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Kingdom Hearts: Apocalypse ~Part 1 Rebirth " Machinecken Town"~



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~- Clarification time -~

Nana braced himself for the open hostility that the two hybrids were showing him, knowing that he was screwed. So, despite wanting to run when the male hybrid attacked, Nana found that his body stayed rooted to the spot, unable to move because of fear. In his mind's eye he saw the hybrid coming at him, and he was only vaguely aware of himself sending the dog away and calling up to serpentine dragons. One went to the dog to protect it, the other went to the unconscious keyblader, protecting her from this hybrid's rampage.

He just stared at him, not saying anything when he was yelled at.

"You stupid idiot! Why do you insist on doing things like this?"

Nana winced at the words, so when the dust surrounded him, his mind shut down. He tried to utilize his senses to pinpoint the hybrid, but he couldn't manage it. His brain was focused on the hybrids that were away from them, specifically the youngest and newest one. He was forced back to the situation at hand when a chainsaw-like weapon appeared in front of him, taking a step back he raised his arm to block the attack only to see that the female hybrid from before had gotten in between.

W-What? What's going on? he thought, his eyes wide in surprise as the dust cleared.

He heard the exchange between them, and he was grateful for the female hybrid's interception. Looking to the guy, he looked down at the ground, once more taking the verbal lashing in silence. He heard the thing about part of why he was mad. A laugh escaping him, Nana ran his hands through his hair and retorted, "Those dogs? They weren't mine, they belong to my older sister. My heartless are the dragons that's by the dog and the kid, not that they're going to hurt either of them." He could understand though the time not being right for questions, so he nodded, but said nothing more.

He didn't want to be around these people either, they were a risk to his mission. At the same time though he couldn't make himself leave either, there was just something about the female hybrid that drew him to her. Thinking about the other complaints that were voiced, Nana decided against addressing them, it'd probably be in his best interest to come off as nonthreatening as possible if he couldn't leave the male hybrid alone.

~- Laser Focus -~

Henry watched the events unfold, the bright flash of flare and the light spells temporarily left him dazed. Subconsciously calling up the dead to defend him, a cold numbness spread through him at that act. It wasn't intentional, after everything died down Henry blinked a couple of times, trying to process what had happened. Looking to a Susanoo-possessed Sevastian again, he rolled his eyes. Really Susanoo? You couldn't just sit back? Stupid. he grumbled internally, before he walked forward towards Topsy.

He heard Yoake and Renn's complaints, and he honestly had to agree with them. He heard the growling of an animal, making Henry look in the direction of the lab before he focused on the two lovers in front of him. An unreadable expression on his face, Henry commented coolly, "While they're right, technically we can't stop you two. Andrew is clearly over thirteen, and since that's the youngest you can be in our world and give permission there's nothing we can do about it."

A wry smile showing on his face, Henry added, "Although maybe do slow it down a tad, okay?" Without another word he turned away from them, walking toward Sevastian he continued in the neutral tone, "Susanoo, do tell your host he's an idiot, please and thank you." Despite not outwardly reacting, he had noticed the large shadow that had appeared before it disappeared. Filing it away for a later date, he turned on his heel and headed toward the lab, figuring that was where the growling was coming from. He could also sense a rather important soul in that direction, and it tugged at him, wanting him to come to it.
 
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Topsy looked up at Andrew, feeling the wetness on his face from tears splashing down on him from Andy's eyes. The pain radiating from Topsy's head as enough that he actually felt dizzy. He tried to adjust his sight in the darkness so that he could get a better look at Andrew's face that was only a few inches from his but Andy's stammering made him lean back to the ground again. He was immediately disheartened by the look he saw on the kitsune's face; clear utter confusion and maybe even terror. Topsy sighed, he already knew that things between he and Andrew were ruined before they really began. Andrew was probably disgusted by his presence after what had happened. He could tell by the dull reaction that Andrew had shown after the kiss.

An ominous growling was still coming from the direction of the lab, so it probably needed to be investigated. Before he stood up, Topsy stared at Andrew for a few seconds and the young man said, "It worked though, I knew you wouldn't hurt me." Topsy wiped away a tear as it ran down his cheek before releasing his arms from behind Andrew, he stood up, turning from him and shuddered. For now it didn't look like any of the others were that worried by his presence but that could change rapidly. What if they all decided that he was better off dead?? What if every single one of them decided it was a good idea to attack him and end him once and or all now that he was unsteady and weakened from his previous beating??

"I...I, I'm sorry Andrew but I know you probably don't want to be around me. I shouldn't have made that many assumptions or even kissed you when I didn't know if you were actually into guys." He backed up and rubbed the stub where his right wing had broken off then looked back at Andrew once more before turning and running off in the direction of the lab. He'd only gone a few feet before casting reflect, using the magic to bend light around him, making it so that his entire form vanished. His heart throbbed in pain. Topsy's soul ached and he knew then that everything he was working toward was now in jeopardy.

After reaching the clearing that housed the lab, Topsy released the reflect spell and gathered what strength he could. "Damn it." His eyes looked to the top of the building where there was still a figure perched there, gazing down at him. His eyes were blood shot with corruption, giant horns that dripped with blood and oozed darkness shown in contrast to the blackness of the night. "What are you??" He looked again but the goat like creature had disappeared.

Topsy cringed as a pain shot through his back and he saw a horn burst from his upper chest closest to the shoulder. He cried out, "Shit!!! Ugh, who...are ugh. No..." Topsy slumped forward, starting to fade into the grasp of darkness and unconsciousness as the grinning figure dragged him down into a portal of darkness. The creature laughed and screeched as his face sunk into the dark bubble.

"I'm Krampus, granter of the Black Christmas. You're on the naughty list for the crime of killing your husband Absolon Mercator. I'm going to have fun turning your soul into coal." He roared again and vanished into the darkness.

"Wait...I didn't mean!!! Nooooo!!!"
 
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It’s because of the kid ok. Not sure if you missed that part…

“Yeah, I got that,” Cal bites back with a little more force than desired, though not due to the unwelcomed pat on her shoulder. (And the fact that it isn’t shows just how far she’s fallen within the last couple of hours.)

It’s not like she doesn’t care the keyblader had been hunted down (according to Trace, and, while he seems to be A Lot of things, Cal has no reason to believe “pathological liar” is on that extensive list).One look to the unconscious keyblader confirms the kid is still alive--soaked in saliva though, no doubt from Sparky( who else could it be from?). Anyway, Vi can obviously take care of herself. Cal saw it for herself firsthand.

What’s done is done, Trace. Let it go.

If only Cal can be so forgiving towards that one transgression from Trace that still replayed over and over in her head. But no, that’s different. Absolutely. 100%.

“Heard everything you said. Basically, he’s a stalker.” Cal’s half grin to Trace is so wide, it shows teeth. “Oh, wow... kinda like you, huh.”

Trace is right about one thing: It really is time to go. There’s nothing here this place can offer her, especially not peace. On the other hand… Keep hanging around these two and it might be a long, long time before Cal sees any of that. An unsavory inevitability. She inhales deeply through her nose and unenthusiastically accepts Trace’s help to her feet, using the trident for additional support.

It’s still heavy, the weapon, and after brief consideration she lets the rusted thing slip from her grasp fall into a pool of darkness at her feet. To be summoned at a later date. Hopefully not too soon. The threat of battle that loomed in the air only a minute ago dissipated somewhat, now replaced with exasperated explanations and critical laughter.

All the while, Cal spares the other hybrids no attention as she glances down at herself. Huh… her hands her exposed, the gloves probably ripped off by her other half. Strange that nothing seemed to be affected by...Ah. That’s right. Halloween Town. Everything’s dead, or is dying, here. Tucking her hands into her pockets, she half turns and finds the dognapper still in the vicinity. Well, she could be a douche with a capital D and try to tease out a word of thanks from him for saving his ass.

Instead, she groans,
“If you’re not gonna leave any time soon, dognapper, you can at least tell us something that’ll let us know you’re not a threat.” The fact he sent his dragonlike creations to Sparky and Vi for protection during Trace’s rampage wasn’t lost on Cal, but she still watches him with a cautious eye.“Like... a name?”


 

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What had seemed like a harmless situation that would land Lannit into some temporary trouble until he was able to break free like the rest of them did - like that Topsy fellow and the others did. But what Lannit didn't realize was that his crimes - such crimes that were fabricated, of course - were held against him; and whether or not all saw it, Lannit was pushed into a fire of bureaucracy and politics. A bunch of bullshit, if you ask him. All for what? To prove some point that the big man in charge didn't have a problem maintaining order in their town.

