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Taking up the cup Kai offered her, she spoke. [b “That’s a shame, you’re such a good host.”] Willow chuckled back at her friend. [b “These are very cute, by the way.”] She motioned with the teacup she was holding. It was also cute that he had a matching set, although it was probably pretty normal.
The blonde couldn’t help but smile sympathetically when Kai unloaded his woes about his life in the Brotherhood. [b “I think it’s great that you took initiative and started moving things in a direction that works for you.”] It could be difficult, to the point of impossibility, to defy the will of one’s parents and break away from a family business. But he’d found a way around it, rather cleverly if she said so herself. [b “Sure, I think it would be fun and that would give us a better chance of working closely together.”] It was a different set of skills than she had been planning on learning, but whatever worked as long as she was with Kai.
After that the conversation started to take a turn. He wanted to know more about her. A subject she had been hoping to avoid for a little longer, but it wasn’t a problem. [b “Well, traveling for the most part.”] She wasn’t entirely sure how to put it, not without turning things into a pity party. And that was the last thing she wanted.
[b “You see, not long after we settled into Nearon, that epidemic passed though. Both my parents and I caught it, but they didn’t make it.”] It happened a long time ago and she was able to talk about it casually. Willow just hated how people reacted when she mentioned it. [b “After that, word about what happened made it to some of my parents’ old traveling merchant buddies. They took me in and I went around with them until I was comfortable splitting off on my own.”] Something that didn’t come about until recently. [b “Coincidentally, this also explains why I am out of a job.”] The emerald eyed woman laughed lightly at her unfunny joke. Like Kai she had been destined to take over her families business, but with what happened that was off the table. [b “I never really had the charisma to be a merchant anyway, so maybe it was fate.”] She shrugged.
Kai brought back a tray with a decorated teapot and a set of teacups with the same decorations. He set it down on a table where they were sitting and poured tea into the cups "[b You know...]" he said with a little smile "[b I've never had guests before here]" he said as he sat down "[b Not really a part of my job]" he added with a chuckle.
When Willow asked what he has been up to and counted the things she already knew, he sighed "[b I'm an assassin, what do you think?]" he muttered. He still didn't like to be an assassin, a job he avidly hated as a kid, but when Willow left, he filled the empty space with this job and applied all of himself to become one of the best. "[b The town is growing, more people, mor work...]" he said and took a sip of his tea "[b I still don't like being an assassin, and I am taking as many jobs as I can which do not involve killing people.]" he explained.
"[b With time, my cause gained some following and a movement developed in the guild]" he talked "[b Some people don't believe that conflicts are always resolved with the blood price. I have a little squad in the guild that does this kind of thing; tracking down people, catching criminals, search and rescue, that kind of stuff]" he said, but he wasn't sure what Willow would think of this. It seemed to him like she was very emphatuated with the guild and his narrative may seem strange, but he continued. "[b I even convinced my father to make us a sub-division of the guild.]" he smiled "[b We're still the Brotherhood, but people also call us "Seekers"]" he finished.
"[b If you want, once you're in, I can take you into the seekers.]" he smiled. "[b And what about you? What has the Coriander girl been up to these past 7 years?]" he asked teasingly.
Willow was excited to hear they could start tomorrow. [b “I’ll be sure to work extra hard.”] The bright-eyed woman promised with a wink. A habit she’d picked up in her time away from Sylven. Giddy, she shifted around in her chair. Today was going so well. When she woke that morning, she’d thought it was going to be much harder to track Kai down. Let along convince him or someone else to give her a chance in the Brotherhood, but things were falling perfectly into place for her.
She nodded at his offer of tea. [b “That sounds lovely.”] And with that he was off to the kitchen to put on the water. While he was away, she nestled farther into the comfortable chair she was sitting in. Taking up a throw pillow, she hugged it tightly to her chest and nuzzled it. Everything here smelled like Kai. She liked it, as it reminded her of their short, but happy, childhood together.
When he returned she was still holding the cushion, but on her lap now. She didn’t particularly want him to know what she’d been up to, but he returned quicker than expected. Willow hadn’t had time to set it back to the side. That being said, she wasn’t entirely sure he would care.
