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[b “It's not too late as long as I'm the one scheming this thing up. Neither of us knew what we were getting into when you followed me into the alley, and it wouldn't be fair to hold you to that agreement. If you want to bow out I'll make sure none of this blows back on you. I may not be able to promise you much, but I can promise you that much if you feel like you want to walk away.”]
Her attitude towards this whole thing was more understandable than his own. He would be happy to do what he could to accommodate her after all that she had helped him with so far. They had only just met and committing felonies together was more of a longtime friendship event in his eyes. If she was happy joining him though; he was not about to turn away the help.
The next part proved they were on the same page as far as their perception of the other two at least. Although it also raised the question in his mind of whether Flower was actually named Flower and he had just not remembered that it was her name. He was sure that it was flower related at least. Would it be awkward to text Molly and ask? It feels wrong to be committing a felony for two people when you only know one of their names after all, but at the same time it fits the mystery. That mystery is lessened though by the fact that they are classmates.
He shook off that train of thought in time to hear Maurica theorize that they might have something against him or Molly. A perfectly reasonable theory to have as it was one that had crossed his mind as well. Though he kept his mouth shut until she was finished with her statements. She had extended that courtesy to him and it was only fair that he not interrupt her as she shared her piece. That would also give him time to think about his response as he had reason to trust those two for now.
Despite the potentially touchy subject matter; Nathan couldn't help but smile as Maurica got flustered with all the groups that they were dealing with at the moment. It was a lot to keep straight after all. [b “Don't worry, I understand. Honestly if you said you didn't trust me I wouldn't exactly blame you. I got you into one Hell of a situation considering we just met over a misunderstanding about a dropped coin.”]
He didn't let that thought linger though as he was quick to change the subject. [b “Maybe we should come up with a nickname for some of the groups involved though to help us keep everything straight. Since we don't know the names of the odd couple. I'm also not sure of the name of the woman with Jherrichho the injured kid. We can come back to that.”]
[b “When it comes to flower and Jherrichho dating though I got the same vibe that you did from them; up until he gave her his number. Either they move at a weird pace, or one of them is just clingy enough to mislead. Then again I thought flower was a loner from what I know of her, and so maybe she was just desperate for a friend like him.”]
He shrugged at that as he remembered Molly's talk about trying to befriend her fellow giantess. While he did not know Jherrichho that well there was nothing that he saw that would warrant befriending him over her. Of course he knew so little about the two that there could be any number of reasons. Maybe Molly had unintentionally offended her at some point in the past. Actually maybe he had as well and that was why she had given him that mean look when he offered his help to Jherrichho.
His brow furrowed as his case in their defense began to crumble on the shaky ground that it was built, but he carried on nonetheless. [b “Whether they are dating or not; I think it is safe to say they are close. So they might have done this as a ploy to get to Molly or I, but I don't think it is for a few reasons. This is a whole lot of hoops to jump through just to get us in trouble and they made no pressure to actually guarantee that we would go through with the job. When I said Molly and I would handle it they took it at face value and walked away. If they were keen on getting us into something then they should have made a push to be involved so that they could get us caught.”]
[b “This could all be a ruse to get the security footage, but I'll watch it before I hand it over to them. So if their story doesn't match what I see when I watch it then we'll figure out what we have to do about them. They should be smart enough to know that I would do that. If they're not then I'm really not concerned about them trying to get at any of us because they won't have any chance of success.”]
[b “There was also flower's mention of the odd couple. Without a clairvoyant potential she wouldn't have known that I saw them. Even with one she couldn't have known that I had paid that close of attention to them when I saw them. That is what makes me trust the flower power couple at least for now. Of course the footage will decide whether we can trust them in the long run and that's why I'm going through with the job either way.”]
Nathan gave another smile at that as they made it to their destination. Here they would have to be a bit more cautious about what they say, but it was worth it for a frozen treat that can't be beat. He made sure to hold the door open for her as they approached just as a courtesy. Since she had to wrangle a rodent it was the least he could do for her.
[b “There's also the fact that you and Molly are the only two we can confirm didn't hear the announcement or the bell. That rubs me the wrong way,”] Nathan whispered. [b “If you two are the only ones then it means that if there was someone who memory wiped Jherrichho that they had done their due diligence to prevent you or Molly from getting involved. My money would be on Molly there, but I don't know about your potential. Either way I want to know the answer to that question too.”]
/ 1y 82d 10h 12m 38s
Chrys opened pots that she hadn’t used with him, putting the kettle back on the heat as she crushed up a new concoction. She got up, gathering ingredients at random as he spoke and sitting down to put them together. She didn’t even seem to look at what she was doing, keeping her gaze on Jherrichho as she tossed haphazard spoonfuls of things into the mortar and crushed them together with her pestle. It was a very different tactic to how she had carefully prepared his tea.
Once he water was heated up, she took a bag of tea form her backpack and dropped it in a new cup, pouring tea in over it. She seemed to completely ignore the concoction she had just made in the mortar, even going so far as to set the mystery blend aside. She hummed over Jherrichho’s words, not speaking at first since she knew he needed time to think. When he seemed to wrap up all his thoughts, she looked down at her cup and idly stirred the steeping tea.
[+purple [i That’s an interesting question. You were always planning to leave, this city is too small for us. Too cramped, like a pig pen.]]
Acknowledging the truth that the voice in her head had spoke, Chrys finally looked up. Her bright teal eyes shone. [+teal “I’ve never felt this sort of instant connection to anybody before. If you want me to follow you, wherever you go, I will. I might decide to break away somewhere in the future if we come across something that makes me want to walk my own path, but for now I would be okay following you,”] she paused, lifting her cup up and taking a sip of tea.
[+teal “I’ve never felt safe in this city. It’s... cramped. It doesn’t always feel real,”] she looked towards her window, taking in the light that filtered through the wooden blinds with a frown. [+teal “The glass that covers us, it... it feels like we’re in a fish bowl. I never planned on staying very long after graduation. Even if I had to temporarily join the Legion, the plan had always been for me to leave. I rather not join the Legion though, I don’t trust them much at all. There are good members to be sure, but...”] Chrysanth shook her head sadly, sighing. [+teal “But fighting back is not a bad idea either, if this whole convoluted situation is as bad as it feels. But we would need to be smart about it. My Potential is decent for fighting, but not the best. Yours comes with it’s own complications obviously. We would need time to get better. To train and find others in our situation...”]
Chrysanth looked down into her steaming up on tea, and worried her bottom lip between her teeth for a moment. She trusted Jherrichho, but she had only met him a day ago. How far could she trust a stranger? She had already gone farther than she had ever thought she would.
[+purple [i Tell him]] the voice in her head urged. [+purple [i Tell him. He is like you. Together is stronger than apart, and in a crisis we know how to combat him. Some sleepy tea and we could escape in a heartbeat. Do not choose now to be a coward.]]
Chrysanth took a slow, deep breath before rising her eyes and meeting Jherrichho’s firmly. [+teal “I am not safe here much longer,”] she whispered, her tone as serious as it could get. [+teal “If your issue is something deeply rooted in the City, if those people we saw are more important than we know, then I am in just as much danger. I have always been in danger. My mom consults with the scientists and engineers, occasionally with the Legion. She... she has always been putting me under...”] Chrys’s face twisted as she tried to find he proper phrasing. [+teal “[i extreme] stress in order to ‘train’ me for something. I don’t know what, but it isn’t something I want a part of. Especially since she doesn’t know about... well, about [i her],”] taking a leap of faith, Chrys put her tea down and stared at Jherrichho.
And let the Other take over.
Chrysanth’s eyes shone purple, slightly more dull than Jherrichho’s had been but purple all the same. It didn’t last long, the Other only being in control long enough to send Jherrichho a very sly, un-Chrys-like smile. Then, the Other closed her eyes, and Chrys returned. Her teal eyes held a new shine of vulnerability to them, her back stiff as she waited nervously for Jherrichho’s reaction.
[+teal “I don’t think this is a coincidence, and [i that] is what scares me. If one person had it, then fine. It could be a product of your potential, but two of us in the same moving city? That makes my skin crawl.”]
Jherrichho received the cup from Chrys, giving a slight bow in return as he continued to listen in amazement. Her smile was reassuring and yet he could see her discomfort. She obviously wasn’t too used to sharing much about herself with others like this. Still, it was nice to experience her being so open about herself like this.
He made a mental note of what she had said. To make the deal that he had made, it would only be natural to assume that he knew all of this. Even still, how could he know when Jherrichho himself did not? Was he retaining memories that Jherrichho could not? Or maybe it’s something deeper. Either way this all manages to work out in their favor for the time being. He’d experiment with it later and see what more he could discover, but for now there were more important things.
