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[Other FULL] Guilds of Atria: Phoenix Nest [T] [IC]

Sapphire Rose

[I]Only thorns left on this rose.[/I]
  • 3,449

    Faye Aubrey

    Female | Wizard/Touched

    Snitches get stitches feat. Prim

    Pretty dresses, handsome suits, lots of dancing and beautiful music. The added touch of the very extravagant food table proved that this was indeed a party held by the royal family of Atria. Most people came here tonight to obtain some new important contacts and it showed. Small groups had started forming at the sidelines of the banquet area. It was almost like a battlefield with how some conversations took place. Accusations swung like a sword in the most elegant way with words and the very thought out replies shielded them from the damage. Some people would thrive in these kind of situations… but not Faye.

    Other than accusations, some of those groups would talk about gossip instead. With some of the wizard guilds being invited to the party they seemed to be the main topic of tonight. To be more specific, the up and coming Wizards guild Phoenix Nest. Rowan now being an S class wizard, a rowdy Prim apparently causing wreckage left and right, Drell's big words… everything came and passed their lips.

    Until a certain conversation came around that made Faye freeze in place.

    "Have you heard? The white haired one among them. She-"

    "Ah yes! I heard. They say she's a monster. Nearly killed an innocent man while he did his job."

    "Tsk Tsk. Always those "touched" people. They should just stay where they belong…"

    "Touched, you say? But she looks pretty plain."

    "I heard she grows horns and horrendous claws and-"

    "And what?" The gossipers found themselves suddenly cut over by the appearance of Prim, arms slung over them like old friends even though she'd never met them. "Do go on."

    "How rude!" One of the women stood up to start lecturing about the sudden appearance of a certain blue haired girl. "You can't just cut in on our conversation. Learn some proper etiquette!" She shot again. Faye on the other hand stood flabbergasted with widened eyes.

    "Proper etiquette?" Prim laughed mockingly, "That's real rich coming from some gossip monger who couldn't even get her information right."

    "It seems like the information was quite correct judging from your improper attitude." One of the ladies joined the argument, although more calmly than her predecessor.

    "Oh?" Prim commented, "But you've got the wrong Phoenix. I'm the touched one - well other than Drell, but I'm guessing the giant lizard lady isn't shocking enough to be gossip. See, people always think I'm keeping it secret because I don't look the part, but I'm actually pretty open about it. Idiots just get the wrong idea. I guess I technically can grow claws if I want to though. It's a cool trick, wanna see?"

    The woman jumped back a little in both disgust and fear at what seemed to be a threat to them. The moment they grabbed their stuff and scurried around like the pests they were, Faye released herself from her mental prison and made her way over to Prim. She felt unsure about what she had been seeing, even less so of Prim's involvement. Was she glad or did this just cause more issues? She didn't know.

    "I… appreciate what you did there but we can't be making trouble here." Faye spoke quietly.

    "Don't worry." Prim shrugged, "They were going to talk about us either way, I just changed the topic a little bit. They'll gossip about that, it's what they do, but they aren't going to make a big scene about anything - we're guests of honour. That's just how it is at these things."

    "You're both fearless and reckless when it comes to these things…" Faye sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. She wasn't entirely sure if she liked the idea of them now gossiping about Prim instead but what was done was done. She should have stepped in earlier if she had wanted to do something about that.

    "Relax. Like I said, people were going to talk one way or another and I don't care if they're talking about me. I'm used to it. You, on the other hand, have made it abundantly clear you're not ready to deal with this sort of thing. I just did what made sense."

    "I'm… not good at this." Faye sighed after a short moment of silence. "Thank you, I guess… I know you're not the sort to care for their words but I don't want them to be talking ill about someone I consider a friend nonetheless. I'm not sure how to feel about this all…" she admitted. "But I'm indeed not ready. Not yet. Curse Veechar in that sense. It sounded like he was the one who has been spreading these rumours. Nearly killed an innocent man? Yeah. Right."

    "Assholes like that always play the victim. It's not exactly surprising. He'll get what's coming to him eventually. But I think that's enough doom and gloom for such a festive occasion, don't you?"

    Faye grew silent for a moment. Eventually she'd sigh.

    "You're right." She rubbed her arm once more and regained her usual composure. "I don't want to think about that jerk any longer than I have to." A quiet mumble escaped her lips while her eyes gazed towards the dance floor. She had been so busy avoiding people and the journalists covering this event that she had yet to dance herself.

    Even as Faye's eyes drifted towards the dance floor, Prim's arm was already shooting out and her hand was wrapping around Faye's wrist like a vice. Without waiting for permission, she started half-leading, half-dragging her friend in the direction she had been looking. "In that case, I have just the thing."

