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Welcome to We-Write-To-Escape!

Hey everyone!!

Ok, first and foremost I would like to thank everyone for joining and encourage those who are not members to join! It will be totally worth it!!

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Just click the Join our group button at the top, or, if you can't find it, note me (imperfect-parachute) or the group and ask for an invitation.

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So, your founder, well, I love writing. I mean, my life revolves around it. My dream is to become a published author, so I am very excited to have created a literature based group! YAY!!! I have a feeling we could have a heap of fun here! That is, if enough people join...

As the title suggests, this is a literature group for all writers alike! I welcome and encourage all of you to join!!!

But, I also have another group that I founded a little while ago: :iconlove-forever-create:! This group accepts all forms of art, so, if, unlike me, you happen to be lucky enough to be multi-talented and want to share something other than your writing with us, or even if you're only interested in writing, please have a look and join if you can!! I'd love both of my groups to be equally awesome!!!

So, I think that's about it for the moment. If you have any questions or suggestions just ask by note or comment on the group. I'd love to hear what you have to say and I'm more than happy to answer any questions you may have!

Enjoy our group!! And remember, the more members we have, the more fun it becomes!! So get advertising and try and recruit some new members!!!

Also, don't forget to read the links I put up above! They are very important to ensure the group runs smoothly!

Thanks,
Your founder,
:iconimperfect-parachute:

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Featured
Poetry 3
The Wasperer Verse by JPHBFolk
Prose
A Message to my 10-year-old SelfHey, smeghead. It’s me. You. I am you. Sort of. But yeah, this is a message from you, thirty years into the future. I wanted to let you know... No, we don’t have flying cars yet. And nobody’s been back to the Moon, either. The Yanks keep talking about it, but here we are. So, yeah. I wanted to tell you that things will get better. Although not all at once. There’ll be some tough times, but in the end... No, I’m not a fighter pilot or an astronaut. And FYI, the Space Shuttle is a complete death trap. They’ll lose another one 12 years from now. Much as the idea of plummeting to Earth in a three-ton bottle bank supported by one parachute isn’t exactly appealing, Soyuz has a far better safety record. Now where was I? Ah yeah. Things will be difficult. You’ll still be ridiculed for being different, but you know what? Fuck ’em. Read comics. Watch Star Trek. Go get into Star Wars, too. Embrace the fact that you like rock instead of pop music. Hell, maybe start to learn the guitar before your co-ordination goes to hell. I wish I had. Yes, I said a naughty word. I swear. It’s not a big deal. Christ... Keep writing stories. You’re good at it. We’re good at it. Many people will take advantage of that skill along the way, but it will be a gateway into a world... No, I don’t know why we don’t have flying cars yet. Look, I know you came up with that idea about using electromagnetism to push against the Earth’s magnetic field, but the Earth’s magnetic field isn’t strong enough for that to work. If it was, anything made of steel would be permanently rooted to the ground and fridge doors would be sent flying into the fucking stratosphere. Now... Look, I’m being sarcastic. It’s a skill you’ll learn, and put to great effect in the coming years. You’ll find a love of writing comedy, strangely with a piece of English GCSE coursework. The possibility of stand-up comes to mind every now and again, but we’re just too shy for that. Your destiny lies behind a keyboard, mate. What? How the fuck would I know what the football pools results are gonna be on Saturday? I don’t even like football! Yeah, I know you got really into the World Cup last summer, but that’s an exception that proves the rule. As I’m sure you’re becoming aware, rugby league is far better. And to be honest, the best part of three decades following Featherstone Rovers will set you up for facing virtually any disappointment. Pessimists are never disappointed, we’re pleasantly surprised. Where was I? Oh yeah. I know you have frequent mood swings and don’t understand why, but everybody around you puts it down to hormones. It isn’t. You will get a diagnosis of clinical depression and, finally, medical help. After a fashion. That’s still a bit shite, to be... Look kid, I know I’m a big fat bloke. I have seen mirrors. This is what happens when you develop a hatred of exercise and a love of beer and curry. Oh hey, if you want to maybe get around this, try being careful next summer. In July, one week before you break up for the summer, you’ll trip up in the garden chasing Claire with a water pistol and gash your knee open. You then spend all summer trying not to burst your stitches or cause the wound to open up, and this inherent lethargy is the beginning of your descent into fat bastardry. So, yeah, fun. Stay close to your family. Your dad is a bit of a numpty and, frankly, an absolute bastard at times, but his heart is in the right place. It’s just that his brain is in neutral. Enjoy all the time you have with your mum, there isn’t as much of that left as you think. And even though your sister is as irritating as a tropical skin condition right now, eleven years down the line you will need each other’s support more than you could possibly... Oh come on, stop crying for fuck’s sake! Better now? Good. So if I have any more advice, it would be to do what you want to. Take risks. But rest. I burned out by the time I was 15 and I’ve been trying to come to terms with never meeting people's expectations ever since. Yes, people are bastards. No shit... Are their relationships in your future? Of course, but you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your princess. No, that doesn’t mean literally kiss frogs. Magic isn’t real. Also, how in the hell do you think that a working-class scumbag from a Yorkshire pit village stands a chance with the Queen’s granddaughter, anyroad? But my biggest piece of advice to you is this: ten years from now, for the first time in your life, a girl you are not related to will tell you that she loves you. Run. I know someone telling you that they love you for the first time is a powerful thing, but broom her worthless psychotic arse for the sake of your own sanity. You deserve better. Please, if you do nothing else, do this for me. Look, will you please give it a rest with the flying cars? Fuck’s sake! And no, we don’t have hoverboards either! Christ, this is why I never want kids... Okay, just shut up and listen. Things will be difficult, but they will get better. You will find people that love you for who you are: proper friends, and eventually, someone that wants to share the rest of her life with you. It will get better. But here’s a tip: you know that thing called the internet, where computers communicate over the phone lines? It’ll become a method of conducting business in a few years. As soon as it floats on the stock exchange, buy as many shares as you can afford in a thing called Amazon.com. You’ll thank me.

Mature Content

A Criminal's PaymentThe young female tabby cat didn’t know how it happened. Everything happened so fast. First she came back from the grocery store while waiting for her father to return, then out of nowhere, someone placed something on her muzzle as she smelled something sweet and passed out.When she woke up, she didn't know where she was, but around her it looked like she was in some kind of building. What became even strange for her was that her clothes were replaced with a black latex suit while she was both standing up and straps were on her along with her arms as they were crossed. She tried to speak, but her muzzle had a ball-gag on it. “I see that you're finally awake,” a male voice said.Out of the shadows, a male grey wolf dressed in a fancy white suit came. She didn’t know who he was, but he said to her, “I know you're wondering why you're here. The reason why is because we’re here to collect payment.” She was confused by what he meant by “payment” as the grey wolf continued, “Your father did tell me that he was going to be late to pay-off the debt that he owed me, but I’m not that patient as I want my payment.” He smiles at her. “And there are other ways of paying me back.”She still couldn't figure out what he was talking about. Seeing that confused look, the grey wolf explained, “I see, so your father hasn’t told you. Hasn’t he? Well, you're already aware that your father was having trouble trying to pay-off the bills and he was working on trying to find a better job. Am I right?”She nods her head as he was right. Her father worked on some dead-end jobs that didn’t pay well. To make it worse, their bills were piling up as her father was having trouble trying to pay for each one. She tried to apply for a job herself so she could chip in and help, but no such luck as she couldn’t even land one. Then one day something changed when her father came home and told her that someone lended them the money to pay-off all the bills. Since that day, things started to turn around for about several months until her father landed a bigger job which had better pay. However, looking back, her father never told her who this “someone” was that lended them the money. When she put two and two together, her eyes widened.Seeing that look, he could tell that she figured out the answer as he said with a smile, “Yes, I was the one who lended your father the money after one of my boys found him sitting on a bench. It was my little crime organization that your father got that money from.”She was shocked, her father getting money from a crime organization and from this crime lord no-less. Why didn’t he tell her?Her thoughts were put on hold as she felt something grab her legs. Looking down, she sees a paw placing a plastic sheet on the front of her legs, then another plastic sheet was placed at the back of her legs. Looking side to side, she notices two poles that were connected to a machine as two rolls of plastic wrapping was at the bottom. However, she felt something swing as she looked up, noticing a chain as she never realized until now that she had a collar on her neck which kept her up. A paw was placed on the side of her face as it made her look at another male grey wolf who looked young, somewhere around his twenties as he said, “Hey there, sweetheart. Had a nice nap?”He gave a chuckle as he backed away from her while she tried to look behind her. So far, she noticed two more male grey wolves who looked like they were his brothers as the two of them looked a bit older than this one, and she barely saw some trolleys and a table as she couldn’t tell what it was. While he went to go help his two older brothers, the grey wolf crime lord said, “I want you to meet my boys, they will be the ones who will handle you.” She looks back at him as he continued, “It’s a shame I won’t see you again, but it was a pleasure to meet you.” He turns around and starts walking away. “Goodbye, young lady.”No sooner had he left, one of the young grey wolves placed a black latex hood on her where her muzzle came out and she could see through the eyeholes, causing her to gasp. She heard something turn on as she looked down and saw the plastic wrapping start to wrap her. When it came to her midsection, she closed her eyes as she thought it would wrap her head, but it stopped as it finished her chest and she opened her eyes. As one of the young grey wolves tore off the wrapping on both sides, she watched as he replaced the two rolls with duct tape.When he pushed the two rolls down, he placed the duct tape on the front and back of her already covered legs. As the machine started again, she was now being wrapped in duct tape until it finished right at her chest. While one of the young grey wolves took off her collar, another tore off the duct tape from both sides and once again replaced it with two rolls of latex wrapping. She gasped as one of them placed another black latex hood on her, this time covering her face completely while one of them placed the latex wrapping on the front and back of her legs as they started the machine again.She couldn’t move as the machine kept wrapping her body until it reached her head, covering her in another layer. When that was finished, the oldest grey wolf picked her up while the youngest brought out a black latex sack with a hood. As the three brothers placed her inside and pulled the hood up, the two younger brothers went to a trolley and brought out some straps while the oldest went to the table to get the air compressor. The two brothers strapped her from her ankles all the way up to her chest, then the oldest brought the air compressor, placed the hose on the valve and started it up as the latex sack inflated slightly, causing her to gasp as the layers that she had hugged her body tight.When that was done, one of the brothers placed another mask on her already covered head, this time a grey tabby cat-shaped face. She didn’t know what else these three were going to put on her next, but it was starting to get hard to breathe. Her ears heard the sound of rustling as the three brothers already brought two trolleys that had cloaks, many of them black while one side was latex that she had on and the other that had different fabrics. The first cloak that was already draped on her was a latex one with a hood. With the first hood pulled up, the brothers quickly put each cloak on her from the two trolleys while also pulling up more hoods as her entire body was being covered.As she felt more of the extra weight, her body felt hot while her lungs were burning from the lack of breathing. With barely any strength, she collapses on her legs while the three brothers continue to drape the cloaks on her with the last being a shiny latex one with a hood as that was pulled over her head. The two brothers helped her up while the littlest of the three went to the table and took a parachute bag. Going back to her, he placed it over her head as the v-straps were hanging on her shoulders, then the two brothers clicked the other two straps as it formed an x-shape on her chest.Taking the pull cord, the oldest pulled it as the three quickly moved away from her as a white parachute came out with a loud wompf and the young tabby cat collapsed on her front as the parachute covered her entire body. Two brothers went back to her while the last brother went to get the last of the straps as the both of them started rolling her until the entire parachute fabric was wrapped around her. When the last brother came back with the last of the straps, they put the straps on her legs, but didn’t use the last one. As the oldest went back to the table, the other two brothers picked her up and brought her to a pole where they placed her back at and placed the last strap on her, connecting her to the pole. The oldest came back with a note attached on a piece of string, hanging it on her neck the note said: “Paid In Full”.The three brothers left her while their father had already called the female tabby cat’s father, after he came back from the bank so he could pay-off the debt. He told him about his daughter and where she was, but by the time he found her it was already too late. She had already suffocated and died from the lack of oxygen.To anyone who would talk about this kind of death. It was a very screwed up way to die.
Songs and Lyrics
Mind to Paper Literature
Writing Commissions Open!I am taking writing commissions again!  Updated my fandom list and rules just a little bit and here you go: Examples of my work: ( 12, 3 ) I also have this tumblr account specifically for my writings.As you can see, I am capable of doing both short stories and multiple-chapter stories. :) I am very flexible in general.Fandoms I am most familiar with:Dragon AgeMass EffectWitcherAmnesiaOkamiDisneyTransformers (specify universe)Historical fictionLOTR/the Hobbit/The SilmarillionGoTHarry PotterPercy JacksonTwilightWarriorsSilent HillSupernaturalATLA/ATLKHetaliaPokemon/DigimonStar TrekStar WarsMLPThe LabyrinthLovecraftian horrorMortal KombatMarvel/DCUSteven UniverseFNAFLeague of LegendsDon't StarveKingdom HeartsSonic the HedgehogFinal Fantasy (VII/VIII/X)Dragon Ball ZBleachFullmetal AlchemistSailor MoonTomb RaiderDnDSkyrimOverwatchResident EvilAlienPredator (franchise)Fire EmblemDoki Doki Literature Club!Yu-Gi-Oh!And if you don’t see a fandom here you can ask me and I will tell you if I know it or not! I didn’t list them all here.Things I will write:Your OCs/Self-insertsLGBT+NSFWOriginal Fiction (as long as enough information is provided)AngstFluffHorror/CreepypastasCrossovers (If I know the series)HeadcanonsTorture/GoreBDSMOmegaverseAUsRape/DubconTentacles/AliensVampires/Werewolves/Monsters etc.Furries/Anthro (both SFW and NSFW)Fetishes (please specify so I can see whether I’m okay with it or not)If I haven’t mentioned anything that you wish to know feel free to ask as well!Things I will NOT write:Pedophilia/UnderageDD/LG (Daddies/Mommies and littles)Vore/CannibalismInflationWatersports/ScatBestialityNecrophiliaEven if I haven't mentioned something, there are still things I may still not like and will not write it.Prices:Short and simple! 1 USD for every 100 words, which I think is pretty fair. I take payments through PayPal. PLEASE NOTE that I have every right to reject a commission, even if it fits my rules.Send me a note if you have an offer! :)
ToxicI have been in a toxic relationship for the past three and a half years. The kind of toxic where another person destroys you completely and it happened more than once. The kind of toxic where you are breaking up with the person, bet they won’t let you. The kind of toxic relationship where you get to the point of looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person in it, and nobody does who new you before. And it’s not meant in a good way. It’s the kind of toxic where person brings you down all the time explaining it by your own behavior, making you think all the time that you are at the fault for everything. In this relationship I have heard a lot of promises, an empty sound, which doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, but I am afraid that I have come to the point where I should get some help. There is this feeling that I have some kind of Stockholm syndrome, because every time I am ready to leave, every time I pack my stuff, I back down at the same shit I have heard over and over. My mind plays this trick with me, telling me that maybe this time it will be different although I repeat to myself that I have been here and I know how it will end. I came to the point where I tried to help myself by finding someone. I did find someone with whom I smiled all the time, with whom I felt happy and a whole person. I cheated, what I have never done before, I told everything hoping that they will let me go, hopping that all this will help me become free. And here I am at 3AM sitting while the person is sleeping and putting my thought here, as I can’t sleep and can’t get my mind off from these thoughts. All the nerves I lost with this person, everything what I went through – I don’t want to accept that it all was for nothing. And I don’t mean that I didn’t learn anything, I mean that maybe at the very end I will see at least something, that will prove me that the person actually loved me and wanted for me to be happy. Sadly, I am sure that everything will be getting worse and worse as it already is. And I don’t know how to escape from all of this. I mean I know that I should pack my things and leave while the person is away, and never look back at this, but I am so afraid to hurt them so badly by it, that I am looking for a way to do it in a more human way. And I don’t have a clue.
Less (TRIGGER WARNING)Officer Bob Peel ran to the town's only pharmacy as the sounds of gunshots and angry shouts pooled around him. The streets were full of rioters and, while he could understand the fury behind it, it seemed as though a few people were taking advantage of the riots to loot stores of valuable merchandise. He felt afraid and faithless in his abilities. It certainly didnt help that he was alone and off duty, but all other officers were trying to keep damage to a minimum. However, with each passing hour the sidewalks kept catching more glass and nearby shops seemed to hold less. As Peel reached the doors of the pharmacy he started to check the locks, even though he knew that it was useless due to the glass doors. He knew he was outnumbered. He knew that he was going to get mauled at best. Shot at worst. Nonetheless, it was his duty to at least try to stop the looters even if he was currently off duty. He stood in front of the store and faced the approaching looters. Some looked familiar to him. Normal faces he would see on the block each night he came home. Others were unfamiliar to him. All of their faces were warped by face masks and sunglasses. All five of them stood in front of him, waiting to see what he would try. Peel raised his hands in the universal sign of surrender as he spoke."Please don't do this." He pleaded. "I know you're angry about what happened to George Flyod, you have every right to be, but you shouldn't use that tragedy to rob places." The looters were silent, watching him, waiting. "So please stop-"Peel felt something impact his chest, causing him to step back as he felt his chest got up in flames. He looked down at his chest, watching as a red stain started to consume the green on his t-shirt. Less green now and more of a light brown near a hole. He kept backing away from the familiar woman holding the gun as he felt more heat emit from his head. Twin volcanoes localized soley on his body. He felt the right side of his body collapse and he fell back onto the ground. Everything in his peripheral was darkening as the sound of glass deafened his dying senses and he could see the shoes of the looters walk past him emotionlessly. He tried to call out. He didn't want to be left alone. He didn't want to die alone in such a senseless way. He could feel heat under him, heat around him, and heat slowly sliding down his face as his breathing grew shallow and his vision grew dark. Officer Bob Peel died that night, alone and next to the looted burning body of the pharmacy he had been trying to protect....
Chapter Stories

