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Persona: Icebound In Medias Res



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Hazen Gregory

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At the beginning, Phoenix had insisted to himself over and over again that all of it had to be nothing more than a dream. It was one of the simplest things a human being could to in a situation where they were so discombobulated that literally NOTHING actually made sense. It seemed as if the entire world had changed somehow but Phoenix wasn't too sure how to explain the changes as being in his imagination or if something else altogether had happened instead. He could replay the memory inside his head of the car careening sideways down the street as he ran from the alley, terrified and also thrilled at how he'd felt. Then it was over...

"Over??" He repeated the word aloud several times, trying to gain some type of insight into what had really happened. Phoenix chewed lightly on the inside of his bottom lip, flicking his tongue against the hoop that pierced his lip before shuddering. His red eyes darted over to his bedroom window which was open just a crack, it must have been open all night because his room was freezing. "Ugh, why are the walls yellow??" Phoenix voiced his concern over the random color change of the paint covering his walls, feeling that if he complained about the obvious, the unnatural changes would be easier to deal with.

He recalled the strange dream again, sighing as parts of the memory played over for him. Phoenix had been baffled by his apparent second meeting with the one that called himself Igor. For some reason, Phoenix wasn't able to recall the last thing that Igor said, he was only really aware that their conversation had been brief. Phoenix remembered Igor placing two cards down before him. When he'd flipped them over, they'd been the Aeon and the Judgement cards. This had lead to the cryptic statement from Igor about time.

Phoenix kept thinking about the investigation club, Valerie and Erin Lane. He remembered the boyish detective well, she had questioned him while he'd been in the hospital after the alley incident and car accident. It occurred to Phoenix already that anything he remembered might be much different than what the others did. Did they even remember being friends with him?? "What the??" A frown slowly crept over Phoenix's face as he thought about Cures and Val. Val had been the really cute one he'd met at the school before things got crazy and Cures had brought them all together.At least that was how Phoenix remembered it. This was worry enough for Phoenix because Cures' number wasn't in Phoenix's phone anymore. "Why is all this happening?? Who can I turn to??" As Phoenix pulled his crisp green jeans up over his hips and zipped them, a strange noise sounded in the distance, outside Phoenix's bedroom.

"?!?!?! Geez, what was that??" Phoenix peeped outside his doorway, his face a mixture of aggravation and interest. He took a look back at his bed, suddenly grinning at the new plushie he noticed among his collection. It was a random Dragon Ball Z character. It was so completely adorable that Phoenix didn't even notice the strange sound getting louder until it was right outside his door...

Phoenix gasped in alarm and awe at what he saw. "Oh my God!!! I didn't remember having a cat...hmm??" The cat was really weird looking. It was more like a cat-like, rodent-fairy looking thing. It was ADORABLE!!! "You're soooo cute but I remember what Dec Erin said." Phoenix scooped up the cat-thing and took a selfie with the cat. His text message to Erin Lane had the picture attached.It read...

[DOES THIS COUNT AS STRANGE OR MYSTERIOUS??]

Phoenix sighed, smirking at the all caps message. He sent another.
[Caps was an accident. Umm can we meet?? I have questions and maybe info too...]

Then his new cat started purring...Phoenix didn't know how to take it, the creature sounded like a baby dragon-lion cub or something. [COLOR=#c24641c24641]"Heh, here goes nothing."
Phoenix slid his contacts to "Val<3" and sent her a message.

[Are we still friends??]

[/COLOR]
 

Roxie1563

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Chloe became in awe when the boy detective, Erin Lane, got control of the situation swiftly and got bit embarrassed when he grabbed her hand as she was being escorted through the simmering tide of the mob whom wanted their 'five minutes of fame' with her. She was totally accustomed to the fans saying all kinds of things that would make her head shake in amusement for a long time, but some would go to extreme lengths and security cops had to be called in to push the tide back into the already full sea of fans while on tour; yet it seems nothing had changed even after arriving in Nix and in a coffee cafe, of all places!

Once outside and away from the cafe filled with different fans of men, women and children, the brown/blackish haired girl just simply shook her head from all this so quickly and turned to the boy who rescued her from this mob and gave her thanks to him.

"Thank you, Detective Lane," Chloe said to him, a smile on her face as she adjusted herself up against the cold yet snowy weather. "And in a matter of fact, I do need to grab a few things for my mother. So I guess it's off to the grocery store." With that being said, both Chloe and the detective made their way to the local store which turned out to be the mega-corporation that is named Junes.

Once inside and making sure that both of their boots are totally dry, Chloe grabbed a small cart and headed for the food department with Erin in tow, but not before opening her purse up and picking up the piece of paper that held the items needed for tomorrow's breakfast for all guests early morning. Looking at it and seeing the first thing to get had to be the milk, so she milled ahead to the very back of the department itself while glancing back and forth to ensure the boy was indeed with her and not being lost at all.

As she opened the door and picking up the milk with the label of Great Value on it then setting it down in her cart, Chloe decided it best to try to know him better in case anything happened to her or him. "So, was it Erin I heard right? You seem young to be a detective and yet you handled that mob like a veteran!" She spoke to him, her tone hinting flirtation and humor. "I only know of a handful people who could just knock them into submission like that and they were totally terrified of you when you whipped out that badge of yours!"

Chloe marked the milk off the list with a check by using her pen from her purse and headed for the next item: cereals. 'That would be 4 aisles down, right?' She thought to herself and started for it when Erin surprisingly led her to it, making her realize how much things had changed since she left Nix and by returning with her fame, Chloe had missed so much over the years and it was on Erin to help her deal with the entire change. It took a while to figure out what brands her mother used, but in the end the girl decided to grab what was available since she had the milk out already and it would be in room temperature soon if it wasn't put in the refrigerator.

Again, she marked it off and finally went for the bread in the second-to last aisle. While looking for the wheat bread section, she glanced at Erin and wondered why the boy looked different than the other men. 'Maybe I should ask, but that kind is rude when he saved me.." She thought internally as Erin apparently had received messages from someone else and possibly his boss on a case. Wanting to make things easier on him, Chloe decided to bring him home for dinner with the family as thanks for the save.

Looking back at the breads and grabbing the best wheat bread with the date being two weeks longer than usual, Chloe made her way to the check-out lane closest to the exit. While setting the items onto the rolling table and into the hands of a female employee, Chloe pushed her cart aside and setting her purse on a small desk as she waited for the complete total price to pop, she turned to her escort. "Hey, I know you turned my offer flat down but you helped me back there and so for that, I'm taking you to meet my parents for dinner later on tonight," she spoke at him, her eyes straight at the 5'4 boy detective daring and triumph as well before snapping back into attention when the young girl gave out the total.

Grabbing into her purse and giving her proper count of money to the girl, both Chloe and Erin decided to carry some bags so Chloe wouldn't be burdened with so much and made their way out via the exit right into the cold once again. It took some five to ten minutes walk back to Bennett's Inn and inside the lobby where one of the kitchen aide deftly carried all the items to the kitchen to be put up in the pantry.

