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Posts until end: 600

Joined: 01 Dec 2004
Posts: 457
Location: Treading my dreams, UK

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A deep deep sleep.

“Renovan, that’s your name.” But this time, in his dream world, he tears his own walls down. He sweeps her off her feet, kissing her with new fervour and lays her down on the grass. This time, the roles reverse. This time, he shows her what a cold, cold machine is capable of.

An imperceptible breeze shivers him, and he is brought once more to the back of his eyelids. He feels still for once. Not still as a strong tower would be, but still water.
He aches for simple things. And for once, he can reach them. The girl has gone. She has left a depression on the grass. The air feels good and pure. He mimics the girl, and curls into the grass, simply breathing.
Simplicity cannot last. Nothing is simple. The grass irritates. The sun fails it’s battle with the heat-stealing breeze. Lying in the place of the girl he joined with last night is not enough. He pushes himself up off the ground, carefully shrugging off his simple self that still lay on the grass, curled round a beautiful woman.
He felt invaded. Twice, in fact. But he sighs as he slips on the black robe and starts off in a random direction. He tries to tell himself that he is looking for nothing, merely exploring, but his indifference shows otherwise. Regardless of his bare feet, hands, head, he tears through some thick vegetation.
Even the morning after, his heart quickens at the thought of the night before. A smile that he thought extinct grazes his lips. That night he knew, would anchor itself in him, would string a spider web of emotions through his heart. Old events quivered to recollection.
He had heard.. tales of her. Dimly, he recalled an enraged person robed in green, with a hilarious lump on his forehead..

The man stood to attention, dripping dark blots of water on the stone floor. To the younger Commander in the chair, it was hard to perceive if the steam rising from his body was from anger or the flaring fireplace behind him. Possibly, it was combination.
“Report, Ranger.”
The soaked figure looked straight ahead, though he swayed slightly. The pause was just long enough notice. “Yessir.”
Shifting on his chair, the man leapt to his feet in impatience. “Sit down, man. You’ll fall if you don’t.”
The bedraggled figure scarcely needed the command, as he was already close to horizontal after the third syllable.

Pausing, the sound of a waterfall draws his attention. It was the right way, of course. The residue of last nights' heightened emotions would let him recognise her breath hundreds of yards away. Yes, especially her breath..

Things weren't boding well as it was, and now, this sodden ranger fails in an easy mission. Not too carefully, he upturns a bucket of cold water over the mans head.
“Mmpf. Wha-”
A clinical voice appears near his right ear. “I have not the time to waste. Your name is Chybigohan, though you prefer the name Chybi. Correct?”
“Uh.. yes. Chybi.” Dealing with heavily concussed victims required an unsympathetic heart and persistence. The Commander had these in unequal measures, but this line of interrogation seemed promising. The man could rest after he recounted his incompetence. He drilled on, softer now.
“Tell me what happened, Chybi. Slowly.”

The waterfall is as loud as to be directly in front of him, yet there is a large outcropping of rock, thrust in his path. Foamy water seeps round it. He stares at it: maps various indefatigable routes past the difficult opponent. Pulse rises and his body heeds the impulse even while he questions it. Body flows liquid like up the rock-face while mind bounces uncomfortably behind.

The tiny voice of the dripping water played on the Commander’s irritation. The Ranger had propped himself up next to the fireplace, his haggard face dispassionately recounting the encounter and the present state of his head. Chybi’s story clanged against his mind, and he absorbed them with learned automation. If the Commander was careful, what was not said offers more. He ciphered a neutral tone.
“Is that all?”
The man was more alert than he had hoped. He still held his gaze and his arms were crossed firmly over his chest, denying their interpretation. The Ranger was equally neutral.
“Yes sir.”
“Indeed.” The Commander tests the Ranger’s calm exterior. “There is something wrong if a small woman of nineteen Summer’s could overpower a trained Ranger.” He danced the seductive statement in the air. “You were alone, am I correct? Azura was sleeping elsewhere?”
The Ranger’s coolness gained turbulence. “Surely, Commander, a man must be.. gentle towards a woman. I must have.. underestimated her.”
“Yes. That must be it.” He tried to repress a boyish snigger that was crawling up from the recesses of his subconscious. He would spare the question of the weapon. The humiliation was more than sufficient anyway. He scanned the Ranger’s gaunt face and still-steaming clothing.
“Very well. You are to report to Art-