Mature Content

Mature Content

The Leviathan Trial,THE LEVIATHAN TRIALBy Oliver MadisonCHAPTER 1 Twelve Perfect ChildrenHelena ran for dear life.Breathing through her facemask was irritating enough as it was. The panting only made it worse. She pumped her tiny arms, scampering through the fine cut acre of grass. It was the backyard of Lancaster Manor. In all fairness, her backyard was more of a private perfectly manicured park than anything else. She hid behind an oak tree, crouching in its shadow and clutching the bark of the trunk.“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” sang a motherly voice that drew nearer and nearer.Helena watched as eleven teenagers of various ages ran around hysterically. They laughed and rolled as they dodged one another in a game of hide-and-seek. Ironically enough, the older siblings were enjoying themselves far more than their little brothers and sisters. Normally, the Lancasters would be above something so juvenile, but it was refreshing to live in the moment. It was their first time letting loose from their strict schedules in months. Since most of them spent up to six hours a day studying their schoolwork and participating in various extracurriculars, per their father’s instructions, acting as children was an exhilarating divergence from the norm.Most of the teens were caught, tagged, and disqualified from the game. However, before the last few could make it free to base, which was a three-tiered fountain, a loud chime signaled it was 6pm. The hum of their home’s intercom reverberated throughout their massive house and was faintly heard from their backyard as well.They slowed their sprinting and began congregating in a strut. “Okay! Break’s over!” commanded Pearl, the eldest of the children at nineteen years of age. She gathered up her younger siblings, patting each on the back as she directed them into their home. One by one, she counted them off.She stopped at number ten and furrowed her brow.“We’re missing Helena,” Pearl informed her younger brother, Levi. “Good grief. That girl will be the death of me...”As she placed her hands on his shoulders, it was obvious they were not related by blood. Pearl was fair of skin with her dirty blonde hair tied in a bun. Her brother’s complexion, however, was dark and rich and his hair was a sharp fade of charcoal. In actuality, none of the Lancasters shared any connection by blood.All were adopted.“You’re her favorite, Levi,” praised Pearl, the self-proclaimed matriarch of the family. “She’ll listen if it’s coming from you. Go round her up. I won’t let us have these fun little breaks away from our studies if we dillydally like this.”Levi nodded to his oldest sister obediently and searched the yard for his youngest—Helena.She was climbing over the spiked iron fences that separated their private property from the woods and open road. He sighed as he made his way over to her. She was trying to run away again. It was cute at first, but she cut her leg the week before when she attempted this exact same thing. Helena did not stop scurrying, even as Levi approached her. She kicked and wiggled as he plucked her from the fence. She tried to pull her older brother along, signaling him to follow her and escape.She was terrified. However, due to her muteness, much of her fear remained trapped in the expression of her large quivering crystal blue eyes.“Enough of that,” commanded Levi, setting his sister on the ground. Helena drooped her head in defeat as the two walked back to their home in their matching black and emerald attire. He sported a slim custom-made suit and brushed off a few dead leaves that stuck to her swing style dress. “Let’s go inside,” Levi instructed. “If we’re late, Father’s going to kill us.”Originally purchased as a hotel, Lancaster Manor was renovated into a modern-day castle. At 82,000 square feet, the estate ranked in the top five largest homes in the United States. And that was only the first floor. It was a total of three stories, which included an elevator in each wing.It was a marvel to behold.The yards were impressive too. The backyard had a few amenities for the kids—a basketball court, tennis court, and a pool. However, the main attraction was the garden. It was complete with a rainbow array of azaleas, roses, tulips and more. There was a koi pond for meditation. The garden led to a hedge maze that was trimmed each week, even though the residents rarely played in it.The backyard made up for the shortcomings of the front of the house, which most of the residents considered painfully boring. The front was gated as well, with a long winding road that led to a roundabout parking area shaded by a canopy supported by marble columns. But none of the Lancaster children drove or were allowed to have friends over, so it was a void of wasted space. The only thing on display was the twenty-foot statue in the center of the roundabout.On a glance, it was a dragon.However, after staring at it for a minute, most guests had no idea what kind of monstrous creature it was. They had to know the history of the family to understand its significance. It had the face and twisting neck of a snake or lizard, but the snout had long and unruly whiskers. In place of ears, were massive fins that resembled batwings. Each detailed scale was like a plate of armor, nearly the size of a man’s head. This was not an ordinary dragon. It was Leviathan, the demonic beast that transcended multiple religions across the globe, including Christianity, Judaism, and Tanakh.It was also the emblem of the Lancaster family.It was a sort of spiritual guardian that had been associated with them for hundreds of years. The Lancasters had such an affinity with the mythological creature that they even wore its symbol around their necks at all times.In total, the mansion and land within the gated property only ran for 91 million dollars—which was a good deal, considering the location, upgrades, and renovations.Because the owner of Lancaster Manor treasured his privacy and peace, he chose this location on the outskirts of Blyton City half a century ago. Even for the home of a billionaire, it was colossal. It needed to be. A large family lived here. The Lancasters consisted of thirteen members in total.Mr. Benedict Lancaster and his twelve adopted children.Each of them had accomplished their own unique feats and was more impressive than the last. The exception was the newly admitted member of the family, Helena. She was brought in from a small town in Norway.Helena never spoke a word. Not since her parents died. It was a tragedy. Her father beat her mother to death over an uncooked meal. Shortly after, his actions must have sunken in. He poured poison into his coffee and died at the breakfast table the next morning. If it were not for the mercy and compassion of her new father figure, Benedict Lancaster, Helena would still be at the rundown foster home halfway across the globe, surviving on nothing but water, bread, and porridge.Most of her siblings joked at her expense when she arrived, calling her the ‘ghost girl’ who haunts the halls of Lancaster Manor. There were a few reasons for her nickname. The first was because she was albino with long platinum blond hair, each strand resembling pure silvery beams of starlight. She always had a big blue azalea fastened to her hairpin beside her left ear. She never smiled or frowned. Not that it would matter much, due to the black facemask she constantly wore, concealing everything from her nose down. It was exceedingly difficult for most to get a read on her emotions. Since she was mute, Helena had a way of communicating through her eyes. It was a good thing they were huge. She was not good at interacting with others—except with her brother, Levi. With a single blank stare, Levi could tell whether she wanted a glass of water, help with homework, or to play outside.At times, she was more pet-like than little sister. Since she could not talk, she would nudge Levi with whatever book she wanted him to read to her. She did this multiple times a week. He never complained. She cuddled closely to his chest and stared in awe at the same colorful pictures of castles and kingdoms. She was always in a wide-eyed trance, just as the first time it was read to her. She was hooked onto his articulate speaking voice. She would gently tug on his sleeve when she was bored, hungry, or wanted an escort around their hotel-sized home. She never bothered the others this way. Occasionally, she would knock twice on one of her other ten brothers’ and sisters’ doors and stare silently until what she wanted became apparent.“Levi’s at a debate competition. He’ll be back late tonight,” they would say. Or “Check the library. Levi and Blake are playing chess.” Helena would not even nod in response. She would just stand there and blink twice. The next time her siblings looked up, Helena would be gone.She was a living ghost child if they ever saw one…However, that was the extent of her simplicity. Like her brothers and sisters, she too had flawless grades. She did not participate in her classroom discussions, but she did answer every test question correctly. She was exceptionally gifted and wrote down all her answers. She was seven, performing at an eighth-grade reading, writing, and math level.The reason that Benedict Lancaster adopted such a big and diverse family was due to the dynamics of his own upbringing. At ninety years of age, the billionaire had everything he could ever want—money, homes, cars, and notoriety. However, that was not always the case. When he was just a boy of twelve, there was a great fire in his home that wiped out his entire wealthy family. Benedict was the lone survivor and heir to his family’s vast fortune. He talked about it a lot during interviews and in memoirs. He told his story so often that it sounded rehearsed, complete with a single forced tear from his eye at the end every time.After his family’s demise, he strengthened the empire of his father’s insurance company, learning as much as he could about finances and economics. He educated himself in various areas and purchased other companies. He took risks and started numerous enterprises from the ground up.Retail.Oil.Stock exchange.He left no business venture untouched.During interviews, when asked what drove him to reach his pinnacle of success, Benedict would smirk and rub his family’s pendant—the Leviathan emblem. It was a cross with an extra line stretching below the arms. Beneath that, was an infinity symbol at the base. Benedict was not shy about giving thanks to his family’s creed of the Great Leviathan. His principle was that success will only come from great risk, great perseverance, and great sacrifice.The sacrifice was key.Because Benedict was infertile, he never had an opportunity to have children of his own. This needed to change. He had a legacy he felt obligated to pass down. He took it upon himself to adopt a daughter, Pearl, at the age of three, raising her as his own.Then, he adopted a son, Hiroshi, from Kamagasaki, Japan.Most would have been content with two children. However, billionaire, innovator, and philanthropist, Benedict Lancaster was not ‘most’. Far from it. He did not slow down. Every year or so, he brought in a new orphan from a poverty-stricken part of the world. He gave them the chance of a lifetime. He may not have been directly involved in their growth and development, but he loved each of his children enough to hire them the best mentors and track their progress. It was as if he treated his newly created family as a business. Usually, he would handpick his children’s teachers, trainers, and coaches, and then they would take the reins from there. Honestly, because of his demanding schedule, Benedict was often removed from his children’s lives for months at a time. He toured from state to state, country to country, making appearances, giving ‘life tips’ and ‘get rich quick’ seminars, and attended countless company meetings.However, every blue moon, Benedict Lancaster would grace his adopted children with his presence. He would evaluate their grades, their appearance, their recent accomplishments, goals, and how they planned on achieving greatness just like him.“You’ve raised 2 million dollars?!” Benedict asked Eden, one of his twelve, regarding her self-started charity to feed starving children. “Very splendid, my selfless saint! Very splendid!”“Thank you, father,” Eden curtseyed. “Truth be told, much of the donations came from contributors drawn in by the notoriety of the Lancaster name. Nevertheless, my nonprofit organization, Eden’s Garden, is on track to double in its donations by next year.”“Simply awe-inspiring!” praised Benedict, closing his eyes and patting his fragile chest over his heart. His secretary silently documented the figures and goals on a clipboard throughout their meeting.“Please send Levi in next, my selfless saint,” instructed Benedict. When Eden left her father’s office, she closed the door gently and tapped her brother on the shoulder, signaling for him to enter.His armpits were soaked. Nervously, Levi took a deep breath and exhaled before walking in with his notes.“4.3 GPA…” read Father Benedict, reviewing his tablet through his thick reading glasses. “Very good. Very good…Quite adequate with the piano now too, I hear. Very good… And it says here you started on your previous goal of establishing the debate club at your school? Tell me of your recent conquests.” Father Benedict grinned through his dentures as he removed his glasses. His smile folded his face into wrinkles, and he held his cane with shaky hands as he met his fifteen-year-old son eye-to-eye.“Yes…” Levi cleared his throat into a balled fist. He was always on edge when he spoke with his father. He only had a handful of moments to make him proud. “Recently, I won the regional debate tournament for my school’s team. I have also been taking public speaking lessons each Tuesday and Thursday. Starting next week, I plan on interning under your lawyer, Mr. Webster, every Wednesday afternoon to learn new ways to enhance my deliberation techniques.”Benedict clapped and nodded proudly. “Marvelous, my talented talker. Marvelous.” Benedict wrote something down in his own notebook and then continued with their scheduled meeting. They talked through girls he liked at his school, his diet and exercise routine, and how the morale has been between him and his siblings. “You’ve done an excellent job taking your little sister, Helena, under your wing. She nods and shakes her head when I speak with her, but my silent princess of potential still does not talk.” He chuckled and slapped his knee. “Kids these days are so bashful…I’m hoping that you and her speech therapist will continue to work with her.”“Of course, father.” Levi bowed.“May you continue to pave your own way, my son…” Father Benedict feebly rose to his feet and clacked his cane to the wooden floor. “In the name of the Great Leviathan…”Levi and his father both held their matching family pendants that dangled from their necks and pounded their hearts.They chanted in unison. “Amen!”Their meeting ended with an awkward hug and then Benedict sent his son on his way to bring in the next sibling for their monthly evaluation.CHAPTER 2Night of the LeviathanThe final bell signaled the end of the school day for Elysium Preparatory Academy. It was where all the Lancasters attended. Pearl was the first alumni as of last year, and their sister, Zara, was recently the only sibling allowed to be homeschooled due to her unique career field of interest. Elysium was a top tier private academy that housed students from wealthy families ranging from first grade to twelfth. With the exception of Pearl and Zara, all Lancaster children were currently in attendance.As the final bell rang, a schoolgirl in the sophomore microbiology class approached Levi giddily. She was beyond thrilled to be in his presence. Kitty leaned in towards his desk as she clasped her hands behind her back. “I hear your family’s pretty famous,” she teased, immediately cutting to the chase. She was the daughter of a politician and was new to the school. She had silky dark hair that flowed with each of her steps and a vexing leer that was enhanced by her prominent eyelashes. She wore the standard school uniform of a cobalt blue skirt and vest, along with her own matching French barrette. The new girl was infatuated with the gossip she heard about the Lancasters ever since her first period class. “There’re twelve of you in all, huh? I thought that your parents were just really busy,” she jested with a wink. “But it turns out that you guys are all adopted. You could have your own sitcom. Move over Brady Bunch!” she giggled. Levi listened intently to be polite, but not a single bit of her charm, charisma, or banter landed. He just stared and waited.Surely, she had a point.“Anyway,” Kitty continued. “We’re partnered up for the cellular mitosis presentation next week. I don’t care too much for our topic, but I feel like I just won the lottery! I get the pleasure of working with the super smart, super handsome, and super rich, Levi Lancaster. Want to work on it tonight?”Levi was able to filter out her praise and unorthodox approach. He was used to it by now. There were many students that could not keep their composure around the Lancasters. Even though it was their father who was famous, the children were essentially celebrities by association. Before answering, Levi casually removed his planner from his backpack. He flipped through a few pages, stopping on today’s date. He clicked his pen as he tapped it against his full lips.It was Friday.In all honesty, it was an ideal opportunity to dedicate time to group work.He had no piano lessons.No cross country practice.No tutoring.And most importantly, no debate club.His schedule did display an hour dedicated to self-reflection that his father recommended he should take in the family’s Zen garden, but he could move that to tomorrow. He made note of it in his planner and then closed it shut.“Sure. Today works well. Where would you like to meet? Your place or the library?”Kitty pressed her fingers together and tried to play off a smirk. “I was actually hoping you’d be open to working on it at Lancaster Manor…”Levi held out a finger and shook his head ‘no’ calmly. “I’m afraid that’s out of the question,” he refuted. “It’s strictly off limits to guests. You’ll have to forgive me. My siblings and I aren’t allowed to have friends over. Under rare circumstances and celebrations, we can invite guests, so long as they are vetted and receive our father’s approval at least a week in advance. Today would be too short of notice for him. I’m sure you understand.”Kitty frowned. She was not used to guys rejecting her, let alone so coldly. She was intelligent, hence her acceptance into Elysium Prep. But more importantly, at her old school, she was a cheerleader. She was easy on the eyes with her smooth olive complexion and had curves in all the right places and knew how to use them. Getting dismissed over something as trivial as homework made her pout. Levi appeared so disinterested with her to the point where Kitty misinterpreted his nonchalance as playing hard to get.When school ended, the Lancasters were picked up by Bartleby, the family butler. He was not just a butler and chauffeur. He was the closest friend of their family for decades, serving as their immediate go-to for anything and everything.There was other help that was hired for cooking, cleaning, and keeping the children on their schedule, but they were all screened by Bartleby. He was the only one permitted to live at the estate. All other help had to abide by a strict schedule. There was a cook that came in to prepare breakfast and lunch at 6am. The second cook came at 4pm for supper time. There were three maids that arrived at 8am. They worked on one end of the home during the mornings and would be done with sprucing up by the time evening hit. Luckily, the children were adequate when it came to keeping their rooms tidy, so the maids’ workload was relatively light.Each of the children had their mentors as well. There were physical trainers: track and field coaches, weightlifters, fencing, swimming, tennis, and more. Music teachers too: Piano, guitar, singing, etc. It did not necessarily matter what instrument each child chose, but their father required each of them to learn at least one. “Well-roundedness is close to godliness,” their father would say. Then, there were their tutors: calculus, trigonometry, chemistry, biology, anatomy, English, Literature, Japanese, French, German, Spanish and more. Each of them was required to maintain a 4.0 GPA. There were no exceptions.Bartleby stood outside the limousine, holding the door open. One by one, the Lancasters entered, youngest to oldest. They sipped lemonade as they unwound and enjoyed their leisurely ride home.“Did you hear about Mauve?” whispered Troy when they arrived. He was the heaviest set of the children and had a passion for all things food—cooking andtasting. He gossiped amongst a few of his brothers about the black sheep of the family as the children untied and removed their shoes, leaving them at the door. He cupped his hand. “She ran out of father’s office screaming last night during the middle of her evaluation. Apparently, they were clashing because her GPA dropped to a 3.8.”The youngest Lancaster boy at the age of thirteen and meanest brother, Sion and Allister respectfully, both chuckled when they heard the amusing gossip. They knew something was upsetting their gothic-clad sister more than usual lately.Troy divulged that Mauve had been grounded from leaving the house and that she would no longer be receiving an allowance until her 4.0 was recovered. Each of them earned the same amount. Two-hundred dollars a week as long as they met their father’s high standards. In theory, they could spend their money however they wanted, but any of them would feel uncomfortable using it for anything other than what was approved by Father Benedict. They were too busy to travel, go to concerts, or play video games, due to their hefty schedules, so most of their money went directly to their savings account or various investments recommended to them by their family’s financial advisor. Since the vast majority of the Lancasters’ meals were cooked for them each morning and evening, Mauve losing her allowance was more humiliating than a punishment that would impact her quality of living.Allister joked that his sister’s days as a Lancaster were numbered. According to him, she would be disowned before the end of the year. He added insult to injury by making light of her punishment. “Is grounding her really necessary? Think about it. Does she have any friends anyway? Is father keeping her from some secret social life we all don’t know about?”Unfortunately, he was not as discreet as his brothers. Of course, Mauve was standing near the back in earshot of the gossip the whole time. She could have easily guessed what they were all laughing at. She sniffled and grit her teeth as she stomped up the winding staircase to her room in misery. “I hate it here and I hate you all!” she cried.When Pearl swooped by to lecture Allister on his cruelty, the weirdest thing happened. The doorbell rang. The Lancasters stared at it in puzzlement. They had so few guests over that they often forgot what it sounded like. When Levi answered the door, he was surprised to see his classmate—Katherine Chao a.ka. Kitty.He was stupefied. He immediately wondered if he misinterpreted their last conversation. He questioned his communication skills altogether. Was he not clear? He could have sworn he made it undeniably apparent. She was not welcomed here.When he asked her purpose for being at his doorstep, she joked that she could have sworn on the Holy Bible that he invited her over for their project today. She helped herself in and immediately started taking pictures of the grand entryway and the double-winding staircase. Levi’s hand blocked her from snapping a shot of their chandelier that twinkled like a small star-filled galaxy.After promising to put it away, Levi handed Kitty back her phone. When asked how she got here, she admitted she trailed their limousine. She pointed beyond the yard to the edge of their property fence. Her car was parked just outside the automatic gates. She bragged that hopping the perimeter was no challenge for her. “How did you get past security?” asked Levi. “We always have guards on duty.”Kitty raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t see any guards at all,” she admitted, just as surprised as he was.Something was wrong. Rain or shine, there were always at least two security guards on patrol at Lancaster Manor. Levi began to wonder if they perhaps both called off sick for the day. It would be unlikely. The only other possibility would be if Bartleby gave them the day off for some reason.“Who’s the babe?” chuckled Troy, making his way through and leaning against the stair railing. He reached out and placed a delicate kiss on the back of Kitty’s hand.“She’s a new classmate of mine. Daughter of Blyton City Mayor, Debra Chao. Kitty Chao,” introduced Levi, maintaining his manners despite his frustration. “She was just leaving.”“Kitty Chao?” asked Troy with a grin. “Like cat food?”The other Lancasters joined in and bellowed in laughter. Kitty admitted that it had been an ongoing joke for years and she adored it. Most of her usernames and email accounts included some kind of tuna or cat food related reference.Right away, she had a strong magnetism with the Lancaster family, including the girls that gathered around her. They traded compliments on each other’s hairstyles and purses. Some of them even recognized her walking the halls of Elysium Prep earlier in the day. “Aw, is she your little girlfriend, Levi?” asked Pearl, tugging at his cheek. “I’m sure father will find her delightful!”He denied any connection, other than being her study partner, but that did not stop his siblings from teasing and drawing conclusions of their own. When Hiroshi found out that she was a cheerleader, he effortlessly lifted her up and placed her on his broad shoulders to show off his strength. “So, would I have made the team?” he joked in a baritone grunt.Kitty ate it up. She immediately started taking selfies with the Lancasters and added them as friends to her social media. Levi could tell that she must be the life of the party wherever she went. With every second longer she stayed, the harder it would be to get rid of her.“Well, we’ll let you two hit the books,” winked Cynthia, Levi’s tech savviest sister as she sent the two on their way.Surrendering to the social parasite, Levi cringed as he brought Kitty up to his room. She acted like she had never seen an elevator before, and he could practically hear her ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ in her head. She reached for her phone, but when Levi glared her way, she held herself back from taking any more pictures. When the doors opened, Levi’s worst nightmare appeared.Beloved Father Benedict.He was being escorted by Levi’s most rivaled sibling, Blake, who pushed their father along by his wheelchair. Both Blake and their father eyed Kitty with perplexment.“How shameful.” Blake loathed the sight. Everything about this Lancaster was sharp—his glare included. Not only was he tall and lanky, but his shoulders, nose, and spiky hair pointed as well. He was a stick insect in human form. Since his teeth seemed sharper than his siblings’, much of the family said Blake looked as though he could pass for a vampire, regardless if it was Halloween or not. “Look, father. Levi brought an uninvited guest into our home. It must have slipped his mind as he broke your rule of providing at least a week of notice. Would you like me to escort her out?”Levi felt like he swallowed a rock. Would he be the next to make his father’s list? Would there be talk of him getting disowned like Mauve? He felt like a disgrace, a traitor to his father’s clear and quite reasonable expectations.“Nonsense,” laughed Benedict. “Don’t be rude! Levi is doing remarkably well in all areas, academic and otherwise. When it comes to his evaluations, he is my one and only perfect-scoring child. He deserves to have a friend over.”Father Benedict could not see Blake’s expression because he was behind him, but his son grimaced horrendously. “Benedict Lancaster, at your service, miss,” he greeted, using his creased and veiny hands to shake hers. He gently kissed it and invited her to stay over for supper as well. He claimed it was going to be quite an exceptional feast and that he would not take ‘no’ for an answer.“You have fun now, you two!” nodded Benedict as Blake wheeled him away. “Don’t study too hard.”“See,” laughed Kitty. “Your pops is a chill dude.”Levi sighed and let it go. He nearly had a heart attack. Maybe the rumors were true. Maybe he was his father’s favorite as the others had often suggested in the past. At the risk of having an inflated ego, he doubted this theory. Everyone, with the exception of Mauve, had been accused of being Benedict’s “favorite” at some point. Pearl was the first to be adopted, so they joked that shewas the favorite. There was even an ugly rumor spread by Allister that she was a little too close to Father Benedict in a ‘wifey’ sort of way. Fortunately, as far as their family dynamic went, their father never seemed to cross any lines other than an occasional kiss on the cheek that seemed a little too intimate in the eyes of the others. There was also Hiroshi, who was the first boy to be adopted, so the others claimed he was the favorite. Eden was the golden child who never had a negative thing said about her in the papers, so many gossiped that she was really the favorite. Then there was Blake. Academically speaking, he was the smartest and had the best grades. He was also the biggest suck-up, so the younger ones nagged and thought hewas the most cherished in the family. Levi hoped that just as with most typical parents, there were no actual favorites. He prayed they were all loved equally.In his room, Levi was surprised he and Kitty got as much work done as they did. She really was smart. It was as if she had her fill of soaking in the acclaimed esteem of Lancaster Manor and was finally able to focus on what Levi cared about most in this moment.Mitosis.Beautiful diploid cells, DNA, gametes, and zygotes!Cellular division.He needed to keep his grades flawless. As long as his father was proud of him, Levi could be proud of himself as well. Kitty removed a picture of splitting cells from his printer and began cutting them out with scissors. She pasted the cells neatly on a poster board. Levi began his favorite part of any project, typing up their talking points. In a way, he viewed it as additional practice for his focus area—public speaking. He typed as he answered a few more of Kitty’s superficial questions regarding his family’s wealth.‘How many vacations do you go on each year? Where was the coolest place you visited? How many parties does your family throw? How much spending money do you get?’He had no issue answering them, so long as they remained productive. However, their productivity did not last long. Kitty seductively reached around him and made excuses for close body contact. She stood behind him as he worked on the computer and placed her hands over his, typing in her own notes. Soon, she placed her arms around him entirely.Despite being a Lancaster, the top of the food chain by society’s standards, Levi was terribly nervous. Normally, he was so busy with his schoolwork and extracurriculars that he had no time or interest in relationships. His pits were starting to moisten with an anxious sweat.“We…won’t be able to date,” Levi mumbled awkwardly. He would have blushed if his dark complexion allowed it. “My father has me on an incredibly busy schedule. I don’t want to lead you on...”Kitty bit down on her lip and leaned in with a whisper. “Who said anything about dating?” She situated herself on his lap as she pressed her lips into his.Levi was experienced in a multitude of subjects.This was not one of them.Luckily, he was a fast learner. He caught on to the groove as they made out for a few minutes. Their hands seemed to move on their own as they searched each other’s bodies.Surely, she was a gold digger. Or at the very least, probably made out with most guys she met. Somehow, even knowing this, Levi did not seem to mind in the moment.In the corner of his eye, a shadow slithered from behind Levi’s desk. Kitty popped her head around when she sensed its presence. Her heart skipped a beat and she stood up. Two white hands reached out from the abyss beneath the draping covers under Levi’s bed. She screamed as the arms wrapped around her legs.It was Helena.After Kitty caught her breath, she was introduced to the newest addition to the Lancaster family.“Helena, what did I tell you about hiding down there?” Levi asked sternly.As usual, she responded with no words or sounds. Helena simply shrugged and sat upright. She kicked her feet up and down from the edge of the bed and hooked her curious gaze on the new face that made its way into her home. “You scared me, little one,” laughed Kitty.Helena did not acknowledge her, but kept her pupils locked on target, following each of their guest’s minute movements. Levi explained that Helena did not talk and that as the spokesman and debater of the family, he was chosen by their father as the one best suited to manage her progress. He read to her, taught her songs, showed her flashcards, and even practiced his speeches and monologues on her. Other than receiving an occasional thumbs up or down, she did not communicate. He did not mind mentoring his new sister and helping her open up, but in the back of his mind, Levi believed it would not lead anywhere. At most, he thought he might have heard Helena yawn a few weeks ago. If her muteness persisted, Father Benedict recommended hiring a sign language tutor for her and the rest of the family.When it was time for supper, Kitty was once again in awe of the place. Levi thought her jaw would never rise again. She soaked in every square inch of the great hall in the formal dining room. She felt like she went back in time to the middle ages—in a king’s castle. Two chandeliers hung above the long wooden table, dressed in an emerald green tablecloth. Placed every few feet or so were wax candles, setting the mood with flickering flames.At the end of the long room was a roaring fireplace. Above it, was the Lancaster family guardian.The Great Leviathan.It represented many things, depending on the culture or religion. Some viewed it as a demon, others as a force of nature. At the end of the day, it simply was what it was—a sea monster.It was a terrifying wooden mask—an ancient relic of the past. It was goldish green in color. Textured too, as it imitated finite fishy scales. Each of the thousand scales shimmered in translucent jade and azure depending on the angle of the lighting. The mask resembled a dragon with fins and gills. Two devil horns sprouted from the top, curving into long pointed tips. Alongside the mouth and chin were several catfish-like whiskers that dangled like the beast’s facial hair. Its eyes were simple red swirls. It looked like it was in some sort of trance. In turn, Kitty’s eyes circled as well, following the trail of the spirals. She had to shake her head to snap out of it.“So, what’s the deal with your family’s guardian?” she asked, sitting beside Levi as she removed the silver ring from her cloth napkin and laying it over her lap. “We learned about Leviathan in my religions class last year,” Kitty mentioned. “Isn’t it literally the devil in some cultures? At the very least, isn’t it portrayed as a demon? Your family isn’t some kind of Satanic cult, right?” she huffed a nervous laugh, praying he would laugh back. It would be uncomfortable if he did not. The silence between them went on for three awkward seconds too long.It was a breath of fresh air when Levi finally chuckled. Then he divulged. “We get asked that all the time,” he admitted. “No. We still have church sermons here at the house. Aside from Mauve, who is a self-proclaimed Buddhist, we’re all Christian. We were just raised to have a unique relationship with God. We believe in him and respect his power and glory. However, we also believe in challenginghim with our own will and accomplishments. Leviathan represents the power and perseverance of the Lancaster family.”