Like stated, absolute bullshit. And Lannit wasn't having any of it.

You know, there are other ways to get out of here.

Lannit heard a voice speak out to him. It was disguised by multiple layers and some kind of magic that made it neither masculine nor feminine. It was one of those voices that seemed to grab the attention without it being overpowering or too demanding. Lannit sure as hell didn't recognize it.

You do want to get out of here, don't you?

Lannit didn't understand what it wanted, but one thing was for damn sure. He wasn't about to rot in some dungeon. "Of course I want to get out of here."

There was a moment of silence until the sound of a Portal of Light and Darkness mixed in and with each other appeared before him. Swirling monotonous colors of black and white latched onto Lannit's arm. He let those arms guide him wherever they were taking him. Much to his surprise, however, Lannit was not transported to a different world. He simply appeared on a beach with magical particles swirling around.

"What is this place?"

Lannit stepped forward and heard the waves crashing ashore and all kinds of natural wonders were before him. Everything seemed as though he was on some island, but everything was so greyscaled. Whatever it was and wherever Lannit was, he knew one thing.

He was a long way from Kansas.

"Sit, Lannit of Archadia. We have much to discuss." The voice from before spoke, but Lannit still didn't know who it was nor did he know if it was friend or foe. But, as the blond male took a seat on the sandy shores, he looked over and saw a hooded figure wearing some kind of cloak. "Now, do you know why I have brought you here?"

"Probably to take advantage of my venerable state."

"Hah!" The figure laughed and turned to face Lannit. "As appealing as that is, no, I am not here to do that. In fact, I am here to ask you a question that I want you to think long and hard as you leave this place."

A question? Was this person for real?

"Yes, I am very much 'for real'"

"Fine. What is the question?"

"If given the chance, would you like to possess unmeasurable power? Or would you want to stay as you are?"

"I don't understand."

"It's very simple. We live in a time where so many things are possible with so many different routes, timelines, and universes. This realm we are in is, as I like to call it, The Void. It both exists and doesn't exist. Time flows here at a different rate as it does in -oh, let's say a lovely world called Halloween Town. One year there could only be a second here. The Void exists for one reason and one reason only: to serve as both heaven and hell; as up and down; as light and darkness. It serves to be and not to be. Do you understand?"

Lannit shook his head.

"You are a very powerful man, Lannit. Your powers are unique. You are able to draw in from the world around you and apply that to whatever you want. Have you ever wondered how that was possible?"

Lannit scratched his head. All of this information about The Void was starting to confuse him. Additionally, this person said they had one question for him, but it seemed like there were at least three questions thrown at him. "Do you have a point?"

"Lannit Nidel, think about what I have said."

Before Lannit could argue any further, he was absorbed by a portal of that odd mix of light and darkness and tossed into some world, to which he immediately noticed was very...festive. Off in the distance, he thought he heard some screams. "Might as well go in that direction."

Lannit didn't know what to expect, so he just went with the flow.
 

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He's definitely lying. Well, sort of anyway.


Trace released a tense sigh, and rubbed his temple. His memory was semi-bad, but he could remember what happened a little while ago. This is not the same reaction you'd get out of someone, constantly referring to you as "a child" and leaning towards this opinion of you being inferior was nothing short of pervasive. Earlier he seemed so focused on what he was doing, a much different kind of person with no real reason to surrender to a different nature so easily. He gave a vibe that he was much older, and given how long he's been watching them, in instances where he couldn't use Bray to mute conversations it left him to ask the question, how do you know what you know. Trace never said he was "gathering hybrids" not once, Vrivianne rambling her ideals and her side-game ensured that was never a topic he openly discussed.

The real question is, how and why did this hybrid come to this conclusion? Understand why he wanted to and still wants kill him now?

Earlier...

"Tell me, what about your keyblader friend? Don't you think you should be watching her?"


"Feeling chatty now?" Trace stopped and gave a half turn, "Friend? A master knows only his pieces that serve him. My rook, if thats what your referring to, doesn't need any help from me."He turned around and resumed walking."Like I said, pretend like you didn't see me. Later."


Keep it in perspective. Trace answered no questions save for the one about how long he's been a hybrid. Trace spoke nothing of his intentions, but this hybrid without a name couldn't comprehend why he was so infuriated and being the reprobate that he was (Trace I mean) there was no way in hell he was explaining it. These things didn't add up, these things were pissing the obsidian haired hybrid off thoroughly. Claim responsibility for your actions, say it was someone else, everything orchestrated from this one's initial annunciation of the act. The more he thought about this, he gripped his fist and slammed it as fast as he possibly could into his head to finally silence his collective of thoughts.

The blood running down the side of his head was soothing, Bray fluttered and perched on Calpurnia's shoulder as it was on the opposite shoulder.

JUST. KILL. HIM.

He's a hybrid, when he decides to take my life, then i'll do it. He finally fucking shut up, can you believe it?!


There, thats all that needed to happen. Pure silence.

A double heartless summon, it takes him back to that guy named Kephrii in Radiant Garden. Hybrid, in employ for Trace after he and Anti bestowed a drastic reduction in the population gating his revenge from past ridicule. Kephrii could summon two boss class heartless at once, it seemed to be his primary talent. So thinking about these dragons, moderately sized, but in the vicinity of Calpurnia's smaller heartless pup, and Vi who was already in between an electric field being emitted by the blades he pulled from Eli. They'd be wise and act with care in not touching either if they didn't want to get electrocuted. Trace's eyes widened some, this entire time he was losing sight of that little bit of "relief" he felt for not even 60 seconds, ruined.

The hybrid was tired of thinking. Psychosis was a serious thing, it wasn't some "switch" he could turn off, but getting provoked to certain extremes ALWAYS dominated Anti's feral instinct and made his heartless more passive, he knew better than to fuck with Trace whenever he was going postal or on the edge of his seat. He had other things he needed to round out and get squared away, the three of them needed to talk, and they needed to talk without this other hybrid there, he wasn't welcome and it was very obvious Trace's blaring animosity wouldn't just evaporate if even his face is constantly reminding him of why he's so pissed off in the first place.

Calpurnia finally managed to pull Trace out his head. "Stalkers intend to harm who they stalk, can't say I'm not guilty of hurting you in some other way, but I believe I haven't so far." He formed something of a neutral expression with a slight upturn to humor her humor, "You seem just a little too delicate at the moment for that kind of thing, we'll leave it be." this was a tease at her evident fatigue and remaining stamina.

Trace could see that this taking jabs at each other could quite possibly turn into an ogoing thing. It'd make for less boring transitions in between conversations, the hybrid was still there, awestruck and as silent as ever. Trace stopped caring after he hit his head, he walked away with blatant disinterest and went towards the keyblader, his cross, and the heartless. The heartless' couldn't exactly touch Vi, so this simplified shit for him.

"Sink."

Pulling from Anti one last time, Trace created three puddles of darkness, one beneath Calpurnia, Vi, and himself standing over the cross.

"Times up. I don't want to be around for halloween town to become a hunting ground, and we're the hunted."

That unrestrained paranoia of his was setting off all kinds of red flags in his senses. Trace began to wonder if Calpurnia noticed it. Truthfully, this hybrid probably did and was biding time for that 'thing' to come here next. Not happening, sending Vrivianne first, he recalled the blades as she phased through the floor first. Shaking his head, he'd leave Cal to follow them when she was done. The Cross on his back, eventually when his head vanished, Trace and the keyblader were gone.

Willow's Keep [Formerly Haven of Dawn]

「
-They used call this place "Haven of Dawn", it's where a much younger man grew up. A castletown, that once was lively and filled to the brim with woman and child, no lay in ruin and home to heartless and hybrid alike. Many great minds gathered here in olden days, courageous men offering a bounty of knowledge of the highly regarded kingdom hearts. Pitching theories, physics, and understanding of the heart on surpassed by their icon, Ansem The Wise. A neo collective resided here, furthering that research as an independent sect. Memories triggered in Traces mind, the first signs of the threat from the first day, Haven of Dawn suffered a pincer attack the same exact day that the Destiny Islands did, however with a far different outcome of mass genocide.-
」


Trace walked along the stones, and scooped up the unconscious keyblader by her utility belt and slung her over his shoulder. He didn't care about being too delicate, the girl was a warrior, so conditions like this weren't out of the question, she'd be fine.