A violent pain knocks him breathless and the surreal memory fizzles from his grasp.
He finds himself perched on top of the large rock that he thought impassible moments before.
The light of the early morning sun - still curiously red - is sheared into a thousand fractals by a pluming waterfall before him. The scene is almost calming, though his pulse still beats double time. His dogged desire forces him to endlessly probe his surroundings. She must have gone somewhere..
A dozen yards below him is a figure, veiled under a shimmering liquid-velvet curtain. He knows beyond doubt that it is Ripley. Lust laughs at his lucidity. The rational part of his persona watches the reckless part skip carelessly past serrated blades of rock. Separate from himself, he watches longingly as a blonde headed man scoops his Summer-time girl off her feet. Action brings him double focus. He sparks into the fiery moment, passion searing into her pastel-pale skin, then the intensity of her identity; all that she is covered by all his strength.
The man reins himself, gazes intently into her radiant-hued eyes, as slowly, slowly, they overflow with primitive emotion.

OOC: Notice that our stories are welded tightly together. We plan the text carefully before writing it. We'd really prefer that you would not try and enter into this roleplay without talking to us first. It would ruin the fluidity of the story. Sorry. However, out of character comments are welcome.
Once known as Novan Silverglow
'So can you name your demon?
Understand its scheming/
I raise my glass and say "here's to you".'

The DOD News - http://darianews.talonz.com (Lying Dormant)
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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She wakes, stiff-limbed and aching as a livid dawn rusts the black steel sky. The fire is a damp heap of ash; and nearby he sleeps, sprawled upon his back. Her lover shifts in his sleep, gathering shadows in the pits of his eyes, beneath his smooth jawline. The girl spares him an affectionate caress, running her fingers through dirty-blonde hair. The eyes twitch behind their lids; dark dreams beneath her soothing fingers. She whispers a swift, “Thankyou,” into his ear and pads off, the coat held jauntily over one shoulder. The girl feels as if she has won some all-important race, overcome some insurmountable obstacle. She dances on featherlight soles through the forest, the liquid happiness sluicing inside her at every twisting step. The sound of flowing water tantalises her ears; the grass no longer prickles Ripley’s creamy white skin, it instead reassures her. Today, she decides the world was made for me.
For the first time since being dumped in this place she feels comfortable with herself, her body, feels a oneness with nature. Dawn probes with caution at the canopy above; the girl welcomes the fuzzy touch of Daria’s sunrise with open arms. Her dewy jewellery fades in the morning heat, leaving her cooled, her pale skin platinum in the heavy light.
The occupants of a fern-crowded bank part as she slides down, provoking a rabbit to scuttle from her peripheral vision. The water is close now, a trickling becoming a roaring in her ear and the girl lusts for it. She has begun to sweat in the ravenous eye of the sun, now bloated above a craggy horizon, and longs to drown her body in cold stasis.
She sidesteps a rocky prominence and extinguishes her feet in the shallow stream. There are rocks strewn about, pebbles round under her toes and the branching water a swift stream of silver between grassy banks. A combination of the sheer coldness and natural beauty take the girl’s breath away; she gives an involuntary giggle and throws the coat down. Ripley scampers for the waterfall, and plunges in, only to skip out again, paralysed with the cold and her own laughter. She slumps down to clasp her shivering knees, and the girl’s mind takes this moment to assault her with a recalled memory.
Another girl, in another place stands beside her, tall and lean, her body athletic without looking awkward. She smiles through the charming gap in her teeth, brushes a greasy curl from her red-rimmed eyes, sits with Ripley, close and warm. The girls shiver together, neither one feeling the cold, only the joy of freedom, laughter in their rebellious odyssey. Azura grins again, claps Ripley’s hand in hers and hoists her up; this time they jump together, made cautious from ill experience. Unsurprisingly, the water still retains its icy burn, but the girls huddle together, clasp each other for support and yell at the pebbles. Ripley’s face splits in a smile; over-confidence turns her head into the full force of the water, she closes her eyes. It slaps her like a loutish boyfriend, stings her face with chemical needles. The girl can take no more, she looks down, willing her friend, her lover to be there to hold her and say how damn brave she was. Ripley’s eyes flicker open; the rock wall returns her stare. Her naked skin shrinks back, bereft of that other touch she will never feel again. It was all too damn hard, she thinks. The hurt burrows deep; once again she finds herself longing for a distraction to assuage razored memories.
She stands there, huddled and alone under the freezing torrent. Though she washes herself with her hands, striving in vain to mimic the way her friend touched her in that other place, that other time, the desolation in her soul remains. Something moves through the glorious shimmer of her translucent curtain; she knows the Commander can help. She wills him closer, the newly opened wound in her soul drawing him, vortex-like towards her. They have only each other now; she is sure equally painful memories will awake within him as time passes. But for now, they live in the moment; his steady passion liberating her from forgotten grief in the briefness of their union.

