐ*”
*little ghost

The fencer jumped startled when the voice spoke from very close behind her, she dropped quickly into a combat stance and spun to face the masked and veiled speaker. Recognizing her sensei, she immediately fell to her knees bowing deeply.

It took her sensei a fraction of a second to study her student then silently she reached down and placed a hand on her only pupil’s shoulder and the two vanished noiselessly as if they were swallowed by a shadow.

Heroes: Lady Halifax, Miss Kia, WhiteLotus, Agent Immolate, Lady Empathy, Sylence Fyredancer, Maiden of Fire
Villains: Innocent-Ella, Aegis-Sprite, Midnight Dragonfly



(( Oh look a post. This one written with the help of Leo. ))

[A week before Christmas]

After sending a couple of texts that amount to "Merry Christmas, happy holidays!" "How are you?" and "What's up?", Ian decided to ask Kethara if she'd like to go out shopping with him. And since there was quite a few more nights before Christmas, this was a better time than any to finally get this little task started and done with.

Ian stood outside the gate of the school, bundled up in a thick wool overcoat and some faded jeans as well as his bokken tucked into the belt of his pants. He waited on the snow plowed pavement for his friend to arrive, not very long but the weather made it feel like a bit of time had passed. Several thoughts went through his head, not pertaining to shopping. He really didn't know a lot about Kethara now that he thought about about her parents or her past. Needless to say, she seemed pretty accepting of the hero moniker so perhaps her whole family was in on the business?

His ears perked at the presence of another, the faint low hum of the energy fields used by Peacebringers to fly easily audible to his trained senses. He quickly turned his head up and smiled. "Hey! Kethara!" His hands still dug in his pockets and his boots thudding along the pavement, he walked over to meet her. "Glad you made it. I'd be bored going by myself and can't have my mom seeing what I'm getting her," he said with a wide toothy grin.

The peacebringer dropped out of the sky next to him, flipping gracefully in midair at the last moment to land neatly on her feet rather than on her face. The swordsman simply smiled at the young peacebringer's acrobatics. "Wouldn't miss it. I'd try to be as secret about what I'm getting for mine but she already knows. Even before I know, it's kinda annoying." She paused, looking up at him. "I do have to wonder though, why me of all people? Don't you have friends in your own class? I mean come on, I'm almost young enough to be your daughter." She kept walking alongside him the whole time, talking as fast as words popped into her head.

"My daughter?" Ian laughed and rested a heavy hand on her shoulder. "Maybe a little sister," he added with a warm smile at the thought. He always wished he had a brother or sister, big, little or otherwise, so the diversion of thoughts soothed his torrential mind. "Not to make it seem like you were a last resort or anything but...pretty much all my friends are gone on holiday. I probably would have too but mother decided to stay home this Christmas..." Suddenly, his smile faded and he got caught up in thinking about the family holidays of the past. They weren't always exciting but at least they were together...

"I'd have gone on holiday but I don't really have anywhere to go." Kethara shrugged, it mattered little to her. "Maybe I'll go visit my sister, that's always fun. You're welcome to come along if you want."

"Sure, sounds like fun," Ian agree with a shrug. "It's cool that you have siblings...I wish I did too. Anyway," he quickly continued, so quick in fact, it didn't seem like he had been distracted at all. "So your mom is a psychic or something?" he questioned as they turned the block which revealed Main Street in the distance. "Does she have a hero name like yours?"

"Umm.... not exactly", Kethara answered, a little evasively. Sure, it probably didn't matter in a period where Ouroboros was reasonably well known and time travelling heroes were a dime a dozen, but her mother was always cautioning her about the possible consequences of inadvertently changing history. "She did used to be registered though, under Paxtera. Means something in Latin, I think it was. She told me once but I don't remember", she went on almost as quickly as Ian had, trying to gloss over her mother's true nature with a convenient subject change. "Never was good at dead languages", she added.

"Hmm, P-a-x? T-e-r-r-a?" Ian spelled out, "Sounds like it'd mean peaceful land or something to that effect in Latin," he tried answering Kethara's query without trying to come off as a smart-aleck about it. He quickly perked up when he turned his attention down the street to see a busy little river of people walking along the sidewalks and passing in and out of the street-side shops, their windows adorned with tinsel and lights as well as the shop's fares to entice shoppers to come in.

"Yup, it's definitely Christmas," Ian smirked and laughed then looked over to Kethara. "Since your mom knows what you'll get her, does that mean she already knows what you want this year too?"

"Again, not exactly. More or less, so long as I tell her at some point, she knows before I do. It's complicated", the peacebringer replied, again evasively. Ian tried contemplating how this psychic link might have worked but soon gave up after several the 3rd dozen convoluted possibility hit a roadblock.

Thankfully for Kethara to change the subject, a convenient distraction presented itself in the form of a shop with something that caught her eye in the window. Namely, a computer shop with a display of top of the line components of various kinds. "Ooh!", she exclaimed, running to the window and looking them over before glancing back at Ian. "You mind if I go in and have a look around?"

"By all means," the swordsman smiled and moved to open the door for her before following her inside. "I guess girls aren't into Barbies and dolls anymore, huh?" he joked with a grin. As Kethara shopped around, Ian took a look at some of the accessories the place had: laptop bags, chill mats, wireless chargers. He really didn't know what was useful or not as he didn't really 'own' a laptop himself (technically, he has a laptop for cataloging his work but he never actually uses it outside of that). "Hey Kethara, what would you recommend if you were shopping for a gift?" he asked after rejoining the peacebringer and observing over her shoulder.

The peacebringer on the other hand had no interest in laptops, accessories, or anything wireless. She went straight to a display of prebuilt desktop computers and checked out each one, a quick glance seemingly enough for each one before moving on. "Umm... no idea? It'd depend on who I was shopping for, I guess", she answered Ian when he rejoined her, not looking up from the box she was holding, scanning the info on the back of it. "You know, get them something they'd like or that they would use."

Ian moved in closer to scan what the peacebringer was scanning too. "Hmm, okay. Rephrasing. What sort of something would you like?" He didn't mean to come off so direct about it but Ian wasn't one to beat around the bush about something. "Err...that is, what type of stuff do you use?...Just to get a good kind of idea about stuff like shopping for others," he tried to clarify. He diverted his eyes in an attempt to conceal his rather transparent intentions but you never know, maybe Keth wouldn't care.

Keth put the box back on the shelf before turning to face him, an amused smile stuck firmly on her face. "Why's what I want matter? Were you planning on getting me something?" She doubted it, she barely knew him and he knew her even less. But if he was it presented a problem. She hadn't gotten anything for him, nor had she been planning to get anything. For anyone, not just Ian. Christmas just wasn't something she was used to celebrating.

"It doesn't matter..." he answered, evading the other question, "Think of it like a hypothetical question, I guess. If I knew someone that reminded me of you, then your insight might be of help." Try as he might (or rather, due to often abrasive combative nature) Ian didn't have too many people he'd call friends. So when he found someone he could tolerate (and vise versa) he'd grow a close keenship pretty quick. "Come on, just help me out," Ian asked again with big pleading green eyes.

"As far as puppy dog eyes go, I think yours need work", Keth told him with a faint laugh. "But ok. Umm... to be honest I don't know. Nothing comes to mind immediately." She shrugged apologetically. "If all else fails you can always get them a voucher, or just straight money. Impersonal, I know, but some people prefer that and then being able to choose for themselves rather than being given something they didn't want and might not ever use. Just a thought. Books are always good too, if you know what sort they like."