    "H-Huh?" Faye gasped in surprise as she was suddenly being led. "What are you up to-? Oh. Oh No." She stammered as they were getting closer to the dancing people in the center of the ballroom, an orchestra at the side playing music. "I have never danced in my life, Prim."

    "Don't worry about it. I know what I'm doing." Prim continued to pull her friend out onto the dance floor, not stopping until they were surrounded by other pairs. She turned to face Faye, pulling her closer and putting one hand on her back while lifting the other. Slowly, she started leading her around the floor. The older girl was a bit flustered by the sudden disregard for personal space that Prim demonstrated but it was easy enough to follow her along, even putting a hand on her shoulder as it almost felt natural so that she could be more easily led around. Though… even then Faye couldn't prevent herself from stepping on Prim's toes every once in a while, immediately bouncing back when she did.

    "I-I'm sorry, I told you I was no good at dancing."

    "You're doing fine!" Prim laughed, "Besides, I'm a guild wizard. I've taken a lot worse punishment than you stepping on my toes. Just relax and enjoy the experience. This is nice, right?"

    "R-Right…" Faye gave her an unsure smile while she allowed Prim to continue leading her. She glanced at her surroundings ever so often. People weren't looking weirdly and watching them make elegant steps actually helped her improve her own. It took a bit of looking down at her own feet to check how she was moving them but after a while Faye was no longer stepping on the toes of the shorter girl in front of her. By doing that alone, along with the knowledge people weren't staring, it helped her relax a bit and enjoy the experience as Prim had told her to. "Yeah this is kinda nice…"

    "Right." Prim didn't really know what else to add beyond the affirmation. So she said nothing more for some time, simply continuing to enjoy the feeling of moving in unison with the music. She hadn't just been trying to ease Faye's mind, it was pleasant. It had been a long time since she'd actually been involved in social dancing and it was proving more fun than she could remember. She figured she may as well take her own advice and just enjoy herself.

    The two Phoenix girls enjoying a dance together made for a gorgeous image. Even Faye, who usually wore little more than a stoic expression on her face, was looking a bit softer. The corners of her mouth slightly raised while the music guided their steps. Unfortunately the moment lasted only a few minutes longer as the song eventually came to an end. Everyone who participated gave their partners a grateful bow. Faye followed this gesture and lowered herself a little for Prim as she held her dress in a similar fashion as the other women. Was this supposed to be the way to do it?

    Prim flashed a grin at Faye. "Look at you being all ladylike. I suppose I shouldn't drag you around any more though. You're looking a lot more relaxed, but I know this isn't really your thing."

    "Oh yeah it definitely isn't." Faye rubbed the back of her head. "I'd like to catch some fresh air. I feel a bit stuffy with all the people around here." The words of the girl came out with an exhausted sigh. She really wasn't used to these sorts of things. Not in the way Prim was at least. "I'll see you in a bit." Faye turned around to leave the dance floor in the direction of the doors leading towards the balconies. Before she left Prim's sight completely, she turned around one last time and whispered something inaudible. Fortunately, the smile Prim was blessed with and the forms her lips were taking made it quite easy to guess.

    "Thank you."

  • 25,607
    Primilla Bellamy and Lina Latare

    The Palace
    Having left Faye behind, Prim found herself wandering through a sea of white, red and gold tablecloths, each one adorning a rounded table surrounded by chairs. Most of these chairs were occupied by people Prim didn't know. Although, on occasion, she would pass somebody she recognised as a business partner - or ex-business partner - of her father's. She made a point of avoiding those tables once she had identified them.

    Wandering aimlessly was boring though, even if the atmosphere was mostly pleasant. Prim was making a point of looking around for other familiar faces - anyone who could provide some actual entertainment.

    So it was a stroke of good luck when she spotted Lina sitting alone at one of the tables at the edges of the scene, by a wall. Prim gladly pranced over to her guildmate and flopped down into the chair directly next to her.

    "And what are you doing, hiding over here all alone?" Prim asked.

    Lina's eyes shot up as if broken from a trance. "What? Oh, hi Prim. I'm just, uh… scouting. Yeah, that sounds good." She flashed a smile. "What's up?"

    "Oh, you know, scouting." Prim leaned in towards Lina, smirking. "I just left Faye and was looking for someone else to entertain myself. What are you scouting for from all the way over here?"

    Lina took a moment to consider her response. "A… lot of stuff I guess?" She sighed. "There's a lot of people here who know a lot of things I can use so I want to ask them stuff, but I'm just trying to figure out the right way to do it first. Like maybe I could show Cassius Burgess my weapons and see if he has any magitech insight, or maybe I can find someone who can help me use my magic more efficiently. And I just kinda want to ask the guild wizards everything. I'll figure it out though, I'm sure of it.