Taking in his first look parts of the town were fairly restored, it's been many...many months since the former researcher had been on his home world. Looking to over his shoulder the massive hole in the marketplace wall from the riots and several people turning, was ALMOST repaired...sort of. Neoshadow with red feelers, crawled from out of the ground, with a twisted and erratic movement pattern, sniffing out the keyblader.

"Gonna have to ask you to stand down boys. This one's with me. Do I make myself clear." his last statement toned up with a deep and almost visceral sound, but they understood just find, reducing themselves into dark puddles of ink and evaporating.
Trace only needed to find one person here and spend maybe at the most a day or two, he had other places to be.

"Kephrii should be in town. It's not like...we're in danger of worrying about people here...at least in town. I don't know if there are any lingering residents elsewhere. Doubt it." Trace shrugged and head into town.

Before he knew it he was on the second floor balcony, jumping up to the hotel that Kephrii took over after the riots, slaughter, and fleeing. Trace slid the one he ALWAYS kept unlocked, and came through the door from the balcony. The wood finish interior was pretty plain looking, but well furnished and blew out when you saw it from the actual door. There was a connecting room, smaller than this space, where the women would stay currently. Of the two beds, he walked past and dropped Vrivianne on one of them and proceeded to look down at her for a moment.

"The mess you got yourself into kid...geez. Couldn't be more perfect."

Trace smiled before stepping into the room over and closing the door behind him. It appeared Kephrii was likely down at the outpost leading to the castle. His frequently went out there a couple months ago with heartless looking for a hidden bunker that was never found. His back against the door Trace slid all the way down to the wooden floor. If Cal didn't follow them by now, the keyblader's keyblade being exposed was a dead giveaway, there weren't exactly very many of those folk left here...Trace and Kephrii made sure of that. He groaned, the bathroom in this smaller room (single) was only a few feet away and yet, the taste of blood was never something he personally got tired of.
 
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~- Reluctance -~

“If you’re not gonna leave any time soon, dognapper, you can at least tell us something that’ll let us know you’re not a threat.Like... a name?”

Nana could feel that neither of these hybrids trusted him, not that he could blame them. Eyeing the girl wearily, he waited until the male hybrid left before deciding to answer. "I don't have one, that's why I didn't tell him my name before. I'm only a fragment of an original creature, so people have called me Nana...the seventh piece. I...don't really count it as a name." He whispered, looking away at the last bit.

There, would that make them happy? He hoped it would.

He sensed Krampus flee from the town square, seeming to have snatched something. A slight smile appeared in his eyes, he was happy now that he'd placed part of his soul into the creature, despite the fact that it left him feeling tired. Looking to the girl, he tried to figure out if it was okay for him to get up and move around, or even for him to say more. Or was she likely to attack him like her male friend? Reluctantly he offered more info, "I only took a shot in the dark about him trying to get allies. Like I said, I haven't seen many hybrids work together, they typically have a loner attitude but he seemed to have been interested in you. So, yeah, it was a shot in the dark."

Nana clammed up afterwards, waiting to see if she'd attack him like her male friend had or not.

~- Unexpected -~

Andrew was at a total loss, he couldn't understand why Topsy left. Sure, they haven't know each other for long. And sure, they just got Topsy back under control from his heartless, but.... Was that really a reason for Topsy to wander off like that? Wait, did he figure out what happened with Harley...? He thought to himself, his heart racing even as he forced a slight smile on his face. It didn't matter though, Topsy was someone who he barely knew. Andy didn't care that he left. He didn't care that Topsy was the first person he'd had a crush on since he was...five? He couldn't remember anymore. It's not like this didn't happen before!

He hung his head, his thoughts drowning out any conversation that the others were having. A howl of fear mixed with cruel laughter drew Andy's attention, his hand growing warm as the sound cut through the air. Glancing down at his hand, he caught the faintest glimpse of a sigil on his hand. His eyes narrowed, his index finger tracing the skin on the back of the marked hand. It was the one Topsy had been touching back on Machinecken Town.

That son of a.....

Rage tightened in his chest as his eyes flashed violet, realization temporarily breaking through his sorrow. Taking a step forward, he paused as someone grabbed his shoulder. Whipping around, he glared up at Susanoo, who was still in control of his brother. "Calm yourself child, there's no need to rush off..."

"'No need to rush off'? That's bullshit! Sure we haven't known Tops for long but he's an ally!" Andrew shouted, cutting Susanoo off mid sentence.

The sea god took a deep breath, clearly trying to calm himself before he said a couple more things, his hand having moved to capture Andy's right wrist. This annoyed Andrew to no end, trying to break free, he half-listened to Susanoo's words. He wanted to get free, he wanted to find Topsy so he could punch that idiot in the face. Maybe with the hand that had the marker on it. It'd be amusing if that was the case. Anyway....Andy was getting distracted from the matter at hand.

He couldn't see as Susanoo had placed his hand over Andy's eyes, making him freeze. Feeling the sea god close to his ear, he turned his head towards him as Susanoo said, "Andy, calm. We'll find him, but first we need to rest. If you won't take a few moments for yourself, please think of Sevastian. He needs it, I'm at my limit and I know he's excited to have a younger brother. So please, for Savy's sake."

Clenching his hands, Andy ground his teeth as he nodded. "Half an hour, no more." He whispered, and Susanoo released him. When he was able to process it, he saw that Sevastian was back in control. Hugging his brother, Andy buried his face in Sevastian's shirt and tried to distract himself.

There was a hesitant stroke at the back of his head, alerting him that Sevastian was confused about what he was doing. Hearing footsteps coming up behind them, Andy glanced over his shoulder to see that Henry had returned with a tall skeleton. Henry waved his hand in the air, dismissing any questions as he answered coolly, "What can I say? This world's basically a giant playground with all the dead things. Anyway, this is Jack Skellington, he's in charge here."

Andy shot the skeleton a look, uncertainty in his two-toned eyes even as he smiled. Turning to face him, Andy thought about what to ask when Jack asked, "Are you people here to help with the disappearances? It's been happening over the last few weeks, so there's very few people left. Or at least here, I haven't been able to check with the other towns yet." A sad look flashed across the skeleton's face, before he looked at each of them in turn, waiting for their answers.
 

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My body twitched, I felt like a contractor bag of stones was on my chest. Heavy. Was I bloated? My body type made things...annoying, ugh. I felt sick, there was a shuffle of my eyes as they slowly opened and I was looking at a ceiling apparently. I shut my eyes immediately, feeling a surge hit my head, it was the hangover hitting me finally.

Bleck.

I rolled over and held my head, it was somewhat wet...slobbered with some kind of dribble. Gross. Sitting up, I held my head, looks like I caught some sleep. I wasn't very familiar with where I was, but it looked like the inside of some kind lodging, immediately I was searching around from the bed for Calpurnia, even Trace, but neither were around. I slid my legs to the side of the bed, and hooked my keyblade to my hip like normal.

"Doesn't look...dead around here. Where am I exactly..?"

Strumming over to the balcony with a stagger in my step, I definitely still tired. Nearly collapsed, I leaned over onto the edge of the railing of the balcony, and looked down, it was brighter than I remembered. No tombstones, no graveyards, no forest. It looked like I was in some kind of castletown? There was one thing that I did notice almost right away though.

There weren't any civilians? Wait, where are the people?

It hit me when I saw it. A behemoth heartless. I repeat, BEHEMOTH HEARTLESS outside the walls roaming the field. I clutched my chest this time a bit exasperated at the rare sight before it moved to my slimey and oozing head panging, from one too many drinks. She had to suspect she'd been moved, the last thing she really remembered as hitting something and being caught by Trace. Wait.

Tapping my keyblade, it emitted something of a sonar from the touch. One of my markers was on the otherside of the door within the room, not leading out. Trace was definitely here, but I wasn't exactly eager to see him, my thoughts were more focused around Cal. I couldn't help but reflect on what I believe was a real interaction, it felt like a dream at first, but i don't know. I looked at my hands, and then looked around the inside of the room, saw two beds, a small space with a couch, stands and furnishing thats filled the wide space felt more like an apartment than a single room. I lurched down, and put my back to the balcony, I felt gross, easily smelled gross, needed to brush my teeth and shower.

I tried not to say anything before, but when I saw how Cal dressed, I started to wonder if she really...had anything. Mostly tattered, constantly concealing her face and always eager to displace herself from where she was maybe? Little nit-picking things, as a woman...we do this, we notice even the tiniest details. I pressed my face into my hands, somehow releasing a really long yawn before getting up and motioning to the bathroom and shutting the door behind me. Locking the door kind of seemed pointless to me, both of them could teleport and appear from anywhere, mine required...setting up and was really expensive on magic cost depending on the average distance. My shorter movements I can perform about five consecutive before needing a use an ether, within a range about about twenty-three meters.