As Keth explained, Ian nodded and listened. It was apt advice for sure, but definitely not his style. While paying attention to the peacebringer, he searched his memory of their interactions in the past. Well, he remembered seeing the girl's interesting gold-looking cell that she requested custom fitted with the school's teleport grid. As if changing the subject, he returned his attention to the desktop components on the shelf. "So what's your system look like? Anything like your cell?"

"Huh? No, that's a special case, just so I can get in touch with Mum if I need to. Haven't yet, not sre if that's a good sign or not though", Keth replied, after a moment's hesitation. "But no, the one I have back in the dorm is entirely built with the best parts I could find locally. 'Best' being relative, of course, but that's what I have to work with. I even put it together myself." She seemed more than a little proud of that. After all, knowing about what was to her antique technology was one thing, but using it and more importantly using it correctly was quite another. "Stupid Mum and her making me promise..."

"Hmm? Promise what?" Ian asked with a blink. "You're certainly being cryptic today. I get the feeling there's something you're not telling me." He gave Keth one more stare before just laughing it off and giving the store one last look around. Apparently, he got the info he needed. "Is there anything you needed to buy?" He wasn't sure if she still wanted to look around or not but there were still other places they could scope out.

"Nah, I'm always cryptic and I always don't tell people things", Kethara replied with a slight laugh. "Perks of being... nevermind", she added, catching herself before she said something she shouldn't. Ian gave her a little scowl when she did it again but turned it into a smirk soon after. "And no, nothing. Amazing how slow time goes when you have to live every moment of it... Anyway. We can leave whenever, I was just looking around. Still need to get presents too, should remember that."

"Good, I already found what I need here too. Hopefully she'll like it," he responded not-as-cryptically to the peacebringer. "Just don't go peeking into my head or anything." He opened the door for the girl and followed her back out into the cold. "So where to next?" Ian offered her the choice. He didn't want to go telling her he didn't really have any shopping to do except for her.

A few blocks down, a cacophony of barks, growls and twitters came from a corner pet store. At first it was mainly just lots of animal noises but after a small parade of Strong Men and Seneschals came storming out of the store and around the corner into an ally, a loud tussle could be heard around the block. Ian could hear them from a block or two further but the commotion wasn't even that far off. Ian's eyes quickly darted toward the disturbance. "You hear that?" he asked the obvious.

[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: STOP!
[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: WAIT ONE SECOND!
[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: WHAT IS A SEAGULL DOING ON MY THRONE!?!?



[Day 1: 1st mission]

As the ferry sailed from Independence onward to Striga Island, Spirit bent over to rest his elbows on the ship’s railing. He was examining the paper he had gotten from Kerrigan. On it was some information about Golden Jason, his appearance, some of his past transgressions and even some of his hangouts around the island. It certainly gave him a starting point to get his search going.

Apparently, this ‘Jason’ guy was one of the main members of the Warriors that joined in stealing interesting Greek relics and artifacts. It was a good hunch now that he thought about it, that Jason might have something to do with the mysterious missing truck driver who happened to be shipping special swords. “Heh, haven't you ever heard weapons don’t steal the man!, that doesn’t make sense…weapons don’t make the man?...whatever. I’m gonna beat you up and get those swords back!” Spirit said to the imaginary villain beside him. He even put up his dukes and started boxing the invisible man, throwing in some ‘HA!’s, ‘BAM!’s and ‘KA-SHAKK!’s.

“Ka-shakk?” Spirit said and ceased his shadow boxing. “What kinda fighting noise is that!?” The satyr shook his head and continued his play/practice to the confusion of the other hero passengers on the ferry who simply stared at him.


Since he kept himself distracted, it didn’t seem long before he was stepping foot on the docks of Striga. The other heroes quickly jumped/flew/teleported into the distance so he’d get no help there. “Hmm, wait a minute,” the ram-boy scratched his head and looked both ways up and down the dock. “I don’t know how to find these places.” He started a moment longer at the mission paper, trying to make sense of the combination of numbers and letters after ‘warehouse’ or ‘dock’ and quickly gave up, tossing the paper aside.

His hooves clopped along the pavement as he marched to ask anybody if they knew where ‘Golden Jason’ lived. Several soldier guys told him to get lost, a few guys in colored business suits told him to buzz off and there were even a few turrets that tried to blow him up!

“Nneeeh! Why can’t I find any of the Warriors?” the satyr pouted as he hung his hoofed feet off the side of a wooden dock and threw a few bullet casings into the water he had picked up. “There’s suppose to be those sword guy Warriors all over this place. Where could they all be hiding?”

Perhaps they were hiding? In the distance, he heard hooping and yelling (not really strange around these parts) along with bright flashes of weird colors behind him. At first, Spirit was just going to ignore it but when he heard the familiar sound of clashing swords and axes, the satyr jumped to his feet and bounded after the racket.

“You tell us who has the swords or we’ll rip the soul right from your flesh!”

“Grrrrg! We haven’t an idea- huuug!...what you speak of!”

“Hold them off. I’ve got an idea. We’ll use a spell to control him and retreat. Then we’ll get our answers when-“

Spirit came descending on the battle between a mass of robed men and a bunch of transparent ghastly-looking things versus a handful of warriors. The battle seemed a bit one-sided though. Even with a squad of 5 more warriors howling as they charged into the fray, they didn’t really stand a chance against the magic wielding Circle of Thorn.

“Hey hey hey! What’s going on here!” Spirit called out as he landed with a boom.

The mages seemed unphased by the hero’s arrival and quickly launched a flurry of lightning bolts and darkness blasts at the ram. Since he landed in a crouch, his hand was already touching the ground and the colors around him began to desaturate and wash. Unlike his surroundings, Spirit’s colors instead intensified and the satyr significantly stood out from everything.

The blasts bashed Spirit hard but rather than fry him to a crisp and suck the life from him, they only caused him extreme discomfort. He shielded himself from the attack with his arms, barely able to keep himself on his feet. “Is…that all…you’ve got?” Spirit panted, barely finding the strength not to fall flat on his face. And he just might when the ghosts and robes started charging up their spells for another attack. Darn…I couldn’t even last a second round with these guys…maybe I’m just not ready…

It wasn’t that he wanted to give up…but what could he do? He started to clench his teeth in preparation for the pain when he heard the hollering, whistling and cheering behind him. “Huh?”

“Go Minotaur! You can take em!”

“They ain’t tipping no cows! Show em who’s boss!”

Spirit looked over his shoulders to see the Warriors seemed to be on his side. “Their crappy magic can’t touch you!”

The satyr smiled and rose up. “Aww, well it did kinda hurt,” he said through a grin, partially ignoring much of the damage he had.

“Grrr, just destroy that beast,” the Air Thorn Caster ordered and began to chant some magic words. As ordered, the other casters started throwing lightning bolts and the ghosts swooped in as the satyr soaked up the praise from his fans.

“Horn dude! Watch out!”

Spirit managed to turn just in time to get a face full of lightning followed by a wave of death energy. It looked like it was all over for this young hero…

….. “No way!” Spirit cried and charged right through the ghosts at the robes. The mages looked shocked their spells didn’t seem to do much damage to the creature and instead drew their ceremonial blades in preparation of defending themselves but a well placed punch and headbutt took care of each. The ghosts gave chase with spectral claws reaching toward the young ram who turned on them with growing coiled horns. Defying logic, he head-butt the ghosts too, which seemed to have an actual affect on them and sent them flying back. Their ghastly shrieks made the warriors’ skin crawl but when they saw the scaredy-ghosts flying away, they cheered again for the strange hoofed hero.