When Chrys began to speak more about her potential Jherrichho’s eyes lit up. It was so much more complex than he had at first thought and it correlated with her nicely. The way she spoke about it revealed her passion for what she could do. A potential that could truly be enjoyed and used to help others, put into the hands of someone who could use it to its utmost power. It fit her perfectly. [i If she planned on making a type of tea that could restore memories then I wonder what type of emotions she would have to feel. What combination of feeling would make something like that happen?]
He looked down at the cup of tea after hearing all of the ingredients that were put into it, but it wasn’t until she asked a question that he lifted it to his lips. The usual warm feeling that spread through his body when he drank tea, but the taste of the tea Chrys made was obviously professional quality. He lowered the cup and smiled as he leaned in a little. [+maroon “Our potentials are pretty similar in a way like you said. I’ve always had a problem controlling my anger in specific scenarios and it feeds into my hatred, yet that’s the most dangerous form of my potential. Meanwhile I have a pretty high tolerance to pain so unless I purposely inflight high pain on myself or someone does so to me then it just goes unused even though it’s the easiest to control and has no real side effects on my mental standing. You’re the same. Your potential is great and with the vast variety of teas in the world you could have a massive collection of effects you could use, but you don’t just decide the effects on your own and they could end up being no where near what you’d like them to be.”] Jherrichho sat up strait again and placed his hand over his heart, a solemn look in his eyes. [+maroon “At their center we don’t fully have control and that’s what’s truly frightening to me.”]
He lifted the cup back to his lips and sipped the rest as he thought for a moment. With everything that had been going on he never managed to think about a question he had managed to avoid. He let a sigh escape his lips before looking directly into Chrys’s eyes. [+maroon “What do you think I should do if things go south? We’ve already gone this far, but what if things are as bad as it seems? What should we do? If I have to leave the city somehow then so be it, but I can’t see it being so simple.”] Jherrichho looked down at his arm for a moment, and although he didn’t show it he was pleased to see that it wasn’t the broken and beaten mess that it has been for so long. [+maroon “Maybe I should fight... protect everyone I care for from whoever is out there doing wrong. I might not be the only person in this situation.”]
[i [+purple You’re not wrong. We could flee and start over somewhere else, refine your abilities and try to live in peace for better or worse. But then what of her?] ] Jherrichho looked back up at Chrys again, his heart pounding in a manner he wasn’t used to. Was this worry? [i [+purple You can’t rightfully drag her around with you, so what if she doesn’t want to just get up and leave? She may be in just as bad of a situation as you, so what would you do? Would it be right to walk away? Would it be just?] ] Jherrichho scoffed at himself as he turned away. Of course he wouldn’t allow anyone else to even have the possibility of facing the same fate as his parents. [i [+maroon You should know better than to think I’d be so haphazard to the truth. But this isn’t just me, it’s not my choice to make alone.] ]
He sat up strait and blinked a few times at an attempt to clear his head. He turned his attention back to Chrys before handing her the cup back. It hadn’t been until now that he had noticed a surge in his recently depleted energy and the pain in his stomach subsiding. [+maroon “Thank you, that was perfect. Although now I have to ask... what do you want to do if things turn out to be as bad as they seem? I’ll have to act in some way if it comes to that, so I would like to know what you think.”]
“The Kingdom of Esperis, known by many as the Dark Kingdom, rose from the ashes of a fallen empire. A ruined land filled with the remnants of cataclysm trying their hardest to survive on what little they had left. When their savior arrived they happily followed behind him and pledged themselves to him and his cause wholeheartedly, regardless of whether it was just. The Esperites, dark warriors led by their lord and the very example of destruction, Oda Esperis.”
“As if out of no where he rose from the shadows and with him brought a new era of catastrophe with a purposed steeped in destruction, and so that was what they called him. Their Emperor, the Dark Son, Lord Destruction. With his power he toppled nation’s and raided kingdoms for the sake of his own ideals and ambitions. Only his brother ever opposed him and no one knew where he was, but chaos was a staple of their encounters and it was counted as a blessing that his brother has not been seen for years. And why is that?”
The young boy sighed with a begrudging look on his face. [+orange “I’ve told you time and time again that I need to get stronger. How will any of this help me grow more powerful? How am I supposed to fulfill my father’s dreams when I don’t gain more strength teacher?”] The man let out a small chuckle before closing the book he held in his hand and responding. “I can show you everything I know, but what good will it do you when you don’t have the proper knowledge of what’s around you? You must learn before you put your power into practice. Without knowledge you have nothing but your name, the legacy of your father without the proper remembrance to keep it intact”, the man said as he sat down in his chair. “You know that just as well as I, young master.”
The room was brightly lit, a wall of windows shining light upon the interior. An average sized room with a large desk placed opposite the door and a smaller desk in the middle of the room where the boy sat in agitation. The walls were made from dark stone and the floor was covered from corner to corner with a black rug made from what looked like a large animal hide. Looking out the windows would reveal a kingdom surrounded by a large wall, homes and buildings built from chiseled stone and wood. A river ran strait through the middle of the large nation with multiple bridges arching over it and many people could be seen going about their lives almost everywhere.
The boy stood and walked over to the window, looking down on the wondrous sight. The light seeming to try to shine off of his jet black hair that was placed into a messy bun, but almost never seeming to reach it. His purple eyes glowed as he watched over the people, his arms crossed over his chest. He wore what seemed like a white tunic yet the material was more so that of a robe or kimono. He was pale and walked around barefoot as if trying to be as comfortable as possible, yet at closer inspection he was no more than 6 years old. [+orange “These people, this place, I must protect it with everything that I have. I must gain as much power as I can or nothing will be accomplished when I’m needed most. You’ve been teaching me so much information, but nothing about how to actually fight. How long do you plan to have me wait Hallion?”]
Hallion stood up and tucked his book into his jacket before walking to the door. “Your lessons are over for today. If you aren’t willing to put in the effort then I won’t waste the time, I have my own duties to take care of”, he said before pushing the heavy wooden door open. “Your father faced the world on his own, learned all that he could learn and through that gained the knowledge to put his power to practical use. He has all the strength in the world but even he must understand and have the knowledge to face every enemy and scenario that he faces.”
[+violet “He speaks truth, my son.”] At the sound of her voice Hallion stepped aside and bowed slightly. “My lady. I’ll be heading back to the moving city, give Destruction my regards”, Hallion requested before exiting the room. Eva walked towards her son, stopping to stand directly next to him and looking out to the horizon. [+violet “We are lucky, Cydel. Your father did all of this not only for his own ambition but also for the sake of those who follow him. He gifted us power and with it the ability to decide our own fate, so we chose to follow him... tell me, do you know the answer to Hallion’s question? Why it is that we desire for his brother to not show himself?”]
The boy looked down at his feet before looking to his mother with a confused expression. [+orange “I had always believed that he feared father’s strength and hid himself away.”] His mother shook her head before turning to face him directly. [+violet “I wish that were the case, but no one knows the reason he has disappeared for so long. His power was equal to that of your father the last time they fought and the encounter was all by chance.”] She kneeled down and removed her mask, revealing soft green eyes and a worried frown before continuing. [+violet “Your father was moving to conquer an aggressive nation and I accompanied him as his guard. No one knew that he had been recruited into the enemies ranks, but as soon as he saw your father all anyone could hear was his voice echo over everything. The anger, the pure rage, it stopped everyone in their tracks and I’ll never forget his words...”]
“Oda! You would show yourself before me after all you’ve done?! I will erase every shred of your existence and cast it into the dust, just as you did to all of those who we would call family!”
She closed her eyes and turned away slightly. [+violet “I had never feared for my life more than I did at that very moment. His words shook us all to our very core except for your father, who drew his sword and charged strait forward to face him. The battle between just the two of them shook the very earth itself, and their abilities and powers turned the entire battlefield into a place akin to armageddon. A hell-scape that nothing could survive in and the only reason I made it out was because your father protected me. After that day he disappeared and was never seen again, but fear still lingers in everyone’s hearts that one day he might just return.”]
Cydel closed his eyes, just looking you could tell that he was deep in thought up until he broke his silence. [+orange “So what is the plan for next time? How would we defeat him if my father can’t do so alone?”] he questioned his mother, but before she could answer him the door opened up once again. [+indigo “We grow as a whole. So long as me and my brother are continuing to strengthen ourselves then I must help my people grow in power to tip the scale.”] The boy turned around quickly as a smile broke his calm expression. He ran to his father quickly to stop right in front of him. [+orange “Father, tell me... how do you plan to increase the power of the kingdom’s people? I don’t understand, we can’t just all grow to be so strong”], he questioned his father. The room fell silent for a moment before he began to speak again.