“Challenginghim?” echoed Kitty under her breath. There was concern in her tone.Levi elaborated. “I’m sure you’re familiar with our father’s famous saying. ‘Greatness only derives from great risk, great perseverance, and great sacrifice’?”She was unfamiliar with it. Regardless, Kitty coughed and made a hard right turn into a new conversation. She wanted to avoid this topic at all costs. Religion, race, and politics were a bit heavy for a first-time guest anyway.“Children, I’m afraid Master Lancaster is not feeling well,” warned Bartleby. “Your father will not be joining you tonight for dinner.” There was a chorus of moans and groans amongst the children.Kitty loved how diverse and distinguished each of the Lancasters were. She expected them to be a monolith—classy, snobby, and intellectually superior to the point that they were obnoxious know-it-alls. However, that was not the case. They all came from various nationalities and although they were all teenagers, aside from Helena, they were different ages with vastly different personalities and hobbies. Levi happened to be from Kenya and was the president of their school’s debate club, despite him being a sophomore at only fifteen years of age.One of the oldest was Hiroshi at eighteen. He was a muscular titan of a man from Japan and was an undefeated freestyle wrestling champion of Elysium Preparatory Academy.Mauve, at thirteen, was adopted from Cambodia and headed the school’s philosophy club.At nineteen, the family elder, Pearl, was a silver medalist skeet shooter. One would never have guessed from meeting her because she had no accent, but she was taken in from New Zealand as a baby.Blake was Iranian and the third oldest, also at eighteen. He did not need a dime of his father’s money for Harvard as he had a full-ride scholarship from his grades and accomplishments as a world class chess champion.Cynthia was Brazilian. Although she was only seventeen, she was incredibly gifted and passionate in the software engineering field.Allister, the other Olympian competitor in the family, was only seventeen and had won several national fencing competitions and nearly placed in the Olympics on multiple occasions. He was brought in directly from Uganda.Eden was from Russia. In her ten plus years since becoming a Lancaster, she had created her own successful charity organization and raised over two million dollars from strangers around the world in an effort to feed starving children in impoverished nations. Just like Levi, she was also fifteen.Zara, the self-proclaimed ‘triple-threat’, was a diva at heart ever since she became a Lancaster. The seventeen-year-old originated from India. Although she dabbled in modeling and singing, she most recently starred in a supporting role for her first movie expected to be released early next year. Due to her demanding schedule, she was the only Lancaster who was granted permission to be homeschooled.Out of the entire family, Troy was the only one to have been adopted from the United States. He was Native American. He had a passion for cuisines and even helped cook the family’s four-course meal this evening. At age sixteen, he was the only other Lancaster to have a full-ride scholarship, but in his case, to a prestigious culinary institute.Despite his multiple suspensions for mischief and bullying, Sion founded the chemistry club at Elysium Preparatory Academy. He was adopted just two years ago from Puerto Rico and was now thirteen years old.And last, but certainly not least, silent Helena was the newest addition to the family from Norway as of this year. As for her area of expertise, well, she would find her calling someday. She was the youngest of her siblings at seven years of age and had plenty of time to discover her passion. Even still, despite her silent and sometimes toddler-like mannerisms, she was highly intelligent. Her grades were a testament to that. There was even an argument months back regarding rumors that she came close to dethroning Blake in a game of chess. That is, until the board mysteriously fell over.Yes, the Lancasters were an amazing family. Simply one of a kind. Their father took them in from every corner of the globe and gave them the best opportunity and drive for success that money, discipline, and prestige could buy. ‘It must have been like winning the lottery,’ thought Kitty. When everyone gathered to the table, Blake grabbed the family’s attention, gently tapping his spoon against his tall glass.“Levi,” announced Blake once everyone settled down. “The rotation has come full circle. It is your turn to lead in the family prayer.”Levi looked embarrassed to begin this nightly tradition with his guest joining them at their table, but his brother shook him out of it quickly. “Are you ashamed of your family just because you have a friend over?” scoffed Blake. “She shouldn’t even be here.”“Nonsense,” Pearl interjected. As the oldest and first to be adopted, she was usually the peacekeeper of their home. She defended Levi like a guardian angel. “Nowhere does it say that we cannot be ourselves in the company of guests.” She took Kitty’s hand and the twelve Lancaster siblings closed their eyes, grabbing their neighbor’s hand on their right and left in what seemed like the start of blessing the food.But something was off. Something was terribly unsettling.This was not a simple prayer to God or words of grace that one would usually give before a meal. One of the children dimmed the lights before returning to the table and interlocking fingers, aligning himself back into the ring. Now, the only light sources were the crackling fireplace at the wall and the flickering candles spread throughout the table. For the first minute, no one spoke at all. Kitty wondered if the silence was part of it.Then it began.The Lancaster children have been reciting these words for so many years that they did not give them a second thought as they left their shadowy lips.“Father,” started Levi. He was the loudest, but soon the others joined in fainter echoing voices. Kitty peeked with one eye open as she saw the others mouth the prayer with dignified passion. “I call unto you in the name of the Great Leviathan, mighty serpent of the sea. Thank you for your bounty for we are not yet deserving. I stand proud and pray you acknowledge and accept my sins and fallen graces. For I have already done so. My actions are my own, and in the end, I will defy your whim and power, as it is in your creation that you provided us the will to do so. We challenge you, Lord, to hurl every rock, flame, and beast in our path so that we may grow stronger with each healed wound from the passing day. I shall fight tooth and nail to the bitter end until my blood runs dry and my bones turn to dust. Time devours all—my flesh, my family, and name. But our actions are eternal. As long as we have the will to grow, even you shall fear what I will become.”Levi finished with, “In the name of the Great Leviathan…”Simultaneously, all of his siblings pounded a fist against their hearts and opened their eyes.“Amen!” they chanted in unison.At that, Sion, the youngest boy, flipped the switch on the wall and illuminated the room once again. The Lancaster children reverted back to normal and went about their business.Just like that, the ominous veil was lifted.Kitty was left speechless.Their prayer had satanic undertones and yet none of them seemed to realize it. These were the nicest people, but to the uninformed, one might have guessed that they just sent praise to a demon—this so-called Great Leviathan. And to think, they have been reciting this prayer for years. Just what religion were they again? The only one that acknowledged their odd behavior was Pearl who smiled innocently. “Please don’t think we’re freaky,” she laughed. She whispered through a cupped hand into Kitty’s ear. “It’s more of a family creed than anything else. It basically means the Lancaster family will always persevere in the face of adversity and despair.”Kitty needed to hear that. She gulped and nodded in agreement. Judging from the tone moments ago, she thought it would not have been out of the realm of possibility for the Lancasters to sacrifice her to this ‘Leviathan’ and mount her head on the wall.What a thought that was.However, everything did seem to go back to normal instantly after their prayer.She was going to ask Levi more about it, but he had his hands full. Little Helena stood silently, extending her plate out with both hands. He intuitively knew what she wanted and began cutting her steak into tiny bite-sized niblits. Without a ‘thank you’, she sat back at her seat beside him. She removed her mask, setting it down gently by her silverware, revealing the lower half of her face and took her time eating.She even ate silently too.“Why does Helena wear a facemask?” Kitty asked, noticing her exposed puffy lips and doll-like button nose.“She has autism,” Levi replied matter-of-factly before taking a swig of his sparkling ice water. “She’s incredibly smart but suffers in some of her social skills. The mask helps her feel safer—like she doesn’t have to talk. It’s more of a security blanket than anything else.”The energy returned to the dining hall as Kitty enjoyed her meal. It was exquisite. Roasted Kobe beef with sizzled bronze flaky skin, cooked cool red in the center. Fresh leaf-green asparagus. Slices of crisp buttered potatoes on the side. Sparkling water to wash it down. And that was just the main course. Troy, the soon to be chef of the family, helped prepare a chocolate mousse that came next.Everyone was refined while they ate, and once again, Kitty felt like the odd one out. Feeling the pressure kick in, she tried to remember which of her three forks she was supposed to use. Her hand was frozen in midair until she picked one at random. Sion pointed across the table and bellowed in juvenile snickering. “That’s a salad fork!” he roared, slapping his leg. His outburst did not embarrass her. If anything, it was another sweet bit of relief that the Lancasters were people too—teenagers with faults of their own.The biggest member of the family, Hiroshi, grabbed his thirteen-year-old brother in a headlock and ground his knuckles against his skull. “That’s not how we act in front of guests,” he joked. Sion, the youngest boy in the family giggled hysterically.“Stop your horseplay,” chided Pearl. “Hiroshi, you’ll hurt him.” Both boys laughed it off as Sion playfully escaped and pretended to stab the back of the gentle giant’s head with a butter knife.“You are setting a bad first impression of our family,” Pearl nagged. “Just what do you think Kitty will say when her friends ask how her dining experience was with the Lancasters, hmm? She’ll tell them ‘It was like dining with the chimpanzees at Blyton City Zoo’.”“Boys will be boys,” sighed Cynthia after taking a spoonful of her savory dessert. “That’s what you get when they don’t have a mother to keep them in line. But I suppose Pearl is the next best thing,” she added, joining in on the amusement.“Really?” scoffed Mauve from across the table. For a moment, everyone forgot that she was even there. Despite her unique gothic appearance—black lipstick, choker collar, and tinged green hair—something about her bland and bleak personality always had her blending into the wallpaper. No one expected her to be outspoken, or even to be listening to the conversation since her headphones were in the entire time. “The whole ‘boys will be boys’ remark is just feeding into their toxic masculinity. Even father hates that phrase…” she mumbled, picking a piece of asparagus out of her braces.The vibe was instantly killed. Mauve never spoke that much to begin with, but whenever she did, she was guaranteed to bring everyone down. She seemed to have her own personal raincloud that followed her wherever she went. Everything that came from her mouth was nothing but doom and gloom.At that, the Lancasters diverged into their own separate conversations until supper ended. After much pleading, Levi obliged Kitty by giving her a tour of Lancaster Manor—most of the estate anyway. It would have taken a full day to go over every room, piece of art and architecture, and amenity. She even let him hold her hand for most of it. He started off at the grand hall dining room with each of their hanging portraits. The Lancaster children looked dashing and beautiful in their matching teal and black suits and dresses. It was the same ones they were wearing now. Levi suited up and fastened his tie as he changed out of his school uniform earlier in the day. They always suited up for dinner when their father was in town. There were thirteen portraits. In the middle was the man himself, Benedict Lancaster, the prestigious billionaire philanthropist. On each of his sides, there were six of his children. Their portraits were arranged with boys on the left and girls on the right from youngest to oldest.There was no doubt. Their home was the size of their school, if not a little bigger than Elysium Preparatory Academy. Levi and Kitty stepped outside for a bit to take a stroll around the garden. However, they did not bother walking around the tennis court or pool. It would have taken too long. Levi’s family was the epitome of the ‘one percent’.The hedge maze was dark, but Levi knew every turn and dead end. He decided it was a good opportunity to let Kitty take the lead and to get to know her on more than just a superficial level. It turned out that she transferred from a public school, Mitchelstown High, near downtown Blyton. One of her cheerleading teammates was a mutual acquaintance who used to attend Elysium Academy—some wealthy girl by the name of Vivian. Her father, Constantine Remer, headed Hyperion, a weapon manufacturing company that Father Benedict often did business with.“Of course, you’d would know Vivian! She’s like super rich,” explained Kitty. “But even the Remers can’t hold a candle to the Lancasters. You could fit a few of her mansions inside yours!” she laughed. “She told me she left Elysium because she didn’t have any friends there.” There was disgust in Kitty’s voice over this next part. “Now, she just hangs with a couple of geeks.” She went on to explain one of the friends with violet died hair.“I get the appeal and fascination with money and social class, but surely you must think there’s more to life than that,” Levi insisted.Kitty scrunched her face and had a hard time digesting what he was getting at. It was easy for Levi to say. He already had all those things. After shaking her head, Kitty explained her upbringing. He could tell it was painful for her. Kitty’s parents shared custody over her. From her point of view, it was a tale of two completely different lives. One foot was in the doorway of heaven—the other was past the gateway of hell. Her mother, the current mayor, came from a privileged family of dentists that only knew Hawaiian vacations, cruises, and diamonds. Her father, on the other hand, was a deadbeat. He just so happened to be the deadbeat her mother forever regretted having a summer fling with—some country boy. One weekend, she would cruise the highway in her mother’s BMW. The next, Kitty counted the minutes until she could leave her father’s rancid trailer park. Instead of steak and lobster, she and her father ate cups of microwaveable noodles. Instead of a toasty heater and a queen-sized bed, she remembered freezing during winter break and detesting her father as they warmed themselves by a trashcan fire one Christmas.She hated that part of her upbringing, and her father by association.“You were adopted into a life of luxury while you were young…,” explained Kitty. “Very young. You haven’t tasted desperate. Money and class are everything.” She caught herself glaring and pointing and snapped out of it. For the first time, she was firm, void of her valley girl bubbly charm.She was kind enough to recognize her aggression and threw the ball back in Levi’s court, asking him what he valued, if not money and notoriety. From the center of the bushy maze, he stared at the stars that pierced through the swelling clouds. Surely, it would rain soon.“Harmony,” he breathed. When Kitty furrowed her brow, he elaborated. “Obviously, I want to make my father proud of me. It’s the least I can do to thank him for my privilege. That’s why I put my best effort into my academics, fitness, and the arts. But, if I could have one thing for myself, it would be harmony. I’d love to have a career in law or politics where I can bring people together. That’s what I enjoy about my debate club. I don’t see it as simply arguing. Sure, the goal is to ‘win’ the debate.” He made his fingers into quotations. “I see it as an exchange of ideas. I see it as an opportunity for me to negotiate and have people come together on a single issue or perspective. It’s diplomatic. It’s compromising. It’s balance. It’s peace,” He was getting excited, but finally settled with the word ‘peace’. There was tranquility within him as he mentioned it. He explained that the main reason he was okay with Kitty coming over was because he was a rather big fan of her mother, Mayor Debra Chao. He was inspired by her speeches and debates he caught on the news. She handled herself with such refined dignity and passion. Much of her education and criminal reform policies hit home for him. She was all about helping the community.Balancing the universe through her words.Harmony.Kitty laughed and tugged Levi by the arm as they turned left and exited the hedge maze. They made a stop by the fountain and she held him tight so he would stay close to her while they walked. “Didn’t know you were such a fan of my mom,” she teased. “If you promise to keep me around, and not come on to her, maybe I’ll introduce you two!” The fanboy in him was genuinely interested in the offer. For now though, he just chuckled as they wrapped up their stroll.As they passed an oak tree, Kitty nearly jumped at the sight of an overgrown rat that was sprawled out in the grass. It did not move. Its limp tongue hung over the sharp teeth of its gaping mouth. Everything classy about the Lancaster estate diminished when she saw the dead creature. On a second glance, it was too big to be a rat. She poked its coarse furry body with a stick, flipping it over to the other side. “It’s an opossum,” explained Levi. “There’s a family of them that live in that tree. They play dead as a defense mechanism. Helena tried bringing one into the house once when she thought it was sick and had fainted, only to have it tear up the kitchen twenty minutes later.” Kitty was not convinced. The creature even smelled rancid. Yet, sure enough, as they made it back to the house, Kitty looked behind her, only to see that the once dead opossum was long gone.Outside the backyard door, there stood a few men with heavy-duty tools and equipment. The family butler monitored them as they used electric drills and buzzed in a few screws. It was rather odd that they were working so late in the evening, but Levi did not question it. He had seen several handy men during the past month, repairing and replacing many of the doors and windows. He wondered if it was just that time to take care of standard home maintenance for their massive mansion. “We’re doing some upkeep on the back doors,” explained Bartleby. “You won’t be able to use these for the rest of the evening. Only the main entrance. I suggest you come back inside unless you want to be left out in the cold.” He took another disapproving look at Kitty. “Master Lancaster stated many times that no guests are permitted in the estate without his direct permission.”“Sorry, Bartleby,” Levi apologized. “It was short notice, but father actually gave his approval earlier today. She was leaving soon anyway.”Bartleby looked at his watch and squinted. “She has ten minutes,” he stated. It was not up for debate. His word was nearly as much law as Father Benedict’s in his absence. At any rate, Kitty was more than satisfied from her experience. Mostof the family took a liking to her. Even she did not want to overstay her welcome.After heading back inside, Kitty made her rounds for hugs and said her goodbyes. Despite being instructed against taking pictures, Kitty managed to snap a few of the grand dining hall and the wooden Leviathan mask when Levi was not looking. She shivered as she took another look at the floating monstrous head. She had no intention of posting the pictures on social media. That would be a fast way to burn a bridge with the family. The pictures were just something of fascination for her—trophies. She intended on showing them to just a few friends for the sake of clout. Before Levi could kiss Kitty goodbye, his youngest sister tugged at his sleeve and pulled him away. Helena handed him a book that she wanted him to read, expressing her boredom through her yearning eyes.CHAPTER 3Judge, Jury, and ExecutionerIt was 8:35pm when the tragedy took place.Bartleby gathered all twelve of the Lancaster children and brought them into the study. He waited for the chattering and side conversations to quell. It was obvious that something of great importance had occurred. As unorthodox as the Lancasters were, all of them being summoned like this on a Friday night was highly irregular. Helena had her little palms pressed against the window as she stared outside, finding more interest in the gloomy weather and the swollen ashy clouds that were starting to form. Levi pulled her back with the group and listened to what their butler had to say.“I am honored and burdened to stand before you tonight with ill news,” announced Bartleby. He stooped his head forward, pinching the rim of his nose between his eyes as he choked up. “Your father,” he gagged. “My boss, idol, and friend of thirty-seven glorious years, Benedict Lancaster, has passed on!”At that, all the energy had been sucked from the room.It hit Levi like an upper cut to his gut.He could not bring himself to believe it.Father Benedict was his life. He was all of their lives. He was their purpose for being. Everything they did was solely for him.When it was clear that this was no joke, Hiroshi spoke first. He may have been colossal, but he sobbed like the gentle giant he was. His wide face flushed beet red as he pounded the coffee table. His massive fist cracked the corner on impact, startling the other children. “Tell me it’s not true!” he bawled angrily.Most of the girls cried—except for Mauve, who crossed her arms, looking off to the ground. Pearl was hit the hardest. The shock was too much for her and she broke down. “Not father!” she shrieked, shaking her head. “Take me, but not father!” Cynthia tried soothing her, rubbing her back and crying along with her. Pearl could not stand the thought of the others seeing her this way. She left to the restroom to process the information.They all festered in their depression until Blake seemed to come to acceptance first and broke the ice. He looked completely unfazed. “He will be missed.” Blake acknowledged that he was most likely the last to see their father alive since he wheeled him to his master bedroom for a nap earlier in the afternoon that he never woke up from. “What does this mean for the rest of us?” he asked. He wasted little time investigating how this would impact him directly.“Don’t be selfish,” Hiroshi roared. “Your father just died! He took each of us out from hell and gave us everything! Can’t you show him some respect!”Bartleby calmed the group, understanding that each of them would have to cope with their loss in their own way. Unfortunately, the point that Blake was getting at was a very legitimate concern. This would impact them all, much sooner than any of them would have guessed. Bartleby waved his arms down to quell the arguing amongst the Lancaster siblings. When Pearl returned from the restroom, wiping her eyes, he informed them of what was to come next. “You will all need to follow me to his office immediately.” It was the room where they held their evaluations. Many were still unable to process the loss as they followed Bartleby down the long halls of their home. Cynthia flinched as a web of lightning flashed through the skylight windows above them. It was followed by an explosion of thunder and the escalating drum of rain beating against the glass.This was a first for them. Never have they all been in father’s office at the same time. It brought back memories of his praise and criticisms for their accomplishments and shortcomings. They all had questions about where Father Benedict was now. Was his body still in his master bedroom? If so, what was to become of him? Would he be collected immediately by the mortuary, or would they leave him be until the morning when the storm would hopefully subside?Bartleby stopped answering and assured the children that all their questions would be addressed in a video left behind by their father. With a flip of a switch, a projector screen slowly unraveled and stretched along the wall. “Is it a last will and testament?” asked Allister. He seemed a little too superficially driven. Bartleby shushed him and hit the enter key on their father’s laptop. It started a video that played through the projector as it casted on the screen before them.All of them were hooked and fell silent.“Hello, my children. If you are watching this, then I am sorry to inform you that I have now passed on.”Seeing their father fully suited and confidently speak to them eloquently gave them a blend of bliss and despair. Never again would they see him this way. They latched onto his every word.“Watching you grow into the fine young men and women you have become has been the highlight of my existence. You are all my treasures, and I could not be prouder of what you have accomplished.”As Benedict teared up, even the stronger children began to cry as well. Levi comforted Helena, rubbing her back as she sniffled silently. The room was somber. It was indeed their darkest day.“I call on all of you here today,” continued Benedict, “to inform you that there are more important matters than the death of this old man you see before you. Your future far outweighs my passing. The Lancaster family has always valued strength, sacrifice, and perseverance over all else. We fight for our future. We fight for our lives. That is our way.We live by a code that has been passed down from generation to generation. As you know, it is called the Order of the Leviathan. It is the set of principles by which I have dictated my life. They are values that were instilled in me by my family. They are the values I have instilled in you as well. It is why we wear its symbol around our necks.”Levi took a moment to kiss his family heirloom, thinking of his father and all he had done for him.“There is a tradition in the Lancaster family that ranks as the most essential for our trials and tribulations. It is one that I have kept secret from you until now.” Benedict paused and nodded before letting out this next part. “It is about natural selection—how in nature only the strongest lifeforms are worthy of survival…” Everyone was infatuated with every word their father spoke. They waited earnestly for him to tell them what to do next—how to move on from here. Benedict had always been a man of few words. They were powerful and meaningful words—but always brief.“You have all been put on a level playing field,” continued Benedict gesturing out his hand to the camera. “For years, you have been indulging in the vast wealth of the Lancaster name. Each of you was taken in from the poorest parts around the world, only to be trained on an unrivaled level. Not only have you undergone training in fitness, martial arts, and other physical activities, but you have honed your skills on a mental plane as well. Each of you is a prodigy in some individualized field of expertise. Each of you are special. However, there can only be one. Only one of you can inherit my fortune. I assure you; this is not a joke. You may think me cruel, just as I did of my father. However, later in life you will understand. You, the one winner, will see the importance in this trial as he or she advances into their golden years. At that time, you may set the stage for your descendants and carry on the tradition of the Leviathan. Since I was twelve, I have earned the title of the Leviathan. Now, I pass it on to one of you, who should ever prove themselves worthy of my legacy. One of you will follow in my footsteps, just as I had killed myadopted family over seventy years ago.”Everyone gasped.Voices started talking over each other. “What did he say?!”“Kill!?”“Is he crazy?!”Everyone was shushed by the older siblings as they let the video keep playing.“Rest assured,” smiled Benedict’s recording. “By the end of this trial, you willhave blood on your hands.” There was genuine innocence and playfulness in his grin. It was a simple reality that he accepted with no strain on his conscience.“This is insane! Some messed up joke!” spat Sion.Bartleby slapped the table furiously and shushed everyone one final time, before turning up the volume.“Let me explain the rules,” rasped the deceased Benedict.“Do not bother trying to escape from any of the doors, windows, or exits of Lancaster Manor. Everything has been locked and secured as tight as a tomb. You will exhaust your time, effort, and energy failing to leave the manor before you are the last one alive.”They started flicking their heads to one another, just to make sure they were all dumbfounded and watching the same thing.“There is a slow acting chlorine poison that will be released from the vents after thirty-six hours have passed. The cloud will make its way like a plague of death, creeping from one side of the manor to the other until every crevice of our home is filled. Luckily, we have a big home. I’d give it a few hours before every inhabitant, or housefly for that matter, is excruciatingly deceased.You may use any weapon, skill, or means at your disposal. Anything will go. Have faith in our home. It is a battleground, but it will know when only one of you is left standing.My final rule is to trust no one. Trust is the foundation of failure.” At that, Benedict nodded to the camera. “In the name of the Great Leviathan! Whichever of you that will be…”The footage came to an end. The screen went black. That was their father’s last goodbye. It was a lot to digest. It left them with more questions than answers.“What the hell was that!?” shouted Troy. He kicked over a nearby chair in his confusion and fury.Soon enough, their butler made his way up to the front beside the projection screen. He closed his eyes, as the blue light shined over his face. He cleared his throat and called for everyone’s attention once more. “Children! Children. I’m afraid that every word your father spoke is absolutely true,” murmured Bartleby. He sniveled, but somehow kept authoritative control over the room. “I may have served at your sides during all your lives, but I have been at Benedict’s for decades longer. I would follow that man to hell and back if he asked me to. I hope you realize that what he is doing for one of you is truly in your best interest. I cannot bear to bring myself to see the Leviathan Trial to its conclusion. It is far too excruciating to imagine. From this moment on, I am no longer at your service. Best of luck to all of you! It has been a privilege to serve you all!”Bartleby removed a pistol from his pocket and squeezed his eyes shut. He trembled as he tapped his temple with the metal tip. The children screamed and reached out in defiance. But they were too late. The gun cracked like thunder as he pulled the trigger.His body never had a chance to react.He simply tilted, and then collapsed like a timbering tree.The office was a mess. Bits of Bartleby were everywhere.The carpet. The walls. The desk.The children spent the first few minutes panicking. Then they argued over what really happened. The young boy, Sion, crouched in the corner, claiming it to be a nightmare. He shook his head back and forth, force feeding himself this lie.Hiroshi and Allister shoved each other as they debated whether or not they should contact the police. “We won’t get them involved. We don’t even know what’s really going on yet!” claimed Hiroshi. “Think of Benedict’s lifelong work. His companies, donations, friends! This would undo everything. Think of our family name!”“You’re crazier than the old man was!” yelled Allister. “Screw our family name. Our butler just offed himself!”As they bickered, some of the girls went to comfort wide-eyed and silent Helena. She must have been even more clueless as to what was going on than they were. Eden cried as she draped her jacket over Bartleby’s bloody face—or what was left of it. It did no good for it to be seen by anyone. She kneeled before him and prayed silently.“Guys, listen!” Levi interjected. “We need to figure this out together.” His volume and tone were just enough to capture the attention of the others. His public speaking lessons were finally paying off.“Figure this out?” derided Blake. “Our father was very clear. He has always been the type to say what he means and mean what he says.”“So, he wants us to die?” asked Cynthia.“No. He doesn’t want us to die,” mimicked Blake mockingly. “That would be passive. He wants us to kill. He wants us to take action and kill each other as some ultimate trial, proving ourselves worthy of our inheritance and our lives,” Blake spelled out plainly.“My God!” Mauve gasped.Her shrill cut through the room like a hot knife through butter. “This is insane! I knew you were monsters! And now one of you is going to kill me. I can see it in your soul!” She pointed at her family and bawled her eyes out. “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you,” she quoted her favorite philosopher, Frederick Nietzsche. Her mascara blackened her trails of tears. “You sick freaks! How dare you play his game! How dare you put more value in your life than mine! I know what you’re thinking! ‘Let’s take out Mauve first. No one would miss her anyway!’” she squeaked, as if taunting their voices.“No one’s killing anyone,” confirmed Eden. “The video was filmed recently. Father Benedict was pushing near one hundred in his age. Obviously, he must have been experiencing dementia.”None of the others seemed quite convinced. However, even that seemed more logical than what the video told them. Slowly, they began to gravitate towards this explanation, at least for now. That is until, one of them pried something from Bartleby’s cold dead hand.“What are you doing with that gun?!” asked Zara. Her eyes were glued to Allister who fiddled with the revolver that was clutched by their butler.“Don’t get your panties in a bunch,” he spat. Allister examined it with curiosity. “I don’t care what we saw on the screen. I don’t care if Jesus himself told us what the hell is going on. Pfft! Not that it matters,” he said, chucking the gun to the wall. “There was just a single bullet in it.”“I hate to state the obvious, but I feel it does need to be said,” Levi spoke up again. They all gave him the benefit of the doubt and heard him out. “None of us want to cause anyone any harm. Isn’t that right? We may have different viewpoints on countless issues right now, but let’s focus on our commonalities. Do we agree that we want to work together and do not want to hurt anyone?”He asked them all to raise a hand if they were in alignment with this basic matter. Pearl raised her hand first. Eden, Hiroshi, and Cynthia followed suit. After that, the others joined in, feeling like they would be made to look like an enemy if they did not comply. Allister and Blake regretfully raised their hands despite not wanting to be told what to do. It was a simple act, but an important one. Despite their father’s last words about ‘trust being the foundation of failure’, they were all working together. All hands were raised. They were one. They defied his final request. Somehow, this unified them. It gave them a chance to take a deep breath and plan out their next course of action as the storm outside grew worse.…To be continued…I hope you enjoyed this preview into my mansion murder mystery, The Leviathan Trial…Find out what happens next on Amazon!Only .99 cents!https://rb.gy/0m8gwiI would love to hear your thoughts through a review!