At this time, Chloe had already taken off her goggles and heavy jacket which was draped over her arm, her smile on her face as she stood face to face to Detective Lane. "Well, thank you for seeing me here and helping out," Chloe smile gently at him. "Just so you know, I cannot be dissuaded from this and neither will my parents. I'll be waiting outside when you're off duty whenever that is."

Chloe watched the boy walking out into the cold and made her way to the elevator as she clutched the piece of paper Erin gave to her with his official work number and home number in her right hand. As soon as she reached the penthouse where she currently lives and hanging up her pink heavy jacket on the coat rack beside the front door, Chloe set her purse on the kitchen counter while thinking of the next thing she needed to do for the remainder of the day when her phone ring, prompting the girl to grab her phone and into her ear.

It was her father. "Hey, I know you just came up and I'm glad you're safe from those manics, but I need you to come down and take over your mother duties until 6." Chloe wasn't surprised and told him she'd be on her way soon then ended the call as she quickly changed her clothes, her heavy sweater and a white-lighted v-collar shirt yanked off and her jeans as well into a pink kimono and changing her hairstyle from a ponytail into a more formal style by forking the hair up into a bun and installing a pin that easily holds her hair into place without worry while slipping into sandals and heads down to the lobby via elevator, the doors making a 'ding' sounds as it closes on her and opening once out of the elevator into the lobby.

She quickly made her way over to her father whom gave her a small desk full of food and told her to take it to this guest up on the second floor which she promptly did with a smile on her face yet wonders if her mom is all right. As soon as she reached the right guest room, she bent down on her knees, her feet behind and close to her butt then knocked on the door which was opened by an young business man whom Chloe bowed in respect and started serving him his food and closed the door then got back up on her feet to go back to the lobby for another job.

'This is going to be a long day!' Chloe thought to herself, a deep sigh making its way out as the elevator doors closed on her once again, her mind on many things.

At least she'd enjoy the dinner with Detective Lane later on tonight, for a change of pace!
 

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I was the first of our group to arrive at the coffee shop known as Caffeine Dreams. There was an employee behind the counter, a couple of guys doing their own things, and through a doorway into the back I saw a woman working. This appeared to be it for now people-wise, so I just grabbed a back corner table and waited for everyone to show up.

I looked through the front window and looked at the snow covered ground and buildings across the street. In the parking lot there was a red jeep that appeared to have someone in it, but I couldn't make them out. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and checked it as if I was expecting a message or something, but the screen just showed the time and I shoved it back in my pocket.

"Come on, guys..." I said under my breath as I started twiddling my thumbs. I felt like a spaz rubbing one thumb over the other like that, but I didn't know what to do with my hands. I stood up and walked over to the juke-box and started flipping through songs. There wasn't actually anything playing right now, so I was hoping to get something going.

California Dreamin' by The Mamas & Papas caught my eye. How appropriate I thought. I sunk four quarters in the machine and picked the song.

"What the hell?" I said when the song didn't start playing. I tried to shake the juke-box, but that thing was solid, almost as if it was built into the ground. "Aww come on!" I smacked the side of it and punched the glass, hurting my hand in the process. "Son of a bitch." I turned and walked back to my table. Now I had reason to be rubbing my hand over and over. I rubbed over my knuckles and tapped my thumbs over the table; I was getting antsy.

After a couple more minutes, Crystal and Valerie finally walked through the door. "Hey," Valerie said. Crystal also gave me a wave as she and Valerie sat down at the table with me.

"I'm glad you guys finally made it; I was going friggin' crazy over here." I said.

"I'm not the only one, right? Things aren't adding up right and things are-- Crystal started to say before she was interrupted by our angry Irish friend.

"Okay. What kinda Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap horse shit is this?!" Saito yelled as he slammed his hands on our table.

I started to look around the shop to see if we were drawing attention to ourselves when I flinched at the sudden slamming of another pair of hands. "How the hell are we supposed to know?! Look, just...just sit, alright?!" Crystal pushed Saito in the booth and then took another seat herself. There were more people here now, and although the cops weren't really an issue for me at the moment, my paranoia still hadn't subsided. "I don't know. I don't know what happened, I don't know what's happening, but something's wrong. I...I-I have a brother now! I'm an only child but today when I woke up I had a twin brother chastising me. And-and look, Cures made this, it was his club, so why the hell does it have my name on it?!" Crystal pulled out the changed investigation club flyer and pointed to it as she said the last bit. Cures' name really was gone, it looked as if it had never been there and now Crystal's name took its place.

"I don't know what the hell all of this is, but things are different for me too. My parents, both of them, are alive. Apparently I'm living in a house with them here in town. Neither of them had ever even been here before, I moved here on my own after the whole incident with my dad, and then that was when they found my mom in the lake. But now they're here, and so I'm assuming I'm good with the police, but it's just like- what the shit?!" I could tell I had started rambling. Crystal and Saito listened from across the table and I turned and looked at Valerie beside me. "That night outside the dojo... Were things already different then? It's all really hazy to me, the last thing I really clearly remember is splitting off with you." I rubbed my head. I was starting to get a headache again just thinking about it.

I looked out into the open floor to see more customers shuffling in and out buying their coffees. Some girl came in and seemed to draw a crowd; I couldn't decide if I thought she looked familiar or not. A guy was taking pictures of all of the chaos, and I saw the girl bump into some other dude and after an exchange of words, they started trying to make their way out.

California Dreamin' finally came on over the shop as one of the random onlookers got knocked into the jukebox while shouting out to the girl.

"Oh, now the song decides to start playing..." I said. "There's so much going on here, maybe we shouldn't have picked a public place to do this. All of these people and the screaming, just all of it, it's really giving me a headache." I started rubbing my temples and looked around at our small group in our corner booth. How had our group dwindled down so much so quickly? What happened to everyone else? They all just seemingly disappeared from our lives, and I had to wonder if they had disappeared for good or if they were out there somewhere, asking all of the same questions about us. "Well what the hell do we do now? What's the move? I mean, no Cures, no Peppers, I know you guys have just as little an idea as I do, but we have to do something."
 
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One careful yet painstaking step at a time, though it may look clumsy, her concentration was precise like that of a shrine ascetic or a Buddhist monk. Even whilst not looking what was in front of her, aside the fact that the high pile was blocking her entire field of vision, Xun waddled through the crowded street with as little incident as possible.

"Would you like a ride to wherever you're dropping those off at?"

Her concentration snapped as her nose was tickled by the smell of gasoline and a bit of smoke. A car pulled up next to her and the driver had offered her hand to help her. She stopped on her tracks and carefully turned around to face her savior to this inconvenience.

"Umm... Umm..."

