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The Perfect Christmas Eve - Ch.3"Come back here!" Vassa yelled at the small bundle of puppy playfulness currently dashing away with her scarf in his mouth as she dodged around person after person in her frantic pursuit. Ignis was keeping up with her speedy pace by his hand firmly grasping hers, but it was taking quite a bit of effort for his long legs to even keep up with her shorter but faster stride. If she had taken a moment to think about that fact, it might have been a little funny because usually it was herself who had to trail behind Ignis as he outwalked her, but right now she was just concentrating on catching that puppy.She lost track of how many times the puppy raced through the streets, doubling back over the same paths that they had just traveled in an endless circle. All the while, the puppy kept glancing back over his shoulder, a shimmering sparkle of playfulness glittering so brightly in his dark eyes that Vassa could have sworn he thought this was the best game ever.Then the trailing edge of the fabric tangled around the puppy's legs, the playful light in his eyes quickly extinguishing as he fell forward in a tangle of fuzzy legs and ears. She gasped, Ignis quickly tugging on her hand to signal his interest. "Vassa, what happened?""The puppy, he tripped over the scarf and-" Her gaze followed the puppy's tumble forward, landing straight out on his stomach with four legs completely stretched out in the middle of the street. One edge of the scarf folded around his head, completely engulfing his ears and eyes with only the tip of his shiny nose peeping out from the center of the violet material. The roar of a truck motor suddenly increased in volume, a shower of bright lights suddenly highlighting the puppy in sharp contrast as a large supply truck barreled down the street, it's brakes shrilly squealing as the driver applied as much force as they could to stop the heavy vehicle. "Shit! He fell into the street and there's a truck coming!""I know, I can hear the truck but- Vassa, what are you doing?" His voice rose suddenly in alarm, but she didn't even think, pure instinct taking over as she dropped Ignis's hand and charged forward. In just moments, everything dissolved into a seamless blur, the screech of the few people starting to take notice of just what was happening, the racing click of her heels against the street below, Ignis's frantic calls as he followed along behind her, but the one thing that was so sharply illuminated was the whimpering puppy huddled in the street and the stark wash of the lights as the truck still lurched forward.That single moment where she hopped out into the street and reached down, scooping up the bundle of soft fur and filthy material, and clasped him tightly to her chest seemed to take both a single breath and a thousand years. The roar of the motor was so loud now, thundering against her skull until her very teeth were chattering. The driver's face was blurred by the white wash of the headlights, but she could see his hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly that the bones almost looked ready to rip through his skin, but still the truck rolled on with no time to move. Her eyes snapped shut, hugging the puppy tightly against her chest so that maybe the little one might survive what was going to be a very painful event.In the same instant that she felt the scorching hot breath of the motor and the cool kiss of metal graze her skin, a set of arms locked tight around Vassa's waist and pulled hard, bodily lifting her up just as the truck went sailing past in an ear bleeding screech of locked tires and forcefully applied brakes.Someone's hands frantically fluttered up and down her body, gliding over her shoulders and down her spine, briefly lingering over her shaking knees with a light touch before finally raising and landing beneath her chin. Vassa forced her eyes open, the puppy starting to wriggle in her arms as Ignis loomed just over her head. "Vassa, are you okay? Are you injured? Please say something!" His face was calm, the only hint of tension being the one slightly raised eyebrow, but his deep voice wasn't steady at all, quavering lightly with a deep note of concern. She could feel the tremble in his hands that normally were so steady even in the highest moment of danger, and no matter how much she tried, her tangled tongue wouldn't slip free enough for any words to slide through. Instead she nodded, resting her head against his shoulder so he could feel the movement and his arms hugged her so tightly that her bones were almost on the verge of breaking. "The holy Astrals above... Please never do that again!" Ignis fiercely whispered into her hair, but it was nearly drowned out by the rapid thud of a fear frightened heart slamming in her ears, but for the life of her she couldn't tell if it was his or her own.The truck finally screeched to a stop, the passenger side door flying open as a small girl tumbled out of the interior, all bony legs and lanky arms. Her shaggy reddish curls bounced around her head in tight curls, curiously matching the heavy too large jacket that barely clung to her thin shoulders. "Spot!" She screamed, her face lightning up with joy as the squirming puppy pressed his paws against Vassa's chest and leaped straight out of her arms, barely skimming the ground with his little paws churning in a full throttle run straight into the girl's arms. The air thrummed from the force of the puppy's shaggy tail beating from side to side, his happiness so evident at being reunited with his owner that the limb was beating against either side of his ribcage with every swing while his tongue bathed her smiling face in happy puppy slobber. More people quickly flooded out of the interior, a man, woman, and the familiar smiling if slightly paler face of Talcott gathered around the girl and her dog. "Thank you so much for finding him!" The girl chirped between giggles stirred by a pink tongue lapping at her skin."It wasn't a problem at all." Vassa finally managed to mumble."Please, let us do something to thank you for the trouble." The man said, looking to be the girl's father by their shared resemblance. "We don't have much, but we would like to reward you for your trouble, and for nearly injured you as well.""It was no trouble at all, we're so glad that we could help but I'm afraid we must be leaving. We have reservations at the-" A subtle ringing from the pocket of Ignis's jacket interrupted his speech, the soft bell sounds quickly changed over to a muffled phrase that Vassa wasn't hearing quite clearly. His arm unwound from her body, releasing her just for a moment to reach inside his jacket and retrieve the now shouting item. "Please excuse me for a moment."Despite her best intentions to assure the couple that she had indeed come to no harm from their truck, somehow Vassa's gaze continued to wander over to where Ignis had stationed himself just out of hearing range. Whatever he was hearing evidently wasn't to his satisfaction as that stressed little wrinkle above his eyes had formed and deepened into a thick crease. The phone was pressed tightly to his ear, the silver rim slightly peeking above his right hand while his left constantly adjusted the fit of his glasses across his nose. Within the space of a moment, he uttered a polite goodbye and wished the caller on the other end well before disconnecting and returning his phone to his pocket.Excusing herself as the puppy continued to bathe the girl in his almost delirious joy, Vassa crept over to Ignis's side. His face lifted up in her direction almost at the very second that she turned, her heels clicking sharply against the pavement below. "What's wrong, Iggy?" Her voice dropped to a sotto whisper."Do you remember a few weeks ago when I spoke with you about the new café that was being opened in the city center? The one chaired by a prize winning chef that used to work at the Mother of Pearl restaurant in Galdin Quay? I had previously acquired a set of reservations to the establishment for tonight, but it seems that the chef's wife has went into labor and the café has closed for the evening." His fingers idly fidgeted with the edge of his glasses again."That's wonderful! They'll have a nice new Christmas gift tonight I bet." Yeah, she was disappointed because the rumors about the chef were top notch, but there wasn't a single person that could compare with her Ignis's cooking either, no matter how delicious or how many Michelin stars they had attached to their name."Indeed, however that does present us with a problem of sorts."  Ignis's lips parted once again like he had intended to say something, but whatever he meant was stalled as he shifted to face the hushed steps of the father stepping towards the couple."Excuse me, but I couldn't help but overhear that it seems you're dinner plans for this evening have fell through." One thick hand anxiously shoved through the inch long reddish strands that nearly matched the girl's in shade and quite possibly in curliness as well if they were longer. "We were on our way to Surgate's Beanmine when Spot leaped out of my daughter's arms after a bird flying by, but we would be honored if you would join us.""We'd love too!" Vassa excitely chirped before Ignis could even respond.Within just a short stroll, the cafe's trademark cheery white umbrella's neatly stationed beside the picnic style tables quickly soared into view, except now the heavy canvas now bore strings of green garland sprinkled with tiny multicolored lights flashing on and off. The café itself was little more than those tables and umbrellas stationed beside a food cart operated by the owner and chef, but the food served there was delightful and today was certainly no exception.A Christmas special of Creamy Killer Tomato soup seasoned with basil, herbs, and fresh wild onions served with a side of a grilled cheese on potato bread, toasted to a golden brown and filled with a creamy mixture of cheddar and provolone cheese was listed on the hand drawn sign next to the cart, but Vassa fully hadn't expected the soup to be a beautiful creamy orange color of a similar shade to pumpkin, sprinkled lightly with green from the chopped fresh herbs floating in the creamy mixture. The taste was almost even better than the scent, tangy and rich with just a subtle touch of sweetness that made her taste buds dance a sizzling tango, it was only complemented by the crispy crunch of the perfectly toasted bread with a warm molten core of pure salty, cheesy goodness.Then it happened.The little flash in Ignis's eye, a sparkle of an idea churning and brewing deep in his ever working mind. "Hmm... If I could recreate this with the meat of a Karalbos Claw, why it would make a fine creamy bisque indeed." He murmured mostly to himself while savoring a steaming spoonful of his soup. She wanted to chuckle so badly, but she didn't dare as he leaned back in his chair, his head tilting slightly to the right as the faint but quickly spreading hint of a purely inspired smile flooded his features with a beaming light. "That's it!" He quickly snapped his fingers. "I've come up with a new recipe!""Well, I'll be happy to taste test for you." The giggles flooded forth now without restraint until her ribs were aching from the strain of laughing so hard.After lingering quite a while in the pleasant company of the family and young Talcott, they departed some time later, the chilled air suddenly seeming to have just that little extra snap to it after leaving the warm aura of Surgate's for a final wander through Lestallum. By now, many of the people had drifted away as the day darkness turned into evening darkness, joining their families for a holiday celebration in this endless night and leaving the marketplace just a little bit emptier than before. But it was one that Vassa immediately appreciated as the silence was a bit warmer than most, even with the chill in the air that called the trailing fingers of a chilly shiver trickling along her skin."Here, Love," With one smooth roll of his shoulders, Ignis shed his jacket and draped it around her slender shoulders. Large enough that the hem hung just past her hips and the sleeves dangled halfway down her hands, but it was still so warm from his body and held the rich spicy musk of his cologne so well that she could have buried her face in the material and just squealed. "I wouldn't want you to catch cold without your jacket.""Thank you, Mama Ignis." Vassa cooed, playfully fluttering her eyelashes up at her darling as he let out a long heavy sigh."Darling, please. That was more of a nickname between the four of us and not meant for other's ears. Just like you preferred us not to refer to you as 'Fun sized' around others." Feeling just a tad embarrassed, she started to dip her head and mumble an apology. But that was before she caught the subtle flash of roguish light in his eye, the way his head tipped slightly to the left as one corner of his lips curled up with just the slightest hint of a smirk. "Mum's the word, you know." His voice deepened into a husky whisper, the muscles around his right eye twitching in what could have passed for a flirty wink.Wait a minute, did he just... Her own eyes flashed up to his face, confirming her suspicion that he was indeed teasing her before she let out her own soft snigger at the timely pun. "Iggy, you didn't just make that one." Vassa said, walking just a few more steps ahead as something unexpected started to tug at the fringes of her hearing. It was rushing, but bubbling too. Her lips pursed into a slight pout, the ripple of her fingers drumming against her leg providing a little symphony to the gears of her thoughts churning over possible sources of the sound. "Is that... the fountain?"Once again, Ignis didn't seem keen on revealing his secrets too early. "Why don't you follow me and see?" He whispered into her ear, making sure to let the warmth of his breath coax another chilling shiver to life before he ever so gracefully took her hands and started to walk backwards in the direction of the playful sounds.It was indeed the fountain itself, one that Vassa herself had passed many times since returning to Lestallum, usually in such a hurry that she didn't even notice it, but the fountain was always there bubbling softly just like the memory of Ignis catching her as she fell off the fountain. It was still just as beautiful as before, all white marble and gleaming crystal clear waters flowing down the three tiered layers, but now it seemed to have gained a little extra sparkle in the darkness that made it just a little bit brighter."At least one of my plans stayed in place for tonight." Ignis mumbled as they moved to sit on a new garden bench nearby, one of many new additions to the city along with the influx of people seeking Lestallum's light. Vassa twisted around, fixing him with puzzled stare that she knew he could still feel. "I deeply apologize for the state of the day, love. I had such great plans to treat you to a glamorous day like I would have taken you back in Insomnia if things hadn't turned out like they are now, but fickle fate seemed to have amused herself by thwarting my plans today."Why did he think that? She had most certainly enjoyed every single second of this day down to the last crumb, her only disappointment being that things were going to go back to the normal everyday busyness. So she slid from her perch on the bench and promptly plopped herself right in his lap, ignoring the slightly startled twitch of surprised muscles, and she threaded her hands right around his neck, the tips of her fingers playing with the longer strands of his soft hair that curled around his neck. "Iggy, look at me." Her eyes already started to roll up as his lips twitched with the first threatening hint of a smirk. "You know what I mean. Yeah, things didn't go according to your plans, but has anything we've ever done actually went like that?""But, Vassa I merely-""Shush," She pressed her finger to his lips, his open eye shifting slightly behind the silver shield of his frosted glasses. "I loved it because you wanted to make it special and it was. It was special and absolutely beautiful. I wouldn't trade a single moment of this day with you for anything. The only thing is that I just wish that I had something just as special to give you as you've done for me today.""Vassa," His warm hand settled on her knee, the tip of his thumb idly rubbing small circles against the chilled skin there. "Your love is the greatest present that I've ever received and I thank the Astrals every single day that you are with me." He so solemnly whispered like it was a prayer itself.A scarlet blush quickly flamed her cheeks, one that Ignis must have been able to feel because the rumble of a laugh started to roll from his chest as Vassa buried her face in the warm curve of his neck. "Again with the romantic stuff? You're gonna make me die from blood loss, I hope you know that." Her speech was muffled slightly in part by her lips being pressed directly against the sensitive skin of his neck, but the close contact still shouldn't have caused his muscles to stiffen so abruptly beneath her touch. Strange, very strange indeed."Darling, look up." Ignis said, her head tipping back almost on command to see the first of several fat white flakes of snow as they lazily drifted down from their birthplace far above. Her brow quickly wrinkled into a frown as she held out her palm, one of the uniquely pointed flakes landing right in the center and melting on contact. This isn't right, it's chilly but not nearly enough for snow to form. Unless..."It's snowing." Vassa gave her hand a quick shake to get rid of the water. "It's not cold enough and we're in a desert but it's snowing.""Perhaps a sign from the Astrals? Or from Noct wherever he may be?" By now the snow had started to fall a little bit faster, the thick flakes sticking together in wet clumps that clung to every surface like a coating of fine sugar, including the strands of Ignis's well groomed hair like some kind of exotic ornament. A few had latched onto the surface of Vassa's glasses, creating shimmering droplets of water that smeared across the lenses and blurred her sight. "But it seems a shame to waste the moment, doesn't it Vassa?"She had barely registered his words for a single moment before two slender fingers slid along her jaw, gently turning her head until her lips met his in a tender kiss. Despite the oddity of nature itself, it really was the perfect end to the perfect day.Or it would have been if the phone in the pocket of Ignis's jacket would stop ringing already!"Group call! Gladio and Prompto!" The blaring little electronic voice shouted from it's muffled prison. With a reluctant sigh, Ignis gave a final lingering kiss to her lips before separating, reaching inside his jacket for the shrieking little item and pressing the answer button with his thumb."Hey guys! What took you so long to answer?" Two faces popped up side by side on the screen, Gladio's scarred face smiling broadly and Prompto just as beaming smile was now accented with a smear of grease down his left cheek, but whether that was due to his earlier incident with the Red Giant or from another source was the currently unanswered question. Gladio's reddish brown eyes scanned over both of Vassa's and Ignis's slightly blushed faces lingering so close together, probably taking note of how her husband's lips were once again stained by her crimson lipstick, before he spoke again. "Whatever, I don't want to know. But in case you two lovebirds were so busy with each other that you forgot about us, we decided to keep up the tradition despite us being short one sleeping princess and that we can't be there in person.""And a one and a two- We wish you a merry Christmas. We wish you a merry Christmas." Prompto's tone deaf but chirpy voice started it off with an unnaturally high pitch that shouldn't have been achieved by anyone still mortal and apparently wasn't accepted by tech devices either. A thick sheen of greyish static interrupting Vassa's view of her blonde friend's face every time his crackling voice reached a high note, also prompting a subtle winch from Ignis as the sound assaulted his ears."Good tidings we bring, to you and your kin." Gladio's deeper bass quickly joined in, the tiny speakers installed in the phone nearly groaning in protest at such a rumbling low sound. Professional singers they weren't, but she couldn't help but chuckle at such happy spirits. It even teased a distant memory of the past from years ago to the surface of her thoughts, one that happened long before any of the events now had come to pass.It had started off as a joke really, one that Noctis had idly commented that they should all sing We Wish You A Merry Christmas and send it to his father who was missing part of the holiday due to his kingly duties. The young prince surely hadn't expected that Prompto and Vassa would fully support the idea, thinking that his highness would probably love that and Ignis had seconded the motion. Gladio had all too eagerly joined in as well, the clashing combination of four male voices and one female oddly complementing each other despite the individual flaws in each. It soon became a rather odd tradition, one repeated year after year even after the newest king and their lifelong friend disappeared."Vassa." A subtle touch against her hand tugged Vassa's thoughts into the present, quickly blinking away the lingering strands of memories to find that Ignis was gazing thoughtfully at her face with a slight gentle smile creasing his features. "It's not quite the same without your lovely voice, love.""Well, let's get it rolling. We wish you a merry Christmas." She giggled as Ignis too chimed in, perfectly on time as always. All four voices blending together into one rich tone that warmed this chilly night of darkness into something warmer, more hopeful that one day the light would return. And with it, the King of Lucis as well.But for now, for tonight. Things were perfect. A beautifully perfect Christmas Eve.
The Perfect Christmas Eve - Ch.2Oh. Holy. Astrals!Vassa's jaw hung open as she gazed at her reflection in the mirror, both trying and failing to process that this really was her body cloaked in a dress simple in it's elegance, a black sheath that hugged her curves in all the right places and fell to the upper range of her mid calf. The dark fabric was extremely soft and stretchy, sparkling slightly with an ombre effect that started at the raven black base of the dress, lightening to a darker purple by mid stomach, to finally ending at a beautiful light lavender by the neck and chest. The shimmering fabric gathered and twisted at the level of her collarbones, forming a faux halter that fastened completely in back by a hidden zipper running from her neck to hip.But the dress itself was not the sole item hidden inside Ignis's surprise and one truth became very clear as she uncovered each new item hidden within the layers of protective tissue paper. Ignis was a man of impressive skills, one that also included knowing her fashion tastes exceptionally well, and she didn't know whether to be proud or disturbed that a blind man could dress her better than she would dress herself.Her continued explorations were rewarded with a single pair of dainty golden hoop earrings and a selection of hairpins that bore a tiny golden Chocobo on the end the size of the nail on her pinky finger, ones that she quickly threaded into the thick french braid that she had curled from her right temple to her left and then coiled the remains into a thick bun at the base of her neck.And then there was the shoes.Black patent leather of the most glossy polish, a sharply pointed toe accented by intricate swirls of hand tooled leather carved right through into a whirl of cutouts and scalloped edges along the sides, a slender base that reared up into heels that had to be at least 6.5 inches, and a looping black ribbon that wound around her calves to tie in a neat little bow. The shoes were an ornament themselves decorated even more by their scarlet red sole that was a well known trademark of the most famous shoe designer in Eos with a hefty price tag to match, and she couldn't even begin to imagine what they would be worth now, or how he had managed to acquire any of the items now. And Ignis had bought them just for her."Ignis!" Vassa flew from the bedroom like a Chicktrice gone possessed, all arms flapping and short legs churning in a breakneck run straight through the short distance to the bathroom. Her shaking fingers slid over the smooth expanse of the wooden door, fumbling with the mechanism of the simple doorknob with fingers too clumsy to properly function and peering through glasses just barely teetering on the tip of her nose. Her heart was pounding, not from fear, but from excitement beyond most anything that she could think of. "Iggy!" Quickly giving up on the knob that seemed to exist solely to add a new layer of frustration, she raised her fist and pounded on the door. The shower wasn't running any longer and nether was the hair dryer, he should be decent enough that she could at least step in and-The door swung open, and standing in it's place was a lightly chuckling Ignis and... Whoa! He looked good. Damn good in fact. She let her eyes roam over the dark length of his suit, the dark jacket fitted oh-so-perfectly across his broad shoulders and fastened with a single button across his lean stomach, the matching pants that were perfectly tailored just so to show off his long legs and just laid across the top of his favorite pair of dress shoes, the very same ones that he had been wearing since Insomnia and continued to repair no matter how badly age and wear had damaged them. His shirt was a crisp white and completely wrinkle free, open slightly at the neck to allow just the hint of the silver chain that bore the weight of his skull pendant to show against his skin. Nestled between the layers of his jacket and his shirt was a vest of the deepest plum, tiny golden buttons with the imprint of the very same Chocobo that had taken residence on her hairpins were also in evidence on his vest. Just how much planning had he taken to match her outfit down to the smallest detail?"You're very quiet, my love? Do I pass your inspection?" Vassa blinked, not quite able to tear her eyes off his body just yet, but any word that her tongue tried to form just died in the sun scorched desert of her throat. Instead, her head bobbed mutely. The continued silence earning another rich chuckle from her love as he reached out one steady silver gloved hand, hovering in the air for just the briefest of moments before his fingers slid along the curve of her shoulder. "I take it your silence is approval?"Finally, she managed to rip her gaze away and up, landing on the slightly lopsided smirk that curved his full lips up. An emotion that could only be described as smug played across the planes of his face, over his smooth jaw just freshly shaven and still bearing the fresh powder scent of his shaving cream, to the one eyebrow that was arched up in his ever patient question, to the curve of his well styled hair that no longer bore the spiky bangs that he had favored for so long but grown longer on top and folded back into a well crafted pompadour that suited his features so well, and in the dancing lights of his milky eyes. His right was open fully, gazing out normally as she was used to seeing it from day to day behind the shield of his frosted glasses, but his normally closed left was open as well. Just from what little Ignis had said before, his scar covered left eye was the more sensitive of the two and he often left it closed to what little light perception he could see and the stinging bite of the air against scarred sensitive tissue. Only when he was in the comforting safety of his home did he open it, and as she watched the slightest shake of the damaged organs try and fail to focus on her, did she finally manage to untangle her tongue for the smallest of squeaks. "I-Ignis... You... That's... Did you-?""You found the shoes I take it? I hope they are satisfactory. I was told that you might appreciate them, my only fear was that they might hurt your feet during today's activities. Ms. Iris assured me that they wouldn't, but still I have my suspicions that anything that high could be comfortable." The fingers that had previously been resting on her shoulder traveled up, briefly tracing around the edge of the hidden chain of her Chocobo necklace and the halter neck of her dress before traveling up even further to ghost up the line of her jaw. A slight shiver bloomed across her skin, the cool leather of his gloves contrasting so sharply with the increasing heat in her skin that she half expected to see a trail of sparks rise in the wake of his hand."Astral, yes! I love them, but you shouldn't have spend so much Gil on something like that. What if- Omph!" With a quick tilt of his head down, Ignis silenced her protests with a sensual brush of his lips against her own. Vassa's eyes fluttered shut, her hands quickly latching on to the lapels of his jacket as she quickly lost herself in that beautiful calm to her overcluttered thoughts that only Ignis's kisses could bring. His kisses were always like this, so deep and powerful that she could have sworn he was trying to brand himself with her essence and left her breathless every single time. The warmth of his tongue briefly flittered against her lips, drawing out a single soft moan from the depths of her being before he reluctantly broke away.With burning lungs from that soul searing kiss, Vassa reluctantly opened her eyes to see Ignis lovingly gazing in the direction of her eyes while his fingers grazed her hairline, lightly gliding over the underside of her bun just enough that he could feel the texture without disturbing her carefully twisted work. "Although, I must say. There is a certain advantage to having a few inches added to your height, Vassa. Perhaps I should consider this a gift for myself as well?" Ignis left the end of his words dangling as a question that immediately flushed what little blood remained in her body up to her cheeks. A tiny squeak escaped her tightly pressed lips, her eyes quickly darting down to see that the lengthy boost to her normally short height had propelled up quite a few inches. Instead of her head normally resting level with his chest, she was actually more on level with his shoulders and chin for once in her life. "You will tell me if the slightest twinge of discomfort starts to affect your feet? Won't you love?""Ignis, I hiked around more than half of Eos in heels, I think I can handle one night in a pair of LeeVutton's." The rumors were true that walking in a pair of LeeVutton's felt like a cloud had been attached to her feet. If Ignis wanted to tramp out into the daemon filled wilderness today for an all day and night slaying session, she would have happily followed him in full comfort. "They're wonderful!" She lightly tapped her heel twice against the floor for emphasis."Very well." His smile crinkled just a little bit wider, drawing her attention to the sight of his plush lips now blushed a deep shade of crimson from the shadows of her lipstick, oddly looking almost gorgeous against his skin tone."Brandywine red suits you Ignis, but I think that's a sight I want to keep just for me. Let me clean you up a bit." She giggled, using just the tips of her fingers to wipe away the stain until the only remains of scarlet was the deep flush that had colored the expanse of his cheeks."Thank you, love but I am truly sorry. I didn't realized that our exchange would muss your beautifully applied makeup." With just the smallest of tilts, Ignis seemed to consider some small detail before he spoke again, this time his voice dipping lower with just the slightest bit of shy curiosity. "Brandywine red, you said?""Yep, it's kind of a cross between a deep crimson, almost blood colored, but it's got a little touch of burgundy in it for a little darker shade. I did a little light silver eyeshadow on my eyes, kinda the color of the edge of your spelldaggers. That's about it though." The blush that had slowly started to die flared back up again at his exploring touch tracing the longer strands of her bangs, lingering slightly at the curve of her ear where the tiny golden earrings hung, before dropping completely to take her hand and press a brief kiss to her knuckles."Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful." He whispered, the imprint of every detail in his smile etching itself into her skin, even down to the roughness of the small scar that split his lower lip as it dragged against her skin. With a gentle tug to Vassa's hand, he led her from the bedroom into the corner where the kitchen and the sitting room met to stand directly next to the floor lamp stationed there before stepping back himself, the wavering glance of his own mist and emerald eyes shifting about the space of her figure. A subtle motion had her shoulders to straighten back, chest out, and hands clasped behind her back in a classic soldier's pose.Perhaps today would be the first time that his vision starts to heal. The thought idly wandered through Vassa's head as she held her breath, barely daring to breath just in case it caused some unperceivable shift that might break his focus. "Can you see me?" She asked, half curious and half hopeful that after such an extravagant present, that at least he might be able to see her dressed in the finery of his choosing.The silence that followed her words seemed to stretch for miles before he finally gave a regretful shake of his head. "Just an impression of shadows against light, darling, but you are indeed the lightest of all." Ignis's dropped a quick kiss to the top of her head before fetching her overcoat and her violet cashmere scarf. It was only once that she was bundled against the sunless chill to his satisfaction that they ventured out from the cozy confines of their apartment and into the bustling streets. Lestallum itself had become almost overflowing with the sheer amount of refugees from all corners of Eos seeking shelter within it's EXINERIS powered borders. The power plant itself glowed as bright as the Disc of Cauthess itself, easily able to see the function lights from any corner of Lestallum of a viewer's choosing as long as they were at a decent height.At least for now, the ever present threat of the darkness had lessened somewhat by the holiday festivities that draped around the city like a comforting hug. Even just walking down the bustling streets kept a cheerful smile on Vassa's face, the friendly calls of people saying Merry Christmas and humming Christmas carols filling her ears as Ignis expertly steered her towards the first of his unknown locations for the day."Everything's so beautiful, Ignis. There's little globe lights stringing across the paths from building to building, sparkling like little diamonds of cinnamon red and pine green mixed with a... I don't know what kind of yellow you would call that, sulfur yellow I guess, every third light. There's wreathes almost everywhere. Can you smell them? I think they're pine too, or maybe cedar. A lot of the windows, maybe every other set, have little white candles inside. And there's so many different shapes and colors of ribbon that I can't tell where one begins and the other ends!" Vassa's lips babbled freely as she tried to translate everything she was seeing into words for her husband's enjoyment of the holiday decorations as well. Ignis never spoke a word during her commentary, only offering a small nod or a light chuckle at the most, but she had gathered the feeling that he rather enjoyed hearing her describe the various features of Lestallum as best she could. The only response that she gathered was when they passed several children playing in the street with a small toy car, getting their holiday clothing of brown and white all mussed with the black dirt and grime that always lived in the streets like these, his idle comment of how that sounded like something Noctis and herself would do when they were younger earned himself a teasing pinch at his elbow, but the pain was quickly soothed away when she kissed his cheek.Soon enough, their idle stroll reached a surprisingly thick crowd outside one of the few art museums still operating in this town, something that Ignis was apparently not expecting to encounter as his pleasant smile was quickly replaced with a frown. He paused just on the fringes, reaching one slender hand inside the hidden breast pocket of his jacket for his Braille notebook always stored there. "Darling, may I ask you to hold this for me?" The softly whispered question almost missed her ears due to the noisy chatter of voices leaking from just ahead, but she caught the silver glove as Ignis's passed it her way, the revealed slender fingers now quickly sliding over the braille marked page inside his journal. "This is the correct time," He murmured half to himself, turning to drop a quick kiss on the crown of her head as Vassa returned his glove to it's rightful place. "Excuse me for a moment, love. I need to check on something.""I'll stay right here. Be careful." She watched as he slowly threaded through the crowd, each one of his steps far slower and more tentative than they were as he walked alongside her, but still confident enough that more than a few people parted ahead of his path. Still, she couldn't help but feel a sharp pang of worry still coil around her heart as she shifted from foot to foot, trying to keep the top of his tawny head in sight for as long as she could. Ignis had worked so hard to refine his own system of navigation that was surprisingly cane free thanks to his long hours of training, but..."Well, hey there, cute thing! Aren't you smoking today? Just perfect for a hot date with me." A husky voice drawled from behind Vassa's shoulder, complete with the accompanying screech of a sharp wolf whistle. She knew that voice, could even hear the lazy smirk on his face before she ever turned around to face him. Michael. It just had to be Michael. The man was useful as a valuable source of information, but why did he have to be so damn annoying?If Iggy comes back while Michael is here, he's gonna be frigid. Vassa pasted a totally fake smile on her face as she turned around to face the man, and it wasn't the one that she used to use at the Citadel either. Nope, this was the kind that one would use if someone you really didn't like was attempting to tell you about something you did not have the foggiest idea or care about.Standing behind her was a tall man with short but thick russet hair shorn off in a buzz cut, flashing dark eyes that sparkled with some inner laughter and roved across her body with a lingering appreciation. His features were pleasant enough, but the sharp angle of his previously broken nose and the clawed scar that slashed across his left eye and curled up the side of his lips told of a battered past, one echoed by the silver hunter's tags that dangled against his chest. "Michael, it's very nice to see you again." Yeah... that was a lie, but since he was still wearing a bloodstained dark t-shirt and cargo pants, he must have just returned from an outing and there was no telling what type of information he might have."Oh, it's very nice. I see what you've got going here." The hunter waggled his eyebrows up and down. "I bet you and ole prissy ass were coming to the art exhibit tonight."The smile pasted on her face didn't waver, but one of her eyebrows twitched at the slur to her husband. The guy was itching for a beating today, and she was just itching to try out her new heels on a certain part of his anatomy if he didn't lay off the insults on her Iggy. Just how was she so charmed by this guy before? It didn't make the slightest bit of sense. "Did you have something that you wished to discuss with me?" Taking a page from Ignis's book, she allowed just the slightest nip of frost to color her normally friendly tone."Hey, can't a guy just wish a pretty lady Merry Christmas in this Astral forsaken hellhole?" Slightly crooked white teeth flashed in a quick boyish smile against his dusky skin, one hand awkwardly scratching at the back of his neck. "I'd stay longer and grant you the pleasure of my company, but Prissy Ass would probably bust right out of that expensive jacket of his. But yeah, Merry Christmas, stay safe and all that. To the both of you." He glanced right over the top of Vassa's head, the warmth in his gaze quickly cooling as Ignis steadily wove his way back through the crowd. "See ya."Within the space of a moment, Michael trailed away down the street as Ignis quickly found his way to her side as if she was a magnet drawing him in. "I must apologize for this abrupt change  in our plans today, love. The gallery exhibit that I had planned our attendance for today has been closed due to a sudden outbreak of Scarscourge among the facility. No one is permitted inside while they clean the interior free of all traces of the plague and try to capture the afflicted ones. It... does not seem to be going well if my hearing was any judgment."The ever deepening frown lines around Ignis's eyes started to firm up with his disappointment as one of his plans begain to unravel thread by thread, so much so that Vassa didn't want him to think that it was anything to worry about. Yeah, she would have had fun seeing all the beautiful art and whispering the details to him, but just spending time with him was something she had missed too when the days were long and the most contact they had was either by phone or a brief brush of lips as they headed out the door. "Hey, Iggy. Don't worry about it. Let's just walk for a little while until whatever is next on your agenda, okay?"He still wasn't convinced, the deepening scowl still remaining but lighting just the slightest as she wove her fingers between his, giving a soft reassuring squeeze just so that he knew everything was truly okay. Ignis sighed heavily, but followed along as Vassa led him on a meandering path through the city. Eventually they wound through the bustling heart of the Partellum Marketplace, the air perfumed with the rich scent of spices and something that was just a tad sweeter, chocolate perhaps?There was something else in the air as well, the hypnotic strands of music twisting through the air on invisible notes. Dancing like faeries over the chattered hum of the passing people, the notes quickly called to the fringes of Vassa's hearing like a siren's song, drawing her in and capturing her senses until she just had to find the source of the beautiful music."I believe what you are looking for is this way, love." Ignis said, leading her right to the source of the music like he had a compass himself. It was a small gathering of people outside a music shop just off one of the main pathways and tucked at the end of a small alley. A single woman sung solely, her powerful voice coloring the richly sung melody with frosting of a language foreign to Vassa's ears but still so beautiful all the same, was flanked by impromptu band of a guitar, piano, and trumpet, but it only heightened the soul stirring effect of the music.A small audience had gathered around the singer and her band, some simply watching and others slowly dancing around to the beat of the music. A few chairs and a hot cocoa cart decked with strands of lush green garland and festive red bows had stationed itself nearby, a jolly chubby cheeked man serving up cups of the delicious steaming confection topped with a cloud of white cream and red and green sprinkles. A Gil apiece was the sole price of the cup and one that quickly rewarded both her and Ignis with a cup warming the chill from their hands. It wasn't quite Ebony, but it was so delicious that she hardly cared as they listened to the singer and the musicians perform.The songs floated by one by one, gradually changing from the slower, sweeter melodies to ones that were more upbeat and playful. Vassa hadn't realized that her toes had started to tap against the ground in sync with the music until a soft touch along her arm called for her attention. The tips of Ignis's gloved fingers sliding the the length of her arm until he reached her hand, "Lady Scientia, may I have this dance?" He formally bowed deep at the waist. Still the perfect gentleman even now, he waited until she had shed her jacket and scarf and folded it aside on a nearby chair before she came into his arms and the calling rhythm of a waltz bloomed into life.Silky smooth twirls and sliding steps were intercepted by a graceful dip every now and again as they danced to the music, and it was on one of the dips that Vassa noticed something strange. With the firm support of Ignis's arm holding her back as he lowered her down, her slightly upside down vision saw a small bundle of white fur flecked with thumb sized brown spots, floppy ears, and a wide pink tongue eagerly sniffing the dangling fringe of her scarf from it's resting place. Her muscles stiffened as Ignis returned her upright once more, and she slithered out of his arms just in time to catch the squirming bundle of fur in mid jump."Vassa, what is it?" Ignis asked, his head twisting side to side in a momentary bout of puzzlement at her sudden disappearance."It's a puppy." She tried to say, but it came out between giggles as the puppy immediately started to bath her face with slobbery kisses from his rough pink tongue."He's a friendly little fellow, isn't he?" With the softest of gliding touches to her back, up her arm, and over the silky fur of the puppy's back, Ignis let out a soft chuckle himself as he gave a quick scratch to the floppy ears that brought out the puppy's tiny sharp teeth biting playfully at his fingers. The tiny but sharp teeth left a few imprints in the thick leather of his gloves, but Ignis's didn't seem to mind as the puppy continued to gnaw on his fingers. "Does he have any information about his owner?"Vassa raised him up, looking through the thick ruff of white around his neck but there wasn't the first sign of a collar or tags to be found. "No, I don't think so. He must be a stray." Her teeth started to anxiously tug at her lower lip, all sorts of thoughts on how a delicate little puppy like this could come to so much harm if he wasn't properly cared for.The puppy seemed to take advantage of her momentary lapse of attention, placing his soft little paws against her chest and jumping clean from her arms to the chair. She squeaked in surprise as Ignis lunged a heartbeat too late, the puppy's sharp teeth embedding deep in the fabric of the scarf and jumped down, his little legs running as fast they could churn with the ends of her scarf flying behind like a violet victory flag."Hey! Come back here, you little furry thief!" Vassa yelled, reaching out to grab Ignis's hand as her husband gathered her jacket over his arm. "Come on, Iggy! We've got a puppy to catch!"
The Perfect Christmas Eve - Ch.1The lights of Lestallum twinkled bright in the deep darkness of the night, shifted from their normal orange and yellow hue to a more festive hue of soft ruby red and emerald green as a marker of the season's change in this everlasting night. Even if the sky had grown dark in long night and daemons roamed the land almost unchecked for three years now, at least here there was a little momentary peace and celebration that showed that the human spirit could not be crushed and would even celebrate for one of the most special days of the year.A lone figure leaned against the railings on an apartment, bathed in dark shadows to the point that if it hadn't been for the small light of her phone glowing in her hand, she might have merely been a phantom of Christmas present watching the activity go on down below in the busy streets. Her dark hair, long and tousled into layers of spikes from sleep, hung free about her shoulders as she shivered in the chilly early morning breeze. Her silky violet nightgown did little to ward off the early morning chill despite the night's darkness still filling the sky, and she bleary winked through the pair of frames teetering on the edge of her nose at the excited figure bouncing around on the opposite end of her cell phone's connection."So, what do you think, V? Good for Iggy?" With the lights of the Hammerhead Service station providing a halo around Prompto's head and the upturned fringe of his blonde locks, he held up to the phone's camera what had to be the most ugly sweater of all time. A shade of Maroon so deep that it resembled a fungus left growing wild on a rotted tree, the words "What's Cooking? I am!" was stitched right across the stomach in a shade of white thread so eye burning that she could feel the sear in the depths of her very own retinas. To top it all off, a set of orange flames flickered both above and below the saying in a color of orange that hasn't been used for anything else but traffic cones. "Be honest. Tell me what you think. I wanted to get Ignis something really good this year." Prompto's head popped around the corner, sparkly blue eyes begging for her honest reaction with a lower lip pout that only accented his sparsely filling in goatee.It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen. "It's fine, Ignis will appreciate it so much." Vassa felt the first part of the lie catch on her tongue and nearly freeze her lips into place, but she forced them upwards into a smile before her nerves failed her completely. In actuality, it wasn't a total lie as her husband would most certainly appreciate the gift from his dear friend and would wear the sweater proudly just as he had the black and white checkered "Overworked and Underpaid" sweater that Gladio had gave him last year, the second ugliest sweater in existence that Ignis had someone made to look like a fashion model as soon as he slipped it over his head. Sometimes she swore the man had been made for the runway instead of for the office and daemon hunting as they both did now."You really think so? Cindy thought it was mud ugly, but I think it suits him." If the sun itself had the power contained within Prompto's enthusiastic smile, Vassa had no doubt that every shred of darkness would vanish in just a moment's notice. A series of grey static interrupted the connection for just a moment and by the time it had returned, Prompto had stashed away the sweater and returned to a full view of his face. "I hate it that I won't be there to give you guys your gifts in the morning, but better late than never. Am I right?""Don't worry about a thing, PomPom. As long as you and Gladio are safe, that's the best Christmas gift." Her hand flicked through the air and waved away any concerns that he had, a few strands of light catching on the glimmering golden band on her left hand. It didn't seem real that she had been married to the love of her life, her life long friend Ignis, for only a few months, even less so that her cousin and ruler of Lucis, King Noctis, had entered into the crystal and vanished without a trace. For three long years now, the threat of Starscourge had eclipsed the sun from the sky, as if the very land of Eos itself was slumbering in wait of the King of Light to return to them in the Astrals knows how many more years."Have you figured out yet what Iggy's up to?" Prompto's chattering voice dragged her attention back to the present."No, and it's driving me insane! I'm proud that he's feeling comfortable enough to walk around without his cane, but I've gotten used to hearing those little taps for so long as he walks off somewhere that I can't keep track of him now. He's sneaking around and constantly jotting things in that new Braille notebook Gladio found for him. If he'd just give me one little hint, it wouldn't be so bad. But every time I ask, he just smiles ever so mysteriously and tells me to be patient. It's horrible!" Her voice rose an octave with the force of her frustration, her free hand quickly raking through her dark hair until the fluffy layers resembled a spiky shelled Bulette had taken residence on her head."All good things come to those who patiently wait, my love." Vassa yelped in surprise as a pair of lean arms encircled her waist, the lean figure of her beloved Ignis draping his taller self around her body like a comfortably warm blanket with a slight sheen of silkiness from his grey button up pajamas. Early morning Ignis was a softer variety than his normally efficient form, one that had opted to leave his normally well styled tawny hair limp with sleep and drooped down across his forehead, slightly shielding the expanse of his scars and his silver glazed emerald eyes still twinkling with good humor.  "Good morning, Prompto. May I ask just what mischief you and my bride are conjuring up? Not any plans to raid the Christmas tree, I hope?" The tip of his well defined chin landed square on top of her head, using it as a prop while the chuckle born from Prompto's abrupt surprised squawk vibrated straight from his chest against Vassa's back.She couldn't help but laugh as Prompto's squawks turned into a quick rustle and rummage as he tried and mostly failed to hide the sweater somewhere out of sight of the phone camera and for the supposed viewing of the intended receiver, leaving her with just a nicely framed shot of Prompto's rump and of Cindy passing by, thick black grease staining her yellow jacket and the wrench in her hand, while she waved a hand in greeting before passing on out of sight."He's hiding my gift, isn't he?" Ignis commented after a moment of listening to the rustling.Vassa twisted slightly, pressing her lips against the warm expanse of his throat with just the slightest prickle of his morning stubble tugging at her lips with a delightful pleasure. "Maybe PomPom just forgets that your blind now? I don't know. But what I do want to know is just what are you doing up, Mister Scientia? I made sure that I turned off that alarm specifically so that you would get a little sleep.""My dear, I have not now, or ever, overslept an alarm. But I do find it difficult to rest without your presence by my side." The arms so securely wrapped around her waist tightened just a little bit more, subtly drawing her body closer into the warmth of his frame at her back. Vassa blinked, slightly stunned at first by the searing rush of pure love surging through her veins so strong that her head started to spin. How was it that sometime so small could take her breath away like that?A muffled roar drew her attention back to her phone, and while a subtle glaze of bittersweet tears had started to gather in the corners of her eyes along with while she had to battle the fierce urge to drag him back to bed and kiss him senseless, she reluctantly shifted her gaze back to the screen of her phone. It wasn't a moment before Prompto's face popped back into view, a whitish shade of fear draining the color from his normally smiling face and his many freckles now popped out in sharp contrast, but still he smiled. "Guys, I'm gonna catch you later. Looks like we've got a Red Giant who's decided to rattle the gates of Hammerhead a bit."Ignis's frame stiffened at the first threat of danger, one hand trailing along her arm until his hand also wrapped around hers that was holding up her phone."Prompto, please do take care as Red Giants are quite serious foes." He warned, every lingering trace of morning softness now gone as the ever efficient strategist snapped into place.The perky blonde flashed a totally reckless smile straight into the camera. "Don't worry about me, it's ole rusty butt out here you need to worry about. See ya!" With a sizzle of static and a quick flash of grey and white, the connection darkened and left only Vassa's phone shifting back into it's normal screensaver as it sat cupped in the palm of her hand in silent wait of her next desire. A deep pang of fear gnawed straight at her heart, worry for her cheerful Chocobuddy that came from the good natured ribbing that the guys and even herself gave Prompto for his battle skills, he was walking off to face a Red Giant alone. The enormous daemons  were a challenge for a skilled hunter, and then there was Prompto who had certainly improved his skills by so many levels that she couldn't even count, but still..."Love, please. You're going to hurt yourself." The tender caress of a thumb against her lower lip freed the abused flesh from where it had suddenly become trapped between her teeth without her knowledge. "Perhaps we should step inside out of this cursed wind and find something a bit more pleasant to sink our teeth into? I sincerely doubt that Prompto would wish for us to worry ourselves to death over his self, and I have it on good authority that he has trained himself quite well to protect Miss Cindy, but I do understand your worry.""I swear, sometimes I think you can read my mind." Vassa's cheeks flushed with a self conscious blush, leaving behind burning skin that only relented once she had padded inside. The warmth of their small apartment was a welcoming rush of comfort to her chilled skin, chasing away the lingering chill skittering through her veins with an additional promise of fresh Ebony just brewed from the preprogramed coffee machine in the kitchen. She paused for just a moment, tilting her head back and letting her eyes flutter shut as the rich bitter scent of the most wonderful coffee in the world sank into her senses before that very first sip. Even now she could almost taste it on her tongue, perfection in liquid form and truly a gift from the Astrals above in this day and age."Vassa, I believe I forgot to ask last evening, but how did your muffins come out?" Easily stepping around her paused form with long sure strides devoid of any shred of hesitation, Ignis fetched two mugs from the cupboard and begin pouring out the steaming Ebony.An experiment on her part, the recipe for chocolate fudge muffins with mint chips had actually came about in a conversation she had with another hunter during a daemon hunting mission and she had decided to try it the previous evening with her own little additions to the recipe. "They turned out great, but gimme a sec and you can see for yourself." A quick rummage through the fridge quickly produced the bowlful of fluffy muffins sitting adorably in their crinkled white paper wrappers, their peaked little tops a delicious shade of deep dark brown that betrayed the extra hint of cocoa powder that she had added as an extra hint, and studded with both dark chocolate chips and light green mint chips on top like miniature decorations all their own. The sweet scent was delicious alone, easily awakening Vassa's morning hunger, but she wouldn't dare take a bite till Ignis tried it first and guessed just what else she had added as a secret ingredient to the batter. "Bet you can't guess just what I used it in though.""They do smell positively mouthwatering, dear. But are you completely positive that you wish to wager that bet with me?" He commented while placing the mugs on the table, thick curls of greyish steam rising up from the surface of the dark brew, and settling into a chair of his own. Plating up a muffin and pushing it across the table to him, Vassa sat down in her own chair across from him and laced her fingers under her chin, her eyes carefully watching Ignis's every action in scrutinizing detail. It was almost methodical the way he peeled back the wrapper, carefully testing the springiness of the bread with a press of his pinky finger, and smelling the chocolatey aroma before finally taking a petite bite of the muffin. "Hmm... the dark chocolate is certainly evident, as is the mint, but something else provides just a bit of deft to the fluffy batter and the moistness." A second bite soon followed, chewing thoughtfully as the flavors rolled around his tongue. "Hmm... the dark chocolate is certainly evident, as is the mint, but something else provides just a bit of deft to the fluffy batter and the moistness." Vassa squirmed in her seat, practically itching with excitement to see if he could figure it out.Then it came. Two simple words that sealed all her hopes."Sour Cream.""Iggy! Is there anything you can't guess?" Vassa groaned, kicking her heels against the table and slumping down against the back, glaring through the frame of her glasses that had now slid to perch on the very tip of her nose."I'm afraid not, love. It comes from long years of practice, but I certainly do enjoy the fruits of your labors." He chuckled ever so pleasantly, finishing off the remainders of his muffin before producing a sly smile of his own. "However, I'm afraid that as much as I would like to continue this discussion, we do have a schedule to maintain."A schedule? One of her eyebrows arched up in confusion to meet the thick expanse of her heavy bangs. This was the first she had heard of it. "I don't believe that either you or I have a task or hunt we've been called up for so far, or is this related to where you've been sneaking off too?"Ignis's milky emerald eyes shifted slightly, lit from within by a spark of excitement that had sorely been missing these days until she would have sworn that he could actually see her. With the graceful sweep, he uncurled one arm, palm up and open with his fingers spread apart in waiting for the presence of her hand. "If you would, love." He purred, not even batting an eyelash as Vassa placed her hand in his and followed him to their bedroom. It wasn't a long trip, the entirety of their apartment consisting of three major rooms being the kitchen/dining area, a small sitting room just big enough for two sofas, and the master bedroom with a small adjunct bathroom and the entrance to the balcony. But every step was filled with a sense of anxious anticipation as she pattered along behind him like a puppy.Sitting square in the middle of the perfectly tucked and folded bed blankets was a large, square white box, looking almost innocent if it hadn't been for the shimmering red ribbon wrapped double around all sides and tied in a beautiful puffy bow up top. It was so beautiful in it's simplicity that Vassa partially dreaded opening the package to see what laid inside. "Iggy, I told you no extravagant gifts this year." She said as she reached out to tug on the tip of the ribbon only to have his hand catch her in mid pull."Not just yet, love. This is only the second part of my gift to you. Since we have not had the pleasure of a glamorous night touring Insomnia's best as any other couple might have during the course of their courtship, I would like to remedy the situation by inviting you to accompany me for a night of holiday events in this wonderful city, just the two of us of course. So, may I ask if I have the pleasure of your delightful company for the day and the evening beyond?" He finished by sweeping her hand up to his lips, lightly pressing a kiss to the top of her knuckles.For a moment, all Vassa could do was bob her head, excitement having thickened her tongue too much for a single reply. But when Ignis raised a single brow in question as he had not yet received a verbal reply of her answer, she grabbed the collar of his pajamas and stood on her tiptoes to whisper one word into his ear. "Yes!"