Afterwards, they lie on the grassy bank; she basks in the slash of sunlight that falls across his chest, feet tickling the water’s surface. In the synchronised rise and fall of their ribs she finds temporary solace, thinking to herself it is love of all things that makes her bitter. With no way to express it, the girl feels her love sours within her. That is why I need him, Ripley thinks, he’s an outlet for my pent-up feelings. She chides herself for reading too deeply into her emotions and becomes lost again in the physical: his smell, the slickness of their wet skin, the way dust motes dance around his profile.
Renovan speaks, startling her,
“What’s wrong with you?”
She blinked, thumped full in the face by his bluntness.
“What d’you mean, what’s wrong with me? It’s not wrong to be in love, is it?” He considers her words, nostrils flared as he exhales pensive thought.
“You’re not in love, girl.” He shifts onto one elbow. “You’re making up for something, someone you lost.” Why was he doing this?
“Yeah, maybe I am. But that doesn’t make what we do meaningless. C’mon Reno, you spent those last years with me. We weren’t born into those fairytale days when it was all innocence an’ ignorance, it was a goddamn war, underground or in-your-face, whichever way you look at it. And I loved you despite everything.” The Commander’s gaze almost seeks to patronise her, but the hard metal façade of his dead self gives up the fight.
“I’m sorry, Rips. It’s just that I remembered how you… were back then, like you couldn’t hope to be further away from me.” She counters, fire with fire,
“Could you blame me Reno? I didn’t feel confident with anyone else, I, I had to build myself an identity from scratch, and you, you were… you were the goddamn enemy.” His eyes do not flicker, but seem to burn with hard-edged blue flames, etching their eerie brilliance into Ripley’s supple body.
“Yeah,” he smiles. “I was.”
She stands suddenly, uncomfortable in her skin, defiantly pouting with lips and breasts. Her hands clasp behind her, daring him to take up the uniform of his old identity. But he cannot fight this brazen, naked fire, so lithe and supple and beautiful. No hard-edged badge of rank could replace her.
He stands, takes her hand and gives her a squeeze. She shrugs on her coat, helps him on with his and returns his affection, knowing that she has prevented a disaster… for now.
The forest swallows the two humans in its enormity; the noontide sun shimmers high above Daria. They head towards destiny.

Last edited by Ripley on Mon Jun 06, 2005 5:45 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is among one of the best stories I've read in a long while now, especially since you both write it, it flows well. I'm expecting nothing less than this in further parts, keep up the good pace.
I dreamt of it once. Now I fear it dreams of me.
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Location: Treading my dreams, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