The girl was trying to get a good stance on will she face this person with a burden as cumbersome as this. It was rude in her custom to not face the person whom was trying to engage conversation with you.

"W-Well I-I... If it's not a problem to you th-then... umm---uh... hhmmmfff..."

She was visibly struggling to hold it in place, her arms must be at their limit. By all means was she not an athletic nor fit person nor a heavy lifter. Her face was turning pale and looked like she was about to faint from the sheer fatigue. Customs be damned at this point, the poor girl was clear as day was struggling with her burden.
 
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Story Keeper

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~- A Helping Hand -~

Mavis got a sympathetic look in her eyes as the girl tried to answer her. Putting the car in park, since she was effectively parallel parked and turning the car off. She climbed out of the car and took half of the books that the other girl had. Normally she would have asked permission first, but the other girl looked like she was ready to pass out. Putting them in the back seat, Mavis carefully tucked the tarot deck into the backseat pocket before she turned and went back to the other girl and grabbed the rest of the books. Looking at her now, Mavis noticed that there seemed to be something familiar about her. Almost as if Mavis had seen her around before, a lower classmate maybe? It didn't escape Mavis that this girl seemed to be of Chinese descent, which lent itself to a cuteness factor. Not in a romantic sense, just in a friend or younger sibling sense. Mavis shoved that thought to the side, she couldn't afford to allow herself to get distracted from her current task.

Putting the rest of the books in the backseat, Mavis shut the door and then turned to the younger student. Bowing to the other girl out of respect, she said, "My name's Mavis Sakuraba. May I ask what your name is? Also, where do you need the ride to?" She smiled warmly, even as she took note of the girl wearing her class uniform. It made Mavis think about the fact she should be heading to the school for her classes, but due to her mother's disappear Mavis was spending more time in the orphanage than in school. The only good thing on it being that Tish was bringing her the homework and lecture notes so it wasn't too much of an issue. Tish had also explained to Mavis's teachers on why she wasn't attending classes at the moment, so she'd somehow wrangled a free pass; something that Mavis was positive was because of her track record.

She once more dismissed the thought from her mind, because like she'd thought before. Mavis couldn't afford to get distracted right now.
 

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Following his outburst and her response, Crystal quickly shoved Saito to into a seat. A grunt slipped through his mouth in response to this. A pang of pain went through his body when he collided with it. His muscles still hurt him from the previous day's activities. He threw a glare Crystal's way before resting his elbow on the table and putting his chin in his hand.

He could already feel a headache coming. Not helping this was most of the of the restaurant's patrons making an uproar about someone named "Star" being there. They were making such a racket, he was tempted to knock some heads in. But he restrained himself. Especially due to the fact that the problem solved itself with the detective escorting someone out.

On top of that, memories came flooding into his head. Ones that contradicted everything he remembers. He shut his eyes and put his other other hand on his forehead in an attempt to alleviate the downpour of new information. Said action did not help.

After Max and Crystal exchanged their altered backstories, Saito vaguely chimed in with, "Some things are messed up on my end too."

When Max asked what they should do next, the Irishman crossed his arms in contemplation. After about a minute of thinking, he said lowly, "We most likely did cross over when we exited the dojo. We were probably just too damn tired to notice because of fighting those wrestler guys. But we aren't completely hopeless."

He then offered as he counted their options with his fingers, "We could look around town to see if we can find Sackboy, Lettuce Top, or any of your other friends. On the way of doin' that, we can also gather what's different about this version of Nix. We could also go to the school and/or dojo and see if they're still ice cubes. Or we could go back to the pond to see if we can still access that other world, or dimension, or whatever. Maybe that place has a clue of how we can get back."

Saito leaned back onto the booth and asked, "How does that sound?"
 

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The girl's burden suddenly lightened as her savior went her way to help her without a second thought. She was about to protest but it seemed that it could not be helped. She could not go on for a few more steps further, any more she will collapse.

As they finished packing the books inside the car, her savior, also a girl, gave her courteous bow, in which she also returned. Fixing her crooked glasses, she faced the girl with her face clearly glistening with sweat whilst also straightening her hair with her fingers. She was about to introduce herself when the girl took the initiative.


"My name's Mavis Sakuraba. May I ask what your name is? Also, where do you need the ride to?",


"Umm--umm... Guo Xiuying Xun Qiang Le."

Before she could continue, she immediately shut her mouth with her hands. Being carried away by formalities in mind, she forgot for a moment that she was not in her home land anymore. Tightening her neck tie, she tried again...

"Umm... *ahem* J-just call me Xun. Nice to meet you!"

She was still a nervous wreck, her tone came out unintentionally in a yell. This was her mustering up confidence, while beating herself up in the process.

"S-sorry. I-If it's not a bother... just 5 blocks from here-- at the school establishment. I am just about to return these reference materials back to the library. Sorry! So sorry to bother someone like you."

It was going so well, when her self-consciousness began acting up again. Bowing her head repeatedly in front of the girl named Mavis.
 

Just Dari

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just not enough time

I suppose you could say I was a little relieved, but it was hard to really tell what I was thinking. Ms Bennett was more than friendly, even in this ice-covered wasteland we all knew to be Nix. All I could say is that she was gracious and quite prompt with what she needed to take care of. I was more than happy to tailor her an escort to the rather massive shopping complex, "Junes". Lets be honest, I haven't really been here much myself, but while working on the Nix Police force, we've had our share of patrols...and other detectives that sort of lounged about here.

Chloe brandished a shopping list from her bag, interestingly enough she came prepared. As I have been here very very few times in the past, my eyes started to actively pan around the inside for once. Junes had a great many number of sections, the options alone were enough to convince me, they tried to be a one-stop for everything. Continuing to stay with Chloe, I had my small amber notepad with me, and I took a pen out and began to take a few notes on the geography. I've been in Nix for a fairly short amount of time, my family is originally not native to this place. Wait, what was that? I found myself doing it again, I wrote little smiley face at the end, alluding to my feminine charms again. Lightly snuffing out the symbol, I raised my head to make sure the young miss was still in one piece.

"So, was it Erin I heard right? You seem young to be a detective and yet you handled that mob like a veteran! I only know of a handful people who could just knock them into submission like that and they were totally terrified of you when you whipped out that badge of yours!"

It was rare that I ever really received a proper thanks for my participation in just upholding my job. My face was rather neutral and composed, but it was easy enough to tell by the softness of my eyes that I was gracious. Never really been one to grow too-confident from praise, but I responded with the modesty that my father taught me.

"To be completely honest Miss Bennett I guess you could say it runs in our family. Composure and execution are two of my father's most adamant principles." I responded with a cool and collected tone

'It'd easily explain a few other issues I have...'


I looked over her shoulder as she went down the list, cereal. I recalled seeing it a few isles down, I keep forgetting how immaculate my memory has always been. This Junes...I never remember it being...well...THIS size, perhaps it was another side effect of what old long nose was mentioning before. I was beginning to contemplate my captain's initial worry from earlier, we were in the middle of a case and naturally he wanted my eyes to look it over.