[b “So, so far I’ve gotten that you’ve officially joined the Brotherhood, bought a house, and completely renovated. What else?”] There was a sparkle behind her eye. She was set on getting everything she could out of him. In the two days she’d spent on her own in the city, it was clear a lot had changed. The merchant’s district had expanded two fold, along with the town itself. This was a port city it had always been relatively prosperous, but that was a lot of growth in seven years. Was there a big change in how things were run, how did that affect him? She knew he wasn’t a people person for the most part, so she figured the spike in population wasn’t his favorite. Her mind was awhirl, there was so much to take in.
"[b Well, a few extra hours for training would be useful...]" Kai said looking at Willow and her half-frown that appeared as he said those words "[b But...]" he continued as he remembered a saying from somewhere: "[b [i Everything you say before the word 'but' has no meaning]]" and he chuckled. "[b We do need to catch up and a fresh day will make for a batter fresh start]" he smiled a little. Three days wasn't that much time, but he could fit all the information and training he needed to teach her in the remaining time, he was one of the best for a reason, and he knew that Willow will achieve anything, if she puts her mind to it.
"[b Tomorrow morning, however]" Kai said looking towards the staircase "[b I will show you the part of this house that did not exist when we were kids, I built it myself for training purposes]" he said in a more serious tone "[b and in there, I will teach you what you need to know, and become your enemy for training purposes]".
"[b So today we talk and relax, and tomorrow starts the hellish experience that is called training with Kai]" he said in a mock creepy tone followed by a chuckle. He then stood up. "[b Shall I make us some tea?]" he asked "[b I might be an assassin, but I'm still well-mannered]" a smile appeared on his face, he almost never had guests, let alone friends.
[b “Sounds great!”] Willow was glad to have any time with Kai, even if it was spent training her up to be able to pass this particularly precarious test. He wanted her to be able to get the hits on whoever her opponent would be, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She felt it fit an assassin better. To be quick and compact, letting things go on too long only meant that there was more time for the target to escape or for help to arrive. Neither was good for business.
The blonde was ready for the house to look different, but not quite this different. However, that wasn’t a bad thing. It was much homier this way. The overly ornate look it had before was kind of alienating. This was just right, she thought it fit Kai very well. [b “Wow, it’s awesome in here. I didn’t know you had an eye for this sort of thing?”] Willow lightly teased, but the compliment was serious.
His final comment caught her off guard. Blinking at the silver haired assassin, she wasn’t exactly sure what to say to that. Of course she would love that, but so soon might be unnatural… [b “Maybe one day.”] She completed her thought aloud. There was no telling how soon it would come, but for now she thought it best to keep her own space. Still, she was giddy just thinking about the possibility.
The pair walked through the entirety of the house. Willow made certain to take in all the little details, both things that had changed and all that was exactly as she remembered. Nostalgia bubbled intensely inside of her. When their little walk through was complete, they returned to a comfortably furnished sitting area just passed the initial hall. It was where they spent much of their time when they were young too, just because that was where the previous inhabitants left their things before abandoning the place.
[b “So should we spend the rest of today catching up and hanging out?”] That option had her vote, and she spoke excitedly as she asked. [b “… or would you rather buckle down right away with that training?”] This was less appealing and she didn’t do a whole lot to cover up the fact that she’d rather save the task for a later day.
As Willow rushed towards him, he returned the hug and they just stood there for a moment, silent, motionless, frozen in the moment. Memories flooded his mind and he unlocked some of those kind and warm memories that he had locked away due to the pain of loss. His kindness was back, hopefully not too late.
"[b You're getting a little more than just a tour of the place]" Kai smirked "[b I will be trying to teach you as much as possible in these three days, so you stand a chance]" he said "[b I'm gonna make sure you can finish the task the flashy way in three days.]" a playful smirk played on his lips "[b There's no way Willow Coriander is gonna try and survive for 5 minutes, I'm gonna teach you how to get the three attacks onto almost anyone]" he wined and turned back to the door and unlocked it.
"[b The inside of this place is far different from what it was]" he said before they entered "I renovated and adapted this place to suite my needs...]" he paused "[b And my job.]" he said and pushed the door open.
The inside of the house was similar in style to the outside; old, simple and yet elegant. The decorations the house used to have were toned down, simplified, but still present. The house was a two-story building. Currently the first floor was a rather spacious hall as you enter, with a crescent-shaped wall that had three doors leading to different rooms. There was a spiral staircase leading up, and, surprisingly, down as well. This house didn't have a basement back when they were children, but Kai had built one over the years.