    "So what were you and Faye up to anyway," Lina asked?

    "Oh, nothing special. Just enjoying the party," Prim replied. "You're not weaseling out of this discussion with a subject change though, sorry. If you want to talk to someone, you just have to go and talk to them. If you sit here trying to strategise about it forever instead, the discussion will never happen. Besides, you can't predict what people will do. We're unpredictable like that."

    Lina shook her head. "I know, I know. Like I said, I'll get there, don't worry. It just, uh, takes me a bit. Don't quite have the same boundless confidence that you do."

    "Okay. Plan B," Prim said, standing up from her chair.

    Prim grabbed Lina's arm and yanked her to her feet, proceeding to start dragging her into the tablecloth sea without a clear destination in mind. "Right, who are we talking to and where can I find them?"

    "Wait what no I said I was fine!" Lina protested, though she couldn't shake Prim's grip.

    "I heard you," Prim replied, "But you're also either lying or just don't realise that you're not as fine as you think. So we're doing this. How about that Burgess guy, where's he hiding? With Sarah?"

    "Yeah, but maybe we can start with someone else first?" Lina said. "Or wait, maybe if Sarah is there it won't be so bad actually. Yeah, sure, let's go!"

    Sarah was not, in fact, there. None of the other members of the Burgess family were, with Cassius sitting at their table alone and looking bored. As the girls approached, he looked up as if he was expecting company, with an almost irritated expression on his face. He had the same brown hair as the rest of his family, but it was short and spiky with the tips dyed black. He looked around the same age as the girls, maybe a year or two younger, with pale skin and unnaturally blue eyes. Considering the rest of his family's brown eyes, they were probably colored contacts.

    "Okay nevermind, maybe we can talk to, like, I dunno maybe Egan instead?" Lina asked.

    "Hi, Cassius was it?" Prim ignored Lina's attempts to back out and instead pulled her to stand in the forefront. "My friend here's really interested in your work. Maybe you can give her some pointers."

    He furrowed his brow at Lina. "I know all the up-and-coming engineers and I've never seen you. I'm gonna guess that's not what you were invited for so I won't expect much. But work is work and it's sure to be better than talking about company shit with another old fart. So where is it?."

    Lina shot a glare at Prim before turning her attention back to Cassius. She shuffled a little. "Well, uh, they're actually weapons and I don't really know about pulling those out right in the middle of the banquet. Might not be a good look, you know?"

    Cassius sighed. "We're in a room with Milla and Cignus both. Arvis doesn't care if you pull a weapon out, if anyone tries anything they're dead anyway. Besides, most of you wizards don't even need a weapon to kill someone."

    "Yeah, that checks out." Prim shrugged.

    Lina grumbled. "I guess…"

    She took a breath and summoned one of her weapons. The first weapon she was proud enough to use, her curved blade Rage of the Heavens. Cassius gestured for her to give it to him and she obeyed. "Mind if I take it apart real quick?" He asked. "I'll put it together again when I'm done."

    "What?" She seemed uncomfortable with the idea but ultimately agreed. "Yeah, uh, go ahead I guess."

    Cassius wore a normal suit, but on his hands were a pair of ornate gloves with bright blue streaks of magical energy running through them. They recognized this from Harmonia's armor; liquid lacrima. He waved his hand and requipped a set of tools, surprising Lina, and got to work.

    Lina seemed to squirm as he took apart her beloved weapon, silently inspecting its inner workings. But true to his word, he was done quickly enough, and she hurriedly took the weapon back. "So?" she asked, almost shaking in her nervousness.

    "It looks like you used bargain bin parts and put them together in your garage, but with that in mind it's not bad at all. You're self-taught, aren't you?"

    Lina was speechless, unsure if she should feel pleased or offended.

    He continued anyway. "Go to school or find a teacher and I think you'll go far. But if you just want something to fight with, this sword will do the job. There's a lot you can do to improve it but most of it is parts and techniques that take specialized machinery to do, and I don't imagine you have access to any of that right now. If you really need some feedback to work with, I'd say everything's a bit crammed together. You're trying to do too much with this and don't have the right parts to do it like that. It's all gonna wear down faster like that, and I wonder if you can afford that much maintenance."

    "Oh, I uh… Well that's… uh, thank you, Cassiu- Mr. Burg- uh, sir?"


    "Cassius, right. Thanks."

    "I have no idea what you were just talking about, but that sounded like praise. Excellent," Prim added. "You seem alright, Cassius."