“Haha! No prob guys. I could take on another army of them if I hafta,” Spirit laughed in triumph.

“You have not yet won, fool. You’ll feel my icy wrath soon.” The satyr turned to see the lone Air Caster drawing a circle out of light. Welp, one more to go. Spirit started walking toward the straggler with confidence…but he noticed this mage had just as much confidence. Hmmm, this might not be good.

Spirit thought quickly. The only thing he could do was try to reach out and sap away his moral. Maybe he’d give up? But it was too late. A typhoon of icy wind sent Spirit and the Warriors flying threw a nearby fence, into a warehouse yard and on top of a bunch of crates.

“Ow ow ow…” Spirit pulled himself up and tried straightening his spine from the impact. It took him a while to notice, but when a particle of cold whiteness touched his snout, he looked up. “Snow? But it was just clear a minute ago.”



(( Part 1 of no idea how many, written with Leo. ))

[And about a week After Christmas]

This was misery by its definition. Ian was alone, hungry and stranded.

He was alone because he had no one he could turn to or wanted to turn to in this form. He was a beast, a tiger and wild looking. Not like last year, where he looked like a puppy-sized tiger cub that people thought was so cute and cuddly. Now he was at least 5x that size now. Anyone that saw him probably avoided him, unsure if he was wild creature, a domestic stray or just some practical joke waiting for a sucker to walk into.

He was hungry because...well, he'd been like this for the past few days. After losing that tournament and finding himself without any knowledge of what he was, his form reverted to this. He dare not barge into the cafe and ask for a raw steak, no one would understand his growls and roars and might even ship him off to a zoo or something. No birds or squirrels to hunt this season, the lakes were mostly frozen over so no fish...he could probably manage to catch a stray dog or cat but no telling if he could muster the courage to eat it...

He was stranded outside. Since he couldn't very well use his hands, he accidentally bit through the keycard when he tried to open his room with his teeth. And although he could probably leap over the perimeter wall to leave the campus as he pleased, there wasn't many other places he could go. Much of the cover at the park was shed in autumn and the alleys were most likely occupied. -Sigh- It was just better to find a corner or a rock somewhere and hide in it to wait this transformation's been 3 days and in the past, they usually didn't last much longer.

In the meantime, Ian hid under a naked tree and bathed in the snow. He clawed various words in the white slush in Portuguese and Spanish to take his mind off of his stomach. At least he wasn't cold...

In his musings and misery, he may not have seen or heard the other cat coming up behind him. It was after all much smaller, and made little noise on the soft snow. She certainly saw him though, the sharpened senses of the animal picking him out almost before she left the cover of the nearby building along the wall of which she'd been walking. The students around the place paid her little mind, there were some - mostly the ones who were or had been in a class with her - who knew who and what the little ginger cat was, but to most she was simply a stray cat. One of many and not worth concern.

Him, though... to her he presented a mystery. She'd never seen him before, yet his scent was somehow familiar to her. It made no sense. And, cats being the curious creatures they are and Amelia no less so for not being a true cat, she just had to find out why. So over she went, somewhat cautiously but none the less she went.

His feline ears perked when he finally decided whatever was creeping around him was getting too close. He squashed his writings with a thick paw as he raised to a seated position and aiming his yellow and hazel eyes off into the distance, as if he hadn't noticed the prowler's approach. <I wonder if it's a never know...could taste decent> he said aloud to himself.

Amelia stopped dead in her tracks when she heard that, tempted to just pass on by but she still wanted to find out why he smelled so familiar. <You know I can hear you, right? And for your information I'm NOT a stray, I'm a student here>, she snapped back at him in exactly the kind of imperious tone one would expect from a cat. She stayed right where she was however, not coming any closer in case he decided to try to eat her anyway. She might need the room to run if it came to fight or flight and she chose the latter, him being so much bigger and all.

The tiger looked left then right then he turned to the cat with blinking eyes. <Who said that?> he said after turning up his gaze to make sure no one was silently flying above him. <You can hear what I'm saying?> Ian asked further as he finally narrowed his gaze on the feline...or he would have if his stomach hadn't started grumbling. A short gurgle at first, then a long steady growl which made him blush had he not been covered in thick fur. <...that wasn't me> he tried to explain. <I mean, I wasn't being aggressive...> Although his stomach didn't sound anything like his rumbling growl, he felt it better to at least make it clear.

<No, you just haven't eaten in a while. That much is obvious>, Amelia replied, laughing quietly. <And if you must know, I said that. You WERE talking aloud, you know.>

<Great. How can I eat something that talks back to me?> he commented to himself as he let his body collapse back into the snow.

<You could always NOT eat me. Just a suggestion>, Amelia offered. <If you're really desperate I could get something from the cafeteria.> She still stayed right where she was, not approaching him in case it turned out to be a terrible and entirely possibly fatal mistake.

Still lying on his empty belly, Ian eyed the feline curiously. To tell the truth, Ian didn't like cats. Not because he just wasn't a cat's just they've always lead to trouble for him so learned to not trust them, for good reason. But like she said, he was starting to get desperate. <Okay, little cat, I suppose I'll trust you. But how do you plan to get into the cafeteria?> he asked as he sat up again. <Or carry anything out?...I am pretty hungry, I could eat something a lot heavier than you.> The tiger anxiously yet slowly paced. He had to stop himself from circling the cat so he didn't seem intimidating and instead walked a path in front of her, his paws trailing a path in the snow. He seemed slightly taller than before now that he was in motion, his tail dexterously swaying side to side.

<Oh I dunno...>, Amelia replied. <I have my ways. One thing though before I go... How is it you were talking and didn't know it? And come to think of it where'd you come from anyway? I've never seen you around here but your scent is familiar for some reason. Would you care to explain why?> And there was the cat's natural curiosity kicking in, apparently. Something about him just didn't add up and she was determined to find out what before she went anywhere, cafeteria or otherwise.

As the cat asked her questions, the tiger continued to pace but even slower. <Wow, you ask a lot of questions,> he commented with a laugh, probably the first one he'd had in quite a few days. <I knew I was talking, I just didn't know anyone could understand me. The times I tried asking for help, I'd just get weird stares and stuff.> At the other questions, the tiger leisurely approached and stopped several feet away. <You can say I'm just a non-frequent visitor. I've been around once before when I was a bit smaller but beyond that, you're not familiar to me at all.>

Now staring at the curious cat from the side, he started to become curious himself but not quite curious enough to forget about his hunger. His stomach growled again but he put it aside long enough to ask a question of his own. <Why'd you say you were a student? Did you mean a student's pet?>

<Nope, if I had a pet human I would've said so>, Amelia replied, laughing a little. <Well... Cait might count, maybe. But anyway, no. I'm a student here.> She sounded so very smug about that, too. <Now since I answered your question, you answer mine. Where'd you come from and why do you smell so familiar?>

This cat seemed to be getting bold, as she held her ground when he approached. He took another step when he answered. <You tell me. Have you been following behind me, smelling my tracks? I wouldn't know why I'd smell familiar to a feline I've never met.> The tiger took another step closer, his nose inching closer. A quick couple of sniffs followed by a breeze of warmth from his nose accompanied a small fang-bearing smirk. <Well, I've met you now...the smart little cat that thinks she goes to school with humans> he half growled and purred in a laugh after obtaining her scent. <Sorry, I didn't mean to sound discouraging. I believe you go to school here...I have to believe weird things in a city like this. It's just amusing to think about. As for where I'm from? Here. I just don't come out very often.> Just then, his stomach rumbled again and his mouth began to water. <Perhaps it'd be easier to talk after getting a bite? I wouldn't want to slobber all over you when I say something.>

<Alright, alright. Sheesh, so impatient>, Amelia replied, almost as if offended by it but not really. She shrugged, or as much as a cat can shrug anyway, and turned to head toward the cafeteria. Before she was out of sight, however, she with no fanfare or dramatic flourish whatsoever shifted back to her human form. She didn't even look back at him as she went into the cafeteria building, but had he been able to see her face he would've easily spotted the amused grin on it. But, what to get for the tiger. She was pretty sure the dragon she'd seen in here a few times preferred his meat raw, maybe they'd let her have some?