"Hey, I know you turned my offer flat down but you helped me back there and so for that, I'm taking you to meet my parents for dinner later on tonight"

I thought about it momentarily, part of me felt as though I were walking a dangerous road and making a friend. I hadn't felt this kind of concern since what I knew to be a drastically different Nix. The image of that teen getting hit by a car crossed my mind, perhaps it was just bad luck, maybe befriending Chloe was the right choice. It was nice to actually have a choice that my father didn't dictate for me.

"I'll take you up on your offer Miss Bennett. Unfortunately I have to return to my shift once I've escorted you home."

We had gone through the motions of shopping, and I escorted her home, making her trip less cumbersome by carrying some of the bags. After turning Miss Bennett over into the trusted hands of her family, I tipped my cap humbly. With a swift turn, something told me her persistence was something I needed to admire.

"Well, thank you for seeing me here and helping out, just so you know, I cannot be dissuaded from this and neither will my parents. I'll be waiting outside when you're off duty whenever that is."

I brushed my sides, and took a step into the cold again. A turn in my step I offered her some reassure that I would attend dinner with her family. Her pre-emptiveness was something that had me thinking, was I really doing so well...as a man? As much as I pushed the thought out of my mind, it was then that my phone began to vibrate with a jingle in tow. It was no doubt the captain, worried as I was to report to him. He was currently outside of the high school speaking with faculty on anything that they came across as suspicious. I quickly made haste to join him, making a small memo in my notepad crossing it with a smiley face, yet again, my habits were getting a little ridiculous. Only this time, I chose to leave it and made my way to the school.
 

Roxie1563

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It was only just midday, but this was ridiculous even for today as Chloe swapped between jobs for her mother whom has been resting and only had a brief moment to take a lunch break. Her mother had been taking her duties more seriously than ever since Chloe called them to let them know of her decision to come home for a bit amid her questioning to keep on with her career.

'At least it's slowing down..' Chloe thought blissfully as she chomped down on a salad with ranch on it then downing with Diet Coke, her thoughts running through her mind. She had visited the lunch room in the back of the lobby during one of her small break between jobs. Her mind was set on one thing and one thing only: The dinner thing with Detective Lane, or Erin as Chloe would think of him.

She didn't know what he liked to eat, and so she opted for a simple dinner. As soon as she was done with her duties, she would see what she has inside her refrigerator.

"Maybe he likes spicy chicken Alfredo..?" Chloe mumbled to herself, her hand on her phone as she scrolled to her messages. Nothing from her manager, which was a good thing for her since leaving for home in Nix. Wiping her mouth with napkin and tossing the box that had contained her salad into the trash, her other hand holding the water bottle as she left the room and into the lobby.

Once back into the office, the young lady set her bottle down and went back to work. She grabbed the new tray for the next guest and took the elevator to the fifth floor as she did so for the guest back in the second floor. Again, Chloe got down on her knees, her feet close to her butt and knocked on the door.

The door opened, but this time it was a woman who appeared to be in her early 30s as Chloe delivered the food tray to her, smile on her face as the woman gave her tips and closed the door on her. Chloe looked down at her tips and wondered if mother ever had that happened to her.

Shrugging her shoulders, Chloe put her tips into her small pocket close to her hips and left the floor for her next job while letting out a quiet yet powerful puff of air out of her mouth.

Work, work, work! It never ends as she stepped out of the elevator.
 

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~- The First Day -~

"Umm--umm...Guo Xiuying Xun Qiang Le. Umm... *ahem* J-just call me Xun. Nice to meet you!"

Mavis smiled as Xun answered her, and she felt a little unsure of what to do. She wanted to follow what her mother had taught her, but at the same time Xun had specifically requested to be called by a name. Nodding her head, she piped up cheerfully, the tiniest of stumbles in the beginning,"Nice to meet you Qia--Xun. It's not a problem, I promise. The school's on my route to where I'm heading, and even then a brief detour would be okay. Sorry, I'm rambling. Let's get heading to the school." Mavis waited until Xun had gotten into the car, even helping her get in by holding the door open before Mavis got back in the driver's seat.

She easily restarted the car, and after making sure it was safe, she headed for the school. Silence hung in the air of the passenger compartment, and while Mavis didn't mind, she felt as if she should at least try to engage Xun in conversation. She tried to think of what to say, she honestly did, but she was coming up empty handed. She heard the song playing through the cars speakers, and while it normally wasn't her style, she wanted to let the hard rock style song to keep playing. After a moment longer, she switched the music to something quieter, more oriental music, something to make it seem a little more relaxed. She was well aware of the fact her heart seemed to want the hard rock music back, she'd been listening to it (or that style anyway) straight for the pas two weeks.

"I'm sorry for asking, um, Xun, but how long have you lived in Nix?" Mavis asked softly, no hint of the emotional turmoil that she was feeling. Her eyes remaining on the road, even though she wanted to be polite and make eye contact. She couldn't do it though, it wasn't just her life on the line this time, it was Xun's too.

She hoped Xun wouldn't mistake the lack of eye contact for her being rude, or even the out of the blue question for being rude. She just didn't know what to say or do given the current circumstance. Mavis wouldn't let her mind drift to the omens she'd gotten just this morning, the world and the tower intersected, a combination that was never wanted. She also wouldn't think about the dream with Igor until after she safely got Xun to the school, and she'd safely got to the orphanage.

It wasn't something she could afford to do.
 

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"I don't know what's going on, but do things seem...weird?"

Do things seem weird? Valerie rolled her eyes at this. Obviously none of what was going on was normal. In fact, weird didn't even begin to cover it. Except Valerie didn't have the heart to say it because, seeing Crystal acting like her usual self with her bright personality almost made things feel normal. Like nothing was out of the ordinary. If not for the jeep parked outside or the noise of her keys reminding her things were far from normal. After saying a quick 'Hey' to Max as she settled into her seat, Valerie relished the brief feeling of things being normal when Max acted like his usual self too. It was almost comical to see Saito storming in and slamming his hands down on their table with Crystal responding in kind. Valerie waited it out as the commotion between Saito and Crystal finally settled down with the two of them sitting at the table. Unfortunately, the coffee shop being crowded wasn't helping much as more people kept filling in around them that it was growing harder to hear, let alone think with all of the noise around them. Don't some of these people have better things to do right now? Certainly there's other places to get coffee. Valerie shook her head at the thought as she felt Max looking at her all of a sudden, drawing her attention away from her thoughts.

"That night outside the dojo... Were things already different then? It's all really hazy to me, the last thing I really clearly remember is splitting off with you."