Mature Content

Nonfiction

Mature Content

Soul Torn in Half by Truman-Burbank
Damsels in Distress No MoreIf there's one thing that I find problematic, it's how some people are portrayed as stereotypes, regardless of their race or gender. In the world of literature, there are many stereotypes about fantasy characters, like wizards and knights, that are still around today. But I'm not going to talk about those people. I'm going to talk about the way some people perceive princesses, and how unfair I think it is.Some people say that that a princess should be kidnapped by an evil villain who locks her away somewhere, and then a hero (usually a handsome prince or a knight in shining armor) has to come and rescue her, and then the princess must reward the hero with a kiss afterwards. They think some princesses should be weak, helpless damsels in distress who have to be protected from harm all the time. All. The. Time.I've heard this sort of thing from books about damsels in distress who are put in danger by an evil villain and get saved by young men who, nine times out of ten, mostly want power, expecting the princess to marry them afterwards. And do you know what I think about that?I think it's trash! Complete, pure trash! If I were a princess and I ever got kidnapped or enslaved, I would have no intention of staying and waiting, because I'd get better results if I act. Fortunately, princesses in modern fantasy stories have become more active, and they don't serve as damsels in distress anymore. Take a look at some of the some of the Disney Princesses, for example, especially the more recent ones (such as Mulan, Moana, Merida, Anna, Pocahontas, etc.). Nobody has ever locked them up in dungeon cells or cages, or tied them to railroad tracks or sawmill conveyor belts, or offered them as a sacrifice to a dragon until a knight in shining armor arrives to save them in the nick of time. They don't always need to be protected from danger or have people keep them safe from harm. Not only do some people stereotype princesses as damsels in distress that are in need of rescuing, but they tend to stick other stereotypes about princesses into them, too. Some of them talk to animals, and some animals talk to them. They're supposed to have magic powers. They have to be poisoned, cursed, kidnapped, or enslaved. And people assume all of their problems got solved because a big, strong man showed up.Some of the princesses from Disney movies (and non-Disney movies) have experienced quite a few of those things, but it does not happen all the time. They've all evolved since the first Disney Princess movie came out in the late 1930s. For a while now, Disney has created the stereotype that women are helpless and are always saved by big, strong men. In princess movies, such as Cinderella, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid, all of the women are dependent on a man to help them solve their conflict. Even Tiana in Princess and the Frog, who seems like an independent woman, relied on the prince to help her become human again. However, the times could be changing. Newer Disney movies, like Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, Moana, and Frozen, don't revolve as much around the "damsel in distress" theme.For an example of a princess who was portrayed as a damsel in distress, take a look at Snow White. She is known as dainty, innocent and a motherly figure in the first Disney princess film ever released in 1937, which are all conventions of a vulnerable, young girl. Snow is only fourteen years old, which, in modern society, is pretty outrageous, seeing as her stepmother wanted to kill her, and she was living alone with seven strangers. The worst part, however, is the fact that in the end, the Prince had to save her. Not the dwarfs, not the singing songbirds and not even herself. To put it plainly, Snow White is a traditional damsel in distress.The Little Mermaid, released a few years later in 1989, also presented the same message as Snow White's movie; but this time, instead of falling for Ariel's personality like in Snow White, Eric literally fell for only her looks. She couldn't even speak or express her views, thoughts and emotions as she had not been given that power, and the only person to give it back was, of course, the prince. It seems that Disney shames the fact that women are powerful, have a voice and have more than just a pretty face. Moreover, slowly but surely Disney has gone from the main female being weak and naive to powerful and independent.Mulan was released in 1998, and if you haven't seen it, the movie's leading lady literally saved the entirety of China. Not alone, but with her passion to defend her family’s honor and her sick father's life, Mulan disguised her gender by cutting her hair and wearing a full suit of body armor to fight in the war against the Huns. If that isn't awesome, then I don't know what is! Mulan was strong — physically and emotionally — fighting in the war, while being independent enough to save and defend her country. There is a male protagonist, however, and he gave full credit to Mulan and her self-determination. Her movie could be considered the first Disney film that shows the true independence and decision of a woman and emphasizes her courage by doing this within a male dominated activity and cast. Mulan could actually be the first Disney princess who is brave, strong and stands up for what is important to her.Disney followed the dismissal of damsels in distress in 2012, 2013, and 2016 with Brave, Frozen, and Moana. Frozen focused on sisterly love and is the first Disney film that doesn’t require a man in order to save the day. Sure, there were some people who were rooting for the conventional good guy, Kristoff, to kiss and save Anna, but they were pretty surprised to find out that Elsa was the cure instead. Anna and Elsa are sisters, and instead of having to fall in love, they are already in love. This fact saved Arendelle from being frozen over and allowed Disney to introduce a new way to have a happily ever after. It showed that a man is not needed, nor is a true love's kiss, and this emphasizes the power and strength that women have within a Disney film. Moana's movie recognized her as an unconventional princess by look and objectives, specifically when she was given the chance to be called a princess, yet she turned it down and said that she was not a princess, but the daughter of a chief. Not through her actions or feelings, but through her actual words, she proved that she is not labelled as pretty, emotionless and dependent, but as someone with power and status. Moana is a daughter, a friend, and a human being before she's a "princess", which shows how far Disney has come regarding the power of women within its films.Many princesses don't need their Prince Charmings anymore. One of the trademark attributes of film is its ability to appeal to different age groups, but no media company has mastered the art of appealing to both young and old audiences in the way Disney has with their colorful adventures, and some animation studios have tried to copy it, like some of Don Bluth's films. However, the vast majority of princess movies, especially Disney Princess movies, hold to an unspoken stereotype — that women are the weaker sex. For older audiences, the implications probably won't appear to be so significant; however, for younger, impressionable audiences, even such subtle messages can affect the way their psychologies develop.If you want evidence that some princess movies struggle with presenting strong female characters, look no further than some of the most popular productions. Take "Sleeping Beauty" for instance; a princess in distress is saved from eternal slumber by a handsome prince, and they fall in love and live "happily ever after." Sound familiar? It should. Many stories about princesses, particularly the ones Disney used to make, follow the familiar blueprint of a heroic prince coming to the rescue. Sure, some princesses are more proactive than others, but ultimately, the phrase "rescue the princess" springs up more often than not, and typically, romance blossoms between the princess and her rescuer. The romantic elements of old princess films enchant, and subsequently lure in, susceptible youth, who are then subconsciously assaulted with the idea that women need to be rescued by men, and then owe them more than just gratitude.Interestingly, in one of the Disney network's original movies, "The Cheetah Girls," the band sings a number titled "Cinderella" in which they criticize the idea of a woman waiting around to be saved. The song alludes to one of Disney's first princesses, representing an ongoing critique of Disney in that the film it refers to, "Cinderella," essentially focuses on a damsel in distress and how a prince delivers her from a life of degrading servitude and then marries her, making her a happy princess. In recent years, Disney has responded to this critique, and has begun to offer fans a new blueprint. In 2012, they dropped 3D computer-animated "Brave," which introduced the courageous, headstrong Merida, who became one of the few outliers in the Disney tapestry. Set in Medieval Scotland, the story follows Princess Merida, the only daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor, and she's definitely more outspoken than her mother considers proper for a lady, leading the two to fight constantly over Merida’s lack of decorum as a princess. The red-headed heroine has confidence in forging her own destiny, while her mother believes that her daughter should embrace her predetermined fate as a royal figure. When it comes time for Merida to marry, the struggle boils over and a selfish wish, granted by a silly witch, sets Merida and her mother on a journey that later leads the two to develop a deeper understanding of one another. Merida isn't alone in forging her own path, as another adventurer soon followed in her footsteps: In 2016, "Moana" sailed into the hearts of Disney fans with the story of a spirited, spunky and daring princess. Daughter and only child of the island of Motunui's chief, Moana loves the ocean and finds herself attracted to it, even at a young age, and despite her father's objection. Her grandmother, Tala, the island's "crazy lady," breathes life into the stories of the island goddess, Te Fiti, who brought life to the ocean before her heart was stolen and lost. Moana's love of the ocean only grows stronger as she listens to her grandmother's stories, but her life has already been mapped out for her, and the ocean is forbidden territory. Yet, when her island is in danger, nothing stops Moana from setting sail and becoming the hero that her people need.Why are movies like "Brave" and "Moana" important movies to show children? Well, because the theme of being who you are, despite who society believes you should be, emerges from both films, bringing with them guidance and a new worldview for girls to explore. Times have changed since Disney released "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" back in 1937. No longer should the adjectives "demure" and "submissive" describe women's behavior or personalities. Merida and Moana break the mold of traditional expectations that their predecessors slowly reshaped over time. Parents should rush toward movies like "Brave", "Frozen", and "Moana" because they promote inner strength and healthy, platonic relationships instead of pouring a cup of romantic juice to entice girls into believing that they are not good enough on their own. Sure, many Disney films held important messages for children, but without the rose-colored glasses, there are many fallacies plaguing cherished and classic Disney films. "Brave" and "Moana" shred some of the falsehoods and offer new adventures, encouraging audiences to be brave, to be willing to stand apart from the crowd and to listen to the quiet voice inside.In my opinion, princesses shouldn't be portrayed as damsels in distress anymore. Instead, they should be like Merida and Moana — able to believe in who they are and lead their lives as they see fit. As the Cheetah Girls sang, "My knight in shining armor is me." Princesses deserve to believe that they can rescue themselves as well as any prince could, they can slay their own dragons and vanquish any evil they face, and they don't need to fall in love to be happy. Just let the prince stay at home, because the ladies have it covered. No matter how you depict them, many princesses are not traditional damsels in distress anymore. They've changed since 1937, and they've changed a lot. They don't sit around and wait for their Prince Charmings to come and rescue them anymore. They're no longer prizes to be won, because real princesses should be able to save themselves.A real princess deserves to be a hero, and she doesn't need a guy saving her day in and day out. I mean, sure, every now and then she could let him beat up the villain, but that's not going to happen every time. In this modern era, princesses are strong, independent women, and the more recent Disney Princess movies show it. Rapunzel never deserved to be locked up in a tower. All she deserved was to explore the world. Merida is a really courageous princess, and she doesn't need a prince to prove herself. Mulan is very selfless and will do anything to prove her bravery to anyone. Moana deserves a lot for bringing the heart back to Te Fiti. All of these girls have strength and power, and they deserve to defeat bad guys, because they know how to come prepared to fight.To quote Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot: "It's only in fairy tales that princesses can afford to wait for the handsome prince to save them. In real life, they have to bust out of their own coffins and do the saving themselves." I feel like princesses need to be depicted like that more often than not.To be honest, I just don't get why some people think Disney Princess movies are misanthropic and a bad influence on children, especially little girls. Tiana is exceptionally independent worked hard to accomplish her dreams. Pocahontas and Mulan fought for their countries. Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, and Jasmine all desired to have new experiences and meet people. They are far more than boy-obsessed damsels in distress. They are heroines. Being a princess means being smart, focused, confident, resourceful, strong, and all that good stuff. You know what I mean?When it comes to being a princess, there are plenty of characteristics they all have in common: kindness, bravery, and the ability to stand up for others. Not all princesses are created equal, however, as some are most undoubtedly stronger. Strength doesn't always have to come from physical attributes, but also from a princess's intelligence, her ability to lead, her creativity, and her active role in her own story. Part of the differences in the way princesses are portrayed is a product of the time in which their movies were created. The first three princesses, Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora, are caring and pleasant to a fault, allowing other characters to take on most of the action. Princesses of the 1980s, like Ariel and Eilonwy, are rulebreakers following their own paths. Princesses of the 1990s and the Disney renaissance, like Belle, Jasmine, and Mulan are more independent and fleshed-out characters than any of the women that came before them. As a result of these different eras, there's a varying degree of strength among the Disney Princesses. This doesn't really mean you might be wondering which princess could lift a car over her head, but who has the strongest character and most aptly portrays the role of her story's hero. There are eleven princesses who would be ranked from the most worthless to the most powerful.Aurora is ranked the most worthless princess, and here's why. As a member of the original trilogy of Disney princesses, she debuted in Sleeping Beauty. Her legacy has endured for decades. She still lands in the most worthless of princess spots because she's not even the main player in her own story. In her movie, Aurora spent her life guarded closely by her royal family and their attendants because of the possibility of the curse from Maleficent coming to pass. She's so gullible that it didn't occur to her to be careful when she met a strange man in the middle of the woods, though a trio of fairies were meant to be keeping her safe. It was also her own mistake that got her pricking her finger and sending the entire kingdom into a deep sleep. Because she spent the majority of the movie’s action asleep, Aurora is the typical damsel in distress. She didn't help save herself or her kingdom. Instead, she relied on the fairies to help her, and they are largely the protagonists of the movie instead of her. Ultimately, the kingdom was saved by the prince that came after Aurora. The prince was the same man she met in the woods, and they got their happily ever after, but Aurora didn't actually do anything to help get herself there.Snow White has the honor of being the first Disney Princess. Her movie was also the first time Disney merchandising really took hold of audiences around the world. The movie was translated into dozens of languages and Snow White herself appeared on lunch boxes, posters, and children's toys everywhere. Her popularity over the decades has only grown. A few live action adaptations have given new twists on her story, and the TV show Once Upon A Time featured Snow as a main character. Those updates have gone a long way into turning Snow into a three dimensional person, but in her first Disney venture, I guess you can say she wasn't exactly the best of princesses. Although she's considered "the fairest one of all", she was chased out of her own home by her wicked stepmother, getting lost in the woods. Her solace came in the form of a home for the seven dwarfs where she took care of them, cooking and cleaning while they worked, to create a place for herself far away from the hostile castle. The strength here that prevented Snow from being named completely worthless is that she figured out how to adapt to the worst of situations. She was homeless with not many skills, but she managed to make what she could do work for her. Yes, she ended up falling prey to an old peddler woman, a poisoned apple, and a sleeping curse, but she tried to make the best of a bad situation.Cinderella is perhaps the most famous of Disney princesses, but while she has the icon status, in the Disney version of her story, she's not exactly the strongest of princesses. Left with only her stepmother and stepsisters for family, Cinderella was more of a maid than a family member. Instead of treating her like one of her daughters, Lady Tremaine depended on Cinderella to cook and clean for her and her daughters, mend their clothing, and take care of their every whim. As a result, Cinderella had no time to herself except when everyone else in the house went to sleep. To her credit, she was able to keep up with all of their demands, work on her own dress, and keep her kind heart. Her generosity also inspired loyalty from the animals around her. Even the mice that hid in the house loved her, and she seemed to be able to understand them, an extraordinary gift for a princess to have. That kindness and understanding didn't exactly lead Cinderella to the throne, though it did get her noticed by her fairy godmother and get her a little help. Ultimately, it wasn't Cinderella who saved herself from a life of servitude, but her animal friends and the magic of her glass slipper. In short, her story just boils down to a lot of magical luck instead of her own strength.Disney's Renaissance gave audiences Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and The Lion King, but it really kicked off with The Little Mermaid in the late 1980s. Despite centering on Ariel, the mermaid in the title, the movie spent a whole lot of time above the water as she learned about human life. Ariel is clearly adventurous, which earns her some points, as she pushed the boundaries of what her father allowed her to do. She swam to the limits of human territory, entered the domain of a known sea witch, and regularly refused to listen to the more conservative voice of Sebastian the crab, the guardian appointed to her by King Triton. Ariel's adventurous spirit is great for a potential leader, but she also went a bit too far, which got her into trouble. Despite having a huge ocean to roam, she's one of the more naive princesses. For some reason, even knowing Ursula's reputation, Ariel trusted her enough to exchange her voice for some temporary legs. It's that trust that backfired on her and put her in a perilous position later in the movie. Yes, she did save Prince Eric from drowning at the top of the movie, and she attempted to hold her own against Ursula in human form, so she's not a princess who goes down without a fight. She's also a much stronger young woman than the original Disney princesses were in their day.Pocahontas was the first of the Disney princesses to be inspired by a real person instead of a fairy tale, though the differences between animation and history are vast. She's also, technically, not a princess. The Powhatan people didn't have royal lineage. Instead, chiefs were elected by the people. As the daughter of a chief, like Moana in her later movie, Pocahontas is more of a symbolic princess. The strength of character in her stems from two places: her connection to nature and her role as a peacemaker. Her song "Colors of the Wind" might be one of the most renowned Disney songs, but it's not the only time Pocahontas placed the focus on the natural world. Throughout her movie, she communed with nature. She called upon the spirits of the elements to help her stop John Smith's punishment, and frequently spent her time on cliff faces and in waterfalls. She also got most of her advice from a wise willow tree. It's as a peacemaker that she truly shone. Despite being pulled in different directions by the traditions of her people and the dreams she held, Pocahontas managed to find a way to bring the English settlers and the Powhatans to common ground. In her movie's sequel, she also acted as a representative for her people in England. She was constantly striving to find connection between people instead of pulling them apart, making her a true leader.As Elsa's little sister, Anna has a lot of things going for her: a plucky spirit, a belief in the good of people, and immense courage. Despite all of that, she ranks far below her sister when it comes to simple things - like understanding when she's being deceived. If Elsa is wiser and more cynical, Anna is surely more innocent. Some might also call her naive. She believed in the old Disney style of a princess falling in love at first sight at the start of her movie, but the story quickly moved in a new direction as the audience discovered her supposed perfect match was the real villain of the story. Of course, Anna's innocence is buoyed by her optimism and an enduring faith in her sister. What she might lack in power and skill, she more than made up for in her commitment to get to her sister and bring her back to their kingdom. Anna saw it as her own personal quest to get Elsa to fix the long winter she created. Ultimately, it was the bond between the two sisters that helped Elsa learn to control her powers. Without Anna, Elsa wouldn't be nearly as strong as her sister is.Some people might think a movie about video game characters might seem like a strange place to find a Disney princess, but Wreck-It Ralph is full of surprises. The movie focuses on Ralph, the villain of his game who didn't want to be a bad guy anymore, but along the way, he also met a princess: Vanellope Von Schweetz. Vanellope kind of seems like the opposite of a princess. She's a kid who takes sassy to the extreme, not caring if she offends anyone, and putting her own wants and needs ahead of others. Of course, all of that is a result of years of bullying from other characters in her game when all she wanted was to be allowed to live her life. Treated as the villain, Vanellope wanted to compete in a race in the candy-covered carts of Sugar Rush. Because everyone believed she was a glitch in the system, they also believed she could destroy the game. It was eventually revealed that she wasn't actually a glitch and her need to race is actually part of her character. Instead of being a glitch, she's the rightful princess of the game. Despite her snarky attitude, Vanellope is a forgiving character and an eternal optimist. She is also incredibly creative, thinking of new ideas for solutions to her problems. With the help of Ralph, Vanellope was able to end up back where she belonged, though she decided that she didn't want to hold the title of Princess. Instead, she preferred to be President.With two sequels and a television series after Aladdin, plus plenty of guest appearances in other Disney projects, Jasmine one of the most productive Disney characters to come out of the 1990s. One of her biggest strengths was her belief in speaking her mind. Despite being born into a family that dictated her every move, she wasn't afraid to say everything she thought about her situation. When Jasmine was set for an arranged marriage without any say in the matter, she made sure to point out she wasn't "a prize to be won." She not only stood up to her father, but also to the movie’s villain, Jafar. Yes, she might have been frightened of him, and even made his prisoner at one point, but she never backed down. She also proved herself to be more observant than others around her. Not only did she know that something was off with Prince Ali, but she also knew that Jafar wasn't the best advisor for her father before anyone else did. If Jasmine hadn't led such a sheltered life for so long, her observation skills and