The tiger nearly couldn't believe his eyes. Had a girl just appeared out of nowhere? And where did the little cat go? As she walked through the cafeteria doors, the tiger bounded after her then slowed to a trot so he could weave through the closing doors. He didn't try to keep quiet as his paws padded the floor and he shook himself free of any snow that clung to his fur. While he was apprehensive of barging into the cafeteria and hearing the gasps or shouts of his presence, these were dismissable if this strange girl gouged for him.

He soon closed the gap, his snout inadvertently bumping the back of her thigh as she moved to speak with the cooks and he followed close behind. Yes, it was the same person, he could smell her. So many questions swam through his thoughts, it seemed an odd choice for the first he decided to ask. <Why aren't you naked?> Apparently, the tiger momentarily forgot his appetite.

Amelia almost jumped when she heard him ask. <Weren't you going to stay outside?>, she asked him in return, not answering his question.

<Well, I thought you were a cat and you were sneaking into a window or something,> the tiger retorted with a growl for being answered with a question. Eh, oh well, she was calling the shots here as he could very well be thrown back out in the snow.

<And since you're here, you can tell me what you want. What do tigers eat anyway? Meat I'd assume. But do you want it cooked or not?> He aimed a narrowed glare up to the girl.

<Tigers eat only what they kill...but I'm very much less picky,> the tiger responded with a snort. <Beef, pork, mutton. Whatever, just no poultry...and raw, please. Also cut to let some of the blood...I don't want to make a mess of myself.> He licked his whiskers in anticipation at the smell of fresh meat, even if it was being cooked. Hopefully there was a good size amount left uncooked.

"You going to order anything?", asked the guy behind the counter. Amelia looked up from the tiger and realised she was holding up the line, so she moved grabbing a few things for herself along the way.

"Is he yours? A pet or something", the guy asked.

"No.... more of a stray", Amelia replied, a little hesitantly. This got a padding to the back of her leg and a cold stare. Being labeled a stray might get him the wrong type of attention. <What? You ARE a stray>, she told him before looking back up. "You don't mind do you? I can pay for anything he eats." The guy behind the counter just shrugged and motioned for her to move on. Apparently a student bringing a tiger into the cafeteria wasn't the strangest thing he'd seen at this school.

After making their requests to the cooks (hopefully there was some butcher in them too), Ian eagerly prodded the girl again, this time nabbing the bottom cuff of her pants in his teeth to give it a little nip. Yes, they were certainly there and real. <When are you going to explain this? How did you change like that? Where'd these clothes come from!?> While he thought more about this new phenomenon, he pondered if she was like him...or him like her, however you look at it. Then it hit him. <Wait...I've seen you before,> he exclaimed after getting a good look at her face...

<You have? Well, that explains why you smell familiar>, Amelia replied, walking backwards towards the tables looking back at the tiger following her. Amazingly she managed to not walk into anyone or anything, even dodging around someone she by all rights shouldn't have known was there. <I don't remember ever seeing a tiger around the place before, though... you're not another shifter are you?>, she asked as she sat down at an empty table. She put the meat she'd gotten for him on a spare plate she'd gotten for that exact purpose and set it down on the floor so he wouldn't have to jump up on the table to get at it.

[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: STOP!
[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: WAIT ONE SECOND!
[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: WHAT IS A SEAGULL DOING ON MY THRONE!?!?



(( Part 2 of still don't know how many, also written with Leo. ))

The tiger didn't feel any humiliation at eating on the floor and even embraced it by letting his belly rest on the cool floor as he sank his fangs into the fresh meat. He didn't answer any of the questions first off, his thoughts and jaw was too occupied with the food to do much else. It was as if he expected someone to try and steal it from him if he didn't eat it fast enough. In a manner of minutes, he was already finished with the medium sized dish of flesh but he was still careful not to get his snowy white fur around his face soiled with blood.

<Shifter?> he asked as he sat up again, his wide tongue cleaning the corners of his maw. <Is that some sort of clan?...Anyway, just like you, I'm not normally like this. I'm a human too. Rarely am I ever seen like this...that's why I said I'm an infrequent visitor.> The tiger carefully gripped the empty dish in his teeth, rose up to the table, resting a foot on it and a nearby chair then gently released the plate there, indicating he had finished. <Not to sound too needy but...would you be able to teach me how to do that? That changing on command thing?>

Amelia looked down at him in surprise when he said he was human, one eyebrow raised. <You don't look very...>, she began, but broke off as he went on to explain. <Umm... maybe. If you really are a shifter then it should be easy enough, you just focus on the other form and sort of will yourself to be it. If you're not, then no idea sorry.>

Then the tiger nudged the plate closer to Amelia. <And more food? I'm still hungry.> He added a toothy grin as he try his best to say 'please' in human tongue but came out as a rough snarl. <Uh, that was suppose to sound like please.>

<More? Greedy and impatient, sheesh. Alright, fine... But only cause you asked nicely. Might want to work on the pronunciation though, that one took me a while too.> Amelia took the plate and got up to go get some more food, leaving the tiger to follow.

<You can speak like a human when you're a cat too?> the tiger asked as he followed behind her, his tail eagerly flipping to and fro. He suddenly felt guilty. <Thanks for all your help but I don't even know your name,> he said looking up to her. <I'm Ian and would like to learn more about this transforming thing you do...that is, if you're willing to deal with me.>

<Yeah, I can>, Amelia replied as she grabbed some more meat for him. <Sounds a bit weird but it's understandable at least. Took me ages to get it right though, so don't worry if it takes you a while too. And I hope you're gonna pay me back for this once you get turned back into a human, this stuff's getting expensive.>

The tiger bared his teeth in a grin. <Of course, if you're not just feeding a stray out of the kindness of your heart...>

<Name's Amelia, by the way>, she added as she paid for the great heap of meat she'd piled on a plate. The guy behind the counter gave the tiger a disparaging look, as if to ask how it could possibly want so much. But it was paid for, so he had no objection. <And I dunno about willing, but... not like I have much else to do over these holidays. Besides, heroes are supposed to help people, right? I see a guy in need of help>, she told him with a laugh and a playful poke on the nose. Ian gave a funny snort at the poke and followed her and the smell of meat back to the table.