    "Yeah, yeah," he brushed her off. "Is that all?"

    "I'd say so. My point's been proven."

    Lina just groaned.

    Satisfied with that turn of events, Prim snapped up Lina by the wrist again and was soon once again dragging her past guests and tables until they reached the corner spot they had started from again. Prim relinquished her grip and sat back down, smirking at Lina all the while. "See."

    Lina grumbled. "Yeah, sure, it went fine I guess." She was trying to look frustrated but a smirk kept trying to creep onto her face from the praise she'd received. "What's with you, anyway? Like, is that a capital thing? Not being intimidated by famous people because you live in the same city as all of them?"

    "No? Not really?" Prim thought about it. "Loads of people live in the capital who'd be just as worried as you were. I just think - no offense - it's kind of dumb to be put off by things like status. We're all just people. There's better metrics to judge people by. So when you strip all the stupid stuff away it's pretty easy to deal with others."

    Prim chuckled to herself for a moment. "Admittedly, it does help that I've yet to meet a person I couldn't hurl across the room if they became an issue."

    Lina chuckled. "The guild really is lucky to have you."

    "I know," Prim replied with complete confidence. "But we're pretty lucky to have you too. None of the rest of us could make the things you do… or figure out what's going through your dad's head most of the time."

    "I think you give me too much credit if you think I know what's going through his head." She leaned back in her chair. "But I don't need to think too much about it when I know he doesn't do anything without a good reason. I am pretty proud of my weapons though, and I guess I know I have good reason to be now. What do you think? Should I ditch the guild business and be an engineer?" She smirked at that last part, clearly joking.

    "You probably could if you wanted to, but where's the fun in that?" Prim replied, "Just do both and make Cassius look like a novice."

    "Pfft, you know what? Sure, that's the plan then. While we're at it maybe you could teach me some martial arts and I'll take that crown too?"

    Prim laughed. "I've never tried teaching, but sure. Why not? Good luck with that last part though. You'd have to be better than me."

    Lina blinked. "Wait, really? I was kidding, but uh, it probably would help to learn some martial arts. Just in case, even if swords are cooler." she mumbled that part under her breath. "But I wouldn't want to drag you away from your own training too much. Maybe just some basics and I'll figure it out from there."

    "You know you don't have to pick one or the other, right?" Prim said, "Honestly, combining the two is a good strategy. Technically, sword work is a martial art even. I just don't use weapons because I don't need to. Besides, almost any weapon I used would just break into pieces from the force. But whatever works for you, I guess."

    "I wonder if I'd be able to make you something that wouldn't break one day," Lina mused.

    "I'm sure you could if you really wanted to. There's probably even a handful of weapons out there that already wouldn't." Prim shrugged, "I wouldn't worry too much though. Like I said, it's not like I really need to lug a sword or a polearm around to be effective."

    "That's sad," Lina said. "Swords and polearms are the best, haha. What about… like a gauntlet weapon, even just to give a magical effect to your punches? Or wait! arm blades. Retractable ones would be so cool. Or wait, more than retractable, if I had the right stuff maybe I could make detachable ones even. Firable? Ones that fire and return, even. With some signal lacrima or magnetic lacrima, or a certain application of requip lacrima I…" Lina trailed off as she mumbled excitedly about potential weapon designs for Prim that the brawler likely had no interest in anyway.

    "Well, I kind of like doing everything using just my own power, you know?" Prim said, "That's why I don't use any lacrima or anything either despite not really having any magic. I take pride in the fact I can still keep up with and even beat proper wizards just by punching them really hard. Don't stop on my account though, it's kind of interesting hearing you try to figure out how you'd personally equip me - and honestly this might be the most I've ever heard you talk. It's fun."

    Lina blushed a little, her cheerful expression softening. "I don't have very much magic and I'm only this strong after all my training, so in a way the weapons I make are my own power. That's how I feel, anyway. I kind of have to since it's the only way I can compete. I really respect that you can hold your own without any of that though. I don't think I'd accept a weapon that wasn't my own either. I won't mind if you decide not to use any of my gadgets in a fight, but if I make something fisty it might be fun to play around with at least." She flashed a grin.

    "That's because your weapons are your own power if you made them. You saying you need them to compete is like saying that most Valbestians need their beasts or Pat and Rowan need emotions or whatever. Of course you need them to compete, that's your thing."

    Prim shrugged, letting that sink in a bit before picking the conversation back up. "I'm always up for playing around with some punchy gadgets. Sounds like fun."

    "That's good to hear," she said with a chuckle, not responding to her earlier words. "It'll take me a while to get the money for materials since I've got something big in the works already, but I'm getting excited thinking of ideas already!" From there Lina took the opportunity to gush about these ideas to Prim, scribbling in her notebook all the while. Her ideas grew increasingly outlandish as she went on.