intuition might have been put to good use for the kingdom. The only reason she doesn't rank as stronger is because most of her skills -- hand-to-hand combat, political negotiation, and so on -- aren't seen in her movie appearances, but in the television series that came after. Many movie watchers might not even be aware they exist, painting a more shallow picture of Jasmine.Eilonwy is one of Disney's "lost princesses". There are quite a few Disney fans who forget that she even exists. Even though she was one of the main characters in 1985’s The Black Cauldron, she hasn't been part of Disney's merchandising or theme parks since the early '90s. If the 1980s had been kinder to Eilonwy, she might have been credited for the beginning of the Disney renaissance. Instead, the PG-rated animated movie in which she starred, a first for Disney, was deemed too dark by most - even after extensive edits. It didn't contain the sweet and happy-go-lucky characters audiences were used to, and The Black Cauldron failed to make more than half of its budget back in the United States, leaving Eilonwy largely hidden in the history of the Mouse House. It's a shame because, although she's not the toughest princess out there, she's certainly stronger than the ones who preceded her. When audiences first met Eilonwy, she was frightened and confused following being kidnapped and imprisoned, but she wasn't sitting by and waiting to be rescued. Instead, she was actively searching for a way out from the dungeon where she was held and even found a way for Taran, the hero of the story, to escape as well. Eilonwy might have been comparatively radical when it comes to Disney princesses as well, asserting her independence and reminding Taran that she was no damsel in distress, that being a girl didn't make her a lesser hero.As an outsider in a small French village in Beauty and the Beast, Belle always rubbed her fellow villagers the wrong way. She spent the bulk of her free time reading and dreaming of adventure while many of the illiterate villagers in her town were too busy working to learn to read. Belle's love of knowledge and literature isn't her only strength, though. She is also a determined and brave woman. She journeyed into the woods in the middle of winter to find out just what happened to her father when he vanished. When she discovered the Beast, she might have been terrified, but she didn't back down. While Belle remained as a prisoner in the Beast's castle, she didn't allow herself to be treated as a prisoner. She had her run of the castle, conversing with the enchanted furniture and changing the everyday operations. She was able to teach the Beast the error of his ways, and even save his life - twice. If we're talking about sheer physical strength, it's long been acknowledged by fans that Belle must have some super strength up her sleeves as well. She was, after all, able to lift the Beast onto her horse and take him back to the castle after he was attacked by wolves in the woods!While there are quite a few Disney Princesses in the list ranking them from the weakest to the strongest, I believe a few non-Disney princesses should be on that list, too, like Anastasia Romanov. FOX was responsible for her movie, and with the deal between Disney and FOX still being worked out, it's only a matter of time before Anastasia joins the lineup of Disney Princesses. Anyway, in the '90s animated movie, she was an orphan called Anya with no memory of her childhood. Instead of taking that lying down, she set out on an adventure of her own, looking to build a life and figure out just who she was. Along the way, she happened to cross paths with a pair of con artists who intended to use her to claim a prize. While she went along with their plan initially, to pretend to be the Princess Anastasia, she did it while not knowing they didn't believe she was the real deal. She denounced their plan when she found her family, but she didn't completely turn her back on them either, still rescuing her former traveling companion from a dark wizard. She also made an unusual choice in the movie. Unlike the many of the princesses in Disney's movies, Anastasia didn't continue as a ruler of a kingdom by the end of her story. Because her story was inspired by the real life royal Romanov family who were overthrown and executed in a revolution, if she took back the country, it would have changed history. Instead, she got to make her own choices and live her own life.Tiana has the honor of being the first - and so far, only - African-American princess in Disney's lineup. She left a mark on the world by not only being the first in their animated slate, but also the first black character to do meet and greets at Disney's theme parks. The achievements in Disney princesses didn't stop there for her. She was also the first princess to have a real job working toward a goal of owning her own business. Tiana began to develop her love for cooking as a child, and it stayed with her into adulthood. Her passion for food made her one of the hardest working princesses there is. She also showed a remarkable ability to adapt to difficult situations, figuring out just how to use her strengths as a frog relatively quickly after being transformed into one. The frog version of Tiana managed to escape with powerful kicks and snap up objects with her elongated tongue, saving herself and the frog version of Naveen on numerous occasions. Her determination and adaptability were also matched by her resourcefulness. She was able to cook while in frog form and build a raft, which is no simple accomplishment. She also exhibited a trait necessary for many royals: benevolence. Tiana's benevolence wasn't shown by her ruling over a kingdom, but by her willingness to step aside to allow her best friend satisfaction and a happy marriage. Ultimately, all of these combinations and Tiana's strength of character got her the happy ending: her own restaurant and a former prince to share it with.Kida is the oldest of Disney princesses (she's over 8,000 years old during the events of Atlantis: The Lost Empire) and one of Disney's "forgotten" princesses. She doesn't appear in any of Disney's official princess merchandise and her movie is generally forgotten by audiences. It's become more of a cult favorite, but Kida deserves to be upgraded from cult status. Like many on the list, she doesn't marry into royalty; She was born into it. She was also born into a magical kingdom full of ancient secrets that was hidden underwater, which makes her pretty cool in the first place. Like the modern animated movie Moana, Kida is also a voice of difference among her people, trying to unlock the past in order to give them a future. In addition to saving her people, she's also a fierce fighter, able to take on people twice her size, and other characters make reference to her ability to slay her enemies easily. She has a magical healing crystal to help those who are injured as well. The same crystal linked Kida to her kingdom, allowing her to use enormous magic when her kingdom is threatened. She is also the first Disney princess to officially become a queen by the end of her movie as she takes over the duties of ruling Atlantis.On the younger end of the Disney princess spectrum, Moana is not technically a princess. Instead, she's the daughter of the chief of her people. She might not live in a castle, but her family still commands respect. While her people appear content in their village, Moana spent her childhood looking to the sea and wistfully wishing for adventure. Her parents drilled into her that they needed to be content where they were, but that didn't stop her from trying to find a solution to the problem of their home being endangered. She took on an almost impossible task. She decided to sail across the ocean, though her people had forgotten their old seafaring ways, to find a demigod that could help her save the island. She took on that task with no real training in the art of sailing, but with a special relationship with the ocean, which afforded her a certain amount of help as she made her way to the demigod. With a lot of hard work and ingenuity, not only did she learn about her peoples' true history, but she reclaimed it and saved them. She was the one who realized the "villain" and the goddess she needed to save were one in the same, simply a reflection of how someone who has had their happiness stolen from them would behave. Moana proved herself as a formidable chief for the future of her village.Sheer power alone means that Elsa had to nab one of the strongest spots on the list. Not only did her magical ability to freeze things create her own ice palace, but she froze her entire country, causing winter in the middle of summer! If a magical ability was all it took to create a strong princess though, the list would be very short. Not every Disney princess is able to wield magic. That magic can also be unpredictable, just like Elsa's when she accidentally froze her own sister. Her strength came from realizing when to turn her magic off and when to let someone else have the spotlight. When Elsa's parents perished in a shipwreck, the kingdom of Arendelle technically became hers. Knowing how risky her abilities were, she locked herself away and learned to control them. Initially, she was ruled by fear, but she learned to control that as well. She briefly ran away from her kingdom and her out of control powers before learning that she didn't have to rely on just herself to be, not only a princess but, a queen. By the end of her movie, Elsa not only got rid of the deep freeze on her country and controlled her powers, but she helped Anna figure out her love life.Being one of the few Disney princesses to not have a love interest, Merida thought outside the box in a lot of ways - including not playing damsel in distress very well. One of the biggest Disney tropes is for the princess to find themselves in hot water and need their prince to bail them out. However, in Brave, Merida's journey didn't involve finding herself a husband; instead, her journey was one of self-discovery and understanding the importance of family. She set out to save her family herself. As one of the strongest wills of any of the Disney princesses, she learned to fight and to use a bow and arrow since the beginning. Though her mother disliked those skills, it was those same abilities that allowed Merida to save her mother in the end. Of course, despite her saving the day, she missed out on the "strongest" spot on the list because she's not adept at getting a kingdom to rally around her yet, and it was herself who actually started the whole mess in her movie to begin with. It was her wish that turned her mother into a bear and put her family in danger. It's a good thing she learned from her mistakes.As one of the newer princesses in the Disney lineup, Rapunzel might seem like a naive damsel in distress at first. After all, she had spent her entire life locked in a tower, cut off from the rest of the world. She quickly proved herself capable of taking care of herself, though. Her innocence can be excused thanks to her isolation. She didn't really understand that people can't be trusted. Mother Gothel might have told Rapunzel that she couldn't trust the outside world, but she only really applied that to not telling people about her magic hair, which turned out to be a smart choice on her part. Also as a result of her isolation, she developed one of the most impressive skill sets of the Disney princesses. In addition to the usual singing skills, she's an artist, a climber, and she's figured out numerous uses for her extra long hair. She's also pretty adept at using a frying pan as a weapon. More than her ability to swing a mean pan though is her ability to charm people and get them to follow her, something a real leader needs if they're going to run a kingdom. Rapunzel was able to charm a tavern full of the more traditional Disney thugs to get them to help her out and partner with her traveling companion later in the movie. She's got the royal goods.Anyone can argue over which of the modern princesses are the strongest, but undoubtedly, Mulan might be on top of the list. Technically speaking, she's not a princess. She wasn't born into a royal bloodline and audiences never see her marry into one. She is, however, granted grace by the Emperor of China and she features prominently in Disney's official princess line of merchandise, so she's basically an honorary princess, and she certainly earns the strongest spot. Being the only child in a traditional Chinese family, Mulan was expected to marry well and bring honor to her parents. Instead, she ran away, taking her father's place in the Chinese army to fight the Huns. Lots of people say it was one of the most courageous acts any Disney princess has ever attempted, and it could have seriously backfired on her. She put in the effort to train with a group of men, never revealing that she was a woman, earning their respect over time. She is, as the song "I'll Make a Man Out of You" goes, "as fierce as a coursing river, with all the strength of a great typhoon." She singlehandedly caused an avalanche to destroy the approaching army of Huns, holding her own against more experienced military men. She also continued onto the Emperor's palace, despite being shut out once her femininity was discovered, and made it her own personal mission to save the country. With the help of a few friends, Mulan saved her Emperor and her people, bringing honor to her family in a way they didn't expect.Not only did Disney's older movies portray girls as weak and helpless, but they also created unrealistic and false beauty standards to the point where girls thought they weren't pretty unless they resembled a Disney princess. Snow White was given her name because of her fair skin tone, and in the movie it makes it seem like a girl is only pretty if she has fair skin. For example, the evil queen always asked the magic mirror, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?" When the mirror said Snow White, the queen was upset that Snow White was "prettier" than her, as if people can only be attractive if they have fair skin. This trend of pale skin kept going until 1992 when "Aladdin" was released with the first non-white princess. Princess Jasmine has a tan skin tone but is still portrayed as beautiful. When Aladdin was talking to Genie about Jasmine, he said she is "smart and fun" and "beautiful." This was also around the time when they started including diversity in their movies. Three years later, "Pocahontas" was released and is the first female heroine who is Native American.In the late 1980s, a different shift happened in Disney movies with "The Little Mermaid". According to the Disney Wiki, she was the first princess to show any emotion and facial expressions. Before her, all the princesses looked and acted like porcelain dolls with little emotion, facial expressions or movements other than the basic happy, sad, angry or scared. The Disney Wiki describes Snow White, the very first Disney princess, as "gentle", "polite", and "sweet" while Ariel is described as "free-spirited, confident, [and] curious."They started creating stronger protagonists and personalities. Ariel saved the prince from having to get married to the other girl. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle was the first Disney princess to be recognized for her intelligence and unique personality because the then Disney CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, wanted to add a "feminist twist" to it and did not want "another insipid princess." Then, a year later "Aladdin" came out where Jasmine was not only the first non-white princess, but also the first princess who didn't wear a dress. She is described as "feisty", "rebellious" and "sassy". Then in 1998, Disney's "Mulan" brought a legendary Chinese warrior to life, showing a woman dressed as a man to save an entire nation. Merida from "Brave" is an outlier from all the other Disney princesses and also a symbol of feminism and women empowerment. She is the first Scottish princess, the first tomboy princess, the first princess to be recognized for her talent and personality and not beauty, and the first princess without a love interest. Unlike all the other princesses, she doesn't wear makeup and has unkempt hair. Just as remarkable, "Frozen" was the first Disney movie where a female saved another female and the males didn't have any heroic roles. However, an overwhelming majority of the princesses have perfectly skinny bodies to the point where it's unrealistic. Young girls who have grown up watching Disney movies might feel as if that's how they are supposed to look; like they aren't beautiful unless they look like an unrealistic Disney princess. And with all the merchandise and the model-like girls they hire to be a princess at Disneyland or Disney World, they are being bombarded with images of Disney princesses everywhere. This gives girls a limited perception of what's beautiful. It wasn't until 2016 when "Moana" came out where they had the first non-slender or tall princess. Moana is short and has muscular build.As feminism becomes more popular in western countries, Hollywood is trying to keep up by making females more dominant and capable. In many recent superhero movies, sexism has been fading away, and both male and female superheroes are doing equally as well. However, while most woman superheroes are capable fighters, they are profoundly sexualized and wear revealing or tight-fitting outfits, mostly to lure in the male audience. It's quite surprising that those said heroines are often portrayed as both strong, independent role models for girls and sex symbols for guys. Clearly, there is still more room for improvement. In many movies and TV shows, women are still less prevailing than men and are predominantly white women. It is evident that a change is trying to be made, but there's still a long way to go.It's not just princesses in movies and TV shows that are slowly shedding the damsel in distress stereotype and becoming more heroic as the years go by. Princesses from video games have become brave, strong heroes, too. Take Princess Peach, for instance, as well as Princess Daisy and Princess Rosalina. Yes, in most games in the Super Mario Bros. franchise, Peach ends up getting kidnapped by the evil Bowser and then she has to be rescued by the main hero, but there are other games in the series where she doesn't need to wait for Mario to rescue her. Instead, she tries to figure out some ways to escape before Mario can find her. In games like the Mario Kart series, the Mario Party series, and the Mario Sports series, Peach and the other princesses actively join in on Mario and Luigi's adventures instead of sitting around and waiting to be rescued. Believe it or not, there's actually a game in the series where the roles of Mario and Peach are reversed, and she has to rescue him from Bowser instead of the other way around. Even though her only role was damsel in distress in most of the early games, Peach has evolved to become a more active, heroic princess, and she's never afraid to show players that she, like Mario, can go on great adventures and battle any villain that crosses her path. It's not just the Mario Princesses that have become more heroic than damsel in distress. Princesses like Zelda have become more heroic as well. In the Legend of Zelda series, the titular princess usually gets kidnapped and then Link has to come and rescue her. However, in some adventures in the games, Zelda doesn't wait to be rescued, rather, she joins in on the quest to save the world.I believe the reason some people think that the princesses from Disney movies are bad role models for girls is because they've never bothered to see the princesses' positive qualities. Many of them have done things to prove that they can be heroines, no matter how brave or strong they are. Though Snow White isn't extraordinarily smart or brave, she has taught others that all of us have redeeming traits with her love of wildlife, her unconditional acceptance of those with physical disabilities, and her perseverant optimism. She devoted her time and energy to helping others. In the midst of the appalling abuse and neglect of her stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella became the epicenter of the function of her family. She loved her abusers not because of, but despite their abuse, and she sought friendships in the smallest and most meek of companions. She had courage and a strong sense of self so that she was able to go to a royal ball and woo the prince despite an entire life of bullying. Because Aurora was the victim of political turmoil, she was forced into exile. She embodied hope in a hopeless situation, and her patroness of lost causes was so in tune with the family she was forced to leave behind that her greatest dream was unknowingly shared with her estranged parents. Ariel was lost in an understandable childhood rebellion, and her mistakes led her on a frightening path of transformation, betrayal, and near-death. Her initial superficiality gave way to a deep and self-giving love for her paramour and for her own family. She had the courage to pursue her life that went against what society dictated. Belle was criticized by her envious peers for her remarkable intelligence and unassuming beauty, and she longed for a life filled with meaning. Embracing sacrifice for the only family she had, she befriended a hideous monster and a variety of unbelievable servants, relying on an open mind and a genuine heart. Despite Jasmine's disdain for the life that her country's traditions would make for her, she loved her father deeply, and she managed to see through an impoverished street boy's rough exterior and find a king inside. She challenged chauvinistic values, stood up against a law she didn't agree with and made her own determination about someone's character whether it was popular or not. Even though Pocahontas's story was far from a historic portrayal, she gave viewers the opportunity to explore faith, tradition, and great inner strength. Inspired by the memory of her late mother and her trust in the spirits, she singlehandedly stopped a war before sacrificing a great love for the sake of peace and unity. Mulan values duty, honor, and family above all, and she sacrificed her chances at a normal life to save her father from a certain death on the battlefield. Despite her initial rejection as a beauty, she showed viewers that true glamor is found in strength.Princesses have evolved since the late 1930s, and today, many of them are no longer helpless damsels in need of rescuing, but beautiful, strong, and independent princesses. If their Prince Charmings are taking too long, they will get on our high horses and find those princes themselves. They worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings.Let's hear it for girl power.
Writing Requests reopen FOREVER!Hey there everyone! I just wanted to drop by and announce that I am reopening requests again! Note: These requests are only writing requests, no art. These requests are going to be open forever from here on out. I really just want to write for others. So if you ever have ideas, feel free to let me know!If you were here before, I am throwing out the same rules and stipulations that applied before and they will be reposted below. If you are new and interested, please take the time to carefully read my rules to ask for any requests. It will all be written here, but if I notice that you don't bother to adhere to the written rules, your request will be politely skipped over and deleted. Anyone and everyone can send a request, as long as you follow the rules below. NOTE: Whatever requests I do accept will be under my discretion! Just because you send me a message saying what you would like, doesn’t mean I will accept until I give the okay myself.I am only doing short stories/one-shots/random writing prompts! I don’t want to write anything that has multiple chapters, unless I am very interested in what you have to offer for an idea.What I will write:-Original characters/and or stories -Fanfiction-Prompts-Poems/Haikus-Fluff/Romance/Smut/Lemon-Horror-Supernatural-NSFW (depends on the request. This includes yaoi/yuri, etc)-OC x OC-OC x Canon-Canon x Canon -AUs (depending on the request)What I will NOT write:-Furry/Anthros-Fetishes-NSFW (depends on the request)-Gore/torture-Reader inserts-Beastiality-Incest-Rape-Out of Character situations-CrossoversList of Prompts:Rules:-For these, pick ONLY ONE prompt that interests you.-Choose one character (or two characters max).-Send me a note with the prompt along with your characters (can be based on fandom or original), all details of them along with any imagined story that you come up that aligns with the prompt. (If not given a story to base off from, I will ask you to come up with one.) 1. Birth 2. Enthusiasm 3. Love 4. Hate5. Triumph6. Feel 7. Wrecked8. Soft9. Cold10. Without11. Inspiration12. You13. Confused 14. Affection15. Joy16. Horror17. Acceptance18. Sympathy19. Holding20. Defeated21. Pride 22. Knife23. Overwhelmed 24. Depressed25. Adoration26. Worship27. Zeal28. Light29. Exhaustion30. Obsession 31. Rage 32. Empty33. Anger 34. Fury 35. Delight36. Submission 37. Infatuation38. Anticipation 39. Pessimistic40. Jolly41. Grasping42. Agitation43. Calm44. Astonished45. Loneliness46. Lust47. Longing48. Tender49. Hard 50. Rebirth51. Amused52. Broken53. Abused54. Tranquil55. Composed 56. Glad57. Stress 58. Serenity59. Colorful60. Coping 61. Boisterous62. Placid63. Tired64. Bliss65. Neglect66. Fine67. Question68. Energetic69. Noble 70. Disgust 71. Lively72. Power 73. Pity 74. Humiliation75. Satisfied76. Thankful 77. Hyper 78. Goosebumps 79. Worthless80. Remorse 81. Degraded82. Revenge 83. Fulfilled 84. Shame 85. Graceful 86. Shining 87. Content 88. Feelings 89. Pleased 90. Relief 91. I 92. Zest 93. Tears 94. Building 95. Optimistic 96. Thrilled 97. Dealing 98. Reflect 99. Embarrassment 100. Death Fandoms I love: -Legend of Zelda-Avatar:TLA/Legend of Korra-Resident Evil-No. 6-Inuyasha-Naruto-Dragonball series-Pokémon -Digimon-Soul Calibur-Super Smash Brothers series -Fire Emblem -Final Fantasy (13 series and 15 only)-Kingdom HeartsAnd more! I’m more likely going to take an interest if you request from my list of fandoms. But it’s not all that I like, so feel free to ask! I'm flexible!I also like to have a lot of information about a request before even considering accepting, so please make sure to note me all the details that you think I need to know (this should include characters, setting, plot, tone, POV, etc). Without it, I feel like I won’t have enough to go off of to begin writing, but will give it a try if accepted. If not given enough information after prompted by me, then I will write as I see fit in my own vision, and the quality of the final product will not be negotiated once completed.Interested? Feel free to leave me a personal note with what you like! I will NOT be accepting comments under this journal. Anything other than a personal note will be politely skipped over. I am also going to be taking only 5 people/slots at a time, that way the work load isn't overwhelming for me depending on how many requests I get. The list will be here. You can always pop by this journal to see where I am on working.That's it! Feel free to note me some ideas! I'm excited to work with you all again!List:EarWaxKid (Mystery Mint and Thunderbass date)Catwolf1266 (Leon x Katsu fluff) MegaMovieMonday (Kukui comedy fanfic)JeshuaMorbis (Nan Calia/Boy short story)5 TheMysteryWriter (Magical Girl comedy story)