"I don't know," Valerie admitted bitterly, "I didn't even make it back to my place when we split up." Saying the words aloud brought burning hot tears to her eyes as she sat there in her chair with her face growing hot from stress. She knew it wasn't fair to get upset but admitting what happened to her brought the reality of everything come crashing down around her. Making it harder to live with it when she didn't want to admit any of it was real to begin with. Taking the sleeves of her hoody, she pressed them against her eyes to try and hold back the tears that were threatening to fall in front of them. Something she couldn't let happen. Especially not now when she needed to be strong. Valerie focused on her breathing as she tried to compose herself before finally withdrawing her sleeves from her eyes, and looked up at Max. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you like that. I remember us finding Crystal and that's about it."

"Some things are messed up on my end too."

"Shocker." Valerie replied evenly, rocking back on the edge of her chair. After hearing Max and Crystal's tales, she knew this confirmed that all of four of them had been affected by whatever is going on in Nix. And hearing Max's concerns about where they should go from here, she knew that one of them was going to have to step up and replace Cures as the active leader of their group. Something she knew she certainly wasn't ready for. Even though it was kind of funny that Crystal ended up being the one in charge of the investigation club in this world. Timeline. Thing. It. Whatever.

"Maybe that place has a clue of how we can get back."


Listening to Saito talk about what they can do, Valerie stilled at the last thing he said. Her mind playing a endless loop of going back home. Back to the way things were before all of this happened. Valerie almost allowed herself to get excited about it as she fingered her mala beads around her right wrist. Except she knew if they could go back that might not be a good thing. Her eyes drifting to the investigation flyer with Crystal's name on it instead of Cures. "It's not that I don't want to go back to how things were before all of this happened." Valerie began softly, knowing she might be sounding absolutely ludicrous right now. "But if we do find a way to back, Max will be a wanted criminal for running away from the cops. Are we sure we want that?" She let that hang in the air for a moment as she picked up the crumpled up flyer before eyeing the rest of the room, it seemed the mob of people had finally left after the idol known as 'Star' had vanished.

Unable to take the tension for much longer, Valerie fished out her keys and set them on the table in plain view. She was ready to commit to the Irishman's suggestions on what to do next and ready to get out of coffee shop. "I'm in. I somehow know how to drive and I have a jeep out front big enough to fit all of us inside of it." Valerie absentmindedly grabbed up her keys, allowing them to dangle from her fingers. "So where do we go first? Should we go to-"

A soft 'ding' interrupted her midsentence, making Valerie pause as she reluctantly took out her phone from her front pocket of her hoody. "Shit. Please don't be who I think it is." Valerie pleaded beneath her breath, slowly freaking out that it'd be her parents because, who else could it possibly be that would contact her? It's not like things couldn't possibly get worse. At least, I hope not. She fumbled with her phone with shaky hands as she tried to keep it steady long enough to read the name of whoever texted her. Thankfully, a familiar name popped up onto the offending phone's screen: Phoenix. Relieved that it wasn't the alternative, she took a look at the text he sent her:
Are we still friends??"

Valerie felt herself smile as she typed back: [Of course we are! Why wouldn't we be?]
 
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After a brief introduction with her newly-found acquaintance, Xun, still heaving from the burden she carried earlier, went in Mavis' car with a slight hesitation. She started the car and they were off to school. As the driver went ahead and changed the radio station, Xun wiped her face with her used handkerchief then finally relaxing her shoulders as she leaned back to the cushion of her seat.

As she glanced outside, her gaze inexplicably relaxed and her timid expression seemed to fade away for a moment. It was not due to the music but due to the gladness of thought that someone was willing to help her. For a girl so far away from her home, it was a very unprecedented event.


"I'm sorry for asking, um, Xun, but how long have you lived in Nix?"

It was then that Ms. Mavis initialized conversation. If they were still at the street, Xun would have went about her usual nervous wreck demeanor. But she is relaxed now and in perfect calm, a rare occasion indeed.

"I have been here for just a month, not that long. It has been not that long since I went here to study back at my home overseas."

Thinking about what she had experienced so far, both good and bad, she promptly responded to her with her head down. With a warm and calm tone, Xun looked like she was talking to an old friend.

"I was scared at first--well, still scared now on how foreign everything here to me. Everything is so progressive and spontaneous."

She was still learning the language here, so Xun had hoped that her choice of words do not confuse Ms. Mavis in any way.
 

Roxie1563

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It was only two hours later and Chloe still had to work until six, but that didn't faze her not one bit as she swiftly went back and forth delivering the guests at Bennett's Inn food of different kinds, even items that allowed them to relax during their time here in Nix. But she'd get her chance to relax later on in the evening as she hummed a tune from her private album inside her head, her body going through the motions back and forth.

Of course, the song would be constantly interrupted by thoughts on dinner later on with Detective Lane. Chloe pursed her lips, wondering how should one act on a dinner gathering with a detective whom saved her from a mob of her loving and not so loving fans of her stage name, 'Star'.

'Maybe I could just be casual about it..' she mused to herself while walking back to the lobby and back on the chair as she awaited the next order for the upcoming guest. 'Or should I just dress it up like I did back in the States? After all, the strapless dress did fit me surprisingly!'

It went on for a few minutes until the buzzer buzzed from another floor which Chloe snapped out of her trance and went back to work. That's when another thought popped out: She hasn't even met anyone else beside her family and Detective Lane! Sure, it was one thing to think about it but at some point she'll have to make friends. 'Maybe I should really stop by the local school to see what it's like in case I ever decide to enroll.' Chloe thought to herself after giving another food tray to a nice old lady up on the eighth floor. Yeah, that's a solid plan.

Chloe smiled to herself as she apparently set up a plan to see the school for a moment before setting up dinner for all of them and her expected guest. Within a few minutes of finishing up her duties and conversing with her father about it, Chloe returned to her room up at the penthouse level and quickly changed back to what she wore before then came back down and out of the front door in the cold.

She glanced at her watch on her left hand; just a few hours to go before dinner time. Enough time to check it out then come back and with that, Chloe walked on in the snow as it has been for who knows how long it has been. It took her a while to reach the school and had one point to check her phone for directions because it was still her first time out since the whole cafe mess earlier on.

At first, she thought it was the wrong one but apparently she found it easily enough as she glanced at some kids whom looked familiar to her. Maybe she could ask one of them for some questions about the school? Chloe walked down to them, a smile appearing on her face to show them she meant no harm to them.

"Hey, guys. I'm kinda new here... Maybe you don't mind me asking a few questions here since I'll be enrolling here." Chloe asked as they stood in the cold.
 

Just Dari

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The Two Missing Teens

The captain was about as impatient as ever. Tapping his watch was his way of scolding me, our investigation took priority after all and I was a pivotal part of the team. I could help but feel a bit of remorse in my expression, a little softer than I was used to, I tipped my hat and greeted him.

"You're late Detective. Since when was a cup of coffee a full hour plus detour?"
The captain spoke sternly.

"My apologies sir, I was acting as a form of escort for the resident celebrity Star and-"

Before I could complete my thought, he connected with a knee-jerker reaction. "Hold the phone, THE STAR?"