All in all, this was too much thinking for me, i needed a shower. Looking in the mirror i saw a culmination of different colors, and yet when I landed before passing out, none of this was here. If I had to guess, there was a lot that went down when I was out cold, but to be honest, I have to give the two of them some credit for keeping me alive for however the hell long I was out. Walking over to the box shaped tub, at least three times the size of a normal one, you could fit a few people in here. I was having weird and disturbing imagery I really didn't need in my head before I sighed and started to run the water before changing the spray pattern of the removable shower-head.

Finally. A break.
 
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Delicate? Cal scoffs at the absurd idea, but watches Trace take off with Vi without another word. Not long after, she whistles at Sparky and motions to the puddle at her feet. “Go on ahead.” When the heartless merely tilts his head at her, she promises, “I’ll catch up.” It’ll be easy. Even if her pet is separated from Cal, she can always use him as an anchor when creating a portal to another location.

Sparky has other plans. With the threat of the dragon-heartless seemingly neutralized, the dog freely trots back to the new hybrid--Nana--and immediately rolls onto his back expectantly.

Cal doesn’t get this “original creature” stuff the other hybrid is talking about. She mildly thinks about challenging the innocent, overly-simplistic assumption of Trace being interested in her
because shit’s way more complicated than that. Working together feels like a... mild way to put the convoluted mess Cal finds herself in.

But sure. “Working together” sounds nice and peachy. The female hybrid grimaces at the spot where Trace sank.

“Look, even if the dude was pretty...excessive back there, I’m kinda ticked, too.”

Trace isn’t here to hear this, and the kid is gone now, too. Though she should feel rather safe being truthful to a stranger she likely won’t ever cross paths with again after today, it’s still weird to admit her feelings, even if it’s mostly to herself.

Bottom line is, it’ll Suck if that kid gets herself killed…


...And since when did start caring like this? Was that promise to Vi really something she should stress so much about upholding? Briefly, just briefly, Cal thinks about the consequences of ditching those two. High-tailing it.
Promises are something Cal has barely any history of creating with another. She has no obligation to start now.

She decides to think about this more after she punches Trace in the face.

“But how about this: I’ll let it go, if,” not caring that seconds ago she had criticized Trace for his own lack of mercy, the woman leans in a bit with a wily grin, “you let me name ya. 'Dognapper' is getting old, and you don't look like a 'Nana.'”
 

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"Ah-Choo!" Trace sneezed as he was slumped to the floor against the door. "Someone's talking about me...what did I do this time? The list is too damn long."

Trace clutched his fist and he sighed. It was hard surrendering to, really any notion of vulnerability because leading a hard life kind of placed you in that state of mind. His psychosis was a fragile thing that usually projected itself int two ways. Raw hostility, or pure enjoyment or excitement, of which could just mean he was happy or in love, pick your poison in whichever you think when he goes postal on you.

Finally getting up to his feet, there was a small pool of blood just to the right of his hand. His light-headedness had shown through, remembering he opened a fresh blow to his head. Darkness fizzled at the size of his head, transmogrifying the make-up of his face like a fizzling candle and the bleeding finally stopped. As he did for Calpurnia before, he wrapped his head with a few layers of bandages after dressing the wound. Getting up he walked across the room and took a step out onto the balcony, looking out past the castletown's walls, eyeing one of the two Behemoths slowly roaming in the distance.

He heard the sound of running water.

"Looks like the kid's up. Probably freaked over the slobber and blood." Trace touted looking down at the street, it was becoming a little more lively.

This was Trace's home, and he's admittedly one of the major reasons it's in it's current state. Looking down at the street level, the bell tolled, and it prompted the consumed-hybrid types to trickle onto the streets. The poor souls that were taken over that weren't too fortunate to flip the tables on their heartless counter-part, quickly reminded Trace about the reality of how it was always a variable in place of when you turned. Neo-shadows...so they said, but heartless were a mixed bag, what made a hybrid a hybrid relied on the qualities of every individual heartless.

Trace didn't care if they were mindless or not, he loved them all. Being among your own kind was always comforting, you don't feel judged, yet this was the total opposite from when that other hybrid spoke. Oh well, he'd eventually forget about it, but that didn't meant he could ignore what else was on the street level. Someone was just walking, as if they were striding through, despite the consumed hybrids that occupied the streets, shrieking and growling mindlessly.

"The hell...is that...?"

He shifted his eyes and the human that strummed along through, quickly losing opacity and vanishing, completely untouched by the consumed. Trace's eyes widened, this was but a brief moment, seconds even, but he was enamored and quite intrigued. It was almost as if he was looking at a rare phenomenon, but short-lived naturally. The black-haired hybrid rolled his eyes, more things to dabble on in thought, more explanations to go research. This itch he had, he turned around and went back the dry erase board in the room and started writing feverishly.

"Consumed. Sustained. Tamed. Hive-mind...?"

Scratching his chin, he pondered further, adding more to his existing notes. Trace was a psychopath, and a brilliant one at that. Drawing the core and labeling it "anti" and from that, how he could embed Anti in others. Seemed like a probable approach if Vrivianne desired to turn, he might be able to pass on his psychosis to her if she eventually came to the point of desiring to turn. This was an exciting thought, how he wanted to turn the keyblader into an unstoppable killing machine in service for the extinction of those that oppressed hybrids and heartless, and even the heart alike.

It seemed like a shot in the dark, but Trace wouldn't completely give up on the idea. Looking at the notes again, they were written in a language native to the resident's here, you couldn't just up and pick it up if you weren't from here. He didn't exactly freak over who read it, sure Kephrii could read it, but they were already on opposite ends of dogmas and neither chose to interfere with the other's ambitions. He removed his tank top and moved over to the easy chair in the corner and just plopped into the cushions.

"Long day. One hell of a long day..."
 

Eternal Dream

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~- What You Have -~

Susanoo, I'm gonna kill you next time I see you

I'll keep that in mind, Chibi Ryu

Sevastion growled softly, causing Andy to startle and try to pull away from him. Sevastion let him go, but he kept a gentle grip on the boy's wrist as he said, "Sorry, that wasn't you, honest. It's just a pain having Susanoo in my head and making cracks all the time. He's like the big brother that you can't get away from."

For a moment, the both of them smiled; but then Andy's slid away from his face as he turned his eyes down again. Maybe it was a good thing that Susanoo had taken control for a moment; as much as Sevastion didn't like how fast things seemed to be moving between Topsy and Andy, the pain and confusion that the kid was obviously dealing with was really bothering Sevastion. He was pretty sure that he would have reacted in a way that would have made it worse still for Andy if he'd been in control of his body.

How fast things were moving between Andy and Topsy? Hell, how about Sevastion's own actions? When had this kid gone from being Andrew, some random guard of a World that Sevastion had only just visited, to Andy, a boy that he already felt responsible for and hell bent on protecting? Even with the claim of them being brothers, and how eerily similar Andy's eyes were now to how Sevastion's were before he'd taken on Susanoo's soul, nothing had been proven yet. It wasn't logical, and instinct shouldn't be this quick to act when Sevastion and Andy had interacted even less than Andy and Topsy had. Nothing about this developing attachment made any sense.

And yet...

"Are you people here to help with the disappearances? It's been happening over the last few weeks, so there's very few people left. Or at least here, I haven't been able to check with the other towns yet."

Sevastion turned to look, noting that Henry, naturally, had found the resident dead thing in charge. Sevastion shook his head, his eyes sliding back to Andy's face when the boy lifted it back up to face the skeleton, before Sevastion finally said, "I'm afraid that we just got here. This is the first that I've heard about any disappearances. I can't speak for anyone else here, but I'd be fine with helping you work out these disappearances in just a short while. Someone promised me that he'd take a half hour to rest, and I plan to get the full hour out of him. Excuse us for a moment, please?"

Andy started sputtering as Sevastion led him away, stammering, "Hey, I said half an hour; we need to find Topsy...!"

"Tipsy can wait," Sevastion said. Reaching the tree that he'd been walking toward, Sevastion convinced Andy to sit with his back against it before he slid down to sit on Andy's right side. Sevastion held up his hand, stopping further complaints as he said gently, "You're eyes are wacked out, kid, and you've got blood in your hair; blonde doesn't hide that detail as well as black does. There's a few little things I've noticed too. Did you hit your head?"