    Prim was pretty content to sit and listen, every now and then throwing out a suggestion - many of which were very bad - as Lina sunk further and further into her rabbit hole. All in all, it wasn't a bad way to kill some time at a party.



  • 957

    Prodding the Prodigy Atria City, Friday August 3rd, X784

    Sitting at his table alone was a bored-looking teenage boy with spiky brown hair, the tips dyed black. Cassius Burgess, genius magitech engineer and rising star of Alpha Lux industries, stared blankly at the party, obviously busy with his own thoughts. Unwitting prey, unaware of what approached him. Amongst the clinking of dishes and chattering of voices he continued to sit, utterly unprepared as, from the shadowed outskirts of the hall, a great and mighty reptile emerged and opened its jaw wide!

    "Yooo!" Greeted Drell, the great and mighty reptile. She hunched over slightly in an ill-fated attempt to reach eye-level with Cassius. "Are you, like, the guy? You gotta be- you're the guy, aren't you? You're the guy!"

    Cassius raised an eyebrow. "I'm definitely a guy, but if you're approaching me here then I'm probably the one you're looking for, yeah. What do you want?"

    "Yeah, you're-! Like, you built the thing!" The Big Phoenix hadn't quite managed to escape total vagueness yet, but she was getting there. "I saw the armour suit thing that you made or designed or whatever- the, I mean not really armour, but- you know Harmonia from the Gryphon guild? Her thing, I like, fought it- she blew me up with it and it was sorta kinda epic?"

    "His work is certainly impressive, hard to believe such technological mastery and innovations comes from my own future brother-in-law!" Cassius' attention was momentarily drawn to his side to a chair he could have sworn was empty mere moments ago. However long ago it had been empty, Rowan was in it now, smiling and raising a hand in welcome to Drell as if he'd been there the whole time. "I would love to be able to contract some work out to him some time."

    "The company doesn't like me doing independent work so you'll have to take that up with them," Cassius said with a sigh, "but if you've got something interesting enough they won't be able to stop me. Also you definitely think Sarah likes you more than she actually does, even if she does like you all pretty well.

    "More importantly, you fought Harmonia? Any thoughts besides 'epic'? Notable strengths and weaknesses you noticed? Funny you mention armor since I've been thinking about the best way to add heavy plating without hindering maneuverability, ether output, and the transformations. They won't be happy with upping the manufacturing cost either but Harmonia is special, and it's a long time before we should even think of producing more anyway."

    "Strengths and weaknesses?" Drell spared Rowan a quick excited smile before being sucked in by the prospect of cool-stuff conversation. "I mean it makes explosions that are real cool and all, that's neat. There's like eighty dang weapons in there or somethin' and none of them you can even see are weapons until they're already goin' BABA, BAPAPAPAPAPA you know? Haha - uh, crumples pretty easy under blunt force. Mace or a warhammer'd mess up all those movin' parts like they're paper, and the wearer beneath it all besides. Slices might slide off, the thinness looked like any kinda stabby weapon or arrow or bolt with any meaningful force behind it might punch through. Big beastie claws or jaws of most kinds are kinda both of those problems at once. Padding goes a long way for stoppin' someone getting floored right away by a swing to the head, plate thickness stops the stabbin', but protecting all those compact li'l parts is a whole other ball park dude, that's like - OH dude you could put like a - because the parts bits are mainly like, blunt vulnerable - you could make like a concussive ether force shield that takes in all the kapow and throws it back like whAUM or something, or. OR you could- just, like, make a big super heavy version where, like, you don't have to go too quick because there's so much armour and there's room for like two thousand ranged weapons, and if people got close you could just explode the whole outside and it would be okay because there's so much armour BUT THEN, you- it would get worn down eventually until you blow up the inside but then the regular armour was just inside the thing the whole time-"

    "You've been reading 'Mechanical Warrior: Broken Oath' again, haven't you?" Rowan cut in when he started hearing all-too-familar ideas.

    "-And then it could- I- wh-" the big lizard shook her head to focus, her eyes widening once Rowan's words set in. "Dude there's a thing I can read that sounds like that!?"

    Rowan smiled at her enthusiasm. "I'll dig it up for you when we get home and we can fire cool ideas at each other after you take a look." His gaze sharpened to Cassius after that. "I've been wondering since I saw Harmonia in action - since we're on the topic - how much of what the armor does comes from her own power? Are there lacrima in it that charge themselves, maybe get charged before a fight or does she provide all the ether like a living battery? And how does one control magitech that can do that many different things precisely? Is it a certain type of magic? All technique? Connections to nerve endings so the brain can send the armor signals?"