"[b Remember how we imagined that we could live here when we were kids?]" he chuckled. "[b The second floor has several bedrooms, so there's plenty of space, in case...]" he trailed off as he realized what he was doing, but he collected himself again "[b Well, in case you'd like to fulfill that dream]" he said and smiled.
She listened intently as Kai gave her some insight as to what this test was really going to be. That might prove a bit of a problem. But she wasn’t too worried about it; she’d face that monster when it came. Plus there was still three days till then and being mentally prepared was half the battle. [b “You worry too much, I’m sure it will work out.”] It didn’t appear as though her optimism put him any more at ease.
The way they walked was familiar to her. Even though it had been many years since she last walked it, Willow knew exactly where they were headed. When the old house came into view she was surprised. The place was in better shape now then back when they were young. She soon learned why. Kai had taken the liberty of purchasing it. Her smile widened, warm and radiating like the feeling of appreciation inside of her.
[b “That’s amazing. I can’t believe you went that far.”] In all honestly she expected this place to have been torn down by now. If not that, then at the very least falling over all on its own. This was more than she could have asked for. [b “Thanks, it’s good to be back… I’ve missed you.”] With that she didn’t hold back any more, she rushed up to him and grabbed him up in an embrace. It was the honest to goodness thing, as opposed to earlier when he was carrying her.
After a few moments, she went ahead and let him go. No need to go and make things awkward by dragging it out for too long. Taking half a step back, she looked up at him. [b “Alright, I expect a tour! I want to see what you’ve done with the place.”] Willow was certain that the inside must look different now that it was formally being lived in. [b “And… I really do want to know what you’ve been up to all this time. I mean, clearly you went into the family business, but besides that?”] She used to know everything about him, and she very much wanted to get back to that if possible.
The voices of the leaders echoed as they were leaving the cathedral, and only when Kai couldn't hear them anymore, he spoke. "[b In three days, you might die.]" he said as they walked down the street and towards the port "[b The so-called "exam" they mentioned, is a duel between you and a member of the guild]" he explained as he was leading the way, and the further they went, the more Willow could see they were going to their old hang-out spot, where they would meet as kids and hang out, "[b Your mission is to either stay alive for 5 minutes or successfully attack your opponent 3 times]" he said with a sigh "[b Although desparate, they still make a last-resort filtering so the weak ones get cast off]" he explained and turned to face Willow.
"[b I'm not the one you'll be fighting, obviously, and I must warn you]" he sounded concerned "[b although the rules of this duel are known to everyone, some people are more wicked than others, they might try and kill you in there]" he said and turned around, to face an old house, which was abandoned back when they were kids and they used to come and play here. "[b Welcome to my place]" he sounded proud now, a smirk playing on his face. "[b I bought this place soon after you left]" he explained "[b wanted to make sure that our spot would still be here when you returned.]"
He walked towards the front door of the house and stopped for a moment. He then turned around to face Willow with a full, warm smile on his face, a true smile of a friend "[b Welcome back, Wil...]" he finally showed her his true emotion - unbound happiness his only true friend was back, despite all the ordeals to come, he was happy after so long.
[b “My name is Willow Coriander. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”] She took a cordial tone as she introduced herself. [b “I’ve been interested in your guild since I was young, so when I heard about this recruitment I thought I would give it a shot.”] It wasn’t entirely a lie. As a child she had thought the Brotherhood was intriguing, but only because Kai was there. It wasn’t until more recently that she thought of taking a career as an assassin.
Several of the leaders looked over to her. Most of them kept perfect poker faces, giving her nothing to glean from their expressions. But there were a few who didn’t look impressed, nor did they hide their apparent lack of interest. She didn’t falter as there was a long pause. Little did she know, this was somewhat of a test. They wanted to know if she could keep composure in tense situation, albeit a far cry from the real thing. They were too desperate too push much further than this, but they also didn’t want people thinking they had sunken so low as to accept absolutely anyone into their midst.
The quiet was drawn out for an uncomfortably long time, but eventually one of them spoke. [b “There will be an exam in three days time. Our decision whether or not you will be allowed to join our ranks will be made after that.”] It aligned with the deadline the current members had been given to find a candidate. [b “One of our people will inform you with a time and place the morning of.”] The man spoke in with a calm and concise voice.