Andy's pupils tried to contract in surprise, but they were still too big as the boy slid his gaze away from Sevastion's. There was more to read into with that reaction, but Sevastion could tell that it was something too personal for him to pry into just yet. Even so, Andy said softly, "It's that obvious?"

"I've gotten banged on the head a few times myself. I know what a concussion looks like from the outside, and I know it's hell to be the one dealing with the inside effects of one. Give yourself a little time, okay? He'll be okay for just a bit." Sevastion waited until Andy looked at him again before offering the younger man a kind smile. "If he's anyone worth pursuing, he'd want you to take care of your health, first."

Andy finally quieted down, closing his eyes and leaning his head against the tree. Sevastion turned his own face to the sky, searching for any of the constellations that he knew. True, this wasn't the Imperial Island, or even the God Realm, but he'd come to learn that the stars still made many of the same patterns in the night sky no matter what world you were on. After a little while, though, he found that he couldn't stay quiet any longer, and he asked softly, "What's he like?"

~- What is Yours -~

No.

Leyla had tuned out once it the obvious danger had passed. She didn't have any opinion about Topsy kissing Andy, or Topsy running away, or... anything, really. She'd met these people maybe thirty minutes ago; why would she have much judgment or stake in their goals yet?

But her crystal. She'd panicked, and used the Holy crystal. Leyla held it cupped in her hands, momentarily numb as she stared at it. She remembered the last time that Master Anise had charged the crystal with the spell for her, how the soft glow of the crystal magic shown in the older woman's eyes as she murmured softly to herself, weaving together the magic that gave the crystal its power. It had shown with a bright, opaque iridescent white, brilliant in its warmth and peaceful in its power. Now, though? It was just a white crystal with a few, glimmering specks of iridescence left. Its magic was gone.

"Master. I'm sorry..."

The wave was coming for her; she could feel it. Leyla couldn't afford to be dragged down by it. Focus on the mission. She'd had a lead, and she had to follow it. She imagined a wall, forming it and building it high and strong, forming it around what had happened in Traverse Town and blocking it away. The Heartless, Masquerade, Master Anise, Anise's wings and her Keyblade. Leyla put it all behind the wall, leaving a door in the defenses that she could open at a later date so she could deal with what had happened in Traverse Town.

Like everything else.

"What can I say? This world's basically a giant playground with all the dead things. Anyway, this is Jack Skellington, he's in charge here."

The boy that was speaking had a most peculiar edge to his aura, but at the same time, he seemed kind? After Jack had finished speaking, Leyla said softly, "This is my first time here, but I'd be willing to help, I guess. My name's Leyla. What about everyone else? And is there anything else that you can tell us, Jack?"
 

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My head rested against the wall as the water came down with some almost unsettling pressure. It was clearly finely tuned, that, or hadn't been used in a fair amount of time. My eyes pivoted downward, watching the blue stains from the ooze wash and mix with the water down the drain. I still couldn't quite place my memory around, gtting doused in a heartless' blood..? I think it was a heartless' blood, with the hangover, this hot water running down and all over was welcome.

I sat on the edge, and switched the spigot from the shower-head to the regular bath-head and proceeded to watch the pressure fill the square shaped tub. With what brush and comb I had, I started to part my hair in seems because the ooze of what felt like drool caked in and stapled it together much tighter than I would've liked. Upkeep was important, I may have missed out on academy life, but I was no stranger to training that was respectable substitute, especially when it came down to an outward appearance.

When the water filled to a desirable level, it shut it off and submerged myself in it. It's been a while since I could relax, at least like this, so I decided I would indulge and try to make the most of it.

There was a lot of steam in the bathroom, and I was certainly hot, but comfortable. I started seeing things, maybe my hangover was giving me a mild delirium. A tapping of nice quality shoes against the tile floor and with an arm hung over I looked to the side, with blurry vision. Cupping my mouth, i nearly screamed, I was looking at a hybrid with amber skin, and really long hair, brown in color.

"I knew I smelled the keyblade here. Whats a kid doing in my hotel?"

He took a single step forward and I fluttered across the other side of the tub, purging Grigori into my hand, holding it with my right.

"Easy girl. Guessing that heartless charm on your key means your ok. Belongs to a friend of mine...had to be sure you were...legit."

My eyes widened for a second, I nearly forgot about that thing Trace gave me. How was I supposed to know it doubled as a pass to certain hybrids? This entire time I was fighting embarrassment, fear, laced with some worthy anxiety. I watched his hands closely as he backed up, hands above his shoulders exposed, before opening the door, locking it, and closing it behind him. All at once did I release my breath, desummon my key and sink back into the water.

"Today...really sucks."
 

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As Renn was still trying to shake his mind free he couldn't help both think about what had transpired with Topsy... His power was insane! He started thinking of his father and how he could possibly go berserk back in his homeworld but then He also remembered the guard that escorted him to Ienzo and Even... He was older but he was still a honed edge and compared to Renn he had more to him and even an inch or two of height above him.

They should be okay...

He then heard Jack speaking of the kidnappings and injected himself with a question. "Did the kidnapped have anything in common?"
 

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Trace was a little alarmed. The bathroom connected in between rooms, shared, and who else but Kephrii came out.

"Hiding secrets from your ol' pal?" Kephrii motioned graphically with air quotes before laughing.

The black haired hybrid stared at this man with a long sigh. He was already with enough headaches, frustration, and intimate moves made and really had limited time for select people.

"Ok Kephrii. You gave me this two bedroom for me to come and go at my leisure, theres not a problem is there?"

"Funny guy you are Blake. You bringin' the damned enemy we drove to the brink of extinction in personal quarters. Every consumed within 2 miles that doesn't follow the code of the charm is gonna be gunning fer' that keyblader's heart."

Trace sighed before slumping even further back into the arm rest of his easy-chair. Staring at his palm, the charm of the heartless-sigil tatted on his palm. Looking at Kephrii the very same sigil was tatted on his left palm as well. Crossing his leg over his knee he tapped his head, and stared at Kephrii a while longer before he spoke again.

"This one agreed to turn, it was even her idea. The time however, is to be be determined. Satisfied?"

"Turn?? You gonna do more experiments with this chick? I thought you were done with research and more about building a utopia for us. Our kind. Hybrid and Heartless!" The level of emotion Kephrii expressed seemed like nothing Trace has at any point, directly or inadvertently conveyed. Some point to envy, the hybrid knew emotion better than he did, but it didn't make him any less fascinating despite how they were at opposite ends.

"As I said before Kephrii, she agreed to do it after losing a bet to me and--" Trace stopped, remembering at that moment, two were missing. Calpurnia and Bray. Looking off to the right, he was wondering why he was still somewhat fatigued, his sink-portal was still open.

"Hold that thought." He motioned from the chair to move towards the door leading to the other room and Kephrii's hand stopped him. "Kephrii. We disagree a lot sure. But you can't summon those heartless inside your own building, they're too big. I can fuck you up, WAY before you can finish the incantation. So please, release my hand."

The psychotic pulse from Trace's madness as he turned his head and gave Kephrii a look of maddening excitement. It always shook him to his very core and he slowly loosened his grip on Trace's wrist. Trace paused for a moment, going to turn the knob at first, but posed another question.

"The real reason I came here was because I needed a break. And, besides the girl, I met another hybrid I'm...how do I say this...curious about. Interested in? Hell, emotions are hard for me when they some unselfish ones."

Kephrii laughed, quickly breaking Trace's tension from a few seconds earlier.

"I always told you Blake. You have to give value up front. I get that you're a little on the crazy side of the spectrum, but don't be so damn reluctant to say the key things. You'll struggle far less if you do."

Trace palmed his face and it slowly sunk down to his chin.

"It's not exactly easy for me to just open myself on that level to the world. You know the shit I went through because I'd come to the bar after work when you were tending and funnel the hell I lived through every day downing Ale and Ginseng. That and my first name just blows, what the hell were my parent's thinking? They were probably drunk too."

Laughing literally filled the room for a moment, even Trace laughed, extremely out of his normal character, their voices carried through the bathroom.

"Would you consider us heroes, Kephrii?" Trace looked him dead on, and Kephrii grimaced, but gave a thoughtful and honest reply.

"No. I don't think we're anything of the sort. Not you. Not Me. Not with what either of us has done and continue to do."

"I guess not. Having a radical ideology that exerts extreme pressure on a societal norm isn't really the wish of a hero is it. Anyone that choose to block that vision, can meet the darkness I send them to. Personally."

"Blake. Well...Trace now. I'll be at the Cistern helping fully restore the rotation of moving water. Bring your friend out to see the world some time."