    For the first time since coming to this party, Cassius smiled. He looked at Rowan. "I like you two. She's the type of big idea person every team needs, and you've got great taste in literature. At the moment the suit is still rudimentary. It contains countless veins of liquid lacrima each imbued with their own spells, these being the source of the weapon and augmentation magics. There are veins dedicated toward carrying ether as well and redistributing it throughout the suit as needed."

    He shook his head. "But at present the suit has no way of recharging its own ether supply, nor does it have any systems to simplify access to its weaponry via the pillars. Both of those are on the wizard within. Remembering all of the weapons and making sure she can both call and utilize them quickly are Harmonia's own skill. And we're fortunate her natural ether pool is high for testing purposes, to charge the suit between uses and to keep it going once the charge is depleted. But the final goal is for these suits to be usable by normal humans, so we're pushing nanocite research for our next step. And making sure we can protect the suit is especially important when we're using something as expensive as that so your suggestions are definitely appreciated."

    "Oh, thank you! I try to get ahold of just about every book I can that even remotely interests me - and a few that don't really - the more I can build up my personal library, the better." Rowan's smile warmed further at the literary solidarity before his expression grew thoughtful again. "I assume the suit models would branch off between the standard issue for anyone and more specialist types, maybe exclusive to custom orders? After all, making them for wizards as the technology progresses would still give you so many more options to play around with."

    "Hmm…" Ith'Drell was in 'huge think mode', invigorated by the prospect that her visionary ideas weren't immediately being shot down. "Iunno what nano side is, but couldn't you like… have one of the things the suit can do be requipping a different suit? So when it starts running out of juice you just get the next one and then just keep goin' down the line until it gets back around to the first one but by then it's all recharged and everything - or I guess just requip the supply or somethin'. Or you could have like a big like syringe weapon for bad guys if the suit fights the evil wizard guys, where you just like- OH, big harpoon some bad guy and suck up all the ether in em so they can't cast spells and you've got all their spells…"

    "Nanocite is a new type of lacrima that is able to absorb ethernano and convert it into ether, the same as a wizard's body naturally would." Cassius explained. "It's only found deep in the Mistlands though, and while we're able to replicate them now it's an extremely costly process. As for absorbing ether, both Commander Cavan and Lieutenant Tulles have methods of that I could use if I could convince them to infuse some spell lacrima for me. Suit changing is definitely possible though, and with some adjustments it could definitely requip individual parts."

    "And yes, they could be custom made for specific wizards. But I doubt I'd have the time for those kinds of orders until the base suits are in mass production. I didn't even want to come here, but we're here in part to celebrate the suit's progress so the company president insisted I come." He lazily glanced at the front of the room where the Emperor and the Princess sat.

    Drell digested the information gradually, deeply pensive with a knuckle held to her pursed mouth. "What if the suit could explode all of you and then let you requip a stronger past version of yourself…?"

    Cassius stared at Drell blankly before bursting into laughter. "You guys are really something special, huh?"



    Believe in the you that believes in cheese
  • 1,319

    A Ghost of a Dance


    "Ladies and Gentlemen," a loud voice cut through the party. "The Emperor would like to say a few words." The well-dressed speaker stepped aside as the crowd fell silent, leaving all eyes on Arvis.

    "Thank you, friend." Emperor Arvis cleared his throat. "As you all know, we have gathered here to celebrate the incredible strides our nation has made in the world of magic. And among these are guests, two newly-crowned S-Class wizards. Our exam this year was the most grueling yet, and these wizards already stand shoulder to shoulder with our best. A toast to Siren of Gryphon Gale and Rowan Hoskel of Phoenix Nest!"

    Everyone in the hall raised their glasses in unison. Siren, for her part, only winced for a split second before faking a smile and waving to all who cheered. Rowan immediately gave his most winning grin and bowed with practiced perfection. "Just wait until you see us at the Grand Magic Games!" He had the gall to proclaim, still beaming.

    Egan looked down at him from the second floor with a confident smirk and a fire in his eyes. The crowd muttered at the sight, being well aware of the budding rivalry thanks to Sorcerer Weekly.

    The Emperor chuckled. "I've got high hopes for Myeloch's guild of course, but rest assured the other guilds won't make it easy for you."

    "Fine by me, honor and glory don't come from an easy sweep~" Rowan said, more serious than he ever appeared in public, though that lilting confidence was still there. But we're here for a different kind of celebration, aye? We're here for a party!" He swept a drink off a table with a flourish and proudly cheered. "To his majesty Arvis Atria! And once more, to the light of this land, our lady Ennis Atria!"