Nodding, Willow gave her thanks for the opportunity. And with that they were dismissed. Not wanting to give them reason to change their mind, she exited the beautiful cathedral, not speaking a word until the two of them were outside. [b “Well, that went better than expected.”]
The two walked in silence to the cathedral. Kai - thinking on what happened in the past minutes or so; he ran into his childhood friend, got attached, then Willow announced she's joining the Brotherhood. He was slightly overwhelmed, as that was a good mix of both good and bad emotions, surely, understandable which is which.
When they entered the cathedral, only the leaders were there, as everyone else had left to perform their latest mission - recruitment. The two silently walked up to the circle and waited, as it was unwise to interrupt the leaders talking. "[#bb0000 So, as I understand, the Ephemera is now directly attacking our people? Is that what you're saying?]" It was Kai's father talking, frustrated. Kai noted how quickly the information about the assault had already reached the leaders, but he still didn't interrupt "[#bb00bb Calm down, Zakaria! We are all concerned about this. That is why the recruiting is being done.]" another, more elderly man said to calm the man down. "[#bb00bb If all goes well, we will double our numbers and regain control of this]" his low calm voice echoed in the cathedral.
There was a moment of silence, after which Kai's father raised his eyes and noticed Kai. "[#bb0000 Kai, back already?]" he asked, at which point the leaders all looked at them and gave them way into the circle. "[b Yes, I can present my candidate]" Kai said and mused in his mind that she isn't much of a candidate, he knew she'd do well, she was a quick learner and she had the right mindset for this, aside perhaps from a bit of recklessness, but formalities are formalities. "[#bb0000 And who would that be then?]" Kai's father asked, giving Willow permission to speak and introduce herself.
Shrugging, Willow silently agreed with him. Even if he didn’t take her in, she would find a way somehow. Her mind was set this time around. Although, it would have been incredibly disheartening if he stuck to his guns for too long. Luckily for her, he seemed ready to let her do as she pleased. [b “I’m glad we can agree on something.”] She returned his smile more genuinely than before. [b “Don’t worry so much, it will be fine.”]
Then a couple more of his guild mates arrived. Neither of these looked as though they were too important, so she stayed out of it for the time being. The conversation between Kai and the stranger didn’t last long, and then they were gone. There was nearly no time before her friend announced that they’d be going to see his father. Strangely enough this would be her first time meeting him. Kai had kept their his family life and their friendship separate when they were children, and understandably so.
Nodding, she started off with him back to the mildly dilapidated cathedral. However upon entering, the inside was completely different. The churches interior contrasted the outside greatly. It was lavishly decorated. Willow couldn’t help but wonder if it was the Brotherhood that kept this place looking nice, that or if the surrounding people were too afraid to steal from a church. Either way it was nice.
Inside there was a small circle of people, they seemed to be discussing something. The whole vibe was rather serious, and so she stayed quiet until the two of them were formally called into the conversation. They didn’t look like the types she wanted to interrupt. From the side where she stood, Willow could tell which one was Kai's father. They looked a great deal alike. She wondered if that was what he would look like when he was older.
Kai listened, his face serious at first, but as the girl talked, his expression slowly changed from serious to thoughtful. All the 'for' and 'against' were fighting in his mind while she talked, and even as she finished her speech, he was still thinking, making a weird pause, where he'd stare into a single point blankly.
"[b Nope, you are crazy]" he suddenly said as his face turned into a smile "[b You came all the way back here to become an assassin, a merchant girl, told by me all those years ago how dangerous this whole thing is no less]" he started pacing. He was accepting the situation, and the current speech was more of a joke one "[b And yet, here you are.]" he stopped and faced her.
"[b I'm still against this, you know]" he said "[b But I have no rights to stop you, and even if I did, I believe your stubborn nature is still with you]" he chuckled "[b So you'd do it anyway]" he sounded kind again. Willow was back, and they'd be together again. "[b [i Like the old days, huh...?]]" a sneaky thought ran into his mind, but he pushed it away.