When he ate this time, he occasionally stopped between swallows to speak. <I've done visualizing to help me change back but it seems to be more complicated than that,> he said, his maw hovering over his meal just before he took another bite. <So when can you take me through the lessons of this Shifter clan? I'd hate to resort to scratching on your door every time I'm hungry.>

<Umm... I dunno if there's 'lessons' really. I've been able to do it since I was born - Dad says I was the most adorable kitten>, Amelia replied, looking down at him now since she'd finished her own meal. <A couple of questions though... How long have you been like that? And if the answer to that isn't 'from birth', have you ever been bitten by an animal on the night of the full moon?> She sat back, waiting for him to finish chewing so he could answer.

The tiger chewed on flesh as he thought about these questions and how they related to this clan of Shifters. <A few years, actually. The changes come and go but I rarely ever have any control over when.> He licked his whiskers as he thought about the other question. Was this girl like a werewolf? <I've never been bitten by a beast in my life. I'm just too fast,> Ian boasted with a smirk. <But are you telling me this...feature is contagious?> He didn't mean for it to sound like he thought shifters were a disease but it just came out like that.

<Only on the night of the full moon>, Amelia told him, not making an issue of being treated like a disease. To some extent it was, in her view. Just not a harmful one, not at all. <And don't ask me why only then, I don't know>, she went on. <But if a shifter bites anyone on that night, that person becomes a shifter. Generally, we try not to. Likewise, if a shifter has a child, even with a normal person, the child will be a shifter too.>

He stooped his neck down for another bite but stopped. <Oh, and just in case you ask how I got like this...I think a witch did it.> Blunt explanation but that's all he knew.

<Then you're not a shifter and I probably can't help you, other than feeding you>, Amelia replied equally bluntly. <If you want, we could go see a magic expert and I'll translate for you>, she offered a little hesitantly.

He had expected such a response. <I have spoken with a magic professional once before. He classified the magic as a type of therianthropy curse upon the victim.> He took the last few bites of his meal then finally pushed the plate aside with a paw to look up to Amelia as he spoke. <Since then, I've researched this phenomenon a bit. From memory, the transformations have no outside pattern like using the full moon or night time. But what they all had in common was how I felt when it initiated the change. When I get mad, it forces the change so that inclines me to believe I might be able to control the changes.> He tipped his head to the side to finally ask the question he had been thinking of while speaking. <What's the difference between a bite on a full moon and a magic curse? Don't they impart the same effect?>

<Outwardly maybe>, Amelia answered, leaning down to grab the plate before adding it to her own and getting up. <But on the inside it probably works differently. If it's affected by emotions though... if being mad made you transform, maybe the opposite will change you back? Being really calm or whatever. Or it might be something completely random... you'd have to go through the whole range to find out probably. I assume you've tried though, right?> She paused as the tiger nodded in answer and the both of them walking off toward the exit after dropping the empty plates off. <Cause really, I'm not gonna be much help. I've been able to do it since I was born, it's as natural for me as breathing. So I really don't know what to tell you.>

The tiger rubbed his flank along her leg in pleading. <Please, I really need someone that understands this stuff from experience. I just need to know how it feels, how it works, anything.> He cast his shining green eyes up, again pleading. <I'm a fast learner and a good listener.>

<I didn't say I wouldn't help, cause I will>, Amelia replied, raising a hand to reassure him. <I'm just saying, I dunno how much help I'll be. Your situation's a lot different to mine.> At this the tiger stopped buttering up the shifter and instead smiled at his success and kept walking with her. <Anyway, do you have a place to sleep? Out in the snow's kinda rough, even with fur.>

Ian pondered this extensively. But it was only a manner of a couple of paces if you were watching him. <Well...I've slept outside in the snow before when I was human...but it would be nice to sleep inside for a change.> Rather than keep walking, the tiger stopped and took a seat on their path. <It's kind of embarrassing...I bit through my keycard. I won't be able to freely enter an leave my room anyway. -Sigh- I really need to figure this whole thing out soon.> He hadn't even seen or spoke to his mother in days. She'd have to be getting worried.

<If you want...>, Amelia offered, a little hesitantly. <Cait's away for the holiday, you could sleep on her bed for a night or two at least. Presuming you can stand being in the girl's dorm without getting all excited and pervy at us all.> She couldn't help but laugh at the thought of that last bit, causing a passing student to give her an odd look for apparently laughing at nothing. She paid it no mind, it wasn't the first time she'd attracted weird looks for talking to cats.

The tiger didn't laugh. Instead he shifted a glance to the passing student then slowly let his gaze sink. He was obviously thinking about something...and considering he sat with his eyes cast to the snow for over ten seconds, he was thinking about it intensely. Eventually, he brought his eyes back up to Amelia with a nod. <I'm harmless, really,> he said, defying the earlier intent of eating the girl when she took the form of a cat. <I guess one night wouldn't hurt. Maybe sleeping in a bed will help me relax or something.> He then followed behind her again.

<Alright then. But if you snore I'm kicking you right back out again>, Amelia replied, heading toward the dorm. <And I'll bet you're not as harmless as you look... were considering eating me after all...>

[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: STOP!
[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: WAIT ONE SECOND!
[Admin] Emperor Marcus Cole: WHAT IS A SEAGULL DOING ON MY THRONE!?!?



[Holiday Day 2: Striga Island]

The warehouse roof quickly collected snow from the instant blizzard that howled and small section of the island. And in the warehouse yard which quickly began to fill with snow, Spirit and the couple of Warriors backing him were still confused at the sudden precipitation. But unlike Spirit, the axe and mace wielding thugs were practically half frozen. Their skin started to take on a shade of blue and they shivered uncontrollably as they cursed to the gods for their lack of sleeves on their warrior jackets which exposed their muscled arms to the fierce cold.

Snow collected on the satyr’s horns and hair and ice between his hooves as, after a matter of a minute, the winter shoreline was transformed to a tundra wasteland.

“W-w-what k-kind of blizzz-zzard is th-this!?!” the Hewer’s teeth chattered.

Spirit turned his head to the fighter thug and felt a spark of pity for them. Cold temperatures weren’t that difficult for his people, it was practically where his home was, but even he had to admit he was starting to feel the sting of ice freezing the blood in his veins.

“Well obviously, it’s not that Air Caster. Even though they have powers to summon ice storms, this has Hellfrost demon written all over it.” The ram dusted snow off his pants as he focused on the feelings coming from the warriors. Fear, despair and constantly worrying about the cold wouldn’t accomplish anything so you have to push that away. “Come on guys, you can’t be crying over a little snowflake. All we have to do is beat up the demon and it’ll be warm again.” Although they were simply encouraging words, Spirit tapped deep down into the soul spectrum to ignite his heart with a fire to beat this.

The ashen fur of his body began to stand out from his surroundings, the red tint of his dark jeans was more evident now, his amber eyes shown like immaculate stained glass and his shirt shone bright against the white of the snow and ice. He showed no fear or worry and the warriors around him began to feel a passion burning in them too.

Like the warriors from days of old, fighting against or besides all sorts of weird creatures and demons, to get a chance to feel like those greek soldiers was what they joined the Warriors for! And just as Spirit shown intensely over his white backdrop, so did the intensity of the Warriors’ hue. Their blades looked shinier and the fire in their souls shown in the fierceness of their eyes. No longer shivering, teeth chattering mortals vainly hugging their bare arms. Now they felt like Hercules whose strength must be channeling through them to hardening their muscles.