"Yes sir."

"You know how much myself and the men on the force love her music. Did you secure an autograph at the very least as collateral for tardiness."

"Not...exactly sir. I did receive an invitation to dinner with her family."

The expression of the captain's face was like that an ominous green devil, if this was what envy looked like in human form. It certainly took me by surprise, almost completely, but my mind was quick to rebound from spontaneity. I bowed apologetically, and further explained to the young captain my situation and the events leading up to that. Begin to question why I did, he wallowed even more, as if there were an ambience of depression perhaps?

"Sir...are you feeling ill? Your face is growing pale."
I said with a genuine look of concern on my face.

"You'll understand a man's feelings when your a bit older Lane. Overall, I'm fine, though I'm undoubtedly a bit jealous at your string of luck. Does this happen to you a lot?"

"Not exactly sir, no."

"Man, a high school kid's got more pull with women than I do. Shocker there."

"Err..."
It was growing more awkward by the second, but I had to break this depressing chain of conversation. "about that case file sir, might a have a look."

The captain finally perked up, his face slowly loosing it's slightly washed expression, color returning as quickly as it left. Opening the squad car he pulled up a brief case and popped it on the trunk of the car. Moving next to the captain, as he opened it, he rummaged a bit through a few folders until he brandished an envelope that he handed to me. I proceeded to remove the file from the envelope, making note of the case number. There was a picture paper clipped, and effectively it was two sets of files.

MISSING PERSON'S REPORT [CLASSIFIED]

Name: Pepper
Age: 17
Sex: F
--------
----------
-----
-----------------

The report when on, dated with when the woman was last seen. A strange sense of dejavu kicked at me, I definitely knew this girl. This would pick at my brain for the next couple of hours, and once I'd given the first missing person's report an honest read, I naturally asked questions, an inquirer of course.

"The report doesn't give a highlight of where she was last seen, it only says the last date she attended classes. Is this everything?"

"'Fraid so detective. That fell into our lap this morning, with this crazy weather booting with missing persons, we've got our work cut out for us. The families just want their kids home."

I gave the captain a nod, and looked at the name and picture on the second report. "Cures."

"Yep, apparently he knew Pepper. Strange how the two disappeared on the same day. I'm not too far from writing this off as runaways and leaving them to turn up in their homes on their own terms."

"The force wouldn't need my help if it were that simple."
I said moving my eyes to the date of the report. "This was reported last night?"

"We got two phone calls, maybe two hours apart from each other late evening. Nix has a strict curfew after it gets dark, when we received the calls, both mothers reported their teenagers didn't return home at normal hours. It's unclear, we were only able to get as much information as we could from them just based on their usual patterns, and what ever else information their parents could provide us with. Needless to say, this is a tough spot to be in, Nix hasn't exactly been the safest recently."

This was definitely stimulating work. I shuffled through the files one more time. I figured the best course of action was to move with the captain and ask the students if they were familiar with the two teens that went missing.
 
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Story Keeper

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~- A New Friend? -~

"I have been here for just a month, not that long. It has been not that long since I went here to study back at my home overseas."

Mavis listened to the answer Xun gave her, she wasn't sure what to say fully in answer. A quick glance in Xun's direction seemed relaxed, and she wasn't sure if it was because of the music, but she did appreciate that Xun felt just comfortable to relax a little bit. A soft smile came to her face as Xun continued with, "I was scared at first--well, still scared now on how foreign everything here to me. Everything is so progressive and spontaneous."

She smiled softly, "I can understand that one, even being a resident of the town since I was little. It's still a little terrifying for me." She thought about something, and then added, "I'm sorry if I've offended you, it's not my intention. My mother would be furious if I did, especially since she...sorry, never mind."

Mavis returned her attention to the road, and it wasn't too much longer before they got the school. Pulling up in front of it, Mavis saw the gathering of police officers in front of it. Turning the car off, she looked at them and mumbled, "For the love of....what's going on?" Looking into the backseat, the two tarot cards (the World and the Tower) still sat on the towel. She looked back to the cops and spoke calmly, "Do you want to go into the school now or not?"

Mavis jumped in her seat at the tap on her driver's window, turning to look in that direction to see who was there. Mavis felt a rush of relief sweep through her as she saw a girl with short, dark green hair and dark green eyes standing there. The girl had lightly tanned skin and she wore a slightly modified school uniform (the skirt was longer than most), a concerned look in the new girl's eyes were filled with concern. Rolling the window down, she mumbled, "Why did you sneak up on me Tish?"

Tish tilted her head to the side, a slight frown on her face in response. "My question Mavis, what are you doing here? And who's she?"

Mavis glanced at Xun, biting her lip a little bit in answer before she looked back at Tish and answered, "Her name is Guo Xiuying Xun Qiang Le, but she seems to prefer Xun. I was given her a ride here before I headed to work. Oh, um, Xun---."

"That's a surprise, you usually refer to someone by their last name until you get to know them." Tish cut in quickly, only to fall silent at the glare Mavis shot her.

"Anyway, my friend here is called Platisha Nero. Although she prefers Tish, if only because she hates her first name." Mavis finished, shooting another subtle look in Tish's direction, before she returned her attention to Xun and was trying to figure out how to progress what she needed to do. Tish, bless her, decided to help out a bit as she yanked the back door open and climbed into the car and dropped a stack of papers into the backseat pocket. "Have I mentioned yet you owe me a batch of banana bread, Mavis?" Tish chatted, before she fell silent as her eyes found the two cards on the backseat.

Mavis watched in the rear view mirror as the other girl grabbed them and quickly threw them into the pocket before Xun's seat. She also watched as the other girl's eyes found the stack of books that Mavis had in the backseat, and seeming to catch onto why she'd be giving a stranger a ride. "Do you want some help carrying your books to the library, Xun?" Tish asked.

Mavis didn't react outwardly toward Tish's offer. She was curious to see how Xun would react to the offer, and it didn't escape her that the music was still playing through the flex's speakers.
 
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After Valerie gave her response, Saito puffed some air out of his nose with a "Hmm." He pointed his finger at Max and retorted, "In all honesty, I don't care what kind of shit he got himself in. It's his own damn fault and he should accept the consequences if he gets caught." He lightly slammed the side of his fist on the table and declared, "I just want my life to go back to normal as quickly as possible. No matter what it takes." The fury on his face seemed to make his eyes shine brighter.

Saito added as he leaned back on the chair, "Besides, if he goes to jail, he can just use his Stand or whatever it's called to break himself out. Or bring him stuff. Or both."

When the freckled girl revealed her newly, interdimensionally minted driving status, the Irishman's face took on a deadpan look. He responded, "You somehow know how to drive?" Feeling he's reaching his limits with all of the recent wackiness, the red-eyed youth pinched the bridge of his nose. Before his logic stepped in to tell him no, he said as he moved to step out of the booth, "You know what? Fine. Just don't kill us all." Following that, he told the group, "We should head for the school, then the dojo. On our way, call Sackboy and Whatshername."