Fanfiction
Fixer UpperThe first time Tony falls asleep on Steve, it is an accident. It had just been the two of them, since Steve is the most regular member of the Tower, and they had been watching a movie in Tony’s on-going attempt to properly educate Steve on the culture he had missed. Tony hadn't even realised he was that tired. He hadn't been that tired when he had first sat down, but the dark of the common room, and the traitorous softness of the couch had done him in. Contrary to what some people might accuse him of, he had not been spending countless nights without sleep. That sort of thing might have been viable for 20-something year old Tony, but 40-something year old Tony needs to sleep sometimes.He had slept. Just maybe not as much as he should have. Because even if he fully intends to sleep like a healthy person, he still has a tendency to sometimes get carried away with a project that really catches his interest. The last few days, he had been working in his lab a lot, and he had been pushing the boundaries between when nighttime starts, and when morning starts. It is so easy in the moment, to think that he can push through a few more hours, and sleep later…and then birds start chirping and the sun starts shining in through the skylights. He had tried to catch a few hours of shut eye on the couch down there, but the thing is from way back in his college days, and the results had been less than restful.So it probably isn’t that much of a surprise when he wakes up to find the movie finished, and his cheek smushed up against Steve’s shoulder. Warm, is the first thing he thinks, because he is still in the post-nap haze, where everything is a little vague and fuzzy. His face is pressed against something warm. Not exactly soft, but not exactly hard either. It also moves gently, as though…something…is…breathing.His head pops up with a sudden urgency, and it is only pure luck that he doesn’t clock Steve in the chin as he sits up. “Whut?” he blurts eloquently, his mind reeling. His tongue feels like it is made of cotton balls, and he wipes his mouth, some corner of his mind desperately hoping that he had managed not to drool on Steve.The rest of his mind is focused on the man himself. It is near evening now, so the common room is a dusky grey, but he can still make out Steve’s face. He is leaning back now that Tony has jerked away, and Tony searches his eyes, trying to get a read on him. As friendly as they have become these last few months in the Tower, he is well aware that this has never happened before, and he doesn’t have any predictions for how Steve will react.As much as living with Steve had helped break down the macho-manly stereotype that is attached to Captain America these days, Tony isn’t sure what he thinks of being used as a pillow. Casual touch isn’t really a big thing in the Tower—and it definitely isn’t really a Steve thing—and this goes much beyond that.Steve doesn’t look upset about it though. He looks a little concerned at Tony’s reaction, but his face is lacking in any traces of irritation. It also isn’t blank with awkward discomfort, which Tony is taking as a good sign. And, as his brain wakes up a bit more, and he has a chance to get his bearings, he has to admit that the fact he had even been able to fall asleep on Steve must mean something. Steve had apparently been content to let him sleep through the movie on his shoulder, so he can’t have been that bothered by it. Hopefully. He flicks his eyes over Steve, and gets the same treatment in return. “You fell asleep,” Steve tells him needlessly, a mix of concern and cautiousness on his face. He pulls away from him, but not far, his shoulders hunching as he glances over him—something tense and searching in his gaze.Tony blinks at him. He almost looks defensive, sitting there, like he had been the one to overstep a faux pas, instead of Tony. “Uh,” he manages, not sure what to make of that. “Sorry about that. You could’ve, um— next time you can just shake me awake.”Steve shakes his head jerkily. “No,” the word is stilted, and Steve’s eyes don’t quite meet his. His fingers tangle together in his lap and Tony stares. “I didn’t mind.” He looks away, his shoulders gradually growing stiffer as the conversation wears on. He hasn’t looked this tense since he had first come to the Tower and the sudden tension is off-putting.Tony bites his cheeks as he watches him, and privately wonders if he is lying about how much he had minded his little nap.His lips press together and he pushes down the instinctive defensiveness that flares up in his chest. Steve has every right to not want to be slept on. Tony hadn't meant anything by it, but he would really just prefer if Steve would just say if he had minded it. He breathes in and tries to keep his voice pleasant. Probably Steve is just trying to be polite in an awkward situation. He can just make sure he knows he doesn’t have to deal with this sort of thing again if he doesn’t want to. “You really could’ve woken me up.”Steve pulls away even further and his chin dips. “Sorry.” It is the embarrassed tone that keeps Tony from saying anything, and before he can recover, Steve is up and retreating out of the room. His eyes never meet his as he leaves, and Tony is left to sit and try to figure out what on earth had happened.That last word is the one that sticks with him. ‘Sorry’. As though Steve had been doing something wrong. That baffles Tony, and he can’t stop thinking about it, even days later, in his lab. ‘Sorry’. That is what he had said. And it hadn't been some kind of trite platitude that one says to end a conversation. He had sounded like he had really believed that Tony had been the one upset about being allowed to sleep on his shoulder. His eyes narrow and he leans his chin on his hand, staring up at the ceiling as he tries to tease apart the meaning behind that. Is…is it possible that Steve really hadn't minded being used as a pillow?Why had he been so tense about it then? Was he just reading the situation wrong?“JARVIS,” he calls finally, dragging in a frustrated breath. “The other day, did Steve seem upset at all, when I fell asleep on him?”JARVIS takes a moment before responding. “He did not, Sir,” he says finally. “In fact, the Captain displayed signs of lowered heartrate and stress while you slept.”Tony takes a second to process that. Huh.So, Steve really hadn't minded getting slept on. According to JARVIS, he may have even benefited from it. He squints at the ceiling and tries to put the pieces together. Steve hadn't minded his nap—which is probably why he had let it go on—but…he had seemed embarrassed about that fact. Hmm. He is going to have to look into this.Of course, since Steve now thinks that he is annoyed at not having been woken up or something, he finds that he is tenser around him than usual. That is pretty much the opposite of what he wants. He tries to keep things light and pleasant between them, but it does not escape his attention that Steve keeps a very pointed distance between them whenever they cross paths.If he were a little less informed, he might suspect that Steve is annoyed with him, but thanks to JARVIS’ insight, he is able to see through the guise. For whatever reason, Steve is tense about the fact that he had let Tony sleep on him, rather than the fact that Tony had, in fact, slept on him. Admittedly, some of that might be Tony’s fault, but he had been operating under the assumption that Steve hadn't wanted that sort of thing. Unfortunately, it would seem, he had unwittingly stoked the flames to Steve’s own worries about his reactions. The best way he can think to try to mitigate that, is to make it abundantly clear that he doesn’t mind being close to Steve. That is a little difficult while Steve is busy religiously managing the inches between them though, and Tony can do nothing but try to remain patient and wait until their next movie night. With the weird tension floating between them, he is a little worried about Steve skipping out on him. But, as he loads in the DVD for that night’s movie, he is relieved to hear the sound of the elevator as Steve comes up to join him.Tony gives him an easy smile at his arrival, and he sees Steve shoulders drop several inches as he relaxes. The loss of tension is good, but he can’t help but notice that Steve makes a point of sitting at the far end of the couch from him.He keeps his eyeroll internal. Steve seems to be convinced that he had managed to offend him, and is determined to make up for that. Which makes it a little hard for Tony to convince him otherwise.To be honest, he isn’t exactly sure why this is so important to him. But, he will admit to being a little curious. Before now, Steve had never really shown an interest in casual touches. He can’t remember Steve initiating them much, and he had kept his distance even before (although admittedly not as much as he is now.) But…his mind keeps circling back to the list of positive signs JARVIS had gathered from Steve during his nap.That list, and Steve’s apparent unease about indulging Tony’s nap, keeps him interested. Which is why, as soon as Steve settles, Tony scoops himself up and plops down right next to him. He doesn’t touch him quite yet, because he doesn’t want to scare him away, but he sits close enough that, if he were to lean over, he could brush shoulders with Steve. It is pretty much the same distance that they usually sit, but it is probably a good thing that he doesn’t come any closer.Steve gives a start as he moves, and he almost pulls away. Tony can feel his questioning gaze as the opening credits begin to play, and he makes a show of relaxing into the couch. In reality, his heart is making a bid to jump out of his chest, but he tries not to let that on. A week or so ago, he wouldn’t have thought much of sitting this close to Steve, but now he can’t help but be aware of the tension in the air.Whether he had meant it or not, his nap had dropped an element of friction between them, and this is more or less his olive branch. If Steve is stubborn about it, and moves away again, he isn’t sure what he will do.He is pretty sure that Steve’s behaviour is all due to his misguided belief that Tony has issues, but if he continues to avoid him, then he might have to re-evaluate that. He is fairly certain he is reading Steve correctly, but he is well aware that his track record for that sort of thing isn’t stellar. For all he knows, this could be one giant mistake, and he is messing things up even worse between them.Just as he is beginning to really worry that this calculated risk had been doomed from the start, Steve relaxes. It is subtle, but gradually, as the movie begins to play, his shoulders begin to ease back into the couch, and his breathing gets steadier.Tony lets out a quiet breath of relief and fights to keep a grin off his face—lest he give Steve anymore wrong ideas. His pulse begins to slow a little and he wipes his hands on his pants as he congratulates himself on managing not to muck anything up.Steve is currently still on the couch next to him, and not exuding discomfort like a cornered animal, so he is counting that as a win.He doesn’t want to push it too far, so for now, he doesn’t move any closer. He isn’t quite finished with his plan though. He lets them watch the movie for a while, just so that Steve can get used to being next to him again, before piping up. “Hey, I noticed something last time.” Steve looks over, and every bone in Tony’s body does its best to throw out casual signals as he continues. “You’re like, really warm.” He nods towards Steve’s shoulder and tries to portray the fact that he very much does not mind the fact he had slept on it not that long ago. “I should have tried napping on you earlier. You’re practically your own mini-heater.”That said, he waits for how Steve will respond. His speech is the best he can come up with for how to reassure Steve that he hadn't minded that whole incident last week, and he really hopes it comes across well.For his part, Steve breathes in, almost looking like he is expecting something negative, but as his speech progresses, he can see him begin to lighten up again. By the time it is finished, Steve looks a little cautious, but mostly bemused. His eyes flick over him as though trying to get a read on him, and the corner of his mouth pulls up into a brief smile as he leans back into the couch again.“You’re not the first one to say so,” he says softly, his fingers fiddling in his lap as he looks towards the TV. His eyes remain focused on the movie, but his voice slips into something reminiscent as he speaks. “The Commandos used to fight over who got to sit next to me in camp. Most of the time I’d find one or more of them trynna steal body-heat, especially in the wintertime.”He shrugs, and as he blinks, a look of longing slips over his face. It is gone in an instant, and Tony would have missed it if he hadn't been watching, but he sees it, and he remains silent as Steve turns and offers him something of a smile. “I think the serum makes me run hotter. I didn’t mind.”Ah.That is what he had said the last time, when Tony had told him he could shake him awake.No, he had said, refusing the offer outright. I didn’t mind.He thinks…he is beginning to get a clearer picture of what is going on.oOoThe pieces of the puzzle are such: He had fallen asleep on Steve. Steve hadn't minded. He now knows that Steve is used to that sort of thing, because of the Howling Commandos. Ergo: Steve is much more used to casual touches than he had first assumed. But. Obviously, casual touches are not something Steve experiences now.He relays his observations to JARVIS, and then spends a fun afternoon scrolling through the articles JARVIS provides about something called ‘touch starvation’. Having a lack of physical contact may result in some people experiencing what many refer to as touch starvation, it says. Touch starvation may increase feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety, it says. It is possible that a lack of contact could put a person’s mental and emotional health at risk, it says.The term is new to Tony, but the concept seems sound, and it helps explain what exactly had happened between him and Steve. It makes sense why Steve had reacted positively to the initial touch…but if the term is new to Tony, then he doubts Steve knows about it. He isn’t surprised that Steve had been embarrassed about letting Tony sleep on him—especially if he felt it was for selfish reasons, and especially if he thought Tony was upset by it.Sorry, he had said, and Tony finds himself wishing that his past-self had been a lot less self-conscious about the whole incident. If he hadn't been busy worrying about irritating Steve, then maybe they could have avoided this whole problem.Then again, if he hadn't jump-started this whole venture, then he probably would never have stumbled down the rabbit hole into this unexpected revelation about Steve’s mental health. Taking all the pieces together, he thinks it is pretty clear that Steve could benefit from being napped on more often. The sources he reads suggest blankets, and hugs, and other methods of dealing with touch starvation, but he worries that something too hands-on might spook Steve even worse than he already is.Because he can’t help noticing that Steve doesn’t go out of his way to touch people. He isn’t sure if that is a subconscious choice, or if Steve just assumes that casual touching is not something people do as much in the 21st century. In reality, it is probably a mix of the two. And, even if Steve wanted casual touches with people, it is probably hard for him to do that, thanks to his Avenger status and history as Captain America. Tony is well aware of how hard it is to get comfortable and close with actual people as a high-profile figure. He had spent years of his life trying to quench the need for people through casual flings, because there weren’t a lot of other avenues open for him.He doesn’t need to do that now, but he imagines that even that option isn’t really viable for Steve. The people Steve is close to are the Avengers, and that probably isn’t going to change. If this situation is going to be dealt with, then it is going to have to be done by them.And it looks like he is the one to have noticed it first, so he is going to have to get the ball rolling. He is aware that he doesn’t have to, but…his mind flashes back to the brief look of longing that had passed over Steve’s face while he had been talking about the Commandos…and he finds himself wanting to fix that look the best he can.That is what he does. He fixes things. And this is his next project.He starts small. He is aware enough to know that Steve will probably bolt if he tries anything too forward like hugging or something. Tony himself isn’t really a hugging person—or at least, he doesn’t really feel comfortable doing that right now—and he imagines that Steve will sniff that out immediately if he were to try.So he doesn’t go in for the hugging, but he does try to reach out to Steve more. He keeps the touches casual. Usually, clasping his shoulder or his arm in greeting, or slapping his back when he says something amusing. He continues to sit next to him on the couch, and he invests in a whole collection of fluffy blankets for them to use during their movie sessions.From what he can tell, Steve isn’t overly bothered by his efforts. He thinks he does notice the increase of touches, but he doesn’t shy away from them, which is a good sign. He even reciprocates sometimes, and Tony finds that it soon feels almost natural to give or receive a pat on the back when they are together.He thinks the other Avengers notice too, and he wouldn’t be surprised if they put together the same pieces he had. It is almost blindingly obvious now that he knows about it. After one particularly difficult mission, all he does is nudges Steve shoulder in a gesture of comfort, and the tension that had been growing there practically bleeds out of him.Tony hadn't missed the calculating look in Natasha’s eye at the display. And, he isn’t surprised when, the next time he enters the common room, he finds Natasha stretched out on the couch, a book in hand and her feet propped up on Steve’s lap.Steve himself is looking a little bemused at the situation—and Tony thinks that he hasn’t quite caught on to what they are doing yet—so he has to duck away before he inadvertently gives everything away through an overenthusiastic, triumphant smile. It doesn’t take long for casual touches to grow more common among the other Avengers too. It becomes a habit almost, and the shoulder clasps and nudges don’t just stay reserved for Steve. Their group itself becomes more casual with each other, which seems to be exactly what they all need.Tony may or may not reserve a little pride for kickstarting it all.He waits awhile before judging Steve to be comfortable enough for a redo of their first incident. They are both alone in the common room again, sitting next to each other for their usual movie night. By now Steve is perfectly relaxed sitting next to him, and Tony quietly hopes that he won’t mess that up with his next move.He makes a show of it, yawning through the previews, and letting his head bob and his eyes blink heavily as the movie wears on. And then at last, when he thinks he has alleviated all suspicion of trickery, he lets his head slump over onto Steve’s shoulder.He doesn’t fall asleep. He keeps his eyes closed, and he lets his breath mellow out as he waits to see how Steve will react. He can feel him tense for a moment at the contact, and Tony fights against stiffening in response. He does his best to keep his heartbeat as calm as possible, trying to make everything about him seem well and truly dead to the world.He feels Steve shift, and through his lashes he sees his hand raise, as though to shake his shoulder. His breath nearly catches, and it takes a concentrated effort not to freeze as Steve’s hand hovers uncertainly in the air.He had told Steve he could shake him awake if this ever happened again, but he had also spent the last few weeks trying to make it abundantly clear that he actually hadn't minded this at all. He knows Steve hadn't minded this either, and he thinks this is something he needs, even if he obviously isn’t comfortable expressing that need. This is an easy way to deal with that though, and he quietly hopes that the man will just let himself relax without overthinking anything.It takes the longest seconds of his life before Steve’s hand finally lowers back down to his lap. He can feel the muscles of his shoulder gradually begin to loosen as he settles, and Tony finds his own body growing even more relaxes in response. He hears Steve let out a quiet, slow breath, the sigh soft and relieved, and exactly what he wants to hear.A ghost of a smile flickers over his face, and he already knows that this time, when he wakes up, he is going to make sure there is no confusion over whether or not Steve is allowed to let him sleep on his shoulder.He fixes things. And he thinks that this one is a job well done....