Friend. Friend...Friend? What was that? What was...a friend? Kephrii and Trace, were they "friends?" or were they just two men that worked together, co-workers? Co-conspirators? Clearly not friends, they never established that they were ever friends. As he watched the hybrid sink through the floor, he thought about Calpurnia and his summoned pet. Neither was here, his bird he could beckon to him, but Calpurnia was an entirely different case. If you couldn't tell with Kephrii, Trace choses to let hybrid and heartless alike, think and act freely without deterring them from their path and decisions made. If you wanted the truth, it wasn't a far off thing to say he still had to train her to bring out stronger utilization of Dante. She complicated his normal demeanor, he was much more sporadic, welling up with even more difficult to convey emotions. Difficult to deal with, difficult to process, but it was new...very new, and he liked this challenge it presented. (likes her more than this challenge lol)

Trace stretched before knocking on the door to the bathroom. It'd been a decent amount of time, and there was no sound ebbing from the other side. He'd assume that Vi was finished, and to be fair, he'd wait a bit longer just to make sure, a heads up from her.

"Let me know when your done kid."
 
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Story Keeper

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~- A New Name? -~

“But how about this: I’ll let it go, if, you let me name ya. 'Dognapper' is getting old, and you don't look like a 'Nana.'”

Nana blinked, slow at first as he thought it over. He wouldn't mind the hostility being dropped, it'd make his job easier. Nodding his head, Nana wound up petting the heartless canine when it came back over to him for affection. His shoulders relaxed and he got a peaceful look on his face, easily more at easy with the dog than he was with any of the human hybrids.

"Okay, I agree to your terms. How about the letter A? I..." He got a little flustered here, before he carried on, "I know it's probably boring, what with being the first letter of the alphabet, but I like it." What he didn't say was that A was so far away from the name of the original entity that he was, so it'd give him more of a sense of being his own person. Something that he was admittedly jealous over when it came to the other hybrids.

And, yeah, he knows the whole thing about names holding power. So he was giving this stranger tremendous power over him by letting her name him, but he was insanely curious to see what she'd call him.

~- A Crack -~

Andrew let himself be dragged off by Sevastian, even if he kind of wanted to fight it. Stopping by the tree, he closed his eyes as the world spun around him. Carefully sliding to the ground, Andy was grateful when he sensed the presence of the older boy. Opening his eyes, he went through the motions of answering even as he was acutely aware of the building headache.

"What was he like?"

It took Andy a moment to realize who the "he" was that Sevastian asked about. A laugh escaping him, Andy rested his head on his knees, his face turned to Savy as he wrapped his arms around him. "He was a good man, if a little sad. He kept talking about the family he left behind, he wanted to see them again. To introduce his two families together, he hoped to see it happen. He had always been there, so caring and strong. You remind me a lot of him, to be honest. He went to work one day when I was four, and he never came home. I think he got killed by the daemons, powerful monsters that roam Eos at night." He whispered, a sad smile coming to his face as the foggy memories of his dad circled into his head.

A shaky breath escaping him, Andy continued, "It's how I knew who you were, you just look so much like Dad but with a dye job! I miss him brother, I just..." The tears started to well up in his eyes, and Andy closed them, trying to will the pain away as again he saw the ocarina his father had given him shatter. "Why did I have to break that? It was the last thing Dad gave me, I..."

Opening his eyes once he felt he was sufficiently under control, Andy smiled a shy one at Sevastian. "Noct helped me to move past the pain, he was just so entrancing. Sure, he was a prince and I was basically a commoner, but Noct didn't act stuck up." A laugh escaping him, Andy picked up his head and shook it. "Man, I'm being melancholy today. Sorry about that Sav."

He was sure that his mood was because of what had happened, but he didn't want to acknowledge it. "What about your mom? How's she?" He asked softly, then remembering Sevastian reprimand from Machinecken he stammered, "S-Sorry! Mom did teach me not to pry at personal questions, but I sometimes forget. Maybe it's because of that heartless attack five years ago." The look in his eyes and the way he looked away would have told Sevastian the end result, and it'd also be a heavy indicator of why he was latching on so fast.

Turning his mind to the abductions that had been happening, Andy traced a series of lines in the dirt. "Do you think it's the work of the hybrids? Or is there something else going on?" He asked softly, eying Jack with suspicion. He didn't sense any malicious intent from the skeleton, but at the moment Andy wasn't willing to trust his head with those kind of judgments.

Haha, are you missing little Topsy? Maybe you should look for him?

The voice in his head earned a scowl from Andy, his eyes growing distant for a moment before he felt the cool embrace of Shiva wrapping around him. Sighing, he leaned against the tree as Shiva chased away his annoying doubts. Closing his eyes, he tried to think of what to do. An idea coming to his mind, Andy asked softly, "Have you read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater?" He saw that they were talking with Jack, but he couldn't make out the words of what they were saying. Another bout of dizziness hitting him, he rested his head against his knees again and closed his eyes, his face turned toward Sevastian as he tried to get his head to chill out.

~- Sweetie, you're being creepy again -~

Henry saw the two slip away, he had a feeling of what Sevastian wanted to talk to Andrew about. It had his curiosity too because of the similarity in their souls, and yet there was key differences to it too. He focused on the questions bouncing toward Jack, and he had to admit he was curious too.

"This is my first time here, but I'd be willing to help, I guess. My name's Leyla. What about everyone else? And is there anything else that you can tell us, Jack?"

"Did the kidnapped have anything in common?"

Jack looked at them each in turn before he answered, "The ones that have been kidnapped only had a couple of things in common, that I'm aware of. One was that they're all residents of the town, and the second is that they were attacked when they were alone. Beyond that, I'm not sure what the connection it. There's been a recent change to the heartless here, they're stronger than before and it seems like they're more erratic in their behavior."

Henry caught the glance that Jack sent his way, and a nod was his answer before he stepped forward and carried on. "First, the name's Henry. Second, Jack was telling me that it seemed like the only resident of the what that has been able to avoid everything is his dog Zero." Henry met Yoake, Leyla and Renn's gazes in turn before he carried on with, "Not only that but with what I'm personally sensing is the other towns have been affected. It could be that whatever caused Topsy to scream might have had a part in the abductions."

"Wait, what?" Jack asked, shooting Henry a curious look.

"I can sense souls, so that's how I know that. And to tell you guys the truth, wherever Topsy is, I can't feel him. I'm not used to this kind of thing. All I know is that one minute I could sense him, and then I couldn't after the scream." He shrugged his shoulders, even as he pointedly ignored the questioning look on Jack's face at a human having such a close connection to the dead. He waited to see what the others would have to say.
 
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Tyrant Raver

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A bright full moon loomed upon the cloudy sky, there have not yet exist such such engulfed in a perpetual nocturne. From the sky to the labyrinthine forest of dull gray. It was a place akin to a purgatory or the lowest pit of hell if ever such a place existed.

The soft howling of the night breeze grew increasingly cold by the hour. But to this boy in his nigh adulthood, time was but a footnote to what he had gone through. He was already running back and forth, left and right throughout this dull and barren forest... he was lost.

Though the night was mostly quiet, the deathly silence was jarring to him, in addition to his confusion and built-up duress. The last moment that he remembered was he was just merrily going about his way from a job, when a shadowy figure jumped him at his most vulnerable. Then there was light, and at that vague moment, he fell unconscious and somehow ended up in this whole ordeal.

"Hello...? Someone...? Anybody?"

He began to call out, his voice being muffled by the air, not an echo can be heard. Panic was setting in, he felt like he was already scuffling through the labyrinthine forest for hours now. Each progress, each step felt like he was just going in circles.

He can handle running a marathon just fine, but the forest was mentally and emotionally exhausting to tread into. The adolescent decided upon himself to stop by for a bit and catch his breath. It was so quiet that even as panted, he could hear his own heartbeat.

"Huh?"

As he opened his eyes, a bizarre sight suddenly unfolded before him. The impenetrable forest before him was gone, and he suddenly found himself leaning by the tree stump that was formerly a full grown tree. It was as if the forest finally decided to let him go.

Before him was a scenic graveyard of sorts, and just from a distance beyond it... a town? It was a rather decrepit-looking town, but the lights on it that can be observed from the distance seemed like a lively one. Finally a shred of civilization, he just muttered in his mind.

As he neared towards the town, he suddenly heard a disembodied bark from nowhere.

"A dog?"