Mature Content

Dracula and the Anime GothDisclaimer: I do not own Ed, Edd & Eddy, MLP, JJBA, Adventure time, Inuyasha, Batman vs Dracula, Alien vs Predator, Aladdin, and all the Cartoon Network shows including all the Toonami shows.Warnings: This Story may contain some language, and crude Humor.Jade who is dressed in her anime goth outfit. She wears black t-shirt with Inuyasha characters in it colored in white with red logo on it, a crochet cardigan with frails, black skinny high rise ripped jeans, black finger loop gloves, blackout tights, and Converse black and white high top sneakers.The accessories on her is spiked leather choker, metal blood stained barbed wire necklace with a goat pentagram and two bird skulls attached to it, with black upside down cross with a sideway pentagram on there and a bloody sideway pentagram necklace. On dyed dark red long hair in a ponytail is a set of death moth hair clips with two black sideways pentagrams, five crimson sideways pentagrams on each side, and upside down crosses with sideways pentagrams on it. On her tied hair is a black large anime ribbon hair clip that she attached on the back of her hair.On her black finger loop gloves attached on her arms, with two bracelets on each arm. The left side is a spiked leather bracelet with leather black sideway pentagram arm cuff and on the right is a leather black sideway cross strap on bracelet with a spiked leather cuff with a ring attached to it.Underneath her shirt was a black leather belt with double holes and a black large chain with small jewelry chains attached to it. And she wears black eyeshadow, eyeliner with black lipstick, gauge earrings of a black upside down cross on the right side of her ear and a chain on the left side of her ear. And sometimes she wears black nail polish. Three black ear cuffs on her upper ears. The makeup she is wearing is Maybelline cosmetics combined with LA colors.She has a cute zipper mouth Xenomorph Plushie who is named Specimen Six aka Six who is brought by her boyfriend Dracula and was brought back to life by Jafar.The biggest reason why Six is brought back to life is because Jade kept begging until he did it.In her adorable Plushie form Six is a dark grey xenomorph with number six that is painted black on her head, wearing a black spiked choker on her neck with a black pentagram upside down cross, a sideways pentagram harness made of elastic string on her chest and a metal barbed wire belt wrapped around her waist and she brings her xenomorph plush to school and everywhere with her boyfriend and friends during their little adventures.Jade usually loves wearing this outfit especially wearing it at school but sometimes she usually gets talked to by anyone saying about her outfit even though her friends like the outfits especially mostly Dracula, Marceline, Gwen, Naraku and Kars.In class Jade is wearing her anime goth outfit with her boyfriend Dracula and her friends Marceline, Jafar, Naraku and Kars.Jade began writing her story in her journal while Six remained in her plushie form not to move until she felt something thrown at the back of her head.She turns and sees Sarah, and Kevin that they snickered when they threw a ball of paper at her.Jade got mad but decides to continue to write her story.Sarah was thinking of doing something to Jade but she stopped because Dracula was glaring at both her and Kevin. Watching every move they would do to his girlfriend.At lunchtime Jade was sitting with her friends with Dracula and his friends. Jade was her food is a sushi rainbow roll, salmon sushi roll, with California roll, sashimi, nigiri and mountain dew voltage. The food that Jade got was from Dracula. The Goth girl is eating her food with her metal chopsticks.Until she heard the Cul de sac kids talking about her again about her outfit and she was eating sushi. Jade stops eating."Jade what happened?" Twilight Sparkle asked."Oh getting picked on again because of my outfit I'm wearing right now." Jade answered."Again. You know I actually love the outfits you wear especially when you're dressing in Goth. Just let other people bother you just be who you are Jade." Twilight Sparkle informed."Sometimes. I just hate the fact the students picked on you." Naraku replied."Yeah. Some people have to judgemental the way you dressed and looked.." Jade replied as she continued eating her food.After Jade finished having lunch with her friends. Jade decides to hangout with Dracula, Kars, Naraku, Marceline and Jafar during break so she can hangout with her friends after school.The group began to hangout outside in the shade of a very large tree that they sat on. Jade is laying on Dracula's lap while she plays her death metal music on her phone connected to Dracula's Bluetooth speaker.The music is Jade's playing is Nymphetamine Fix by Cradle of Filth. Dracula, Kars, Naraku, Jafar and Marceline actually liked most of the music that Jade plays.After the Anime Goth girl plays Her Ghost in a Fog first. Which they liked a lot.Dracula and Jade were reading the comic book series of Spy vs Spy. Kars was reading history books with Naraku. Marceline is playing on her phone. Six is now in her xenomorph form sleeping while in her same goth outfit that Jade made for her. And lastly Jafar was practicing his magic in his sorcery and witchcraft spell books. The Bluetooth speaker plays Memento Mori by Lamb of God. which Dracula enjoys her music that he likes.Specimen Six loves most of Jade's music since both Jade and Dracula had adopted her. Jafar is able to cast a spell on the Xenomorph Plush that has the same form and abilities of a xenomorph before she became a living Plushie. But there are limits that Six only can remain a cute plushie and stay still when Jade has to go to her classes or when Jade's mom decides to see Jade in her bedroom. The only safe places that Six can be is Jade's bedroom or she is with Jade's friends or even Jade's boyfriend.While the group enjoys their death metal music until they see Kevin, Sarah and Jimmy coming towards them."Oh God, they 're going straight towards us. What the hell do they want now?" Jade asks as Six growls at them that Six has a complete hatred towards the Cul de sac kids that like to make fun of Jade or even her the most."Six, please calm down until they are gone. I know you hate them because of reasons but please behave and I'll have dinner with you when we get home." Jade replies as Six changes back into her living plushie form and sits on her owner's lap."Jade! Jade!" Sarah shouted as Jade's music Lamb Of God music Remorse for the Dead plays so loudly that Jade, Dracula and her friends can't hear them."Jade! Could you turn down your horrible death music!" Kevin shouted as they kept ignoring them until Sarah screamed at them."Jade! Shut your Music right now before I break your Bluetooth speaker!" Sarah screamed as Jade turns on her android Motorola Phone and pauses her music now."What!" Jade shouted in a pissed off tone."Jade, did you break Jimmy's bunny plushie and my doll? Cause I know you decapitated Mr Yums Yums and you dissected my doll with a pair of scissors like she was a frog that you did in your lolbiology class." Sarah replies as she shows her doll which is sliced on the neck down to her dress and Jimmy is crying that he is holding his decapitated stuffed bunny he named Mr Yums Yums."Okay Fine. I did it happy. So Kevin, Sarah and Jimmy, Please go F**** yourself." Jade replies as she flips them off which is blurred.It actually pissed mostly on both Kevin and Sarah that Jade actually talked to them that way."Hey you can't talk to us like that!" Sarah shouted."That's how you and your stupid friends are going to treat me and my friends that way. I'll probably treat you more like crap." Jade answered."Hey, Cujo, why don't you tell your emo girlfriend to stop talking to us that way before me and Sarah do something to her." Kevin threatened as Dracula and Six reacted very seriously that they were going to beat up Jade even though she knows how to defend herself but they don't want Jade to get suspended by these two.So Dracula and Six stood up and they both made the death glare at Sarah and Kevin and Jimmy got scared that Six began growling.Jimmy got scared of the Xenomorph because Six attacked him the last time she first saw him when she was alive . "Kevin, Sarah. Listen to me right now. You two were being parasites to both me and Jade. Even though you did a lot of horrible things to us. Leave right now before Me and Six will make sure you two won't be able to walk again like I did to someone else who did something to Jade." Dracula threatened as he was in annoyance and Six hissed at the trio of the bullies."Guys, we should go. that thing is starting to scare me that she wants to kill me again." Jimmy replies as Sarah and Kevin decide not to deal with the teenage vampire and the Xenomorph."Let's just go. I don't want to get bitten by this vampire or even the creature that Emo has as a pet." Kevin replied as he, Sarah and Jimmy walked away from Jade, and her group."Well I'm glad that is over." Kars replied."I was about to use my snake staff on them for being scumbags to Jade." Jafar added."I was about to lose my temper on these brats." Naraku replied."Guys, it's alright, Dracula and Six took care of the situation. We can probably listen to Jade's music before lunch break is over." Marceline informed.Dracula and Six sat next to Jade. The Xenomorph lays her head on Jade's lap and Jade pets her head by using her hand."Are you okay Jade?" Dracula asked."Yes thank you. and Six too. I am happy that you actually defended me from those bastards." Jade replied."You're welcome. Jade is okay that me, Kars and Naraku can hangout with you and Six after school is over?" Dracula asked."Yes you can. We can probably watch Sleepy Hollow and probably listen to more Lamb of God songs after this when we get off of school." Jade answered as the school bell rang that lunch break was over."Well our break is over. Me and the others will meet you outside of school." Dracula repliedAfter school is over Dracula, Kars and Naraku decides to hang out with Jade and Six in Jade's bedroom while Marceline, and Jafar decides to head homeIn Jade's bedroom was gothic and awesome that Jade got created. After they watched the movie Sleepy Hollow. They listened to a couple of the songs from Lamb Of God, which is Walk with me in Hell, Wake of the Ashes and finally finished their song during lunch break at school Remorse for the Dead.Kars, and Naraku get up from sitting on the floor after the stuff they needed to do. "Well me and Naraku will go get some snacks that we can have after that. We'll be heading home after that having our snacks." Kars replies as he and Naraku exits out of Jade's bedroom leaving Jade, Dracula and Six alone for a moment."BTW Drac, Six. Thank you for defending me from Kevin and Sarah at school today. I actually appreciate that." Jade replied as Six came over towards her and lay down on her lap.The Anime goth pets the living Xenomorph Plush by scratching underneath her chin which Six began purring like an actual cat. While Dracula moves near towards them and pets Six as well."Well me and Six don't like it that they were being rude to you and that they were threatening you. I know you're capable of defending yourself towards them but me and Six we're worried that you'll get suspended from those two that's why me and Six reacted seriously." Dracula explained as he kissed Jade in the lips until the door opened revealing to Kars and Naraku."Okay We got snacks that we can." Before Kars finishes his sentence he and Naraku stopped at the teenage vampire and the anime goth making out."Ah crap." Dracula replied."Done with your little make out with your Goth Damsel?" Naraku teased as Dracula blushes immediately."Naraku quit it right now." Kars replied as Naraku stopped."Done what you need to do?" Kars asked."Yes Kars, I finished what I needed to do." Dracula replied as Kars and Naraku began hanging out with Dracula, Jade and Six while eating snacks that they brought before leaving Jade's home.Owari
Cuphead Crossover PrologueDisclaimer: I do not own One piece, Inuyasha, Naruto, Bleach, and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. The chorus began to the play intro song Well, Luffy and his sister Jade They like to roll the dice By chance they came upon Naraku's game and, god, they paid the price Paid the price And now they're fighting for their lives on a mission fraught with dread And if they proceed but don't succeed Well... Naraku will take their heads As the song ended which the story begins with a storybook called Luffy Don't Deal with Naraku which it opens the first page of the story. Once upon a time there was a magical place called Multiverse Isle, there were a brother and a sister named Monkey D Luffy and Nico Jade. As the two lived without a care under the watchful eye of their Grandfather Monkey D Garp. One Day the two wandered off from and despite Garp's warnings ended up on the wrong side of the tracks and enter the Demon's Casino. Inside Luffy and Jade soon found themselves on a winning streak at the Dice gambling table. "Well I be Damned!" Bankotsu exclaimed who is the casino's sleazy manger "These two can't lose." Bankotsu replied. "Nice run you two." A random demon added. The Straw Hat and the black widow ninja gasped when they see someone approached them. It was the Casino's owner The Spider Demon Naraku himself. "Now, how about we raise the stakes." Naraku replied with a smirk and shows them two dice in his hand. "Win one more roll and all the loot in my casino is yours, But if you lose. I'll have your souls. So do we have a deal?" Naraku asked. Luffy who was blinded by easy riches, nodded and grabbed the dices for a throw. "Ah Crap Luffy No!!" Jade shouted as she knows what kind of danger that her brother is into but it was too late. Suddenly the dice rolled onto Snake eyes which they ended up losing which Naraku laughed evilly. "Snake Eyes! You lose." Naraku laughed as the siblings trembled in fear as the spider demon loomed over them. "Now how about your souls." Naraku replied. Luffy and Jade began pleading for their lives before Naraku takes their souls. Is there alternative way to repay you after losing?" Jade asked. "Yes, please, mister." Luffy cried as Naraku has an idea for them. "Maybe... perhaps there is." Naraku answered as he pulls out a contract which he informs the two. "I have a list of those who betrayed and went off. Collect their souls for me and I just might let you two live." Naraku replied. Outside of the Demon's Casino the Spider demon kicks the Straw Hat and the black widow ninja out. "Now get going!!!" Naraku shouted as Luffy and Jade were forced rudely by him. "You two have til midnight tomorrow to collect every single of their souls. Otherwise I'll be the one collecting yours!!" Naraku exclaimed. Now Luffy and Jade frightened and don't know what to do. Jade was now pissed at Luffy for everything that happened. "I'm not ready to have my life taken away! Why did I do that. Oh my God what are we going to do Jade!!" Luffy cried as Jade grabs him by red vest with her hands. "What the hell were you thinking. What on earth made you think that was a good idea?" Jade asked. "Money." Luffy answered. "Money?!" Jade shouted. "Jade. I'm sorry...I" Before Luffy apologize to his sister which Jade was still angry at him. "No no no Luffy. You always do this! You always put us into danger and then just say sorry. Now our lives are at stake now because of your greed and inability to your brain for once! Hope you're proud of yourself!" Jade shouted as she and Luffy went off home to find their Grandfather and won't forgive her brother for what he did.
The Black widow Beauty and the Spider demon Ch 1Author's notes: This story takes place after the Cuphead parody Crossover. Summary: After Jade and Luffy defeated Naraku. For unknown reason Naraku began developed towards Jade. Disclaimer: I don't not own One piece, Inuyasha, Naruto, Bleach, Mortal Kombat, MLP, JJBA, Teen Titans, Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. I only own is my OCS. The story is rated T due to DeviantArt changing the rules that I need to agree on. Chapter One: Love Sickness and Dreams It's been two weeks ever since Nico Jade and her brother Monkey D Luffy defeated Naraku after breaking their deal with him that they got all the soul contracts that they took from the people who deal with him in the past. Yet Naraku recovered while his minions along with Bankotsu. As their doctor Kars who is pillar man finished attending their wounds. "That will do it. I'm sure you two will recover in a couple of days since you two got badly beaten up by the straw hat and his sister who is black widow ninja." Kars replied. "Please don't speak about those traitors ever again." Naraku growled that he got defeated by the two. Suddenly he began to cough. Which the casino manager got concerned. "Umm boss are you okay?" Bankotsu asked. "I'm fine Bankotsu. Just a little cough." Naraku replied. Meanwhile at the forest where the house is at. Jade wearing her black kimono dress with white spider webs, black tights, boots, finger loop gloves, large leather ribbon attached behind her hair and with blackout tights. She came back home after picking up groceries from town that her grandfather told her to do since they were going to have dinner. Jade opens the door with the groceries in her hands. "Guys, I'm home." Jade replied as Luffy, Garp and Kitsune came in to see her. "Oh boy I can't wait to eat some food." Luffy replied. "Luffy please hold your horses. Let me cook the food first before we eat." Jade replied as she gets ready to make dinner for her family. Back at the palace a few hours flew by Naraku is not feeling well which Bankotsu and his workers got concern. The spider demon rested on a futon in his bedroom. "Boss is not feeling too well." Bankotsu replied. "I thought demons are not supposed to get sick." Daki added. "It's possible due to that Naraku is a half demon since he's part human." Kaguya informed. "Oh shut up. Kaguya. I'm not sick. It's just a cold." Naraku replied as he was about to vomit but he vomits on a bucket that Kaguya handed it to him. "If I hadn't set you free from that mirror you would've been sealed completely." Naraku replied. "Yeah I think I should let Kars know about your condition boss." Erron Black replied as he went out of Naraku's bedroom to get Kars. "Come on all you guys we have to leave before you get sick like this bastard over here." Bankotsu teased as Naraku really got ticked off easily while he and the other workers exit out of the bedroom. "Watch your tongue. Before I rip it off of your mouth!" Naraku shouted as Kars went his chambers to check on him. As Bankotsu and the other workers waited outside of Naraku's bedroom. Kars exits out of the bedroom. "Well I finally checked on his condition recently." Kars replied. "So what did he caught exactly?" Hades asked. "Well Naraku caught the love sickness that the snake princess Boa Hancock got." Kars replied. "You got to be kidding me." King Sombra replied. "Don't tell me he's stay like this forever!" Mumbo Jumbo added. "Calm down guys. He will resume back to normal after having his dream to meet his future love." Kars replied. "So who is Naraku's lover that he supposed to meet in his dreams?" Kaguya asked. "It probably could be that girl who is Luffy's sister." Gyutaro replied. "You may be right about this but I'm not sure if Jade is meant to be with him." Kagura added. "It may be possible actually that Nico Jade may be his lover after she is a black widow ninja due to that she's involved with spiders." Kars informed. "Jade will be not happy when she sees him." Muso replied as Kars gets ready to leave. "I can see that happening." Byakuya added. "If you guys need anything to help your boss. Just give me a call. I'll come over and see the problem." Kars replied as he left Naraku's palace while Naraku went to sleep. 'Jade is not going to happy about this.' Naraku thought as he slept on the futon. Meanwhile in Jade's bedroom Jade gets dressed in her black silk Yukata which she used as a nightgown. After she and her family ate dinner. Kitsune sat on the bed in her bedroom. Her bedroom was a gothic theme bedroom filled with gothic plushies, jeweled roses, furniture, and a bathroom next to it. Jade gets on bed, covering herself up in her satin black and red blankets which she lays next to the Xenomorph nine tailed fox. "Goodnight Kitsune." Jade replied as Kitsune nodded which the two went to sleep. Dream starts💭 Jade wakes up in a field filled with roses wearing her beautiful black and red kimono with golden butterflies on it wearing boots, and a matching butterfly hair clip on her black long hair. She gets up and sees someone who she recognized. "No it can't be." Jade told herself as she sees someone. It was Naraku which the Spider demon sees the Black Widow beauty face to face. "Naraku! What are you doing here?" Jade asked in a aggressive tone on seeing him not in his black and purple kimono and Hakama outfit that he usually wears except it was blue and golden. His black long hair tied in a ponytail. "I just wanted to see you in this dream since I got the love sickness at my home after I was defeated by you and your brother." Naraku answered as he approaches towards her. Jade blushed due to that he is attractive even though Naraku is evil and sexy at the same time. "But why are you approaching towards me like this. Is this part of your plan?" Jade asked as he placed his hand underneath her chin. "This is the only way I can get cured is to kiss you in our dream." Naraku replied as he gently kisses her in the lips. Dream ends💭 Jade wakes up in her bedroom and sees Kitsune on the bed sleeping. But didn't see Naraku anywhere. "Was it just a dream?" Jade asked as she laid down on the bed and tries not to think about that dream that Naraku kissed her.
Detective Conan