Opportunity“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” – Demosthenes ------------------The sound of a high-pitched scream thrusted Hiei out of his nightmares, and he growled over being disturbed. Crimson eyes blinked to rid himself of the last remnants of sleep, and then the fire demon rubbed a hand over his face and scoffed. What was the woman doing? The scream did not sound like hers. Was that the blasted television? Why was it so loud? His eyes went to the clock and narrowed. He had only come to bed a few hours prior in the middle of the night. The woman was never up this early, and she was usually very mindful of him as her ‘roommate’, as she would call him. What was her deal?The fire demon ventured from the room and heard some strange, soft song. The lyrics seemed complex and dark. Hiei couldn’t help but focus on them as he made his way to the living space to confront the woman.“Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation. Darkness wakes and stirs imagination.” Hiei’s brow raised in curiosity. He was now looking at the woman who was sitting by a box as she listened intently. “Silently the senses abandon their defenses, helpless to resist the notes I write, for I compose the Music of the Night.”As the song continued, Botan turned around and noticed Hiei. She appeared shocked before she offered him a sheepish smile. “Oh, good morning, Hiei,” she greeted. “I’m surprised you’re up this early.”Right, she woke him up. His lip curled back in a sneer. Of course she had to remind him. “I wasn’t,” he replied curtly. “I was awoken by a scream.” He saw Botan grimace guiltily. Maybe she had truly been the cause of it.“Sorry about that,” Botan offered. “I wasn’t really prepared for how the last song was going to end. I had trouble sleeping last night, so I finally just gave up and listened to this CD Kurama got me.” She grinned at the fire demon. “It’s a classic play that’s on Broadway in America, The Phantom of the Opera.” When Hiei didn’t react she just continued. “In any case, since you’re awake now, would you like to listen with me?”Hiei’s voice cut like a knife. “I have better things to do.”Botan’s cheerful expression fell. “Oh, well that’s all right,” she murmured. I mean, I was the one who woke him. He probably doesn’t want to be anywhere near me right now.The stray thought was caught by the Jagan, and Hiei sighed in frustration. His crankiness did not disappear as he regrettably asked, “What is it about?”Light returned to Botan’s eye, and the excited smile returned. “It’s about this ‘phantom’ who lives in the shadows of an opera house, and he falls in love with this lovely singer and trains her under the guise of ‘The Angel of Music’. When this well-known singer gets upset and quits the show, that leaves this young woman, Christine, as the one to sing her part. And that sets the whole story in motion as her childhood lover returns and wants to see her while the phantom, still hiding in the shadows, wants to enchant Christine. Where I am now was just after he hypnotized her to follow him down into the catacombs where he’s hiding, and now he’s singing one of the defining songs of the play, ‘Music of the Night’.”Surprisingly enough, the plot did pique Hiei’s interest, though if television at Kurama’s house was anything to go by, anything with singing, those annoying musicals his stepbrother watched, were hardly worth it. Still, even though Hiei announced he had better to do, he really didn’t. He figured it wouldn’t hurt to listen to the story and see how it played out. To him, the phantom seemed like a relatable character. He entered the living room and sat down. Botan beamed at him as he did so.“Would you like me to start the play over? We can read over the script together,” she suggested.Hiei shrugged. “Sure, why not?” ------------------A few more songs and a murder later, and the story had done enough to completely capture Hiei’s interest. This phantom character was as malevolent as they came. He was sinister and dark, a character the fire demon could admire. Though this play started out as a pathetic romance, it was slowly getting good, and Hiei was excited for the unavoidable confrontation.“No more talk of darkness. Forget these wide-eyed fears. I'm here, nothing can harm you. My words will warm and calm you. Let me be your freedom, let daylight dry your tears. I'm here, with you, beside you, to guard you and to guide you.”Hiei sneered at the voice of the other man in the dark love triangle. After the murder occurred, the woman, Christine, had her little mental breakdown and realized that she was dealing with a sinister murderer. Now she was begging her former lover her to love her and protect her from the one man who would do her no harm, the one who saw her as his light.The fire demon’s eyes went to the ferry girl. The blue-haired woman smiled at the song, no doubt internally gushing over the romance between the two. She was delusional like that, a hopeless romantic. This was right up her ally, though it made Hiei feel nauseated.As their love song ended and the music silenced, the broken, eerie voice of the phantom sang once more. “I gave you my music. Made your song take wing. And now, how you've repaid me: denied me and betrayed me. He was bound to love you when he heard you sing. Christine. Christine.”The new couple repeated their love song, but this time the phantom unveiled his anger. Hiei smirked. Of course, the man wouldn’t have taken the competition lying down, and he caused a huge scene to boot. The chandelier crashed down according to the script. Botan’s eyes were wide, but as soon as the CD went to the medley of instrumentals indicating the end of the first act, she breathed out a relieved sigh and smiled at Hiei.“Well, that was intense and a little unexpected,” she stated, his expression remained impassive. “But the music is amazing, isn’t it?”“Hn,” Hiei grunted, then shrugged. To be honest, if he had to suffer through something like this, he could admit that the music was at least decent enough to not grate on his nerves…except that song with that bitch, Carlotta. He hoped the phantom would slay her next.Botan looked to the clock as the song was coming to a close. “Do you want to wait and have breakfast before starting the second half?”“We’ve gotten this far,” Hiei grumbled. “Might as well finish it.”The ferry girl grinned at him, and he had to ignore the way her expression made his stomach roil with agitation. “Sounds like a plan to me.” ------------------The second half proved to be even more compelling than the first. It took place months after the destruction of the chandelier, and the phantom had seemingly disappeared. That lured all of those among the opera house into a false sense of security. Everyone was thrilled over the peaceful haze, and when the phantom finally made his appearance at the New Year’s party, everyone was horrified, including Christine.The men made a plan, that would involve the woman, to attempt to capture the phantom once and for all. They thought they had the power, but the phantom wrote a dark opera and crafted it to fit his own plans. He knew full well the intent that everyone had to capture him. But everything was designed by the phantom to murder the male lead, take his place, and then escape with Christine. Of course, not everything went according to plan as his objectives became known, and the woman who had kept the phantom’s presence in the opera house hidden finally betrayed the man and told Christine’s lover, Raoul, where to find him.Meanwhile, the most souring confrontation finally happened—a musical and heart-wrenching conversation between the phantom and Christine. She finally accepted that he was no angel of music, and she feared she would become a victim to his bloodlust. The phantom then fully confided in her the curse of his life, to be damned with his horribly disfigured face, a face that not even a mother could love, and how it forced him to live alone in the shadows. To say that the message triggered Hiei to the point where he felt nothing but anger and bitterness was an understatement. Christine felt much empathy towards the phantom, pitied him, and then her lover caught up to them.The phantom demanded Christine choose him in exchange for Raoul’s life to which the other man begged her not to give in. Either way, the phantom would have her, willingly or not, and Christine had come to the realization that despite her despair over the phantom’s tragedy that she had been deceived and had given her mind to a total stranger. She then had to make her choice.And what surprised Hiei was that this woman full of kindness and light, one who was against everything the depraved phantom stood for, performed an act full of kindness and love to show the man that he was not alone. As a response to her truly gentle and caring gesture, the phantom chose to let her go. Bittersweet as the ending was, it made sense to Hiei. That was the natural course for the cursed and damned—to be forever alone. At least whoever wrote this piece knew of the true state of the worlds.Botan stopped the CD. Surprisingly, a tear escaped her. Hiei’s brow furrowed, and she met his perplexed gaze and chuckled weakly. “Sorry, I know how you feel about displays of emotion,” she attempted to placate although Hiei never asked for an explanation.“Hn,” Hiei scoffed. “Doesn’t matter. At least that wasn’t the worst way to spend a morning.”“You liked it?” Botan asked. Excitement clearly danced in her eyes. “Oh, I hoped you would. So, what did you like about it? What was your favorite part?”Hiei smirked sinisterly and admitted, “I really liked that phantom character. I was rooting for him the entire time.”“I thought you might,” Botan replied, not sound of judgment. “To be honest, I was too. I guess that’s why I’m a little sad over the ending.”The fire demon looked affronted. “You mean you didn’t want her with that other bastard?”Botan giggled and shook her head. “Not at all. You’d probably think I’m crazy, but I really wanted the phantom to truly find love. He deserved that much regardless. Everyone deserves to be loved.”Hiei didn’t say anything. Instead, the conversation was ended, and the two decided to sit in silence. They reflected on the play and their conversation before they moved on and Botan cooked them breakfast. Hiei was still bewildered by the ferry girl’s thoughts on the play. He expected someone as virtuous as her to be rooting against the evil and malevolent, but she proved, once again, that she was different from the other fools in Spirit World. Hiei wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that she was a part of their group which consisted mostly of demons by this point. It gave her different views that others in Spirit World would condemn in their stuck-up, condescending way.Botan wasn’t like that, and Hiei wondered how he hadn’t seen that before this present moment. He should have, given that he was the slowly becoming the one in their group that spent the most time with the woman. They had their moments, but the fire demon could admit that she wasn’t the worst and most useless of their group (in his mind, that award went to Kuwabara). Botan was bright, vibrant, and kind, as much as she was overly sentimental and klutzy.And he was the one of whom she chose to award her kindness.Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that Botan ended up destroying Hiei’s unwanted nightmares with her silly music and play. Despite his initial repulsion at wasting his time, maybe it wasn’t such a waste. If anything, this ‘musical’ provided the fire demon with an opportunity he would never have taken. It gave him this chance to see the ferry girl in new light as well as get to know her character. His mind decided that he actually kind of liked having this woman for a roommate.
Spa Day"I don't know how I let you talk me into this."Hiei couldn't help but glare at the smiling ferry girl. She was extremely giddy as the two reached their destination. His eyes narrowed at the building. He really couldn't believe he allowed himself to sink so low as to accompany the ferry girl to a day spa. His who body shuddered with disgust.Of course, he knew just how the ferry girl managed to convince him. It all started back when he resided in the woman's Human World apartment. He was bored; the rain poured outside. He grimaced at the thought of going out. Hiei hated the rain and preferred to stay indoors for the day. That unfortunately meant nothing to do for he could not train, not after the one time where the landlady came upstairs to scold Botan for a good half-hour.For a while after that incident, Botan got a call from Koenma, and the prince listed all of the duties the ferry girl needed to complete upon her return the following week. Botan looked incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of work she'd have to do. Likewise, Hiei was frustrated. With nothing to do, he decided to spy on the oaf and his sister only to find the fool rambling his long tirade of poems. It made the fire demon's core tighten and twist. Did the idiot not realize his sister would not fall prey to that useless garbage? Clearly not. Hiei needed a break from all of this.So, curious as always, he explored the random rooms of the apartment. The room where he resided was practically empty, so there was nothing there, and he dared not enter the woman's room lest it be full of bright, annoying colors. So he ended up in the bathroom of all places. He took notice of all the bottles and containers of…well, he had no idea what they were. The fire demon picked up one of the containers—one he only found interesting since he saw the word 'dead'—and read that it was something called a 'mud mask'. Hiei read the words to make sense of what it actually was and how it functioned. This dead sea mineral mask actually claimed to make skin glow. Hiei imagined something along the lines of radioactivity, but he doubted the woman would be so foolish as to have something like that lying around.So, Hiei went out into the living room and found the woman with her head thrown back on the couch. She looked completely exasperated, but he didn't care. He wanted answers as to what this mysterious object was. He nearly threw the container down on the couch beside her. Botan jumped, startled. "Oh, Hiei," she called out before she looked down at the spot next to her. She eyed him questioningly. "What are you doing with my mud mask?""What does it do?" he questioned. "Is it poison?"Botan almost laughed at the serious demeanor in which Hiei had voiced his whacky question. "No, silly, it's not poison. It's a mask for a facial. It's to help keep the skin healthy. Facials are actually quite relaxing."Hiei's brow quirked. He had never heard of a facial before, and he wasn't yet convinced it wasn't some type of poison, but the woman did say it was relaxing. "Does it really make your skin glow?"The ferry girl offered a smile. On the inside, she was cackling at the fire demon's curiosity. She was already starting to feel a little more at ease after this conversation. "I don't know," she told him. "I haven't tried it yet." Hiei's eyes narrowed at her. "You know, after talking to Koenma, a facial sounds pretty good. I think this rainy day calls for a good, old-fashioned spa day. Care to join me?"Hiei had no idea what he was getting into when he agreed. All he remembered was that he was bored. The fire demon shrugged and said, "What the hell," nonchalantly. Then he was engaged in the most asinine ritual in which he had ever partaken. Botan applied her mask, and Hiei did not remember what possessed him to join in. Maybe it was because he refused to go back on his word, or maybe it was because he had no idea what was happening. All he remembered was the mask made his face feel tingly, and he regrettably admitted that he enjoyed it.It was only once Hiei spent more time with the woman that he learned her spa ritual was a female pastime for relaxation. He remembered returning to the apartment from training only to find the woman with the detective's mate and the oaf's sister; they were watching their romance movies and eating the tiniest sandwiches the fire demon had ever seen. Hiei's face flushed red when he realized that the woman had made a fool of him, but then he remembered that she never really spoke of the incident. She allowed him his privacy, and again, he could admit he enjoyed it.After that, Hiei would conveniently show up whenever Botan was looking to have a spa day on her own, and the ferry girl was all but too happy to indulge him. It was in the safety of the apartment. Nothing like what he had agreed to on this day.Botan had been having so much fun on hers and Hiei little spa days that she thought they'd actually go all out for once. She heard about this place when she was flying around performing her duties and the idea struck her hard. It was a nice mountain spa that was far away from the city. She doubted any of their friends would frequent the place, so she managed to convince Hiei to join her. This time it took much convincing. Hiei did not want to be seen doing something so ridiculous, and he did not want strange humans to touch him. Plus, there was the concern that they'd accidentally strike his third eye. Botan gave him all the reassurances in the world.So here they were.Hiei glared at anyone who dared look his way, but Botan did not miss a beat as she continued to walk, a sprightly hop to her step. The fire demon questioned why she was so giddy over this.Botan spoke to the attendant who asked her a series of questions about skin care products she and Hiei used in the past. Hiei honestly had no idea what they used. Weren't all these things the same? Apparently not, as he was given a menu by the overly chipper woman behind the counter. He looked over to the ferry girl and saw her filling out her own brochure while he had yet to look at his. He actually ended up caught up in decision, if he wanted the mineral mask or the charcoal. Charcoal sounded more like him."Maybe we should do the pedicure too," Botan hummed in thought, and Hiei immediately felt awkward. Wasn't that the activity with the paint he had the displeasure of watching when the other girls were at the apartment? The ferry girl glanced at him and smiled. "Of course, you don't have to get the nail polish. Just the experience is good enough. It'll be like the facial, but just on the feet."Hiei had never felt so vulnerable before with such a decision placed in front of him…being made for him as Botan handed their lists back to the woman. "Absolutely, now, right this way you two. Oh, and can we offer you a couples massage.""No!" Hiei practically screamed, the amused eyes of both the ferry girl and attendant on him. He sneered at them both. "That will not be necessary," he growled out."Of course," the woman replied before she led them to the back. Hiei could not help but think that this whole experienced had better damn well been worth the humiliation. ------------------Surprisingly enough, the day actually went by smoothly. Hiei and Botan found themselves in those massage chairs, and the spa women worked on their feet while their facial masks hardened. They were given a tray of finger sandwiches and glasses full of cucumber water. All in all, everything was relaxing and Hiei found the food quite tasty. Botan offered him the rest of the tray when she had her fill, and Hiei was all too happy to finish the rest.The woman convinced him to do everything from body scrubs to seaweed wraps to mud baths, and then the two eventually ended up in a relaxing sauna. Hiei predicted that Botan saved it for last purposefully. Hiei enjoyed the heat, and he knew she knew this fact after spending so much time together in the past, both during his random visits and now during his extended stay. The two were currently resting on the wooden benches. Botan was up at the top lying on her back, and Hiei was down at the bottom on his back. He occasionally cast a glance up at the woman. She looked so serene as she lied there with her eyes closed, the white robe wrapped around her form. Her skin looked flushed from the heat, but she didn't seem to mind. Hiei watched the rise and fall of her chest; the soft beat had a strangely calming effect on him."Hiei, could you pour water over the stones?" The request came, and Hiei nodded even though he was certain the woman couldn't see. As the water was poured, steam filled the room, and both Botan and Hiei sighed in contentment. Yes, this had turned out to be well worth everything.Hiei lied back down and noticed a small smile on the ferry girl's face. He wondered if she was entertaining the idea of spilling their little secret. He hoped not, for he would end up giving something he thoroughly enjoyed. The fire demon decided to check to make sure she wouldn't spill and ended up hearing a thought he never thought he would.I really enjoy spending time with him, Botan mused. I know he made me promise not to tell, but I wouldn't anyway. I wouldn't want anything to ruin this time we have together, just the two of us. I'd be absolutely furious if the guys ever found out and made me lose my spa buddy.A smirk graced the fire demon's features, and he closed the connection. It appeared the ferry girl was just as territorial over her spa days with him. It was a strange sentiment, but the woman was full of those. It stopped surprising the fire demon long ago. Still, Hiei would never understand why she'd enjoy spending time with him so much. That was another thought for another day. For now, he just wanted to relax and enjoy their time there. ------------------The two finished up a while later and were ready to leave. The woman at the counter gave them gift bags of product samples that they could try on their next at home spa day, and somehow the women at the counter and Botan managed to convince Hiei to agree to a monthly arrangement. That was fine. He would need a break from spying on Kuwabara anyway. The thought alone was already causing stress."So, that wasn't so bad, huh?" Botan questioned as the two walked away from the counter. Hiei merely shrugged as an answer which made the woman giggle. Then, all time stopped as something completely unexpected happen.In that moment, Botan and Hiei were met with a pair of familiar emerald eyes which recognized them instantly. "Hiei? Botan?"The two blinked at Kurama, the fox demon's hair wrapped in a fluffy white towel and his face covered in a light brown mud mask. All three of them couldn't help but shriek in shock."EHHHHHH?"
Rebellion“The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” - Walter Bagehot ------------------To say Hiei was the rebellious type would be an understatement. His aim in life lied solely in getting stronger and accomplishing whatever ideals would hit him. He lived for no one else for he had no one. He always looked out for himself, even when he was a child. Sure, he lived with a band of thieves for years after his birth—a birth that was, in a way, also unorthodox. The fire demon was born strong to a race of weaklings, a man to a race of women, fire that would one day defiantly consume the ice. He was the revolt.Throughout his life, Hiei had but one, sole purpose: to find his homeland and destroy it.It was his birthright to destroy the race which discarded him, and it was a task he was all but up for. The idea of seeing his mother lingered in the back of his mind.When Hiei finally found his mother’s land, his body fought in protest of his mind. He wanted to incinerate the accursed village the second he stepped foot onto the snowy path. As he walked, his body tensed. The women all looked at him with fear—a stranger, a man—and they ran inside in fear leaving nothing but silence in his wake. The women were but phantoms in their own world. His mind finally caught up with his body, his desire to destroy gone.“They are already dead.”It was expected of the fire demon to give those maidens a cruel and unjust death. The clan leader had put that constraint on him. His birthright was in front of him, and all he had to do was perform the act. He cared not for the lives of the women and their daughters. He should conform to the society’s ideals. He should have given into their beliefs.He turned away.Leaving the village behind, he forged his own path, his own future, in defiance of the women. He learned of his mother’s passing and of his twin sister’s existence and disappearance. It led him into battle with Spirit World, to break into their vault and use their artifacts to once again fulfill his purposes. Demons were not permitted in Spirit World, yet he broke in with two others as if it were nothing—commonplace. One day, he planned to destroy all the Spirit World drones. He ended up working for them instead.How pathetic he was for not only getting himself caught by a weakling human but for agreeing to ‘community service’. Any other demon would have rather rotted in the Spirit World prison instead of joining the fight of Spirit World. However, he was able to use them and stumbled across his sister in the process. When Hiei attacked that bastard who hid her from him, he was ready to give into his anger and murder the man.“Don’t!”The shrill cry of his sister stopped him, and Hiei was appalled that anyone would stop him. Any demon would have wanted the human dead despite Spirit World law. All these years, Hiei told himself to listen to no one, and yet he surrendered and went against his own code. He threw the limp body of the cretin down and actually spoke to his twin with warmth he didn’t know he could possess.Yes, all his life, Hiei rebelled, even against himself, but as the years passed, it grew even worse.“Don’t ever trust an entity from Spirit World,” he remembered a demon tell him long ago. “They care nothing for us. Don’t even try to seduce one. It’s not only forbidden…it’s bad karma.”“So, what do you want to do tonight?”Hiei’s eyes snapped to the blue-haired woman sitting beside him. He was surprised she asked him such a thing, but honestly it made sense. For the longest time, long after the Demon World Tournament, Hiei found himself frequenting Human World more than he ever thought he would. With the barrier down, and with his sister living at the old woman’s temple, Hiei knew he couldn’t avoid the place. Besides, he was free to return to Mukuro’s stronghold whenever he wanted. Besides, sometimes he needed a break from that infuriating patrol.It had been years since he crossed the border between worlds to visit Yukina and occasionally check on her. He would remain outside the temple, watch her from a distance and in secret. Then, one day, the oaf he once called a teammate asked Yukina to live with him and his sister. Hiei nearly fallen from the tree in shock. Yukina accepted immediately and she allowed the human to hug her. It took everything for Hiei not to murder the redhead where he stood, but Yukina had no idea that the fire demon had been watching.So, to keep watch over her, he needed to remain in the city, and that was where the ferry girl stumbled across him. She heard that Yukina was now living with the Kuwabaras, and the ferry girl intelligently assumed that Hiei was not pleased. Still, she offered him shelter in the apartment where she stayed. It wasn’t the first time she expressed that he could visit the place whenever he wanted, but it was the first time Hiei needed to spend an extended period of time there.While Yukina played house with the oaf, Hiei regrettably noticed that he had practically done the same with the ferry girl. As time passed, he found himself growing even more comfortable with her presence in his life. He no longer saw her as the enemy.Surprisingly, Hiei was growing to see her the way she saw him, but it was unintentional. They spoke to each other at times when he stayed at the apartment. Other times, they sat in silence. It was not that bad, he figured, and he grew to feel relaxed when she was around. The ferry girl slowly became a confidant—he would never say friend—and he valued her optimistic notions. She definitely saw the world in a different light than he ever could.He trusted her. That was taboo in the demon realm even now that the three worlds were finding a balance. She was also pleasant to be around, and Hiei could remember a few moments where they had been close, so close he could feel her breath against his skin. Heck, they even kissed once when they were in a drunken stupor, a night she learned never to add so much alcohol into any drink.Hiei simply shrugged his shoulders in response. He didn’t really care what they did. Either way, when they spent any amount of leisure time together, they revolted against the laws and prejudices of their own worlds. He mentally smirked. In a way, Hiei was creating a fellow rebel.
February 2015 Writing Challenge
"I am..." Challenge Contest Entries - CLOSED
Fortnightly Themes - CLOSED
Group Icon Contest - CLOSED
We Write to Escape - Icon Submission 04 by Aposiopesis