[+indigo “My power, it’s directly inherited from demons. My people in the past had a blood pact hat corrupted our bloodlines generation after generation. Without the proper ritual our corrupted blood would take our lives, and that ritual included making a contract deal with a demon. In that sense it went both ways, the demons would be free of their corrupted realm and we would be freed from the price of corrupted blood. These contracts could be forced if need be and you don’t need corrupted blood to make a contract, but our people used that corruption to become one with the demons. If someone were to do so without that corruption then the host and demon would be together, yet separate inside. For all of you I simply gave you a portion of my power, allowing you to tap into my destruction. But for others...”]
He walked across the room to Eva as his son followed behind him and stood looking outward upon he landscape. He scanned the horizon before pointing out into the distance at a small dome that seemed to slowly creep across the land. [+indigo “It’s pretty far out, but your eyes should be strong enough to spot it. That’s the moving city, one of our faction’s nations. What started as an experimental place for people to be at peace, but is now a place for me to run tests on its citizens. The people inside have not grown within the same harsh environment that we have, but they’re still all normal humans that have the genes to attain power greater than themselves. No Demi-humans, no members of the demon or angel clans, no giant-kin, dwarves, or elves. They don’t even have monsters within that place. They made a home that represents a world before our time. So I decided that people so untouched by catastrophe could be wonderful subjects to give demons.”]
Cydel looked out to the city with a look of amazement. This is the first time his father had told him so much information about his plans. What was causing this? [+orange “Father, why are you telling me all of this? You normally just have me focus on my studies and training”], he said as he looked up to his father’s eyes, the glowing purple hue much softer than it normally would be. [+indigo “Because I’ll be giving you a job in due time. I believe you need to experience with the world and this might be the optimal chance to temper your destruction.”] Eva turned to him with a concerned expression, [+violet “Oda, you don’t mean to-“], she was cut off by Oda’s gaze darting in her direction. His look was unwavering and you could see the concern in his eyes, but he left it with a simple, [+indigo “I’ll explain it all in more detail later, but for now just trust me. There are people in there who have the capability to awaken a power they call potential. Some can be weak while others can gain power that outshines their very selves. Some of those people have been given demons and those are the ones that will tip the scale. From what we’ve learned the side effects can cause the hosts to hear their demon’s voice in their head, while others will just lose control of themselves to their demons entirely for periods of time. The more compatible you become with your demon the better a chance for your marks to appear, a sign of growing power but also a curse of corruption. These people will be the test subjects that grow into my allies.”]
Oda turned and began making his way out of the room, calling his son along the way. [+indigo “Come Cydel, I have new techniques to show you. We’ll continue this discussion later, Eva, but for now accompany us. I’m sure the boy would enjoy showing you how much he’s progressed.”] She stood for a moment before placing her mask back over her face and turning to follow them. [+violet “Yes, my love.”]
Maurica listened intently, telling herself that she wouldn't get too caught up in her own thoughts and unintentionally ignore him. He started by mentioning the tremor, which he had said was unusually large, and while Maurica had felt it, she hadn't thought much of it. Then he mentioned someone named Flower, which she quickly inferred must be the cattish girl, as Lamprey didn't seem one to wear such a name. Had that been his given name he surely would have come up with a nickname by now. Unless he kept it for the purposes of irony or whatnot. Anyways, Raven was saying that he and Flower had noticed two oddly dressed people by the back of the school. Maurica didn't think it was too out of the ordinary; perhaps they were showing off their potential to one of the classes and had to wear odd clothing to better do this. Or perhaps their clothing wasn't that odd and Raven was just being jumpy.
Jason had started squirming, obviously over his fear...of the ugly looking humans. Strange looking. Odd. Maurica would have to ask Raven about that. But not now. She'd be polite and wait until he had finished explaining. Plus, if she interrupted him now, they might never get back to talking about what had happened back there, and that was something Maurica felt was more important. However, she did want to do something about Jason, so she moved him to her shoulder, rather awkwardly as she was still walking and he was still squirming, but she had done this enough times to be able to do it quickly. She tapped his nose as a "don't you dare do anything terrible up there or it's back to being held."
Raven was talking about Flower, who apparently knew more than she should, when he realized something rather loudly. It became clear, through a series of stilted communication that, while Flower knew too much, Molly and herself didn't know enough. The speaker through which the intercom and the bell wasn't working. Probably it had broken, but given current events, Maurica wouldn't be surprised if it had been sabotaged purposefully. Perhaps by Molly? Was Molly on their side? Were there sides? Whose side was she on? Raven's, she thought, but then, Raven was on Lamprey's side, and she was quite sure she wasn't on that freak's side.
After that mess of an interlude, Raven continued his recap. This was the part that Maurica was a part of, so it didn't need much explaining. However, it did surprise her that Raven was interested in researching potentials, despite his comment that that was basically common knowledge. Maurica didn't hang out with people very much anymore, not after her dad died. When she did it was with an entirely different group than the one that she was with right now. Funny how one could be so social and yet still isolated. Perhaps her group wasn't quite as friendly and social as she had thought. Not that she was really in a group, though she had been trying to get back into communicating with people, hence why she was a semi-part of this mess now.
Maurica was happy to hear that Raven had noticed that Lamprey was surprisingly spry for one who was supposed to be dying as well. He explained that there was an announcement over the speakers, which Maurica hadn't heard and explained a lot. He then went to say a few more things about Flower, which made her quite suspicious of the girl, and finished by describing the two people behind the school, which became very clearly the "them" that had been dangled in front of her face earlier and very clearly the ugly humans she had seen in Jason's mind. She'd have to talk to him later about that.
But now she was listening to Raven, who had finished speaking and posed a question that she barely had to think about before answering.
[+olive "Of course I want to be involved; I wouldn't have followed you out to the alleyway if I didn't! Besides, it's kind of too late for me to back out. I'm pretty involved already.
"I do have a couple questions though--well, I guess they're more like theories given what I now know. So, about Flower: [i is ] she dating--uh--injured kid who wants the security tapes? They seem weirdly close, like they're in cahoots or something. Maybe something against you and Molly? I mean, you said Flower said he had memory loss, right?, which, unless they've been messing around with really serious potentials, seems highly unlikely. Like something they might make up in order to get ahold of the tapes.
"I guess what I'm saying is, I'm with you, I'm interested, but I'm not sure I trust you. Wait no, I mean them--gah, no! them are the creepy ones behind the school. Flower and La--ah...you know what I mean." ]
Nathan noticed Maurica check her watch before she slowly agreed to go along with him. He kept a good poker face despite the lack of enthusiasm in her reply as he understood that this might not be what she had intended to sign up for today. Since they had just met he could only guess when it came to her comfort zone. The odds of it including committing a serious crime were slim based on his perception, but he still trusted her enough to explain himself. Two consciences are better than one.
She seemed to hesitate again before she was able to give a reply to his second request. The fact that she was comfortable admitting that she did not have enough information to form an educated opinion on the matter at hand was a good sign even if it meant he would have to give her a recap. Although her mention of lamp was a bit out of place, it was nice to hear that she had similar thoughts about flower and Jherrichho. Their closeness despite apparently having just recently met was odd. Of course he had little room to talk given he was trusting Maurica with a crime he intended to commit, but flower and Jherrichho had always seemed more well behaved than him. Everyone has their unseen layers though.
That thought started a train that left him more confident about the situation. Flower was a smart loner as far as he knew her, but that should mean she lacks the social aptitude to lie to a professional like him. She was either a much better actor than she had any right to be, or she was genuinely surprised by Jherrichho giving her his number. Despite the danger he felt from her he was comfortable betting on the latter. That also made it easier to accept her genuine request for help for Jherrichho's sake even after that nasty look she gave him.
[b “It's a confusing situation, but I'll try to give you a recap of everything that I know. Just be warned it might be a bit of a long story. This works out for us both though as I might just notice something I missed the first time going over it all again with you.”]
He took a moment to think about where best to start the recap before deciding that the strange individuals he and flower had noticed were worthy of mention. [b “Just after the lunch bell rang and the unusually strong tremor I spotted two strange individuals by the back of the school. They were oddly dressed, but I had thought I could mostly write them off. The fact that flower noticed them as well though along with the timing makes me think they might just have something to do with all of this.”]
His eyes widened slightly as he paused at the edge of the building on the route they were taking to the shop. [b “It was worth it already. Even if she was certain that I had been on the roof for lunch she couldn't have known that I had seen them without the help of a potential. She mentioned them anyway. I hate to admit it, but she just might be more trustworthy about this than I thought. Either that or she has some form of clairvoyance as a talent.”]