Mature Content

Mature Content


Mature Content

Death Note

Mature Content

Yu Yu Hakusho
A Christmas to Remember Pt 1 - Kurama / YYHakusho by Sarah-Lazic
Saint Seiya
Sleeping with the Scorpion Chp 2 by Sarah-Lazic
Final Fantasy VII
Amor Non Exurat Flamma - Chapter 12When Vassa stepped out of the bathroom, a strange heavy silence echoed throughout the caravan. It was dark and quiet, the lonesome sound of being utterly alone, and she was slightly glad for that. Her shoulders lifted high with a long sigh, reaching behind her head to fluff a few strands of her still damp hair back into her scrunchie. Did the others go outside? It’s kind of strange for them to be so quiet, maybe Gladio took them all out for a morning run. But normally I can hear Noct and PomPom complaining from a mile away if he did- Ow!A small hiss dragged through her clenched teeth as her fingernails lightly scraped the still raw skin at the base of her neck. No matter how much hot water she had pulled from the laboring water heater, it still couldn't burn away the lingering sensation of Ignis's touch. His lips, warm and plush, trailing down her neck, touching her lips. Just for the briefest of moments, her eyes fluttered shut as the vision of Ignis, dripping with rain and an expression so dark and hungry like she was his only desire, floated to the front of her thoughts again. It was an experience worthy of her darkest fantasies, but it was also her most soul crushing ever. Shiva help me, how am I going to fix this?"So... You and Spec's were getting down and dirty with it in the parking lot. That's a hell of a change from all the polite little stuff you two have been doing.""Noctis!" Vassa squealed, tottering back a step as her heart suddenly decided to try and break through her ribs with fright. The dark haired goblin himself was sitting on the lower bunk bed he had claimed, half swathed in dark shadows with a six pack of fresh Hi-potions on his lap. The metal cans still shimmered with a faint blue aura, the same color perfectly matching the remaining traces of bluish aura still slightly clinging to his hands. "The hell? Why are you sitting in the dark?"Beneath the heavy fringe of his dark bangs, his flat blue eyes had gained a small flicker of curiosity. One that wasn’t quite sitting well with her already shaky nerves. "I was giving a few of these the royal Noct blessing while I was waiting for you. You were in there so long that I was expecting a Flan to come out-”“I was not!”“-Gladio dragged Prompto out for his morning round of torture, and Specs is still over at the Coernix looking for a loaf of bread in case you were wondering. Somehow he missed the one we had back in the supplies stuff, and went running out of here like his pants were on fire. You really did a number on him. Do I need to be prepared to heave up my guts if you guys start going for round two when he gets back?"Her jaw just kind of hung open there, a few distressed gurgling sounds grumbling deep in her throat while her face felt like her skin was literally burning off. 100% maximum embarrassment achieved. Vassa.exe has crashed. Total reboot needed. "I hate you. I literally hate you right now." She finally managed to mumble around the thick knot of her tongue. Shoving none too carefully right past his knees, she grabbed her scarf and carefully started winding it around her neck. The silky lavender material was almost a blessing to her heated skin, cooling the flush brought on by Noct’s comment and her little memory-filled journey."Why are you so touchy? It's nice that you and Ignis have everything out in the open. Disgusting, but nice. Plus, we do have Hi-potions for that if you want one." Her hands froze in mid tug, one end of her scarf still dangling from her shoulder as her eyes widened. No, everything was most certainly not in the open! How could Noctis even think of that? She froze dead still as the mattress suddenly let out a squeak of protest, the heavy thumps of Noctis’s boots coming to rest directly behind her. "You did finally tell him, didn't you?""Well... no." She swallowed heavily, every drop of moisture draining away from her throat as her fingers resumed their twisting, endlessly stretching the folds of her scarf until it covered the entire area below her chin down to her collarbone. It was a little more than just making sure her bruises were covered, mainly she was avoiding the heavy weight of Noctis’s glare slicing right through her head. "Iggy was helping me with the lightning stuff, and it started raining, and I slipped. Again. And something just happened." Her shoulders lifted up in a helpless shrug. It really sounded so simple when you thought about it like that."So, that's why Specs left in the middle of making a sandwich."She spun around, her eyes so wide that they were nearly popping right out of her skull. "He did what?" Noctis’s self satisfied smirk widened even as he winched with the sudden high shriek of her voice. Ignis leaving something in the middle of cooking, that was unthinkable. It was a sign of Armageddon. The world was ending at any moment. "Do I need to finish cooking? Are you guys hungry? You're probably starving." With her thoughts now switched tracks completely, Vassa whirled straight for the small kitchen, a sickening ache starting to grow deep in her stomach for the looming mass of destruction that the caravan would no doubt be in. But instead of the food encrusted mess she was expecting, the little kitchenette was semi neatly tidied up. There were even two little plates sitting on the counter, a carefully built but slightly tilted sandwich sitting proudly there like it was a master carved steak, and Vassa’s couldn’t contain her small squeak of surprise. Noctis had actually cooked something edible? Without burning it? It was a miracle.“Don’t look so surprised. Did you forget that I used to be a cook at the Standing Sushi? I’m not totally stupid in the kitchen, you know.” His shoulder brushed against hers with a not so gentle nudge, carefully pushing her out of the way as he waltzed over to the counter and picked up one plate. “Here, try a bite.”The sandwich was a slightly lopsided version of Ignis’s Multi Meat sandwich. The top slice of bread had nearly slid off, exposing a round of slightly bruised but still fluffy lettuce sitting square over a layer of fresh cut Aegir Root. A razor thin portion of juicy Gligee ham and slightly pink Bird’s Breast Meat formed a hefty layer underneath the root slices, and an uneven slice of cheese and hearty pickles ending the sandwich next to the bottom layer of bread. Despite how good the slightly awkward sandwich did look, the thick knot of nerves in Vassa’s stomach just made the thought of eating practically impossible. But when her eyes flashed up and she caught the tiny embarrassed blush high on Noct’s cheeks as he offered her the meal, it made her take the sandwich and slide down to sit on the floor.“Thanks Noct,” Folding her legs criss-cross with the plate balanced between them, she cradled the sandwich between her hands as Noctis braced his hands against the counter and slowly started to slide down. All traces of embarrassment quickly drained away as a brief grimace of pain creased his features until he landed on the floor with a sharp grunt. “How’s your back doing?”“Fine, the long rides just make it a little stiff sometimes.” Mimicking her stance, Noctis folded up his legs and sat there beside her on the floor. When he didn’t say anything else, Vassa didn’t push and turned back towards the sandwich in her lap. Her stomach gave an uneven flop with the very first bite, the slightly spongy bread sticking to her teeth like glue, and it was more the action of chewing that soothed a few of her anxious nerves than the actual taste of the sandwich did. At least Noct seemed content with her silence, letting her eat in peace until the last bite was gone and her nerves couldn’t be quite any longer. “Noct…”“Yeah?”“I screwed up, Noct. Bad. He’s going to hate me, I just know it, and I can’t stand it if he does.”“One tiny little kiss doesn’t mean you screwed up, Vassa.” Noct sighed, tipping his head back to rest against the cupboard. Spreading a few spikes of his messy dark hair until they stuck straight out from his head like needles, he rolled his eyes up towards the ceiling like he was looking for divine inspiration from the Astrals. Or knowing him, he might just fall asleep that way. “How long have you known Specs?”“Since he came to the Citadel when we were three.”“And during all this time, is there anything at all Specs hasn’t been able to handle?”She thought about it for a moment, running through the long wavering trails of memories while her teeth gnawed on her lower lip. “... No. He figures out everything.”“Yep, he does. Every. Single. Time. He works out how to approach something from so many directions that it makes me dizzy to even think about it. I bet he’s already got a plan on how to apologize to you in the works too. Even though it kinda needed to happen.” The sudden beep of something in his jacket pocket made her jolt slightly in surprise, her shaky fingernails making a slight ting-ting against the rim of the plate. Giving her a quick side eye, Noctis pulled out his phone and briefly glanced down at the screen. “Gladio says that Specs just came out of the Coernix, he’s on his way back now.”“Oh, shit!” All the feeling drained right out of her hands, the plate landing on the floor with a ringing clatter so loud that it was the Astrals’s miracle it didn’t break. Ignis was coming back now? I can’t do this. I really can’t do this. Nausea thick and hot started to curl deep in her stomach, the leaden lump of sandwich almost ready to claw right back up her throat at any moment. And if that wasn’t enough, her fingers started to itch in the worst way. A terrible sting that couldn’t be soothed no matter how much she rubbed her fingers together. The tiny fluid filled blisters were probably worse than ever now, always popping out when her nerves were high and this time was no exception. Vassa started to lurch up on her feet, intending to run for the door and into the forest behind the caravan, but one sturdy hand pushed her right back down.“Stay right here. That’s an official order from your king, got it? No sneaking off. Geez, it’s just Specs. It’s not like he’s a monster going to eat you or something.” She rolled her eyes up to meet his face while Noctis stood up, that little cocky smirk once again tilting up his lips. Her eyes felt like they were as big as a Gil, pure panic surging through her veins until she couldn’t think of anything else but what kind of disaster might unfold if Noctis left her alone with Ignis. There was only one thing left to do.She lunged for Noctis’s leg.The King of Lucis let out a grunt as her arms and legs locked tight around his knee, a few fresh tears snaking their way out from beneath her tightly closed eyelids. “No, no, no, no! You can’t leave me here alone with him! Ignis will be so pissed at what I did.” She hissed, hugging his leg to her chest so tightly that calling it a death grip was too generous.“Hey, it’s gonna be alright. I promise you Ignis isn’t pissed in the least. Now let go, will ya? I kinda need my leg!” Despite Noct’s hands pushing and prodding at her arms, Vassa held on like a leech and refused to release her cousin. “Hey, look at me.” A finger tapped the top of her head.“No.”“Shadow, come on. Don’t be stupid. Do you think I would really steer you wrong on something like this?”“I dunno. Maybe.” Reluctantly tipping her head back, Vassa glanced up at him through the feathery fringes of her bangs. “You’re kinda hopeless with romancing Lunafreya via the Umbra messenger service.”“That’s not the same thing!” Ah-ha! The pinkish blush started to color his cheeks again, this time spreading down his neck and past the collar of his jacket. The click-thump of swift steps started to echo in through the open door, The undeniable sound of Ignis’s classy dress shoes meeting the asphalt in a hurried, long stride. Vassa’s grey eyes pulled wide again, completely white rimmed with fear, and her arms tightened around Noct’s leg again. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Just be yourself.” Noctis whispered one final time before a flash of blue light caught at the corner of her vision, quickly solidifying into a long silver sword. Noctis flashed one final smirk and tossed the weapon out the caravan’s door, leaving her alone and coughing out a trail of itchy blue sparkles left in his wake as she fell stomach first down on the floor.Vassa sprawled out as ungainly as a starfish, her glasses flying off into some dark corner of the caravan to be found later, and she sighed heavily. Great, just great. It would take her forever to find her glasses in the blurry darkness.“Vassa? May I inquire why you are lying on the filthy floor?” An elegant pair of slightly blurry Seadevil skin dress shoes entered the edge of her vision, stopping just short of bumping into her spread arms as the slightly stacked heels made a soft click against the floor. “My apologies, I did not mean to disturb you.”Her head snapped up on instinct, the tall shadow of Ignis’s form darkening all the surroundings and further camouflaging any hope she had about finding her glasses. “Uh, I’m fine. Just lost my glasses.” What should have been proper words came out in a soft squeak, and Vassa carefully edged the toe of her boot around trying to feel for anything that was vaguely glasses shaped. It wouldn’t do any good to even try to look at his face as it was just a pale blob of flesh toned skin and flickering shadows, but so far his voice sounded mostly the same.“I see,” Ignis paused, his blurry form bending down to fetch something just beyond the tips of her shoes. She squinted, trying to bring whatever it was he held pinched between his fingers into focus. “I believe this is what you are searching for.” He said, placing her glasses right on the top of her head where she could flip them down with a single flick, and then every single blurry item snapped into sharp focus.He was still standing in front of her as tall as ever, but a flickering light of humor glistened softly in his eyes. A small retantagle of white light from the dim Caravan light briefly reflected off the lower rim of his glasses, partially shading the dark circles on his eyes a shade lighter than they should have been after nearly being up all night. After being run through the drenching rain and dealing with her unexpected groping, Ignis looked almost slightly on par with his normal sense of well put togetherness. His shirt was only slightly wrinkled around the edges, and his hair had only drooped a few tawny strands over his eyes. His right arm was folded tightly against his chest, cradling a small loaf of lightly tanned bread as delicately as if it was a newborn baby.Oh, yeah. Noct said that he was gone to get a loaf of bread. “Did you find what you were looking for?”“Yes, Oddly enough, the Coernix station appears to be very well stocked outside of normal business hours…” He trailed off as his gaze darted over towards the counter where the second slightly tilted sandwich rested in it’s plate. “Did you happen to make that?” One smooth eyebrow arched high in question as his gaze flickered back to her, and Vassa laughed in sheer irony.“No way! That was all Noct. I swear!”Ignis sighed, depositing his own fresh loaf beside it’s older brethren before tentatively poking a gloved fingertip towards the half sliding piece of bread barely clinging to the sandwich. “I could have sworn that there was not a loaf of bread to be found.”“Noct’s magic, I guess.” Vassa’s shrugged, not daring to tell Ignis what Noctis had told her earlier in case it embarrassed him further.“Did you already eat?” He briefly glanced down towards her empty plate on the floor, and it shouted the answer to his question. “What about the others?”“Noct said that he already fed Gladio and PomPom. I just finished mine a few moments ago. It was pretty good.” Something grumbled deep in his throat, maybe agreement or maybe a comment, but whatever it was didn’t fully make it to her ears. A mild sense of curiosity started to prickle, but she had to cover her mouth with her hand not to die laughing when Ignis began inspecting the sandwich like it was a lethal weapon. Layer by layer, it all came apart. The meat, the cheese, even the bread was deconstructed before being reassembled into a somewhat neater stack. Then the magical moment, the very first bite was taken and Ignis let out a slightly surprised noise at the taste. “Surprisingly good, isn’t it?”“Considering the fact that the last attempt of mine to involve Noctis with a recipeh ended with a pot of scorched beyond compare stew, I will say that this is a hearty improvement.” Oh, Noctis would probably jump for joy with that bit of rousing encouragement. It wasn’t until he finished his sandwich that Vassa reached into the fridge for a bottle of water, idly passing one to Ignis when his fingertips brushed over the top of her hand. The easy air suddenly tightened, growing taut with a tension so thick that it felt like the room could explode at any moment. The quick stroke was completely innocent in action, but so sinful in the way it called attention to more heated times, and her eyes widened with a soft gasp. Her arm hurriedly snapped back to her side, the scarlet flush extending all the way past the wound edges of her scarf. Ignis’s own snapped back just as quick, one hand reaching up to fiddle with the corner of one lens.“Vassa, I sorely need to apologize for my actions.”“Ignis, I’m sorry for what happened earlier.”They blinked simultaneously, both stunned by the sudden announcement, and Vassa felt the slight tickle of a chuckle start to burst free. The tightness that was in the air suddenly eased as Ignis’s soft laugh soon joined her own, and the smothering weight of fear that had so heavily pushed down on her shoulders suddenly slid free. Everything was okay, it really was okay. “My apologies, please go ahead.” One long finger swiped away a slight bit of moisture at the corner of one emerald eye, and then Ignis turned his twinkling gaze right back to her face.“Always the gentleman, aren’t you Ignis.”Vassa meant it as more of a tease, but the slow guilty way his eyes caught on the edge of the rosy red marks slipping out of her scarf made her shiver again. His marks, to be precise. “Not quite always.” He murmured so softly that her ears strained to catch his words.Oh, Astrals he’s going to kill me before I could get this out. “W-Well, Iggy. T-There’s something I need to tell you. No, that’s not right. I’ve needed to tell you for a long time. Iggy, I-I think of you- No. I.... Oh, shit!” This would have been so much easier if her tongue hadn’t decided to tie itself in the most embarrassing of knots.“Please go on.”Well, with that rousing bit of encouragement how could she not? Vassa sucked in a deep breath, anxiously rubbing her palms against her thighs. “Ignis, I like you. Like more than a friend, but I didn’t want it to change anything. I can understand if you don’t feel the same. I get it. So don’t feel pressured or anything. It won’t really matter at all, because I want things to stay the same. That is, if you want it to.”A dead silence quickly descended, one so quiet that she could hear Noctis and Prompto chattering outside, much less the scrutinizing tick-tick-tick of Ignis’s mind. The shadows darkened the plains of his face, smoky grey and velvety black competing with the weak light from the overhead light to create an almost mystical illusion. Almost brooding over the info she had just spouted out, her hips started to sway back and forth as she shuffled her feet in an impatience dance.“Iggy?” Vassa tentatively reached out, poking one lean arm with the tip of her finger.He finally shifted, clearing his throat with a low grumble, and the crispness in his tone enhanced every single word into bold clarity. “If I were to say the same, that there are some thoughts that have strayed beyond the bonds of friendship from myself, how would you feel? Would you be willing to explore whatever this is between us further at whatever pace you desire? As long as nothing affects Noctis’s needs.”It took a few moments for Vassa’s mind to slowly process the words, roughly translating them out of proper Ignis-speak. No way… He likes me… like that? Bubbling up like an overflowing fountain, every speck of fear and dread dissolved into the sparkliest firework shower of pure joy ever. “Yeah, of course. I’d really like that Iggy.” Her cheeks burned from the strain of carrying such a broad smile, but short of crushing him with a hug that he may or may not appreciate, she just couldn’t keep her little happiness from showing.Despite the slow breath of relief, a slight scowl still creased Ignis’s brow as he pushed his glasses up with a finger on each corner. A puzzled light faintly crept into Vassa’s eyes, and she waited for whatever thought that was troubling him to appear next. It wasn’t a very long wait. “Still, I would like to apologize for my bloody aggressiveness towards your person earlier. There is not an excuse in Eos that would suffice how I acted so shamefully earlier with my… advancements.”“It’s okay, Ignis. I don’t mind.” What she did mind was when he stepped forward, the silky smooth leather almost butter soft against her skin as he cupped his right hand around her cheek, and her eyelids involuntary fluttered. Slowly, so slowly. His thumb strokes the tender skin along her jaw, gently but not forcefully pushing her face up to meet his gaze.“With your permission, Vassa. I would still like to treat you to a proper kiss for now.” There’s a hint of tease underneath his glossy purr, a promise of many things both sweet and spicy yet to come, and if he intended to make her heart pound a million miles in a moment, then he was successful. Vassa nodded, her eyes flicking down to his lips just slightly parted in anticipation. Although it was too brief for her liking, the kiss was soft and sweet, like ice cream in a strange way. She giggles softly to herself as Ignis parts, leaving a final peck on her forehead when the sound of a large hand pounding against the side of the caravan separated them fully.“We gotta get moving. The crackpot is up and getting ready to roll whether we’re with him or not.” Directly to the point with no frills, Gladio’s low growl floated in through the door. Vassa didn’t have to see his hulking shadow falling over the door to know that he had gone into full shield mode, she could tell just by how sharp he was talking. “Vassa, you’ll need more tampons. Prompto hit Noctis in the nose with the Regalia’s door, and we used your last one to stop what bleeding he had.”“Bloody Astrals! Where’s the Hi-potions?” There wasn’t even time for Vassa to snap her fingers before Ignis was gone, quickly snapping up one of the fresh Hi-potions that Noct had just enchanted and charged out of the Regalia on the mission to save his king from blood loss. And the possibility of total embarrassment of having a tampon string hanging out of his nose. Again.“No problem, Gladio. Did he break it this time?” She wondered out loud, her shoulders shaking with the effort to suppress a few giggles.“No, just bruised the best I could tell.” He paused, peering inside the caravan with the contrast between the first rays of sunshine and the lingering night shadows draping his scarred face into an even fiercer shade than normal. “Everything okay?” Gladio dropped his voice to a whisper, one thick eyebrow arching high in question.“Yep, we’re okay.” Starting to follow in Ignis’s wake, Vassa grabbed the rest of the Hi-potions and a few more things scattered around the caravan on her way out, bumping his now smiling form out of the way with her hip. “I’ll get the stuff out of the Caravan with Prompto, you go sit on Noctis for Ignis so that he doesn’t pin him in place with his daggers again.”Within the hour, all of their supplies and gear was reloaded into the Regalia, and with Ignis firmly in the driver’s seat once again, he skillfully guided the Regalia behind Ardyn’s less than pristine vehicle. Prompto was stationed in the passenger seat, excitedly playing tour guide with special facts about the Meteor contained within the Disc of Cauthess provided by the local tourist center’s website. Gladio and Vassa both occupied their respective positions in the backseat, watching the stunning views change to a craggy dusty landscape of tall cliffs and exposed rocks. A slumbering Noctis was half draped onto the door beside him, letting out a few snuffly snorts from the bandages Ignis had plastered across his nose.“At certain places of contact, the heat produced by the meteor is so intense that it can turn water into steam without contact.” Prompto fidgeted around in his seat, his jaw suddenly going slack as the spark of an idea lit up his eyes.“Hey, Iggy, V! That’s some pretty intense stuff. Think your glasses can take the heat without melting?”“I don’t see why they shouldn’t. But even if the worst should occur, my vision is passable enough without the corrective lens of my spectacles to see well enough. However, I do highly prefer to see my world as crystal clear as possible.” The driver’s seat gave out a small squeak as Ignis leaned back, idly draping one lean hand across the wheel as the other fidgeted with the edges of his frames. Yippie for you, Iggy.When Prompto’s curious gaze landed on her, Vassa crossed her arms over her chest and speared her friend with a particularly sharp glance. “PomPom, you better start praying that they don’t or you’ll have to carry me all the way.”Her mock threat was met with a round of laughter so hard that his entire seat was quivering. “You guys have to get contacts like mine. It’s so much easier, and you don’t have to worry about anything like rain and stuff.”“Moderately severe Astigmatism.”“I tried them when I was ten. I poked myself so hard that my eye was black for a week.”“Hey, that’s true. It was a pretty gnarly one.” Letting his arm fall down to his side, Gladio leaned up from where he had been propped against the door. A solemn scowl darkened his scarred features, all evidence of playfulness suddenly leaving as the road ahead suddenly stopped at a massive gate, leaving Ignis to gently coast the Regalia into park behind Ardyn’s stopped car.“This could be a setup.” Vassa said softly, flicking out her elbow to give Noctis a quick jab in the ribs. He came alive with a choked snort, sleep bleary blue eyes quickly going wide and then narrowing into a suspicious glare. She didn’t blame him one bit, her hands were already tensing with the urge to call out her weapons. The iron gate stretched completely in both directions, mounted between a passing gap between two bulging rocky cliffs, the right being the taller one like an overreaching arm, while the left cliff slumped down like a doll only half stuffed. The gleam of an armored helm shone faintly in the light atop the gate, but no matter how much she squinted, she couldn’t tell if the guard was human or Magitek.“Are we sure that we really trust this guy? He doesn’t inspire confidence too much with this.” Prompto’s tight chuckle was made even sharper by his eyes flicking from side to side, and if Vassa had to guess, she would think that he was calculating the quickest angles he could pick off any hostile guards with his pistols.“Hello up there! It’s me! Would you be so kind as to open up?” She flinched when Ardyn suddenly yelled out to the guards above. Waving one arm wildly over his head, the strange man exited his car and stood in full view of any weapons that might be in place. Reckless for sure, but it was also strangely bold. Despite him somehow knowing whoever was up there, what if they decided he was a foe and fired? There’d be absolutely no way he could dodge any bullets that rained down. Very brave, or totally insane.“You’ve got to be kidding me!” The ringing clicks of gears and locks sliding home rang out in the air, made even more prominent by the gate’s squeaking hinges as the steel doors parted. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Prompto echoed his earlier statement, “That really worked? Ow!” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Gladio pull back his hand, thick fingers still folded up from the flick.“Not so loud. They’ll hear you.” The shield growled, never once taking his eyes off the shambling figure slowly approaching their car.“Well, I may not look like much, but I do have some influence as you can see.” Every little gritty kernel of suspicion that Vassa had only grew as Adryn swept one arm in behind him towards the open road ahead. She scowled, one foot slowly tapping against the Regalia’s floor, and kept one hand low down to her side to hide the summoning sparkle of her blades.Raising one hand in a brief wave, Noctis tipped his head back and granted Arydn a cool glance through the draping strands of his bangs. “Yeah, real thrilled. Thanks.” Geez, if the rocks had suddenly come to life, they might have had more life in them than what Noctis sounded like. So much for all those royal courtesy lessons Ignis had drilled in his head. With only the slightest shift of his hand, she saw him slyly reach up and tap the back of Ignis’s arm. “Be ready to gun it, Specs.” He muttered without moving his lips.“Your audience with divinity lies ahead. This is where our paths part, and I bid you farewell, for now.” Adyrn’s last words hung in the air like the misty morning fog, a threat you couldn’t see or touch, but was still there regardless. Ardyn’s creepy smile never wavered, dismissing us with a jaunty wave of his hand, and Vassa barely had time to dig her fingernails into the seat before the Regalia rocketed forward like a launched missile. The smooth purr of the engine growing louder like the roar of a Coeurl as they sailed past the gate and down the rocky road before them.“You know, I’ve met some weirdos before, but that one really topped the scale.” The fierce wind whipped through Vassa’s hair, tossing it about in a tangled mass and nearly stole Gladio’s words straight out the back of the Regalia.“True, let’s hope we never meet that one again.” Ignis replied, never taking his eyes off the road once as he single handedly guided the car along the narrow road. It was a good thing that Vassa was sitting in the middle, because if she had to look out the side and see just how the road was barely clinging to the side of the narrow cliff, she would have been losing her breakfast for sure. The shift from the smoother, fence lined road to the rocky ground certainly wasn’t doing her stomach any favors, each rocking bump that rolled under the Regalia’s tires made her stomach do an uneven flop. Then she saw it, the massive downhill stretch that swirled and curved around like some kind of nightmarish roller coaster ride, and Ignis wasn’t slowing down a single bit.“Prepare yourselves!” Was the only warning before the Regalia plunged nose first down the road. She screamed, her arms flying out to latch onto the nearest possible solid surface that she could bury her face in, and that surface happened to be Noctis. Any other time, she might have been a little more concerned about the odd choking noises he was making, but right now she was just praying to the Astrals that she survived this rollercoaster ride from Hell.The guys delighted screams mixed with her own fear filled ones, tossed out into the thundering rush of passing wind, and her eyes stayed so tightly clenched that it hurt. Finally by some mercy of Shiva, she felt the Regalia slow. The wind calmed down to a gentle puff that caressed her face with soft fingers, and it felt like every nerve she was burned raw. Her heart still thundering in her ears, she didn’t dare let go of Noctis until a hand started to try and pry her fingers out of his skin. “Hey! It’s over now. You can let go of Noct, we kinda need him alive.”“You promise?” Pathetic probably, but the little whine that squeaked out of her throat felt like it came down from wherever she left her good sense, probably back in the caravan somewhere. Vassa reluctantly cracked open one eye, the harsh light of the scorching sun above reflecting off the tall cliffs was almost blinding, but it really burned her eyes from where it reflected off a scattering of lifeless trees. Completely bone white, the ancient skeletons were still standing tall and proud with bony fingers reaching up the sky. That was strange. A relic from the meteor’s impact, maybe?Blinking again, she slowly let her arms draw back to her sides and let her gaze wander over the strange surroundings. At the base of the trees was a series of half crumbled pale walls that had once been elegant in form, but now had long dark cracks snaking down through the remains like a winding river of despair. Even the ground had changed as well, the dusty rock ending just a short ways away from the Regalia’s front tires and shifted into a patchwork tile of ash grey and bone white marble. The tiled pathway led off to the right, a narrow walkway carving straight through one side of the rock cliff. If she squinted just right, the ruins could have passed for a building or something flattened long ago.A building perhaps, or maybe a tomb.“What is this place?” She wondered out loud, following Noctis out of the car to the ruins ahead.“I dunno, but it’s kinda weird how everything looks smashed. Maybe the meteor did it.” Pulling out his camera, Prompto started bobbing around. The rapid click-click of the shutter echoing almost eerily off the deserted landscape.“It appears this is the final resting place of the Lucien king known as the Wanderer.” Stepping out from behind one of the tallest pillars, Ignis traced his fingers over a peculiar stretch of carved words, his attention focused on translating the ancient words from the past. Vassa couldn’t read them, but the looping swirls and odd shapes brought a few memories of the last tomb they had visited.“It’s pretty convenient to have a tomb right here when there’s supposed to be a legendary Astral right over there, isn’t it? Almost unbelievably convenient.” Shifting his weight onto one leg, Noctis crossed his arms over his chest and glared down at the ground around his feet. One of Vassa’s hands raised in a half-hearted gesture to pat his shoulder, but it fell limp right back to her side. Noctis was right, of course. There were too many loose threads weaving together for her liking, but then what else did this Ardyn know?“Perhaps the tomb was here long before the meteor fell. The tombs of the departed Lucien Kings were placed all around Eos, or so the history books speak of.” With a final scrutzing glance, Ignis stepped away from the ruins just in time for Vassa’s attention to be snapped toward one large figure slinking through the narrow crevice.“Guys, you’re gonna want to see this.” Gladio vanished back into the shadows from wherever he came, Vassa shooting a confused glance over her shoulder to Prompto who tentatively lowered his camera back to his pocket. A heavy sense of nerve frying anticipation wriggled down her spine like a trail of ants tromping across her skin. Her feet blindly followed Noctis as they formed a single line behind Gladio, almost like a little troop of baby Chocobos following their mother to an unknown location. Walking right through a curve in the path framed by tall arching peaks of marble, she tried not to shudder at how similar it looked to the ribcage of some giant dead beast. It’s not really a dead skeleton. You’re not really walking into the mouth of some forgotten monstrosity. It’s just the weird way it broke. That’s all.Then like a rare flower opening up it’s petals, the creepy path flared out to a single high point of a cliff. The bone like protrusions of columns curled protectively up over a single sarcophagus lined in gold and marble, the glimmer of silver steel stole a gasp straight out of her mouth, and she watched in stunned awe as Noctis walked up to the tomb and held out his hand. A flash of blue light made her raise one hand protectively up to shield her eyes, and a long sword lifted high into the air. Suspended by Lucien magic, it hovered there for a moment before descending with a vengeance. Spearing Noctis right through the heart, he staggered back a step with one hand cupped to his chest, a painful snarl creasing his features and she had to force her feet to stay still and not run directly to his side. Now joined with Noctis, the newest member of his armiger encircled around his body in a ghostly silhouette, and when he finally raised his head to turn and smirk at all of them did she finally let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.Then the earth roared.A shudder so strong that the mountains let loose a raging shower of rock rolled beneath Vassa’s feet. Sending her lurching forward to the ground, her hands flashed out only at the last second before her nose made a painful impact with the ground. Prompto wasn’t so lucky, a high pitched shriek ripping free out of his lips only a second before he lost his balance too. His body slammed into hers, the added weight sending her tumbling forward, and then a second and third was added to that. She saw Noctis’s eyes go wide with surprise, but then he was added to the pile too as the ground suddenly opened up beneath her feet.Just as easily as Vassa had been standing up, now she was falling, sliding down a long hill. Clouds of black dust clogged her throat, shards of sharp rock slashing at her face and hands. A thick limb smashed into her back, her foot hitting something soft that let out a squeak of pain. Something slammed into the side of her head in return, white stars exploding behind her eyes as everything turned blurry.Everything stopped when she suddenly landed in a pile of tangled limbs, someone’s sharp elbow digging into her ribs, and her knees twisted backwards hard. Maybe she even blacked out for a moment, because when she came too, the thunder of crashing rock wasn’t quite so loud and something underneath her was groaning heavily.“Shit, that hurt.” The elbow in her ribs started to wriggle, slithering away as she tried to roll over onto her side. “Prompto, get your ass out of my face.” Noctis’s unmistakable growl was slightly husky than normal.“Then get your face out of my butt, Noctis!” She didn’t pay much mind to Prompto’s muttering; she quickly went through a mental checklist. Sore ribs, yes. Broken, not likely. Knees hurt, yes. Broken, no. Glasses, gone of course. Cramped fingers, yes and… squeezing something soft? It felt almost like grass, but much silkier. Giving her right hand a tentative flex, Vassa squinted at the soft dark strands that trailed through her fingers. Whatever it was, they were very long, almost long enough that she could braid it.“Don’t even think about it! That and the pink bows was one time for Iris.” Vassa stifled a giggle as Gladio’s heavy bulk shuffled away, muttering a couple swears under his breaths as his bones cracked and popped. She shuffled up a moment later, trying to stretch the life back into her aching limbs.“Status report, Is everyone alright?” Tossing a quick glance over her shoulder, the tall violet and black blob that she assumed was Ignis was fluttering around like an itchy Chocobo, all long limbs flapping in what she hoped was just dusting off the dirt and grime from the fall. It wasn’t like Ignis to do a chocobo dance, unless he had a concussion that is.“All good here, Mama Iggy!” Apparently even falling down a cliff didn’t dampen Prompto’s spirit in the least.“Fine, I guess.”“Just missing my glasses, but I think I’m okay.”“I completely understand. Gladio?” Ignis’s voice held a slightly puzzled note that made Vassa tip her head to one side, her eyes firmly squinting to try and make out just what had made her friend freeze in mid stance. Whatever it was, he looked like a blurry statue. Was something wrong? The brief flare of alarm calmed a little when he shifted, leaning down to pluck two things off the ground.“You guys better put these on, because I think we’re in for a hell of a time.” Snatching her glasses from Gladio’s hand, she had barely shoved them in place when he pointed one hand out behind her back. “Look.” It was soft, not really a command, but it filled her chest with a growing knife of dread. Her shoulders heaved up in an unsteady breath, slowly twirling on her heel to face whatever beast or foe lingered on the other side.But in her wildest dreams, she had never expected to come face to face with this.“What the-?” Noctis murmured, but never finished his sentence. He didn’t have too. It’s not what, but who Noctis. Like a sponge soaking up water, Vassa slowly let her eyes wander over the deep earth toned skin barely containing the most giant, muscular figure she had ever seen. A head larger than the Citadel could ever hope to be, it was pierced through his right eye socket by the jagged shards of the meteor. More crystalline shards protruded from his chest and neck, eerily enhancing the swirled white symbols painted or perhaps carved into his skin. A single red eye blinked slowly, filled with an ever burning depth of knowledge that it physically hurt to meet his gaze. A deep scowl pulled his monstrous features tight, the rock speckled fleshy lips twisting back in a gruesome snarl. If his sheer size and the aura of power that rolled off his figure didn’t already confirm his mystical status, the colossal shard of black and blue rock on his back confirmed just who he was.The Archaean himself.
Bey Blade
Vampire Knight