The days that seemed so fluid; so full of passion, of life; spluttered into mechanized routine. With a despairing wrenching, he watched as the forest - once scintillating emerald - decayed to limp green.
The long stream of condensation curled slowly, mimicking girls idle pace. “Fuckin’ green. Green, green..” She sniffed carelessly and snapped a slender branch in equally slender arms “..green!”
“Damn me, Reno.” The man next to her walked on, impregnable. She continued regardless. “Everything’s pasted in this awful crimson tinge. It’s scrapping at my eyes.”
The man had to agree. Two days had drifted by from what he unconsciously classed as ‘the waterfall’. Some imperceptible turning point in his life. He bristled inwardly, annoyed at the degradation of events. The drenched impassioned woman he had taken, faded back, tedium casted a childish shadow that bore few resemblances to the object. He watched wearily from lidded eyes as she swished the stick back and forth; fan-like, accidentally stoking the fire of his impatience.
“Stop it.” Suddenly, the girl shrivelled like a pinned butterfly. It was a pitiless half-snarl, and it clamped down on her giddiness. The man saw this and his metal persona buckled in on itself.
“I’m sorry, Ripley.. I-” He gesticulated at the forest made prison, wanting to push back the crushing sickly green walls.
“It’s this forest: it’s crushing me-” The man broke off again - self-derision riding his face as he slammed a bare fist into a tree trunk. The dull reverberating thud was soothing. It muzzled his demon.
Timid now, quiet. “Ren? Hey.” The voice was round-eyed, caring. Soothing old scars. “Let me look at that..”
Wordlessly, the man prised his hand from the splintered wood. Several large chunks of bark jutted crazily from skin that was interestingly bloodless. He eased one right and left in morbid fascination. Teardrops of blood peeked around the wound.
“Stop it.” Mimicking him? But her’s was tender concern, not iron-fisted. He snorted mirthlessly and tore the splinter from his knuckle. Wincing, the girl teased out the rest, leaving oddly shaped cuts. As each piece was removed, Renovan took it from her hand. The silence was held solemnly, sacredly; as though they were in some religious ritual of blood and pain, warding off the monsters of his mind. He beheld her slim angelic face, wreathed in a halo of golden hair. With reverence, shaking hand, she offered up the bloody wafer of bark. He took it from her, and a ray of heavenly light divided the clouds, ensconcing them in pseudo-holiness.
He shook his head, reeling from the bizarre infusion of mundane and divine.
“Hold still.” He rested his attention on her, letting her finicky care form in him a pool of peace. “There.” She removed the last splinter with delicate care.
Nothing happened, nothing at all, mused the man. She’s just.. wiped the scene from her mind. He follows her willowy figure as they ford the suffocating forest once more.

“Reno.. I don’t feel right doing this.” She stopped and searched for reassurance from Renovan.
“A deed for a deed. You didn’t help me with the priests. We just need their clothing, nothing more.” His silent footsteps faded to her right.
Convinced yet afraid, she reached the clearing where the two men stood chatting, peacefully unaware. “Can you help me please? My partner’s injured.” They seemed more than willing to help a shapely female, but they waved aside her ‘injured friend’; instinctively picking the easier prey. Anytime now, Reno.. anytime. She didn’t dare cast about for him, for fear of.. Where the fuck was he?
Robes shrieking quietly through the air, he erupted into the man closest to Ripley, boring him into the other.
It was different from the previous time. Renovan had seemed, back in the temple, to be the eye of a storm of fists and feet: the calm - obsessively placing each punch with precision - no more than enough to incapacitate the opponent. Now, her swirling panic blanched to horror as she watched him over-obliterate the two men who had come so close... He wasn’t even deadly efficient - a slow iron twisting of the shorter man’s arm until it cracked limp, feinting left and right and left and right and left.. until both men collided hopelessly. She could bear no more.
“Finish them already Reno!” Her tearful disembodied voice commands it, and Renovan finally slices palm-edge first into their throats.
She says nothing as they strip the clothing from the tortured bodies.
They disgorge themselves abruptly from the forest, the thick foliage thinning to an unaccustomed grassy-plain. An ugly brown maw of human settlement rears it’s head, seducing the disheveled travelers with tubs of steamy water and platters of food. They stumble towards it in a barely contained run.

As the adrenaline pounded away, he felt a need to withdraw - to create a cocoon to smother themselves from their entrance to the bustling town. His posture personified his will. This man, it advertised aggressively, will not be stopped: don’t even consider selling something to him.
“’Ere Missy. Care to buy this charming silver pendant?” His curtain of anonymous indifference was almost torn in surprise. The voice simpered on. “Or get your lovely warrior friend to buy it.” The look he gave the old crack-toothed woman flayed her grin to a frozen mask.
“Let me see..” The old hag watched helplessly as he bit sideways into jewelry. “No use. Imitation silver.” He let it drop back onto the store bench with a tinkle. “Not even a decent attempt at it; the paint’s wearing off at the rim.” He met the trader’s face and nodded consideringly. “We’re going, Ripley.”
She chewed her lip and tried to search for some understanding in the distressed old woman. “Sorry about him, it’s completely out of character. Must be the trek through that forest.” She tried to laugh easily, as though men bit storekeeper’s wares regularly. “When we get some money, we’ll pay it back.” Renovan’s retreating back pulled at her like a drawstring and she fled after him, even as she garbled an “I-promise!” to the transfixed woman.