There was the possibility with a potential that she could have known that he had seen them. That idea did not sit right with him though as the idea of a sensory based ability did not mesh with what he knew of her. He had done enough research into potentials to be confident in his assessment there. Not enough to rule it out completely of course, but at least enough to give them a bit more benefit of the doubt.
[b “When I came downstairs I saw her helping him and offered help when I saw the poor shape that Jherrichho was in. He took me up on the offer, but sent me off to get Molly...”]
He trailed off there as he loudly slapped his hand against his face. [b “And I call myself a fucking journalist. Just a moment.”]
Before she could ask anything about it Nathan had his phone out to text Molly. [b “Jherrichho sent me after Molly; so I went to the student council room where she should have been given the preparation for graduation. She wasn't there as you already know. The bell should have been loud and clear in the newspaper room, but she either didn't hear it, or just ignored it. Do you remember hearing the bell?”]
It only took a moment for him to get a reply that confirmed his suspicions. One that he quickly showed to Maurica to show that the prim and proper president Molly had not heard the bell at the end of lunch. Honestly it just raised more questions than it answered. Those new questions were important though as it gave Nathan another thing to research while in the school security system. Since that would be the only source of answers he knew he would have to break in as promised.
His intention to research it was reinforced by Maurica's confirmation that she had not heard the bell either. [b “I'll see if I can't figure out why while I'm in there. His missing memory is from that time based on what they said, and it just doesn't sit right that the bell goes unheard in that area. Someone may have wanted to keep one of you away from the situation.”]
Nathan shook his head though as he remembered to get back on track. [b “Resuming the recap you know what happened once I got to the newspaper room and that Molly went a separate way to the meeting. I got there before her. Full disclosure that Jherrichho offered to show me what his potential did to his arm to get me to agree to help out. It's probably common knowledge that I am interested in researching potentials.”]
He took a moment to breathe there as he did his best to recall exactly what flower and Jherrichho had said to him after he arrived. His hands moving as though they were typing at a keyboard as he worked. Any variations in disclosure could lead to flaws in their thought process so he made sure to work well. His talent as an investigator might be in question after he missed that obvious question, but his journalistic integrity was not in doubt. Even for a high school paper they were taught to be careful with wording. You could lead someone to an answer without too much difficulty, and here that could put them both in a dangerous situation.
[b “When I got there I asked him if he was feeling better because he lacked the limp that I expected. He responded without his usual smile that the annoyance was gone. That was when he made the offer to show me what his potential had done to his arm, and he even showed that it was bandaged up. The offer was carefully made as he promised there were no games being played and no hidden agendas. Flower and him traded looks as she said something I couldn't hear. Whatever he said back seemed to settle her down though.”]
[b “Just after Molly arrived he explained that something was wrong and that he needed both of our help to to figure it out. He wanted to see the security footage for the school. Then he said something about doing it himself if we didn't agree to help him out. That was when Flower spoke up about him sounding ridiculous before she defended his request by explaining that he was missing chunks of his memory from today. She said she had gotten a bad feeling when he was in the office.”]
The realization was visible on Nathan's face as he stopped again and double checked that no one was around to listen to them. [b “You didn't hear the bell so you probably didn't hear the announcement before it either. That was why I figured his missing memory was from just after lunch. He got called to the office just a few minutes before the lunch bell went off, and with what flower said about it I connected the dots. I'll bet that's part of why you were so confused.”]
[b “Back to what I was saying though. Flower said she was getting ready to just go home for the day after that when she saw the two people behind the school. She said the man didn't feel right. There was not enough for her to confirm that he had a hand in whatever happened, but she was sure we needed to know more about him to get to the bottom of all this. Then she spoke about the strong tremor, and made a good point that one that strong should have been felt throughout the city. We haven't heard anything about it though. Just our school shook and there was no explanations given for it whatsoever.”]
He did his best here to give her a description of the two that he saw. A benefit of being an investigative journalist with a good memory was that he recalled a solid amount of detail for her. Thanks to Miss Godwin he was also perfectly capable of doing descriptions. Although to be fair there were some unique things about them that required a bit less refined sentences to properly describe. Still he did the best you could ask for from a high school student.
Nathan continued their movement after that as he was sure there was nothing of concern left in his recap at least. [b “After that I believe you know everything that happened. Molly and I agreed to help out with the caveat that we would be doing it my way. Jherrichho gave us and flower his number, flower thanked us, and then they made their exit. I think that covers everything that I know.”]
After going through that recap in the cold Nathan pulled his scarf back up over his face. There was little concern for showing off his expressions now as Maurica had come with him this far. He also took the opportunity to bury his hands in his pockets as he scrunched up against the cold.
[b “Now that you know all that; what are your thoughts? Do you want to be involved?”]
/ 1y 90d 16h 49m 10s
[i Apologizing is something he seems to do pretty often, eh?] Chrysanth thought in bemusement, only managing a fond roll of her eyes at Jherrichho’s apologetic words. She waited until he paused in his speech before replying.
[+teal “If you were being a burden, I would tell you,”] she admitted with a small grin, before focusing on the second half of what he had said, about his memory loss. Her eyes rows pinched together slightly even as she took down a mortar and pestle and a few jars from the bookshelf that was overflowing with herbs. She sat down on the floor, legs bent to the side of her, as she carefully measured out amounts from the jars into the large marble mortar.
[+teal “That’s concerning,”] she muttered as he began to speak again, her eyes glancing up to him as she began to grind the herbs together with the pestle. She was careful to only grind hard enough to get a coarse powder, not something too fine or pasty. She just nodded as he explained being scared of his wounds—she could only imagine how ghastly an arm ruined to that extent would appear. She stopped grinding the herbs altogether in order to focus as he finished unwrapping his arm, her lips slowly spreading into a smile as her hypothesis from back in the alley was proven correct. She had to bite down a chuckle.
[i Dark Jherrichho is a trickster genius,] she thought gleefully, eyes glinting with mirth. [i He made a multi-layered promise. On the surface, it would seem to be important. Nathan would immediately assume that his arm was important to understanding Jherrichho’s Potential. But upon showing the arm as promised, it would appear to have been a simple trick. It would appear as if the arm was never anything other than normal, but...] Chrys could only nod as she dimly registered Jherrichho speaking again.
[i But that’s the beauty of it,] she continued to think silently. [i It isn’t as much of a trick as it appears to be! Nathan can only discover how important this arm is if he somehow gets background information on Jherrichho’s Potential and how he unlocked it to begin with. Until then, he won’t understand just how important this discovery is—]
Once again, Chysanth’s thoughts were cut off as whatever Jherrichho was doing with his Potential caused lines to appear along his arms. The girl’s eyes widened, watching with rapt attention as they formed and twisted down his skin. Flowers, vines? What did that have to do with his Potential? As far as Chrys knew, that was more similar to her own abilities than his.
She frowned in thought, for some reason feeling a bit anxious at that realization. There was no way her Potential was connected to his... right? Sure, they both had a similar origin, but...
No, she couldn’t make assumptions without all the evidence. She was probably wrong anyway. So, she filed away the thought and looked into her friend’s eyes.
[+teal “I think that other side of you knows,”] she admitted her assumption. [+teal “After all, why would he make that deal with Nathan if he didn’t know your skin would be clear if he had to make good on his promise? Whatever this is, we’ll probably figure it out later whether we want to or not, it’s obviously deeply rooted in your Potential,”] she spoke gently, before the whistle of her kettle broke into the air. She blinked, pushing herself up and grabbing a bowl from her desk. It was filled with reusable cloth tea bags, into which she carefully spooned her coarsely ground herbs into before closing it off. She grabbed a teacup places near the hot plates, rinsing it out with a quick pour of steaming water before filling it and placing the tea bag inside. She raised a single finger.
[+teal “My turn to share a bit, then,”] she said with a small, slightly nervous smile. [+teal “You see, our Potentials are similar at their core. The way my abilities work is that my Potential catalogues the makeup of every tea I ingest, but that’s not all. It also catalogues my exact emotions the very first time I drink that unique tea, and those emotions are what determine the tea’s abilities. The very first tea I ever drank that sparked a strong emotional response was Matcha, which ironically enough didn’t seem to have any effect. I didn’t even realize I had unlocked my Potential at first, not until I drank a different tea afterwards and realized I could recreate it from my skin. You see, that’s because...”]
A single drop of dark green liquid came out of her fingertip, dripping into the tea she was steeping and instantly dissolving. [+teal “Matcha’s ability is to give normal tea the same properties as a tea I make from my body with my Potential. It’s the ability to give abilities. It only works if the tea I made by hand is already one that I can make with my Potential, and it only gives the tea the same effect it would have if I made it with my Potential as well. But it only takes a drop to empower a whole cup, or five drops for a pot. It is much more quantity-efficient,”] she explained, taking the tea bag out of the cup and placing it onto a spill-proof mat set next to the hot plates. Then, she gently took the cup in both her hands and gave it to her friend.