Then from his feet, a small white critter ran up to him and ran circles around him. Actually, this white mutt was not an animal, as you can see through its body--and the latter just consisted of a floating white cloth and a dog's head with a bright red nose. In normal circumstances, he would have raised his guard up, but he sensed no malice upon this ghastly mutt.

"Hello there. You're a curious one. What's your name?"

He reached out his prosthetic right arm to touch it and sure enough, he was able to touch and feel it. It looked happy as the adolescent played with the mutt, scratching and petting it. It may be a ghost dog, but it was still a dog and such was a pleasant distraction.
 

purgatory

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(place akin to purgatory...I saw that D;)

"Let me know when your done kid."

I partly was listening in, partly wasn't as my head was submerged under the water for a while, at least much earlier. Looking in the mirror now, I'd long since been done and needed to figure out one thing...change of clothes. Mine were bloodied and tattered, if not for whatever random happening I'd of just hand washed my stuff lightly. I pressed both hands to the door, standing more wearily after my soak and spoke through the door.

"Hey...Trace...do you know if Calpurnia is coming? I feel like, theres something important I need to do for her..."

Couldn't be sure, I eased away from the door and gathered my clothes. All I had was as a white tank top with a silver crown placed in the center and some soft pajama pants. The kind of thing you'd probably only ever see me in after a shower or on laundry day. My parents used to tease me for being obsessed with kingdom key shirts...despite them being wrong, their popularity and me liking them were two things entirely different. Placing my clothes in a basket, i'd come back for them soon.

I slowly opened the door from his end.

"You got a minute Trace?"

I saw him standing at first and he was surprisingly shirtless, standing in front of a board and staring at it as if he were possessed. Unable to read a word on it, I kinda just let him be and didn't say anything for moment more. This was perplexing, every fiber of my being was concerned about Cal, and occasionally slip into restlessness about that other person I was looking for.

"Hear me out for a second at least, but I can't really proceed to move forward without knowing a little more about you. A little more about Cal as well. Doesn't matter to me how often you're asked this, but I'm genuinely curious. I've been struggling since my home went under to really decide on what I should do. Finding the person that gave me this was really the only thing I've been going off of for well over a year now. So, whats your story?"

I leaned against the now closed bathroom door and waited briefly to see what he'd say.
 
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The suggested letter for a name came without prompting from Cal, but she nonetheless accepts it without a second thought and offers with slightly upturned lips, “Ari then.”

She feels immensely satisfied to hear the name aloud, not unlike the same excitement she received from naming Sparky years ago.This is far from charity to her. “Don’t get the wrong idea. This is for my own amusement. But at least you won’t be just a number. Congrats on your newfound individuality, I guess.”

Her amber eyes linger again to the dark pool, the one Trace and Vi had similarly used to disappear off to… somewhere. Likely not a Somewhere in this world. Trace had been bleeding then, and she briefly wonders how well the kid is holding up with that interesting guy looking after
her, if she can even call it that. Unease niggles at the back of her head, still urging her to just run away, ditch them. It’s not Dante--her other half has been silent with an almost serene quality that Cal can’t pinpoint. No, this is just her own apprehensions brought to life independently.

Sparky nudges Nana's hand above his head whenever the hybrid looks to slow down his affection-giving. Spoiled brat. As Cal watches the scene beneath her hood, she would have vehemently denied the fonds mile should anyone have pointed it out.

“It’s Cal, by the way. My name. The dumb dog’s Sparky. I love him,” she states to the other hybrid, before realizing a sudden shift of weight on her shoulder. Her peripheral catches feathers, the heartless owl settled on her calm and unmoving, for the most part. How long has Trace's heartless been there? She reaches up a hand regardless, brushing its chest with careful strokes from her finger.
 

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Trace paused, thinking carefully about Vi's question she asked through the door. Best she didn't know about yet another hybrid, especially one that intended to have her killed originally. Trace still couldn't understand why that one would summon different heartless to seemingly protect her from earlier, but claim, screw it. This was an exhausted back and forth and he simply said nothing, most likely the real answer as Calpurnia was hesitating as much as this girl was.

There were two senses that were stronger on Trace than anything else. His hearing and his sense of smell, he'd never blatantly specify these things, but they were his strongest tools he used to make decisions in his direct 1 to 1 interactions. Usually listening for the sporadic beating patterns of the heart was enough to deduce reactions of caution and even apprehension. Smell, naturally what are the most common? Sweat. Associations with fear, ghastly anxiety, and just tension overall. You think being diagonosed with psychosis was the reason he was wary of humans? Wary of keybladers? You couldn't be more wrong, experience was a burden he had to carry for bearing his ideals to the world and labeled delusional, dystopian, and marginalized for his dogmas.

He had two pieces of clothing in his hand before he got distracted by the whiteboard for the second time. About to put on his tanktop, the door from the bathroom leading to his side opened. His ears twitched even as she touched the knob, he sensed anxiety, hesitation even before she gave way to courage and fully twisted the knob and pushing the door forward. Trace simply froze in place, not even finishing his motion of putting on his shirt before he turned his head.


"You got a minute Trace?"

"Knock next time," Trace said briefly before putting on his black tank-top. "You're already here, what do you want kid?"

He really hated covering his shoulders, it was absolutely irritating. The sleeves of everything were gone, jackets, hoodies, parkas, and ponchos. In fact, he was holding a dark blue sleeveless, hooded-parka in his hands which he proceeded to put on. Drapping down to just above his knees, he pulled his compression braces up on both arms to about shy of three inches past each elbow.

"Hear me out for a second at least, but I can't really proceed to move forward without knowing a little more about you. A little more about Cal as well. Doesn't matter to me how often you're asked this, but I'm genuinely curious. I've been struggling since my home went under to really decide on what I should do. Finding the person that gave me this was really the only thing I've been going off of for well over a year now. So, whats your story?"

As you can imagine, Trace sighed, more "opening up" was on the way than he was already intending on doing. His eyes sharpened, for once, he couldn't state he was frustrated more so that this was a needed conversation to be had. This girl could very well be a dark-wielder one day that rivals Xehanort if trained properly, he had to give her a chance...eventually. Problem with this inquiry rested in Trace's lingering agitation from the nameless hybrid and the absence of two unaccounted for bodies.

"I'll just tell you both all you want to know when both of you are here. Til then, I'm missing my bird. 1 second."

Already somewhat tired, he's bleed on three separate occasions today, tapping the bandages by his ear ever so briefly. Trace held out his left hand and winced forging a small portal his pet was summoned through. To his surprise, the portal increased exponentially on it's on to a much more demanding size?

"Hmm?"

A familiar smell.

Like Anti's instincts, Trace bent at the knees and extended both arms to catch the woman in the coat falling from dark portal, his heartless owl perched on her shoulder, flying over to the girl leaning against the bathroom door. Calpurnia? What in the world, there was a jump of excitement, he was just calling back his pet, not even realizing it was touching the other hybrid. A stroke of luck or fate, it was hard to say. There was a softness, ever so slightly in Trace's eyes, perhaps relief and some sort of comfort taken in by what feels like chance at best.

"You fell into my lap this time based on pure luck. Still think I'm stalking you?" Trace stuck his tongue out, before letting her down. "Does that answer your question about where Calpurnia is kid?"

Trace stood up and snapped his fingers, closing the sink hole he created for Calpurnia earlier and could finally concentrate completely without the constant drain. He rubbed his temple through the bandages, even his thumb was bandaged from where he drew blood from before. He walked a ways over to the window before turning around and looked at Vi.

"Since you're both here now, i'll take the first question Vi asked, feel free to ask anything if you're curious Cal." Trace shrugged, releasing a bit of a weighted sigh. His eyes dulled, talking about himself, thats right people still did that as hybrids right? Hell, it's never fun talking about your carnage and suffering.

"My name, or at least the name I go by, is Trace. My actual name, is Wendell Blake. You're both on my homeworld, formerly known as Haven of Dawn, a smaller variant of Radiant Garden. After the hybrid outbreak, it became what it is today. Willow's Keep. This is a safe space for hybrid kind, consumed, sustained, tamed, etc. On this world, the hybrid threat, if you wanna call it that, overtook the population, and the resisting forces have all but waned into memory. Besides myself, and Calpurnia, theres one other hybrid here that's also sustained, think of him as a co-worker of mine, but with diverse interest. The rest are nigh mindless savages, but savages bound to a pact called the charm."

Trace extended his left palm and the light from the heartless sigil burned like a light projection, same from Calpurnia's respective hand, and from Vrivianne's keychain.