    The Emperor raised his glass with a grin. "That's a good one. To my little princess Ennis!" The Princess shuffled in her seat from embarrassment. "Now let me see this ballroom a little busy, I want everyone to have a great time."

    The crowd cheered even louder than they had for the S class inductees and quickly began to disperse again to either find dance partners or tables to eat and watch the rest. Rowan watched for a while, failing to find the motivation to really get on the dance floor. Even the peak of temptation, Prim walking Faye through the basics and teaching her what she knew failed to get his feet moving.

    No matter what else happened at the party, Rowan's eyes kept moving to Ennis, taking in every detail of her veiled enthusiasm, and how closely she watched the dancers. Eventually a wisp of feeling from her cut through all the static the crowd of people made for his "empathdar" and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. He'd thought about it already, cringed at the thought of how inappropriate it might seem to the party or even the emperor, especially if it fell through. But that look in her eyes and that longing he felt from her as she kept her position of honor stirred something in him that had seemed dead for years.

    Before the decision had even fully formed and detailed itself in his head, Rowan was already weaving through the crowd around the dance floor, gliding through every gap until he stood before the princess like a figure of mist coalesceing from within the mess of people. No sooner had Ennis properly noticed him than was he knelt in front of her, head bowed until it almost rested on his knee, and left hand extended. "My lady."

    Her emotions were a torrent as she witnessed Rowan approaching her out of nowhere. Rowan could only pick out bits before they shifted again. Frustration and worry, but also a confused sense of comfort. Yet the whole time, her face was pristine and proper. "How could I refuse one of our realm's most promising new protectors?" She said with a voice like silk. She wheeled herself forward and took his hand. "I may be seated but I'm a better dancer than people give me credit for."

    The crowd murmured, and Rowan could feel the Emperor's eyes on him like a hawk.

    "I know you are, I haven't forgotten a thing." Rowan muttered softly enough for her to only just hear, and the sense of warmth and familiarity radiated off of him like normally only his little brother could. Without further warning, Rowan pulled as if bringing her to her feet and swept her into a classic princess carry. Twirling gracefully onto the dance floor, Rowan smiled and didn't allow his eyes to leave hers for even a moment. As the pair spun, the whole room began to change.

    The lighting shifted almost imperceptibly, but left the entire party feeling more upbeat and excitable. The walls and their decorations seemed to be replaced with midnight blue walls, covered in reliefs of pegasi and detailed constellation charts that twinkled as if the night sky were right there. Every empty space around the dance floor and at the tables was filled with ghostly guests, dressed much like the partygoers but missing faces or truly defining characteristics. The apparitions clapped and cheered on as if they were actually there, watching the phoenix and the princess like they'd been waiting for this day for years.

    Finally, Rowan clicked his heel to a smooth stop of the twirl, perfectly in the center of the dance floor now, eyes still glued to his partner's. Ennis' dress was mostly the same, but now featured a prismatic pattern of colors shifting ethereally around her skirts. Rowan's cloak flew off to reveal a clean white suit with scarlet trim and a rich forest green dress shirt underneath the jacket, and an emblem of a lion's head on his back that glimmered with the same colors as the princess' skirts.

    Most of the room collectively gasped when Rowan tilted the princess and primly set her down…on her own feet. Ennis found that she had no trouble keeping her balance or supporting herself whatsoever. Rowan simply continued to smile as if this were the most natural thing in the world and squeezed her hand once more. "Ennis…may I have this dance?"

    Ennis shuffled, unsure on her newly-steadied feet. "This is… you… I uh…" She cleared her throat and let the panic melt off her face. "I'm a bit less practiced this way, but of course. Lead the way then, Mr. Hoskel."

    "I think you'll find yourself a match for any of the finest rug cutters in the kingdom~" He pulled her close by their linked hands.

    "Lead the way then, sir rug cutter." She joked and followed his lead.

    Emotions all around the ballroom spiked, with a particular spot of envy surging from where the Burgess family was seated. And from another side of the room was a distinct lack of emotion. Or rather, a void in his radar. People made space as a towering figure in a suit of pitch black armor emerged to keep watch over Rowan.

    Rowan placed his forearm on the back of her waist and started slow, stepping to the back while her feet followed his. Aside from the very first step Ennis found it all too easy to match her partner step for step, yet her confusion was almost immediately chased away by a sense of rightness. In no time Rowan stopped simply guiding her and began to lead their dance in truth. The pair gently rotated, hand in hand, arms lightly linked one over the other in what started out as a lazy spiral.