[+teal “This tea is made with Chrysanthemum, lemongrass, a pinch of cinnamon, and candied lime peel. It will restore your energy, and the Chrysanthemum was infused with Mother’s Potential, so it will also ease your aches and speed up your recovery slightly. Nothing major, but a tiny boost to natural healing never hurt anyone,”] she told him, before leaning backwards onto a palm placed on the ground behind her.
[+teal “So. That’s why I am going to try to make a memory restoration tea or something like that, but I don’t control what power my teas have because I can’t fake my initial emotional response to a tea. I’ve tried that before, and it failed miserably. Now I have a tea that can only make somebody feel illogically disappointed in everything for no reason, because that’s the reaction I [i actually] had once I realized faking a reaction wouldn’t work,”] her lips curled into a wry grin. [+teal “Potentials are funny that way, huh?”]
Jherrichho was caught off guard by her reaction and yet a wave of relief swept over him when she spoke. His eyes lit up as all of the focus he had was put towards her. He wouldn’t miss any opportunity to learn more about Chrys. It was hard to tell when, but at some point learning more about her became a goal of sorts. As if it were something he would strive to do.
The way she spoke and her words were captivating. He couldn’t help falling prey to the way her eyes were shining as she kept on. This emotion, this feeling, everything she displayed as she spoke was inspiring and yet in a moment it all went dark. [i [+maroon Troubles? Trails? Tragedies of the past? What could weigh on her like this?] ] His thoughts tread through his mind but grinded to a halt as she began to speak again. Jherrichho could understand what she said this time all too well. Wanting to keep a potential out of public knowledge was something he had to do well, but there was no doubt Chrys had been doing it far longer than him.
When she paused was when he noticed they had reached their destination. Sure he had heard of the place before, but standing in front of it was definitely the way to admire how well it stood out among the others around them. [+maroon “Much bigger than I expected”], he murmured to himself before taking note of the shift in Chrys. She seemed as if something was troubling her, or rather as if there wasn’t anything to be overly exited about. Either way he waited until she gave her instructions, her tone now more serious.
Jherrichho made a mental note of her instructions as she gave them, his eyes still fixed on the colorful sign of the building he had once heard about from his father. It wasn’t until he brought up the one she called “Mom” that he looked at her with caution, seeing the change in her eyes that worried him. Her words caused his eyes to sharpen as his mind began to do what it did best. [i [+maroon Preparations must be made, no mistakes. Something so dangerous could cause great disaster. Be prepared to cause high damage if need be.] ] He blinked a few times to calm himself. Shaking his head a bit. [i [+maroon Don’t worry, she has a plan and all we need to do is follow it. Just don’t mess up.] ]
[+maroon “Alright, I’ll follow your lead. If anything else comes up just let me know so I can adjust”], he said with his eyes still locked on her. Chrys’s smile caught him off guard though, but the words that followed made him smile as well just as he normally did. [+maroon “As if I’d worry when I’ve got you by my side”], he replied before they went the rest of the way to the door and into the store.
The smell was the first thing to hit him as soon as they entered the store followed quickly by how much was inside. Until today he had only heard of the tea they sold so all of this was quite the spectacle for him at least. The scent of so many different herbs filled his nostrils and most of them he couldn’t even recognize. It was somehow rather relaxing, but where his attention really locked was on the woman at the bar. [i [+maroon Pink hair, purple and green bandana, who might this be?] ] His mind mused, yet he mostly just took note of it and simply smiled back as he bowed his head slightly in reverence. A trait he would have rather not picked up from his father. He was more intrigued though by what she spoke of. That alone was enough to quelled the doubts of anyone who wouldn’t have believed Chrys earlier when she spoke of her Mom’s potential. Of course he already believed her wholeheartedly. Still it was very frightening for someone like him.
When Chrys called her Mother he relaxed himself a bit with the confirmation of nothing to worry about for now. [+maroon “Hi, it’s a pleasure to meet you”], he responded before she turned to start looking for the things Chrys had asked for. Her Mother was more lighthearted and upbeat than he would have expected her to be. It wasn’t until she turned back with some things for Chrys and a few more things to say that Jherrichho couldn’t help but look over to her and smile with a small chuckle. Seeing her blush only pushed him to add, [+maroon “It is a beautiful name too”], before Chrys could remove them from the room. He gave the same bow he had given when he arrived as they left down the hallway.
When they entered her room the first thing he noticed was how clean it was, much cleaner than his of course. Everything seemed to have a specific order as to where it needed to be. A sink next to her desk caught his eyes for a moment, but seeing as to how she made tea it wasn’t very odd to him at least. It felt comfy just being in there, but maybe it was just him. He did live alone now after all so this was a welcome feeling. It brought back good memories.
When she told him to sit he simply slid down onto his knees with his feet beneath him and his hands placed evenly on his lap. Both he and his father would sit that way when they were asked to sit in the homes of people they visited when he was much younger. He would always tell him to [i “show reverence, no matter how simple of a task it may seem”]. He watched as she filled a kettle with water and placed it on one of the hot plates. As Chrys explained more about her potential to him he wondered just how often she’d choose to make tea by had rather than with her abilities. It must be very taxing after all so being able to do it by hand would be more convenient right? Was he causing her to strain herself throughout this day? He pushed the thought from his mind as she sat down as well.
[+maroon “Thank you again for all of your help. I don’t know if it was a burden on you, but I appreciate it either way.”] He removed his scarf and neatly folded it before sitting it on his right side and unbuttoning his jacket, folding that as well before placing it on his left. [+maroon “I need to tell you something important about all of this”], he said as he crossed his arms and looked at the kettle. [+maroon “This isn’t the first time this has happened. Sometimes I’d just forget entire sections of a day. More memorable would be that some days are just unaccounted for. Just gone, like I wasn’t even there for them. It has been happening ever since I unlocked my potential and I can’t figure out why, but maybe this will all help.”]
He took a deep breath, his smile noticeably absent as he lifted his right arm ahead of himself and began to unwrap his bandages. [+maroon “This used to scare me a lot. The blood, the bones, I always felt as if my arm would fall apart at any second when they started wrapping this. I guess that only goes to show how much it’s healed since then. It’s only been the bones and minor flesh wounds for a while now and you’ve helped me a lot with that.”] As he began to remove the final layer of bandages his eyes widen. His pace sped up greatly, removing them all quickly to see... nothing. [+maroon “What is this?”] Jherrichho questioned himself as he examined his arm. [+maroon “This isn’t right, even with all the healing and time in the world there isn’t a single scar... not even a sign of one. How?”] He grabbed his arm with his left hand and squeezed it slightly, jolting from the pain immediately. [+maroon “The bone is still broken, and the flesh is still not completely repaired. I don’t understand. This doesn’t make any sense, how could this b-“], he stopped mid sentence and looked directly at Chrys. His heart pounding at the thought of what he was about to do.
[+maroon “I apologize ahead of time, but just give me a moment of freedom. Nothing bad will come out of this. I promise.”] He smiled as he looked directly at her, but in his mind it was an entirely different ordeal. [b [i [+maroon Remember why you harden your fists, why you run as far as you do, why you grow as strong as you grow, why you continue to strive to jump higher or reach further, remember why you fight and what you fight for, and when you do cry it out so that anyone who doubts you can hear it!] ] ] He closed his eyes as his smile melted away into pure anger and agitation. He crossed his right hand in front of his chest before whispering under his breath. [+maroon “So I can never lose the people I love again...”]
His eyes shot open, a flash of purple before a deep red. His teeth pressed together with more pressure as he struggled to keep in his voice from escaping. His eyes focused on his arm as he watched for any changes, the rest of his willpower focused on keeping from losing himself. The danger with this entire plan was tremendous, but he wouldn’t break his promise no matter what. His eyes began to widen as from under his rolled up right sleeve black lines began to etch themselves onto his skin, a steady stream of smoke rising from them as if they were being burned onto him. Swirling across his arm into spiraled vines in the shapes of what seemed to be awkward flowers that ended at the back of his hand, what it signified or why it was happening was a mystery. [i [+maroon Regardless of what this is I can’t stay like this much longer, I can talk it over with Chrys and see if she knows anything.] ]
He turned his eyes to her and took a deep breath before closing his eyes once again. [i [+maroon With a heart at peace and focused on what matters, anything is possible. It doesn’t matter how far away or difficult to find it may be. So long as I’m willing to do anything for it I will always be able to find hope. And with hope comes happiness.] ] His mother’s words rang in his mind as the marks faded away. He opened his eyes to reveal his usual dark brown color, but he seemed almost dazed. It felt as if his energy was nearly depleted. He did use his potential more than once in a single day though so maybe it was a side effect? Either way he’d just have to deal with it.