Spirit and the pair of Warriors soon got to test their reinforced mettle when a huge hand with crystal blue claws reached out and grabbed the satyr by a horn. The Hellfrost demon lifted Spirit up and looked at the ram in the eye. “Is *this* what I was brought here to deal with? A foolish joke?” the demons subzero breath rushed Spirit’s face as the demon spoke, his mocks literally frosting the ram's eyes over and whipped around his fluttering ears.

“Joke, huh? Well joke this!” Spirit swung at the frosty demon but his fist fell short as the Hellfrost creature put the satyr at arm’s length. “Why don’cha put me down and fight me like an evil monster! Or are ya scruuufffmmffm-”

The satyr had been attempting to kick the demon as he taunted it but only managed to look like a child impishly kicking at a bigger bully. Before Spirit could finish talking back to the Hellfrost, he was quickly silenced by having his head slammed to the ground. The ram’s horns were lodged into the ice and his words muffled by the snow as he felt a heavy hoof stomp his back. The crunch of the ice barely masked the crunch of the satyr’s back or the grunt of pain that escaped his mouth.

“Pitiful,” the demon hissed as he donkey-kicked Spirit after walking over and past his rag-dolled body. “Who’s next?”

But he wasn’t met with fear for dispatching the satyr with such ease, but another howl as the warriors charged with arrows flying and weapons flailing in the air.


“Ow ow ow ow” Spirit struggled to squeeze himself out of the metal crate that was bent around him after that heavy kick he took to the ribs knocked him through the pile of crates again. It took some pushing but he managed to bend the gnarled crate off of him. “Never been kicked like that,” he joked to himself as he shook it off and started picking himself back up. But the fight had kept going even without him. There were several humans frozen in blocks of ice and one laying in the snow unconscious but apparently it took more to put down these Warriors. When Spirit rushed back to the fight, the demon looked on his last leg with a few arrows in his neck, a large gash on his back that bled out a bright blue liquid and kneeling on one knee, panting heavy breaths of arctic fog.

The last of the warriors swung maces at the demon, knocking him to his back and just as he was pushing himself up again, a walloping headbutt to the demon’s back sent him ragdolling. “Payback!” Spirit hollered after a successful attack. When the demon didn’t get back up, the Warriors (or whoever was left after that) howled and echoed the area as they celebrated their victory.


“That was amazing! I’ve never felt so awesome before!”

“We fought off a hoard of CoT, and we didn’t even have half our gang to help!”

“All that training is what it was. I bet we could really put a hurting on those Freaks and Ninjas in Talos too.”

After the group defrosted their allies, which amounted to hitting the blocks of ice that incased them until they shed from their frozen companions, the Warriors packed up their injured and retreated to their nearest hideout which was basically a fenced off roved crate yard where the crates were moved and stacked to create a perimeter wall. Besides a few weapon racks and some random boxes for seats, it was a crappy place for a hideout.

The Warriors were patting themselves on the back for a battle well fought back at their safehouse, telling the others who met them there about the one battle against the Circle that they weren’t completely dominated.

“It was all thanks to our new minotaur friend,” one ganger commented and reached up to pat Spirit on the back. Apparently, caught up in the feelings of victory, Spirit tagged along his new friends, laughing and smiling along with the rest of the guys.

“Heh, I’m not a minotaur. But I did get to kick some butt,” Spirit laughed, taking a seat on box and a grin shining on his face. The rest of the guys continued talking on about their fight as another warrior with a shaved head sat across from him with an accepting eye.

“I guess we owe you one, dude. What’s your name?”

“Uhh, you can just call me Spirit…But what were the Circle of Thorns doing around here?” Spirit questioned, pulling his legs back on his seat so he could dangle his hooves from the ground.

“Those guys have been hounding us a lot lately. We’ve had to go into hiding because they keep taking our guys out, looking for something we don’t have,” the same warrior answered, the expertly crafted sword at his belt and the golden sash on his hip certainly made him stand out from the other warriors and his stature and demeanor gave Spirit the idea this guy was the boss around here.

“Wow, that stinks,” Spirit said with a nod. The satyr kept his eye on the man, only blinking every now and then at the rather familiar looking face. “They said something about swords. Is that what it was?”

“Yeah I know,” the boss answered with his own nod. “But the less they know, the more likely I can get *my* hands on those babies. And the sooner I’ll make a name for myself. ‘Golden Jason’ will be as well known as Hercules and Ceasar."



At the mere mention of the name 'Golden Jason', Spirit balled his hand/hoof into a fist. As he rose up from his crate chair, he looked rather natural, that is until he lunged forward and pumped his fist into the warrior's face. Jason was knocked off his crate and sent flying into a stack of several more which splintered from the collision.

"So you're Golden Jason!?" the satyr questioned, his amber eyes shown a fierce intense brightness that almost made them look copper-red. "Gimme those swords you stole! Now!!"

Jason stayed sprawled out on the pile of broken wood and heavy metal as the ram stood over him, both fist ready to pummel the thief until he gave up.

"Hold on there, horned dude."

"Spirit, ease up."

The other warriors tried to calm the enraged satyr, holding his arms back as he threatened to hit their leader again. Jason fidgeted then started to get up, his face showing signs of fear and distress. "We don't have them, really," he explained with a bit of fright to his voice. The other warriors looked at their leader a bit oddly. Why'd one punch seem to shake him so? "L-look, we don't want any trouble. We were lookin' for those swords just like you but we're gettin' beat and killed even though we don't got anything." Jason momentarily fell to his knees while trying to explain their situation, almost on the verge of sobbing. Had that attack hurt him that much?

Jason suddenly snapped out of it when he realized what he was doing, but not soon enough as Spirit broke free of the other warrior's grip and grabbed Jason by his shirt and nearly lifted the man up off the ground. "Then where are they?"

Jason's look of intimidation began to fade as he was held face to face with the ram-boy which reminded him how young this creature probably was. Didn't mean he wasn't dangerous but that was besides the point. Perhaps they could help each other if they talked this out. "That I might be able to help with," Jason answered. Spirit's eyes lit up a little and he let the man down but still held him by the shirt. "The Tsoo have been going on about some type of auction. They've been making a big deal about some super powerful artifact they got but want to sell them." Spirit finally let go of his shirt and let him continue. "Now everyone's in an uproar about it. The Circle, the Family, even other members of the Tsoo are all looking to take out the other. It's like, even if you showed interest, you're a suspect of stealing the prize."

"What makes you think these guys have the swords I'm looking for?" Spirit's expression turned to one of perplexity.

"That swordsman guy come in town? His swords always come up missing when he does," Jason answered while pulling a recent newspaper from his back pocket and opening it up. There were lost of articles about how such-and-such hero rescued so many orphans from a burning building or how Ms. whatsherface stopped a some Devouring Earth from spreading blahblah mutation through the sewers, but there was also a little quip that Jason was pointing to. It read about a certain Inou Ryjuta, a famed hero from the east, had come to visit Paragon again to congregate with the Freedom Phalanx about certain world-wide threats. There were even other heroes from around the world that were joining the discussions. "When this guy comes into town, someone's always out to take his swords but he always manages to get them back. People say they have special powers so everybody's after them."

Spirit looked puzzled again. "If this Inou guy always gets his swords back, why try to steal them?"

Jason reached up and patted the satyr on the back. "You're here, right? Apparently, the Tsoo threw off this guy's trail. Whoever gets a hold of them will get off scott free."

"But..." Spirit frowned. "But I have to get them back."