The caller of Ronin headed outside for a breath of fresh air and to wait for the group. He took the bottle of water from his coat pocket and took a swig.

This is going to be a loooong day.
 
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Endless Warrior Sora

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After the mob cleared, Ant could feel the commotion begin to settle around the coffee shop. The kid named Yan still hadn't really answered him, but he shrugged it off. He was new around here anyway. The guy seemed friendly enough in any case. He realized he hadn't ordered anything. Walking up to the counter, he read the employee's name as Jin.

"They're really overworking you here, aren't they?" Anthony joked to the unimpressed 18-year-old.

"Yeah, but that's probably the case with any minimum wage job. Anything I can get you since you're here?"

"Actually yeah, can I get a hot green tea please?"

"Sweetened or unsweetened?"

"Unsweetened, I'll just use some of the sugar packs over there."

"Alright, that'll be $3.50."

While Jin made the drink, Ant walked over to the counter where all of the sugars and spices were, coincidentally, it was near the table with the group of kids he took photos of. Although he didn't need his camera to remember them.

"Some things are messed up on my end too.
"Shocker."
"We
clnwrdlookarjddsd town tossgegeifhfwechdanfind Sckffbsoyettudadcetasoporany of your other friends. Onthwdayosgfdoin'that we can also gather what's different about this version of Nix. Wecosuldsgalsosggoto the school andfbdhtordojoasndgnseehffgifthey'reshhhtitllicecubes. Or we cokjyuldgogfnjbacykto the pond vjkgnglrgmalginggewlgn."

Ant raised an eyebrow. What were those guys talking about? He could hardly make out what they were saying, but he was nosy enough to attempt. It sounded interesting. And if he was going to be living here in this new place, God knew he needed "interesting." He pretended to examine various sugars while trying really hard to listen to their conversation.

"KID WITH THE GLASSES WHOSE NAME I DIDN'T GET!" Jin shouted from behind the counter, startling Anthony, causing him to fumble the sugar packet's he was holding and knock over the sugar syrup bottle. It definitely broke his concentration in trying to listen in on the group's conversation. However, he did notice the flyer for the investigation club. He wasn't usually as impulsive as he was, but he thought anything, ANYTHING to get out of this awkwardness with his dad would be awesome. He was busy trying to shake off his embarrassment from knocking over the sugar. He could hear Jin sigh really long and exaggerated at the prospect of probably having to clean up his mess.

"I'll be right over!" Ant called, before hearing keys from the girl with freckles. If he didn't say anything now, they'd leave! What was he gonna say? 'Oh hey, it's me, your local total stranger! So I was just eavesdropping a few moments ago and noticed that you all are in a club? Can I, a total stranger who you never met before and invaded your private conversation, now awkwardly join you in said club??' It's not like he could chalk it up to 'oh well, they'll never see me again' because this town is SO SMALL that a random kid walked up to him no more than 10 minutes ago and said he didn't see Ant around these parts.

Ant could feel himself slowly get nervous. But nothing was going to change if he didn't say anything. He quickly formulated a dumb plan and went for it.

"Uh, S-Sorry about that Jin! I'm coming for the tea!" He called over, intentionally going the long way around past the table with the group to "discover" the paper with the invitation to the club. He had already memorized the contents of the paper in his glance over to the table when he was by the spice station. Time to use those acting skills. His heart was beating SO fast. Just don't. make this. awkward. He pretending to take a glance at the table and then acted like he did a double take.

"Whoa! Cool!" He exclaimed, grinning in believably feigned impression. "You guys are in an investigation group at the school?" Anthony pointed to the paper laid out on the table. "I know this is probably gonna sound weird. Thing is, I'm new around here and enrolled to go there. My friend Yan is like, right over there. It would be cool for my first experience of the town. Is there sign ups or..." He trailed off. Okay, this was smoother than he intended. Adding Yan was a nice touch. Not awkward so far. He thought about introducing the camera as a cherry on top. But maybe that was too much info. He didn't want to see desperate. However, he was still nervous about the response. God, what if they said no?? How DUMB would he look?! What if they were like "yeah we're busy with our own thing right now, so not today". Will this get weird? Knowing Ant, it would get weird. If it got weird, all he had to do was...avoid them for the rest of his life.
 
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After a brief trip towards her intended destination, they finally arrived. But were greeted by a huge commotion in front of the school. And just like that, Xun's calm demeanor immediately flipped again into its usual klutzy train-wreck. Her eyes darting from Mavis and the commotion back and forth.

It was then that a girl went up to the car and greeted Mavis. By the way that they talked, they seemed to be well-acquainted with each other, to say the least.


"Her name is Guo Xiuying Xun Qiang Le, but she seems to prefer Xun. I was given her a ride here before I headed to work. Oh, um, Xun---.",


"That's a surprise, you usually refer to someone by their last name until you get to know them.",

"Anyway, my friend here is called Platisha Nero. Although she prefers Tish, if only because she hates her first name."

"Umm... Ummm... uh..."

The conversation was going too fast for Xun to follow, she was about to butt in as Mavis referred to her by full name. She's slightly peeved by the sound of it; though in correct pronunciation, Xun was not big on being referred by full name. The newcomer came by the name of Tish, she seemed very free-spirited and a bit intimidating. Xun could not figure out how to put a proper face on strangers.

"Do you want some help carrying your books to the library, Xun?"

Tish asked her, she seemed friendly enough to offer a hand.

"Umm... Um... W-well if it's not a problem..."

She could not give a direct response, she seemed hesitant and really nervous. They've done so much already that it was overwhelming to her.
 

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As Renn wandered in and out of Nix he kept his eyes as well as his perception sharp. He soon spotted what seemed to be a a building encased in ice and a familiar face talking to a youth around Renn's age it seemed. "Hey uncle!"

"oh hey Renn. Exploring town? is it to your liking so far?"

"Yeah... it's a tad small but it does have it's charms. anyway I was actually wondering what is this building?"

"oh... it's the old dojo."

"and may I ask who your friend is?"

"well..."

"come on you can trust me."

His uncle frowned. "Renn you need to stop peering into my work."

He sighed then looked down. "you remember the reason I do that. I told you when I arrived here."

"The force is trying it's best... she's just as important to me as she is to you." "Then why can't I know? you know I can help you."

" because I don't want to lose you too... if she really is gone and you try looking for her you may very well end up the same way. and then I'd have two possible deaths on my conscience."

"Mmm fine."

"now don't give me that... you're more than just a nephew to me. since you came here I considered you more like a son."

"okay..."
 

Max

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Everyone was definitely tense, although why wouldn't they be. Valerie apologized for snapping at my question, and I just gave a half-hearted grin as a response.