[+maroon “I’m sorry about that, but I don’t know what to say. Those marks, that smoke, I’ve never seen either of them before. My skin in particular hasn’t been clear on that arm since before I unlocked my potential. And what’s worse is that the skin is perfectly normal but the flesh as bones are still in the same condition. I don’t know what this means.”] He looked down for a moment and blinked a few times before looking back at her and smiling. [+maroon “I guess we’ll just find out as time goes on. For now, let’s just relax. Today has already been rather eventful”.]
Maurica listened carefully as Raven explained to her that she was right to have her suspicions about the whole matter. This wasn't exactly what she would have liked to hear, but it was better than being told she shouldn't worry.It made her like Raven even more, the fact that he was willing to share what he really felt about the matter with her, rather than what he thought she wanted, or needed, to hear.
Her mother, despite everything great about her, still didn't seem to get this, that Maurica would be much happier with a direct, honest, possible hurtful answer, than a sugar coated one. To Maurica, that was almost as bad as outright lying, but she knew many people didn't share this belief, so she let it slide.
A lot of the things he was actually saying confused her, like "they." Who were "they?" He had said something about "them" earlier, she was pretty sure, but she was still no closer to figureing out what "they" actually were. And something about a promise?
Raven responded to Molly's grimace, saying that they weren't just going to walk away, no matter how slightly illegal what they were doing may be, and Maurica realized that these kids had probably known each other for quite a while. Not just Molly and Raven, but Lamprey too, and maybe even that other girl. Despite her cold demeanor, she reminded Maurica of warmth, like a cat. Cuddly, but also very fierce. She decided she liked the girl, though she barely knew her. Molly...Molly was growing on her. Lamprey, though--
Maurica watched Molly leave the alley, leaving her and the Raven all by themselves. Well, and Jason, of course, who was so still it was possible he had fallen asleep. She pet his head with her thumb and he peered up at her groggily. She looked at Raven and smiled, though she was still a bit unsure of herself.
He then offered to explain anything she might be wondering about on the way to a trip to the ice cream shop for ice cream, and it was then that Maurica remembered their prior engagement. Ice cream.
She glanced down at her wrist, pushing Jason over a bit so she could see the time on her watch. It was certainly later than she expected, but it wasn't so late that her mom would start worrying. Maurica had told her mom she'd probably be staying till school was officially out anyways, so they had time. What they didn't have was her backpack, which she had left in the school in her rush to get outside. She supposed it was alright, as it was in her locker and she didn't have any homework. She didn't suppose any of the seniors did, due to them graduating soon.
[+olive "Yeah, that sounds great,"] she replied, still hesitating as she thought about everything that might go wrong.
[+olive [i This is what you wanted, right? Adventure and all that? Blunt people? Right? So suck it up and go get ice cream with this total stranger!]] she scolded herself. Though for some reason, the promise of adventure didn't seem so thrilling as it had that morning. Maybe it was because that morning she hadn't known what Raven was capable of. She hadn't thought to wonder what Raven was capable of. Maybe she had wanted a little adventure, one that she could go home and tell her mom about, one that her mom would approve of wholeheartedly. Maybe she was getting in over her head.
Then Raven said something that made her [i know] she was getting over her head.
She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it, then opened it again. And closed it again.
[+olive "I don't think I know enough about what's going on to have an opinion about all this. I mean, I know you and Molly are friends with, uh, the kid that wants you to do something slightly illegal--raid the security tapes or something, and I know there's a [i they] and--wait, who was that tall girl--not Molly, the other one. Lamp--I mean, the injured kid's girlfriend, maybe? They seemed really close. No, but that can't be right, he just handed her his number? I give up.
You see what I mean?"] Maurica finished exasperatedly.
Chrys got used to Jherrichho’s weight on her rather easily, shouldering it as they walked down the mostly empty streets. When he spoke up, she looked over and gave him her attention even as she kept her ears trained on their surroundings. She hummed in thought at his musings about his arm, but his last few sentences had her lips twitching into a smirk. Finally, she snorted.
[+teal “I think there’s something you don’t know about me yet. Not surprising, considering we just met this morning... even if it feels like longer than that somehow,”] she started, her voice much more relaxed than it had been around the others. [+teal “I crave adventure. Mystery. This little city is a bit boring for me,”] she turned to face him fully while still shouldering his weight. Her vibrant blue eyes shone with barely suppressed excitement. [+teal “I might not like that you’re hurt, or that I feel like all of this is going to be one dangerous thing after another, but I’m loving every minute of this adventure. I’m extremely excited to serve what this whole thing means, what the future holds. And if it’s something bad enough to put us into serious danger, I’ll be there so you and I can dig ourselves out of it. I should probably be a litte more open as well,”] her smile slipped off her face as she remembered her many secrets. Her eyes grew dark for a long moment.
She stayed silent in thought as they passed a few stores, and only opened her mouth to speak again when she led him down a turn. Her voice was a soft, serious whisper. [+teal “I have not been very open with you. I have never lied, but I’m a secretive person, Jherrichho. I don’t typically tell anyone anything about me even if I’ve known them for years. That’s why the school still thinks I haven’t unlocked my Potential,”] she purses her lips as the Apothecary came into view at the end of the road.
It was a large building, the size of two normal stores on that street. The plaque bearing it’s name was a proud purple, the words bright teal against that background. Chrysanth took a breath, straightening her back and an invisible mask pulling over her face once more. She went from Jherrichho’s friend Chrys to the cold and impersonal Chrysanth again.
[+teal “When we get in, I’m going to tell my mothers that you got sick and I wanted to see if I could help,”] she whispered, keeping her eyes fixed on the building. [+teal “Mother is okay, you can trust her. Don’t let her see anything you want to keep secret though, just in case. And when it comes to Mom...”] Chrysanh’s jaw clenched, her eyes darkening even further. [+teal “Mom is the one that looks like me, has my hair and eyes. Mother is the one with brown eyes and dyed pink hair. Don’t talk to Mom unless she speaks to you first, I’m going to take you to my room as soon as possible so she should leave us alone but you need to know that you cannot trust her,”] Chrysanth stopped walking so she could look at Jherrichho, her face serious. [+teal “I mean it. Do not even [i mention] you have a Potential, her’s is with emotion. Like I said, I will keep her away as best as I can, and everything should go without a problem. Still. Please.”]
Chrysanth allowed a moment for Jherrichho to absorb her words, and then she gave him a small smile. [+teal “But relax. You shouldn’t need to worry about that, because I’ll be there and the whole point of this trip is to help heal you. So take a deep breath and act normal, okay? You’re my sick classmate that I’m helping out, nothing weird about you or the school or today. Now let’s go.”]
She led him the rest of the way up, and gently pushed the door open.
The shop was huge. The right half was set up like a café, with a bar where tons of boxes and jars of loose leaf tea where stacked up on a shelf and ready to be made fresh for customers. Heavy chalkboard signs carrying the food and tea menu hung over the bar from the high ceiling, and kettles gently heated for gas burners. The left half of the shop was obviously the store side, with racks of dried herbs near the front windows followed by shelves and cases of salves, lotions, soaps, candles with herbs in them, and almost any other handmade aromatherapy or bath item imaginable. Even tea flavored caramels lined a smaller shelf in the center of the store, facing the entrance where the two teens were. The only woman inside was at the bar, her pink hair pulled up into a ponytail behind a colorful purple and green bandana. She smiled warmly when she saw the newcomers, putting the scoop she had been holding down and dusting her hands of the herbs she had been sorting.
[+hotpink “Hello! Chrys, you’re home early. Your mom’s out at the jewler’s, she wants to see about buying some tumbled stones so we can start a small line of handmade earrings. She wants to put joy and love into rose quartz earrings to see if they’ll sell,”] the woman informed her adoptive daughter, so relaxed slightly under Jherrichho. Chrys smiled, just as relaxed around this woman as she was around Jherrichho.
[+teal “Hi Mother. My friend got sick, so I came to see if I could test out some new teas on him to see if they help. Do you have anything for stomach ache?”] she asked, leading Jherrichho over to the bar. The woman hummed happily, smiling at the boy.