Group Info

To write is to escape.

To escape is to write.

This group is for writers. Prose, poetry, fanfiction, lyrics, everything.

This group is a place for writers to share their writing, read others' writing and improve their skills.

The fortnightly themes are designed to challenge writers to write about a particular topic, and are also useful when suffering from Writer's Block.

I hope you guys enjoy this group as much as I enjoyed creating it!

Your founder,
Ash :heart:
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Hi all :wave:

So, February has come to an end and March is upon us. Therefore, last month's Challenge, Write A Letter to Your Best Friend, is over.

I will not be reading the entries for a couple days, as uni has just started and I have lots of homework, so if you haven't submitted yet but wanted to, last minute entries are completely welcome!!!

As of right now, there are 16 entries in the folder, which is pretty awesome. Hopefully there will be even more when I come on to read them...

Also, as I have only received feedback from one admin in the group, I have had to change the prizes for the challenges.

UPDATED PRIZE LIST IS AS FOLLOWS:
  • A feature in the group's journal, including an interview component and five pieces from your gallery.

  • A llama and one critique from WWtE contributor Phan5everx2 (critique on piece of your choice)

  • A llama and one critique from me (critique on piece of your choice, can be same piece as above or different one)


I have decided to put the Deviant of the Month project on hold until I have more time to really decide how I wish to do it, and hopefully get some contribution from my other admin members.

If I have time, I will take a wander through your gallery and offer you some critiques or constructive comments in addition to your one critique mentioned above.

In my journal announcing the winner, I will feature my top five submissions (including the winning piece) for the month's challenge, as well. Expect this journal in about a week.

I will post March's Challenge and open the folder by the 3rd.

Thank you for your patience, and for participating!!

Your founder,
Ash -imperfect-parachute
More Journal Entries

Admins

Hi all! :wave:

Thank you for visiting and/or joining this group! We hope you enjoy being a part of it!

If you have any questions, qualms or queries please either comment or note the group.

Thank you! :heart:


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:iconvvulf:
Vvulf Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2019  Student Writer
Hello,

It looks like this group is inactive. I'm trying to kickstart a few new writing groups. Check them out if you're interested. :) 
Story-Specters
This is a writing critique group. It works off of a give-one get-one basis. Folders are routinely emptied to ensure critique requests are from active members.
Write-Fantasy
A Fantasy Literature showcase! Find fantasy writers or display your work. This group is organized by subgenre and offers dedicated folders for members' chaptered works.
Prompt-Write
New writing prompts every month!

***If this group is still active, sorry, and feel free to hide this comment 
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:icondegainta:
Degainta Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2019  Hobbyist Writer
Poetry 3 folder is full.
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:iconkittysib:
KittySib Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Poetry 3 folder is full 0.0
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:icon9utsy:
9utsy Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
Hello!

I would like to offer a small job for someone who is over 18 years old (preferably from England, but it's optional) and english must be your native language (because it isn't mine).

I write and illustrate erotic comics, and I'm currently working in a Sherlock Holmes erotic parody, so I need someone who can help me correct and edit the script to make it sound more like the Victorian age. It doesn't have to be extremely accurate but at least I would it to sound english.

The script is explicit, that's why I need the interested person to be over the legal age (18+). It is a Word document of 8 pages and around 3000 words. 

If anyone is interested please contact me by note to let me know your prices and terms and conditions. I'm very open to negotiation.

Thanks for your time and have a nice day!
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:iconphoenixpuffle:
PhoenixPuffle Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Poetry 3 folder is still full by the way.
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:iconkittysib:
KittySib Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Poetry 3 folder is full
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:icongratitudeadvocate:
GratitudeAdvocate Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
I've got some mad-gnarly-creepy-cool horror fiction to be shared with y'all... 
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:iconjonathangwood:
JonathanGwood Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2017
Thanks for the add!
If I want to contribute to a folder, how can I add something that isn't already on my personal page?
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:iconbroadtip:
broadtip Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2017
Will there be a new poetry folder soon?
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:iconaiiley:
Aiiley Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist

Hello everyone thanks for adding me :D , I'm writing some kind of novel slightly influenced by Star Wars. These stories as I state every time I write them will mostly be based upon notes/tales told by different characters that will appear throughout their stories which are absolutely different than the SW we typically know. We'll get to know different characters in a more 21st-century world which combines action, drama and romance.

Thanks again for accepting me and see you soon I hope! 


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