Renovan was already presiding moodily over a beverage as Ripley fluttered into the gullet of the dimly lit tavern, radiating bewilderment. She zeroed in on his seat neat the counter edge. thin-lipped in her demanding silence. Purposefully, he ignored her frustration and sipped calmly from the pewter tankard - intent only on the pub’s ceiling, where smoky slats of light pierced the dark rafters.
“Bartender.” He startled a fat man behind the counter. “Another tankard of the same stuff.” Some frothy pale turquoise drink jerked to a halt in front of Ripley. “Not half bad, this stuff.” Ripley sniffed it, and slammed it back down, face still a mask of annoyance. “What’s the matter - not good enough?”
If she could force more shock into her widening eyes, she would have done. Where did that money come from? She forced some words, denying the tainting thought. “Damn, Reno. What’s gotten to you?”
“Nothing.” Too quick.
“Really.” Her tone raised an inner eyebrow. “The man I knew in Akarra would not harass old women.” A tiny unwanted thought trickled to coherence. Nor would he have done what you did to those men.. She gasped out loud, suddenly exasperated. “For Ambus’ sake! Look at yourself.” She wanted to scream and jab and flatten the new arrogant crinkle in his voice; smash smooth the brash steely edge in his jaw. The experiences she had with him were precious Copper pieces, and somehow, childlike, she had spent them all in one delirious hollow spree. It’s not fair. She wanted whine but the new Renovan would mock her.
He seemed to sense her splay feelers for his old character and he denied her flatly with a drawling voice. “Don’t use those names against me. It won’t work.” He swiped a milky moustache from his upper-lip before droning on, souring. “We’re in a different world now. The God’s never listened anyway.” He shrugged aside Ripley’s whitening grip, taking a hidden sadistic delight in taunting her image of him.
“I mean, look at this place. You said yourself that the air was tinged crimson.” She saw him swig intensely, old self trying to drown cynical new. Briefly, his face softened, and she felt returning peace; but it was violently mugged by fatalism. She sagged bodily in temporary acceptance. “See that hooded man there?” A lazy finger gestured to their right. “He’s the least strange out of this whole crowd.”
Once known as Novan Silverglow
'So can you name your demon?
Understand its scheming/
I raise my glass and say "here's to you".'

The DOD News - http://darianews.talonz.com (Lying Dormant)
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2005 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is darkness surging on the peripherals of his vision; darkness and blooming dark purple. The man feels himself carried upon a flat plane of metal, his two bearers reek of steel and dry bone. He hears their breathing, a bellicose crack-hiss whistling through his cauterised mind. A faraway place is evoked by the air; the smelted atmosphere tanging in his nostrils sends him through his veil of memory to a happier time. Words spiral through to him – Sharindar, Hallowblade, the Spire. Yes, he thinks, I’m home. It’s all coming together. The man’s nascent memories are slashed short by a touch upon his naked arm. Gloved hands have grabbed him, hauled him upright. He suddenly realises his hands are tied, bound like his feet with a metal cord; with the realisation cold presentiment rises within him. The man opens his eyes, stares through syrupy shadows, trying to catch a glimpse of his captors. The absence of all light drives the fear deeper.
“Yourr name?” The question is innocent, like his addressor has learned common from a book. He brushes it aside, tries to struggle against his bonds, spits his own counter-question.
“Who are you people? This place… where is this?” He feels his restraints loosened with a sh-ak, as if controlled by some mechanical device. He remembers how the finished Tarians would shake themselves, stagger a few steps, the smell of crackling flesh still reeking from them in twisting curls of white steam. Sometimes they would die, collapse as they were released; the man denies the fate of those weak test subjects. Instead he flexes his arms, lifts his head and stretches. He is strong, he has survived. The voice gives a carefully considered reply.
“You arre in the Prrimary Cluster, centre of our glorious empire. Welcome to Ykkr desert, home of the overlords of Daria, human.”
“Lo-cke.” The voice echoes with some difficulty. “You are under the protection of our Cluster Kommandant. Rest now. Answerrs are coming.”