Mature Content

Misty's Christmas Gift Chapter 3 Chapter 3: Misty's Decision "Are you serious, Kalin?!" yelled Crow. "You're not even dressed up properly!""Was he always like this, Yusei, Crow, Jack? You know, this weird dude when you guys lived in Satellite?" asked Leo."Of course not!" snapped Jack, as he face-palmed into his right hand. "Sure, Kalin was a natural leader, and he did play tricks on the other gang leaders. But not like this!""When you first met him, you didn't know he was a Psychic Duelist, correct?" asked Luna.Yusei, Crow, and Jack all nodded at her question. "Kalin told me after we defeated Lawton a couple of years ago that during our duel, that he felt some strange surge of energy flowing through him. I wonder if that was his psychic powers awakening?" stated Yusei."For reals?" asked Crow."Why did you not tell me or Crow about this sooner?!" yelled Jack."I'm sorry, Crow, Jack," sighed Yusei. "It's just that I couldn't find a good opportunity to do so.""I'm not 100% certain why, but every Psychic Duelist's abilities awaken at different rates," replied Akiza. "For me, my powers came when I was 10. And according to Yusei, Kalin's didn't come until very recently."Kalin smiled at Misty and asked her: "So, what would it be, ma'am? Do you accept my offer?"Misty closed her eyes trying to comprehend all this before turning her back on Kalin and the group. "I-I-I need to think about this!" She then flew back into her room and slammed the door in the death god's face.Kalin sighed in defeat as he turned towards the others. "Darn it, I blew my chance to show my abilities!"Yusei placed a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder. "Kalin…you did your best…""I'm not satisfied by this, Yusei!" gritted Kalin. "Am I not good enough to be a psychic?"Yusei turned to look at Kalin sternly in the face. "Kalin, listen to me! Don't let what happened today stop you from achieving your goals! You are a talented Psychic Duelist!""Yusei…"muttered Kalin.Yusei is right!" added Akiza. "Before we dueled, I always saw myself as a reject and a failure. He taught me to never give in to anger and to always keep pushing forward.""Hey, you can always use your powers on criminals!" joked Crow."Or maybe use it to drive fast!" laughed Jack."Or perhaps find another person who lost another family member," added Luna."Or play a really cool match of Duel Monsters!" smiled Leo.Kalin smiled a little. "Guys, thank you.""Let's go grab something to eat," said Yusei. Everyone nodded and began to walk towards the elevator. However, before they could press the button, the door to Misty's room suddenly sprang open. The team turned towards the noise in shock when they saw Misty standing before them, fully dressed."Wait! Mr. Death God!" yelled Misty. "I-I've made my decision! I accept your offer! Please let me see my brother!""M-Misty?" murmured Kalin in surprise. He then cleared his throat and smiled, resuming his "Death God" persona. "Er, excellent, ma'am. However, before our deal is complete, there is still one more fulfillment you must make.""What is it?" asked Misty."My, um, servants who have summoned me here have informed me of a certain play of yours called 'The Legend of Princess Kaguya'. I find it quite intriguing, as I have always been fond of human cultures.""Of course you may watch it, Mr. Death God," bowed Misty."Thank you, ma'am," smiled Kalin. "Now, shall we be off?"Misty nodded and entered the elevator with the rest of the team. While they were heading down, Jack couldn't take Kalin's wacky acting anymore and grumbled in his ear."Kalin, who are you calling 'your servants'?! We're your friends!""Jack, I'm just simply acting!" replied Kalin. "Can't you take the joke?""Since when did you tell jokes?" snapped Jack. "In all my years of knowing you, you were never the one for jokes!""Boys, calm down, before Misty hears you," sighed Akiza. Yusei couldn't help but chuckle.The Enforcers and Misty left the hotel and walked several blocks to the site where the once-proud Arcadia Movement headquarters once stood. After hearing the evidence Yusei gathered during his battle with Sayer, The Public Service Bureau declared the Arcadia Movement a terrorist organization and ordered the building completely demolished. In its place was an open memorial dedicated to the victims of the Movement's crimes."Here we are. The site where the Arcadia Movement used to be," said Akiza."I feel a great sadness," said Luna. "It's as if the duel spirits are crying out to their masters.""Could it be, that we can find Toby here?" asked Leo."I'm sure of it," replied Yusei. "Let's look for his name."The Enforcers proceeded to search all over the memorial for the name 'Toby Tredwell'. In the meantime, Misty remained quiet, not knowing what to say. Luna caught sight of the actress' confusion and asked her a question."Lady Misty? Are you alright?""Are you certain your friend can help me speak with Toby?" asked Misty."I'm sure he can. You just got to believe in him!" smiled Luna.Crow found the name and pointed triumphantly: "There's his name! Toby Tredwell, correct?"Misty nodded. "Yes, that's his name." Kalin walked up to the plaque and took a deep breath. "Alright, everyone, stand back and keep quiet. I will now proceed to summon Toby here." He put his hands on the memorial, closed his eyes, and began to concentrate. The Enforcers and Misty stood about 10 feet away from the memorial in silence, praying that their plan would work.
Love Hina

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The Beast That I Am 6 by OrionPax09
Purple Haze: Definitive Edition Chapter 9 by RuuRuu-Chan
Ao no Exorcist

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Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