[+hotpink “Well hello there!”] she greeted cheerily. [+hotpink “Sorry that you aren’t feeling great. Lemme see if I have any special herbs available...”] she turned and started rummaging through the containers of teas and herbs on the shelves behind her. She came back with two jars. [+hotpink “Chamomile for stomach ache, and Chrysanthemum for fevers, colds, headaches, and dizziness,”] she winked. [+hotpink “Chrysanth brews Chrysanthemum tea, funny huh? I picked out her name because Chrysanthemum is such a good natural remedy. Wanted her to be just as helpful, you know?”]
Chrys was blushing. She coughed into one fist, grabbing the two jars and holding them in one arm. [+teal “Thanks Mother. We’ll, uh, go to my room now so that I can brew the tea. He wants privacy, you understand right?”] only after her mother nodded with a sympathetic smile to Jherrichho did Chrysanth sling her free arm over his shoulder again and lead him down a back hallway to her bedroom.
It was clean, orderly. A plain teal bed, a bookcase stuffed with books and another bookcase overflowing with herbs and jars of tea like the ones up front. There was a desk, with papers scattered on top of it and a few electric hot plates on the ground on top of a bamboo mat, with empty kettles nearby. There were also floor pillows on the ground, a book laid down next to one to show that that was where she had been sitting and reading the day before—the book was an encyclopedia of herbs and their uses. There was a blue bookmark halfway through it. Perhaps the oddest thing about her room was the rather out of place sink installed in the wall next to her desk.
[+teal “So, uh, just sit down wherever. I’ll heat up some water,”] she told her friend, picking up a kettle and taking it to the sink. Once filled, she sat it down on one of the electric hot plates and turned it on. [+teal “it’s easier on my body this way. Making tea from my body is faster, but it dehydrates me. This way, I can make stronger teas.”] she explained, taking a seat on a floor pillow.
Nathan took the number with a nod of appreciation. He made sure to keep his eyes on them though which gave him the sight of Chrysanth being visibly overcome by emotion. The warmest one he had seen from her all day, but a welcome change. It was enough to get his shoulders to loosen up some as his stance softened from the attention he had been at.
That relaxation broke though as both he and Molly moved to offer Jherrichho a hand only to have him wave it off. The wince reminded them of the shape he had been in when Nathan gathered everyone. He toughed it out long enough to approve the meeting place though and to wish them well until their agreed upon meeting. Even Chrysanth gave them her thanks before she helped him to leave the alleyway.
Molly was quick to speak before they made their escape. [b “You can always be comfortable coming to me for help. It's what I'm here for.”]
Nathan let out a sigh of relief that was interrupted by Maurica's tense question. A glance at her was enough for him to realize how this situation must have seemed from an outside perspective. So he made sure to pull his scarf down enough to reveal his confident smile before he answered her. It might not do anything to help assuage her concerns, but it couldn't hurt either.
[b “You're not the only one Maurica. There is a whole hell of a lot that feels off about this, but a promise is a promise, and to be fair they went along with my terms easily enough. The fact they didn't press to be involved makes me more comfortable about it all. If they have malevolent intentions they are not smart enough about following through to do anything about them to us. Since we could easily just walk away now without any issue.”]
Molly glared at him at the suggestion of them just walking away. [b “Relax. I'm going through with this, but the less anybody else knows about my plans the better. They can't lay a trap for me if they don't how I'm going in and especially if they can't guarantee when either. All I need from you is to do what you do anyway Molly; just go back in and help the student council out with the plans for graduation. I'll text you more later.”]
The tall woman hesitated only long enough to confirm that Nathan could contact her before she made her way to put her bicycle back. She was not going to hesitate to go back to her routine if it could help out. That and she was happy to leave the illegal matters in Nathan's hands anyway as she knew he had more experience in that regard.
Nathan kept his eyes on Molly until she turned the corner and was out of sight before he focused all of his attention back on Maurica. He made sure to open with as friendly a smile as he could muster. This was not exactly the best day to meet him after all, although he hoped he had made a decent enough impression on her. Finding out the guy who gave you a coin this morning is willing to commit felonies probably not the best. Still he kept his fingers crossed that it was at least not as off putting to her as it sounded to him in his head.
[b “So I don't know how much of that you were there for, or how much of it you were able to follow, but I'll be glad to explain on the way. I think a trip for some ice cream sounds good right about now and I'm going to need the energy. How about I answer any questions you have on the way, sound good?”]
The benefit for her was an obvious one as what little of that meeting he was sure she saw was sure to have piqued her curiosity. If she was anything like him getting that sated would be more than enough to go along with him. Failing that she would at least get some free ice cream out of the deal, and honestly who would turn down free ice cream? Especially when it comes with some hot gossip.
It was admittedly for his own ends that he made the offer though as the opportunity to run this whole scenario by someone less wild would be good. Sure Molly was going along with it, but she might rob a bank if Chrysanth asked her with puppy dog eyes. Maurica had no such ties to either of them as far as he was aware, and so her fresh perspective would be of far more value. Especially as she already picked up on an off feeling from it.
[b “I'd love to know what you think about this whole mess.”]
/ 1y 115d 5h 37m 10s
Jherrichho couldn’t help but chuckle at her words, smiling slightly. Here she was, faced with the unknown yet always keeping that same strength about her. It was inspiring, or rather comforting in his eyes. He let out a sigh of relief as she helped him press forward and closed his eyes for a moment as they moved.
[i [+purple I’ll be resting, next time you’ll speak your own mind and not rely on me. The nerve, after... all these... years...] ] The voice faded away before his eyes opened. They were back to normal, yet his face was unwilling to change. His thoughts stuck on what had just occurred and the stipulations places upon them by his other self. [+maroon “What a bother”], he said before turning to Chrys. [+maroon “I have no idea what he was planning with that deal. Whenever we get a moment on our own when we reach our destination I’m going to have to look at my arm.”]
He lifted up the bandage covered arm so they could see it better in the light. It didn’t hurt at all like it did before, yet there was still stiffness and small spikes of pain every once in a while. He couldn’t see any reason as to why it would be important as a bargaining chip or deal breaker, but that smoke... that was completely new. He had never seen it before today and he didn’t know what to think or expect. It would all just have to wait.
He made a mental note of how empty the streets were at this hour. As they passed by store after store you could see people inside working as well as a few customers, but most people worked at this hour so not much would be happening until the evening. He remembered going with his mother to the hospitals when he was younger and couldn’t stay at home by himself. Barely anyone would ever show up, but once the evening hit and working hours faded commotion was always close behind. He had taken this path home multiple times before at the end of school days and yet it was never so obvious as to how empty it was when they were in classes. At least this was a very convenient time to leave, no one should stop them or anything like that.
He had never been to the apothecary himself, heard about it on multiple accounts from his father yet never visited personally. Would her parents be there? How would they react to them showing up at this time? Would he have to fight? Escape? [i Of course not, what am I thinking? This will be no problem at all. We’ve gotten past the hard part and now it’s just up to time and preparation.] [i [+maroon But don’t drop your guard.] ]
[+maroon “Hey, when we get there”], he started with a pause before continuing. [+maroon “I’ll show you my arm. It’s not fair of me to show others so freely but act as if it’s some huge secret with you.”] He tucked his mouth into his scarf as he blushed, his eyes darting away from her in slight embarrassment. [+maroon “And you’ve done so much for me it’s only fair that I, um... be a bit more... open”], he admitted. This was only right and as so he would do so openheartedly. Besides, he felt no doubts with trusting her. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing though wasn’t really as clear as day. As always he wouldn’t worry about it until it was too late.
[+maroon “So, um, everything is a bit of a blur. It’s been a long time since I gave into my feelings like that, but are you okay with all of this?”] His eyes shot back to her with a serious look embedded deep within them. He hasn’t asked her yet but there wasn’t a better time than this. [+maroon “I know this all happened rather suddenly so I wouldn’t be upset or anything if you wanted to turn away. You’ve done more than enough for me as it is, I wouldn’t want to drag you into something you can avoid if it comes to something serious.”]
Chrys perked up when someone stepped into the alleyway, straightening to her full six feet, three inches. She was about an inch taller than normal because of her sneakers, but she also hardly ever wore anything to give her even [i more] height. It just wasn’t necessary, Molly being one of the very few girls taller than her in the school.
When straightened all the way in the alley, Chrysanth’s neutral-toned wardrobe, stark black hair, and almost shimmery blue eyes combined to make... quite the intimidating appearance. Her sharp gaze didn’t help that at all, immediately honing in on the small figure that had joined them. Chrys blinked, her sharp gaze almost immediately softening into mild confusion rather than cold suspicion. She examined the new arrival as everyone else spoke.
Chrysanth had seen this girl around school now and then, but that didn’t seem to be where she recognized her from the most. The girl’s name didn’t come to mind though, but Chrys didn’t mind her. She seemed like a quiet, jumpy girl and Chrys wasn’t somebody to try and scare someone on purpose unless there was a very good reason. Figuring that the newcomer was most likely safe, Chrys let her gaze switch over to her friend.