"The Charm ensures the consumed specifically won't attack you. At least those that bare the charm, the heartless around here aren't really a threat to hybrids in general, they co-exist just fine. Just understand, theres really no humans here, at least not inside the castle town anyway."

Trace scratched his head, he sighed, this was troublesome. He flipped the dry erase board to the clean side and started to write on it in the universally understood language several word's adopted, meaning anyone could read it. His collective of thoughts started to manifest on the board. When he finally finished writing on the board, he placed the marker on the side.

"As for me. I was a researcher for the Neo D.T.D. funded originally by Darkness in Zero. Myself and a collective of other scientist all posed multiple different theories about the heart, and mine, was the most radical and was quickly shunned. Despite my years of study and professionalism my colleagues effectively tarnished my reputation to an irreparable state and even amongst the very residents was I ridiculed for being a laughing stock and borderline insane. My ticks of extreme behavior, is a legitimate...clinical psychosis. In other words, my impulses are so strong they emit in two forms, out of love and excitement, or sheer madness. Go figure. Needless to say, I've shelved a lot of my opinions about the human population and being considered sub-human, pre-hybrid, does wonders for your trust issues with said humans. Hybrids I can understand, humans, i never will possess the desire to understand beyond formalities. Its too much work, too much time, and I honestly don't have the energy or emotion to delve into that trust fund when it's been bankrupt for quite some time now."

He was looking directly at Vi this time. No bullshit. No obvious hints of his extreme psychosis, just a pure and blunt response specifically to target her.

"Don't take it personal kid, but your a human, and to add insult to injury you're a keyblader. Possessing an instrument to smite my kind, am I wrong for exercising caution around you? Let it be known now, that you're here because of something you started but understand i've every reason to fear you, what you can do, but if you're in the mood to change my mind, you're welcome to it. That is the extent of my civility with you Vrivianne, if Calpurnia thinks you're ok, then it should get a little easier for you."
 

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~- Getting to Know You -~

"He was a good man, if a little sad. He kept talking about the family he left behind, he wanted to see them again. To introduce his two families together, he hoped to see it happen. He had always been there, so caring and strong. You remind me a lot of him, to be honest. He went to work one day when I was four, and he never came home. I think he got killed by the daemons, powerful monsters that roam Eos at night. It's how I knew who you were, you just look so much like Dad but with a dye job! I miss him brother, I just... Why did I have to break that? It was the last thing Dad gave me, I..."

The way Andy talked about their father (gods, that thought felt so strange), it almost made Sevastion miss a man that he'd hated his whole life. It was obvious that Andy cared about and missed him, which left a strange feeling in Sevastion's chest when he learned that he'd never get the chance to ask their father all of his questions in person. But what was it that Andy had broken? Again, Sevastion wanted to ask, but he didn't want to pry.

"Man, I'm being melancholy today. Sorry about that Sav."

"Kiba," Sevastion said softly. When Andy turned to shoot him a curious look, Sevastion continued, "My family calls me Kiba."

A slight smile came to Andy's mouth when Sevastion told him this, but Sav could see that the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. Even so, the blonde plunged on, almost earning a laugh from the monk as he talked. "What about your mom? How's she? S-Sorry! Mom did teach me not to pry at personal questions, but I sometimes forget. Maybe it's because of that heartless attack five years ago."

"No, it's fine. Honestly, it's fine. She's one of the most amazing people I know. She... she got judged a lot because of us, because our father was from a different part of the God Realm and not the Imperial Island, but not much of it was said to her face. There's something to be said for being one of your country's most powerful Mikos, or a Priestess to you. Even so, she's got the patience of a saint, because I don't know how she's put up with me all this time, or Usagi, either. The fights I'd get into with Usa..."

"Who's Usagi?"

"My... our sister," Sevastion said. Cutting Andy another look, he continued, "Most everyone calls her Teresa, her given name. Again, Usa's a family nickname. She's Bound to Tsukiyomi, like I'm Bound to Susanoo. Asuna's our other sister, and she'd Bound to Amaterasu. I hope you get to meet them, Andy; Usa's a pain in the ass, but I think you'd like Asuna."

He was trying to distract Andy and cheer him up, and it seemed to be working just a little bit. Andy had a few questions about the Hybrids, but Sevastion had about as many answers to that question as Andy himself. He was kind of relieved when Andy started talking about books instead, a relief that showed in his voice as he laughed, "Truth be told, I haven't, although Asuna has. Is it any good?"
 

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I didn't know what to call what I just saw. Trace said he refused to talk without Cal here, to that I could understand. Doing something so simple like calling back his owl Bray, and who else does he fish out of the darkness?

"Cal!" I shouted in surprise and not so strange to me, content.

The Owl fluttered over and perched on my shoulder, somewhat light, but the weight was noticeable. Bray fluttered it's wings, and my eyes observed Trace's reaction. There was definitely one thing about him, he was over time becoming less...dramatic? I felt I had to make a note of this, a conveyance of a sense of gentleness towards Cal, but I'm guessing he treated hybrids differently? He's a stiff collar of nerves to me, but I was still working on trusting him myself. Hearing his remark about my earlier question I responded.

I clasped my hands together and nodded, unable to help myself smiling at Cal, before sliding over to catch her in a hug. It almost felt familiar, like I'd done just this lately? I eventually released my hold and sat next to her as Trace began to talk to us both.

He was thorough, i'll give him that. I was listening intently as he talked a bit about himself, about where we were and without a huge amount of detail, just the surface information. Apparently we were on a world that was dominated by hybrid kind, safe-space...or safe for those apart of the pact. I looked briefly at my keyblade and the charm Trace had given me in Halloween Town. Raising my head, he said something interesting.

Only outside the castle town...so people are still alive out here?

The more he talked, the more and more questions began to take form inside of my head. As he was nearing the end of his brief introduction and background, he looked me dead in my eyes and was completely honest. He was afraid? Afraid of me? I sat there quietly for a moment, this wasn't the answer I was expecting out of him. Trace's apprehension for the key-blade seemed to be an inseparable fear they all had. I started to wonder...to think...what I could do.

"You know Trace, I thought what I did when we first met was enough. You could've killed me yourself or let the heartless do it just as easily. Taunting like an ass seems like your idea of playing games, but you seem far removed from fear. It seems unjustified to say, as if you saw something that made you feel this way...or is that a misdirection."

My hands tensed, balling two fists resting on my thighs I stared at the wooden floor for a moment.

"My name is Vrivianne. Vi for short. My home world is The Destiny Islands...used to be. Similar predicament here, when the hybrid threat hit the islands, everything went to hell shortly after. Icons of history disappeared, our home got overtaken, and a few points of trauma, but--"

I started to hold it in, talking about the guy I was searching for. This person showed me the events that were unavoidable, and I still didn't know what I could've done to avert things, or maybe it was just to happen as it happened.

"Before any of that even happened...I was just a regular teen. I didn't attend any special keyblade academy, or private academy, I got a home education. My family was a dojo family...specialist at fencing, naturally as their only daughter I learned to fence from them at the highest caliber and they passed me onto specialist even better than them to teach me other styles to diversify my skill and muscle memory. Needless to say, I was the best, I used to be. When I turned 18, I was too old for the academies, and it was only then after I finished my third style that I was getting offers from other schools. I declined them all, honestly felt it was a waste of time, and I as a person wasn't really that into the keyblade...despite having this one for a full year prior to the incident."

I looked at Trace, then Calpurnia, then back at Grigori in my hand.

"I'm not asking you to trust me Trace, you too Cal," I turned and gave her a brief but sincere look. "All I ask is that, we're familiar with each other. Feels like we're all kind of bound together in some strange, but weird way...and I honestly like it. It's definitely different. And Trace."

I looked at him and pointed Grigori directly in his general direction.

"Listen...don't be afraid of me ok? I'm deafly terrified of you + Anti, but I'm trying my hardest to get used to it, that should count for something. Don't give me a reason to fight...I'd rather not, but if you harm Cal, I'll kill you."

My words cut like a blade. A slight break in his demeanor when I mentioned Cal, but he smirked ever so slightly. Sure I didn't really get what it was like as a hybrid, but I did understand what it feels like to lose your home, loved ones, and the lingering effects of where your choices in the aftermath lead you. The though of Calpurnia showing up at the bar in Machinecken Town, I didn't know what to expect. That memory is a semi-blur from my drunken state, but I was alarmed by how she was treated, but in a stark corner in my mind, I didn't know her history.

I held Cal's hand.

"Thats gonna be it for me for now, Cal. Can you tell us, even a little about yourself?"
 
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