"No problem. I'll help you find them but you have to help me too." The ram looked down on the shorter man with a curious blink of his amber eyes. "I'll take you to the auction when they have it in a couple of days. Not just anyone can get in so you'll be with me. But in exchange, I want you to help me teach those ninja-wanna-bes a lesson."

"A lesson?"

"Yes. Those guys always come in on our turf, beat us up, humiliate us. I just want the chance to try out the swords on those cretins and make a name for myself." Jason leaned in and pulled the satyr in by the shoulder, giving him a friendly pat. "You do this for me and I'll give the swords right back to you after we clean up that place, okay?" Spirit could feel his intent. Either this warrior boss was good at masking his intentions with lies or he was sincere.

"But...why would you do that if you finally get your hands on the prize?" Spirit asked innocently.

"Aw, come on. If I just took them and ran, you'd know I had them and that Inou sword-guy would be on my butt in no time."

The satyr paused for half a minute as he considered this. " can always just kill me and then I couldn't tell on you."

Now it was Jason's turn to look perplexed. "Hmm, I never thought of that." But he soon grinned widely at the taller satyr. "But anyway, who could kill you? You're, like, undefeatable!"

It was easy enough to please Spirit and he just smiled and laughed at this as the Warriors started gathering around, laughing, shoving and socking each other and Spirit in the arm. "Okay okay, fine. I'll do it but promise you'll hand over those swords right after we bust that place."

He stuck out his hand which Jason gladly accepted. With a hardy shake, they agreed. "It's a deal. Just be back here the day after tomorrow, past 8pm. You, me and some of the rest of the gang will be going, so don't be late."

"Hmm, 8? That's almost my bed time...I'll have to sneak the ferries run that late?"

"This is Paragon! When are the ferries not running?"



[Holiday Day 3]

It was a rather uneventful day for Spirit. He woke up, ate his greens for breakfast (with a tall glass of chocolate milk, of course), took a trip to the bookstore in Steel, ate lunch, sat in on a tutorial in the AE, hung around his Uncle Bart who was working on some kind of robot part and read comics until it got late.

Now he sat at one of the tables in the underground engineering wing of Golden Eagle, his hoofs propped up on a chair and flipping through one of his comics he had already read a few times. He had already eaten his supper of several freshly cut celery stalks, spinach leaf salad, sliced zucchini with baby carrots, an ear of sweet corn and some milk. Now he was finishing off a vanilla ice cream cone while his eyes watched the hands on the clock tic closer to 8 o'clock.

Bart was working on the intelligence chip of a certain project of his just a few feet from the satyr, the silence of the room occasionally broken up by the soldering tool of the monkey.

"Hmm, you look down," Bart said as he pushed up his goggles and looked up from his work bench. "You're not even reading your book."

Spirit blinked then looked down to the comic he had forgotten he was holding. "Oh...No, I'm just waiting."

"Waiting for what?" Bart asked, still staring at the ram.

"Upp...I mean I was just...waiting for you to get done. Then we can plan what missions you're going to take me on tomorrow."

Bart sighed and returned the goggles to their safety position. "I told you, missions are dangerous. I'm not going to willingly take you into such situations." The monkey continued his work like before. "Besides, anything I go on is classified covert ops stuff under Longbow. Boring stuff, really..." There was silence again as the satyr dejectedly cast his eyes down. "Oh, but how did that case you picked up turn out? Did you find the thief?"

Spirit looked up with a raised brow. He forgot he was actually trying to find some stolen items and was simply concerned with busting up a gang of baddies. "Oh...yes. I did. But there was a follow up mission from the client. Can you teleport me to Striga Island?"

Now it was Bart's turn to raise a brow. "Striga?" he repeated after pushing up his goggles again. "That's a hazard zone. What are you doing in that place?"

"I just met a friend there. I helped him out yesterday and just want to see if he's alright."

"But it's almost 7:30...don't you think it's a little late?"

Spirit grinned. "But you can teleport, Uncle Bart. Curfew's 9 and it'll only take me an hour."

There was an angry glare from the monkey. He wanted to put his foot down but the glare wasn't aimed at Spirit but rather through him. "Alright, but just make sure you don't loose your GETNet phone and teleport back as soon as you're done."

"Thanks, Uncle Bart!" Spirit gleefully smiled, swooping over to the working monkey and squeezing him in a warm hug yet careful not to spill any of his ice cream.


[Meanwhile, Striga Isle]

Several Red Inkmen were moving freight from a crane lift. The boxes being lifted came down into the staging area where several more muscle and tattooed men dollied them to their rightful place in a holding room. All the while, a bearded man in long robes from his waist and a coolie on his head oversaw all the work from a catwalk.

"Yeng, more attendees have arrived. We've almost got a full house for tonight," a voice echoed off the walls of the staging area. A burly ghostly form clad in ghostly armor faded into view just behind the catwalk. "Shall we begin the festivities?" his voice resonated through the air.

The chi master looked up over the rim of his hat then nodded. "I shall find out. Keep watch on anyone else that comes. Anyone that even looks funny, you crush their skull in." The Ancestor spirit went invisible as Yeng evacuated the catwalk. The warehouse to host their auction was pretty standard in the back but closer to the entrance where everything would take place, was adorned with various eastern decor, lion and dragon statues, paper lanterns and the like to give the place ambiance. The chi master walked past a few skulls that had arrived early, only nodding to them as he past.

When he turned the corner, he was nearly caught off guard when a tall naga-like creature with black scales stood towering over him. Clad in shoulder and breast armor, the Snake stood alert with a large and deadly scimitar in his hand. "Everythingssss Sssecured."

Yeng nodded and passed him, glancing at the snake over his shoulder as he continued. One guard among many hired for this event but he really didn't know why they needed others to work guard duty when there was plenty of their tattooed warriors who could do the job. Perhaps their leader knew few could be trusted, even within their ranks. Even Yeng himself had ambitions of taking the prize for himself, but working so close with their leader forbid acting on such thoughts.

The chi master finally reached the office several more corridors within the building, no guards or other workers and the door was unlocked. As he neared his hand to the door to knock, a voice behind it sounded. "Come in, Yeng."

"Indeed, master," Yeng answered after letting himself in. "Master Tub Ci, we've got many eager buyers waiting for the auction to begin. What shall we do?"

Tub Ci had been resting on a mat with his hands on his lap. His back was to the door but he seemed to have no difficulty sensing the approach of Yeng. On a stand were an audience of swords that Tub Ci seemed to be focused on.

"These swords..." he said then letting silence fill the room again.

Yeng looked questioningly at his leader. He stood still, not daring to disturb him further. "These swords, I'm glad I managed to finally experience them first hand." He leaned forward on his knees then stood up one foot at a time then finally turning away and stepping toward the chi master.

"These nihonto, are their powers genuine?" he asked, the sparkle of ambition in his eye was barely hidden by his straw hat.

At first, Tub ci did not answer, crafting a proper response before replying. "They truly are finely crafted swords." That isn't the response Yeng wanted to hear. From all the stories of the original owner, Inou Ryjuta, these blades could sear the wind, split the earth, summon tsunami and even bring down thunderbolts on the heads of the unworthy. With the power these swords wield, Yeng could become one of the top leaders in the Tsoo, or even more! He had to know more!

"Begin selling some of our other wares, but save these swords for later tonight. They are our main attraction." Tub Ci left the room, leaving Yeng alone in the room, his heart thumping as he gazed longingly at the array of swords.