Just in time for him to hand her his phone number.
As Chrys slowly reached out to grab it, everyone in the alleyway could witness something that she hardly ever showed in public—surprise smoothed over Chrys’s face. She looked down at the number with soft surprise in her eyes, not expecting anyone—even the kind and too-trusting Jherrichho— to actually willingly give her their contact information. She gently folded the paper, sliding it into her pocket. As soon as it was put away, her face smoothed back out into her cold mask. She nodded when Jherrichho said they would meet the others in the newspaper room.
And then her eyes trailed to Jherrichho’s stomach, and ruined Chrys’s usually-perfect mask again as concern etched itself onto her face. She tried to hide it, not wanting to show her emotions to anyone she didn’t trust , but she couldn’t keep it from shining in her eyes as she walked up to Jherrichho’s side and wrapped an arm around his shoulders carefully.
[+teal “You’re an idiot if you think I’m letting you go home alone in this condition,”] she scolded him gently, frowning. She turned her head back to the others, nodding to them. She shifted slightly, not used to being genuine with people she barely knew and feeling awkward about it. [+teal “Thank you,”] she said softly. [+teal “Really. If everything goes smoothly, none of you will have to help us out again. We know this is our problem, we wouldn’t ask for help if we didn’t need it,”] she assured them before looking away. She didn’t like the vulnerability that came with being genuine.
[+teal “As for you,”] she said to Jherrichho, her tone going back to leaving no room for argument. [+teal “Come on, I’m taking you to the Apothecary so we can try to sort out your injuries as much as possible. Honestly, acting all tough—“] her words turned into a fondly annoyed grumble as she helped him leave the alleyway.
Maurica peered around the corner of the alleyway, hoping she had found the right one. Yup, there was Raven and Molly. There was also another girl that looked really familiar, but she couldn't place why. Perhaps she had her in a class, bu that didn't seem quite right.
The fourth person, however, stumped her entirely. He looked strange and terrifying, like he wasn't quite right. This was the kid she had seen in Jason's thoughts, the one who Molly had to go out to help because he was dying or something. He didn't look like he was dying though. He reminded her of those other people Jason had been terrified of, in a odd sort of way. Something about his eyes. The creature that instantly came to mind was a lamprey, a small parasitic eel that lived in Alaska and whose mouth was the stuff of nightmares.
Maurica thought she was being extremely stupid and childish, being so terrified of a kid she'd never met, but there was something to be said for instincts. No, that wasn't quite true. She had had a couple classes with him in the past, but none this year that she was aware of. She often sat in the front of classrooms, so she rarely saw, or paid attention to, the other kids in her class.
Raven looked at over at her and she smiled apologetically and slid further into the alleyway, where it would seem like she was more involved in--whatever was going on. The lamprey looked at her strangely, like...well, she wasn't quite sure, but she knew she didn't like it. Maurica did realize that she was probably freaking out over nothing, but she figured she would be better safe then sorry.
She was suddenly struck by how much shorter she was than everyone else there. She would be looking up at everyone, and they down at her. It bothered her, somewhat.
Raven was talking about security footage, more precisely, acquiring it for Lamprey. For what purpose, she had no idea, as she hadn't been listening. Then again, as she hadn't been listening, it was possible that no one had given a reason after Maurica had shown up and she wouldn't have known even if she was listening. Either way, as the footage was for Lamprey, she didn't feel comfortable asking. It couldn't be anything too bad though, as it seemed Molly was going along with it, and Maurica doubted Molly would do anything that was even slightly illegal without a good reason for doing so. And this, it seemed, was slightly illegal.
Maurica noticed Jason was pressed up against her neck and she wondered if that was part of the reason she had found Lamprey so unnerving. She placed her hand up to her shoulder, and surprised Maurica by actually climbing on. She cupped her hands around him and held him at her chest.
Lamprey handed out his phone number to the others and she felt an instant twinge of guilt mixed with fear. Everything they were doing just felt so wrong and she wasn't sure why. She wasn't even sure why they were doing the things they were doing, and it still felt wrong.
He reached down to touch his stomach and Maurica realized that this must have been what Raven had meant when he said the guy was hurt. Or, maybe not, and the whole thing was a ruse so that they could plan their weird shenanigans in peace. Maybe even Molly's chipper exterior was a ruse!
Lamprey said something to the pretty black-haired girl, for whom a animal refused to readily come. Perhaps an alley cat? But that didn't seem quite right. Maurica would have to hang around her longer to be sure.
She turned and saw Raven, and smiled. She trusted that boy, though she wasn't sure why. Maybe...Maurica sidled up beside him so she could speak to him without anyone else--especially Lamprey--hearing.
[+olive "Do you know what's going on? Well, I mean, obviously you do, but, uh...[i sigh]--does something feel really off about all this or is it just me?"]
Jherrichho was relieved yet concerned with what Chrys had said. On one hand he wasn’t very subtle and could tell that the others acted as if something was wrong, so when she spoke it really managed to help. [i [+purple I can see why you’ve gotten along well with her] ], he thought to himself. And yet what she said didn’t make sense. He didn’t remember any man and woman and he certainly didn’t remember any tremor. [i [+purple So that must be what happened while we were incapacitated. I see.] ]
He was more focused on what he’d say before, but now he scanned the area with his eyes carefully. He had mainly been expecting two people and yet three showed up. Aside from that it wasn’t a person that he’d come to know. A threat? A life that needs to be extinguished? The deal being put in jeopardy? Someone who wasn’t in his memories wasn’t welcomed to me here. [i [+maroon Quiet. Keeps to herself... doesn’t cause much trouble and therefore stays out of the immediate spotlight... a loner from my perspective... Maurica... she’s no threat...] ] He frowned and cast the thought aside, upset at how the boy had come to know so many people indirectly. If he had to act it would be natural to dispose of them all, but difficult with this body. Although that never kept him from pushing the limits before.
He waited impatiently for their answer, but did well to hide it. When they agreed to help he felt relief although it wasn’t his own. Jherrichho knew deep down that with pain at the forefront of himself the lack of feeling this other side of him would have could potentially be devastating. That coupled with the realization that the pain he had caused himself would be subsiding soon meant he would be going to rest again soon. It was tiring to be active like this so things hurrying along would very well be good. [+purple “Thank you, with your help I may be able to find out what happened. Too much has been happening behind my back and I’m tired of doing nothing about it. I know this all seems strange, but I’ve been relying on researchers for my answers for too long. Now I need to discover things on my own terms”], he said with an internal chuckle. There were many things that Jherrichho would hope to keep hidden, but this outpouring of information from this side of him would come to ruin him. He would have so much more to explain to Chrys now like his arm, but this too? He trusted her of course yet that didn’t mean he wanted to reveal so much information. What would she think?
He pulled two pieces of paper and a pen out of his pocket and wrote on them for a moment before handing one to them. [+purple “This is my number, if things start to go south don’t hesitate to call. I’ll see what I can do.”] He turned to Chrys and smiled as he gave her his number as well before whispering, [+purple “I know he’s too shy of a person sometimes, but you at least deserve this. He sees you as something special I can tell. I don’t know why? But I know he does.”] He turned back to the others before wincing and reaching for the bruise on his stomach. [i [+purple I can’t keep him from coming back, this conversation needs to end now before the pain decreases enough for him to return to normal.] ]
He crossed his arms and smiled as sincerely as he could. [+purple “If everything goes okay we’ll meet you in the newspaper room tomorrow. Until then stay safe and be careful. If it comes down to me having to help I don’t know how subtle I can be”], he said before turning around and looking at the other end of the alley that led out to the street. No one was there or had passed by excluding a few cars on their way. It was an overall quiet day and that was good for now... hopefully it can stay that way.
He turned to Chrys with a panicked look on his face before saying, [+purple “If you have any warnings or information to give them now is the time to do so. I don’t have much time left.”] He began to make his way to the end of the alley, keeping his ears open just in case he’d have to act or respond. [i [+purple the pain is coming back, standing is getting more difficult. What damage did we sustain? The pain is wearing off enough for you to resume your normal control but it hasn’t subsided yet. Was something broken? No, it couldn’t be. Still, who could do something like this?] ] The look on his face turned from panic to pained as he stopped and waited for Chrys at the end of the alley, the purple now flickering out of his eyes. [i [+purple This isn’t just you anymore, you have that girl involved too. You must protect her and do what you can. I don’t know why, but something makes me care for her well-being... don’t get her hurt with all of this.] ]
[i [+maroon I... I will do all I can... to keep her safe... she’s done so much for me and I will... return the favor.] ]
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