    The ballroom was thrown into surprise and confusion again when all the phantoms began to pair up, converging on the dancefloor with hands clasped, faceless silhouettes conveying silent invitations and unspoken flirtations with one another. The entire ethereal crowd was in sync as if they'd been practicing this for years and could read each others' minds. All the spectral strutters started with the same lazy spiraling pattern that Rowan and Ennis had, they weaved in and out of sight behind and around one another from any one static point of view within the room. The only pair to remain visible at all times were the Princess and the Phoenix.

    Finally, the music picked up into a higher tempo, more uplifting melody that still carried that air of regal formality, and the dancers increased their pace and effort to match. Everyone watching the performance felt as if they were looking at the dancers in person with their own eyes and from directly overhead where they could see the pattern the shimmying, alternating bodies created clearly. What had been a simple spiral before was now a flower in full bloom, each pair of dancers a petal, creating an elegant spin of the flower. Finally, every pair of dancers' clothes changed, taking on shifting prismatic colors like Rowan and Ennis, turning the flower into a whirl of rainbow petals. The centerpiece couple glowed brighter, their colors still outshining the rest even as all the dancers sped up.

    Arvis Atria and his captain Mila were both stunned for a moment when Rowan hooked his arms underneath Ennis and tossed her straight up into the air. The princess herself, however felt nothing but exhilaration and pride, somehow she'd known everything Rowan was going to do before he did it. At the crest of her moment of flight Ennis kept her legs framed as if still in a princess carry in Rowan's arms and a massive phoenix made of rainbow flames burst into existence just behind her as she spread her arms. The proud screech lit a fire in the heart of everyone who looked at it and held Ennis aloof as long as its call lasted. The instant the phoenix's voice died, it burst into a snowfall of twinkling, phantasmal ashes, gently falling all over the room to land on the ghostly partygoers one by one, where all the illusions poofed softly out of existence.

    So, too, fell the princess. Right into Rowan's arms, transitioning perfectly into a dip that left his hand cradling the back of Ennis' neck only a foot away from the floor with the pair's faces nearly nose to nose. "See? You were great. Just like I always knew you would be one day…"

    The princess' porcelain face softened a bit, but Rowan felt a tinge of sadness within her. "Haha, I didn't think this day would come. But things are different now, Rowan. It's not a time for dancing and banquets. Not that papa would know…" She blinked and seemed to remember something. Or forget, perhaps.

    She smiled at him, returning to that practiced smile she had before. "It was fun, but I'm not used to this much excitement so I might be feeling a little tired. But thank you."

    That single moment of clarity completely floored him - almost literally - he nearly lost his balance and had to stand them both back up immediately so nobody could notice. Rowan bowed and Ennis curtsied, giving the crowd the acknowledgement they needed that the dance was well and truly complete. Despite seeing their hands and mouths move, Rowan heard not a hint of the applause, the cheering. He didn't even feel any of their emotions, he was deafened to everything except the roaring of blood in his ears and the rapid staccato of his own heartbeat.

    "Thank you for the dance, Princess." He managed to put the mask back on well enough to tell her. "I couldn't be more grateful for the honor. I'm afraid that performance took a lot out of me, I need some time to breathe and recover. If I don't see you again…know that I'm not just another member of my guild. I'll be on your side, whatever happens from here on out." He allowed himself to lean down and tilt his head to whisper into her ear. "Even if it has only been a piece of it…I'm glad I was able to keep my promise. Goodbye, Ennis."

    There was so much more he wanted to say, they could sit for hours and he wouldn't run out of things to tell her, but none of that mattered anymore. Nothing would change. In the end, it would only hurt. Rowan stepped away from the princess so as not to ruffle her dress, took one last bow and seemed to explode into a shower of multi-colored roses that drifted down all around the hall, leaving no trace of the man behind.


    There's nothing left.

    All that for just one moment of recognition? What's even the point?

    But that means there's hope, right? That's the first time there's been anything at all…

    Yeah, right. Nothing more than a single moment of lucid dreaming, quickly shaken off.

    That's all it's ever been, just a nice dream…and then a nightmare that never ends.

    Why don't you - we? I…just move on. It would be so much easier to just forget like everyone else.

    SHUT UP!

    Silence…Blessed silence.

    Rowan lurched onto the railing of a balcony left conveniently empty by the crescendo of the party within the grand hall he'd just escaped and waited. His legs wouldn't hold him up as he fought so hard to just shut down, even for a moment. He let that railing take most of his weight and grit his teeth, eyes closed, determined to get past this sense of complete and total defeat, even while ignoring that tiny nugget of hope buried within it.

    Silence becomes quiet. Comforting, warm, thoughtful. Always waiting to embrace you if you know how to find it.