"We most likely did cross over when we exited the dojo. We were probably just too damn tired to notice because of fighting those wrestler guys. But we aren't completely hopeless." I was glad Saito thought that the dojo was likely our crossing point too. Having at least one other person agree on that made me feel a little bit better. Some information was better than no information. At this, Saito started putting up finger after finger as he went through our options: "We could look around town to see if we can find Sackboy, Lettuce Top, or any of your other friends. On the way of doin' that, we can also gather what's different about this version of Nix. We could also go to the school and/or dojo and see if they're still ice cubes. Or we could go back to the pond to see if we can still access that other world, or dimension, or whatever. Maybe that place has a clue of how we can get back. How does that sound?" He leaned back as he finished up, and I crossed my arms as I tried to think about which of these options would probably be best.

"But if we do find a way to back, Max will be a wanted criminal for running away from the cops. Are we sure we want that?" Valerie chimed in. We were all quiet for a moment. She was right, on the other side I didn't have this freedom. In a weird way, this was like a second chance for me.

"In all honesty, I don't care what kind of shit he got himself in. It's his own damn fault and he should accept the consequences if he gets caught. I just want my life to go back to normal as quickly as possible. No matter what it takes. Besides, if he goes to jail, he can just use his Stand or whatever it's called to break himself out. Or bring him stuff. Or both." Saito pointed at me as he said this.

I looked around at everyone before speaking. "He's right," I said. "I mean, I know he is. I'm not exactly in a rush to go back to a life where I've murdered somebody and probably seemed like a bit of a psycho since my shadow had acted as a split personality for most of my life. He's finally under control, I've got this persona and the voices aren't in my head anymore thanks to that. I mean, I still hate my dad, that guy is the biggest asshole I've ever met, but this place is like a second chance now that I can approach situations like that with clarity, and, you know..." I felt like I'd started rambling. All of the little thoughts I'd had about this place had come out at once. "Look, regardless, despite all of that, I'm not going to be selfish and say that we shouldn't find a way back. Something about this is unnatural, and I'm not about to rob you guys of your past lives just for my own gain. Let's just- let's just figure out how what the hell is going on for now, and we'll go from there."

At that I looked around at everyone again and waited to hear exactly what our next move would be. It didn't take long before I heard Valerie jingling in her pocket and she placed a set of keys on the table.

"I'm in. I somehow know how to drive and I have a jeep out front big enough to fit all of us inside of it. So where do we go first? Should we go to-" Valerie stopped midsentence as her phone went off and she looked to answer it. I leaned in towards her and tried to read her face, wondering about the urgency of the message.

"You somehow know how to drive?" Saito chimed in, breaking Valerie's cut off silence. "You know what? Fine. Just don't kill us all. We should head for the school, then the dojo. On our way, call Sackboy and Whatshername."

Saito stood up out of the booth, and I started to do the same until a flier was laid out on the table in front of me by some dude I didn't know. "Whoa! Cool! You guys are in an investigation group at the school?" The asked as he pointed at flier.

"What? Who are you?" I asked confused as I tried to size the guy up. I reached up and grabbed my head as I felt my temples starting to throb. Why? Why couldn't the headaches just go away?

"I know this is probably gonna sound weird. Thing is, I'm new around here and enrolled to go there. My friend Yan is like, right over there. It would be cool for my first experience of the town. Is there sign ups or..."

"Sign ups?" I shot a look at the others. Were we still taking in random students who were curious about what was going on in town? It's one thing when a club forms to try and solve a mystery, but with the involvement of fighting shadows in battles of life or death becomes a thing, it feels a little odd to be picking up random school kids.

"I uh, I don't-" all of a sudden I reached up and grabbed the sides of my head with both hands. "JESUS CHRIST!" I screamed as I fell out of the booth onto my knees. My head was pounding, and my vision started to blur in and out as one moment I would be looking at this guy's shoes, and the next I was seeing something completely different. I was seeing some vision... There was a woman, accompanied by several... things. One of the things lurched it's arm forward towards me and pierced through my chest.

Then darkness.

Then-

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"Welcome to the Velvet Room." Igor said in his usual fashion.

"What was that? what just happened? Am I still in the cafe?" I asked him as I rubbed my hand over my chest.

"You are... And you're not. You needn't worry, this is a place between mind and matter, dream and reality. You'll be back with your friends soon enough."

I looked around the plane at all of the blue. I leaned over the couch arm and looked out the window to see nothing but dark sky, and when I turned back there was an odd fellow sitting in a chair next to Igor.

"And don't worry about your chest. It was not pierced as the vision implied. For the vision was merely that- a flash of a possible future." The man was wearing all blue. His silver hair was combed back under a hat and he had golden eyes. His eyes were different from those of the shimmering golden eyes of my shadow though.

"Who are you, where did you come from?"

"My name is Theodore, but you may call me Theo. I am one of this room's attendants here to help you on your journey. What's wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?"

Not even realizing I was giving him a look I broke eye contact. "It's nothing, I was just thinking how it would be cooler if the flight attendant was a cute girl instead or something..."

"Flight attendant? Oh my, I suppose it does look that way, doesn't it? But I am not some mere flight attendant, I am a resident of this room, I- oh forget it. I suppose you'd be more comfortable with one of my sisters then. But Elizabeth, she's... Well let's just say she hasn't been pulling her weight in here for a while, and Margaret made me- I mean, asked me to come here in her stead. Although, I suppose we could maybe reach out to one of the other residents..." Theo contemplated, and Igor followed up with a snicker.

"Interesting, very interesting," Igor said. "I'll think about this attendant request you've made since, while you're here, you are our guest. but for now, bear with Theo's explanation that he's come to give you."

I looked over at Theo and made eye contact again. He said nothing. I scratched my chin and waited, and then eventually Theo looked over at Igor and said "Oh, are you finished?! Right then, my apologies. Anyway, your arcana is the arcana of death as you are well aware, and it is resonating with you in such a peculiar way. Before the SHIFT, death had been a predominant part of your life in several ways, and since the SHIFT it seems that it's taking a new form in you."

"Death is taking a new form in me? What is that supposed mean?"

"Well to be completely blunt, you may start to have visions of the potential death around you. That doesn't mean that all death is guaranteed, as a vision of the future is only the vision of one possible future. What you do with that knowledge is up to you." Theo held up the tarrot card of death as he summed up his explanation.

"I'm afraid that's all the time we have for now," Igor said. "Until next time."

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"Ahh, what the?..." I felt myself get pulled back to reality, back to the coffee shop. I was lying on the floow with my head in my hands, and I let go as I pushed myself into a sitting position on the ground. My head didn't hurt anymore at the moment, and as I reached up to scratch my nose I saw blood on my hand as I pulled it away.

"What the... My nose is bleeding," I said to no one in the group in particular. "I just saw some weird shit, and- hey, have any of you ever been in a blue room on a plane?"
 
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