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The Labyrinth of Magic

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One Touchie! - This time [Iwaizumi x Reader] (1),img source: youichi-kuramochi |tumblr A/N: Not really familiar with him, so I hope you’ll forgive me on this one,Just that I happened to be obsessing over him for the past couple of weeks now… and I was just all “IWA-CHAAAAAN” all the time.Late Birthday Fic for: Iwaizumi Hajime (part 1)Title: One Touchie! – THIS TIME!One morning you woke up with a very bad headache and naked---Wait, naked?You looked around and thank Kami-sama that you’re in your apartment!Being naked in your apartment is okay—you live alone, it’s fine—or not when you have a killer hangover.You tried your best to sit up, to look for your clothes and probably get something for the killing headache.But when you tried to sit up, you felt strong arms tightened around your waist.You froze—this isn’t good…you paled.Just because you decided to give up your love for your friend of like…ten years—doesn’t mean you’ll go around and sleep with the first guy who’ll pick you up from the bar…Ah yes! You have this friend, your neighbor—Iwaizumi Hajime… You were in love with him since Kitagawa Daiichi! He’s like an older brother too since he’s like months older than you… but anyways, you’re in the same grade with him, different class, tho.He introduced you to Oikawa, Hanamaki and Matsukawa. Eventually, on your final year in High school, you finally had the courage to confess to him before graduation, but a schoolmate and a prettier girl at that, got to confess first.Sayaka, of class B. Pretty, sexy and sporty.And you? (FULL NAME), timid, childish and not affiliated to any sports for your whole time in high school.He’s just probably nice to you because you are neighbors and your parents are good friends.You stepped back from behind the tree where you were hiding only to bump into the other 3 who were also hiding to watch over Iwaizumi’s stupid blushing face.“I hope he doesn’t mess up—he looks awkward.” Came Hanamaki’s comment.“Shh, I cannot hear Sayaka’s confession!” It was Oikawa, who was listening intently. “Are you also here to watch?” Matsukawa asked you.“Er… well… yes?” you lied, looking down with a laugh.You didn’t notice how Matsukawa noted the look on your face—almost tearful, broken.You were supposed to hang out with the four of them a week after that, but you didn’t show up. Telling them about an exam that you need to take to get into that college that you want—but actually, you also passed the same university where Iwaizumi was going, but you decided to change schools because it is no use now; it’s time to probably put a space between you and Iwaizumi, and also his set of friends —therefor, you used your vacation time to take entrance exam in a different university from him.“I thought we’re going to the same university?” Iwaizumi asked.You just finalized your schedule in XX University, and you were surprised to actually see Iwaizumi outside the gates when you stepped out. “You’re going to the same university with Oikawa now?” his brows up, also surprised with the sudden change of decision.“Iwa-chan!” your heart skipped a beat—like almost leaped out of your heart when you saw him standing there in front of you.Was he here because I’m here?Does he ask home where I went today?Does he like me too?“How did you know I’m--?” you stuttered, nervous. You didn’t really like thinking like he’s here for you—but it just came and you can’t fucking order your brain not to think such thoughts…“Well, Oikawa actually asked me to come with him to get his schedule.” He answered.Your heart broke – you really thought he was here looking for you?Of course, NO.“It’s been a while—I thought you’re coming with us last time but you didn’t show up. I was wor--” “Iwa-chan~! Guess who goes to the same university with me?” suddenly, a cheerful familiar voice interrupted Iwaizumi.“Sayaka-chan!” He revealed and only then, Oikawa noticed that Iwaizumi is talking to you, “OOH! (Y/N)-chan’s here too!”“Ah! Iwaizumi-san!” Was Sayaka’s greetings, she hurriedly leaped to Iwaizumi’s direction, almost actually pushing you away. She excitedly chatted with him and Iwaizumi had no choice but to answer her prying questions about how his week went since they parted ways during graduation. You actually thought you’ll never see them again, but the next thing that happened after that day was you got invited by them—like every weekend to hangout. They made sure that your part of their weekly hangout like during high school.It has become a routine for you to be with them. You actually enjoyed it because—IWAIZUMI HAJIME, of course, and also Oikawa’s constant dramatic shit—like the usual.Year later, Iwaizumi traveled to California to be an intern. Oikawa also went abroad to train.It was sad, but you actually forgot about your love for Iwaizumi because college is hell. And you didn’t get enough time to think of your love for him because you’ll miss the entire lecture—like understand NOTHING after thinking: ‘I wonder what he is doing right now?’ And the next thing you know, you missed the entire lecture.Hahaha sucks.Basically, college is a good thing. You almost forgot your love for him…almost. But it didn’t end there. Cause hell! Makki and Matsukawa made sure you stay in touch with them even though Iwaizumi’s not there.Years later, Iwaizumi returned and became the trainer of the national team. Oikawa became a citizen of Argentina; Matsukawa is working in a funeral home and Hanamaki just found a job that he really liked this time…and here you are, also doing what your profession is supposed to be doing.And guess what? You just got your own apartment—spacious one this time!--2021 (no covid pls PLS. let’s imagine a world without corona!)-- Few weeks ago, you over heard Hanamaki and Matsukawa talking about Iwaizumi—that aside from his current profession as an athlete trainer for the national team, he was also frequenting on this one gym.“What about this gym?” you actually had the courage to ask them, like it was the most normal thing to do—considering you have known them for like what? 10 years and so?“Well,” it was Hanamaki who turned to you and started chatting, “I heard from a friend that Sayaka’s back with Iwaizumi!” he announced.“Whoever told you that they were even together…before?” It was Matsukawa.“I thought they didn’t…you know… got together?” it was you who tried your luck—you actually didn’t ask Iwaizumi about that confession and he didn’t bring Sayaka during the hangouts—therefore, they weren’t together…“I also thought the same!” Hanamaki agreed, “But then, Kunimi saw Iwaizumi meeting her in the gym a couple of times last month…what do you think that means? He’s keeping this a secret from us?” Hanamaki continued talking and you already stopped comprehending his stories.And just on cue, Iwaizumi texted Matsukawa.Iwa: Sorry. I can’t come today. Something came up. Make sure to send Y/N home. “He said something came up.” Matsukawa said.“That’s probably his penis.” Hanamaki joked and laughed.“Idiot.” Matsukawa laughed with him.“Oh! I know!” Hanamaki suddenly interrupted, “How about we stalk him?”“Eh?” well… it’s not a good idea. But well, just to make sure if it’s true that he’s seeing Sayaka again—if he does, you’ll give up—like fucking give up. Resign, leave your job. Go back to Miyagi and start again—or probably, Kyoto? It’s good there.Anywhere is fine—you just need to forget your small crush on him… because you know you’ll hurt like hell if you see them together or any woman with him at that matter.Hanamaki, like a creepy stalker that you didn’t expect him to be—managed to gather data from different sources.“What is your new job, Makki-san?” you looked at him, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Well. It’s not the time to talk about that.” Makki laughed it off and pushed you and Matsukawa inside a car.“One of my sources said that the gym is close to where Iwaizumi works.” “Just say ‘Kunimi’ because he’s your source, right?” “No.” Makki chuckled creepily. “Not Kunimi.”“There’s a small family restaurant near that place. We can stay there.” Matsukawa commented, “So that if we got caught, we can say it’s a coincidence.”“Great idea,” the two continued planning and you just sat there and waited for them to drag you along.It’s already past 9pm and there was no sign of Iwaizumi or Sayaka at all. You haven’t seen her since the last time you met her but you know you’ll recognize her because we have social media now…10:30pm, you yawned. You know they’ll not show up.“Do you guys want me to get you some coffee?” you asked.You were actually relieved for this delay—delay for the heart break. lolYou went to the coffee shop next to the dinner (because, the coffee in the diner sucks)…and while waiting for your order, you wondered why you keep up with those two—well, it was because they’re special to Iwaizumi and they’re funny and like older brothers too.On your way out of the café, you actually saw a familiar figure coming out of a restaurant—a yakiniku restaurant.This figure was followed by a couple of men laughing and probably drunk too—especially the white haired one.“Why didn’t you introduce to us your girlfriend, Iwaizumi-san!?” cried the white haired, you can almost see the hurt in his tone.“I thought you were single!” he added, “and here we are seeing you getting picked up by your girlfriend!” “He’s right, Iwaizumi-san!” it was a blonde this time.“Please stop embarrassing me.” Iwaizumi snapped-- face flushed from embarrassment “I apologize, Sayaka. You get to meet them like this.”You watched as he embarrassingly explained the current situation to the sexy woman standing with them—they are actually outside the café where you are right now.Thankfully, Makki told you to wear a hoodie. You pulled the hood up and lowered your head as you walked past them.You can actually still hear them telling Iwaizumi that he’s unfair for not introducing her to them.“I bet Oikawa knows this already! And he is our opponent!” cried some voice.“Kami-sama! Can’t you all be quiet. Go back to the dorms and just sleep!” It was Iwaizumi.You returned to Matsukawa and Makki and placed down the coffee slowly.“What’s wrong?” Makki asked.“Nothing.” You responded, shakily reaching for your cup of coffee and trying to calm yourself down.You actually expected this to happen—just now like this—ugh.“Your source fucked, Makki.” Matsukawa announced.“Hey!” The two of them failed to see Iwaizumi—it was because he came from the different direction. They were in the Yakiniku Restaurant, not at the gym across.It was past midnight when you reached home. You actually thought that you’ll want to be alone after that, but the two men with you just drove around the city and made you forget Iwaizumi—you didn’t tell them anyways. You just let them do whatever.You arrived at your apartment and dropped your shit at the genkan—you live alone, it doesn’t matter. You noticed your phone blinking—therefore, a voicemail is waiting to be played.“Where were you? I tried calling your phone. Its off. Matsun and Makki too. Are you with them? Please get back to me. Oikawa’s coming back next month. I’m also going to introduce you to with someone.”That’s it. You’ll forget him now—like…for real this time.And now here we are—at the present… well actually, hours before the present.Oikawa suddenly returned. And the whole time before he arrived, you avoided Iwaizumi, Makki and Matsuka—even Oikawa’s call.Today, you just had to show up because probably it will be the last night, you’ll be seeing them. You’re moving to Kyoto—you submitted your resignation last week and by the end of the month. You have it all planned out…You’ll take a vacation and probably go back to Miyagi to see your parents since it has been a while; you’ll look for a job online and go to Kyoto for interview and then look for a new apartment after that—your apartment’s rent is covered until the end of the year, therefor you can always get the deposit back if you found a new one. With that, you’ll be able to avoid them—him--- ah shit…“Are you sure you’re okay with a beer?”“Yeah.” You answered as they placed down a glass in front of you…It was a drinking night—no, an all-boys-drinking night.Oikawa was there celebrating and such and telling his adventures that he already told you like a hundred times already, you enjoy watching him and all and you don’t understand why there are others with you—there are other men here, like the white haired, next to him was a quiet guy who keeps attending to him, wearing glasses and he looks very tired but happy attending to the white-haired needs…There’s this blonde guy who was shouting that the beer doesn’t taste good and then a plastic cup flies hitting him straight to the head like it was a normal thing. (Bokuto and Akaashi)“Shut up! You’re having it free!” came a voice from the kitchen. (Osamu)“Don’t listen to him. He’s just being a sucker.” Came the other one who was taking video all the time. (Rin)“This onigiri is the best!” an orange haired commented as he continued to finish his 2nd plate—aside from the yakiniku that they are making on their table with this black-haired quiet guy who competes with him I finishing everything… (of course, Hinata and Kageyama)The rest were having casual conversations with Oikawa on the other table and here you are with Matsun and Makki.“Oikawa’s the center of attention.” Makki commented.“The usual.” You emptied your 3rd glass of beer.“You’re having too much. Is that okay?” Iwaizumi commented when he sat next to you.“Nah. It’s fine.” Today is the last day, you will forget about him, “You told us you’ll introduce us to someone.” You remembered his voice message a month ago—this made Makki and Matsun look up in confusion.“Huh? What is this about?” They asked.“Well, not to the two of you.” Iwaizumi eyed the two men across the table, and just turned to you.“Rude!” they laughed.“Is it a girlfriend?” they teased.You took another glass while watching Makki and Matsun tease Iwaizumi.“So what was it?” you actually asked when they Makki and Matsun got side-tracked when Oikawa asked them to prove something to the others on the next table. “Well, clearly not now.” He said, “You’re drinking too much.”“It’s not like they’ll see me more often after introducing us.” You commented quietly.“What was that?” he asked, he was distracted by Oikawa’s antics too.“Nothing.” You looked away.The night went on and moments later, all eyes went to the door that suddenly opened.“Excuse me. Is Iwaizumi-san here?”“Yes?” “There’s a lady asking for you outside, Sayaka?” the waitress whispered but enough for you to hear because you were beside her “I’m sorry, I know you told me not to interrupt this night but she insisted.”“It’s okay.” He said.The restaurant was actually closed that day to accommodate this little party—they try to make this a normal party because most of the people here are famous athletes.Iwaizumi asked Miya Osamu to close-- to avoid the public and fans. And they complied of course—its his twin’s safety after all.But what is this Sayaka doing—you watched as he excused himself.Iwaizumi stood up and all eyes followed him until he closes the door.Ah—now that you think about it, these people with you are Iwaizumi’s circle of friends… probably because he’s going to drop the bomb tonight—with all of you here.You remembered the time you overheard them asking Iwaizumi when…You reached for the beer and emptied another.Taste like shit—again, and again.“I win!” you hear Oikawa announced.“Shut up—” you wanted to throw up “I already had a couple or more before this game.” Oikawa laughed, “Yes I know. But nah, where’s the fun in that—now, I wonder where is Iwa-chan?”“Hmpf! probably with her girlfriend.” Oikawa looked at you in surprise.“Iwa-chan? A girlfriend?”“Your voice makes me sick.” You commented.“HEY! You like listening to my stories when we face time!” Oikawa pouted, “Iwa-chan’s influence!”“Shut up. I’m not Iwa-chan’s…” you murmured.“But you like him?” was his whisper. He leaned down to your level on the table and watched as your eyes glare at him.“I’m drunk.” You answered “But let’s have another.”“You actually liked him since high school.” He added, pushing another glass at you “I know, I saw how you looked at him… but what is this girlfriend you are talking about?”You looked up at him as you emptied the glass.“I don’t care—I just want him to introduce this woman to us ASAP—so I can move on and finally be at peace!”Oikawa laughed.“He hasn’t return yet.” He informed you, “he’s probably with her—you should’ve confessed to him back there during high school.”“Piss off, Oikawa…hic” You grumbled, you couldn’t understand his words, but you know he’s teasing you “Take that shit to your grave too!” you grabbed pulled him by his collar and he actually paled at your action.“Yes! Yes! I will!” He promised. He actually thought you’ll break his beautiful face. You felt a strong hand pulling you away from Oikawa…and everything went black.--REAL, REAL PRESENT—OH SHIT!You looked to your side and found brown hair sticking out under your covers.The person continued to shift next to you, pulling you closer and closer under the covers—you wanted to disappear or just die on the spot—should you pretend to still be asleep?SHIT!The said person sat up and you panicked—heart beating faster than earlier and you could feel the heat rising to your cheeks.“Are you feeling, okay?” came his raspy voice before reaching or your face.Your eyes met his.“Headache?”Your eyes traveled down his exposed upper body—shoulders, biceps, toned chest---shit! you could almost see what was behind that blanket covering his lower parts…Kami-sama, is this punishment or a reward?You swallowed hard.“…I-Iwa-chan…”--TBC—A/N: This will be a long one… I was thinking of a different plot but I couldn’t stop my fingers from typing continuously. It was supposed to be a one-shot.Please leave a comment after reading.I don’t proofread my works – so if you ever see a grammar mistake or a spelling error, don’t be shy to correct me. Thank you : )See you next chapter.Stay safe.6.13.2021P.S.Part II soon... (Mou Ippon! - This Time)Leave a heart or a comment pls. Thank you.Dont forget to follow this story so when I update the next chapter you'll be notified.Thank you. Also check out my other One Touchie! Mou Ippon StoriesI also made a Ko-Fi account. If you have spare-time, please support me on ko-fi.You can donate or something, or just leave a ...
Pandora Hearts
Tokyo Ghoul
Skip Beat