She slumps, a velvety ragdoll abused by the itching of her ill-fitting clothes. The girl tugs at her voluminous woodsman’s shirt, the whining frustration at her ultraist lover inverting itself into more trivial complaints.
“This shirt’s too damn big Reno. I must look like a right screwball. And it itches like hell.” He looks up from the bitter ale pouring itself, conveyor-belt style down his throat.
“Yeah? Well I’m sorry there weren’t any skinny young girls to beat up. I’d have got you a proper outfit if you’d just asked.”
The girl deflates further, losing air rapidly from the puncture of his bladed cynicism.
“Mmph.” She pushes her ale away, muttering teenage acrimony at something resembling the commander, yet equally far removed from the reality of the man sitting before her. She finds it hard to love him; harder to hate him, so the girl sits in neutrality. She tries to ball up the bottom of her ludicrous shirt in the vain hope that it will magically transfigure into a tight leather tank-top. Ripley smiles in her false world, merrily pinning imaginary badges to the glossy black jacket; the resistance ‘X’, glares red on her arm. She feels her sensuality through the clothes, feels anarchistic glee transform her into a dervish of youthful delinquency. Haha, I am going to wreck this pub, just me and Az, she grins, man we’re going to cause some serious shi-
“See that hooded man there?” The commander’s gravely voice tears her with sandpaper rawness from the toffee fantasy.
“He’s the least strange out of this whole crowd.” He points, shows her his way.
“Uh-huh.” She peers through the ghost of a white steel plate, a rank badge adorning his tattooed shoulder, following the path of the jabbing finger. The man Renovan indicates is hunched, hiding his head in a pit of inky shadow. He turns to peer out of the cave of his deep green hood, quickly shrinking back as the girl’s sapphire stare seeks to penetrate his secrecy.
“Mm. You know that guy Reno? I don’t see what’s so different ‘bout him.”
“You can’t see past your own beautiful self, girl. Look at him, he’s one of us. He’s far removed from these,” he indicates the pub in general with an apathetic sweep of his iron palm, “and there’s something else…” The man squints, bringing the blurred double-vision of his subconscious together into a blazing halo about the other’s head. “He’s my spiritual antithesis.”
The girl wrinkles her nose, “Your spiritual whatnow?” but her lover has already risen in an ostracising swirl of black cloth, leaving her stumbling in confusion.
“Hey, c’mere Reno! You’re just gonna talk to him? You’ve never even seen the guy before, come back!” she straightens up awkwardly and heels behind him, babbling all the while.
“Sit.” The order is curt; the man could just as well be telling a division to attack, an Imp barrage to be fired, a life to be saved or taken. The girl shivers and perches herself on the very precipice of the wooden chair, while her companion dumps himself leisurely next to her as if meeting an old friend. He notices with an ironic half-smile that Ripley has scrunched herself up; crossing legs and arms as if protecting herself from a drunken come-on or suave Miur chat-up line. She is immediately on the defensive, though she has no idea why.
The smile folds into hard-lipped overbearance. “Let’s get right down to business, Chybigohan, or perhaps you prefer Chybi?” The hooded man makes as if to speak, but the tide of the commander’s locution sweeps him into silence. “Or maybe Last of the Ereb line would be a more appropriate title for you, ranger.”
“Silverglow, Novan Silverglow. Or should I call you by your latest egocentric title.” The man manages to slide a retort in edgeways. “And I see you’ve brought back your wife too. Beauty and the beast, indeed.” Renovan laughs, taking the time to drain the mirth of all emotion.
“The pleasantries are over my old friend. This is no time for callous jibes at my pas- what?” the girl is tugging frantically on his arm. She leans over to whisper into his ear,
“Reno…th-this guy’s from Akarra too? What the hell is going on? I don’t remember any Chybi or Chybigohan, but you two are like old adversaries or some shit. This is too weird!”
“Don’t worry,” he whispers back, soft suddenly. Perhaps caught off guard by the anxiety in the girl’s trembling eyes? “I’ll work it out.” The girl simply gives an imperceptible nod, turns her lip-biting into a grin, but he has already stormed back into the verbal war.
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