Three brotherhood assassins suddenly landed near the two from above. "[+green The Ephemera bastard survived, but we gave him a good scare, Kai.]" one of the assassins reported. "[b Good. Mind you, is father still in the catherdral?]" Kai asked looking at the direction of the cathedral where he was just a while back. "[+blue Should be, the leaders never left, besides Richard and his son]" another of the trio explained. "[b Yeah, I saw them...]" Kai said and nodded. "[b Thanks.]"
Kai now turned to Willow as the assassins disappeared into the shadows "[b So then, let's go to my father and make your joining official, shall we?]"
Willow blinked, surprised that her friend was so quick with his outburst. She had half expected him to wait till the others left, but that was seemingly not the case. She was quiet while he talked with the man, but her emerald green eyes stayed on the middle-aged man in front of her. A determined expression on her face, meant to signify to him that this wasn’t over just yet. A look she dropped when he left and Kai turned back to her.
[b “No, I’d say I’m quite sane.”] Her quick comment did little to diffuse the situation, but she didn’t want their first real conversation back together to be so heavy.
Placing her hands in her pockets, and rocking her weight to and fro on her feet, Willow listened to her friends concerns. The only real point he seemed to make in it all was that he didn’t want her to be gone again. And while that filled her heart, making her feel all warm and fuzzy, this was something she was already set on and had been for a while now.
[b “But I came all this way to join?”] There were rumors all across the providence that the Brotherhood was hitting hard times. Why else, for the first time in history, would they be openly recruiting instead of hand picking applicants? [b “Work is getting hard to come by, so when I heard that the Brotherhood was hiring I thought it would be better than nothing.”] She shrugged, looking down. [b “Plus, I thought it would be a good chance to be with you again. Like the old days.”] Those last words were soft and heartfelt as she spoke.
Kai reacted immediately "[b No you're not.]" he said as he put his hand on Willow's shoulder and walked forward so he'd be between Willow and one of the clan leaders and his son. He looked at Willow with a cold glare, as to signify that she shouldn't butt in "[b I will report to my father once I have one]" he explained to the older man, who nodded to that and gestured to his son, after which, both of them left. Kai traced them with his eyes until they were gone from view and then turned to Willow again.
"[b Have you lost your mind?]" his face became kind again, a face he never showed to his brethren, but his voice was upset. Willow was impulsive like that, on one hand, they'd probably never would have met, if she had not chased that thief all those years ago, a reckless deed no less, but now she was being crazy.
"[b I just found you again, Wil]" his tone became softer "[b The Ephemera is a problem, yes, and we were all tasked with finding a new recruit]" he explained, knowing deep down that this all is probably pointless and she will be her old stubborn self, but he had to try and talk her out of this.
At first his answers were vague, but Willow didn’t mind. At least he was calming down some. Well, he had been up until he got to her last question. Things went a little off there. It undoubtedly meant the rumors were true. There was some trouble between his guild and some newbies who’d recently cropped up. She’d thought so, but it was nice to have confirmation. But there wasn’t time to dwell on it. Dark metal blades began going by. She flinched entirely too late, the throwing knife already embedded in the dirt behind her. And there was a more concrete confirmation that they were having trouble with a secondary guild.
Before there was any time to think about it, Kai was apologizing. She didn’t see how this was his fault, but Willow kept quiet as he grabbed ahold of her. It was heaven, well it would have been if they weren’t being chased by an unknown stranger with daggers. She held tight to the silver haired man as he deftly dodged the oncoming blades. It was impressive that he could still manage all this while toting her along as well.
When they finally stopped, he apologized again. [b “It’s alright… I mean, it’s not like that was your doing. And you got us out of there, so really I should be thanking you.”] She enjoyed her last few seconds of what she was counting as a welcome back embrace before she let him set her back down. [b “…So…. It’s true that there’s been trouble in Sylven.”] Her words were low, spoken softly though solemn smiling lips.
As though appearing from thin air, a couple members of the guild joined them. One was younger in age, seeming to be younger than either Willow or Kai, while the other was elderly and well dressed. She could only assume he was important. The salt and pepper haired gentleman looked over to her friend. It looked as though he had something pressing to say, but instead he asked [b “who is that?”]
Willow didn’t need any more prompting than that. She took a step forward and spoke with a wily grin. [b “My name is Willow, Willow Coriander, and I am interested in joining The Brotherhood.”]
The older man looked over her with discerning eyes, then back to Kai, as if to ask if this was the one he was planning to recruit.
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