Mature Content

Nanatsu no Taizai

Mature Content

Strike Witches
Strike Witches Assault Chapter 1 by Jake-Jakers
Kill la Kill
Psycho Pass
PSYCHO PASS: PARADIGM SHIFT - Integral Part (pt.7)PART 7 - Integral Part,“It’s dark. Darker than usual. This eerie feeling keeps filling me with each step I make… because something feels off. I can tell by the atmosphere. It’s unusually silent… and the corridor seems much longer now.” Her heartbeat quickened. She tried to calm herself down, taking deep breaths as her body was moving on her own. “Please… continue. You can do it, dear,” that soothing tone gave her encouragement. Step by step, she is moving towards the big, wooden door with metal doorknob. “I can’t.”“You can. You’ve done it already. Let’s go once more. Come on. You can do this,” the voice kept guiding her. She shuddered and reached for the doorknob. “I can’t,” she uttered. “You can. This is nothing new; it won’t be as shocking as it has been the first time. You can do this, darling.” She took a deep breath. Her hands were shaking. Still, she turned the handle, and moved the door a bit. The door squeaked. He always wanted a retro-styled house, filled with antiquaries. Good old, antique vibe, he’d say. Normal… before digital. No simulators, no digital imprints. He disliked modern technology. The advancements of the system that took over… were never to his liking. “It’s unreliable,” she whispered to herself. “We will work it out. For now… just face it. You are strong enough to do so.” “I can’t! I am but a child!” Shizuka wanted to scream, but stopped herself from doing so, remembering this was all something she’s done multiple times in the past. “You are perfectly safe,” gentle tone helped her go through the painful experience, making her focus on dark corners of her mind.She gasped. The room was dark. His papers were spread all over the wooden desk, in messy patterns and lines, crossed over in different colors and with a lot of added remarks in colored pens. He was underlining a lot of paragraphs, circled out a lot of words, and also added pictures, all done via analog photo-camera he used to love taking pictures with. There were several frames with photos of the family on his desk. His cigarettes, half-smoked in his various ashtrays, piled up in various places, were a messy sight. His coat, hung loosely and carelessly over his chair, attested to his careless state. Ironically enough, all of his chaotic habits… contradicted his sharp focus. He always had a good focus. He also had a unique mind. His many friends and colleagues attested to its un-denied brilliance.“It’s okay,” the voice whispered.She approached the desk. A shadow was moving over the mess, somewhere far up. Shizuka avoided looking at the moving shape. Instinctively… she avoided looking at the ceiling. “I can’t,” she said. “Dear... you can,” the voice soothed her once more.“Shizuka,” the new voice came from the corner of the room. It resided in an old armchair, warm and cozy, placed in front of the rustic fireplace. She sounded as gentle as ever. “No,” Shizuka whispered. The figure rose from the chair. Her hair was shiny, long, thick and black. It was the first thing anyone ever noticed about her. It was her trade-mark in a way. “Shizuka, my little bird... it’s okay,” the woman said, in that same weak voice that she wasn’t used to hear out from her. “Why are you in here?” Shizuka asked her. “It’s not safe.” The woman turned her orange gaze towards her daughter. “It’s safe now,” her mother responded, spreading her arms towards her. “But it’s not,” Shizuka spoke to the voice that was guiding her. She was looking at her mother’s pale constitution and empty, tired eyes. Despite the dark circles around them… despite her thinned out face, and thin constitution… despite the white gown she wore… torn and dirtied at several spots… she was so beautiful, Akibara Hana. Despite all the bruises.“You are safe. It has all already happened,” the voice instructed much older Shizuka once again. “She is scared,” Shizuka noticed about her mother. “She is afraid of me… looking up.” “What else?” “She wants to hug me. But…” “But?” “I can’t approach her. I am paralyzed by fear. My limbs… won’t move. I am… scared,” Shizuka explained. The child didn’t run into her mother’s arms. Instead, she turned towards the creaking sound that came from behind. From around and above his desk. The child that she used to be… turned her head towards his empty seat. “What are you afraid of, Shizuka?” “I…” She tried to pinpoint. She couldn’t. But she was terrified. “Is it… a fear of what you are going to find… or… is it… the…” “Something about her is unsettling,” Shizuka explained. “I don’t know what… but I am scared of approaching my mother.” “Look at her. Tell me what you see… and how you feel about it.” Her mother kept her brave face. She seemed scared too, but tried to be brave for her daughter. “I don’t know why I feel it,” Shizuka was getting really uncomfortable. “She’s my mom. She’d always done her best to protect us. She always… sacrificed herself for the family. She never turned him in, despite what he did. She kept us safe. He was a monster. He beat her. He…” “Shizuka… deep breaths, darling.” “He was aggressive. Obsessive. She was difficult to understand. He studied her as he’d study a lab rat, just because she didn’t quite fit into the system. He treated her as if she were a schizophrenic. He tortured her!” She realized that she was screaming.“It’s okay. Let it all out, don’t hold it in.” “He kept her tied! He locked her in the room! He medicated her! He studied her!” She looked at her mother’s unsettling smile. It was more like a grimace of pain than anything else. “He…” “He…?”She swallowed hard, unable to speak. “Shizuka… it’s okay. You can say it.” “He… abused her… mentally… and physically… and he… ” Shizuka clenched her fists. She didn’t want to cry… but her heart couldn’t take the ache any longer. Tears were sliding down her cheeks and she had to cover her face. Her sentences were turning into a sobbing mess. “She w-was different… and h-he p-punished her for i-it! H-he used to b-beat her… to y-yell on her… to… t-tie her…” And, on occasion… he…She couldn’t say it out loud. She couldn’t say it. “It’s all in the past, Shizuka. He can’t hurt her anymore. She is in front of you. What do you see? How do you feel?” She was the victim. She was. So… why… “Scared. I am scared,” Shizuka whispered. “Of…?” “Of knowing,” Shizuka whispered that as well. “Come, little bird,” her mother spoke in a soft voice. “Just come over here and hug your mom.” She didn’t. The shadow was dancing in the corner of her eye. Glimpses… and fractures of dark. “Come, baby girl.” Her mother was so afraid. She was trembling. She didn’t know what to do but to walk slowly towards Shizuka… who, much to her surprise, approached the desk instead. Something was heavily twisting in her stomach, making Shizuka unable to speak. “Don’t,” her mother whispered. “Just come over here.” She hoped Shizuka would listen. Had she listened, she might have never seen it. But still… Shizuka acted of her own accord. She read her father’s handwriting on paper instead. There was a warning:“UNABLE TO LOVE. DEVOIDED OF EMPATHY. DANGEROUS. TRUE MONSTER.” “Don’t. Please,” her mother plead. Still, Shizuka rose her head up. And screamed. “Easy now. Breathe.” He was hanging from the top of the ceiling, with rope tied hard around his neck. His lips were purple… his eyes wide open. He had an expression of pure terror on his stiffened face.And, as the child that she was screamed, older Shizuka screamed as well. “Breathe,” Kana’s voice came from the projector. Hologram of Shizuka’s murdered therapist seemed very real in that moment. “Breathe, my dear. Steady, small breaths. Control the pace of your heart. You are okay. You are safe. You are with me.” “Shizuka… I am sorry,” Hana, her mother, was hugging her tightly. “Dad?” the child was horrified. She was staring at him in terror, unable to process seeing him like that. Her mother still hugged her. “How do you feel?” “Terrified. Sad. Relieved. Also Cruel. I feel like I am cruel… for feeling relieved… after seeing him like that. I am disgusted by myself.” “Good. It’s good to integrate all those feelings. It’s good you are able to tell them apart. What else?” “I can’t… forgive him for… treating her that way… nor for leaving us like that. I want him to come back… and I want him to stay like that. Gone,” she whispered, unable to look at Kana. “It’s okay. Despite being cruel… he was your father. You loved him. And you lost him.” “I hated him!” “But, you also…” “Loved him. I still do. I want to be his baby girl once more. Before he turned dark. Before he became insane,” Shizuka whispered through tears. “It’s okay. It’s okay, little bird. Mommy is going to protect you,” Hana was crying, gripping Shizuka in the attempt to save her from the pain that was tearing her from the inside. “Are they going to take you away too?” Shizuka asked through tears, terrified. “Mommy is not going anywhere,” Hana promised. For years, she kept that promise. But, the damage caused by drugs that Ayumu used on Hana had permanent effect… taking her away from Shizuka as well. “Let it out,” Kana’s voice was much stronger now. Transparent projection of therapist tried to reach for Shizuka, but she was merely an AI. A brain… copied to the computer, existing only in virtual world as a hologram. As an echo of much-needed friend. A simulation… of Kana Hitagawa. Shizuka cried her heart out long after that session. ----------------------“Are you feeling any better now?” AI spoke once again.Shizuka didn’t. Still, she checked her hue. “It… stabilized.” A monster, she thought. Only monsters can have clear hues after revisiting such traumatic memories. “It was really risky to address and face the root of your escapism,” Kana remarked. “Since it was the stressor that triggered your ability, I must wonder… what really caused you to go so deep this time?”“My hue got clouded,” Shizuka said. “That wasn’t what I asked, dear.” Shizuka sighed, remembering how there was no way she could avoid facing Kana’s sharp deduction.“I feel like I am a monster,” Shizuka admitted. “I needed to send myself overboard… because…” “Yes?” “I wanted to punish myself,” she admitted. “And, there it is. To punish yourself for…?” “For not being able to help mom. Or dad. I wanted to go back and change something… anything… and make myself normal again. Make myself… face the root of my escapism… in order to became normal person altogether. To be like anyone else.”“You regret practicing escapism.” “So, you wanted to remove the pivotal part of your personality, and become something else. ‘Normal’ is a subjective definition, dear. What makes you think escapism is so bad for you? What was the cause this time?”It was difficult to face her. “You died,” Shizuka sighed. “You died because of it. The main reason… is that.” There was a moment of long silence. To her surprise, Kana’s echo smiled. “I didn’t die because of escapism, Shizu, yours or mine. I died because a particular, unstable and psychotic individual couldn’t obtain that very same ability. I didn’t die because I practiced escapism, or was successful at it. If anything, my own escapism relieved my own passing. I can firmly state that, given how my mind worked while I was still alive. I wouldn’t teach you to escapism if I thought it was harmful. I wouldn’t excel in if it was damaging in any way. And neither would you. It brought you only benefit so far. It pulled you out of rehabilitation, and it kept you sane. I died because someone was envious, twisted, dark and deeply disturbing individual. Escapism has nothing to do with it.” “I still blame myself for it,” Shizuka said. “I thought long and hard about the Butcher since I had a lot of time in rehab center. I thought about it every single day. Even after my recovery… the irrational, emotional part of me… blames me… for not being able to help you.” Kana listened carefully. “There doesn’t have to be a logical reason behind it… I just feel that way. I feel guilty for being an escapist. Whenever I use my ability to reduce my crime coefficient… I feel like I am cheating in some way. Like I am… unfair.”“You say… whenever you use your ability. But you don’t feel that way all the time, do you?” “No. Not all the time… but… this happens when I am… mostly… when I am around…” “Yes?” Kana encouraged her to say it. “Nobuchika. I feel like it’s unfair to him. Around Kogami as well in a way… but more to Gino, since he is more sensitive to the matter. Gino thinks I would have become an enforcer a long time ago… had it not been for my escapism.”“And that’s…” “True. He has every right to consider me an enforcer. After you died… my hue sky-rocketed. And only because I was able to use escapism… I escaped that fate that Kogami eventually spiraled down to. I escaped being a Hound.” “Still, you aren’t to blame for ability that comes in handy,” Kana pointed out. “Like we determined before… it’s merely a tool.” “Being a successful escapist… is dangerous. Sibyl system deems me a threat. And rightfully so. Given how there are individuals whose hues can’t be judged… I… feel like I pose a high threat to the order that is governed by Sibyl. That’s why they keep me so close. They want to keep an eye on me.” “And it makes you nervous.” “Yes. Exceptionally. I try to seem otherwise… but I am nervous. Sometimes to the point where I can’t prevent anxious thoughts.” “But, still… it isn’t Sibyl that affects you on deeper level. It’s Inspector Ginoza’s attitude that truly hurts you. More than Sibyl’s… and more than Enforcer Kogami’s, I dare say.” Shizuka gulped, composing herself. “I feel like… I need to be normal… to be accepted by Nobuchika.”“And so, you keep on trying to break away… from being an escapist. An integral part of who you are is threatened by someone close to you.” “I know you’ll say it’s unhealthy. And you are right - it is. I am refusing to be who I am for the sake of someone else. But that’s exactly why it’s so hard…”Kana listened carefully.“… to choose him over Shinya. Because… Shinya…”“… accepts you for who you truly are,” Kana nodded. Shizuka touched the locker around her neck. “It’s been difficult, losing Shinya to the system. But he always… understood me on some primal, raw level. I don’t have to explain myself to him, I don’t have to feel anxious and less worthy and dangerous… around him. He accepts all parts of me… and I am afraid to let that go.” “But Enforcer Kogami… isn’t perfect either. Isn’t he?” Kana pointed out.“He…” Shizuka inhaled. “He was…” Kana waited. “He was right to chase Sasayama’s killer,” Shizuka defended Shinya.“But?” Kana encouraged her to continue.“But the fact that he couldn’t… that his hue deteriorated…” Kana still waited.“I understood why his hue decreased… but I felt betrayed,” Shizuka said. “I felt he betrayed the life that we could have had… and for the sake of vengeance. I don’t blame him… but I was angry about that before. I considered him selfish in my immaturity. Now I am just… sad. I sometimes… think how he could have fought harder. But, knowing that he wasn’t able to… just…”“Just…” “It was just how it happened. It’s not his fault. I get that. But it still makes me sad.” “Ispector Ginoza stated that he’d still try and fight for you. Hasn’t he? How that makes you feel?” “Hopeful, in a way. It’s not a big hope, though, since things are still quite the same as how we left them. That’s why I am trying… to change myself to be more normal. To be more… to his liking,” Shizuka whispered. “But what about Enforcer Kogami?” Kana asked. “That’s the thing. Shinya accepts any… and every version of me. He’s like that in general. Accepting. I wish Gino was like that instead. If he becomes like that… I might…”“Yes?” “I might… choose him over Shinya, even. I am not sure… but I might.”“The fact that you have already thought like that about Nobuchika Ginoza tells me… that you might already consider him over Kogami Shinya. Still, trying to change yourself to such length as to suppress or completely disregard escapism…” “I know. I also don’t like that… but for Gino, I’m willing to try.” “Shizuka. Escapism protects you. Are you sure you want to get rid of something so important?” “No. Absolutely not. But… I feel guilty about Gino not liking me the way I am. I dislike how I see myself through his eyes.”“That’s why it’s not healthy, Shizu.” “But maybe he’s right, Kana. Maybe escapism is doing more damage. I lost you because of it.” “No, you haven’t. You lost me because someone thought similarly… to the system that would like to oppress escapists. It has nothing to do with…” “He can’t accept me, though. And… I hate having to choose between a man who I consider my equal… and a man who wants to protect me from myself.”“What do you truly want in all of that, Shizuka? Why are you truly doing this? And who would be better choice as of now for you? But, think carefully, and be honest, please. It’s very important.” She took a few moments, and sighed.“I want Nobuchika to love me the way Shinya does,” was the first thing she admitted. “I also want Shinya to leave me, so I wouldn’t have to be the one to leave him for Nobuchika. I am a coward like that. In a sense, we both are. He is waiting for me to leave him as well. But, I have no strength to leave Shinya… because I feel like I need him. I will always need him. For that deep understanding that I long for in Gino. For his unwavering resolve to be with me, despite my state. And for that fact alone… I also need him to decide that I am no longer worth of his love.”Kana smiled. “You are aware it’s not that easy, though. From what I’ve witnessed… Kogami Shinya will not back away regardless of the threat he sees. He loves you way too much to let anything stand between the two of you… even if it’s Ginoza Nobuchika.” “It’s true. And that’s why I have to make him leave me,” Shizuka whispered. “By getting rid of the integral part of yourself that also makes you very much like him.” “Exactly,” Shizuka uttered. “Be honest again, darling. Do you want that?” Shizuka made a brief pause before answering. “No. I don’t. And honestly… I don’t want to abandon my ability. I am torn between trying to be the version Nobuchika wants… and the version that Shinya wants. And, even now… I don’t see any other solution except…” “Being with the both of them.” Shizuka nodded. “Yes. It’s repulsive… but that’s how I feel. I am greedy… and I want them both. And it’s so damn difficult, because it’s immoral… and unfair.” “But Inspector Ginoza seems to be trying to change himself as well. You are doing the same in order to meet him half-way. It’s commendable you’re trying to work on your relationship… but changing the good parts, useful parts… is what’s problematic in all of it.” Shizuka sighed. Kana gave her a moment. “Shizuka, my dear. May I speak plainly?” The girl nodded to the AI projection. “Nothing… and no one… is worth of you having to suppress and reject a part of who you are for them. Unless Inspector Ginoza accepts you completely and unconditionally… I will be in favor of Enforcer Kogami, regardless of the fact that he is an enforcer, and that your future with him isn’t all that promising. If your mental health is at stake… then I would definitely recommend your Hound, given how you have to choose between the two. If you have to force yourself to choose… then my suggestion, for your optimal mental health… is Kogami Shinya.” Shizuka sighed. “Thank you for your evaluation, Kana... I appreciate your insight. But, it’s enough… so let’s end this session here, if that’s okay.”“Indeed. Until the next time, my darling. Thanks for having this session with me.”With that, Kana did a log off, and terminated the simulation. Shizuka turned the device off, integrating her regret. --------------------------------------------The next day… Shizuka picked up her VR helmet and gloves, putting them on. She needed a distraction from her own thoughts and her last therapy session. She was aimlessly surfing the net, when she got the idea.It’s been a while she used the CommuField, so she activated her Avatar, Nyx. Unlike her digital assistant, a sea-star, this Nyx was a humanoid creature. She had long, dark hair, pale skin and eyes which were entirely the texture of the Universe. It matched her dress. Nyx was a personification of night sky, which Shizuka loved dearly. She visited several CommuFields, but noticed that most visited was that of Talisman Saloon. That got her curiosity. She accessed the network and heard famous intro.“Here at Talisman Saloon, we only discuss the affairs of others. All right, Lemonade Candy?” Shizuka approached the center of projection; Nyx was floating around other avatars and then took a seat amongst the many in the audience. Lemonade Candy seemed awfully familiar. That hairstyle… “Okay.” One word… ant there was no mistake. Shizuka recognized her voice. What was Tsunemori Akane attending Talisman’s Saloon for?“One of my friends is in quite a bind right now. So… I would like to talk about her, Talisman.”Shizuka wanted to log off. Maybe this was a coincidence… and this wasn’t Akane at all. But young Shepherd Two might not appreciate someone who recognized her, like Shizuka maybe did, to overhear her situation. So was it really Akane? And if she was… was it wrong to attend this? Shizuka almost pressed the button. Almost left the field. But, the curiosity kept her in her spot. Waiting. It was… pretty public show. Avatars came and went.“Of course! Please, tell me what’s the concern of your friend,” Talisman encouraged Lemonade Cake. “After she graduated school, she immediately started a tough job. A job carrying a lot of responsibility. But, that’s not the problem. I’m sure she doesn’t regret it,” Lemonade Candy stated.“I see,” Talisman said. “What she’s in a bind with, I suppose… is her work relationships.”Shizuka was now sure. That voice… that word construction… her polite tone… it had to be Akane. Unless Shizuka got it wrong… which she doubted. “At her work, she has this subordinate… or, rather… a senior colleague…” she stammered.And she was talking about herself in the third person, to avoid getting identified. Nyx crossed her arms, rising her head. Shizuka wasn’t aware her avatar made that pose. “She’s got this senior colleague that is hard to describe,” Akane continued. Blood rushed in Shizuka’s cheeks. She almost pressed the log off button. But, Akane was talking about Kogami. Indeed… he was hard to describe. “When doing her work, she can’t exactly avoid him…” Akane said.“Is he the sort that she doesn’t do well with?” Talisman offered his insight. “He does some crazy things!” Shizuka laughed, knowing it to be true. Only, she didn’t saw it as something to cause concern. In that department, Gino agreed well with Akane. He saw his actions as crazy too.“But, there are times that she feels that what he’s saying is right,” Akane explained, and Nyx uncrossed her arms, looking more friendly. “So, she thought she might be able to trust him at some point.”“Maybe your friend engaged in some wishful thinking about her colleague,” Talisman pointed out politely.“You think it was wishful?” Lemonade Candy wasn’t sure herself. “I think she needs first to discard this preconception she has about him and then face his true character,” Talisman explained. “Why don’t you give this advice to your friend?” Lemonade Candy gave it a thought. “Okay.”Applause filled out the CommuField. Shizuka logged out, thinking how she didn’t need to know just how much Akane liked Kogami. She prepared for work, not feeling too well. She didn’t sleep well, and now she wasn’t in good mood. She really should have logged out sooner.--------------------------“Where’s Inspector Tsunemori?” Shizuka asked Shion. “Isn’t she in the bureau?”“Not yet. I think she’s at Masaoka’s residence.” “Isn’t Masaoka-san free today?”“Yes… but maybe it’s regarding some new case, or she needs an inquiry. Let’s talk about more interesting topics, though.”“Huh?” “You and Shinya-kun!” “Ah. Well… there’s nothing to talk about,” Shizuka rolled her eyes. “Come on, Aki-chan. You are no fun!” “Which reminds me…” Shizuka gave her the bag with the outfit she borrowed from Shion few days ago. “If you need one when with Gino, let me know,” Shion winked. Before Shizuka could respond to that quip, her wristcom rang. “Gino?” she responded with audio only.“Can you tag along? I have a case,” he informed her shortly. “Two Enforcers are having a free day, so… I could use your help.” “Isn’t Shepherd Two on duty?” she asked, a tad nervous about it.“She is. But I could use extra pair of eyes, if that’s okay with you.” If he can keep it professional… she can as well. Right? “Don’t tell me… that you need someone to look over your partner.”“No, that’s not it,” Gino sighed. “I just… never mind. Can you come?” “Count me in.”He closed the call, and Shion smiled widely at Shizuka.“My, my… what a busy girl you are, Aki-chan,” Shion teased. “See you later, Shion.”Shizuka rushed out, wondering what the new case was all about.
Madoka Magica
Natsume's Book of Friends
Trinity Blood
Code Geass
[CM] RC: DispatchA/N: Hi everyone,Apologies for the length of time it has taken for another chapter for Roanapur Connection to be done. It has been quite a hectic 14 months that is for sure from work having gotten much busier during this period, to moving homes myself and Blackmanaburning. Personal struggles that have impacted our ability to write the next planned main chapter 9 months after we started it. Along with also recruitment for RC not having gone as planned that has led to jumbling of chapters and rewrites etc. that’s still ongoing and another reason why there has been no update for ages. And our whole way of life being disrupted by the ongoing Convid-19 virus has not helped either with the anxiety, stress and uncertainly of it all stopped myself from writing while I am on furlough from work.Again I wish there was more updates more often, but everyone working on RC as part of DeadlyViperQuill team that I mentioned in wanting to set up in my last A/N note which I had a logo done for it by Wenart on DA. As there would be no RC without the people that work on it.Which is currently me, Blackmambauk lead of the project, my dear friends Blackmanaburning, AnneauxDeLaCroix and hopefully 2 more members that I hope to announce in the near future, have commitments and a lot going on at the moment that hampers our ability to work on RC as much as we want to.Anyway’s enough on all of that, here is the first chapter written by AnneauxDeLaCroix, we are very happy to finally get this chance to work together on a project after two years since we first made contact and from there have become very close friends with the other having been a real help during difficult times we both have had since. I am truly honoured to work with a writer of her high calibre and she has done a marvellous job on introducing a character we are both very fond of and who we feel has so much potential to explore that her main series never did. But let me pass you over to Cat now who will detail her thoughts. Thanks again for all views and favs etc across the web for RC BlackMambauk--A/N: And now, Cat. I knew very little about Code Geass before taking on this project. Seeing it through BlackMambauk’s eyes has been an absolute joy, and his letting me explore the characters more in-depth by creating these backgrounds that define them is exhilarating. I love this project and the intense amount of support it’s received. I look forward to working on it further. Stay safe and healthy.Please enjoy Dispatch.Love,Cat--DispatchCatherine LaCroix 2020“Our war is being fought by children?"- Duke Leland non BritanniaOne[Date: 13/04/1995 ATB, Time: Unknown, San Diego, Britannia]There was an art to playing a practical joke. Anyone could swap hair-wax for honey or cover a chair in paste. But a veritable, well-thought-out prank took time, finesse, a clever mind, and a little luck.Anna struck gold the day she’d overheard Leland during an evening shift in the local tavern. The man maintained a habitual schedule that functioned like clockwork. Wake and dress, read for exactly one hour, enjoy lunch at his favorite restaurant, drinks with peers in the tavern during the evenings, in bed by 10 pm. He never deviated. At first, Anna found it difficult to believe that he kept to the same routine day in and day out. To a girl 15 years of age, it seemed mind-numbingly dull. Sure enough, however, his rear was in the same seat at the bar—to the minute!—every night. He was a man you could set your watch by.He was the perfect target.And so, unbeknownst to Leland, a plan began to take form. Nothing lethal, of course. Just a few touches with enough flair to cause the maximum amount of embarrassment and discomfort. The commoners of the city held fast to a kind of secretive communication network. Where even the servants of nobles could exchange information with the beggars in the streets. They were the heartbeat of Britannia and the pulse of Anna’s plan.Following the quick, underhanded passing of a uniform, Anna found herself inside of Leland’s estate. She’d been told that he commonly employed and fired servants, oftentimes in the same day. Her presence would easily go unnoticed. And with his renowned vanity, there was little chance of him recognizing her from the tavern. So long as she kept her violet eyes glued to the ground.Anna’s heart raced in excitement as she moved about the manor, ignoring the curious glances from other servants in the hallways. Eventually, she made her way into the kitchen, searching for his morning breakfast tray. The glint of polished silver caught her eye and she knew she’d found it. A pot of deep, golden tea, a spread of fresh-baked pastries, and the book that held his recent attentions. With otherworldly dexterity, she cracked a tiny vial over the teapot and swapped his reading for one with a similar, plain cover. That was assuming he would have the chance to read before the potent aphrodisiac kicked in. Well, in that case, the book’s unsavory subject matter could only help him, really.With extreme difficulty, Anna maintained a straight face as she carried the tray to his room-length table. No other guests sat beside him and for a few heartbeats, she wondered how lonely it must have felt. Even so, she knew that table would have costed more than the combination of everything she owned. The thought strengthened her resolve.She slid the tray in front of him, pouring a cup of tea with the grace of a servant in practice for years. He nodded without so much as a glance in her direction, chose a pastry, and took a deep sip from his teacup.Anna hurried away, loitering in the drawing-room for only a moment to let loose a string of silent giggles. Leland’s day was far from over. She made her way to the stables.Leland’s best and most favored horse was a prize-winning mare. She was sleek, powerful, and jet-black from nose to tail.“We’ve the same hair, you and I,” Anna murmured, gently running her fingers through the horse’s thick mane. “Perhaps one day I’ll share your strength.”The mare nickered as if to reply, “Perhaps.”Anna smiled. For as long as she could remember, she’d shared an affinity with creatures of equine lineage.“A’int seen you ‘round here at all,” an unfamiliar voice interrupted her thoughts. A young man stood a few stalls down, watching her carefully. From his attire, he was clearly a servant.“First day, actually,” Anna replied easily. Lies had a way of rolling off of her tongue like honey.“M’lord doesn’t let new servants touch Aubrey.” He nodded toward the horse. “Even lookin’ at ‘er is a good way to get a whippin’.”“He asked me to ready her for travel.” Anna did her best to look confused. “Maybe he didn’t know I’m new.”While he studied her deciding on what to say next, Anna found a blanket, saddle, bit, and reigns. A handful of years past, she’d committed preparing a horse for riding to muscle memory. To the servant’s credit, his eyebrows raised in surprise.“You been around horses before?” he asked.“A few times.”“Is today a special ‘ccasion? M’lord usually takes a different horse for pleasure rides.”Anna shrugged. “Dunno. Just doing what I’m told.”He shook his head, clearly befuddled.Perfect.Anna unlatched the hook on the stall’s door, gently leading Aubrey over the hay-covered floor.“Ready to run like hell?” she whispered so the young man wouldn’t hear.Aubrey flicked her ears.When Anna reached the main gate of the estate, she checked behind her before carefully pushing against the polished iron. In one swift movement, she hooked one foot in a stirrup and swung herself atop of Aubrey. She noticed too late that the servant had followed her out and was now yelling strings of profanities. Loudly.