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  1. AMONG GRAVEYARDS OF SWORDS NORTHEASTERN HIGHLANDS OF THE GREAT DIVIDE, MADAI CYRUS ALJHIN The heaviness of the dagger was one that he would never get used to. The sword-like weight in his palm, the strange warmth it suffused, and the sight of gray steel rusted with white bone — nothing about the blade was natural. The words of his mentors echoed in his mind, warning him of the dangers posed by arcane instruments. Magic had no place in Madai, but like all things, it had its purpose. There, Cyrus stood alone in that graveyard of swords, knife in hand with the wind howling at his back. The lichen-covered remains and corroded armor of warriors long departed peeked slightly above waves of grass. These were once his contemporaries. His hazel-blue eyes drifted down to the familiar sword buckled to his waist. Purpose. The thought wormed itself back through his head. How often had he contemplated the nature of purpose in life? He thought of Mikhail, his brother, and Vasiliy, his father. He grit his teeth. Afanii…. Why couldn't he just forget? Perhaps in a different life, he would still be flourishing his greatsword and killing for the highest bidder, but now, no more. He had long since resolved to never turn back to that way of life. There was no reason for him to go back. His wandering gaze returned to the skeletons in front of him. Thinking of them, he was awash with solemnity veiling pangs of guilt. He knew their hollowed eyes silently judged him. After all, he wasn’t there to mourn ⁠— he was there to scavenge. Squeezing the hilt tighter, he redirected his attention to the feeling in his hand. He needed to focus. Though he couldn't see it yet, he was familiar with the sensation of entanglement. He could imagine threads of magic — winding and binding itself — weaving and interlacing his fingers with the blade to form something larger than its constituents. Connection — potential — power. His jet fur bristled as a phantom electricity ripped through his skin. Forbidden. Vision sharpened — the clouds and sky behind becoming a more vivid play of pinks, oranges, and blues as the sun made its final stretch over the horizon. Their light painted the grassy land at the base of the escarpment something brighter than its usual gray-green with shards of weathered silver. It was an hour as beautiful as it was fleeting. Faint silhouettes of scattered lines and hanging strings of light soon came into view, becoming more legible and tangible as the dagger’s power channeled itself through him. The magic which saturated his view looked like the fine, flowing silk of spiders in the wind. Parallels and crossings — tangles and whorls — this was the tapestry of the world: Vanakara. The weapons in front of him would soon betray their true nature. When all had settled, the wolf-faced man began his robbery of the dead.
  2. It had been years since he'd seen her. Surely by now she was a beautiful young woman, and he hoped at least as smart as he remembered her, if not more so. She should've been in about her mid-twenties, the age most women thought about marrying and starting a family. Settling down. By now one had found their walk of live and was head strong on their path to greatness. The things she could have had, the life he wished for her after the conditions in which he'd found her in; That he'd saved her from... "Nii-san!!!" He heard a voice barely familiar to him, though the tone of it spoke with excitement and familiarity. His ears twitched at the sound, causing him to turn on his heels as he turned his chin and craned his neck. His charcoal eyes instantly smiled with sincerity as his hand rose to cover his mouth. It had opened, but when he tried to speak, nothing came out. His eyes swelled with tears; Both of joy and of sorrow. There she was, at least he'd kept his word. He'd found her, and yet he almost instantly cursed himself for not having managed to do so sooner. Sitting in a wheelchair, she smiled warmly, rolling towards him slowly. Her green eyes sparkled just as brightly as ever, complimenting her smile despite the scars littering her visible skin. Her legs were covered by a blanket, though he noticed that at it's end there were no feet to be seen. She stopped about 20 feet from him, her arms crossing as she stuck her bottom lip out in a pouting manner. "I guess you're not him after all..."Before she could say another word, before he could speak. He suddenly rand to her, squatting just enough to hug her with all of his heart. "K-Ko-k..Kotori! Gomenesai! GOMEN!!!" He exclaimed shamelessly at the top of his lungs as his emotions got the best of him. With a couple deep breaths, he wiped his tears from his face and forced himself to smile as warmly and inviting as he could. "Ikimasho, let's grab a bite and catch up. Whatever you want, my treat." "Psh, how'bout a beer? They don't serve alcohol in these facilities. And stop apologizing, this is on me...All of it." While he didn't doubt her words, he couldn't help but feel guilty about leaving her the way he had. Regardless of what he was going through, there was no excuse. "Can you uh, let me go now, you're starting to hurt me." "Sumimasen!" He exclaimed more quietly, releasing her and yet placing a hand on each shoulder with a firm grasp. With a reassuring tap on one of them, his eye shut and his head tilted to the side, his smile widening. "Allow me." Standing erect once more, he stepped around her and grasped the handles at the back of the chain. Once she gave a reassuring nod, they were off! At her request, they first made a detour. Taking the long way around, she had him walk the trails in a nearby park as they began to catch up. Their stories of survival did not differ too greatly, just the finite details of what parts were better or worse for either of them. The closer each got to the modern day, the more their stories deviated from one another's. Jinsoku had found an ally and friend by chance while on the water world of Bel'shir. A beautiful blade maiden named Okina that he'd more or less kept up with for the past couple years. She asked Jin if he liked her, and yeah, he was quite fond of her. But after his heart was so grievously stolen and betrayed, he wasn't sure if he could trust another woman in such a deep way. In contrast, Kotori had spent her time honing her skills. She argued that she kept her word by not joining the OFM, and that she never promised she wouldn't become a slayer. On this world however, she fell in with the more common hunters of this region. A foolish endeavor as many warned her, and yet she never even pretended to consider any outside opinion. For almost a year she had done well helping defend The City of Beasts from the very thing that gives it its name. One particular day, Kotori found herself feeling a bit arrogant. A creature known as an Amaroc, known to hunt solo was sighted nearby. Though it posed no immediate threat to the city or anyone near it, she felt compelled to hunt this one alone. Curiously enough however, she found herself alone with what wound up being about half a dozen of those things. Obviously reinforcements arrived in time enough to save her life, though he also clearly didn't walk away without loss. Despite dispatching the pack, what was recovered of her limbs was barely recognizable, let alone salvageable even with the improved tech in the other nations. And she was simply too poor to afford fancy prosthetics like Jinsoku had on his right arm. When he offered to pay for prosthetics and rehab for her now, she fought tooth and nail to decline the offer. Jinsoku had already decided no wasn't an acceptable answer. He'd pay regardless, and if she chose not to receive product or treatment that was being provided to and for her, that would be another foolish choice on her part. While he didn't condone, support, or encourage her to continue down the road of walking in shoes like his, he still wished for her to have the best quality of life possible. Especially while she was still young. In return for his request at just living, Kotori requested that he get revenge for her. Not because she felt revenge necessary, but because Naga was embedded in one of those creatures when the surviving one's were chased off. The weapon he'd given her, that the late Queen Raven had given him prior. A shared responsibility he accepted without consideration. When they finally found themselves sitting down somewhere to eat, Jinsoku made sure to order too much for himself as a means of making his sister feel more at ease when deciding what she wanted for her. Money was something he had plenty of, even after considering what he lost in the Great Calamity. It was also something he didn't spend often, and he couldn't take it with him when he died. It would take more than one day, one meal, to spoil her in a way that made up for the lost time. But he made it one of his main objectives in life at this point. Whatever amount of time she had left in this world, no matter what, he'd spoil her.
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