Spirit arrived in the docks of Striga, a few blocks from the ferry. It was nearly 8pm so he was rushing to the meeting place Jason indicated. Before leaving home, he threw on his black fabric windbreaker that had a Golden Eagle emblem on the back and put on a pair of worn and faded baggy navy blue jeans. His cell in his pocket and his spirits soaring heigh, Spirit leapt to the Warrior hangout, landing there in a few bounds.

The small group (around 5) of hardened fighters were all standing outside waiting for their minotaur friend to arrive with Jason sitting on the brick wall that enclosed their hideout. The others wore their normal clothes, still even dusty from their last tussle with some undead earlier that day while Golden Jason was sporting one of his better sleeveless armored vests and a metal gold plated shoulder guard on his left shoulder. As they waited, Jason spoke over his cell while the others kept a look out. One pointed up as a familiar figure came hurtling their direction.

"HEY GUYS!" Spirit shouted then landed with a subtle shake of the ground as his hooves pounded hard on the paved sidewalk. "I'm not late am I?" the satyr asked with a grin.

"Just in time, actually," one of the warriors answered and patted the taller horned boy on the back.

"Spirit. Good you made it. Let's get going."



The young satyr wasn’t the only young hero in search of stolen swords on Striga Island this night. However this Wicked Wench wasn’t invited to the auction. Even though her vantage point of the warehouse was far up, she pulled the collar on her leather trench coat tighter, as the sea’s mist blew across the warehouse district. Even with all of her power, cold still bothered her, although not as much as it used to. But still, it reminded her of the night she died.

She deepened the shadows around herself, for both stealth and to further pushback the effects of the cold.

She set her eyes back to the warehouse watching and waiting. Isabel was already there, probing for a way past the wards the Tsoo had in place. She knew that Isabel would find a way.

She watched as a group of Hellions disappeared inside the warehouse, counting their number as they filed though the door. She shifted her eyes to a group of Warriors that were headed to the same door. She studied each one to make sure that Derrick wasn’t in their number. The goat-boy was a strange member to have in their group. It was then she spotted the emblem on the kid’s windbreaker…

“Oh f***” she whispered to herself, recognizing her old school. Even dips***s like the Hellions could recognize that emblem. The question was what were the Warriors using the kid for?

Heroes: Lady Halifax, Miss Kia, WhiteLotus, Agent Immolate, Lady Empathy, Sylence Fyredancer, Maiden of Fire
Villains: Innocent-Ella, Aegis-Sprite, Midnight Dragonfly



The large warehouse where all the auctioneers were gathering had a large fenced enclosure. Several guards stood by the door and other street thugs (from Hellions to Trolls to sharply dressed marcones from the Rogue isle Family) were all talking it up just outside the door, making deals and organizing trades. On the roof, several military grade snipers kept eyes in the sky and more guards kept routes around the perimeter. As the dimness of the sky died into the night, the air grew cold and still among the collection of criminals from all over Paragon and the Rogue Isles.

"Those data disks aren't of any use to you. Why not just toss them out?"

"You no got 'dyne, we no deal."

Spirit and his group of Warriors were walking by a pair of men dressed in normal clothes and lab goggles on their head as they tried to deal with some Trolls. Spirit could tell just by taking in their intent they were from Crey...but the various special weapons at their belts could have been a hint too. The satyr eyed the dealers from the corner of his eyes which sparkled anxiously.

"Watch where you're going!" shouted a voice. Spirit didn't catch the angry warning until it was too late and rammed his body against a floating figure. A series of crimson arcs of lightning jolted the ram to attention and he hopped back. The Mu guardian who sparked angrily with mu static started summoning an orb of lightning as warning.

"S-sorry, I wasn't paying attention," Spirit grinned and backed off. His warrior buddies seemed insulted and were ready to jump in had it not been for Jason staving them back with an arm. Perhaps it was the confidence Spirit exuded that inspired the other warriors to be so daring.

"You had better be sorry. Arachnos would have a price on your freakish little head otherwise, if I were not to fry you to a crisp first. Now out of the way." The Mu mystic accompanied by a small platoon of banes continued through the main entrance after Spirit stepped aside.

"Boy, I'd have cleaved that smug ******* in two if he-" one of the warriors growled under his breath but was cut off by the squealing satyr.

"By the soul! This place is awesome!" he exclaimed in a hushed voice. "Can you believe it? Even Arachnos is here! There's some Council soldiers on the roof, I thought I saw a vampyri too! Trolls! And-" The twitching and giddy satyr stopped to watch a freakshow doctor walking by with a glowing, sparking monstrosity of a tank in tow. "Awesome!!"

"Calm down," Jason laughed and continued to lead the group toward the door of the warehouse. Still staring wide eyed around him, Spirit followed as did the other warriors.

"Hold it." At the large double doors, a scaly snake man slithered in their path as an over-muscled over-dyned troll glared at Jason and his group with a neon stare.

"What seems to be the trouble?" Jason froze nervously.

"That guy. Who he?" the troll gruffed and pointed to Spirit.

"That ssssymbol. It belongss to a sssupergroup," the snake added.

Spirit stopped then turned around and tried looking at his own back. "Oh that? Uh...well, it's..."

"Looks like one of those Golden Dragon kids from that superhero school," said a passing Hellion who the pair of guards let pass unimpeded.

"Soopur skool?" repeated the troll.

"Yeah, some of 'em drop out and joined our gang too. They're alright," the hellion added before disappearing inside.

The snake and troll stared at the satyr suspiciously. Spirit, in turned grinned and laughed it off. "Yup, that's me! I'm a Golden Dragon too, just scoring some face time with the guys, hehe." After an awkward pause, the guards finally moved aside.

"See? Just stick with us and you'll be alright," Jason nodded at the now open path.


An older man in an overcoat and dark jeans came walking along a path a ways from the actual warehouse, keeping to the dark areas around a nearby brick building. Over his shoulder, a long cylindrical object was wrapped in a faded grey cloth that concealed it fully and his boots stepped softly on the damp earth. He seemed to be scoping out the place too. As his sharp ears listened in to the conversations taking place, the man dug into his coat pocket and withdrew a cigarette. He made no intention to hide the tiny light or the smoke it gave off and just watched nonchalantly.

After a moment of listening, the man finally spoke up. "Hey up there," he said to the tiny whisper of the girl on the roof. Although she was particularly concealed with her powers of darkness, this mysterious man seemed to sense right through it without even trying. "You looking to get into the party too?" He took a drag on his cigarette and then looked up in her direction although the edge of the roof made it harder to see her.



Meagan hand slid inside her overcoat, and thumbed off the safety on her Glock, as the old guy approached. Her dark powers were more powerful than the pistol, but carrying a piece made her feel better, old habits and all that, plus a girl had to have her accessories. Her dark eyes looked sharp and dangerous as the man paused below her.

Originally Posted by Stranger
"Hey up there," he said to the tiny whisper of the girl on the roof. Although she was particularly concealed with her powers of darkness, this mysterious man seemed to sense right through it without even trying. "You looking to get into the party too?"
Meagan backtracked along the roof to a safer place for her to get back down. She jumped down onto a dumpster lid, from there to the ground. She approached the mysterious older man with caution and open suspicion. Her pistol out but held down along her leg. “What do you know about the party?” her voice was low, cold and cutting.

Heroes: Lady Halifax, Miss Kia, WhiteLotus, Agent Immolate, Lady Empathy, Sylence Fyredancer, Maiden of Fire
Villains: Innocent-Ella, Aegis-Sprite, Midnight Dragonfly