“Yah!” She kicked at Aubrey’s sides and they were off in a flash.She made for the small patches of woods that twined through the city. The more out of sight she stayed, the better. Only a handful of times did she have to ride out in the open where one group of trees and another began. Confused nobles and commoners alike spared her a quick glance. But, at the speed they were going, it would have looked like a blur.Anna had never met a horse like Aubrey, and their bodies fell into an immediate synchronization. Anna felt like an extension of her mount; something more than her ‘rider.’ She made minor changes to the positioning of her legs and the directions in which she leaned whenever she felt a shift in Aubrey’s muscles. And the speed! Not for a second was Anna afraid they’d run into a tree or an innocent passerby. Aubrey’s reactions and timing to whatever obstacles lay in their path was something beyond perfection. Their heartbeats aligned. The cool wind on Anna’s face and the scent of the trees was exhilarating. She never wanted that moment to end.However, as many extravagant practical jokes suffered, there’d been a snitch.“You there! Stop!” A bellow sounded behind her.She glanced over her shoulder to see a broad-shouldered, wheat-haired man catching up to her on his own grey stallion.“Damn,” she cursed beneath her breath. But she wasn’t giving up that easy. “C’mon, Aubrey.”Despite the horse’s heavy panting, Aubrey’s pace accelerated. Anna leaned in, closing the distance between her own body and her mount’s. The trees passed in one, continuous green blur. When they reached the end of one green cluster, Aubrey leaped into the next—sailing over two merchant carts and one very confused toddler.“By order of the Royal Guard! I command you to stop!” Came another shout.She was in deep. And still, the adrenaline pounding in her ears urged her to keep going.So, she did.Aubrey and Anna galloped in seven-meter strides; both of their breathing came in short gasps. She could feel the desire of the beast to keep pushing; both within and without.And then, as the town ended and the true forest began, Anna pulled her steed short of a huge, rushing river. In her excitement, she’d made a huge miscalculation in direction. Sharp, poignant memories struck her like bolts of lightning. Attempting to cross that very same river on her favorite horse. The tide crashing against them with an intensity the surface concealed so well. Her lovely steed’s legs caving beneath the pressure until she too was swept into the current. The desperate—almost human—cries of her drowning mare while Anna flailed in a last-ditch effort to save her.“—that horse, immediately!” The bellowing broke her thoughts and dragged her back to the present moment.A cold sweat mingled with the perspiration of excitement from the chase. Anna found that her breathing came in rasps. She closed her eyes for a moment, regaining her composure.“Are you daft, girl? Dismount that creature immediately!” he repeated.With clumsy movements, Anna dismounted. She hadn’t noticed how badly her hands were shaking.“Do you realize what you’ve done, girl?” The man’s pale cheeks were a deep red. His breathing came in haggard spurts.“Took a ride on my horse?” she replied, her eyes dropping to the ground.“That is Lord Leland’s mare, you insufferable brat. Do you know the punishment for stolen property?” he spat.“For a commoner? Death, I believe.” A third party joined in on their conversation.Anna’s stomach twisted into knots as Lord Leland appeared from the forest on another steed. He shifted uncomfortably astride his mount and, despite her overwhelming fear, Anna forced herself to hide the smile that threatened her lips. Their gazes locked and understanding glittered in Leland’s eyes.“The servant girl this morning. That was you. What in the seven hells did you put into my tea?” Leland readjusted again.“Schisandra and clary sage, m’lord,” she mumbled.His lips pursed in puzzlement, but his companion’s scowl relaxed. Anna swore she could see the ghost of a smile twitch at the corner of his mouth.Anna took it as a good time to apologize. She fell to her knees and clasped her hands against her breast. “It was a joke, sir. Honest. I was going to return your horse. The herbs will wear off in a few hours. Your book is still in your kitchen.”Silence stood between them for some time. The sound of the river tugged at Anna’s memory, but she pushed it away.“I’ve never seen anyone ride like that,” the blonde noble commented at last. “Where did you learn, girl?”“I dunno. I guess I just picked it up,” she replied truthfully.“Ruben, she poisoned my tea and stole my horse. This cannot go unpunished.” Color rose to Leland’s face.“Let’s bring her before the Council, then.”“I’ve half a mind to toss her in the river, instead." Anna shivered but said nothing.Leland sighed, conceding to some unspoken agreement between both men. “Before the council, then.”Anna moved to remount Aubrey. Leland made a sharp hissing sound between his teeth. “You’ll walk her back, girl. Mount her again and I’ll cut off your hand.”Petting Aubrey’s graceful neck, Anna silently thanked her for the best ride of her life. She took up the reins and slowly followed the men on foot.—The thin soles of Anna’s shoes were nearly worn-through by the time they reached the council hall. The walk back was uncomfortably quiet, save a few words exchanged between Leland and Ruben. She didn’t dare complain of the ache in her legs or the sting of sharp rocks against her feet. There was the option of taking the easier cobblestone paths, but Leland’s anger was palpable, and any small punishment he could force upon her in the interim would have to suffice. And so, they dragged her through the unkempt patches of forest.Beyond the pain and her growling stomach when she realized that she hadn’t eaten all day, the worst of it all was getting caught. Only one other time had she ever been ferreted out in the midst of a practical joke, and it hadn’t held nearly the weight of this one.Once Leland and Ruben had dismounted, Anna handed Aubrey’s reigns to her rightful owner. He snatched them out of her hand, glancing at her attire as if for the first time.“You stole one of my uniforms?” The edge to his words hadn’t left.“Borrowed, sir.” Anna followed his gaze to the skirts. She hadn’t noticed that they’d been dirtied and torn by the surrounding branches that snagged at the flowing fabrics during her ride.“Destroyed, more like. Do you know what a single uniform costs me?” He rubbed at his temples. “A commoner wouldn’t make that in a year!”“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know—” Anna stammered.Leland rose a hand as if to strike her.“Leland,” Ruben interrupted. “We can worry about that later. Come now.”Anna braced for a blow that never came. Leland inhaled sharply and dropped his arm.Ruben led the way into the building and Anna followed, keeping her head bowed and eyes low. Well-dressed men and women moved purposefully about the building, exchanging brief pleasantries with each other in passing. Lines of desks flanked each side of the hall, and the scent of disinfectant mingled with expensive perfumes in the air—like a medical facility, Anna thought. She felt entirely out of place.Leland and Ruben exchanged a few low, heated words with one of the men behind a desk. Anna could barely hear them. Her adrenaline had long since turned to fear when she realized that this could be it. This could be the dumbest thing she’d ever done. And she might die for it.At last, the man seemed to relent to the nobles, and the small group entered a large room. It was fully lit by a multitude of windows and a few strategically placed gas lamps. Three long tables formed a U shape in its center; each one staffed with eight men. Only a handful of women sat amongst their ranks and Anna wondered why.A tall, distinct man in the center of the middle table addressed them. “Lord Leland, Lord Ruben. How can the council assist you this day?”“Your Honor, this young lady you see before you—” Ruben began.Leland didn’t give him a chance. “This abhorrent commoner stole one of my uniforms, poisoned my tea—”“I’d hardly call it ‘poison,’ sir,” Anna murmured.“Do not interrupt me!” Leland snapped. “She removed a prized book from my collection, tricked my other servants, and then proceeded to steal my most valuable horse.”“Borrowed!” Anna corrected.Ruben caught her eye and gave her one sharp shake of his head. Leland’s fists balled and his knuckles turned white.“Apologies, m’lords,” she added quickly.“How old are you, dear?” One of the women to the leader’s left asked.“Fifteen, my lady.”“Fifteen,” she repeated slowly, features deep in thought. “You accuse a fifteen-year-old girl of attempted murder, two counts of theft, and purposeful deception. Is that correct, Lord Leland?”“Yes, Your Honor,” he replied.“She is considered an adult in this council’s eyes,” another man added. “She must be tried as an adult.”“If these accusations are true, she could be hanged for such crimes,” the council leader noted, his words heavy.“I see this as sufficient punishment.” Leland’s tone was like ice and sent shivers down Anna’s spine.“With all due respect, Your Honors, I don’t believe she meant any undue harm. Death may be—excuse my assumptions of course—a little extreme?” To Anna’s surprise, Ruben chimed in for the first time.“Do you have a history with this girl?” Another man asked.“No, sir. However, she seems to have a latent talent that may be wasted should we decide to end her life.”“What would you suggest, then?”“Indentured servitude? Perhaps to Lord Leland himself?” Ruben shrugged.“I do not want that brat anywhere near my estate,” Leland hissed.Anna thought of the high she had while riding Aubrey. How she could navigate the terrain with a shred of thought. She was barely making enough to make ends meet at the tavern; indentured servitude would be a slow death in its own right. She could strategize better than anyone she knew, and snap decisions came to her easily.“Let me join the war effort,” she said suddenly. Her words held the confidence of a woman twice her age.All twenty-four members of the council locked eyes on her, then broke into laughter.“I’m serious!” she shouted, a cold sweat breaking on her back. “Maybe I am just a commoner. But I know you need more knights. Better knights.”She glanced at the two men beside her. Leland’s face warred between fury and confusion. Ruben, however. Ruben looked at her approvingly. He wasn’t laughing.“I never would have caught her on that horse had it not been for the river,” Ruben said in her defense.The laughter died. Their attention moved to Ruben.“Your Honors, I have never seen a man ride a horse as she did. Her preparations for this elaborate prank show a strategic, complicated mind. I agree with her.”“Ruben, how dare you speak of her in such a way?” Leland was livid. “The war? This is who we want to represent our country?”“If she can’t keep up with the others, she’ll die anyway.” Ruben shrugged. “In which case, you’d have the punishment that you seek.”“She’s a fifteen-year-old girl that can ride a horse. I don’t call those solid qualifications,” Leland snapped.“She is very young,” one of the men at the table noted. “However, due to…extenuating circumstances, we’ve lowered the age of enlistment.”“We have children defending Britannia?” Leland laughed dryly. “This girl is a thief, not a strategist. Any lad half her age could ride a horse.”“It’s true, she could cause more trouble than good should we allow her to join.” One of the men shifted uncomfortably. “Especially with the current landscape of the war. It’s a risky choice.”“Leland, you know this wasn’t done out of malicious intent. Come to your senses,” Ruben interjected. “Surely, your pride isn’t worth a young woman’s life?”There was a tense silence between Leland and Ruben.“Lord Leland? What say you?” The leader of the council asked at last.At that moment, Anna knew she could risk nothing. She’d promised herself not to use the ace in her sleeve unless it was a life or death situation. And this was it.“My lord?” she called, tugging gently on Leland’s sleeve.He looked down at her, meeting her gaze.That was all she needed.Summoning every ounce of will, she invaded Leland’s thoughts as easily as if she were rifling through his bureau. His anger, hate, and agitation burned her own consciousness like wildfire. The true battle began."Say: ‘Let her join.’” Anna fought to fit herself not only within his thoughts but his body. She struggled to make his lips form the words as if they were her own."What the hell are you doing to me?” Leland pushed back, attempting to eject her from his mind.Anna had to work fast and get him to relent. His thoughts were set completely on not saying the words she needed him to. She took advantage of this and tried wiggling his fingers. They responded. As Leland, she placed a hand on her own shoulder.It was a strange experience, looking down at herself through Leland’s eyes. Her face was complacent enough while she worked to take control of the man’s faculties.“What in God’s name are you?” His mind screamed.“Right now? I’m you.”He shifted his concentration to remove his hand from her shoulder. Now was her chance.“Ruben’s right. Let her join.” The words were hers but came from Leland’s mouth. In his voice.“Lord Leland? You’re sure?” The council leader asked.Leland’s consciousness lost the force of focus the more he fought against her. His thoughts were spread across his entire body; like she’d invaded his every nerve. She settled into his shell and won control of his senses.“I’m sure. If she dies in the field, at least it will be for the good of the country.” Anna added a sigh and a shrug to punctuate his consent.Leland’s own emotions began to transition in turn. Anger into acceptance. Hate into reluctance. Agitation into exhaustion. The feelings and words Anna imprinted into him became his reality. His mind and body grew more accustomed to the sensations of her control by the second. From that point on, she could use him as a shell whenever she needed; and he would never know the difference.Confident that his mind was sufficiently changed, she returned her consciousness to her own body.Ruben looked at Leland in surprise. “Good of you to have a change of heart, friend.”“It’s settled, then.” The council leader lifted a quill and dipped it in ink. “For this contract, I need your name, please.”“It’s Marianne, sir,” she stated her full name proudly and bowed. “Thank you for your time.” TwoThe walk home felt like years. Muscles Anna forgot existed hurt like hell, her thin shoes had developed thumb-sized holes in the soles. Small rocks took the opportunity to their advantage and slipped inside the leather, scraping against the bare flesh of her feet. She remembered that she only had one pair left, she’d have to be careful with them. Though, it wasn’t as if she’d expected to walk nearly three miles in a single day. If she’d had it her way, Leland or Ruben would have given her a horse to ride home. But, forcing that out of Leland would have been too obvious. Even more obvious than his sudden change of heart. She hoped that at least Ruben didn’t suspect her.When she reached her meager cottage, she leaned her forehead against the door and let her hand rest on the handle. A part of her wished desperately to see her parents on the other side; to run to the warm, welcoming arms of her mother, accept the light scolding of her father—though he was as calculating as she. Maybe if she recalled them with enough clarity, they would be there.She turned the handle and entered. Dark and quiet as always. The sun was low on the horizon so she lit one of the few oil lamps she owned. “You used your Geass,” a voice stated. “Why?”Anna jumped in surprise, not expecting a visitor. Especially not this one.“C.C.?” She asked, searching the room. “I thought you’d be gone a few days?”“That isn’t important. Why did you use your Geass?” she repeated.Anna finally spotted C.C., sitting in the far corner of the miniature common room, golden eyes peering over a teacup. Anna sighed, removed her destroyed shoes, and sunk into the only sitting chair she hadn’t sold. The adrenaline that had fueled her had evaporated and the energy it took to manipulate Leland had wreaked havoc on her mental state. “I was to be hung in the village square. As an example.”“For what?”Anna didn’t want to admit it. C.C. had cautioned her a dozen times on the potential consequences of playing pranks on the wrong people. “For…stealing a noble’s horse.”“I didn’t think you a common thief.” C.C. set her teacup down and stretched her arms above her head, her emerald hair falling in pools around her crossed legs. “You don’t need the money, after all.”“I was going to give it back. It was… I just…” Anna brushed her dark hair away from her eyes and cradled her face in her hands. She suddenly felt the worst headache she’d ever experienced.“You wanted to play a joke on Leland. I could feel it, you know. His rage, the intent to kill you. I heard the two of you war inside of his mind. I told you your mischievous nature would land you in hot water.”“I know,” she groaned into her palms. “I know. I know. I know.”“You joined the war,” another statement. “You promised to use your Geass to get you away from death. Instead, you’ve shrouded yourself in it.”Anna buckled beneath the full weight of her words and shivered. For that brief moment inside the courtroom, she’d felt much older and wiser than all of them. Now, she couldn’t have felt more obscure.“You are not a fool, Marianne. What is it you’re trying to accomplish?”“I want to be something, C.C. I have no family left. No true friends. You’re all I have. And what have I done so far? Play jokes on people and master horse-riding.” Anna rubbed her temples, revealing indignant features carved into her lovely face.“You’re just a girl. I saw how those men looked at you. They expect you to die as soon as you step foot into training.”“I want to show them what ‘just a girl’ can do,” Anna replied hotly. “I could use my Geass—” “For more than saving your own life?” C.C. sighed. “I gave it to you to save you. Do you not remember?”“You taught my body how to swim,” Anna murmured, pulling her knees to her chest. Her underskirts were dirtied and torn. Leland had taken away his house’s uniform before allowing Anna to go on her way. “And I promised you I’d only use it for myself. This would still be using it for myself.”“You’re twisting your own words.” C.C. took another sip of her tea. “You remember incorrectly.”Anna locked her gaze and was instantly transported to the day that C.C. had bestowed upon her with the power she’d used against Leland. The memory struck her like an arrow, all sensations returning to her as if the experience were happening all over again. Rushing water filled her mouth and nostrils, choking her, her horse screamed in the distance. Anna had never learned how to swim. She was going to die with her horse.“Stop it!” Anna shrieked. “Please! Stop.”The hallucination vanished. Anna shook in her chair, her head buried in her arms.“Like all humans before you, you will do what you wish. I can’t stop you.” C.C. stood; her slim figure posed proudly in the lamplight. “However, you should think before you act.”Anna waited until the witch left the room before allowing the sobs to consume her. ThreeAnna had a month to prepare for military life. She found the thought both laughable and terrifying. Her personal belongings fit in one small suitcase, and the money she’d stashed beneath a few loose floorboards for years was easily stowed between her thin clothing. Physically, she was ready to be whisked away to training within a day. Mentally, however, she wasn’t so sure.The afternoon after the enlistment decision was finalized, she strolled through the forest surrounding her cottage. C.C. was off doing whatever it was she did in her time away.“Did I make the right decision?” she pondered aloud. “Mom? Dad? Did I really mess up this time?”She would never know the answer, of course. Her parents had passed five years before, leaving her an orphan at ten. Anna was determined to not be dragged helplessly through the orphanage and foster care system. The dirtied, homeless children on streets spoke volumes in terms of lack of care. She’d sold everything she could to any who would buy from a ten-year-old, paid for her hideaway in full, then stashed the remainder for food, clothing, and small comforts.The calling of birds lulled her into a drift of memory while she walked. She’d met C.C. when she was eleven, the woman was one of the only people who had never looked at Anna as a simple, hopeless child. And, for Anna, C.C. was the only friend she could trust. At thirteen, C.C. revealed to her the truth of her power after rescuing her from drowning; after Anna had lost her favorite horse. Imprinting the power that C.C. called “Geass” directly into her very soul. Anna had only ever used it once before Leland—it terrified and excited her.A shrill cry of fear stopped Anna in her tracks. On the ground before her lie a large bird of prey. One wing was broken in multiple places, and it struggled to move away from her with claws and one working wing.“Well, hello there,” Anna called gently, crouching to make herself smaller. “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.”It screeched again, but its movements slowed. The feathers were chestnut brown in color, its beak a gradient of bright yellow into black. A hawk. Anna had only ever seen them circling the sky around the patches of forests and trees, but never up close.“It’s okay. I can help,” she soothed and inched closer.Its dark eyes bored into hers, and its struggling slowed. Anna tore a section of cloth from her skirt and wrapped it around her hand. If it bit her, the beak would go right through and its long talons appeared just as sharp, but at least the fabric offered minimal protection.“I have some food back home. I can get you some meat, too.” Anna continued her advance, painstakingly slow. “We can heal your wing.”Another noise escaped from the bird, but it sounded more like a curious chirp than the terrified cry it had admitted only moments before. She was within arms reach. With a confident hand, she carefully extended her arm towards its talons. Animals could sense the fear of humans; the scent, quivering limbs, the sound of rushed breaths. She’d learned as much with horses. If the hawk would fight back, it would hurt like hell whether no matter her confidence levels. It was far better to take charge of the situation.“That’s it. You’ll be okay,” she murmured, her fingers touching its talons.The hawk tested the fabric on her hand, grasping at its edge and releasing it. Anna wrapped her thumb around one of its claws, giving it a hold for lifting itself from the ground. She held her breath as the hawk recognized the opportunity, and grasped her hand with its second claw. It beat its good wing against the ground and in a moment, stood stalwart on the back of her fist. Its broken wing hung awkwardly at its side, but it maintained balance with Anna’s help. The talons dug through the fabric and into her skin—Anna could feel a slow trickle of blood where they pierced and the fabric was soon blotted with her blood. But, she couldn’t feel it. The adrenaline that sped her heart as she held such a powerful being nulled all pain.“I have a stable you can live in, too. I’ll take very good care of you,” she murmured, daring not stroke the bird with her other hand. She took a few test steps towards home and felt its claws dig deeper. It was relying on her with its life. “I promise. You’ll be back to perfect health in no time.”Over the next few weeks, Anna turned the abandoned stable into a muse for her hawk. There were plenty of mice and rats within it to catch, but she also supplied meat from the butcher. She purchased leather gloves and materials to create a make-shift stint for its wing. C.C. said little of the bird but watched in genuine curiosity while Anna cared for the creature.When the time came for Anna to leave for training, the hawk’s wing was healed enough for it to fly freely. But, instead of returning to its forest as Anna had expected for it to do, it followed her everywhere. Into the unknown. Into war.
Yuri On Ice
What one doesn't know part 6The library was unlike anything he had seen before. Back in Japan, he was used to seeing Hon-Ya or “book specialty stores”. These places were generally not well-lit and smelled of old books. There were alphabetically organizes bookshelves, featuring old Japanese classics either by Murakami or Ishiguro. In those bookstores, book-nerds would get together and discuss their favorite authors and their most recent reads. There was zero space to sit down, and you would have to walk around the bookshelves to search for friends or lovers who might be in another aisle, as the bookshelf would be as high as the ceiling would allow. Sometimes you could hear a mother asking her child where they went, and then a small response would come from the 4 or 5-year-old who had wandered off to another aisle. The library Victor had casually led him to, after eating his late-night snack, reminded him more out of something he had seen in a Disney movie. Was it the one where the prince turned into a beast? It even featured artificial lights, a stair propped up against one of the bookshelves, instead of the rickety stool he was used to using back home. In front of the large open windows, a small bench had been placed. Dazai could imagine himself in this reading nook on sunny days, where the sun would come in through the windows, providing the perfect light for reading. ‘So, Victor.. why are we here?’ Dazai asked, after having soaked in the environment. Victor smiled upon seeing Dazai’s raised eyebrow. He paused for a few seconds and crossed his legs, looking down. ‘I thought that this would be a good opportunity to look at recent cases, what if this isn’t the first time?’ Dazai felt that in his own way, Victor was truly concerned for his partner. This only hurt a little; since his phone rang the exact moment he felt like there was someone who had come between them as brothers. Victor noticed that the ringtone kept on playing, while Dazai seemed preoccupied with this own thoughts. ‘So you don’t think-’ Victor started. ‘Osamu speaking’ Dazai said, having snapped out of whatever had been going on. He had to use his business voice. ‘Hello? Yes, this is the detective from Japan speaking.’ After a short silence, Victor walked off to admire the gardens, allowing Dazai some space for his phone-call. ‘This is Mr. Prisoner, calling from Australia. One of my students has just been found in the shower. His wrists were attached to the shower, and I just..’ ‘I’m currently in Russia on business, but could you please elaborate on the location of the shower?’ ‘Yes. At the back of the dance studio, I currently own. Is there any way I could e-mail you some pictures so you can assess the situation before I call the police?’ ‘I will, and I will get back to you on whether a visit from my side will be in order. In the meantime, I am sorry for your loss. And Mr. Prisoner, thank you for calling.’ Dazai shot Victor an apologetic look. ‘I’m afraid your prediction was spot-on. I’m suspecting another murder in Australia. The same MO. The killer left them tied to the shower at the back of a dance studio. The time frame seems to be a match as well. He’ll be sending me some pictures for the confirmation soon’. The pictures arrived within ten minutes, but it only took them a glance to see that these cases were definitely related. Victor was adamant about staying in the library as if he was scared to go home at this point. ‘I’ll have some chazuke sent up to you, just head over to the unsolved/uncommon murder section. You might see something I overlooked.’ This was the Victor I knew. If Victor was really being honest with himself, he would have to admit that he was enjoying his time out of the rink. Seeing Dazai here, reminded him of his old self, and the pranks they used to pull on each other. Of course, this was all before Victor was forced into ice-skating to facilitate international travel for his manager. Yuri had become mildly obsessed with being on par with Victor, and during the times he was sweating it out in the rink, Victor liked to come here. He would sit in the reading nook with this espresso, and read up on unsolved murder mysteries. Occasionally, his gaze would wander off to the rose garden, thinking about life. After Dazai’s chazuke arrived, Victor told him about his visits to the palace. Dazai in response was quite intrigued. Victor? Reading? This is the same guy who had trouble staying in one place back when he was 19 years old. He had trouble imagining the small tornado he remembered Victor to be, to sit down, even just for an afternoon. The concept seemed foreign to him. “I guess that while I was out solving murders, Victor changed as well,” he thought to himself. And so they sat, side by side, well into the night. They had a table brought to them, so they could sit in the reading nook. Bourbon on one side, a book on the other. Occasionally they would break the silence to discuss any information in perceived relation to the current case. But more often than not, they were still. The only sound that echoed was the occasional turning of pages. Meanwhile, Yuri’s patience was being tested. He had played “fetch” with Makkachin until he had gotten sick of it. He had played peekaboo until he got bored. He had re-watched an entire anime and still, his thoughts would not quiet down. What if Victor had gone back to his family? What if he had gotten on a plane? What if he wasn’t in the country anymore without even telling him he left?! What if he had encountered an old flame on his way back from Dazai? What if Dazai was the flame? Why did they meet alone? Was this Victor’s way of excluding him? Up until recently, he couldn’t imagine Victor keeping secrets from him. But now? He was wavering. He reasoned that it was probably the lack of sleep that was making him this way, but it didn’t 100% convince him. What if Victor didn’t like him anymore? What if he had gotten bored with him? Yuri yawned and glanced at the clock once more. Six A.M. what could possibly be so interesting for it to interfere with Victor’s training schedule? Back at the palace, Victor and Dazai called it a ‘night’ at 7 A.M. not much later after Yuri decided to go to sleep. Dazai’s phone buzzed inside his coat, causing him to stir in his sleep. When he decided to pick up, the phone had already quit ringing. ‘Victor,’ he croaked ‘it’s 11 A.M. now, won’t he be worried?’ For a second, Victor deliberated on whether he wanted to call or text. If he was being truthful, he hadn’t thought about it at all. As a person, he was not good at keeping in touch, and relationships were generally not on his radar. He, however, loved mysteries. They could swallow him whole. ‘To be really honest, I forgot’ he said, shooting Dazai a modest but coy smile. Reluctantly, he pulled out his phone, a modern, silver item with a picture of Makkachin at the back. ‘I’ll just text Yuri instead, he’ll probably still be asleep’. If Victor was being really honest with himself, he wasn’t looking forward to what he categorized as being a ‘needy rant’. After sending a short text message, and realizing the date, Victor had to swiftly say goodbye to Dazai. Dazai, on the other hand, was eager to leave. Last night, he had found a possible lead. After thanking Victor for his food and hospitality, Dazai headed off to England, as he had a clue to who the next victim of this serial killer might be....

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torako-art Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2018
Hello! I've just joined Deviantart. Looking forward to reading and writing fanfics!
Scaley-Randy Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Welcome to the group :D
torako-art Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2018
earthpoem Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2017
Hi, can you please make a folder for Koutetsujou no Kabaneri? 
Scaley-Randy Featured By Owner May 6, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Done, sorry about the wait, I've been a bit busy ^^;
earthpoem Featured By Owner May 8, 2017
thank you! don't apologize, I know life comes first 
Scaley-Randy Featured By Owner May 8, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for understanding :)
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NickRoberts10 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for accepting me. Glad to be part of the group.
faniki Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2016
Scaley-Randy Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Welcome aboard :D
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